When the Praises Go Up
I am sure we have all heard the phrase, “when the praises go up, the blessings come down”. Today\s sermon takes a look at this phrase and asks the question whether this is the truth or not. How does God bless us and what do we have to do to get His blessings?
Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You. Then the earth shall yield her increase; God, our own God, shall bless us.
Psalm 67:5-6 NKJV
Will the blessings come down?
I imagine that we have all heard the phrase, “when the praises go up, the blessings come down.” I can remember hearing this phrase as a little boy and I am very certain it’s been around a lot longer than I have graced this Earth. Is the saying true? If you “send the praises up”, will the blessing truly come down? Of course, for those that may have not ever heard this phrase, the praises are to be sent up to God so that His blessings will come down from heaven. However, this particular phrase is not quoted from scripture because this phrase is nowhere to be found in our bibles. That’s right, the phrase, “when the praises go up, the blessings come down,” is not in scripture. So where did the saying come from?
I am not certain where exactly this phrase originated from. Many writers refer to the scripture that’s being used for our key verse today (Psalm 67:5-6) as an originating point. In this scripture, we see the psalmist write (v.5), “let the peoples praise You, O God.” The New International Version (NIV) translates the word ‘let’ for ‘may’ so the scripture reads in the NIV: “‘May’ the peoples praise you, God”. We see this scripture now more in a hopeful and encouraging tone about praise.
The psalmist continued in saying (v.6), “then the earth shall (will) yield her increase.” This scripture cross-references with Leviticus 26:3-4, which reads:
3 ‘If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them,
4 then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.
Leviticus 26:3-4 NKJV
We have an “if, then statement” coming from the Lord from the Mosaic Law. The scripture (Psalm 67:6) is now expanded on to show us that in order for the earth to yield its fruit, rain is a requirement. This is something that all of us already know; without rain (water) life would not be sustainable. We get this phrase, from both passages, that could best be explained by referring to the water cycle.
In the water cycle, we learned in school that liquid water on the earth evaporates and turns into a gas. In gas form, the liquid moves upward into the sky where it gathers and condenses to form a cloud. When the conditions are right, the water falls back down to earth from the sky. Praising God has been likened to the water cycle where blessings are only given when the conditions are right. When your praises go up, like evaporated water, the result should end in the blessings falling back down on you (like rain).
There, however, lies a problem with this logic and thought. While the phrase, “when the praises go up, the blessings come down” sounds good, and easy to remember rhetoric, it is very misleading. Saying this makes the Lord out to be an incentive-based God when God is not an incentive-based God. This phrase makes it seem like it’s possible to purchase blessings from the Lord and this is absolutely not true.
Illustrated in scripture
Israel, at the time of Elijah, was a nation that had divided into two kingdoms with the northern kingdom being ran by kings who had fully turned from the Lord. The northern kingdom was living in apostasy worshiping pagan gods. The southern kingdom was no better because we read in Isaiah 1:11 how the Lord no longer found pleasure in their offerings (sacrifices). You see, the southern kingdom had good kings, now and then, but they, like the northern kingdom, had also turned from the Lord. They were still offering their praises to the Lord but Jerusalem would eventually fall to the Babylonians.
According to the phrase, “when the praises go up, the blessings come down,” the Lord should have still been blessings the nation of Israel. Why? Because they were clearly still offering their praises to Him, even while they were praising other gods.
In Elijah’s time, the Lord had the prophet go to Ahab and tell him of his displeasure with the northern kingdom (1 Kings 17:1). Elijah went to Ahab and told the king that there would be no rain for 3 years! Rain was and still is a great blessing to not only the earth but to mankind. Imagine living 3 years without there being any rain; the land would go dry, there would be great famines, lakes would dry up, and much life would die off as a result. Again, according to the phrase, “when the praises go up, the blessings come down,” this should not have been the case for northern kingdom.
Why would the Lord take away the blessings of a people that are still offering him praise, even though they were praising other idols? You should not have to think long and hard about that question. Firstly: the Israelites were breaking the Mosaic Law by praising idols. Secondly, and pay close attention: the Israelites’ praise was not a praise that was genuine. They had began to praise God because “that’s what they were supposed to do”. This leads us back to us in the modern day.
Frankly, it’s not true that if you send the praises up, the blessings will come down. This may hurt a lot of people to hear this, but the truth must be told. God wants you to be genuine in your faith and in your praise of Him. God is not an incentive-based God nor is He a “for purchase” God. You cannot buy your blessings! Don’t think that you can be full of wickedness, shout a praise of God, and think you will receive something great or greater from Him.
I want you to see that the Lord is already blessing everybody! Jesus said:
that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He (God) makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Matthew 5:45 NKJV
You can’t buy blessings from the Lord because God freely (liberally) gives out His blessings to everybody already. I want you to pay close attention to the people who God is already blessing: evil and good, just and unjust (Matthew 5:45). God blesses all people whether they love Him or not. God blesses all people whether they believe in Him or not. Remember that God is the same God who loved the whole world, even though it was full of much wickedness, that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16).
What we battle, daily, is this urge to be better than somebody else! We look around truly believing that we are not as blessed as somebody else. We say, within ourselves, “why don’t I have what he/she has? How come God let him/her get that when I am more faithful“. We then wonder to ourselves, “what more do I need to do, God? What more do You need from me?” Watch this.
We start running down our “checklist of faith”. We think, “did I pray today?” We consider it for a moment and if we had not prayed our prayer, we will stop and pray our prayer. Why? Because somebody somewhere told us that we should pray everyday in order to receive more blessings. Again, this makes the Lord out to be an incentive-based God when He is not incentive-based at all.
We continue down our “checklist of faith” and the next thing on this list is, “when the praises go up, the blessings come down. Did you praise God today?” We consider whether or not we have praised God that day, and if we have not done so, we will shout out “glory hallelujah” or give God a “handclap of praise”. We start moving about, if you haven’t noticed, out of rhetoric and habit. The ancient Israelites were praising idols, happily, all the while praising God out of habit. We now praise God because we believe that is how we are going to receive more blessings from the Lord.
The idea behind all of this is that we are not “blessed” enough. Have you ever felt that you were not blessed enough? Have you ever gone down your “checklist of faith” because you felt you were not “blessed enough”. Look, I want you to ball that “checklist of faith” up and throw that list into the trash! You read right – throw that list in the trash! That list does absolutely no good for you. We must keep it real (100) when it comes to both our praise and our worship! You are not going to earn “reward points” with God by keeping to your little checklist of faith.
As I preached, not too long ago, our faith must be genuine – not fake, not robotic. The problem with many of us today is that our faith tends to no longer be genuine; we begin to play church instead of genuinely worship the Lord. If the Lord wanted us to be zombies, He would have made us be zombies. Your praise of God should be authentic – it should be real!
Why we give God the praise
When you praise the Lord, you should praise Him because you know He is worthy of your praise! We praise God, not because we think we’re earning some reward (incentive) points with God, but because we love Him and we are thankful for Him! We do not and should not praise God because we feel He “needs” our praise.
Understand this, the Lord does not need your praise. God has a set of angels that circle Him and sings His praises continuously (Isaiah 6:2-3; Revelation 4:8). To suggest that God needs something from us implies that the Lord requires something to survive (that is what a need is). God created us, therefore needs nothing from us; don’t think there’s something the Lord needs from you in order to survive or to bless you.
Praise the Lord out of your own genuineness. Praise: glory and honor given; worship. Your worship (praise) of the Lord should be genuine, just like your faith. When we praise (worship) the Lord we should do so in both spirit and in truth (John 4:24). The only thing the Lord has ever asked of mankind is to believe in Him and have faith. Faith leads to the ultimate blessing, that is, salvation. God is not going to reward the unjust and the unfaithful with that great blessing. We, therefore, should genuinely praise the Lord because He gave us His only begotten Son so that we one day will enjoy the riches of salvation in His heavenly kingdom, not for the riches of this world.
Don’t worship God solely because you believe it will get you what somebody else has or will put you ahead of someone. So often I see people praising (glorifying) the fact that the Lord has given them a “greater” blessing than someone else and it churns my stomach. We are the only ones who believe a blessing of something found in the world, like money, is greater than what the Lord provides unbeknownst to us. I tell you I believe the Lord has already provided you with more than enough blessings and has set forth great blessings for you to receive. I also believe every last one of His blessings are great blessings that will certainly be for your benefit!
Our worship is a sign of thanks, to the Lord, for all that He has done and will do for us. Again I say, we should certainly be most thankful and gracious for our God. I will leave you with this thought from the book of Hebrews.
Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, a]giving thanks to His name.
Hebrews 13:15 NKJV
Your praise, when it is genuine, is the fruit of your lips. I really do believe that when we genuinely praise God, that praise can be felt by others, and be a blessing to others. I want you to throw those robotic “checklists of faith” into the trash and let your faith and your praise become genuine (real).