It’s not arrogant to call on all people to praise God.
In our modern Western world of the ‘politically correct’, for a person to show confidence in almost any ‘truth’ is seen and perceived as arrogant. It’s the era of ‘post-truth’ (the word of the year 2016!) where any call to objective standards of truth is said to be arrogant, presumptuous, and (to use the current catch-cry) ‘intolerant’.
This is particularly true when it comes to the area of religion. To say that one particular religion is ‘right’ or ‘correct’ or ‘the only way’ (John 14:6), and all others are wrong, is to commit the unforgiveable modern-day sin.
However, if a particular truth is indeed true, then it’s not arrogant or presumptuous, or even intolerant, to proclaim it. It’s right. It’s fitting. It’s appropriate.
I preached recently on Psalm 66 and was struck by the boldness of the psalmist’s call to praise. Psalm 66 is a beautiful psalm which teaches us that praise is far more than singing on Sunday – to praise is to boast and brag about God’s awe-inspiring works ( v. 3) to God, to each other, and to all nations. What is particularly striking about Psalm 66 is that it doesn’t do what most other psalms do – call on people to praise God because of his works of creation (Ps 19 for example). The psalmist of Psalm 66 does what is truly intolerant to the modern hearer. He calls upon all the earth (v. 1) to come and see the wonders of the God of Israel and his awe-inspiring acts for humanity, and to praise him for those works (v. 5). What is truly striking is the example the psalmist uses to call upon all humanity to be in awe of –the redemption event of the Exodus (v. 6)
Just imagine how the nations around Israel would have felt if they heard this psalm sung before them. How dare these Israelites call on them to abandon their own gods and turn to praise the God of Israel! Imagine how the nation of Egypt would have felt! In the Exodus event the Egyptians were plundered, and the plagues of Exodus 7-11 left Egypt all but completely destroyed. What arrogance that this psalmist should call on all nations, including Egypt, to be in awe of the God of Israel for the redemption event of the Exodus!
And yet, it isn’t arrogant if the God of Israel is the God of all. It isn’t intolerant if the Lord truly is the Creator of all and worthy of all praise. And as far as the psalmist is concerned, the Exodus event stood as a warning and a witness to all people that the God of Israel is the Lord. It’s what we hear God say over and over again in the book of Exodus – that by his works the Egyptians will know that “I AM the Lord” (Exod 14:18).
But as Christians, who are Old and New Testament believers, we know that the great redemption event of the Exodus points to the greater redemption event of the cross. Jesus is the Passover Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)!
You see, the psalmist had no issue in calling upon all the earth to praise God for his awe-inspiring works for humanity. The Exodus event showed God to be truly powerful, mighty, and worthy of all praise. It also showed him to be loving in redeeming a people for himself. The right thing for the nations that surrounded Israel to do was to join Israel in praising God for who he is – the Lord of all. It wasn’t arrogant or presumptuous at all. It was right. It was fitting. It was appropriate.
And how much more in light of God’s awe-inspiring works for humanity in Jesus. If the psalmist was confident and bold in calling upon all to praise God, well, we have reason to be bolder. We have the gospel of salvation in Christ Jesus to point people to. The gospel where people will see how truly awesome (in the true sense of that word) God is in redeeming a people for himself in Jesus. It’s not arrogant for us to call on all people to praise God. It’s right. It’s fitting. And it’s what’s best for all people.
Now of course we need to be careful in how we call people to rightly praise our God. But the point is, just like the psalmist did, we should. Sometimes a good starting point is to start with creation, like Psalm 19 does. I often suggest to people that if God is the Creator, and we are created by him, then surely it is right for us to listen to our Creator – to live in light of how he has made us to live as people made in his image. But we can never stop there. As awe-inspiring as God’s works of creation are, what is truly awe-inspiring is all that God has done through Jesus his Son. In Jesus, God has redeemed a people for himself. He loved us by sending his Son Jesus to die for us, so that we might know this God personally as Father. He spared us the righteous judgement we deserve, through Jesus the Lamb of God. Isn’t that praiseworthy! Isn’t that awe-inspiring! That is our God.
It’s not arrogant to call on all people to praise God. It is right. It is fitting. So let us be bold like the psalmist of Psalm 66. Let us be bolder, given all that God has done in Jesus to the praise of his glory.