Are you ready for the next stop on our journey of praise? In my first post in this series, we started this journey by exploring how the book of Psalms is more than a book of songs & scriptures - it's actually a How to Handbook For Praise. To the Hebrew people, praise was a physical expression of an inward reality. “Praise” was not a style or a hip music trend to them. It wasn't even really a word to them. Why? Because the word, "praise" doesn’t describe the specific action necessary for different situations, feelings, or expressions. Where we have one word for "praise" the Hebrew people had seven: seven unique expression to use to communicate what their heart wanted to say about the goodness of God. The 7 Hebrew words for Praise are:
1. Halal – (praise) to shine, to boast, to rave, to be clamorously, loudly foolish, to act like a mad man.
2. Yadah – (praise) to extend the hand, to throw out, to shoot out the hand (in thanks)
3. Towdah – (todah; praise) to extend the hands in confession & thanksgiving for what God is GOING to do…
4. Shabach – (praise) to shout or address loudly; to expel the breath in outrageous expression; to roar (it can also mean to be free from care; to still/soothe with ones words)
5. Barak – (praise, bless) to bend the knee or kneel down; to salute; to bless; to declare
6. Zamar – (praise) to pluck the strings of an instrument; to sing; to twang
7. Tehilla – (praise, sing) High praise; a spontaneous, burst of a creative previously unknown song; born of the spirit
One can see from reading these words that they are action verbs! They require you to do something in order to express your thanks to God. Look at the list again: these words describe shouting, kneeling, raising hands, shooting out your hands like arrows, singing, and let us not forget - being raving, crazy foolish for God (halal)! From reading these descriptions, we can conclude that praise is anything but a quiet, reflective time. Now, worship on the other hand - that's a different story. But to "raise a hallelujah" literally means to raise a boasting, raving, clamorously loud, crazy thanks for God. Not exactly your standard church service. Halal always makes me think of the scripture in 2 Corinthians 5:13 when Paul says, "Hey, church - if we seem like we are out of our minds/beside ourselves, it's all for God! And if we seem tame and sane - it's for you," (my own emphasis/translation added. Go read it for yourself!). In other words, if a praise service is really focused on God, it may seem...well, a bit crazy.
Crazier, still, is that the Hebrew words associated with praise do not end there. Their myriad of expressions extend to such words as rejoice, sing, shout, and dance. These words, too, fall short in describing their Hebrew-intended expression. Today, let's take a quick look at these words to better understand the breadth of praise described in Psalms.
Other Words Associated With Praise
I. Rejoice – there are 20 different words for this word! To say it another way, scripture gives us 20 different expressions for what to do when we want to rejoice. Here are a few:
Rejoice in the Old Testament:
Alas - (rejoice; delight) to wave /flap excitedly; to leap for joy. This word carries the connotation of waving your arms like a peacock! That's why you see the word describing a peacock flapping it's wings in Job 39:13 while also describing a style of rejoicing in Job 20:18. So, if you ever want to praise God by waving your arms, let it happen! Rejoice in the Lord by waving your arms like banners of praise!
Alaz – (rejoice; triumph; exult) to jump for joy. This word is similar to the last one but is certainly more about jumping than waving. It is also a word tied to victory over enemies which is why it is often translated "triumph". An example of this word is found in Psalm 9:2,
I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name,O Most High.
The word for "rejoice" in that verse is Alaz - I will be glad and jump for joy! The word for "glad" takes us to our next word.
Samchah – (rejoice, gladness, joyful) to cheer up, to brighten; to be merry; extreme gladness associated with festivities. This word is probably used the most - about 150 times! Although not directly tied to one certain action, this word can be applied to any expression of joy. It is what a delighted heart feels. It's what a merry heart expresses. It's at the center of every feast and every celebration. In other words, it's an apt description for the believer's life in Christ - one of extreme joy and gladness. An example of samchah is found in Psalm 90:14,
Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy,That we may rejoice and be glad all our days!
Gil/Giyl – dancing, jumping, trembling, twirling madly . This little word is used 45 times and it carries a powerful punch. This is a violent word because the expression of praise it describes is so intense! It's certainly a praise not for the weak of heart (and I mean that in the truest since - it would be a good cardio routine to be sure!).
"I will be glad (gil) and rejoice (samchah) in Your mercy," (Psalm 31:7) could actually be translated, "I will spin around wildly for joy and brighten and cheer myself up in Your mercy."
It is also interesting that this word is associated with violent trembling. Another word for trembling is "quaking". Many years ago, a people of faith experienced the power of God and were called "The Quakers" because they experienced violent trembling in His presence. A perfect example of this is found in Psalm 2:11 when David said, "Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling." When a Holy God walks into a praise service, your body just might respond with a trembling, awe-inspired joy!
Rejoice in the New Testament:
And it's not just the Old Testament that uses so many expressions for rejoice. There are just as many and maybe more in the New Testament Greek. For times sake, I won't go into them all here. But i will say this: Did you know that the New Testament Greek describes Jesus on many occasions being so excited about God that he jumps around with joy? Luke 10:21 is a great example of this. It says:
"At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, "I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth!"
That word for "rejoice" there means "getting so glad one jumps about". It even implies spinning around! Let that picture fill your mind - Jesus so excited that he is jumping up and down and twirling about all for his Father! This is how Jesus praised His Father! Let's follow in His example and do the same! Maybe your old bones won't let you jump and twirl anymore, but you can sure tap your feet, clap your hands, and lift your voice. And we can encourage the younger ones around us to use every fiber of their being to bless the Lord.
Sing/Song/Shout in the Old Testament:
How about a few other words commonly associated with praise?
Ranan – (rejoice/sing/shout for joy) means, "to shout or make a shrill, ear-splitting sound; like an eagle’s cry." (Ps 33:1) If you've ever heard Arab people make high sounding cries in celebration - this is that sound. It is loud. It is piercing. But it is praise!
Teruah/rua (shout; shout of joy; sound alarm; rejoicing) this is, "a battle cry; a blast, blowing; alarming joy." (Ps. 33:3). It is tied to the connotation of expelling your breath quickly with a blast. It is tied to victory and is a praise ready for battle.
Anah – (sing) Don't let this little word fool you because this word doesn't just mean to sing, but "to sing, to cry, to howl". To howl? Yep. Maybe you can't sing like the latest hit worship leader but I bet you can howl! Even your dog can do that, after all.
Shiyr – (sing or song) a strolling song; a minstrel song" This word is tied to the word "journey" because it's all about walking through the streets of your city with a song on your lips. This word carries the connotation of "making the intentions of the heart known". In other words, "I have just got to sing about my love for Jesus everywhere I go!" (Ps 33:3)
One thing I notice about all of these words is that they are much like the 7 words for praise - they are words that humble me and make me look foolish. But it's not about me - it's about Him. And God knows that sometimes, in order to get my eyes off of myself and onto Him, I have to die to my inner need to be "presentable" and "normal" and just be humbled by being "the fool." But remember what Paul said about being the fool? If we are foolish and out of our mind, it's all for God (2 Cor. 5:13). Praise, after all, is for him and to him and about him...but it must start somewhere - and that's with me....in all of my foolish expression! Hallaling! Ruah-ing! Gil-ing! And whatever expression my heart longs to give.
So, there we have it: another lesson from our How to Handbook. Now that we've picked up some more understanding of praise, I look forward to our walk through some Psalms together. In the mean time, how about we turn off the Fox News and turn on the praise for a while. But let's get out those dancing shoes - we're gonna need them.