YOU DO THIS . . . I’LL DO THAT!
“Pay back into the laps of our neighbors seven times
the contempt they have hurled at you, Lord.
Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will praise you forever;
from generation to generation
we will proclaim your praise” (Psalm 79:12-13).
I hear the psalmist bargaining here. “Lord, if you’ll scratch our backs, we’ll scratch yours." He is clearly upset that God’s enemies have invaded the Promised Land. He knows his Hebrew ancestors have disobeyed the Lord and brought on their suffering. But that was then and this is now! This generation should not be punished for the sins of their ancestors. Thus, he seeks God’s forgiveness and mercy.
He seems to be on the right track, except for one tiny detail. It’s the word “then.” Pay back our enemies, THEN your people will praise you. The praise of God’s people should not be contingent on his answering our prayers. That goes for us as well. God should be praised today and always because he is God. Period.
Is it possible to praise in seasons of sorrow before the prayer’s answered? If we wait for our situations to improve or our feelings to come around, we may never get around to acknowledging the greatness of our God. Continual praise is an expression of true faith that says, “I may be hurting and confused, but I know that I know YOU ARE STILL THERE, YOU CARE AND WILL WIN.” If Jonah can lift praise in the belly of a big fish (Jonah 2:9), or if Paul can sing in chains (Acts 16:25) can I not acknowledge our Lord’s majesty even now? Nothing shrinks our problems to their right proportion and sends Satan packing like the worship of a humble saint.