Keep Calm and Read Psalm 149:
“Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
And His praise in the assembly of saints.
Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.
Let them praise His name with the dance;
Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp.
For the Lord takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the humble with salvation.
Let the saints be joyful in glory;
Let them sing aloud on their beds.
Let the high praises of God be in their mouth,
And a two-edged sword in their hand,
To execute vengeance on the nations,
And punishments on the peoples;
To bind their kings with chains,
And their nobles with fetters of iron;
To execute on them the written judgment—
This honor have all His saints.
Praise the Lord!”
“Trick or Treat!” Those are my older sister’s favorite words to hear. It means she has another group of kids at the door, grinning widely and expecting to be immersed in that glorious flow of candy goodness. And my sister is happy to oblige those candy-covered claws. In fact, she’d be happy if she owned the whole Willy Wonka Factory so she could stand out in front every day giving out candy. Her only stipulation: dress up like something adorable. At least if you’re a little kid (don’t get any ideas, Mom! Too late).
This Halloween, I was busy working on a doctrinal statement on Christology (I know, I know, but I was spending Reformation Day wisely! Amen?). But down below, I could overhear my sister’s antics. I would hear a knock and then the door opened. And then would come my sister’s loud request to the ghosts and their Grandmas gathered on the porch: “What do you say?” The kids would stand there in sugary stupor until they realized what they were supposed to say: “Trick or Treat!” Once those magic words poured forth from behind white sheets and Darth Vader masks, my sister would release the chocolate gold into adorable little bags. There was no “I got a rock!” heard among those children. My sister loved to give them candy. And as she did, she couldn’t help but keep talking about how positively adorable all the costumes were. She’d even find something to say for the scary ax-murderers—“Very…realistic! Here, have five pounds of Milky Ways!” My sister is a people person, and as a preschool teacher, it kinda fits the bill. She just delights in it—delights in interacting with those costumed children, no matter who they are or what they do. It’s in her nature.
And so it is with God. Our Psalm today speaks of Him “taking pleasure in His people”—literally, to accept with favor. Our God finds delight—sheer joy—in those He has redeemed. It’s in His nature! In this Psalm, it’s speaking of the “people” of Israel. But we could easily apply it to ourselves as “saints,” as it will go on to say. After all, the Psalmist compares these people to the “humble,” and we know that God dwells with the humble (Is. 57:15). And in this Psalm, He “beautifies” them with salvation—He exalts them or embellishes them. Like my sister, complimenting each Elsa and butterfly that came to our front porch.
In response to this, the Psalmist calls these “saints” to do four things.
- Be joyful in glory. Exult in the glory of God. Just as God finds delight in you, though sinful and rebellious, so you must find delight in His great glory.
- Sing aloud on your bed. Say what? Singing…while sleeping? Yes! God has done so much for you that you should be singing praises to Him as you fall asleep and as you wake up. Frame those few hours of rest in Spirit-filled songs.
- Put the high praises of God in your mouth. The highest praise you can offer anyone must be offered to God—continually. That should be what’s on the tip of your tongue, not the latest stats from the Senate race (oh, is that only me?) or the World Series (poor Royals).
- Put a two-edged sword in your hand. Now we get to some action! I love me some swords. What are we doing with them? Executing justice for God! Sounds kinda crazy. Like a Crusade. But even today, God has called us to grab a sword and rush into battle. But not a broad sword like you’re Gandalf or something—no, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Sharper than any two-edged sword. That’s some dangerous Book, my friends! Wield it wisely.
I don’t know what it is about me that God finds attractive. I’m not even wearing a silly costume, and I certainly don’t look adorable. I look vile, throwing aside His commands for what doesn’t satisfy. But I am His. I belong among His chosen and redeemed people. I am one of His holy ones—His saints. And He takes pleasure in me—because He doesn’t see ME when I knock on His door for help. No, He sees Christ’s righteousness, placed on my account. Now that’s a cool costume! A permanent, life-changing, destiny-altering “costume.” So, when He opens the door, He can truly smile. For there stands His child, clothed in Christ, the Son He loves. And He can take His pumpkin basket of blessings and pour out His riches into my life. Grace upon grace for graceless and greedy goblins.
The least I can do is say, “Thank you!” …and grab my Sword for battle.
-Matthew W., SC