Thursday, February 14, 2013

Preventing the Problems and Pitfalls of Praise (Part II)

“Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works.” (Psalm 105:1-2, ESV)
Yesterday, we began with a statement that said, “Many people, including believers, talk about praising God. In reality, very few people actually accomplish it. I think many fail to actually praise God out of ignorance than any other reason.” 

It is my contention that there seems be at least three (3) probabilities that hinder real or true praise to God.  

First – believers have developed a sort of language that is all their own. Some have come to call it “Christianeese.” We acquire or develop pet words or phrases that we repeat easily and almost mindlessly. Simply saying the words, “Praise God,” or "Praise the Lord!" especially from rote habit or mindless repletion does not qualify. 

Second – believers have a tendency to miss the actual meaning of the command to praise God. Praise often times is more about them and what they did than about the works of God.  

Third – we fail to understand exactly what praise really or of what it consist.  

First of all, the word “praise” is used some one hundred and sixty five (165) in the Old Testament. Of those one hundred and sixty five times, it is translated as praise one hundred and seventeen (117) times. 

The Hebrew word “ללה -  halal” means to “shine.” The root word represents the giving off of light by heavenly bodies. It is used in the book of Job to describe the shining of the sun.  

“Halal” also is translated as boast. The root of this word gives the idea of sincerely and/or deeply thankful for or satisfied in speaking well of a superior quality or great acts of an “object.”

The actual idea contained in this word is quite simple. To praise someone or something, whether animate or inanimate, we are “shining light” on our object of praise. We are high-lighting some aspect or quality possessed by our object. The most prevalent way of “shining light” on a particular object or the objects quality is to “boast” of the object or its quality. 

In other words, we speak words that high-light or magnify the individual or an aspect of the individual. We make those qualities known. Another way of saying this is we “exalt” or “laud” a superior person or quality. As a result we “hail,” “acclaim,” “utter a great cry,” or “sing” of a superior entity or quality. 

For example, when we enjoy a great steak and lobster dinner, we typically speak well of the taste and quality of the food. We exalt or magnify the meal by “shining light” or high-lighting the quality of the food. In other words, we offer “praise” concerning the quality of the food. We do not “praise” or speak words regarding our going out to dinner, setting down at the table, or ordering the dinner, or even picking up the available utensils. If we were to do so we would be taking the “light” off of the quality of the food and causing it to rest upon ourselves. 

Unfortunately many believers, albeit unintentionally, do this when they begin to praise God but end up “shinning” the light on themselves.  Unless we think carefully about what we are saying we end up talking about ourselves rather than talking or boasting about God or His qualities. 

For example, Psalm 111:2, (ESV) says, “Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.” Psalm 105:2, (ESV) says, “Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of his wondrous works!” 

From these passages (and others like them) we find that to praise God is to “shine light” or to “boast” or to speak well of the “works” of God. Rather than our praise focusing on us or what we did, our “praise” focuses on the works or acts of God.  

What are the works of God? The scripture is replete with them. The works of God range from the creative activity of God when he created the universe to the destruction of Egypt, the delivering of Israel, to the redemptive work of Christ on Calvary’s cross. Any act of God is a “work” of God. Of course, all of the attributes or qualities of God and the Godhead are “objects” of praise.

In conclusion, it takes practice in “praising” God. Praising God does not consist of merely offering platitudes such as “praise God” or “praise the Lord.” Praising God does not consist of the telling of events in such a way which emphasizes what we have done or said. 

Praise brings attention or a “shining light” on the character, quality, or works of our God. In the spirit of John the Baptist, we decrease and He increases. Praise is not about us, it is about God. Even when God answers our prayers, showers us with some glorious blessing, or uses us to accomplish his purpose, the focus is on God.  

Let’s drop the “Christianeese” and unintentional self-serving boasting and offer to praise to our God!

What say ye?