An Odd Thing To Praise

What do you praise God for?

As a songwriter, when amazingly good aspects of God’s character are revealed to me, I tend to want to write a new song about it. Maybe you’re not a songwriter? Maybe instead of writing a song, your heart recalls a song in moments when you are overwhelmed with some aspect of God’s greatness?

When thinking about His great love and provision towards us our praise spills over with a song like “Good Good Father.”

When life is hard but we are reminded that God is trustworthy and faithful we find “Blessed Be the Name,” “Lord I Need You,” or “It is Well” on our lips.

When we are amazed by the beauty of God’s creativity in Creation we might discover that our hearts are bursting with “How Great Thou Art.”

What songs do we sing when we are amazed by the judgements of God? Are we ever in awe of the good judgements of God?

It might seem like a strange thing to praise God for — but it wasn’t strange to David (the likely writer of Psalm 119):

I will praise you
With an upright heart
When I learn your righteous judgements
Psalm 119:7

Judgement sounds like a scary word, but it plays a crucial role in all of our lives.

I just read a story about a boy who was told by a coach that he was never going to be a good at sports because he didn’t have a backbone. That sort of thing is a judgment. A judgment is simply an estimation, or as the dictionary would say, “a sensible conclusion.”

The boy not ever being good at sports was that coach’s judgement, his estimation based on what he observed. When the boy heard the judgment, he had a choice to make — would he live in light of the coach’s judgment? Did he trust the coach’s judgement?

I have no idea whether this coach was a help or a hinderance to the little boy. It seems like a pretty harsh judgement to me mostly because it has a nasty tone to it. Even if the judgement was right, even if the boy would likely never be great at sports, it could most likely have been delivered with a lot more gentleness and grace while pointing him to something he could excel at. But there I go with my own judgments on the situation.

You see, we all live in light of some kind of judgment, some kind of estimation of things.

The question is — do we believe that God’s judgements are so good that they make us spill over with praise? Do we believe that His judgments are 100% accurate and trustworthy enough to direct our steps? Are we desperate to learn more and more about His judgments?

It only makes sense that this is how David felt by the time he hit verse 6. So far he has been reflecting on just how happy those are that live their lives the way that God prescribes. He even mourned the fact that he wasn’t more faithful in walking in the ways of God. It’s only natural that all this meditating on God’s good ways would erupt with longing and praise for His judgments.

God’s ways are rooted in His judgments.

It’s one thing to know the rule — it’s quite another to know the reason behind the rule. My son should obey me when I tell him not to run across the road, even if he doesn’t understand why. But there comes a time when it’s good for me to explain my rule to Judah. My judgement is that running across the road is not good because he could get hit by a car. Judah may stay safe and happy by following my rule — but he gains wisdom by learning my judgments. And wisdom is able to offer a thicker, deeper layer of protection in years to come. Not to mention that Judah is much more likely to obey the rule and even pass the rule on to his own kids the more that he learns and understands my judgments.

I realize that this example is getting extreme – but bear with me. I even anticipate that there may be a day, maybe graduation day, when Judah will praise my good judgements – “because dad didn’t let me run in the road I stand here ready to graduate! Thanks dad!”

David longs to learn the judgments of God — just as the disciples sat at Jesus’s feet and longed to learn not just the rules of God, but the heart behind the rules. The word disciple literally means “a learner.” It’s someone who is eager to not only follow in the ways of the teacher — but one who really wants to get into the thinking, mindset, and heart behind what the teacher teaches.

The more that David learns of God’s judgments — the more he praises God.

We might not understand all of God’s rules — all of His prescribed ways for us to walk. The question is – do we crave after His judgments? Do we long to know the why behind His commands? And is our longing for His judgments rooted in trust or rebellion? It’s hard to receive from anything from someone we don’t trust. If we ask to learn and understand God’s judgments because we are sincerely curious and desperately longing to mimic His ways — we’re likely to see the greatness of His judgments and then burst with praise.

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