R. (3cd) All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God. or: R. Alleluia. Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done wondrous deeds; His right hand has won victory for him, his holy arm. R. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God. or: R. Alleluia. The LORD has made his salvation known: in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice. He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness toward the house of Israel. R. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God. or: R. Alleluia. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God. Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands; break into song; sing praise. R. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God. or: R. Alleluia.
This Psalm has been turned into countless praise songs. I had the privilege of singing one in church choir. I remember it not because I love Psalms – though I do – nor because I love the message – though the optimistic, joyous Psalms are my favorite in the Good Book. I remember this verse because of the tongue-lashing we received from the church choir director while practicing in preparation for Easter.
Ken was a very talented musician and extremely good at motivation. His finest hour may have been while we were singing “Shout To the Lord” (this is the text missing from the above excerpt of Psalm 98). We had been practicing for around 45 minutes he stopped us. He was red-faced and had a very frustrated expression on his face.
“Someone tell me what the words of the song mean,” he challenged. Nobody spoke up. “Cindy, tell me what the words ‘Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth; break into song; sing praise’ mean.”
Cindy, a quiet soprano with a killer voice, said, “They mean we should be joyous. We should thank God for what he’s done for us.”
“That’s right!” Ken exclaimed, clearly still worked up. He threw his hands up in the air and held them there. “Do you feel joy? Have you thought about the gift God has given us and the concept of eternal life? Are you REALLY praising his name, or are you up here performing a song?”
Silence. Normally a very outgoing, friendly group, not one of us had a thing to say to that. Ken huffed a bit, paced down the aisle a little ways, waited for a couple more minutes, then cued the accompanist. “Now let me hear you sing praise. Really sing praise.”
At that moment, something happened inside me. I realized that it was not good enough to go through the motions of praising God. Life was not about just performing the song. Life was about being grateful and shouting it from the rooftops. Life was about finding joy and sharing the Good News in the best ways we can. I can tell you, in the next few minutes, I really sang praise. So did the rest of the choir. We rocked that sanctuary with joy like it had never been rocked before.
Today, when I find myself just going through the motions – “performing the song” – whether it’s at work, at home, or in worship, I think back to Ken and his impassioned speech before the church choir so long ago. I ask myself, are you singing praise or just going through the motions? It feels much better to sing praise and shout to the Lord. He’s due.
Prayer: God, help us to remember the sacrifice You made to save us from our sins. Help us to remember, when we are just going through the motions, to dig deep and find joy. Remind us, oh God, to shout our praises from the rooftops and exemplify what it means to be Your children. In Jesus’ name, Amen.