One of my best friends and I like to joke that we enable each other. If one of us wants to splurge on some sweet treat, the other will enthusiastically agree and then join in! This often comes into play after one of us has completed some task that was stressful, difficult, or tiring. In college, after a big test or presentation, we’d treat ourselves, preferably with ice cream, because duh, right? We deserved it.
There wasn’t enough ice cream (or the ancient equivalent) in the world to celebrate the humongous test of faith the Israelites had just passed. God had just led them from their slave-owner straight through a huge, virtually impassable sea and finally to safety. Their stressful, difficult, tiring ordeal was over. Now God’s people celebrated. Their voices stretched for miles as they sang at the top of their lungs with abandon. A rumbling could be heard from far away as they threw their arms out and danced like no one was watching. But Someone was watching. Imagine the smiles that danced across the Creator’s face as He watched His children’s joy. It was a beautiful day. But the celebration only lasted so long.
Three days later, it was like you were looking at a different group of people entirely. They were angry and irritated and distrustful. They couldn’t find water and feared they never would. Ultimately, God, through Moses, gave His pouting children the water they needed and at the same time gave them a great truth: if they would serve Him and obey Him, they wouldn’t need to worry about water or anything else, because He would provide. Only time would tell if the children of Israel took His words to heart.
The Treasures Within:
Praise Is A Choice
A favorite line of praise team leaders at church goes something like this: “When you think about what God has done for you, you can’t help but get up out of your seat and praise Him!!!” In other words, we just can’t help it. Praise should be automatic, immediate. And to some extent that might be true, but sometimes the examples of praise that we find in the Bible tell a slightly different story. Here, among rich poetry about the power of God and the incredible miracle He had just worked for the Israelites, you find the words “He is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him” (verse 2). These words are a declaration, a promise. Intentionally and deliberately, the Israelites made the choice to praise God for who He was and what He had done.
What about us? If you or I had a near-death experience, we would probably praise God as well, but what about when we don’t necessarily feel like it? What about when its been a long, hard week? What if we just want some ice cream instead? This is when we must make the choice to praise God. It may seem as if the words won’t come, but there is so much material. The Israelites sang in detail about what God had just done for them (verses 4-8, 10), the promises He made for their future (verses 13-17), and even verbatim their own shock and awe about what had just happened (verse 11)! We have so much to praise God for, if only we choose to do so. And think of the benefits! The Israelites were excited, hopeful, full of faith, and ecstatic with joy. That could be us!
But for many of us, our reality looks a lot more like what happened next for the Israelites. In only three days, the Israelites went from joy to discontent. They went from hopeful to pessimistic. They went from faithful to plagued with doubt. In just three days, everything was different. But why? What changed? Their destination? Their freedom? Their bank statements? No, the difference between the Israelites of verses 1-21 and the Israelites of verses 22-27 is simple – it’s their praise.
Three days before reaching the desert, the Israelites were on cloud nine, praising God. Three days later, the Israelites were bitter and anxious, angrily questioning God. How might things have been different had they chosen to praise God? How might our own lives be different if consistently, daily, we made the choice to praise God, no matter the situation? After all, praise is an act of faith. When we choose to praise, we are choosing to focus not on our problems, but on our big, loving, able God. When we choose to praise, we are choosing hope. When we choose to praise, we choose to tune out the lies in our heads, the ones that tell us that we are alone or that our problems will consume us. When we choose to praise, we are accepting the reality that God is enough – more than that, He’s all we need. This praise perspective should be our way of life, our go-to for all of life’s trials and disasters. In order to truly protect ourselves, our hearts, and our happiness – we must praise our Maker.
God’s Message To Us:
“I’ll never stop giving you something to praise.” There are millions of songs in this world that are all about the same thing – love or sex or breakups or, well, praise. Praise is everywhere, in books and songs and churches and all through the Bible because God does so much, so much more than we can even keep up with, while at the same time planning on doing even more. In fact, each of us probably has a backlog of things God has done for us that we haven’t praised Him for yet. There are so many possibilities for how we praise Him – we can praise God with art or with words, with our hearts and with our lives. And as we do, as we praise God and love Him, trust Him and obey Him, our peace will grow, our faith will grow, and our lives will change. I think we should get started – and never stop.
What do you think? What was your favorite verse of praise from this chapter? What did God reveal to you as you read this chapter of the Bible?