The Essence of Praise

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					Sermon Notes     Life Shaping Angles
                 13/14 June 2009
                                                The Essence of Praise
               The Bible commands us with the words “Praise the Lord” 51 times, not including any of its
               variations. God’s mandate for us to praise Him and His name is made clear to us in verses like
               Psalm 68:26, which says, “Praise God in the great congregation; praise the Lord in the assembly
               of Israel”, and Psalm 96:2, “Sing to the Lord, praise His name; proclaim His salvation day after
               day.” With such a frequent, and obviously important, instruction laid out for us in Scripture, it is
               also incredibly important that we understand what praise is and what the Bible tells us about how
               God desires for us to praise Him.

               Praise is preoccupied with who God is and what He has done. When you have sincere and
               heartfelt appreciation or admiration for a person or for something a person has done, praise is a
               genuine and natural response. We see this to be true in our everyday lives, as well as all
               throughout God’s Word. Psalm 52:9 says, “I will praise you forever for what you have done; in
               your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints.” We
               also read in 1 Chronicles 16:25, “For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; He is to be
               feared above all gods.” As we praise God, He should be the focus of our praise.

               One distinctive of praise is its extroverted nature. Biblical examples of praise comprise for us the
               model of how we should praise God, and these examples in Scripture are characterized by joyful
               celebration and are expressed outwardly through singing, shouting, speaking, clapping, playing
               instruments, dancing, and other external forms. Our praise is not based on emotions, but our
               outward expressions of praise to God are emotional, as modeled in Mary’s song of praise in Luke
               1:46-47, where she says, “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” The
               thing to remember about praise is that it is not praise unless and until is it manifested (See Psalm
               66:8, 26:7, 20:5, 33:3, 47:1; Nehemiah 9:4-5, and others).

               We should praise God all the time, everywhere, and in many different ways. We have Biblical
               examples of praising God when we are happy (James 5:13) and when we are sad (Psalm 42:5).
               Again, we praise God with and from our emotions, positive or negative, but our emotions don’t
               dictate whether or not we praise Him. To put it plainly, God is worthy of praise, no matter how we
               feel. The Psalms also give us insight into how God has inspired His people to praise Him at
               different times. The writer of Psalm 57 tells us that he will “awake the dawn”, while the writer of
               Psalm 119 says, “at midnight, I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws.” The idea is that
               God’s people should praise Him anytime and all the time. Psalm 34:1 says, “I will extol the LORD
               at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.” If you read through Psalm 150, you see a
               beautiful exhortation to “Praise the Lord.” These verses command that God should be praised: “in
               His sanctuary”, “in His mighty heavens”, “for His acts of power”, “for His surpassing greatness”; it
               also lists more than a few instruments with which God desires to be praised: with the trumpets,
               the harp and the lyre, with tambourines and dancing, with the strings and flute, with cymbals. It
               closes with, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” Implicit in this statement is that as
               long as we have breath, we should continue praising God.

               Also seen from Psalm 150, as well as among other Scriptures, is the idea that we can and should
               worship God in different places. The most comprehensive verse in the Bible about where to praise
               God is found in Psalm 113:3. It says, “From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the
               name of the LORD is to be praised.” This verse is most often interpreted that we should praise
               God all day long, and this is a true statement, but we can take it, more literally, to mean that we
               should praise God from the eastern horizon to the western horizon. We can and should praise God
               wherever we go.

               Yet another thing we see modeled in Psalm 150 is the variety of expressions, especially with
musical instruments, with which God has given us the freedom to praise Him. An important reminder          praise to the people of God and the whole creation (Isaiah 9:2; Psalm 96:11-13;
for all of us is that God does give us His plan for His praises. In the tabernacle, Moses offered to God   Revelation 5:9-14; Luke 2:13-14), a foretaste of which is already given in the ritual and worship of
a sacrifice of burnt incense, in the holy of holies, as a fragrant offering. Symbolically, this shows us   the Temple where praise arises from sheer joy in the redeeming presence of God (Deuteronomy
that a variety of praise is very pleasing to Him. However, it is not right to think that we can praise     27:7; Numbers 10:10; Leviticus 23:40). The praise of God is rendered on earth for the works both
God in any way we choose, or any way we feel like praising Him. He has told us, explicitly in His          of creation and redemption (Psalm 24 & 136), this being an echo on earth of the praise of heaven
word, what outward expressions of praise are acceptable to and desired by God. The beauty of it is         (Revelation 4:11; 5:9-10). Praise, therefore, is a mark of the people of God (1 Peter 2:9;
that God does not restrict us to only a limited number of ways, but He gives us many, many ways,           Ephesians 1:3-14; Philippians 1:11). It is the mark of the heathen that they refuse to render it
laid out in Scripture, that we can praise His name. When we praise, it is acceptable to lift our hands     (Romans 1:21; Revelation 16:9). The act of praising implies the closest fellowship with the One
(see Psalm 63:4); clap our hands (Psalm 147:1); play musical instruments (Psalm 150); stand                who is being praised. ‘Therefore praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is
(2 Chronicles 5:12); kneel, bow, and fall prostrate before Him (Psalm 95:6, Revelation 19:4);              its appointed consummation. … In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy
sing (Psalm 95); dance (Exodus 15:20-21); and shout (Psalm 47:1). There is much to say about why           Him.’ (C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, 1958, p. 95).
these methods of praising God are honoring to Him. Through these things, we express joyful
celebration, respect, fear and awe, wonder, and creativity. These are only a few of the ways our           The early Christians continued to express their gladness by attending worship in the Temple (Luke
hearts respond to the greatness of God, which are reflected in our actions of praise.                      24:53; Acts 3:1). But their experience of new life in Christ was bound to express itself in new
                                                                                                           forms of praise (Mark 2:22). Joy was the dominant mood of the Christian life, and though the
All of these thoughts on praise, of when, where, and how we can praise God, don’t have any gravity         formal worship and praise, which it inspired, is not explicitly described or prescribed, this was
in our lives unless we have a realization of why we should praise Him in the first place. The most         because it was so much taken for granted. As those who experienced and witnessed the healing
obvious reason to praise God is that we are commanded to in Scripture. The verses we’ve looked at          and cleansing power of Jesus broke out spontaneously into praise (Luke 18:43; Mark 2:12), so
so far are not encouragements or requests; they are commands to “Praise the Lord!” But God                 also in the apostolic church there are frequent examples of such spontaneous outbursts, as men
requiring us to do so isn’t the only reason we have to praise Him. Like was said before, praise is         began to see and understand the power and goodness of God in Christ (Acts 2:46; 3:8; 11:18;
preoccupied with who God is and what He has done. When we are truly impacted by the greatness of           16:25; Ephesians 1:1-14).
God, praise comes easily. Aspects of God’s awesome character are communicated and understood by
the names that He gives us to call Him. Again, there is much to be said about the greatness of God,        The close connection between praise and sacrifice should be noted. In the sacrificial ritual of the
and of His nature, but if you look through the Bible at the names of God, you are reminded of many,        Old Testament a place was found for the sacrifice of thanksgiving as well as of expiation
many reasons that He is worthy of praise. Praise comes naturally out of a heart that adores God, is        (Leviticus 7:11-21). Gratitude was to be the fundamental motive behind the bringing of the first
thankful to Him, and loves Him; and not because we have achieved a certain level of spirituality, but      fruits to the altar (Deuteronomy 26:1-11). In the sincere offering of praise itself there is a
because He is worthy.                                                                                      sacrifice, which pleases God (Hebrews 13:15; Hosea 14:2; Psalm 119:108). In the priestly
                                                                                                           self-offering of Jesus this aspect of thanksgiving finds its place (Mark 14:22-23, 26; John 17:1-2;
God calls us to give our entire lives to Him (see Ephesians 4:1, Romans 12:1-2). How much more             Matthew 11:25-26). The life of the Christian should, correspondingly, be a self-offering of
should we praise Him with every part of our being? Jesus reiterates what the Old Testament law says,       gratitude (Romans 12:1) in fulfilment of his royal priesthood (Revelation 1:5-6; 1 Peter 2:9), and
when He says that the most important commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all of your            the fact that such a sacrificial self-offering can be made in a real way in the midst of suffering,
heart, soul, mind, and strength”. Praising God should involve our heart and our head, our body and         links suffering and praise together in the Christian life (Philippians 2:17). Thanksgiving sanctifies
our spirit. This is the bottom line on how to praise: do it with everything that is within us!             not only suffering but all aspects of the life of the Christian (1 Timothy 4:4-5; 1 Corinthians 10:30-
                                                                                                           31; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Whatever else be the burden of prayer, it must include praise
                                                                                                           (Philippians 4:6).
[Extract from The Essence of Praise, an article by Daniel Cowan, based on Exploring Worship by Bob
                                                                                                           [Extract from The New Bible Dictionary (Third Edition, InterVarsity Press, 1996), 947]

In the Old Testament, the words for praise mainly used are hālal, the root meaning of which is
connected with making a noise; yādâ, which was originally associated with the bodily actions and
gestures which accompany praising; and zāmar, which is associated with the playing or singing of
music. In the New Testament, eucharistein (literally, ‘to give thanks’) is the favourite word, implying
on the part of the person who praises the attitude of one more intimate with the person praised than
in the more formal eulogein, ‘to bless’.

The whole of the Bible is punctuated with outbursts of praise. They rise spontaneously from the ‘basic
mood’ of joy, which marks the life of the people of God. God takes pleasure and delight in His works
of creation (Genesis 1; Psalm 104:31; Proverbs 8:30-31), and all creation, including the angels,
expresses its joy in praise (Job 38:4-7; Revelation 4:6-11). Man also was created to rejoice in God’s
works (Psalm 90:14-16) and fulfils this purpose by accepting God’s gifts (Ecclesiastes 8:15; 9:7; 11:9;
Philippians 4:4, 8)

The coming of the kingdom of God into the midst of this world is marked by the restoration of joy and

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