The Privilege of Praise
Big Idea | Praise is a Privilege
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Have you noticed how many “Diva Disciples” fill churches these days? Temperamental, difficult, high maintenance Christians who have forgotten that what we have and what we do is a privilege?
This is especially noticeable in corporate worship, where some allow their secondary preferences to sideline their participation:
“I don’t know the songs.”
“I don’t like the style.”
“I’m not comfortable in the setting.”
But here’s the truth: The songs are secondary. The style is secondary. The setting is secondary.
What matters is substance.
The moment we forget that praise is a privilege, we cease functioning as disciples and become divas.
To recapture the privilege of praise, there is no better text than Psalm 84, the psalm Charles Spurgeon called the “pearl and sweetest of all the Psalms”.
For the Israelites, the temple represented the very presence of God with His people and thus His availability to them. But the temple was physically located in Jerusalem, a distant, difficult, dangerous journey for many.
Still, being in God’s presence with His people in order to praise Him was so important to the Israelites, they crossed deserts, climbed mountains, and even combated thieves to get there. Along the way, they sang this song to remind themselves of the incredible privilege they were about to experience.
From this Psalm, we see three compelling reasons praise is a privilege:
1. Because of God’s PRESENCE (v. 1-4)
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah”
The Psalmist had been in the presence of God before and he missed it. He remembered what it was like and the joy he felt there. He had a passionate longing – a “holy love-sickness” – to experience it again.
His nostalgia wasn’t rooted in comfort or convenience; getting to the Temple was dangerous and difficult. But the privilege of God’s presence eclipsed the pain of the journey.
Reflection: Do I long to be in the presence of God with the people of God for the purpose of praising God?
2. Because of God’s PROVISION (v. 5-8)
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah”
The journey to the Temple took these pilgrims through Baca, a dry and desolate place that signified difficulty, trial, and suffering. Here the Psalmist is saying, “Even though the journey is difficult, God provides the strength I need to praise Him and covers even the most desolate seasons of my life with pools of provision.”
Sometimes our pain can be so great and the weight of our hurt so heavy, we struggle even to breathe. The effort to open our mouths and give glory to God seems overwhelming. But Christ can turn our place of deepest pain into a stage for praise – that alone is a privilege those apart from God don’t have.
In the New Testament we are reminded, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) Christ can use our hardship to press us deeper into Him; He is truly sufficient even when life feels like it’s crushing us.
Reflection: Do I look to God for the strength I need to praise Him in my weakness?
3. Because of God’s PROTECTION (v. 9-12)
“Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed! For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!”
This was more than a prayer for safety. The Psalmist was begging God for the protection necessary to get to the temple because he placed immense value on the opportunity to praise Him there. He envied anyone who got to live continually in God’s presence: the priests, the doorkeepers, even the birds that made their nests in the temple courts.
The Psalmist made a remarkable claim: “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” He declared, “Blessed is the one who trusts in you!”
Similarly, we can have confidence that if we are in Christ, God can use every circumstance for our good. Whatever we’re walking through – no matter how painful, tragic, or difficult – God has the power to use it to make us more like Christ.
Until we put our trust IN Him, our praise OF Him will never be a privilege.
Reflection: When life is hard and God feels far away, do I trust that He is working for my good?
The Israelites knew it was a great privilege to be accepted by God as the people of God. They knew they didn’t deserve it and as a result, they valued the chance to praise Him.
This side of Christ’s cross and resurrection, we know that Jesus is the true and greater temple. Jesus is God, present with His people in the flesh and also the means by which we are accepted by God.
Jesus is not just a high priest who sacrificed a lamb to atone for our sin, He BECAME the spotless lamb and gave Himself as a sacrifice to atone for our sin, once and for all.
Jesus is the fulfillment and ultimate experience of everything written in Psalm 84.
Praise is a privilege, so our response should be gratitude.
(Adapted by Diane Rivers from sermon entitled, "The Privilege of Praise".)