|For it is good to praise God|
Ps 147:1 Praise the LORD. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
Ps 147:2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel.
It was more than 15 years ago that we sang “I will run to You” at City Harvest Church at Hollywood theatre. The praise tune kept repeating in my mind, of God calling us to our purpose, and we marching forward to our destiny by the Spirit of God. I saw the passion and zeal of the youths (we were young then) whose praises rose up to the heavens eager to make a difference in Singapore. They had left an enduring legacy making CHC the biggest church in SG. But my mind wandered off again to the recollection that many came and many left. A few gay friends didn’t do too well. I wished I had the courage to say something, but I was afraid so many years ago.
Ps 147 starts off praising God, but the tone was far from exuberant. We were to praise God for the sake of worship itself (It is good, It is pleasant, It is beautiful) rather than the normal exaltation that God is good and His mercies endureth forever. It was almost as if the Psalmist was in despair to find a good reason to praise God, and perhaps we too this find it difficult to praise God in our difficult circumstances.
In Ps 147:2-4, then came an exaltation of faith that the Lord builds up Jerusalem, gathers the outcast of Israel, heals the broken hearted and binds up the wounds. The Psalmist was reminding himself the reason to praise God. He was recollecting that the reason why they were here in Jerusalem a God forbidden place filled with enemies, lack of resources and water, was the promises of God to gather the remnants of Israel from Babylon where they were in bondage/captivity and their hearts were broken. It was a reminder of where they had been, and how God has brought them out of captivity into Jerusalem and it was good to praise God despite all the hardship.
When we are in a difficult place, and for many gay Christians without a legacy, no family, no descendants, no house and having a difficult work life, it is difficult to praise God just for the sake of praising God. The anti-gay policies of the religious right have meant that we can’t marry, and we can’t live with our partners or get subsidized housing. There is a sense of bitterness of hopes lost and freedom and justice denied. Our relationships are buffeted by uncertainty without the affirmation of family, society, and the church. And yet, we too pay taxes and dues.
The situation in Jerusalem of the fallen walls must have looked bleak. They had high hopes when they came from Babylon with the blessing of the king, but for a small remnant to build thick and strong defensive walls whilst guarding against an attack and trying to find food and water to survive is very tough. Their enemies were strong and they require a miracle. At this moment when their faith in God was at the lowest, when it was so difficult to praise God, they declared it is good to praise God.
In desperation they declared in Ps 147:6 the downfall of their enemies that God will “casts the wicked down to the ground”. They sought God’s mercy (Ps 147:11) standing on Israel’s reverence for God in view of her enemies defiance against the God of Israel. God will strengthen the fortifications at the gates of the city (Ps 147:13). As they praised God, they begin to see a bigger picture beyond the current struggles, and found renewed hope, and strength and saw the purpose of Jerusalem, for out of the city of God, came the word and statues of God first to Israel and then to the ends of the earth. Israel was to be an example to the nation of God’s goodness and faithfulness (Ps 147:15-20).
Two thousand years later, the Jews are still fighting today for Jerusalem, and new walls have sprung up. God is raising up the walls of Jerusalem that non can tear down. Out of Zion, out of the City of God shall arise the proclamation of the Year of Jubilee to the nations concerning Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. The King of Kings is coming back to Jerusalem.
We often come to a place where our hopes and purposes in Christ seem lost and we are defeated. The walls of our lives may have been ruined even though we have put God first and had faithfully served Him. Our strength and hope melts away as we see the struggles ahead. We may have lost hope and could no longer run the race. The dreams and visions that God have given us seems a memory of the past. The promises of God to us seem a distant past as we struggle to praise God.
In this time of darkness where our strength is no more, God wants us to rest, to put our hope and trust in Him again, and to do the only thing left – which is to praise God – for it is good, it is beautiful and it is pleasant. It is a declaration of faith to praise God when our vision are lost in despair, our hopes dashed, but yet we know that God will build the walls of our lives and ministry. We run as the song says to run to His grace and mercy that God will renew His purpose and vision for our lives again.
As I was meditating on Ps 147, a gay friend spoke of how New Creation Church was talking about a year of abundance and fruitfulness. He hasn’t seen much of this in his life. The walls are broken, we are in strive, struggling just to survive in our work, in our relationships, in our Christian faith walk. Yet, I smile for it is good to praise the Lord. We have few belongings in this earth to boast of or to give thanks for. Yet, there need not be a reason to praise Jesus, other than it is pleasant and beautiful even though we see no legacy nor future. One day, we will meet Jesus in heaven, and finally there will be no pain and suffering. This is faith and hope beyond anything that this world can offer.
Lord, let your grace and mercy fills our life that we may see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Lord, remember your promises to us to give us a hope and a purpose and a legacy.
Your eye is on the