The twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4:10-11 (ESV)
Have you ever wondered why God asks us to worship Him? After all, you and I don’t ask for one another’s praise. And it would see inappropriate to do so. C.S. Lewis wondered about this very thing, and gave the most insightful answer in his book on the Psalms in a chapter entitled, The Problem of Praising. (The full essay is well worth your time and is found here.)
“When I first began to draw near to belief in God…I found a stumbling block in the demand so clamorously made by all religious people that we should “praise” God; still more in the suggestion that God Himself demanded it. We all despise the man who demands continued assurance of his own virtue, intelligence, or delightfulness; we despise still more the crowd of people round every dictator, every millionaire, every celebrity, who gratify that demand. Thus a picture, at once ludicrous and horrible, both of God and of His worshipers, threatened to appear in my mind…”
But he began to realize that God was much different than a human being seeking compliments…
“The miserable idea that God should in any sense need, or crave for, our worship like a vain woman wanting compliments, or a vain author presenting his new books to people who never met or heard of him, is implicitly answered by the words, “If I be hungry I will not tell thee (Psalm 50:12). Even if such an absurd Deity could be conceived, He would hardly come to us, the lowest of rational creatures, to gratify His appetite. I don’t want my dog to bark approval of my books…”
Here is the secret for why we love to praise – because we praise everything that we value…
“I had not noticed, either, that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value.”
Some years ago, I had a friend who went to see a movie, loved it, and then wanted to go back and see it with me…because she wanted to watch me enjoy it. So what did she do as she talked with me about the movie? She praised it! She told me how great it was so that I would want to see it too. When we love something, we can only be happy when others love it too. It is not too great dependence on parents when a young person brings home a new boyfriend/girlfriend and wants parental approval. It is only natural. When Mom and Dad say, “She’s great!” it completes the young man’s enjoyment of his new girl.
“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with (the perfect hearer died a year ago*)…”
To see what the doctrine really means, we must suppose ourselves to be in perfect love with God — drunk with, drowned in, dissolved by, that delight which, far from remaining pent up within ourselves as incommunicable, hence hardly tolerable, bliss, flows out from us incessantly again in effortless and perfect expression, our joy no more separable from the praise in which it liberates and utters itself than the brightness a mirror receives is separable from the brightness it sheds. The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.
So do you see? You and I, like everyone else, want joy, and joy is found in praise. In fact, joy = praise. God is the ultimate One worthy of praise, so God is where we find ultimate joy. He commands us to praise Him because He loves us, and He knows that it is in praising Him that we will find true joy.