Praise to the Lord the Almighty (1)

Every Friday in 2015 we consider a verse from our “Hymn of the Month.”

Praise to the Lord the Almighty
The King of creation
O my soul praise Him
For He is thy health and salvation
All ye who hear now to His temple draw near
Praise Him in glad adoration

Joachim Neander was born in 1650 in Bremen, Germany, which means that he lived in the aftermath of the Reformation. His testimony is like many often heard today. He was raised in the Christian faith but relished a life of sin until he was 20 years old. He heard the preaching of Theodor Undereyck and repented of his sins, trusting in Christ for salvation.

An author of some 60 or so hymns, Neander passed away at the age of 30. Praise to the Lord the Almighty (Catherine Winkworth translated it into English in the 19th century) is Neander’s most famous hymn, and is based off of Psalm 103, which celebrates God’s sovereign care over all things.

In this first verse we are introduced to the theme rehearsed throughout the rest of the Psalm with the words “Praise to the Lord.” To give praise to God is to give honor, recognition, glory, and credit to him. The book of Psalms ends with the line “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 150:6). When asked to silence the praises of the people, Jesus responded ““I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40). God will be praised, and it is our joy to offer our praises to him.

In giving reason for praising God, we are first pointed to God’s sovereignty. He is “The King of creation.” In other words, he rules over all. “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1).

Neander first notes God’s transcendence in this verse, but then he quickly follows that up by noting God’s immanence, or his nearness. In saying that God is our “health and salvation,” we are to think of both his physical and spiritual care for us. Jesus “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3), which includes us as his people. And Jesus was given his name “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

So, because of God’s sovereign care for his creation, and more specifically for we his people, we are told to draw near to God’s temple to praise him. For the only proper response to who God is and what he has done for us is praise.