Applausible God

Pastor Knievel

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. (Psalm 47:1)

God is really into noisy adulation. He’s got all those angels up there in heaven whooping and hallelujahing and holy holy holying at him 24/7. But the angelic ruckus ain’t enough; he recruits inanimate objects into the audience too. He wants the rivers and trees to clap and the mountains and hills to sing at him too, which is kind of freaky if you think about it. I know that if I were out hiking and the mountain started yodelling I’d hightail it out of there like nobody’s business. But even that’s not enough for God. He wants the whole earth to shout at him. It could be that he’s a bit hard of hearing as a result of an eternity in a high-decibel environment. Whatever, the divine one is definitely ovation obsessed.

Performers thrive on applause. That’s why they perform in the first place. What’s the point of playing Hamlet in a closet all by yourself? Why paint the Mona Lisa and hide it in your underwear drawer? Who in their right mind would write The Great Gatsby for a bunch of illiterates? God is no different; he wants somebody to be impressed. That’s why he made humans and angels in the first place. As long as it was just God, there was nobody he could show off to. He was all dressed up with nowhere to go. So he creates us to be a kind of studio audience. He does his thing and we cheer at the appropriate times. (The Bible is our cue card, telling us when to applaud, to laugh, to boo, and when to yell our bloody heads off.) When it all works the way it’s supposed to, it can be pretty cool. Unappreciative audience members are simply ejected and sent to hell. Nobody likes party poopers.

Clapping signals agreement. When you applaud you are agreeing with the performer and the rest of the audience that the performance was good. (Unless you’re just being polite, in which case applause signals relief that the lame show is over and you can go home. This most often applies to dance recitals, retirement dinners, and Whoopi Goldberg.) So when God orders you to clap your hands, he looking for you to agree with him about how good he is. This means that, unless you have a death wish, you should probably put those hands together.

To be fair, God is generally worthy of a good clap fest. First of all, he God. That alone puts him in the superstar category along with people like Michael Jackson, Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Elvis, and Don Knotts. Second, he created the universe, which works most of the time. This is quite an achievement, especially considering he had so little material to work with. Then there’s the creation of Adam and Eve, a small error in judgment we can excuse for obvious reasons. Of course we have to point out some of the great shows of divine wrath (the plagues were hilarious and the recurring destructions of armies and cities never seems to get old). It takes a creative mind to obliterate things with style. And we don’t want to overlook the whole Gospel thing with its notable supporting cast. All in all, God probably deserves a little applause every so often.

Even so, there have been some divine clunkers that warrant only tepid applause at best. Putting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden was a major miscalculation. And the Job deal was questionable from the get-go. Kudos for the guy who played Job, but God comes off looking like a moral dwarf. And losing the wrestling match with Jacob was very embarrassing for an omnipotent guy and compounded by the petty whack on Jacob’s hip after the fact. And sometimes God doesn’t exactly get the award for Mr. Clarity. His prophetic “time, times and half a time” explanation to Daniel, for example, is a clear as mud. But let’s not get picky. As Paul writes, “the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” In other words, even God’s B-moves are better than you can pull off.

So go ahead and clap. Shout your lungs out while you’re at it. Give God a roar of approval. It’s quite a show, and, after all, you got your tickets for free.


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