Expressions of Praise

Read 2 Samuel 6:12-16

There are different songs which when heard lead people to respond. Some songs generate a desire to clap your hands or tap your foot to the beat. Other songs may prompt a person to cry because of how the lyrics touch a person’s heart or maybe because they elicit a memory. Then there are those songs that move a person to start dancing. You are set in motion by the melodies and rhythms. Music can communicate emotions in ways which are seldom matched by many other aspects of our lives. Whether a song prompts you to join in the rhythm, sing along or dance, you are taken from the ordinary to the energized in a meaningful way.

The passage for today speaks of music, emotions, and responses. One of Israel’s greatest symbols of the presence of God, the Ark of the Covenant, was being hidden away in the household of Obed- Edom. King David decided it was time to bring the ark back to Jerusalem. He made a great fanfare with the procession bringing them to the city, even offering a sacrifice of thanks to God at the beginning of the journey. Dressed in a small amount of clothing, filled with great joy and being swept up in the trumpet sounds, David danced. His wife, Michal, disapproved of his dancing and behaviors. She began to hate David on that day.

How often people judge other people in regard to their expressions of joy to the Lord. Like Michal, people can make a determination of what are appropriate forms of expression of praise to God. Anything which goes outside the bounds of “appropriate” behavior causes a shunning and dislike of the demonstrator. Yet Scripture is full of all types of jubilant expressions in response to God. Dancing, singing, playing loud instruments, shouting, weeping, and removing clothing are all found as celebratory expressions in the Bible.

We should all take a lesson from David. When the Spirit moves us to respond to our Lord, we should do so with great enthusiasm. If others around us choose to express the joy given to them by God, we should not judge them or attempt to hinder them. Not all forms of expressions fit every person but it should be left to each person to respond as led. Instead of stifling praise to the Lord, let us support and encourage it in all forms.

The Word Love

Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Our world is filled with words. Every year the editors of Merriam-Webster Dictionary choose what words are added to the dictionary. The basis of making such a decision is the frequency of its usage by a lot of people. Words are understood by the context in which they are used. They are interpreted by what the hearer/reader brings to them. The strength of the word is found in how it lives out in real life situations. Words have a great value in communicating an idea or concept or understanding. However, experience says that actions have a much stronger impact on people than words.

Paul is communicating a very important understanding of a frequently used word in his day and in our own. The passage from his  letter to the people of Corinth is well known by believers and non-believers  alike due to its frequent reading at weddings. This usage of the passage is not wrong but tends to leave the impression that Paul is writing about romantic love or solely a relationship between spouses. This impression could not be any farther from the purpose Paul intended. Paul is writing to a church with strong divisions and frequent conflicts. This passage lifts up to them a central understanding of what it means to be believers in Christ.

Paul knows that love is the core of who God is and how God  is revealed in Jesus. This love is not romantic in nature nor is it an emotion. The love which Paul writes about is a way of living. In order to understand love, Paul is indicating that it must be witnessed in the actions and attitudes of life. Jesus expressed love not in words but in how he lived, responded to people, and viewed the world around him. This is exactly what Paul is expressing to the people of Corinth. Knowledge, spiritual gifts and insights are nice but if they lack the living out of love in life, they lose their value. Paul tells the people that the greatest of the only three items which have sustaining value, faith, hope and love, is love. This love is experienced and known through the actions and attitudes displayed in human relationships.

Each of us needs to hear Paul’s teaching here frequently. We need to realize that as wonderful as words are in communicating, the communication through actions and attitudes is all which has lasting value. If we are going to be faithful in following the Lord and demonstrating who God is, we need to live in a manner where love is witnessed, love as defined here.

Importance of Giving Thanks

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[a] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:11-19 (NIV)

A dangerous occurrence in relationships is when one person assumes the other person knows what is being thought or felt. This happens far too often and frequently leads to hurt feelings. It is important for humans to make the effort to verbally express to one another feelings and appreciation. By expressing these items, confusion and doubt can be avoided. This helps to bring clarity into the relationship.

In our passage today, Jesus encounters ten lepers who cry out to him for assistance. Jesus responds by sending them to a priest. This is customary when a person appears to be healed from leprosy. The priest had to declare them clean before they could return to regular society. What seems different here is that they were healed on the way, not before they left. They must have believed Jesus would heal them before they arrived at the priest’s location. Then the account shares that only one of them returned to thank Jesus, a Samaritan whose nationality was despised by the Jews. Jesus declares that this man’s faith has made him well.

Here we are reminded of the value in expressing gratitude. Gratitude is one of those feelings that was referred to above. The other nine must have assumed Jesus would know how grateful they are for being healed. They probably wanted to return to their families and former life so quickly that they did not think to take the time to find Jesus and express thanks.

We can be guilty of the same assumptions and being too busy to stop long enough to offer thanks. We do this with one another. We do this even more often with the Lord. Our thoughts can be that others and the Lord obviously know we are thankful so keep moving forward with life’s activities. It can be an unspoken assumption.

Jesus tells us that the opposite is true. Jesus shows how much it means to be sought out and thanked. The expression of these assumed feelings make a significant difference. Take time to pause and give thanks when someone does something for you. Make the time to express your gratitude to the Lord. Afterall, the Lord gave you the air you just breathed and so much more.

Thankful Response

16 Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. 17 Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, 19 thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said.

20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” 21 tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. 24 The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”

Deuteronomy 6:16-25 (NIV)

It is customary that when a person receives a gift from another individual there is a response of gratitude expressed to the giver. Depending on the occasion and the type of gift, the response may be a verbal thank you. In other situations, the gratitude is expressed in written form. Other gifts can lead to acts done for the giver out of gratitude. Whichever form of response is chosen, the goal is to communicate that the original gift is appreciated and remembered.

The passage read for today finds its origin in events of the preparation by the Israelites to enter Canaan. Moses is giving the Israelites instructions in regard to their entrance into the land which God has promised them. He tells them not to test God but instead to follow the stipulations and decrees given to them. In doing so, Moses indicates they will prosper in the new land. He then says that when their children ask why they follow these items, they explain that it is in response to all the Lord has done and told them which allowed them to be in this new land.

Some say that the expression of gratitude has waned in the context of our current culture. There appears to be a prevailing attitude of entitlement. This passage is a reminder of the importance of expressing gratitude, especially to the Lord. Our expression should not solely be one of words but one of action. For the Israelites these active responses were found in following the decrees, stipulations and law. For us, Christ fulfilled all of these items on our behalf. Our grateful response is to what God has done for us through Jesus. Our expressions of thanks should be found in the ways in which we share God’s love with others. We remember how God’s love has been expressed to us and we do the same for others. Our acts of gratitude are not found in obedience to rules but instead found in the manner in which we live our lives and care for the needs of others.