Oh, Give Thanks to the Lord: Praise Unites

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them” (Psa 22:3-4).[1] In this psalm that records David’s deepest messianic meditation we find such mysteriously beautiful expressions. With our minds illuminated by the New Testament we are instantly drawn forward to the suffering Son, but for David the trials of life united backward to the common faith of his ancestors. As we continue our study of one of the greatest phrases that David uttered in praise, how fitting it is that the next occasion when these words grace the page of Scripture is in Solomon’s day as the nation declares, “For He is good, for His mercy endures forever” (2Ch 5:13 NKJV). May the Lord encourage us that just as Solomon set out to continue in the path of praise so precious to David and his ancestors, so too might we faithfully praise the One who is eternally worthy.

Consider the conditions and context in Israel when this phrase of praise rang out again after forty or fifty years. A generation had passed; David had left the earthly scene. And while it may not be correct to say that Israel had risen any higher in the fervency or dedication of their praise, it was certainly true that the blessings of God were even more evident than in David’s day. The completion of the temple, a spiritual burden which had so excited the heart of David, was now manifest. What was left now to fulfill was the dedication of the golden temple and the placing of the ark within its premises.

Second Chronicles 5 speaks of “all the work” being finished, “all the instruments” being placed, “all the men of Israel” assembling, “all the elders of Israel” coming, and “all the congregation” gathering, with “all the holy vessels” in the tabernacle and all the “sacrificed sheep and oxen, which could not be told nor numbered.” If you have become tired of the repetition of the word “all,” then you have captured the intended emphasis of the chapter. Nothing was missing save the anticipated presence of God.

The priests brought the ark into the Holy Place of the temple. The passage emphasizes that not only were the priests whose duty it was to serve at that time present, but all were present. And in words that are reminiscent of the unity of the early Church in Acts we read, “Indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying: ‘For He is good, for His mercy endures forever,’ that the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (2Ch 5:13-14 NKJV).

The moment had not yet reached its crescendo, for now Solomon spoke. He spoke first to the people, calling to their remembrance the promises and works of God. He turned next toward the altar to speak to God. Solomon had prepared a platform, a shining bronze podium in true Solomonic style, so that all could witness his example as he knelt before the Lord and raised his hands to heaven. The people listened to his prayer of praise and petition. As Solomon finished his prayer, though the cloud had already come, now there was fire and a supernova of Shekinah glory consuming the offerings and filling the temple. We read, “When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed their faces to the ground on the pavement, and worshiped and praised the Lord, saying: ‘For He is good, for His mercy endures forever’” (2Ch 7:3 NKJV).

If from David we learn that praise excites us to serve the Lord, then here we have emphasized the wonderful reality that praise unites us around the Lord. The beautiful bookends of this account are that as the singers united in taking David’s famous words of praise upon their lips in chapter 5, so all the people echoed this fitting worship in chapter 7. As the society and culture around us disintegrate into the division of disunity and animosity, how necessary in our homes, in our halls and in our hearts is the unity that is only found in the worship of the Father through the Son! As Paul implored the Philippians, so too his words come to us, “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Php 2:2).

Yet a practical caution comes to each of us as we consider the sorry tale of Solomon and Israel and the fleeting nature of the praise they produced and unity they enjoyed. I am likely being overly critical, but I find it most interesting that while the priests and the people declared, “For He is good, for His mercy endures forever,” we do not hear it specifically from the lips of Solomon. Perhaps there is a hint that the heart of Solomon did not enter into the depth of worship that his father enjoyed and therefore was more easily led away from his first love. And even when we consider the words of the people here, though impressive in their praise, we notice that the first note of thankfulness that David so aptly connected is missing. Many reading this, as I, have enjoyed a life of abundance and peace like that which characterized Solomon’s day. It should caution our hearts that in practical abundance we could become dulled to the thankful attitude that should mark every aspect of our spiritual service. And without thankfulness how quickly we lose our song of praise and the invaluable unity it supplies.

We have thus considered the second historical account of the phrase “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” It is fascinating that the second psalm (107) to repeat this phrase opens with those words before repeating four times over, “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psa 107:8,15,21,31). What a tremendous bulwark this continuing attitude of remembrance and thankfulness could be to our praise and our unity were we to hold fast to the eternal truth.

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