Fundamentals Of Meditation (Part 9. Do You Know How To Praise God?)
Although this article is part of a series, it is a complete study on its own. (Part 9 of 9 in series)
* all [bracketed] words in Scripture verses are mine *
In April of 2010 I published the article "Fundamentals of Meditation (Part 1. Christian Meditation Vs. New Age Meditation)" and it seems like there is no end of interest in this topic. I'm assuming the continued popularity is because so many people are stressed to the point of breaking. Folks somehow feel that inside themselves is the answer to all their problems, so they reach deep to unleash some healing power from within. Eastern philosophy and popular psychology has only strengthened this attempt to alter the meaning of meditation from the original practice and intent of Scripture.
I had looked around and I noticed all the stress building in those around me, like some power source gone critical. People desperately clinging to Eastern meditation methods to quell their growing anxiety are only getting mild relief of their symptoms of stress but never the peace of mind and heart that the meditation practitioners promised. There was definitely the need to clarify the meaning of meditation (which I did in the article noted above), but then it became painfully obvious that people needed a focus on which to meditate. This series provided that focus and now ends with this installment.
The apostle Paul made this statement in Philippians 4:4-9:
"Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation [gentleness NKJV] be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful [anxious NKJV] for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think [meditate NKJV] on these things, which you have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do, and the peace of God shall be with you."
In part one of this series, we spoke of what it means to meditate on things that are true. We discovered that truth is not a state of mind but a person, Jesus Christ. ("I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life"). We uncovered the effect of keeping the mind on Truth, and why it leads to mental stability.
In part two, we covered things that are honest. The connection was drawn between honesty and truth and led, once again, to the Person that is Truth, Jesus. We saw that honest things are things of real value and that hold up over eternity. They are not things with a short-lived intense experience and then are no longer important. These things are genuine and precious.
In part three, things that are just made us aware of the corruption in today's society. We considered the concept of fairness and showed that fairness is impossible using any standard other than one that is omniscient and omnipotent. If one uses any other standard of fairness, there will be inequity on some level. We concluded that justice can only be wielded by one Person, using attributes humans do not have, namely omniscience and omnipresence. These attributes are necessary to know and consider all factors so that impartiality and justice is possible. Only one Judge and one law can do that.
In part four of this series, we examined things that are pure. The fact that in our frame of reference almost nothing is pure makes this a difficult concept for many to accept. The fact that God is pure knowledge, pure presence, pure power, pure in ability, in sovereignty, holiness, justice and truth blows the minds of those reluctant to believe. We saw how meditation on pure things cleanses the mind and undoes damage that thinking on evil causes.
In part five, we considered things that are lovely. In the defining of the term lovely, it became apparent that society has devalued and dismissed the word. Instead of it being a concept conveying priceless value, it has become a momentary impression that can be made by something appearing pleasant to the eye or senses, regardless of its value.
In part six, our study spoke of a report card of sorts that God has on everyone. We learned that there are three grades awarded by God in the judgment. Fail (those who have no one to pay for their sin and fail to get to heaven), Pass (those who get to heaven but come alone and have no rewards they have earned by obedience), and Of Good Report (those people who have obeyed and brought people with them to heaven and have earned rewards by obedience).
In part seven, the topic of rewards was covered. The Christian has much more in store for them than just "going to heaven." There will be rewards given for service to God and contemplating them is a valid thing on which to meditate.
In part eight, our meditation focus was on the concept of virtue. Again, we saw the devaluing of the original meaning. To be spoken of as a person of virtue today, it is considered almost an insult. Instead of recognizing sin and guarding against the baser side of humanity, it is thought to be a fruitless effort and sin is embraced as "merely being human." In this article we learned that the definition of virtuous is "war-worthy."
Within the counsel to the Philippian church, the apostle Paul said that if an individual wants the reward of a peace in their soul, one that passes all understanding, and also yearns to have a protection for their own mental process, then meditation is the answer.
A short review is in order. It has been a long time since that first article about meditation was written. This Scripture in Psalms is a good microcosm of meditation. Looking at this Scripture we will see the components of a mostly misunderstood exercise in communication with a Most Holy God, meditation.
"I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands. I spread out my hands to You; my soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Answer me speedily O LORD; my spirit fails! Do not hide Your face from me, lest I be like those who go down into the pit. Cause me to hear Your loving kindnesses in the morning, for in You do I trust; cause me to know the way in which I should walk, for I lift up my soul to You. Deliver me O LORD from my enemies; in You I take shelter. Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness." (Psalm143:5-10)
David writing about meditation in song and prayer goes hand in hand with Paul's description in the passage in Philippians above. We see all the ingredients of meditation.
1. "I remember" and "I lift my soul [mind, will, emotions] to You." These are essential in the confessing of sins and emptying out of oneself before the Lord God.
2. "My soul longs for You" and "deliver me" and "I trust" and "I take shelter" are sayings conveying that all desire and petitions are to be laid out at God's feet in faith.
3. "I meditate on Your works" and "I muse on the work of Your hands" say that there are focus points that are good to bring God into clearer view. Paul clarified this by giving us eight things on which to focus and this series has expounded on each of those things one by one.
4. "Teach me" and "lead me" are saying that as we focus on those eight things at the foot of the cross in a worshipful attitude, we will wait a while with God and see what things we may learn to walk closer to His will.
IS THIS ALL PRAISE IS?
In this last installment, we shall speak of praise, thought of as a group expression of worship that is meant to unify individuals into that of one mind and one heart. It is, in fact, each individual voice blended by God Himself into one voice of worship and statement of faith.
First we will consider and give the definition of praise with its wide range of expressions. We will examine Scriptures that show believers of the past acting in certain ways and we will show how the Greek and Hebrew words used in Scripture validate those actions as praise. Then we will examine praise in its function as a focal point of our meditation.
As unifying as this practice is in many ways, it also widens the gap between Christians and non-Christians. It even becomes a source of division between groups of true worshippers because of the intensely personal nature of this group expression of worship.
How can something that unifies so completely, be so divisive?
The division between believer and non-believer should be self-explanatory. The culture in which we live is godless to the extreme. We have become a society of faithless skeptics that see nothing as being actually spiritual. In fact, the word "spiritual" that is thrown around in descriptive monologues from time to time, refers to anything that causes a passionate moment in a person or group. Some primitive nationals around some roaring campfire singing their heart out will be described as having a "spiritual experience" simply because they are energetic or enthusiastic, whether or not God is even mentioned or considered. Even a leaf falling to the ground with a musical backdrop will be spoken of as a "spiritual moment." But the word praise will never cross their lips. To them all sources of spiritual energy come from inside man with his feeble intellect and frame. Everything is strained through the humanistic sieve of the social and group dynamic and psychological mindset. Pseudo-scientific terms, some newly invented, to explain away any evidence of God's involvement (or to deny the existence of a Creator at all) continually arise to wrest the faith of youth in schools of "higher learning." It seems to them to be a "spiritualizing" of things that need not include God at all. To these supposed experts, praise is and should be for the self, a bolstering of the mental and physical aspects of a person's existence. They say the blessings experienced through praise could be duplicated by a good workout in the gym in the morning and a night out "clubbing" in the evening. The implication being, its just a matter of having ones batteries recharged, an infusion of endorphins and positive group energy. We who have a relationship with Jesus, know that the Holy Spirit is the One who empowers and energizes praise and without Him it is impossible to Praise God.
Praise can also cause division between individuals and groups of believers, each of which is actually praising God, but convinced another group of believers are using inappropriate methods of expression in their praise. There are groups of believing Christians who feel that singing a restrained traditional hymn while seated, and with no expression other than singing, is praise from the heart and within the group. They would look at other groups who clap their hands and raise their hands to the Lord as disrespectful to God and to His honored gathering place. While the people who clap and move gently to the music feel that movement is giving utterance to the praise within them seeking release, and any who would not do so were quenching the Spirit of God. But those very people that clap may feel that dancing and other more physical expressions of praise are "over the top" and highly inappropriate. People shouting praise are often viewed as introducing confusion and the Lord is not "the author of confusion" so therefore conclude, this is not of God.
Individuals Vary - Praise Varies - The Definition
Because praise is God erupting an expression from inside each individual, the tone, mode, and volume will vary from one person to the next. God has never mentally taken over someones mind to eradicate that personality, replacing it with His own. He, instead, molds that individual into an image of His Son and each is a work in progress. Each person has a level of spiritual growth and an emotional makeup unlike any other. No two people that serve the Living God are alike.
Each person expresses himself in a unique way when controlled by the Holy Spirit. If you get a large group of people and, one by one, asked each a question that involves something meaningful to them, that stirs their emotions, then recorded their answers, the results would probably not surprise you. You would find some speaking from the heart but in a very calm voice, while others voices would rise to almost a shout because of how emotions personally effect them. Still others may have to get up and move around because there is too much pent up energy for them to express what they have to say while simply sitting and speaking it. If this scenario makes sense, why would it surprise anyone if the mode of praise in individuals vary in the same way? A point of contention from the more non-physical people would be: "but emotions get in the way of rational thinking, somebody will get so emotionally worked up that they move into the area of acting in the flesh instead of in a way that glorifies God." That statement is not true. The very etymology of the words that mean praise shows the integral part that emotions play in true praise. Emotions like, happiness and elation move hand in hand with rational thinking, such as gratefulness for salvation and wonder at an awesome God who could love them so much. The fact is, Satan loves to counterfeit the genuine with fake, phony, diluted and improper behavior, but this aping effort is not praise and we will examine how to tell the difference.
Let's Examine The Greek And Hebrew Words Translated "Praise"
The Bible, when speaking of praise, does not have only one word that encompasses this living proof of God's existence. Instead the list is long and surprisingly varied when praise is mentioned. We must remember that the New Testament is a relatively short piece of writing when compared to the Old Testament. Because of the time span written, the varied people and people groups, cultures, and circumstances involved in the OT, there is more we learn of praise from this portion of Scripture than from the relatively few instances where praise is mentioned in the NT. Also we are dealing with Greek in the NT, which is a simpler language than the OT Hebrew which has many words to describe praise in its many-faceted definition.
Facets Of Praise
So Let's Start With The Greek New Testament
The verse in Philippians above that the apostle Paul wanted us to consider in our meditations is the Greek word epainos (ep'-ahee-nos) and means a to show approval of a godly commendable thing. It is the combination of the words aineo (a-hee-neh'-o) meaning highest honor and consideration (this word is only used in relating to God) and epi (ep-ee') meaning towards. So the word Paul used means to display before God and men your approval of the commendable things God has done.
In order to accommodate Paul's exhortation we need to understand that the phrase "whatever praise there is" means we must take note of the things that God says are good and commendable. We need to see their importance and value through God's eyes, considering how it effects our lives. Once we understand that, we are then able show gratitude and acknowledgement in a way that honors the God who made this possible.
In Matthew 21:15-16 Jesus says: "But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, 'Hosanna to the Son of David!' they were indignant and said to Him, 'Do You hear what these are saying?' And Jesus said to them, "Yes. Have you never read, 'Out of the mouths of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise?'"
This word praise is ainos (ah'-ee-nos) and its literal meaning is to tell a story. Its etymology is from the two words epi (ep-ee') that means to distribute towards and the word aineo (ahee-neh'-o) which means to praise.
So we see the first facet of the total definition of praise involves "telling a story of praise." It connotes showing others, those who do not know Jesus as Savior and also those who do know Him, that Jesus is Lord and to tell His Story. There is an important element of witness in our praise. Songs that convey the gospel message, our words, our works before others, all this is praise.
Facet 1. The Purpose of Praise is to tell His Story (the Gospel) as a testimony to others for a witness.
In John 12:42-43 John writes: "Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God."
in this verse, the word for praise in both cases is doxa (dox'-ah) and means dignity, glory, honor, and worship. This word comes from two words dokeo (dok-eh-o') to think, to please, to do good and deiknuo (dike-noo'-o) which means to show.
So from this we see that proper praise will convey the Lord God's dignity and honor so as to please Him. It will not simply show that the believer has enthusiasm. It will not focus attention on the believer, but on God. This verse tells us that our praise is a form of worship.
Facet 2. The Purpose of praise is to convey to everyone God's dignity and glory, to honor Him, to please Him with our worship.
In Hebrews 2:10-12 the Bible says: "For it is fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, 'I will declare Your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to you.'"
This word for praise is humneo (hoom-neh'-o) and it means to sing and celebrate with song. Of course, each one of these words for praise has etymologies that help to understand the word more fully. This word humneo comes from the words humnos (hoom'-nos) that means to celebrate and psallo (psal'-lo) which means to twitch or twang (a literal interpretation meaning the playing of music, of having a rhythm, of playing a melody, of singing songs).
Now we see the beginning of the expectation that there will be movement when God so motivates an individual to do so. The word conveys a sense that a person will have a hard time just to sit and simply sing without it being evident in other parts of their body. A head will begin to bob, a hand or toe to tap. There will be those for whom this will not happen, but again, that is an individual's expression worked from the inside out by God Himself. But the word psallo also has an interesting etymology. It is synonymous with another Greek word psocho (pso'-kho) which means to grind into powder. The literal interpretation is described in the movement involved in wrenching kernels of corn off of the ear. A hard grinding movement with the hands so as to harvest the kernels. It takes pressure that builds to the point of the kernels falling away. The motion is repetitive and powerful. It is tiring and rewarding in the end. So now we peel back even more of the cover over praise. Not only will our heads bob, or our toes tap, but we will be effected to our very souls. Some individuals will move around "dance" in fact, they will have to move around. It feels like a grinding in their souls. They can't help but move because God is causing it in them for His glory.
I have to interject here that Satan loves to counterfeit what is real. When he does that, the real must be recognized from a selection of fake, phony "wanna-be's." I once knew this lady that told me a story of how she was in church and she began to praise God with singing and she "got swept away by the Spirit" and wound up under the pew "with [her] skirt up over [her] head" and the men of the church "drag[ing her] out from under there." It disturbed the singing and some of the people of the church began to laugh. How can you tell if God is motivating the praise? You will know because no individual will steal attention away from God. That individual will not be a distraction nor cause the worship to be disrupted. God will be the center of attention and will be glorified in and by every action a Holy Spirit-motivated person does. Certainly losing control so as to be shamefully exposed is not of the Holy Spirit. Having "damage control" drag a person from under a pew because they were moved to fall and squirm there would not be of the Spirit. Losing all rational thought, blanking out, "losing time" would not be an operation of the Spirit.
**Remember: God never removes our mind and replaces it with His own. Instead He reasons and helps us see His way as holy. He molds our mind so that our thoughts become His thoughts. He empowers us and moves us from the inside but not without reason. We allow His control while we are allowed to keep our mind that has been molded and changed to be used to His Glory.
Facet 3. The Purpose of praise is to allow God to create a melody of worship that flows from God, through the individual, to blend with others into one glorifying voice to His glory.
The Word Praise In The Old Testament Hebrew
So much of what we know of praise comes from a prolific writer of songs in the Hebrew Scriptures. He was described as "a man after God's own heart" for a good reason. His writings were born of many hours of solitude under the stars serving as watchman for the flocks of his father Jesse. Night after night David sat, with God's creation above his head declaring to him the majesty of the LORD Yahweh. The sheep hearing the cries of wolves and other predators in the darkness would get restless and afraid. David soon found the dual purpose of singing served to not only console the sheep, but to praise the God who owned so much of David's heart. Had David not had all that "alone time" with God to reflect on who and what God was, he may have never become the man he became, nor been the example to us that he is.
In Psalm 7:17 David sang, "I will praise the LORD according to His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the LORD Most high."
The word praise here is the Hebrew word yadah (yah-daw'). It means to hold out the hand. It is from the root word yad (yawd) that means an open hand. This word yad contains the sense of power or control over something. Its meaning could be conveyed in the sentence, "I leave the matter in your hand." But in this case, there is an open hand. This changes the intent of the meaning to that of giving up of control or personal power that normally rests with the individual. This is done volutarily, willingly, and with an expectant spirit. There is a literal meaning as well to the word yadah. It means to wring the hands in sorrow, in painful regret, a confessing and a throwing away. This throwing away is the giving up control and a forsaking of sin, throwing all at the foot of the cross. This is the origin of the practice of the raising of the hands. You see the motivation of the Holy Spirit in some individuals to raise their hands. This is why. Of course, in a room full of people each individual will move as God motivates. Not all will raise their hands, nor should they. There will be people that are not so moved and it would be improper for them to do so. The individuals who do are saying "I offer myself for your service. I throw my sin away from me and offer myself as I am." The others aren't ready or are being moved to express themselves in a different way before God.
Facet 4. Praise is relinquishing power over yourself and your life, asking God to rule every aspect of your life and at the same time offering yourself for service.
In Psalm 57:7-8 David used another word for praise. "My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise. Awake my glory! Awake lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn."
This verse happened in the wee hours of the morning or deep into the night. David, swept away with emotion, did not feel sleepy and was displaying his love to his God knowing the morning was right on the horizon. He was saying that God was more important than sleep or rest to him at that moment. Expressing his steadfastness to God was what he had decided to do. He used the word zamar (zaw-mar') which means "to sing forth praises, to play music with an instrument or with the voice." But the deeper literal meaning is "to prune away, to trim, to cut away." It wasn't just any song David was singing. It was a song to express how he was willing to cut away his fleshly self with its sin and selfish motivations. He was asking God to prune him like some plant with nonessential growth. Anyone with a knack for growing things knows that not pruning back plants will lead to no fruit produced by that plant. This word is a specific word that means "prune me back. Here is my heart - cut away the evil." Imagine this happening when one is singing joyfully to the Lord. The song becomes cleansing because of the repentant attitude. The music becomes vital to worship and expressing love to our God. The cutting hurts but heals. The pain of exposed sin is real but the relief from it produces much joy.
Facet 5. Praise is the joyful asking of God to lay bare, expose the sin, and then to cut it away, (painfully if necessary) so to rid ourselves of it.
We find another word for praise used in 1 Chronicles 23:3-5, "Now the Levites were numbered from the age of thirty years and above; and the number of the individual males was 38,000. Of these 24,000 were to look after the work of the house of the LORD, 6,000 were officers and judges, 4,000 were gatekeepers, and 4,000 "praised the LORD with musical instruments, which I made," said David, "for giving praise."
In this account of what King David did in fulfilling his desire to praise the LORD, the Spirit chose the word halal (haw-lal'), an interesting word which means "to be clear in sound and in color, to shine forth, to boast, to make a show, to rave, to be clamorously foolish.
Since we have already determined that faking praise, or being a fraud with praise is not praise from Holy Spirit inspiration, and that putting on a showy performance that takes attention away from God is of the evil one; then what does this mean? The answer is in the first phrase of the definition. "to be clear in sound and color." Our praise according to this passage should be a clear message to unbelievers regardless of their reaction to it. It goes hand-in-hand with the Scripture that says that "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him." (1 Cor. 2:14) Our praise should have a clear message of the gospel for any that are unbelieving, but there will be things about our praise that they can not understand because they are unsaved. Our praise is to be unchanged, unapologetic, unashamed; boasting in the Lord our God, even if others think of us as fools for saying things in such a manner. We "become fools for Christ sake." (1 Cor. 4:10)
To understand this praise in action there is an instance where praise had this type of effect on someone whose heart was not turned toward the God of Abraham. David's wife Michal watched as the Holy Spirit moved David, her husband and king, to dance. His robes were an encumbrance and so he removed them. He was wearing a linen ephod that the priests wore in the Holy of Holies to make sacrifice to Jehovah. This ephod was designed so that the priest would be modestly covered and yet cool in the inner sanctuary. David was not naked as some suppose, but he was not acting "kingly" in Michal's mind. Instead of behaving like Michal expected, he twirled and leapt and seemed to her like a fool. This is what she said, "How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of the servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!" David replied to her, "It was before the LORD, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of Israel. Therefore I will play music before the LORD."
This was not a showy display for all to see. Instead, this was a rare occasion of the LORD stirring worship from David before the whole assembly in a linen ephod. It was a loving gesture of the LORD to allow this intimate time to be seen by all Israel. The action originated with the Holy Spirit and the unbeliever (Michal, David's wife) understood nothing about God nor cared to know. It seemed shameless, undignified, even a lewd display for the other women to see. David was not a priest, but in this case, God used him in priestly garb to openly display and illustrate His intimate love for Israel in this worshipping expression. David un-apologetically explained this was before the LORD. This is halal.
Facet 6. Praise is to show others God's reality in the believer's life, to clearly declare with words and deeds God's love, purpose, wisdom and power. This is to be done unapologetically, even in the face of accusation that springs from ignorance of any who are not spiritually enlightened, even at the risk of seeming foolish to them.
Another Scripture, this time from the writings of the prophet Jeremiah, uses another word for praise that is very much related to halal.
Isaiah writes, "Sing to the LORD a new song, and His praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you coastlands, and you inhabitants of them! Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits. Let the inhabitants of Sela sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the LORD, and declare His praise in the coastlands." (Isaiah 42:10-12)
This word is tehillah (teh-hil-law') and is everything that halal is, with one added element- the exclamation point. This halal was to be shouted and not only shouted but spread from sea to shining sea and into the sea as well.
Now we see from whence came loud singing, where the writers of the New Testament understood that we make a loud and joyful noise to the Lord. The "noise" is not to be disrespectfully outrageous but it must get the attention of any who would hear. It conveys the sincerity of the message, to make a connection so that the Gospel may be heard and the Lord glorified through the salvation of a lost soul.
Facet 7. Our praise is to be loudly (and widely) proclaimed, without embarrassment, because there are souls that need to know about our Lord everywhere. They are to hear and be informed about Him and all He has done in the earth.
For facet 8 we go back to the writings of David and in Psalm 117 David uses another word that conveys a different aspect of praise.
"Praise the LORD all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples! For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the LORD endures forever." (Psalm 117)
This is the word shabach (shaw-bakh'). It is pronounced with that delightful Hebrew sound in the back of the throat that I love to hear when used. I love this word because it conveys so much about what is to motivate our praise when others can hear it. The word means, "to address (preach) in a loud tone, to pacify (as if by words), command, glory, keep in, be still, triumph."
It is as if the praise is a sermon, (and indeed our sermons are praise to God). Within this sermon is a calming of irrationality and a cultivating of a mood to listen. There is a sincerity to convey God's marvelous works and Jesus' triumph. There is a proclaiming and stirring as is in any good sermon and there is the weaving of words to cause a precipice of anticipation where the awesomeness of God is felt, and then the climax and the command for everyone to be saved. When you feel shabach you can almost feel God's hands out, pleading with the listener to turn and come to Him. All our words and actions should be from this attitude, the attitude of shabach.
Facet 8. Our praise should come in powerful words that convey who God is, what He's done and the importance of coming to Him for salvation.
Finally we come to the last aspect of praise. We have covered so much, but the concept of praise is vast and so integral to our worship that its worth all the time we have spent to discover "whatever praise there is." The last word is found in Proverbs 27:21 where Solomon, David's son, reflected his dad's ability to understand praise.
Solomon wrote: "As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise." (KJV) In the NKJV a clarification was attempted, but I think that the original is better. "The refining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold, and a man is valued by what others say of him." (NKJV)
This word, used only once in Scripture for praise, is the word mahalal (mah-hal-awl') and again has its roots in halal but the way Solomon uses this word reveals how the word is to be understood. A refining pot was a vessel where great heat was placed to the silver and the impurities would rise to the surface and then those impurities skimmed off. The silver was pure when you could see your reflection in the metal like a mirror. The same is true of the furnace with gold, the heat caused it to be pure. That purity would be visible to all who looked upon it.
This is an illustration of how our praise effects others that witness it. The Bible says that people could discern the apostles had "been with Jesus." They stood in the presence of holiness and reflected it so others knew something was different about them, and they knew what that difference was. People should see something in us as well, a reflection. It is a measure of the purity of our praise when others can look at you, at how you praise, and see reflected there the face of Jesus Christ. When you praise God properly you pass through a fire of sorts. In order to fellowship with a holy God in this intimate manner one must first confess his sin so that his praise will be heard. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the LORD will not hear me." (Ps. 66:18) The nature of praise demands a purifying of oneself in order to be in such fellowship with the Creator God. This makes our lives a living statement of praise before the world.
May we all praise Him in such a way!
Facet 9. Our proper praise will serve to bolster our testimony before others and to cause us to become closer to God because of the spiritual attitude required for fellowship with God when we praise Him.
Praise Is Telling His Story
Why Should We Praise God?
We have now looked at a complete Bible definition of praise. With this in mind, remember Paul said for us to consider "whatever praise there is" when we meditate. Meditation is a deliberate focus on a subject that God has said is worthy of deep consideration. Deep and prayerful pondering on that topic so as to peer into the deep truths lying just beneath the surface of superficial acknowledgment. But why should we take the time to partake in this thing called praise? and why ponder it?
Let's take it to the basics: Praise basically is gratefulness.
You are alive. Do you love being alive? Are you happy you are alive? Does this not stir feelings and thoughts of gratefulness? This is a gift from the Creator God. We live in a world that is a gift from the Creator God. We eat food that is given by the Creator God. We feel, smell, taste, think, dream, play because God cared enough to give us these things and a mind to reflect on them. This was despite the fact we do not deserve any of these things...
God created perfection and then we humans decided to rebel against our Creator. With our gift of free will from our heavenly Father we decided that we could be our own god. We decided to leave what our all-knowing, holy God laid down as law for us and began to do things our way. With this rebellion we introduced sin into our perfect lives and we see its results all around us. Yet despite all this, God loved us. That is something to praise God about!
Our sin brought about the need for God to come to our world and to allow Himself to die to correct the fact that we cannot pay for our sin ourselves. He was innocent but we sinners called Him guilty and nailed Him to a cross and He stayed there, even though He could have come down off of it, changed His mind, or concluded you and I were not worth all His blood being spilled, but He didn't. Is this not something praiseworthy?
Pondering all the things that are involved in this scenario alone would be enough for our lifetime of meditation but God has heaped blessings upon blessings so as to get the attention of every person, calling him or her to believe in God and to seek forgiveness and redemption. Women are mothers, men are fathers. There are people we love, things we have, activities we do, all causes to praise the God "by whom all things consist." (Colossians 1:17)
Praise Is Communicating Gratefulness To God
Praise basically is the expression of gratefulness to almighty God. It is a prayer, a communion between you and the Father. There is so much to be grateful about if you think and ponder on it. That is why the counsel to meditate on praise is there in Scripture. God did not create us and then abandon us. He never has left us. Read the Bible. He walked with Adam in the cool of the garden. He listened to Abel, even after he was dead as his blood cried out from the ground. He was the rock that followed the children of Israel though the wilderness. He sent His Son who had only been a prayer away all throughout history to die on a tree. Praise God! Tell Him how you feel about Him! Tell Him in song, in your every word, in your every action that you give Him the Glory and that He deserves it. Tell Him how grateful you are for what He's given you and how that makes you feel. Give God a gift for a change.
Praise Is Teaching Gratefulness To Your Children
Praise is communicating and teaching gratefulness to your children. Praise is telling them how they are wonderfully made. Praise is letting them know they need a Savior. Praise is letting them see how you turn to God when you fail. Praise is letting them see you bend your will to that of God. Praise is making disciples for Jesus out of your children, producing fruit producers.
Praise Is Telling His Story
Praise is telling His Story to others. Praise is seen by the world as words you say and as deeds you do in your life. It shouts loudly before them to hear before it is too late. Each exposure of you as a Christian before the unsaved, proclaims God's love for them. The Holy Spirit goes before you and prepares the ground and you come along and praise, you tell His Story, you display Him before them. You give a reason for the hope within you. For many, you are all the Bible they will ever read. What a privilege to be a fellow laborer with the Creator of the universe!
Dear Reader: This has been a thorough study into praise and it could be that you have never been able to praise God or even be truly grateful because you have never understood what God has done. You work, you live, you struggle but you don't know how God fits in. That is because dear reader that praise is a spiritual thing and you need to know God as Savior before that kind of relationship to God is possible. Aren't you tired of feeling defeated, down, depressed, hopeless? Haven't you sensed something missing in your heart? a gap in your very soul that you've tried to fill to ease the emptiness? Nothing fills the hole that is there because God is the only one that can fill it. Booze, drugs, money, success, power, all are temporary highs that are lonely and empty in the end. God wants something more for you. He wants you to have a peace that passes all understanding, a joy beyond description, and a knowledge that when you die you will have a home in heaven.
You ask: How do I get this relationship with God so that I can have these things too? It's easy. First you have to realize the fact that you are a sinner. All men sin we do so because the first man Adam sinned and passed that sin down to all his children. Once you see your sin, then you must also realize one other thing and that is you cannot save yourself. Jesus died for you and paid your sin debt for you. God punished Jesus instead of you and all you have to do is ask Jesus to be your Savior and God will forgive your sin and save you.
Pray this: Dear LORD Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I believe that I cannot save myself and I believe that You came to earth to be slain for my sin. I believe that You were nailed to the cross, was buried, and rose again. LORD I turn from my sin, I confess it, lay it before You. I walk away from it and into your arms right now. Please forgive me of my sin and save me. Thank You for what You have done for me and I begin right now to praise You for it. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Other articles in this series: