“O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.” (Isaiah 25:1)
This “exalting” of God is what we long to unfurl across the widest horizon of our lives, even though the word rarely populates our everyday conversations. How do we apply the meaning wrapped up in this antiquated word? In what ways can we come to terms with this incredible challenge: “For those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Samuel 2:30).
God is worthy of being exalted; few things are more evident in Scripture. “For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods” (Psalms 97:9) No other being even comes close. “The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, and he will be the stability of our times, abundance of salvation, wisdom and knowledge” (Isaiah 33:5-6). Our God is, hands down, beyond comparison and ultimately worthy of our highest adoration.
Psalm 34, in part, is a poetic, profound answer to what it means to exalt the Lord. The psalmist gives us eloquent descriptions that each reinforce his grand declaration that we should “Magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!” (Psalm 34:3) At the start, we are encouraged to “bless the LORD at all times,” not just when it is convenient or our days stress free. Praising him “continually” follows that similar path; our praise should be that running commentary where our minds land before it flies anywhere else.
Our souls are to “make its boast in the Lord” as another way of exalting him. We are to brag about who God is, what he has done, and what we believe he is capable of doing in the future. This stands in sharp contrast to what we normally drone on about: our accomplishments, our future plans, our present-day scenarios. More than likely our grandiose claims have little to do with God and everything to do with plain, old, ordinary us.
“Seeking him” means we exalt God by looking to him for the answers, allowing him to deliver us from our anxious thoughts, placing our full attention on his limitless resources rather than our meager stash. We exalt him when we prioritize knowing him, when we hunker down alone with him in order to know his Word and his ways more deeply. The promise is worth making note of: “Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” (Psalm 34:10).
A part of exalting him is “crying out,” recognizing how needy we are and grasping that he is our only source of salvation and rescue. We are to “taste and see” his goodness, his life as abundant bread, wine, and honey for our souls. He is not only good, but he longs to impart good to us. Exalting him is wrapped up in depending on him completely.
This psalm teaches that blessings come from taking “refuge in him,” in hiding out in his Word, in placing ourselves in his good hands, in trusting him to provide and protect. To “fear the LORD” is another description for exalting. Being in awe of his attributes, we are to be consumed with how to please him and bow our will to his. We are to allow our thoughts of him to dominate our minds, rather than fearing the uncertain and the unknown. He should hold the supreme standing in our lives.
Practically speaking, the psalmist encourages us to honor the Lord by making the choice not to speak “evil” of others or to deceive them. When we choose to do good rather than evil, when we seek peace rather than conflict, when we strive for unity rather than discord we are following his commands and exalting Christ through our actions.
The psalmist David tells us that God promises he will honor and elevate us when we wait for him and walk in obedience to his commands (See Psalm 37:34). In their writings, James, Matthew and Peter all echo the same sentiment – the Lord will esteem us in proportion to our humility before him. As we seek to know who God is and that his standing is elevated way above ours, he will in turn reward us with blessings beyond what we might possibly imagine.
Sometimes old-fashioned words are exactly what we need for our modern world.
Elizabeth A Mitchell