Read | Psalm 47
Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.
For the Lord Most High is awesome,
the great King over all the earth.
He subdued nations under us,
peoples under our feet.
He chose our inheritance for us,
the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.
God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
God reigns over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne.
The nobles of the nations assemble
as the people of the God of Abraham,
for the kings of the earth belong to God;
he is greatly exalted.
Respond | Derek Wu
Clap your hands, all you nations;
Shout to God with cries of joy.
If there is anything wrong to tell people in the time of a pandemic, it’s probably something like “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy!” What then does a Psalm like this have to do in a time like this? Who can muster up shouts of genuine praise amid such deep lament?
It may be helpful to spend a few minutes to reflect on the purpose of praise. Why does praise exist? Then, ask—why do I praise God?
Why is it that, at times, I am compelled to sing and dance to the Lord in joy? Though perhaps at disproportionate amounts, we all experience this. A rush of exhilaration at the sound of good news. A hearty sigh of relief overwhelming thoughts of what could have been. A leap in the heart as we notice ourselves enjoying life with loved ones. Expectations fulfilled; dreams realized. In such happenings we feel a sense of gratitude for something beyond ourselves. We direct our exuberance toward God in worshipful recognition of the one who blesses us with moments of abundance.
Praise becomes difficult when we are asked to praise in moments of scarcity. Surely it’s unreasonable to thank God for water in the desert. But in the same way it also seems unreasonable for God’s chosen people to retain these psalms as they faced massacre, exile, colonization, desecration of their identity, and systemic shame and degradation even by those who were supposed to be their leaders. And certainly it was hard for the early church to retain despite persecution. Nevertheless, God’s people have held these words close and passed them to us, the nations: “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy!”
Can praise just be the natural result of good times and happy happenings? It cannot be, for if so, there would be no praises in our Book. The history of God’s people is full of lament and despair, yet it is in spite of our circumstances that we praise. We must remember this as some of our own face massacre, exile, colonization, desecration of their identity, and systemic shame and degradation even by those who were supposed to be their leaders. I think of those without the means to survive the virus or the loss of a job. I think of those who are taken from their homes and forced back to their “homeland.” I think of those who cannot perform normal activities without fear. As we think of this we cannot forget to praise. We must praise—not as an expression of gratitude but as an expression of hope—as we direct our anxieties in worshipful recognition to the one who can—and will—redeem even the most bleak of futures.