Everyone enjoys receiving praise, whether a child hearing loving appreciation from a parent, a student responding to the encouraging words of a teacher, or a worker enjoying recognition from his employer. Praise generates energy, sustains emotion, and motivates the masses. But not all deserve praise. This fact has escaped the participation trophy crowd, along with those educational theorists who believe in rewarding wrong answers in the hopes that the right answers will appear magically at the next opportunity. However, the reality of our flaws, however varied in form and number, demonstrate how unworthy of praise we truly are. We respond to praise because we do not always deserve it. God, on the other hand, does not require praise to move Him to act or care, yet He deserves praise for everything He does and just for who He is. David recognize this and responded accordingly with the words we find recorded in Psalm 138.
Popular religion has reduced praising the LORD to a passing phrase and a casual fancy, but the pure praise of this psalm demonstrates deliberate dedication. For David, praising God rose deep within to express praise far removed from the generic overtures of those whose repeated phrases and volume masquerade for piety. Yahweh is the One Who is There for Us, and therefore He deserves personal praise. He deserves everything you have to offer from the depths of your soul—completely, distinctly, and personally devoted to Him and no other (Psa. 138:1). He deserves your personal worship, with a heart stirred within by His love and thus motivated to listen and submit to His will in praise, in worship, and in everything else (Psa. 138:2). He deserves your personal praise because He really answers prayer, because He really provides strength, and because He really is there for you (Psa. 138:3).
Moreover, the LORD deserves universal praise—not just the adoration of the holy, and not just the periodic praise some offer to assuage their guilt—but the praise of all who can offer it. Indeed, we should exalt Yahweh like no other specifically because He has no equal. His authority and power exceeds that of the greatest dynasties upon the earth, and His wisdom surpasses the understanding of the whole of human history (Psa. 138:4). His ways deserve our full attention, awe, and consideration, for He has a very different character, carries out definitive actions, and maintains a distinct existence. Truly “great is the glory of the LORD” (Psa. 138:5). He is highly exalted but cares for those beneath Him. However, though He knows everything that all men have done, He remains unimpressed with those who exalt themselves, knowing their flaws far better than they (Psa. 138:6).
Above all, the LORD deserves meaningful praise, devotion expressed from a knowing heart and a thankful soul. Far too often we allow our praise to come from habit and routine rather than reflection and soul. Praising Yawheh should carry great meaning because He helps with our most desperate needs (Psa. 138:7). Praising Yawheh has greater meaning because He is interested in our spiritual progress—not just our present. He has responded to our most desperate need. Therefore, praising Him does not originate from what we have to offer Him, but what He has to offer us (Psa. 138:8a). Praising Yawheh has the greatest meaning possible because we have seen the enduring love and mercy of the LORD in all that He does for us and we realize how very much we need Him in our lives (Psa. 138:8b).
God does not, of course, need our praise. It adds nothing to Him, nor does our failure take away from His glory. Nevertheless, we do indeed need to praise Him because the Creator and Redeemer of mankind deserves the recognition of the created and the redeemed. To praise is simply to recognize and then acknowledge verbally what someone else has done. God has done everything for us, and therefore we should praise Him with everything we can muster.