But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Psalms 22:3
Psalms 22 is a prophetic Psalm that foretells the suffering of the coming Messiah. The Psalm opens by portraying how the Messiah would be abandoned but interestingly, the statement of praise comes immediately afterward. It’s almost like he was saying that he would still praise God even in abandonment. But that line also opens our eyes to an important spiritual truth – that praise always brings God’s presence into our situations.
What Does “God Inhabit the Praises of His People” Mean?
This phrase comes from Psalms 22:3. The context is the suffering of Christ and it shows that He was praising God in spite of his bad situation. As such, it is an encouragement for us to praise God no matter our circumstances for when we do, God will come down to inhabit the praises.
There are lots of examples in the Bible that demonstrate how God came down to inhabit the praises of his people. Let us take a closer look at some of the prolific examples.
Prophet Elisha asks for a musician
In the book of 2 Kings, we read an interesting story of how the king of Moab rebelled against teh king of Israel. Before this rebellion, the Moabites were paying tribute to King Ahab but after his passing, the Moabites rebelled. This prompted the king of Israel to go to war with Moab. Before doing so, he recruited the king of Judah because he realized he needed all the help he could get. However, as they are preparing for the battle, the king of Judah advises the king of Israel that they should inquire from God first and so they go to prophet Elisha. At first, the prophet is reluctant because he has no regard for the king of Israel. But he gives in for the sake of the king of Judah. Interestingly, the prophet didn’t know what the Lord’s will was right away. And his solution to his predicament was to ask for a musician.
And Elisha said, “As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, surely were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you, nor see you. But now bring me a musician. Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him. 2 Kings 3:14
The musician was evidently playing Godly music and that brought down God’s presence. And just like that, God’s presence descended and the prophet received divine instruction for the kings of Israel and Judah.
The story of King Jehoshaphat is another classical example of how God inhabits the praises of his people. In 2 Chronicles 20, we read how the Moabites formed an alliance with some of their neighbors and came to attack Judah. On noticing this, King Jehoshaphat mobilized the entire nation to go into prayer and fasting. As they were praying and waiting upon God, God spoke through one of the Levites and told the king and the entire nation not to worry because God would fight for them – they only needed to take up their positions and wait for God’s salvation. On hearing this, the people bowed down before god and worshiped ( 2 Chronicles 20:18). On The following day, they set out against their enemies but instead of fighting, they started praising God.
And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: “Praise the Lord, For His mercy endures forever.”
Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. (2 Chronicles 20:21-22)
Notice how God set the ambushes against Judah’s enemies after they began singing and praising him. Just like the example we saw of prophet Elisha, the praise of Judah brought down God’s presence in the camp of Israel and he fought the battle for them.
Paul and Silas
The story of Paul and Silas in prison is perhaps one of the most prolific examples of God inhabiting his praises. Paul and Silas had been arrested and flogged and then thrown into prison. Their crime was preaching the gospel and casting out demons from a possessed person. When they landed in prison, they didn’t waste a minute complaining about their circumstances. Instead, they started praising God. As they continued singing and praising God, God’s presence came powerfully upon the prison and everyone’s shackles fell off.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. Acts 16:25-26
When Paul and Silas began praising, God came down in the prison as evidenced by the earthquake, and even though everyone’s shackles fell off, not a single prisoner escaped. This led to the jailer’s conversion with his whole household.
This incensed is an interesting parallel to Psalms 22:3. As we have observed, the Pslam was a prophetic declaration of the suffering of Jesus who chose to praise God in spite of his circumstances. Similarly, Paul and Silas chose to praise God despite being wrongfully jailed, flogged, and humiliated. Instead of focusing on their issues, they chose to praise God instead. And that is what brought the presence of God into their situation.
In conclusion, the timeless wisdom of Psalms 22:3, “God inhabits the praises of his people,” is vividly exemplified in many passages in the scriptures. We can learn from such stories to always praise God despite what we are going through. When we do so, God will invite His divine presence and intervention. Whether in times of uncertainty, battles of life, or the depths of confusion, the act of praising God transforms situations, ushering in His power and deliverance. Just as Jesus praised in His suffering, and Paul and Silas sang hymns amidst imprisonment, may we too find solace and victory in the praise of our Almighty Creator.