June 14, 2014
TODAY’S STUDY TEXT:
“And some Levites of the Kohathites and Korahites stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.”
II Chronicles 20: 19
“The Transforming Power of Praise”
“You don’t have to be afraid of praising God too much; unlike humans He never gets a big head.”
When was the last time I lifted up my voice “loudly” in praise to my heavenly Father?
How does praising my Father make me feel?
“Praise I call the product of the singing heart. It is the inner man responding – the moment you begin to delight…your heart and mind are raised.”
“The very act of praise releases the power of God into a set of circumstances and enables God to change them if this is His design.”
Merlin R. Carothers
As we look at II Chronicles 20: 18, it becomes clear that even before God gave the victory over the “triple threat” of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites that came against the Kingdom of Judah, King Jehoshaphat led out in one of the most inspiring worship services. He fell on his face worshipping God, thanking Him for what He was going to do.
But there’s more. Seeing their king bowing before God brought the Kohathites and Korahites to their feet and with a loud voice, they led-out in praising God.
Now we have to stop right here and get a more complete understanding of the significance of this behavior from these two groups of inter-related people. If we return to Numbers 16, we find that an insurrection developed in the camp of Israel in the desert wilderness. Three specific men, Korah, the son of Kohath along with Dathan and Abiram, gathered others with them and came up against Moses and Aaron. To condense this tragic event, we find that these three men, along with their group of followers, mocked the worship of God through the ministry of the Levites. The following day, after this rebellion, Moses brought this group to the tabernacle where a very dramatic punishment by God was enacted as the earth opened under those who disregarded the worship of God and the respect due His chosen leaders.
In our text today, many years later, I find a marvelous event happening. And it is a testament to how praising God and giving Him the rightful place in our hearts and lives, transforms us. In II Chronicles 20: 19, we learn that it was the descendants of Korah and his father Kohath, who had rebelled against God. And now, years later the descendants of the rebels were the first to arise and praise the Lord, with a loud voice. These people didn’t let themselves be tarnished, banished or embarrassed by the past. Instead, they learned from their ancestors to change their behavior and to praise God. From a past filled with disobedience and heartache they became the leaders who from the dark experience their ancestors were involved in, learned that the worship and praise of God takes our lives to a new dimension of spiritual living. This is why I’m so fond of the quote by Merlin R. Carothers which I used to begin this section of the devotional: “The very act of praise releases the power of God into a set of circumstances and enables God to change them if this is His design.”
Talk about changed circumstances! From a group of rebels, defying the ways of God, the Kohathites and Korahites became the leaders of the Kingdom of Judah’s “Praise Team.” A unified choir of worshippers who with one voice spoke loudly with praise on behalf of their unfailing heavenly Father.
Possibly you may be wondering what this example has to do with you and me. Quite a lot, actually. For way too often, I’ve found that I let my past distrust and defeats hinder my current behavior. I look at the despair of the past, or the despondency I’ve felt, or the lack of trust I’ve displayed in my Father’s leading. And I allow the past “sins of Korah” to keep me demoralized today. In the lesson of King Jehoshaphat, we learn that yesterday’s failures can be overcome with today’s praise!
Many years ago, I was blessed to do some work for Teen Challenge in Southern California. There was a Woman’s Center not too far from where I lived and so one day I spent time visiting the fantastic girls who were struggling with various addictions. Many of them shared with me the fact that the addictions they battled were multi-generational, sometimes going back two or three generations. But on this inspiring visit, I learned firsthand exactly how praise and worship of God transforms us in miraculous ways.
As I visited the rooms of all the girls in the Center, the kitchen caught my eye. All along a row of ceramic tiles in the kitchen were post-a-notes with passages from the Bible, most of them referring to “praising the Lord.” As the girls did dishes or cooked, they would repeat these texts. As one girl told me, “I’m replacing the problems of the past with praise about my future.” I thought about her words today and was reminded of what Peter Bochler penned: “Had I a thousand tongues, I would praise God with them all.”
In his book, Then Sings My Soul, Volume Two, by Robert Morgan, he tells the story of Johann Mentzer who was pastor in the small village of Kemnitz, located in the middle of the forests of Eastern Germany, near the Polish and Czech borders. He began his ministry there in 1696, and became a trusted friend and mentor to the young count, Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf. Most of Mentzer’s parishioners, however, were poor serfs whose hard work primarily benefited their wealthy masters. Mentzer’s heart went out to his people, toiling in poverty and trouble, and he often counseled them to praise the Lord whatever the circumstances.
One evening Johann was returning from a Bible study in a nearby village. The night was dark, but as he approached his church, he grew alarmed at a frightening red glow in the sky. Hurrying onward, he found his own home, and the church parsonage ablaze. It had been set afire during his absence.
As he later inspected the ashes and ruins, he was disturbed and downhearted. Just then a serf tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “So, Pastor, are you still in the mood for praise and thanksgiving?” Johann offered a silent prayer for grace, and at that moment his whole attitude changed. It seemed to him that his praise to God should be louder than the sound of the tongues of flame that had just consumed his own home. The next day, he composed the following hymn:
“O That I Had A Thousand Voices”
“O that I had a thousand voices
And with a thousand tongues could tell
Of Him in Whom the earth rejoices,
Who does all things wisely and well!
My grateful heart would then be free
To tell what God has done for me.
All creatures that have breath and motion,
That throng the earth, the sea, the sky,
Now join with me my heart’s devotion,
Help me to raise His praises high
My utmost powers can ne’er aright
Declare the wonders of God’s might.”
No matter what your past defeats, no matter if “Korah” led a rebellion in your life in the past, today as you lift your voice in praise, like the Kohathites and Korahites, stand and praise your God with a very loud voice for what He has done, is doing and will accomplish in your future!
“To God who gives our daily bread
A thankful song we raise,
And pray that He who sends us food
May fill our hearts with praise.”
Organist and Composer
“Come, thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious measure,
Sung by flaming tongues above;
Oh, the vast, the boundless treasure
Of my Lord’s unchanging love”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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