First, I would like to establish that we, the church, were created to praise the Lord. So what does the Bible tell us about praise? What does the Bible tell about how to praise the Lord? Let’s dive into this short study on the different types of praise spoken of in the scriptures. This article is not meant to be a comprehensive look at this subject but enough to hopefully get a spark started within your soul.
As a long time Christian I have heard it said so many times that God inhabits the praises of his people ( taken from Psalms 22:3 ). So my mind wants to know can we have more of His presence in our midst if we praise Him the way His word teaches us? Can we please God if we are praising Him in our own way? I found that David is teaching us in the writings of the Psalms what I was wanting to know. In this article I will share with you what David has to say in the Psalms about praise.
What We Know
We have all been taught that when the Hebrew writings were translated into English that there was difficulty in translating certain words to their deep, multifaceted meanings if you will. For instance, the word love. We were taught about the many meanings and depths of love in Hebrew that were simply translated love in English. Such as the love God has for us, the love we have for our spouse, the love we have for our pets, or even our belongings. The various Hebrew words in the writings of the Bible were understood to have different meanings but yet, we translated them into one word, love. I have found that this is the same scenario with the individual Hebrew words that we translated into one word praise. Praise has many facets and there is not just one way to praise. In the Hebrew writings, there are over 50 words describing praise and there are seven main ones that I will address here.
Psalms 102:18 This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord.
1 Peter 2:9 (NIV) But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Isaiah 43:6-7 (NIV) I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.
Isaiah 43:21 (NIV) ..the people I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.
These verses speak of a generation that is yet to come. A generation meaning a class of people that would be created to praise God. So with this in mind, we should want to praise God properly according to the instruction of his word. Praise is what we do that brings the presence of God to us. Worship is what we do in response to His presence. I would describe it as saying that praise is all about Him, who He is and what He has done while worship is showing and verbalizing our love and affection towards Him.
Here are the seven main ways that David teaches us to praise the Lord.
“Halal” to shine; to boast; to show; to rave; to celebrate; and get this… to be hilariously foolish!
1. Praise ye the LORD. Praise, O ye servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD.
2. Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and for evermore.
3. From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the LORD’S name [is] to be praised.
In Psalm 149:1…we are told to halal in the assembly.
Psalm 149:1 Praise ye the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.
Halal is most often described as being “clamorously” foolish but also find it as hilariously foolish. Yes, to be clamorously or hilariously foolish when we gather ourselves together in worship. To see exactly how clamorous we are meant to be, let’s look at the adjectives to clamorous: making a loud and confused noise (a jostling, clamorous mob). Halal is the most widely used form of praise. The word we use a lot is hallelujah and this can be broken down into two sections: hallelu-jah. The first part “hallel” comes from the root word, halal which means to praise and “Jah” or “Yah” is a short form of Yahweh, the proper name of God.
I want to take a minute to address something here. We have often heard that hallelujah is the highest form of praise we can give to the Lord. Although that may be true, it doesn’t mean that when we say the word. Hallelujah is how we are to express halal to the Lord. When we say hallelujah, what we are really saying is halal Jehovah. We are commanding or encouraging praise to come forth to God. Saying the word, is not actually the praise. To halal is to do something physically as well as verbally. It is a word that tells us what to do such as to shine, to boast, to show, to rave, to celebrate and to be hilariously foolish.
To celebrate for example is an action word. Something we do as well as say. I look at it kind of like when we say “Bless the Lord, oh my soul” what we are saying is a command for our souls to bless God. Just saying the words is not the blessing. It’s the command to do the thing. Saying “hallelujah” is the command to praise the Lord.
We learn from David to halal. A good example we find in scripture is when David danced before the ark (the presence of God). When carrying it to Jerusalem, David’s form of praise here is halal and notice the praise comes before the ark, leading the way for the presence of God.
Halal is mentioned more than 160 times in the O.T.
“Yadah” to extend the hands – to throw out the hands in gratitude.
Psalms 111:1 Praise ye the LORD. I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation.
I will “yadah” the LORD or extend my hands to the Lord in the assembly of the upright. This is where we get the concept of lifting our hands to the Lord in an act of praise. Our arms are naturally down and are comfortable in that position so when you yadah, you are offering up to God a sacrifice of worship through your praise. There is something about the lifting up of hands when we get excited about something we enjoy. When you go to a ball game and the players make a shot or touchdown, we immediately raise our hands with a joy that makes us shout. Why can’t we do the same for Jesus when we are gathered together in the congregation.
Psalms 42:5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.
Psalms 42:5 shows that yadah is how to respond to the downcast soul … we “yadah” our way out of the downcast state!
Used 114 times in the O.T.
“Barak” to kneel, bow down, to prostrate (lay down, face down). This is an
act of humility.
Psalm 103:1 Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
“BLESS THE LORD O MY SOUL” means to bow before the Lord O my soul. It would be wise of us to all make sure that before that day comes where we stand before the Lord to make sure that the first time we bow to Him as Lord isn’t on that day. I would like to challenge all of us to make sure that we take more time to bow our knees in adoration to God, and that if we do it for no other reason than to bless God we should because He is worthy of that from us. He’s worthy of us never getting up off our knees, but all of us (myself included) need to spend more time on our knees.
Used 330 times in O.T.
“Zamar” to strike the strings under inspiration, to praise with instruments…at times never needs words.
Psalms 149:3 Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.
Music was given to render praise unto God. Make music to God and Zamar to Him with timbrel and harp. Let’s sing praises with the instrument, yes sign with the instrument. When we touch with our fingers the strings of an instrument, or pluck a stringed instrument in celebration to the Lord, we sing to Him with song. Zamar is used in poetry, singing can be involved. When expressing Yahah, Shabach (which we will touch on next), or Barak in song accompanied by instruments, this is described as zamar.
Used 41 times in O.T.
“Shabach” to SHOUT with TRIUMPH; to address with a LOUD voice
Shabach is to loudly give adoration to God in the form of testimony.
Psalm 145:3 One generation shall praise (Shabach) Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.
Psalm 32:11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice your righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.
Psalm 17:1 Oh clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph!
Proclaim with a loud voice, unashamed, the glory, triumph, power, mercy, love of God. This word implies that testimony is praise. The phrase “shout unto the Lord” can be understood as the action of Shabach. It is not just being loud. You should have the attitude of putting your whole being into it, an attitude of being totally uninhibited Scripture: Psalm 117:1, 63:3-4.
Used 18 times in O.T.
“Tehillah” Songs from your heart spontaneously inspired; loudly; To sing, to laud, laud here means to praise, or song of praise.
A spontaneous new song or singing a melody from your heart is a type of singing that is unrehearsed or prepared. This refers to a special kind of singing. This praise brings tremendous unity to the body of Christ as we are singing straight to God. We should be able to move into tehilah anytime. Singing it the second time would be ZAMAR. It is the praise that God inhabits (sits enthroned on). Singing in the spirit in tongues allowing the Holy Spirit to give the direction of this praise.
Psalm 22:3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
“Towdah” Extension of hands with palms up – Thanking God for things not yet received; purposeful thanks.
Towdah comes from the same principle root word as yadah, but is used more specifically. Towdah literally means, “an extension of the hand in adoration, avowal, or acceptance.” By way of application, it is apparent in the Psalms and elsewhere that it is used for thanking God for “things not yet received” as well as things already at hand. Towdah is used in conjunction with an offering and with extended hands in adoration. It includes confession, sacrifice, thanksgiving, offering, or a combination of all these things. Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving (Towdah), and declare His works with rejoicing.
Psalm 107:22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.
Psalm 116:17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.
I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving (Towdah), and will call upon the name of the Lord.
At times God will require us to give him a sacrifice of praise, ignoring the circumstances and praising him as if the desired results exist. Praising him for promises not yet experienced, healing not yet manifested, strongholds yet broken through. This is praise that acts according to what God has said and not necessarily what we are currently experiencing.
So, I hope that this short, incomprehensive look into the different Hebrew words that our language has translated into one word, praise…will inspire each reader to take a new look at how you express praise to the Lord according to His word.
There is a time to be quiet before the Lord, but when we gather ourselves together for praise and worship, that is not the time. God delights in our praise and when His presence draws close, we can expect to see the unexpected!! It is in this atmosphere that we are healed, delivered, given direction. Thank You! I know I will be more mindful of my praise the next time I am in the assembly of believers!