How does God “inhabit” our praise?

Halloween has come and gone. The retailers have markdowns on all things “spooky” because they need the shelf space for all things “Santa.” 

Hopefully, they keep at least one shelf to remind everyone of Thanksgiving.

In many ways, the world doesn’t realize that without giving thanks, we can’t really experience Christmas. It will be just a holiday if we don’t have the presence of Christ.

Those of us who heard sermons from the King James Bible probably remember hearing the preacher say, “God inhabits the praise of his people.” But, if you look for that phrase in a newer translation, it isn’t there. Why is that? 

How does God “inhabit” our praise and what does that mean? 

What did King David mean?

King David wrote a psalm, a song of worship, which we call Psalm 22. If we hear a sermon from this psalm, it is usually during the Easter season. It is the psalm Jesus quoted from while on the cross. All Jewish people, Jesus included, would have memorized and sung the psalm often in their temple worship. 

King David wrote the psalm as a “lament.” He was apparently at a low time in his life when he felt he was lacking God’s blessings. It was a common Jewish belief in that time that if life wasn’t going well, if there were sickness or distress, then a person was lacking the divine favor of God. David wrote honest words about his distress and then taught honest words of hope about God’s favor. 

All of us have experienced those same moments in our own lives. It can seem like our prayers aren’t reaching God’s ears, or he is choosing to ignore them. It can seem like joy is a memory rather than a present reality. Everyone “laments” at some point in their spiritual journey. But God has given us the entirety of his truth in Scripture. Our laments should lead us to praise. 

King David teaches that important truth in Psalm 22, a truth that Jesus chose to remember while dying on his cross. Psalm 22 begins with the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” 

When Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” he was expressing his own grief, but he was also “preaching” to his mother, his best friend John, and any other Jewish person who was listening. When Jesus spoke the first few words, the rest of the psalm would have instantly come to the minds of every Jewish person in the crowd.  

The next phrases are what Jesus wanted everyone to remember. Psalm 22:3, in the King James Bible says, “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” The English Standard Version of verse three says, “Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” 

The Hebrew word for “enthroned” meant to “dwell in or inhabit.” Jesus, from the cross, was remembering and reminding those around him that God was still on his throne, still with them, and still present in their lives. 

Soon the disciples would realize that Jesus was reminding them he was the holy presence of God.  

Psalm 22 is praise and prophecy

Jesus taught from the cross that God was present, “enthroned on the praises of Israel.” Verses 4–5 say, “In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame” (ESV). 

Jesus wanted his mom and his best friend, who were grieving at his feet, to remember that God delivers his people. He always has and always will. Soon, they would realize that Jesus was their deliverance. 

Jesus wanted them to know that he was the fulfillment of all that David had written about a thousand years before. 

  • Verse 6: “I am . . . scorned by mankind and despised by the people.”
  • Verse 7: “All who see me mock me.”
  • Verse 8: “He trusts in the Lᴏʀᴅ; let him deliver him.”
  • Verse 14: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.”
  • Verse 15: “My tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.”
  • Verse 16: “They have pierced my hands and feet.”
  • Verse 18: “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

And Jesus wanted them to remember the words they had sung often in their worship, words that King David had prophesied: “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lᴏʀᴅ, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lᴏʀᴅ, and he rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive” (Psalm 22:27–29). 

Finally, Jesus wanted everyone to realize that what they were seeing take place on the cross was a fulfillment of what they had sung in their worship. Psalm 22 ends with these words: “Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it” (Psalm 22:30–31). 

When Jesus said, “It is finished,” that’s what he meant: “He has done it.” His death provided a way for all people, from all nations, even those yet unborn, to serve God and be made righteous. That is what Jesus was telling Mary, John, and anyone else who knew David’s psalm to remember when he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 

Jesus gave them the first line, knowing they could sing the rest and one day understand that he was the answer to King David’s lament. 

Jesus is the answer to our laments as well. 

God inhabits our praise

Christians celebrate Easter every day we celebrate God’s presence in our lives. Before his death, Jesus told his disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1).

John, the apostle at the foot of the cross, would soon learn what Jesus meant when he said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth . . . . You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16–17). 

King David knew that when he praised God, he was inviting God to be present in his life. David knew that even when there were struggles in life, he could praise God. The king could draw near to God’s presence when he worshiped at the tabernacle. The Ark of the Covenant was the “mercy seat” of God. 

Christian lives are now “the temple,” and we can praise God because his presence “indwells.” Because of Jesus, God is “enthroned” in our lives. If you want to experience God’s presence in your life, praise him for the gift of Jesus. Praise him for giving us the ability to know that Scripture holds miraculous prophecy, which has always been truth.  

I will close this blog post with the same words David closed his psalm. One thousand years after the words were written, David’s prayer was fully answered. That answer has been proven truth since Jesus. King David wrote: “Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it” (Psalm 22:30–31). 

God has always “inhabited” the praise of his people and still does. Christians have been made righteous because of their faith in Jesus. Now, let’s continue to praise and proclaim his righteousness to others so they can live with God’s holy presence too!  

God “inhabits” the praise of his people because he is “enthroned” in our lives. 

Let’s take some time and enjoy the privilege of his presence.  

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