Created for Praise!

Created for Praise!

Much as I love proclaiming God’s Word each week and value the importance of doing so, from my own decades-long experience of worship I’m well-aware of the fact that sometimes what the Holy Spirit will use to remind me of the truth of who God is and his goodness is a song, not the sermon. Songs have an ability to minister not only to our minds but also to our emotions. Putting words to music has the added benefit of making those words memorable. This is true of all types of songs—love songs, ballads, patriotic songs. How often have you been moved while listening to The Battle Hymn of the Republic written by the abolitionist Julia Ward Howe as an anti-slavery anthem?[1]

Well, as last week we saw how the LORD fought a decisive battle against the Egyptians as they pursued the Israelites who were seemingly hemmed in by the Red Sea before them, this week we see Moses and the Israelites celebrating the LORD’s deliverance as they sing not a patriotic song praising their nation, but a song of gratitude to God for all he has done on their behalf.[2] As stated in verse 1 of Exodus 15, upon experiencing God’s deliverance “Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord.” This song of Moses begins with a declaration of praise for who God is as it recounts what he has done in delivering them from their Egyptian enemies: “I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.” The Israelites played no role in overcoming their enemy. It was the LORD who hurled both horse and driver into the sea. As such, verse 2, “The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” God and God alone—his power, his protection—was the reason for their deliverance; God and God alone was the means of their salvation, both spiritual and physical. Indeed, God and God alone, who was worshiped by Israel’s predecessors and first disclosed himself to Moses at the burning bush by saying, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob,”[3] is worthy of praise and to be exalted.

And in fighting for his people in battle, God disclosed himself to be an experienced fighter. As the song goes on to acknowledge, verse 3, “The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.” The particulars of the battle he fought are yet again recounted in verses 4 and 5: “Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea.The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone.” The danger the Israelites had faced was palpable; the victory the LORD wrought unimaginable for until he intervened, there was no way of escape. Yet he delivered his people on dry land and hurled Pharaoh’s chariots and army into the sea until they sank like stones and drowned in its deep waters. As we noted last week, had this been the Sea of Reeds, no such drowning of an entire army could have occurred.

Such a decisive and extraordinary intervention calls out for praise to the One who carried out this deliverance. As stated in verse 6, “Your right hand, Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, Lord, shattered the enemy.” God’s right hand, a symbol of power, was mightily in display in all of this. As verses 7 and 8 declare, “7 In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you. You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble. 8 By the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up. The surging waters stood up like a wall; the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.” Thus did God’s fierce love for his people—and corresponding fury against those who hated them—result in his overthrowing their enemy.

Verse 9 then provides a glimpse of the Egyptians’ trash talk as they pursued the Israelites: “The enemy boasted, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.’” As evidenced by their boasting, the Egyptians felt confident in their ability to overcome the Israelites. Yet human strength and arrogance are no match for God who is able to destroy armies with but a puff of air from his mouth. As stated in verse 10 concerning the LORD, “But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters.” Is it any wonder that Moses then rhetorically asks, verse 11, “Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” Who, indeed? No god can hold a candle to God, Maker of heaven and earth; no god can hold a candle to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who ever cares for and rules over those who are his.

As stated in verse 12, “You stretch out your right hand, and the earth swallows your enemies.” With but a gesture from God, the earth obediently does his bidding, swallowing up the enemies of his people. And we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that the reason the LORD did all these things was out of his deep and abiding love for his people. As noted in verse 13, “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.” One commentor notes that hesed, the word translated as God’s unfailing or steadfast love, “is difficult to render in English. Here it refers to God’s loyalty and devotion to His people, a loyalty created by the bond of God’s covenant with His people.” What is more, “its overwhelming use [throughout Scripture] is as a description of God’s devotion to His people. Since God reveals Himself in devotion to His own, there is no stronger term to express the free and faithful grace of His love.”[4] Let us never forget that God is ever personally and intimately involved in the lives of those whom he loves. He ever watches over and cares for those who are his. He didn’t create and then leave people to their own devices but seeks to lead them by his strength and guide them to his holy dwelling for their own joy and good.

The next section of this song is especially important because the reason that the LORD led his people out of Egypt was to return them to the land he promised Abraham, their ancestor. Although this land was currently inhabited, God’s battle on behalf of his people—which even the Egyptians recognized, albeit too late[5]—will be renown and thereby provide a level of protection. As stated beginning with verse 14, word will get out and as the nations learn of the marvelous deeds the LORD has done on behalf of the Israelites, “14 The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. 15 The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away; 16 terror and dread will fall on them.” It’s worth noting, as one commentator does, that in this listing of nations, “The order is roughly that along the route Israel [will] follow from Mount Sinai to the promised land.”[6] Yet as stated beginning with the end of verse 16, the LORD will remain faithful to his people throughout for “By the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone—until your people pass by, Lord, until the people you bought pass by. 17 You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance—the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established. 18 The Lord reigns for ever and ever.”

Verses 19–21 then provide a reprise of all that the LORD has done, ending with a song from Moses’ sister, Miriam. Verse 19 again summarizes the miraculous delivery the Israelites had just experienced: “When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground.” Then, following this summary of the LORD’s momentous deliverance, “Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing.” In essence Miriam exhorted the women to sing the opening words of Moses’ song in verse 1,[7] telling them, “Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.”

In this song we see how Moses—and Miriam—and all the Israelites praised the LORD for delivering them from their enemies when all hope appeared to be lost. But praise under such circumstances isn’t their prerogative alone. Though we were not there, and we are not Jews, the Scriptures God has given and preserved for us make clear that praising him is our prerogative as well. Indeed, praise is the right and privilege of all who seek to love, follow, and serve our great and gracious LORD for when our awesome God created a nation for himself by way of Abraham, his chosen servant, he ever had in mind that by way of that servant all the nations on earth would one day be blessed.[8]

In turning to our New Testament passage from Romans 15, the apostle Paul, who is writing to a Gentile or non-Jewish audience, makes this promised blessing to them and the resultant praise explicitly clear. He begins in verse 7 by exhorting these believers to “Accept one another…just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Since those who belong to God are united both to him and other believers by his indwelling Holy Spirit, all who follow God are to accept each other. Paul earlier defined this acceptance in a number of ways: as bearing with the failings of the weak;[9] and pleasing our neighbors for their good, to build them up;[10] and having the same attitude of mind toward each other that Jesus had so that with one mind and voice all might glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.[11] This is what accepting one another as Christ accepted us entails. And as Jesus ever did the Father’s will[12] as he loved and served him and those whom he brought into his life, so are we to do as we seek to follow in Jesus’ steps.

As Paul goes on to explain, verse 8, “Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth” for two reasons: First: “so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed.” In other words, God who is truth and as truth faithfully carries out every promise he makes, has sent his Messiah, the Christ, in the person of Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Scriptures God has given and revealed to his people. As the risen Christ said to his confused and downcast disciples on the road to Emmaus, “‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”[13] Wouldn’t you have loved to be a fly on the wall listening to Jesus’ explanation to these disciples after he rose from death and appeared to them???! This account from Jesus’ own life illustrates Paul’s point—that Christ became a servant of the Jews in order to confirm the truth of the promises God made to them.

But the second reason that Jesus became “a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth” is, as stated in verse 9, “that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.” God’s mercy wasn’t just for the sake of the Jews but also for the sake of the Gentiles, the nations of the world that were to be blessed by way of Abraham. As one commentator states, “God’s greatest and climactic act for Israel’s salvation was the sending of the Messiah to fulfill the promises made to the patriarchs and so to gather in the great harvest of the Gentiles.”[14] That “great harvest of the Gentiles” would be us!

Paul then quotes some representative Old Testament Scriptures to make his point:

He begins with a quotation found in both 2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.”[15] Praising God among the Gentiles and singing the praises of his name is a form of testimony, a public recounting of God’s goodness in order that the Gentiles, too, might come to know him;

Then Paul turns to Deuteronomy 32 noting, “Again, it says, ‘Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.’”[16] Delighting in God is not only for the Jews, the people of God at that time, but also the Gentiles;

Next he references the first verse of Psalm 117, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples extol him.”[17] Again, the Gentiles are being encouraged to delight in God, to praise him enthusiastically;

Last, Paul turns to Isaiah 11 which identifies God with Jesus, the hope of all nations: “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.”[18] The Father in heaven sent his eternal Son to earth to rule over not only the Jews from whom he descended but also the Gentiles.

Again, in all of this it’s evident that all people, whether Jew or Gentile, have been created for praise for all people, at the time of creation long before the distinction of Jew and Gentile ever existed, were made in the very image of God. As stated in the opening chapter of the Bible: “26 Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”[19] Consequently, all people have been made to be in relationship with him who made, loved, and imprinted his very image upon them. Indeed, we’re to resemble our Father in heaven just as we resemble our earthly parents not only physically but also in our behavior and values. For to live as God created us to live; to live as God redeemed us to live is to live in a manner that is holy, loving, just, and merciful even as he is holy, loving, just, and merciful. This is what is pleasing to him, Jesus Christ the Root of Jesse who by rising from death has conquered death and now rules over the nations at the Father’s right hand. In him both Jews and Gentiles place their hope and offer praise.

Another way of stating this is to say that to live as God intended us to live is to embrace the truth that we were created for praise. Since to know God as he as is to love him, to know God as he is will result in praise to him. For if we know God as he is, we can’t help but be in in awe of his goodness—and greatness—and kindness—and gentleness—and holiness.

This is what is borne witness to in the song of Moses we’ve just considered;

This is what is borne witness to in all creation as expressed in the opening words of Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands;”

This is what is borne witness to by the ancients of old as recorded throughout the Old Testament;

This is what is borne witness to by the Gentiles who have believed and received Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

And this is as it should be for, as one commentator observes, “The one people of God, both Jews and Gentiles, will praise God forever for his great mercy extended to them in Christ Jesus, showing that the worship of God is the ultimate aim in salvation history.”[20] Again, the worship of God, praising him, is why you and I have been created.

What is more, this song of Moses is one that all of God’s saints, both Jew and Gentile, will one day be singing together. As recorded in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation, John was given a vision of “those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God 3 and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb.”[21] Then these victors over God’s enemy sang, “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. 4 Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”[22] As noted by one scholar, “The Song of Moses, celebrating Israel’s exodus from Egypt…is fulfilled in the song of the Lamb, which tells of a great redemption of a new kingdom of priests.”[23]

Dear brothers and sisters, you and I have been created for praise. This becomes evident as we realize that the more we draw near to God, the more he will draw near to us.[24] And the more he draws near to us, the more he’ll show us our need for him as we realize our inability to live as he desires us to live. But the wonder of the Gospel, of the Good News that God in Christ Jesus brings, is that the more aware we become of our sin, the more Christ’s forgiveness will mean to us. Like the woman in Luke 7 who having “lived a sinful life”[25] wept and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, kissing and pouring perfume on them,[26] we’ll be able to show great love to him knowing that as was true with her, our many sins have also been forgiven by him who came to earth to take them away by placing them and their punishment upon himself.[27] Indeed, the more we get to know God, the more we will love him. The more we love him, the more we’ll want to share him with those around us. The more we know and love him, the more we’ll fulfill our God-given purpose to praise him both now and forever.

Let us pray.

Benediction: Although I skipped over verse 13 of Romans 15, I didn’t forget it but wanted to use it as our benediction from the LORD this morning. Therefore, my precious sisters and brothers, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

[1] For an informative and interesting article, see (or listen to) Andrew Limbong’s One Song Glory:How “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” became an anthem for every cause on July 4, 2018. <>

[2] Portions of this song is echoed elsewhere in Scripture. See Psalm 118:14: The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.; Isaiah 12:2: Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.”

[3] Exodus 3:6. The verse also records Moses’ response to this revelation: “At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.”

[4] Reformation ESV Study Bible note on Exodus 15:13.

[5] Exodus 14:24–25: 24 During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. 25 He jammed the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”

[6] Zondervan NIV Study Bible note on Exodus 15:14–15. Also noted in the Reformation ESV Study Bible note on Exodus 15:14.

[7] Exodus 15:1: I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.

[8] Genesis 12:1–3: 1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

[9] Romans 15:1: We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.

[10] Romans 15:2: Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.

[11] Romans 15:5–6: May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

[12] See, for example, John 4:34:  “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.

[13] Luke 24:25–27.

[14] Zondervan NIV Study Bible note on Romans 15:9. Emphasis added.

[15] 2 Samuel 22:50: Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.; Psalm 18:49: Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.

[16] Deuteronomy 32:43: Rejoice, you nations, with his people, for he will avenge the blood of his servants; he will take vengeance on his enemies and make atonement for his land and people. Emphasis added.

[17] The entire Psalm consists of two verses: 1 Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. 2 For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord. Emphasis added.

[18] Isaiah 11:10: In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.; LXX/Septuagint translation states: And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall arise to rule over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust, and his rest shall be glorious. Emphasis added.

[19] Genesis 1:26–27.

[20] Crossway ESV Study Bible note on Romans 15:9–12.

[21] Revelation 15:2b–3. Emphasis added.

[22] Revelation 15:3–4.

[23] Crossway ESV Study Bible note on Revelation 15:3–4.

[24] James 4:8.

[25] Luke 7:37.

[26] Luke 7:38.

[27] Luke 7:47.