April 5, 2009: What does it Mean to Praise God?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today is all about praising You for honoring us by means of Your loving sacrifice on the cross. May we truly take to heart the importance of praising You in order that the meaning of that sacrifice will never cease in our lives. Amen


TEXT: Mark 11: 1-10

Fellow Redeemed Sinners Intent on Praising God!

Let’s go back in time to about 3 months ago. This is what you heard: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’” Juxtapose that with today’s lesson where we hear: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’” So, what’s the common denominator between these two texts? It’s praise, isn’t it? The angels praised Christ at His birth, the people of Jerusalem praised Him on that first Palm Sunday. And we have come to praise Him today. But, exactly



In my office, I have an exhaustive concordance of the Bible. That is, a large book that breaks down every word in the Bible and lists where that word is used. The word “praise” is used over 300 times in Scripture. That’s a lot. That means it’s important. So, what does it really mean to praise God? Well, it means to give Him honor, specialness, to single Him out for respect above all others. It means to thank Him for His goodness. It means to worship Him, or put Him first in our lives and in our time schedules. It means to be sacrificial, or to give ourselves totally over to Him. It means to be obedient to His holy will. And perhaps most of all it means to believe what He says about Himself in Scripture, to believe it to be totally true without exception.

On Palm Sunday, the people of Jerusalem were drawn to Christ as He came riding into the city. Their voices spontaneously erupted into praise and honor of Christ. Hosanna means: “God save us!” And indeed, whether they recognized Christ’s divinity or not, that’s exactly what God was doing in and through Christ. Note well that their praise isn’t confined to mere vocal actions, either. No, they praised Him by using their bodies and exerting themselves. The disciples did so by obediently going and procuring the donkey colt for Him to ride upon. They did so by taking off their cloaks and providing Christ with a makeshift saddle. And the people praised Christ by actively cutting down palm branches from the trees and strewing them in His path. How long did all this take? We cannot be sure, but how long does it take to slowly walk a half mile or so surrounded by adoring crowds?—A half hour, or so?


Is genuine praise a one-shot event? Is it simply a once-in-a-lifetime emotional outpouring? Unfortunately it was for many of these people. For the howling mob shouted curses and slurs at Him just a few days later. And such an attitude makes a mockery of genuine praise. For true praise is not occasional or intermittent. Neither is it passive. It is to be ongoing throughout our every waking hour. Since God is always with us with His love and goodness, our praise is really a lifestyle. It is more than merely feeling like doing it. It is more than merely a response to an emotional moment. For good times don’t always last. Bad times, tough times come. Should we shelve our praise to God, to Christ, when that occurs? Of course not! He’s the God, the Savior, of every season, place, and time.

Every Palm Sunday when I hear this lesson read, there’s one negative thought that crosses my mind.—How could these people be so fickle? Right before their eyes that had God’s eternal Son coming into the city to save their eternal souls! As much as we look to their praise as an example to follow, in reality, they fell down on the job, didn’t they? Their praise wasn’t lasting. Do we sometimes do the same? Do we pay lip-service to praising God, but only when it’s convenient for us? Do we let hectic schedules dictate how and when we praise the King of Kings? And when we do so, are we any different from those fickle praisers in our lesson?


Any discussion of praise must also include the glorious results. Make no mistake, even those who turned away from Christ a few days later, still experienced the “upper” that engaging in praise of God creates within us. For praise brings joy into our hearts. It also makes our lives full and rich because we’re not focusing on ourselves and our own problems during praise, but focusing instead on God’s goodness and grace. That’s because the object of true Christian praise is: Jesus Christ. All genuine praise must ultimately be directed at Him. For He’s the One Who came to save. He’s the One Who came to sacrifice Himself on a cross, to give His life for ours in order to make us right with God. He’s the One Who laid in our grave, rose from out tomb, and now gives us life eternal—because He won it all for us. And because of all this, we Christians truly are blest. Our lives have eternal meaning.

Did you ever wonder why praising God makes you feel better? Well, now you know why! And that “knowing why” is especially the work of the Holy Spirit. He’s the One Who comes upon us when we focus on the Savior. He’s the One Who wells up in our hearts causing us to erupt into joyous praise. And He’s the One Who continues to keep true praise alive in us, to make it an ongoing action, even after Christ passes by for the moment. Scripture says that by means of the Spirit’s power: “We live, move, and have our very being.” All that because the Spirit makes Christ real to our sin-darkened understanding and makes Him alive to us through faith. The reason God made you was to praise Him. So, fulfill your purpose in life—not just for this hour, but for every hour thereafter. For the only things that come from genuine, ongoing praise are: goodness and joy and salvation. Amen