One thing I have asked of Yahweh, and I will seek after it. It’s that I might sit in Yahweh’s house every day of my life to gaze at the beauty of Yahweh and learn in his temple.
– David in Psalm 27:4
The Psalms constantly command readers to praise God, yet doesn’t this make God out to be a unsatisfied narcissist? The Psalms also seem to make praise something of a transaction: do this and I will praise you, yet doesn’t this make God like the pagan gods of old? Such questions, however, betray a misguided perspective of the idea of praise.
Perceiving the problem of praise, C. S. Lewis finds a solution in the idea of admiration. He draws on the idea of art and nature. He considers how captivating a work of art is, how worthy it is of admiration; it deserves praise. The work of art does not demand admiration like a student might feel he or she deserves when writing a good paper. Admiring a work of art is simply the appropriate response to encountering a work of art, a reward in-and-of-itself. To not look at it is to miss something.
Applied to God, Lewis understands praising God as something supremely worthwhile, as entering into the real world to see what’s really real. The world of shadows and dust turns to light and glamour. “He is that Object,” writes Lewis, “to admire which (or, if you like, to appreciate which) is simply to be awake, to have entered the real world; not to appreciate which is to have lost the greatest experience, and in the end to have lost all” (Reflections, 92)
The problem of praise is really the problem of posing wrong questions. God demands praise because he is beautiful and to miss out on gazing upon the beauty of Yahweh is to miss seeing what’s really real. It’s to miss life itself.