Oh, Give Thanks to the Lord: Praise Excites

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (1Ch 16:34 NKJV). These are elevated words. They are earthly words that soar to heavenly heights. These words are etched into the songbook of Israel, declaring repeated praise in four different Psalms (106,107,118,136). They punctuate the worship of Israel in the books of the Chronicles and Ezra at four of the nation’s most pivotal moments (1Ch 16; 2Ch 5; 2Ch 20; Ezr 3). The purpose of this series of articles is to meditate on this phrase and consider the practical implications of praise as recorded for us in the history of Israel.

Fittingly, the man credited with first using this lofty phrase is King David. Three months after the depressing day of Uzzah’s death, David set forth to bring the ark to Jerusalem. David had searched the Scriptures for instruction as to how he should proceed. He had patiently waited for evidence of the Lord’s blessing as to when he should proceed. No possible preparation was overlooked as David anticipated this joyous moment. A place was prepared for the ark to rest in Jerusalem. The priests and Levites were sanctified and zealous to serve. The people were present to witness the event. The burnt offerings and peace offerings were prepared to accompany the arrival of the ark. A practical provision of bread, meat and wine was liberally given to every man and woman. In this most glorious moment in Israel’s history David stepped before the people with a special psalm he had composed for the occasion. The psalm contains portions that we now find in Psalms 96, 105 and 106. The psalm served as a call to worship, an exhortation to remember the works of God and, ultimately, as a meditation concerning the glory of God. As David reached the end of his masterpiece of praise, and as the hearts of all assembled soared to consider the heights of the glory of God, he concluded with this phrase, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”

For the first time these defining words of worship had graced the ears of Israelites. To read the details of the event in 1 Chronicles 16 is heartwarming and challenging in the cautious and devoted nature that marked this act of praise. However, it is most instructive to consider the two anecdotes that bookend this powerful moment. At the end of 1 Chronicles 15, just one verse describes the reaction of Michal as she watched her husband enraptured with the worship of the Lord. Verse 29 tells us that “Michal the daughter of Saul looking out at a window saw king David dancing and playing: and she despised him in her heart.”[1] Michal typifies the disdainful, carnal response to the worship of the Lord. At the close of chapter 16 all of Israel departed to their own homes. Chapter 17 begins with David sitting in his own house. We can imagine the warm glow of joy in his heart as he recalled the events of the day and the wonderful privilege of serving the Lord so faithfully. In contrast to Michal, David exemplifies the reaction of the spiritual person to the worship of the Lord.

We are not left to wonder concerning the thoughts of David as he sat in his own house, as 1 Chronicles 17:1 records them for us: “Now it came to pass, as David sat in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, Lo, I dwell in an house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord remaineth under curtains.” Dear believer, a valuable lesson is clearly evident to us here in the arrangement of Scripture. The spiritual desire of David – the building of the temple – that would be of the greatest blessing to Israel germinated in his focus on  worshipping God. Perhaps there is a burdened believer reading this article that feels a similar motivation to do a work for the Lord. The burden may be there, but the clarity of what would best please the Lord may not yet be evident. Perhaps if like David our hearts were increasingly given over to the devoted worship of the Lord, it might please Him out of that worship to direct us into further service for Him. We can conclude from the experience of David that the worship of the Lord excites His own to serve Him more.

It is fascinating to turn the pages of Scripture and see how Nathan quickly affirmed David’s spiritual burden to build the temple, and yet the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, firmly delayed the work in order to preserve the beautiful typical portrayals of Christ as seen in David and Solomon. How equally instructive it is to turn the pages back to David’s first experience on the day that Uzzah perished. We read there not of David’s burden but of his emotional response: “And David became angry because of the Lord’s outbreak against Uzza; therefore that place is called Perez Uzza to this day. David was afraid of God that day, saying, ‘How can I bring the ark of God to me?’” (1Ch 13:11-12 NKJV).

We have already considered the wonderful warmth of David’s joy when the ark was safely settled in Jerusalem. However, prior to this joy, David dealt with feelings of anger and fear related to the Lord. These emotions could have consumed him and hindered the Jerusalem experience. What a tragedy if anger had kept David from declaring, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever”! What a loss to the people of God if fear had crushed the spiritual burden to build the temple! Is it possible that fear, anger, jealousy or disappointment is keeping me from worshiping the Lord in the fullness of my spirit? What further opportunity for service might I be missing without the reality of pure worship to inspire me to the work of the Lord? How fitting it is for us to take the request of Israel upon our lips from the first psalm that mentions our considered phrase: “Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto thy holy name, and to triumph in thy praise. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the Lord” (Psa 106:47-48).

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.