Praise Befits the Upright

A friend of mine’s dad is from the old country. Not the most learned man. A simple, hard-working, kind-hearted, Jesus-loving man. English always kind of his second language. And my friend used to tell the story of how, one day when as a family they sat around the table during family devotions while his dad read from Our Daily Bread (or some other similar type of devotional), that his dad concluded his reading with saying, “That anonymous fellow sure writes good stuff!” I’m reading some of his “good stuff” this morning.

We don’t know who wrote the thirty-third psalm. But it fuels my fire.

Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright.

(Psalm 33:1 ESV)

It’s addressed to the righteous. And that would be me. Not because of anything I have done, but all because of what’s been done FOR me and what’s being done IN me. My righteousness is that of Another. It is a righteousness credited to my account on the basis of faith alone, faith which I also can take no credit for; “it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). It is a righteousness given me as a robe (Isa. 61:10), a covering that comes as part of the garments of salvation secured for me through the finished work of a perfect, spotless Lamb on a cruel cross. A righteousness that is becoming more and more a part of me as God’s Spirit works God’s purpose in me, transforming me by the renewal of my mind (Rom. 12:2) and conforming me to the likeness of His Son (Rom. 8:29). And so, says the songwriter, “Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous!”

Of all the translations I think the ESV captures the exhortation best. Some say “rejoice”, others say “sing”, but my handy-dandy online lexicon says the word has the idea of giving “a ringing cry.” Not just singing, but exuberant singing. To cry out. To so express joy that it vibrates off the walls and it echoes down the halls. Do it, you righteous, pens the songwriter, and do it big!

And here’s the phrase that grabs me every time I hover over this song. Praise befits the upright.

There are some things that just go together. Pen and paper (or, for the e-enabled, finger and tablet). Thunder and lightning. Nuts and bolts. Salt and pepper. Mac ‘n cheese. You get the idea. Probably wouldn’t take a lot of thought to add to the list yourself. There are some things that, when you see the one, you expect it won’t be long before you see the other. Some things that were made to be linked together. Praise and the upright are among those things.

I know people are naturally wired differently when it comes to “the music in them.” That not everyone is equally predisposed to singing. That some are more reserved than others. But, so says the inspired word of God, praise befits the upright. It’s comely. It’s seemly. It’s what you’d expect from those who have been rescued, redeemed, reconciled, and refitted with a righteousness not their own.

Honestly, I don’t get songless saints. And I’m not talking about those who don’t sing because they don’t like the sound of their own voice. I have seen many shout for joy in the presence of the LORD without opening their mouths. Their faces turned heavenward, their eyes closed, their hands over their hearts or raised in exaltation. But what I don’t get are the disinterested, the distracted, and the disengaged.

When God’s people come together, shouldn’t that be prime time for heeding the psalmist’s encouragement? A bit of shouting on Sunday mornings would seem appropriate. A bit of joy and praise would seem befitting. Who has more to sing of than the righteous? Who has more reason to praise the God of salvation than those who bear the garments of His blessed Son? I’m thinking no one. That singing and shouting, that joy and praise, are just what you should find when God’s people get together.

That anonymous fellow sure writes good stuff!

Shout because of grace . . . shout for God’s glory!

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