I recently had the experience of being outside in the morning while it was dark and seeing the day dawn gradually. Then, as it happened, that very same day I was out in the early evening as the sun set and darkness appeared again.
The experience reminded me of Psalm 113:3, which reads, ‘From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised’.
We are told that in heaven, the praise of God never ceases, that there the redeemed ‘are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night within his temple’ (Revelation 7:15). There is no moment here on earth when someone, somewhere is not engaged in the praise of God, ‘from the rising of the sun to its setting’.
Think for a moment of the Christian sabbath. Here in the UK we might be fast asleep in bed early on a Sunday morning, but the sun has already risen in the east.
In China and the former states of the Soviet Union, Christians are already up and meeting together (sometimes illicitly because of oppression). They have gathered together to hear God’s Word and unite their hearts and voices in God’s praise.
Then, when day dawns in the UK, Christians here take up God’s praise. My mother’s church meets at 09.30 on a Sunday; my church meets at 11.00; a church I know in Belfast meets at midday. We have our evening service at 18.30; the church I know in Belfast meets at 19.00.
Eventually though, in all assemblies, the closing benediction is said; we make our way home and the caretaker locks the church door. Our corporate worship has finished for the day.
Yet if we could travel west to America, we would find that their evening worship has not begun. It will do though; they will be engaged in corporate worship while we are retiring for the night.
The question is begged: ‘Why is God always to be praised?’ The answer of the Bible is ‘Because he alone is worthy’. Worship depends on worth, and there is no one or nothing more worthy than almighty God.
He alone may be described as truly ‘great’. Human greatness is relative; divine greatness is absolute. ‘Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable’ (Psalm 145:3).
Glory and grace
There is then no time on earth or in heaven when Christians, either individually or corporately, are not praising God. Their praise is a response to his superlative glory and saving grace.
The ‘name of the Lord’ refers to the revelation God has given us of himself — his self-disclosure. We learn from the Bible that God is supreme, sovereign and unrivalled. He is the uncreated creator and sustainer of the universe, unsurpassed and unsurpassable in his greatness. He asserts: ‘I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me’ (Isaiah 46:9).
The Shorter Catechism, in answer to the question ‘What is God?’ states: ‘God is a spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth’.
The revelation of God in the Bible incites and demands our praise and awe. Not worshipping him is the height of disrespect. Worshipping anything created is idolatry. Christians therefore praise God for his superlative glory and greatness. But Christians alone have special reason for praising God, namely, his grace.
The wonder of wonders is that the awesome God of the universe should have mercy on sinners and enter into a relationship with them, and this one truth is the conviction which unites all Christians.
Christians are recipients of God’s saving grace. Whilst the Lord was within his rights to condemn us all to hell for our sins, in his mercy he sent his Son to save us from our sins and restore us to fellowship with himself.
God the Father planned our salvation; God the Son procured our salvation on Calvary’s cross; God the Holy Spirit has applied Christ’s work of redemption to us, reconciling us to God for time and eternity.
Fuel for worship
With all this in mind, Christians meet together for the corporate worship of God, to praise him for his saving grace in Christ. We have a salvation to celebrate, a mercy to extol and a God to glorify. The wonder of his saving grace in the gospel is the fuel which ignites our praise.
Hear again John’s summary of that good news: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him’ (John 3:16-17).
Here are majestic reasons for obeying the injunction of Psalm 113:3: ‘From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised’.
We thank thee that thy church unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.
As o’er each continent and island,
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.
The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren ’neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.
So be it, Lord, thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires pass away;
Thy kingdom stands and grows for ever,
Till all thy creatures own thy sway.
The author has written many Christian
books and articles and has an honorary
doctorate from Christian Bible College, Rocky Mount, NC.