High and Lifted Up

High and Lifted Up

The lyrics of this anthem are simple, but important. They convey the vital truth about who God is, and what our response to this reality is to be.

The great tragedy of our world boils down to the fact that we don’t know God and acknowledge Him for who He is, which leads us far away from Him. The great wonder of the world is that we have a God who so mercifully has condescended to reveal Himself to us, as a remedy for our tragic state. He has revealed Himself generally, through creation, and specifically, through His word, and personally, through His Spirit. Any lack of knowledge on our parts boils down to pride in our self-sufficiency, ignorance of His Word, and disobedience to His Spirit. All of which can be overcome in His provision and power.

One of the ways we overcome our tragic state is by praising the Lord. Through praise we acknowledge what we do know about Him. Even without the Scripture, Romans tells us that God has made Himself known through His creation in ways that are plain to any man. We see in human history that there is some acknowledgement of this through mankind’s instinctive desire to worship that which is above and beyond us in scope and power. Unfortunately, our pride, sinfulness, and ignorance cause us to warp what we worship into forms we seek to control in order that we have our desires fulfilled, even our most base of desires. The gods the human imagination creates are as selfish and twisted as we are.

Even we believers in the true God have to be careful lest we carve away the parts of God which we don’t like to create a form of God which is more an idol of our own imagination than who God reveals Himself to be in His Word. So, for our praise to be true and pleasing, it must be formed by what we learn about God in the Scriptures. Even the praises which arise from our personal experiences with God must be in full accord with what He reveals about Himself in the Word, or we can fall into error.

So, the first characteristic of genuine praise is that it is based on God’s self-revelation. When we acknowledge this as truth, and proclaim it in our hearts and with our mouths, we have expressed real praise which honors and lifts God high.

But it does more than just please the ears of God. It exalts Him both in our own estimation, and as a witness to those around us. Praising God out loud, whether spoken or in song, does something to our own spirits. C.S. Lewis says that praising something is the completion of our enjoyment of it. Someone in love speaks of their beloved constantly. We speak highly of those we admire, or even a product we enjoy, so it would stand to reason we would do so if we admire, love, adore our God. What we say audibly is formed in our mind, expressed through our mouths, then reenters our ears, reinforcing our minds with the truth of it in ways that just thinking thoughts of praise does not do. It enhances and endorses our enjoyment of Him.

Praise is something that can occur spontaneously, but most often needs to be cultivated. As we read Scripture, when we come across something admirable or awesome about God, we would do well to not merely acknowledge it in our minds, but to express it with our mouths. For instance, when we read John 3:16, we can respond, “I praise You, Lord that Your love is so astounding that You would give Your Son, Your wisdom in crafting such a plan even before the foundation of the world, Your mercy, grace, and forgiveness. I praise You, Jesus, for Your humility and obedience, Your love and willingness, Your courage, and resolve, Your strength even displayed in Your weakness.” Surely there is so much more that can be drawn out of that verse, but we can see how even the most familiar of verses is rich fodder for proclaiming how High and Lifted Up our God is, and gives ample reasons for exalting His Name.

Just like any language, we become more fluent in praise through practice. We can gain fluency too by reading the prayers and praises of saints throughout the centuries, and see the glory of God through the prism of their perspective. There are a multitude out there, but let me recommend: Empowered by Praise, by Michael Youssef; 31 Days of Praise, by Ruth Myer; I Give You Glory, O God and I Exalt You, O God, by Jerry Bridges. We can even begin a praise book of our own by writing down praises from Scripture, or our expressions of praise from what we see in verses (as above), or the praises of saints we read from other sources. Then we will have a handy resource from which to draw praises in our personal time of worship. The more we praise the Lord, the more we will enjoy Him, and that is what He is after.