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Praise Foundations

What is Praise? One Living Sacrifice & Seven Hebrew Words

In Psalm 138, David declares his worship of God will be with his whole heart, that he will sing and praise God in front of anyone, anywhere, but he also expressed one of the most foundational truths about praise and worship written of in Scripture saying, “…for You have exalted Your Word above all Your name.” (Psalm 138:2) What is praise by definition and action?

The Word of God is the ultimate authority above everything, even God’s own name, which is the name above every name (Philippians 2:9) and as such God’s Word must be the foundation for all praise and worship and God’s due order. There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to express worship and praise, but there is a Scriptural way to praise the Lord – and that’s what matters to Him.

In John 4:24, Jesus said that all “true worshippers” would worship “in spirit and in truth”. He meant that your spirit would connect with the Lord in worship through the truth of the Word of God, because God’s Word is the only source of truth in existence nothing expressed in true praise and worship would ever contradict it.

What is Praise that God Desires? A Living Sacrifice

Gratitude is the point of origin for all praise, but gratitude without expression isn’t true gratitude. In the same way, praise must expressed or it isn’t really praise. Songs sung about God or even to God that contradict the Word of God aren’t praise. Plenty of songs are written with God-centric themes, but aren’t genuine expressions of praise.

One of the most misunderstood principles of praise is this: Praise and worship aren’t about you – they are about ministry to the Lord. Many come into praise and worship “expecting” something from the Lord, but that is wrong thinking! God will always be faithful to minister to you, (Genesis 22:17) but praising the Lord is a grateful expression of blessing because He is worthy.

The expressions of praise may look different from person to person, but, Scripturally speaking, all true praise and worship will have four things in common:

  1. Ministry to the Lord
  2. Aligned with the Word of God
  3. From a Heart of Gratitude
  4. With the Giving of a Living Sacrifice

In Psalm 50, the Lord said, “…Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Sacrifice a thank offering to God, and pay your vows to the Most High… Whoever sacrifices a thank offering glorifies Me and makes a way; I will show him the salvation of God…”

When you present yourself as a living sacrifice in praise, you are giving back to God what He first gave you.

~Alicia Purdy

Unlike the Old Covenant, God no longer requires sacrifices of bulls and goats to give Him thanks and praise, but He does still desire a flesh and blood sacrifice in thanksgiving – from you. Why? Because your praise invites His presence and God speaks the language of sacrifice! When you present yourself as a living sacrifice in praise, you are giving back to God what He first gave you.

Seven Hebrew Words for Praise and a Million Reasons Why

Jesus Christ is the Word of God in living form and without the Word of God as a foundation, there is no “truth” in any praise or worship because all truth belongs to the Lord. There are plenty of things that can be true, but not be “truth” because only what aligns with God’s Word is truth.

What higher praise can there ever be but that which is written from His Word? The Lord deserves nothing less than your highest praise, and His Word is where it must begin and end.

flowers dying

Operating outside the Word of God is a tactic of the enemy to disconnect you from the Spirit of the Lord and rob you of the blessings that true praise brings. There are seven Hebrew Words for the word “praise” in English and each one describes a different, physical sacrifice of praise that are still relevant and necessary today:

  1. HALAL: To jump, dance, to be loud and clamorous (Scriptural reference – Psalm 150:2)
  2. YADAH: To throw your hands up and forward while making a confession about God (Scriptural reference – Isaiah 25:1)
  3. TOWDAH: To lift your hands in thanksgiving (Scriptural reference – Psalm 107:22)
  4. SHABACH: A loud, joyous shout of testimony (Scriptural reference – Psalm 145:4)
  5. ZAMAR: To worship the Lord while playing an instrument (Scriptural reference – Psalm 98:4)
  6. BARAK: To kneel in reverence and submission (Scriptural reference – Psalm 66:20)
  7. TEHILLAH: To sing a spontaneous, unrehearsed song of the Lord, from your spirit (Scriptural reference – Psalm 22:3)

If you want your worship to have power, real, actual, spiritual power in the heavenly realms, only the Word of God can produce that.

  1. Ask yourself: What are the words I am singing in worship? What do they mean? Where is Scriptural evidence for these truths?
  2. Ask yourself: Am I offering a true sacrifice of praise through the flesh and blood of my own body? (Remember, if it is a true sacrifice, your flesh will not want to die for it!)

The Lord speaks the language of sacrifice and remember: No living sacrifice wants to die! The battle in your flesh may be lifelong, meaning you’ll always have a sacrifice to offer to the Lord as you learn to deny yourself and die to yourself.

Even the Rocks Know How to Praise the Lord

Worship is one thing: Grateful ministry unto Him. It’s alright to enjoy all kinds of faith-based music, but it’s of the utmost importance to understand what praise is (and what it is not) because true praise and worship have power.

God doesn’t need or even require your praise. Jesus said that even if people stop praising Him, the rocks will cry out in praise. (Luke 19:40) However, the Lord does desire it because praise creates a uniquely holy atmosphere where He dwells in a more deeply dynamic way. (Psalm 22:3)

The words you sing in worship – even your personal testimonies as a tehillah, should always agree with God’s Word. Think about it: Is the music you worship with fully Scriptural, focused on lifting Him high or are they more like “stories”, telling God about your life or your feelings or giving Him the news about your situation? 

Take the time to examine the lyrics of songs you love to use in your worship and assess them according to God’s Word and His definition of praise. You may be surprised at what you’ll find!

Thought for today: The Eternal Impact of Praise in Your Testimony of Jesus Christ

Praise and worship are, ultimately, ministry and gratitude to the Lord, but there is another layer to God’s design for praise and worship and that is: testimony. When you praise the Lord in “spirit and truth”, you are also prophetically speaking about Jesus according to Revelation 19:10 – that what Christ did for you, He will do for another person too!

The Word of God is the foundation for all spirit and truth worship. The entire Bible testifies of Jesus Christ (“…as it is written of Me in the volume of the book…” – Psalm 40:7; Hebrews 10:7) and the foundation for our worship must always be the Word.

Is there anything wrong with being poetic or singing from the heart? Of course not! The Bible calls that a “tehillah” – a “new song” (Psalm 40:1-3) However, there is a problem when poetic license gets in front of the words of God, as written in the Bible. There is a problem when concepts and ideas and feelings about God become the words that are sung in praise, rather than what agrees the Scriptures.

Everything and everyone on earth is under subjugation to the Word of God, whether they acknowledge that truth or not. God’s Word is the exclusive source of inspiration, revival, testimony, encouragement, discipline, healing (Psalm 107:20), wisdom, understanding, prevention and so much more. If God placed His Word above His name, how much more should His people do the same when they praise the Lord!

Learn More About God’s Design for Praise in His Word:

“Tehillah Praise Takes You into the Tabernacle of God”

“How Does Barak Praise Usher in a Blessing for You?”

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