Some 49 years ago, I began my spiritual journey with Christ. And like most journeys, there have been a number of “seasons” associated with my growth.
As I look back, I think my “favorite” might have been the season when it first dawned on me that God eagerly expected me to praise and worship, really worship Him. That worship took many forms (still does today): scripture quoted back to Him in praise and prayer, songs and spiritual hymns sung (privately and with my spiritual community), specific seasons of fasting, giving (regular and as the Spirit leads), serving and so on.
You and I are embracing a new year this week. Now might be a good time to take a fresh, practical look at how we praise the Lord. Roger Barrier did a study of eight Hebrew words in Crosswalk.com and as I reviewed it recently, I thought it might help us all engage in some serious praising.
The most common word for praise is “hallah.” It means to boast or brag about the Lord and to do so with enthusiasm. Imagine some fans at a major ballgame. That screaming and hollering is a picture of this kind of praising (See Psalm 63:3-4).
“Yadah” means to worship while you have your hands extended. “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord” (Psalm 134:2). “Barak” means to pass along a blessing. That is what Job did in Job chapter one: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, may the name of the Lord be praised.”
There are a couple of musical terms involved in praising God. “Tehillah” simply means to sing. No wonder there are over 300 mandates in scripture to sing praises to the Lord. And “zamar” literally means to pluck the strings on an instrument. We are to be using instruments as part of our praise before the Lord (See Psalm 18:1-3).
And there are two words that mean to shout or to cry out with a loud voice in praise to our Father. “Todah” and “shabach” both carry the idea of praising with a heart of gratitude. Often this kind of praising happens even before the deliverance occurs. Notice in Psalm 56 where David was trapped by the Philistines. He begins shouting praises to Yahweh even before his enemies turn back.
But my favorite term for praise is “hallelujah.” This isn’t a translation of a Hebrew word, it is a transliteration. Two words have been put together. “Hallel” means to boast or make a big show and “Jah” is the word for God. It is the idea of making a huge deal out of the Lord, even to the point of sounding a bit ridiculous.
The first week of a new year sounds like a great time to reemphasize our commitment to give praise to our heavenly Father. Let’s do it out loud (or quietly in our hearts). Let’s do it in the presence of others or all by ourselves. Let’s do it to music (use a recording if it helps). Let’s raise our hands to Jesus. He deserves our praise!