Left to my own devices I often feel inadequate in my ability to properly praise the Lord. Language seems to fail in expressing how great He is. That is why I am indebted to the Psalms and the writers of poems and lyrics. They so enrich my ability to express praise to the One who no tongue nor pen is truly adequate to fully exalt.
Some of what limits our ability to properly laud Him is that our language has been sort of dumbed down through over-use and misuse of the words which worshippers in the past have employed. Think of how trite the word awesome has become. It means: extremely impressive or daunting, inspiring great admiration, apprehension or fear. Therefore, how many things are truly “awesome”? Has that drawing of a 4 year old truly reached the status of awesome? Was the specialty of the house at your favorite restaurant really awesome? Was scoring a pair of hot tickets to a sold-out Cubs playoff game awesome…OK, maybe I’m treading closer to the mark there. In truth, what was the last thing that truly awed you to the point of breathless, fearsome wonder?
The same could be true of the word “excellent.” When I think of the word I often hear it echo in my memory, spoken by a rather ignoble character from a film genre of 30 years ago. While I’ve never seen any of the films from the Bill and Ted franchise, I could not escape the cultural phenomenon of one of them exclaiming, “Excellent!”
In our society the concept of excellence has been dumbed down, as well. Everyone gets a trophy or gold star. Class rankings and the awards of Valedictorian and Salutatorian are being done away with in many places, so others who have not achieved such distinction don’t feel bad about themselves. Sometimes it causes such words lose their impact.
Even our more modern versions of the Bible have largely eliminated the word excellent in connection to the Lord and in the context of His praises, preferring such words as majestic, priceless, exalted, surpassing, glorious, wonderful, and beyond our reach as substitutes for the word excellent in their translations.
Excellent is defined as: of the highest or finest quality…being so to an extreme degree. The excellence of God is not dumbed down in way! He is the highest and finest in all of His qualities, and is so to the ultimate degree. Scripture tells us that He is excellent in power and in judgment, and in plenty of justice. His name is excellent, as is His loving kindness, His greatness, and His works. Indeed, not only is He excellent in every way we can conceive, there is no one or no thing that rises above Him. He doesn’t tie for excellence with anyone. He sets the bar so high in His excellence that no one can come close—as our anthem says, He is matchless!
He strains both our brains to grasp His excellence, and our vocabulary to express even the limited understanding we possess. Frank Allred has said, “We cannot quantify it; we cannot measure it. Our minds simply cannot cope with it.” However, he goes on to say, “Even so, it would be a serious mistake to jump to the conclusion that we need not try to understand the glory of God. After all, Scripture was written for our learning, not to baffle us…God has revealed himself in his word, not in order that we may fully comprehend him, but that our knowledge of him may lead us to give him the glory due to his holy name. For this reason alone, every believer should be a serious student of the Bible.”
Therefore, as we go to the scriptures we should go with our eyes not only open for declarations of His excellence, but as miners of precious gems, seeking diligently, eager to uncover the inestimable prize of His excellent glory. However, unlike miners who often keep their discovery secret, we need to boldly declare the excellence of the Lord we discover. It edifies us when we proclaim it, as well as those who hear us, and it pleases the Lord to see us delighting in all His excellence.
What about you? How has the Lord been proven excellent in your eyes? Each of us has a story and a perspective. Have we each discovered for ourselves how excellent He is? Perhaps we need to borrow the words of the psalmist, poet, or lyricist, but it is our privilege and duty to express our praise of that excellence. Let’s take a moment and think about ways He is excellent, particularly those ways He has exhibited His excellence in our own lives. Then let those insights inspire our hearts as we praise.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries