Praise the LORD. Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD. Let the name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised. The LORD is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the LORD our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes, with the princes of their people. He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD. Psalm 113.
Are you afraid of God? I don’t mean do you fear him. To fear God means to respect him and hold him in awe. The Bible speaks of the fear of the Lord as the beginning of wisdom and of being in relationship with him. Deuteronomy asks, "And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?" (V.12-13) This verse connects fearing the Lord with having a relationship with him.
But some people are afraid of God, much like we might be afraid of an angry grizzly bear or a murderer holding a weapon. They view God as harsh and judgmental and fear that God will vent his anger against them in cruel ways. Most of us have a sense of our own sin and wrongdoing, and we may fear that God will judge us harshly and punish us painfully because of that sin, rather than forgive us if we repent.
We are we the first people in history with such a view of God. Ancient people, such as the Sumerians of Mesopotamia, were afraid of their gods. I say gods because they had many gods, not just one. They feared that their gods were cruel and vindictive. In the ancient mythologies gods were very much like human beings in their attitudes and even sinful behavior, and if they didn’t feel like they were getting enough attention from the people they could punish them severely. They would exercise their power in cruel ways.
To appease the anger of the gods the people would worship. But, their worship was not motivated by love and gratitude for the good things the gods did; their worship was motivated by fear. They hoped to appease the anger of the gods so the gods would not vent their anger against them.
As part of their worship and appeasement the ancient Sumerians, built temples or shrines to honor and worship their gods. Then, they would build their houses around the temples. The whole town was built around the shrine. They made it as elaborate and beautiful as they could, hoping the god or goddess would like it. The hope of the people was that if the god liked it, he wouldn’t destroy the town because he wouldn’t want to destroy his beautiful temple! The bottom line is, the Sumerians did not worship their gods because the gods were good and kind, but because they were powerful and vindictive. They were afraid.
Contrast that with the beautiful sentiment of Psalm 113. Here, the Psalmist extols the wonderful virtues of the God of heaven. God is powerful enough to be enthroned in heaven, but he is also kind enough to lift the poor from their misery and seat them with princes. He is also mindful of the barren women longing for children.
The God of Psalm 113, the God Christians worship, is a good God who sees the suffering of people and is concerned for their welfare. He loves his people and is moved to help them.
We are moved to worship this God not because he is powerful and mean, but because he his powerful and kind. He provides for our needs and we respond in love and appreciation. "Who is like the LORD our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?" What a blessed people we are to have a kind God like this, one who elicits in us the desire to worship, not because we have to, but because we want to, with a heart overflowing with gratitude.