For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. Psalm 96:4 (ESV)
Each of us who have been granted repentance by grace and have believed through faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, above all people have reason to greatly praise the LORD. We who were his enemies (Romans 5:10), God has called out of darkness from following Satan (Colossians 1:13), has caused us to be born again and made us a new creation (1 Peter 1:3; 2 Corinthians 5:17). He has given the Holy Spirit to dwell in us to be a helper, guide and revealer and promised to be with us even to the end of the age (John 14:16-17, 26; Matthew 28:20). And at the end of the age will receive us to inherit the kingdom that he prepared for us before the world began (Matthew 25:34). Tell me, is that not reason enough to greatly praise God?
In Psalm 96:3 the psalmist exhorts us to, Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! Why? Because Great is the LORD. The meaning being that God is great in every sense of the word. He is great in power, great in wisdom, great in works, great in love, great in wrath, and great in majesty. In fact, God’s greatness is unsearchable (Psalm 145:3). Because of his greatness he not only is greatly to be praised but also to be feared or reverenced above all gods.
To us, whose eyes have been opened to see, the greatness of God has been revealed. And more and more as we grow in grace. In “The Practice of Praise” Charles Spurgeon wrote, “It should never be forgotten that every Christian, as he grows in grace, should have a loftier idea of God. Our highest conception of God falls infinitely short of his glory, but a mature Christian enjoys a far clearer view of what God is than he had at first. Now the greatness of God is ever a claim for praise. . . . If God is greater to me than he was before, let my praise be greater.”
A look at the Hebrew word greatly in Psalm 96:4 gives us an idea of what it means to greatly praise God. The word greatly means vehemently. It also means wholly, speedily, diligently, exceedingly far, louder and louder, mightily and utterly. According to the dictionary the word vehement means showing strong feeling, forceful, passionate, or intense. We should seriously ask ourselves; in light of all that God has done for us and continues to work for us and in us, “Do those definitions describe our praise to God?” Has our praise become so formal that is lacks feeling or emotion? Has pleasure in our liturgy replaced the passion in our praise? Has our evangelistic praise of God’s greatness grown silent and emotionless?
The Hebrew word for praise in Psalm 96:4 means, among other things, to be clear, to make a show, to boast and thus to be clamorously foolish, to rave and to celebrate. Put together with the meaning of greatly we discover a definition of our response to the greatness of God that makes most of us uncomfortable. The psalmist declares that God is so great that his greatness should be made clear by boasting in it, raving about it, and being clamorously foolish in celebration of it. And this should be done loudly with passionate, intense, strong feelings. Not just in church on Sunday, but among all the nations.
At once we object, “There are other ways to express God’s greatness. We don’t always have to be vehemently loud, intense and foolish looking.” Yes, that may be correct. But, it does beg the question, “Do we ever express the greatness of our God in the manner the psalmist prescribes?” Umm . . .
Scriptures for meditation: