The Rocks of the Ground Will Cry Out
“Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord” (Phil. 3:1a).
“In other words, authentic praise of God acknowledges what is true about God; it responds to qualities that are ‘there’ and not simply ‘there for me.’” (Leander Keck, The Church Confident, 30).
“Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.” Fascinating phrase–very simple, to the point, no beating around the bush. Rejoice in the Lord. Paul says it as if it were self-evident, as if everyone who would read this would know what it means without thinking about it. No explanations, just “rejoice in the Lord.” Maybe the Philippians saw what he was driving at right away. I don’t know.
All I do know is that there is general confusion about what “rejoice in the Lord” means today. Praise today is often seen as utilitarian; that is, we say “thank you” to God so that . . . so that God will not withhold future blessing, so that we can be sure God knows that we like good things, so that we don’t feel like ingrates, or so that we feel like we have, in some way, repaid our debt of gratitude. The focus, however, is “us,” or more specifically, “me.”
Take a cursory glance at some of the familiar hymns: “I love to tell the story”; “Pass me not O gentle Savior”; “Jesus, I come”; “God will take care of you”; “He touched me.” None of that is bad, necessarily, but it may be out of balance. Our rejoicing in the Lord, if we’re not careful can be just another exercise in narcissism. What God has done for me is of very real importance to me. But regardless of whether I ever understand or appreciate all the good that God has done for me, God is great and worthy to be praised.
So whether or not we ever understand what “rejoice in the Lord” means, creation knows. Even the rocks of the ground cry out in praise.
I suppose there’s a lesson in there somewhere for me.