Exalt the LORD our God!
Bow low before his feet, for he is holy!
Psalm 99 opens by identifying God as king (99:1). He is not just any old king, however, but the “Mighty King” who is over all nations, and before whom all nations should “tremble” (99:1, 5). Thus Psalm 99:5 calls us to “Exalt the LORD our God! Bow low before his feet, for he is holy.”
What does it mean to exalt God? How can we do this?
The verb “exalt” is one of those “worship words” that we hear all the time, though often without knowing what it really means. (When I have taught seminars for worship leaders and pastors, I have sometimes asked the differences between “exalt,” “exult,” and “extol.” Almost nobody gets it right.) The English word “exalt” comes from the Latin word exaltare, which means “to lift up.” In Psalm 99:5, “exalt” translates a Hebrew imperative that means “Lift up!” So the first part of this verse could be translated literally, “Lift up the Lord our God!”
But how could we ever hope to do this? Obviously, the verb “to lift up” is being used metaphorically in this verse (and many other like it). We are not being summoned to pick up God, as if that were even possible. Rather, we exalt God, first of all, by recognizing that he is already higher than anything else in the universe in terms of greatness and glory. Then, in light of the reality of God’s inherent exaltedness, we use our words to praise him. We proclaim what is true about him, saying things like, “The LORD is king! Let the nations tremble!” (99:1).
But Psalm 99:5 suggests another way for us to exalt the Lord. Notice the parallelism between the two imperatives in this verse: “Exalt the LORD our God!” parallels “Bow low before his feet.” The verb translated as “bow low” is the basic Old Testament word for worship (hishtachawa). It literally means “to bow low” or “to prostrate oneself” before a sovereign. Thus, we can exalt God, figuratively speaking, not only by raising our voices to praise him, but also by lowering ourselves before him in humble worship.
Sometimes, literally bowing before God is a fitting response to his greatness. The physical gesture can help our hearts to bow before him in submission. But whether we actually kneel before God or not, we can exalt him by giving ourselves to him as an offering.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How have you exalted the Lord in your life? How could you exalt him today?
PRAYER: King of kings and Lord of lords, your majesty exceeds my imagination. Your glory is beyond my wildest dreams. Your authority is supreme.
Thus I exalt you by recognizing just how great you are. And by praising your magnificence with my words as they express my thoughts and feelings. How immeasurably wonderful you are!
I also exalt you, O Lord, by bowing before you. As I go down, so to speak, you go up. I offer myself to you as your servant. I give to you my time, my talents, my treasures. I give you my plans and dreams. Here I am, Lord, all for you.
May my life be an expression of your majesty. May I live for your glory each moment of each day. Be exalted in my life, my Lord and King! Hallelujah! Amen.