‘Praise’ Genesis 14:17-20, Sunday 21st January 2024.
Praise is rising
Eyes are turning to You
We turn to You
Hope is stirring
Hearts are yearning for You
We long for You
‘Cause when we see You
We find strength to face the day…
Great worship and praise song.
I was struck yesterday about John’s vision of the heavenly throne room. You know, we probably take it for granted, but heaven looks a noisy place. John is told to come up here – and he sees a vision of God, creatures, elders, thrones etc. And what does he see. Not a study session, everyone quietly reading; or listening to wise words…
Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and who is and who is to come.
Day and night they never stop singing…
Your are worthy our Lord and God…
The impression the readers get – heaven is full of praise.
The focus of this sermon is praise. And what a man called Melchizedek teaches us about it.
We begin with a few minutes setting the scene before we get to this meeting between Mel and Abraham.
The context briefly. 4 regional rulers – big guys you could say are mentioned, rulers of power. The little guys in the story – kings of 5 cities in the Jordan valley. We need to note, as someone said ‘’the four are serious big power players. The five are just rulers of obscure towns.’’ The gang of four held their power and authority for 12 years; then the 5 declared independence and tried to break free. They didn’t wait to be attacked but took the initiative. But they had not chance and were defeated.
The gang of four, are free to do what they want, so the plunder, steal, the five cities and part of the refugees swept up, or even people taken away perhaps to become a slave or something, is Lot, Abraham’s nephew who recently in events had set off on his own.
I think we are shaped by paintings or Sunday School ideas of Abraham, with Sarai, 6 sheep and a big old tent. But the following events challenge our views of Abraham maybe.
But here Abraham undertakes a rescue mission in his late 70s.
He hears about what has happened in the Jordan Valley and he knows he cannot shrug his shoulders. Lot is a relative. He heads off with 318 men – the word used to describe them suggests military training. So it begins… it almost sounds like something Hollywood would use…
A rescue that takes him to the far north of Canaan. He is at Hebron, south. Dan is northern most city – it would take several days to get there. They cross into Syria, they carry on, and win a decisive victory and recapture everything that the gang of four had taken. It is ‘’astounding achievement’’ the four kings, a powerful coalition, with an impressive list of victories…
Abraham returns probably by a different route. He is met by two kings.
King of Salem.
King of Salem – Melchizedek brings out bread and wine; he is the first priest mentioned in the OT; he blesses Abraham – first time someone does that; he gives praise to God Most High; M shows a God centredness. Abraham gives him a tithe – tithe mentioned here, before it is mentioned by God as part of the OT Law. Abraham had done little or nothing for Melchizedek.
1.M and praise.
M chooses to praise God, after all he has seen. A celebratory meal (food and wine) is brought out but he still chooses to praise
Praise and worship is a choice. At times, praise and worship seems to explode out of us. We are just full of it. That would seem to be one image of Luke 1 – 2. People and angels bursting into praise.
Mary meets Elisabeth and Elisabeth feels John the Baptist jump in her womb, and ‘’in a loud voice she exclaimed, blessed are you among women’’ – spontaneous, joyful.
Mary’s Magnificat. My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.
Zechariah’s Benedictus. Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel.
The Angels. Glory to God in the highest.
And Simeon – we return to him next week – Simon took Jesus in his arms and praise God saying: Sovereign Lord as you have now promised…
These can all be seen as moments of praise, that just flowed out in the moment.
And that is wonderful. Rather than church being the place, or the private room, these are unexpected public places where a person let’s go and praises God… The unexpected praise, in the unlikely place…
Or these could be read as choices to praise:
Mary hears all Elisabeth is saying, it confirms all she had heard from the angel.
She chooses to give praise.
The angels knew God’s plans taking place in Bethlehem and after telling the shepherds
it was only right to praise.
And Simeon after seeing the promise that he would see the Messiah before him,
he lifted his voice in the temple courts to praise.
There are many times we are ‘overflowing with praise’ – when we encounter God, prayers are answered, when new truths hit us from his word, when we are just excited at seeing what God is doing in a church or in a person’s life etc. Overflowing is wonderful.
Yet we need to be careful that we do not wait until we feel like praising.
At times it is a choice. We choose to praise because while we may not feel it, the words we say or sing are just as true when we felt them and are just as true when we do not feel them.
John Wimber, founder of Vineyard. said about coming to church – esp for families – it can be a real struggle. You know the battel to get them ready, then get them on the bike, but in the three metres between your door and the bike they found the only puddle or piece of mud and so on… so we don’t come in the right place sometimes, we are just glad to have made it…
It can be a real choice to praise… with all that has gone on…
Two experiences that shape me and inspire me.
A friend called Rachel. At uni, where we studied, she shared how when she was quite down, she would turn to the psalms and read out the psalms of praise . It gave her words of praise when she did not have it inside. A choice. It was still true whether she felt it or not.
A second one. When I was in training as a minister, a person we all knew and liked, Simon, died in his sleep. He was only a few years older than me. He left a young wife.
That night we had a worship service that night. And I went along. There was a worship song being played – I will worship – we have used it here
I will worship with all of my heart
I will praise You with all of my strength
I remember thinking – it was I think the first time ever I went through that process. The situation, the darkness of that day, gave me every good reason to stay sitting. But I made a choice, I remember choosing to give praise and worship to God, despite all was going on. I will worship.
Praising him in the darkness.
Praising him because the words were still true. Praising him despite what my feelings were saying…
Our praise cannot be limited to our feelings.
At times, we have to make the choice, do I praise or do I allow my feelings or circumstances to determine if I will praise.
2.Who do we praise?
M says God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.
‘God Most High’. This is the first time it is used, and we find it again, in for example:
Psalms 47:2 ‘‘How awesome is the Lord Most High, the Great King over all the earth.’’
Psalm 7:17 – I will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.
Deut 32:8 – when the Most High gave the nations their inheritance…
The one over all, above all…above all powers, above all dominions, above all gods. Most High…
It declares God’s sovereignty over the whole earth. The God we praise is sovereign over all, he reigns not only over us, but over nations. The vision of God he has inspires his praise. The God over the nations had defeated the nations.
M says: Creator of the Heaven and earth. CS Lewis says: Christianity thinks God made the world – that space and time, heat and cold, and all the colours and tastes and all the animals and vegetables are things God ‘made up out of His head’ as a man makes up a story.’ (CS Lewis Mere Christianity).
All that we see… the one we praise, created it. Creation itself can be that vehicle to praise – O Lord my God when I in awesome wonder. He made it.
ESV translates it ‘’ Possessor of heaven and earth’’ Not only creator, but he owns it. It is his.
That is who M is praising…
This is more to reflect upon.
Are there particular titles we use when we are praising God?
Lord God Almighty; Father; Jesus; Lamb of God; Redeemer; King; Dad?
The different names we use in praise, will highlight different aspects of God’s nature…
Are there titles we do not use – but if we used those titles would they expand our view of God?
Or inspire new words to praise God.
M – he praises God, because Abraham has been granted victory.
Have we been given the Victory? He has delivered your enemies into your hand.
Why do we praise?
The cross shows sacrifice, shows God’s love, ít is about atonement and forgiveness, it is also about victory.
Victory. The devil – the source of evil in this world – he is on a limited time schedule.
Victory – Jesus is about victory. He will save his people from their sins is what his name means.
He saves us from the guilt of our sins – by washing them in his own blood
He saves us from the dominion and power of sin, by putting within us his powerful sanctifying Spirit
He saves us from the presence of sin when, if he has not returned, he takes us out of his world to be with him.
He saves us from all the consequences of sin – we will receive a glorious Body at the last day…and we will be within a new heaven and new earth…
We may not be saved from sorrow, persecution, conflict butt we are saved from sin forevermore.
Cross is about victory.
M praises God for his victory.
So can we.
M praise God for what God has done in Abraham’s life.
Praise be to God who delivered YOUR enemies into your hand.
M is not praising God for what God has done in his life.
He is praising God for what he has done in Abraham’s life.
As we see God’s blessing, his work in the lives of others, we can bring him praise. The wedding of cana – while the disciples maybe enjoyed tremendous new qualities of wine, the main beneficiaries were the bride, bridegroom and the connected families as it would have brought shame.
We can praise God for his work in others. Paul in his letters regularly is thanking God, praising God, for what he is doing. 1 Corinthians – I always thank God for you because of his grace given to you in Christ Jesus.’’ And Philemon, a member of a church, Paul writes: I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.
How are people you meet here at All Saints – those you may meet today – experiencing the new wine of the kingdom you could say, the working of God.
Can they be part of your praises as you go home, or say your prayers later this week?
Lord I praise you for what you have done in their life, what you did through them…
Of course, that is why over coffee and tea, it is important that we take the opportunity to give testimony of what God is doing. If we don’t say, people don’t know… as we share it, it inspires others, builds them up, gives wisdom and generates praise…
M welcomes Abraham with a meal, yet he also choose to praise God.
He made a choice.
Who did he praise? His vision of God – He reigns over all on earth,
and he created everything and owns it.
Why did he praise – the victory of God, and God’s work in and through someone else…
‘Cause when we see You
We find strength to face the day
In Your presence
All our fears are washed away
You are the God who saves us
Worthy of all our praises