THE BASICS OF PRAISE
by David Sisler
It is easy to learn what new thing is happening in the Christian Church. Just listen for a while and you’ll hear the latest “buzz word.” Something new and exciting seems to always catch our attention.
“Praise and worship” is perhaps one of the most important concepts to be rediscovered in decades. Initially, it was almost exclusive to the pentecostals and charismatics, but then traditional evangelical churches discovered “praise and worship.”
The good thing about the discovery is that we have added new music to our worship of the Lord God Almighty. The bad thing about the discovery is the danger of throwing out the old hymns of the church because that is “old school.” A Mighty Fortress Is Our God sounds a whole lot better on a pipe organ than it does on a guitar, disqualifying it for use by some, but the theology and worship of that grand statement of faith – and many others – are discarded only at our own peril. To do so, impoverishes our worship.
I think, however, we are becoming so accustomed to the idea this “new thing,” that when most people say “praise and worship” it almost comes out as one word. We are becoming careless with an act of devotion that takes us into the very presence of God.
Do we understand what praise really means? Our English word originally meant “to set a price on,” or “to appraise.” The meaning grew to “express approval or admiration.”
In Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, there are many words for praise. The word used most often “halal” (pronounced “haw-lal”). It forms the basis of “Hallelujah,” which simply means, “Praise the Lord.” It means “to make a show, to boast, celebrate, commend, glory, and praise.”
Halal says praise is to be boastful, and to be excited in joy. There is an Arabic word similar to “halal.” A soldier used it at the end of a battle. He was still alive and was about to share the spoils of the victory. He shouted in triumph!
“Halal” is the word in Psalm 150:
“Praise the Lord. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with the tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with the resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.”
Even though praise is directed towards God and rightly belongs to him, it is a legitimate question to ask, “What does praise do for me?” One thing praise does is to increase our appreciation for God.
One incident from the life of David is a good illustration. David was in trouble. Saul was still Israel’s king. In a jealous rage Saul attempted to kill David. Twice Saul tried to pin David to the wall with a spear, but David escaped. Saul plotted several ambushes, but someone always warned David.
When the situation was finally resolved David wrote: “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my strong tower. I will call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from my enemies” (Psalm 18:1-3).
Before David prayed, he praised. After praise had strengthened his appreciation for God, he was ready to acknowledge that God could deliver him from his enemies.
He did not immediately ask for divine intervention. He began by praising God. He laid down the reasons God could help him. David used military words in his praise – fortress, deliverer, high tower. He described weapons in his praise – rock, buckler, horn of salvation.
After praising God with such words – and doing it aloud, and listening to his own words – it is no wonder David declared, “I shall be saved!”
Right at this moment, you may be surrounded by your enemies. Maybe no one is threatening you with bodily harm. All of the anguish may be in your heart and in your mind. If you want to see those foes defeated and driven away, begin to praise God for who he is. When God grows large in your heart, you will see your personal struggles in a different light. At that moment you will know why John wrote, “Greater is he – Jesus Christ – who is in you, than he – Satan – who is in the world.”
The Psalmist said it best: “Shout unto God with the voice of triumph. Praise ye the Lord!”
Copyright 2004 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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