Why God commands us to praise Him

This past Sunday, I challenged our church to ask God to show us His glory this Easter season, that experiencing His greatness and beauty, especially as displayed at the cross and in the resurrection, might cause us to desire Him above all earthly things and to set apart ourselves for His service. I talked about how it is a natural thing in this world to find something glorious, and to naturally respond with praise, a desire to experience that thing or person more, and a desire to share it with others. This reality was described best by C.S. Lewis in the chapter “A Word about Praising” in his book Reflections on the Psalms. He wrote these words as he tried to come to terms with God’s commands to praise Him in the Psalms, commands that at first seemed vain and self-seeking. I encourage you to read these words and take them to heart as you ask God to show you His glory this Easter season:

“But the most obvious fact about praise – whether of God or anything – strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honour. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear or boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise – lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game… I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: ‘Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?’ The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about… I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is… to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with… The worthier the object, the more intense this delight would be. If it were possible for a created soul fully to ‘appreciate’, that is to love and delight in, the worthiest object of all, and simultaneously at every moment to give this delight perfect expression, then that soul would be in supreme beatitude. It is along these lines that I find it easiest to understand the Christian doctrine that “Heaven” is a state in which angels now, and men hereafter, are perpetually employed in praising God… To see what the doctrine really means, we must suppose ourselves to be in perfect love with God – drunk with, drowned in, dissolved by, that delight which, far from remaining pent up within ourselves as incommunicable, hence hardly tolerable, bliss, flows out from us incessantly again in effortless and perfect expression, our joy no more separable from the praise in which it liberates and utters itself than the brightness a mirror receives is separable from the brightness it sheds. The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”
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