UNDERSTANDING THE SUBJECT OF 'PRAISE' FROM THE HEBREW LEXICON
by Michael McBuba
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In the following write up, (entirely excerpted from my new book, Heartfelt Worship - An Exploration of the Transcendental Nature of Prophetic Worship), we shall be conducting an exhaustive word study of the subject of praise.
An accurate understanding of this subject, especially viewed from the perspective of the original Hebrew lexicon, will not only prove very stimulating, truly exciting, and richly informative to every enquiring mind, but will also help to greatly enrich our worship experience, and take it to the next level as intended by our Heavenly Father.
From the Hebrew lexicon, there are no fewer than eight words, (actually, there are several more), which are used to describe the action word praise, namely:
The primary meaning of this Hebrew word is to "utter or proclaim a confession of thanks in an audible voice." It also involves the extension of the hands heavenwards toward God.
This Hebrew verb connotes a root, meaning the extended hands, or to throw up the hands in the air. It further implies to worship with one's hands extended heavenwards.
According to the Hebrew lexicon, the opposite meaning is to bemoan something with a wringing of the hands. In other words, it is either your hands are thrown up in victorious praise, or they are hung down and are wrung in abject, whimpering defeat!
Yadah praise is involved action, not idle passivity. As we can see in 2nd Chronicles 20:19-21, this was what King Jehoshaphat of Israel did when his tiny nation was besieged and almost overran by hostile Ammonite and Moabite nations, in league with certain others.
On that dreadful day, the king instructed the "...Levites from the sons of the Kohathites..." [to go] out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord, (that is, YADAH); for His mercies endureth for ever."
What the Levites did on that day was to lift up their hands to God in Yadah Praise, thereby, thoroughly exposing their defencelessness and vulnerability to the vicious nations gathered around them. It wasn't until they had faithfully obeyed the king's command before a prophet in the land came up with a definite instruction from the Almighty God Himself of what they should do! Of course, we know the rest of the story - how Yadah Praise brought swift, tremendous, and effortless victory on that fateful day.
I read about a certain man who had a twenty-month old baby boy. Somehow, little boy managed to discover the leisure item called chewing gum and he would always use the stuff to mess up his dad's cloths. Naturally, the dad promptly decided not to keep chewing gums around the home.
Incidentally, the grandmother of the little lad turned out to be a spoiler or violator of the 'no-gums-around-the-home' rule. And so, each time she would come visiting, she ensured that there was an ample supply of the stuff in her pockets, and the little lad easily discovered this!
Each time grandma shows up, the under-two year old chap would scamper as fast as his little legs would propel him - diapers somewhere in-between his legs and ankles! When he finally reaches her, he wouldn't utter a word. He would just Yadah, (that is, throwing up his hands in the air as high as he could reach)!
And what would be grand mom's response? She in turn wouldn't utter a word - she didn't have to - but she communicated easily well enough, as he too did. Grandma would stoop low to scoop up the diapered bundle of joy. Yet they both knew what each needed from the other. He needed the inevitable chewing gums stocked in her pockets; she needed the refreshing bear hug he offered to her!
I think this story perfectly illustrates for us the power of Yadah Praise. Our Heavenly Father delights and desires our Yadah Praise; we in turn crave and covet His divine blessings.
The Psalmist wrote,
"So, I will bless Thee as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Thy Name," (63:4).
Furthermore, the Psalmist exhorts us to,
"Lift up [our] hands in the sanctuary and bless the Lord," (134:2).
In the same vein, Paul wrote,
"So I will therefore, that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands..."(1st Timothy 2:8).
Interestingly, during the cause of my studies, I discovered that Yadah is also an active post-positive Hebrew term according to the biblical text of Psalm 50:23, which reads:
"Whoso offers praise glorifies me; and to him that orders his conversation aright will I show the salvation of God."
It is wonderful to note that the word SHEW as used in the King James Version text was not a grammatical error of using a simple perfect tense instead of a future continuous tense. There is a divine purpose for this.
Please, also note down the following:
[i] "...Whoso offers praise glorifies me..."
Firstly, this phrase is a careful application of Yadah praise. It is first, a freewill, voluntary offering. Coercion is not applied to the one who offers it. It is purely voluntary - an exercise of the power of volition (or choice).
Secondly, it is an offering aimed at glorifying God, irrespective of one's present situation or circumstance.
Thirdly, in this instance, Yadah praise is used to celebrate God joyfully and with reckless abandonment.
Fourthly, Yadah praise is also a 'showing forth'or a bold declaration to as many who care to hear us, of God's promise to the saints in the form of His ultimate intervention.
[ii] "... and to him that orders his conversation (or lifestyle) aright..."
This is also another outworking of the post-positive action of Yadah praise. It subjects you to a rigorous regimen of consistency and integrity. Yadah praise demands a consistency in the confession of our lips.
Our words must always line up with our actions, and vice versa. There shouldn't be any form of inconsistency or variation between our confession and our pattern of lifestyle, or else, it will negate the ultimate end-result, which is our desire for God's promise of salvation (or intervention).
It is rather quite difficult to obtain favourable results with Yadah Praise if any form of inconsistency, of whatever degree, sets in on us - especially with respect to our confession and/or lifestyle.
[iii] "... will I shew the salvation of God..."
This concluding phrase shows us why Yadah Praise is an active Hebrew term. Yadah Praise takes it for granted that God will manifest His salvation in our lives if we maintain the confession of our lips, (Hebrews 10:35-36).
If our confession remains consistent and intact, Yadah Praise guarantees that we shall witness God's ultimate intervention, in whichever area we trust Him for a miracle.
It is also of vital interest to note that Yadah Praise is the same term as faith-in-action. Again, another term for Yadah Praise is the 'sacrifice of praise', (ie, according to the biblical texts of Jeremiah 17:26; 33:11 and Hebrews 13:15).
My dear reader, when was the most recent time you practised Yadah Praise? Please, be reminded never to quit giving God your Yadah Praise. Your answers shall soon connect with your expressions of faith, if you choose never to give up!
This word occurred about 88 times in the Hebrew Biblical Texts, and it is the word most commonly used for praise all throughout the Scriptures. The literal meaning of Hallal is to produce "... a loud, clear sound of celebration..." It is also to "... boast, brag or rave about, and to glory in God."
Our commonly chanted English antiphon of Hallelujah is believed to have derived its origin from Hallal. How interesting!
If we as parents expect praise from our grateful children, how much more should our Great God and Father expect effusive praise from our thankful hearts! Interestingly too, this type of praise is perhaps the most commonly practised expression of praise. It is the kind of praise that pervades wherever saints of like mind converge. It is also what motivates the children of God everywhere to witness for Christ.
Hallal praise predisposes us to be so clamourously extravagant that we find ourselves throwing all decorum and caution to the winds in our righteous zeal to witness to others about the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ.
THE FOURTEEN MODES OF HALLAL PRAISE
1. Praise, which can be audibly heard, [Psalm 66:8, 17; 98:4]. Acts 16:25 reads, "And at midnight, Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them." There are no biblical instances to prove that anyone praised the Lord in the silence of their hearts alone. All throughout Scripture, it was always vocal and audible.
2. Praise, which involves standing, [Psalm 35:27; 47:1; 95:1]. Almost always, the Psalmists urged the saints to shout out God's praise, and to make it audibly loud and heard.
3. Praise, which employs singing, [Psalm 47:6]. Countless scriptures abound to show that singing remains a dominant mode of expressing our praises and worship to God.
4. Praise, which goes hand in hand with thanksgiving, [Psalm 50:23; 69:30; Jonah 2:9; Ephesians 5:18-20; Hebrews 13:15]. Next to our vocal praise, thanksgiving is another mode of expression well understood by most people of almost all ages and generations.
5. Praise, which involves a joyful noise, [Psalm 66:1-2; 95:1]. The Hebrew word for joyful noise is Teruwah, which is a clamorous acclamation of unrestrained, unfettered joy.
6. Praise, which requires our crying out, [Isaiah 12:6; Psalm 89:26]. Sometimes, even the most high and mighty among us do break down and cry. There is nothing undignifying about it - as it only goes a long way to express our love for God!
7. Praise, which evokes laughter in us, [Psalm 126:2]. Laughter is a high-powered tonic; and God frequently enjoins us to laugh and to feel good about ourselves in His presence.
8. Praise, which incorporates musical instruments in its expressions, [Psalm 33:2-3; 57:8; 150]. God Himself endorsed the skilful use of musical instruments to aid and accompany the expression of our praise to Him.
9. Praise, which calls for bowing and kneeling before God, [Psalm 95:6; Ephesians 3:14; Philippians 2:10-12]. One day, every knee will bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is the Lord of heaven and earth!
10. Praise, which demands our falling down to genuflect (or prostrate) before God, [Nehemiah 8:6; Revelations 5:13-14; 7:11-12; 11:16-17]. It does often happen in Spirit-filled and Heart-felt Praise worship that we get so overwhelmed in God's presence that we simply want to fully genuflect before Him in reverent worship.
11. Praise, which requires the clapping of our hands, [Psalm 47:1; 98:8]. Not even the traditions of the elders are powerful enough to subdue our overwhelming need to clap in God's presence! Numerous Psalms abound to show that clapping of the hands almost always accompany our expressions of praise to our God.
12. Praise, which involves the uplifting of our hands in God's presence, [Psalm 63:4; 134:2; 141:2]. As we have seen in Yadah Praise, the uplifting of the hands in praise goes a long way to communicate our total trust in God's benevolent providence and excellent sovereignty.
13. Praise, which goes with The Dance, [Psalm 30:11; 149:3; 150:4; 2nd Samuel 6:14-15]. Scriptures make it very imperatively clear that there are kinds of stipulated Dance Steps that God requires to accompany our praise to Him. Psalm 149:3 tagged it The Dance. It implies that it is a skilful manoeuvring of the limbs in God's presence.
14. Praise, which includes the use of other tongues for the expression of our worship to God, [Acts 10:46; 1st Corinthians 14:16-17]. One other way to express our praise to God is in other tongues as the Holy Spirit enables the saints. There is only one category of people who do not, and cannot praise God - that is only the dead!
Those of us who are privileged to be alive must find more ways than one of expressing our Hallal praise to God, because He deserves it all!
The bottom line, therefore, is that God expects our praise sacrifice should always be characterised by effusive celebrations and clamorous jubilations!
This word was derived from the same root origin of Yadah, but unlike Yadah, (which is an active, action word), Towdah is more of a passive expression.
In its passive form, Towdah Praise connotes the imagery of hands extended heavenwards in a gesture of total surrender, almost like what happens when a gun is aimed at a defenceless victim. If the intended victim wishes to live to tell the gory tale, he or she is expected to quickly throw up their hands in the air, indicating that they are unarmed and have no intention of putting up any resistance or engaging the opponent or assailant in battle.
Happily, this picture doesn't depict our relationship to God! He is not a '...sadist, absentee landlord...'(to borrow a statement made by Al Paccino in the film, The Devil's Advocate) waiting upstairs to quash our joy, or to shoot us in the back.
Rather, the truth is that each time we raise our hands heavenwards, it clearly demonstrates our complete submission to His Lordship, and by so doing, freely express our love, adoration and total submission to Him.
Also, Towdah Praise is the Sacrifice of Thanksgiving, and it is an active way of rejoicing and celebrating well in advance the things that have not yet occurred nor taken place yet, for which we have already received a guarantee about by faith from God's word.
Sadly too, in Towdah Praise, there is a negative dimension, in which the worshipper may raise his hands heavenwards in a gesture of adoration, but may in fact, be actually wringing his hands in veiled defiance at God. This is usually characterised by wild but well-subdued gesticulations of mild irritation. We therefore, need to be careful to ensure that the motive of our hearts are purified and sanctified, and really geared at worshipping God.
This is another action word, and it means to:
"... shout with a loud voice, to make a great commotion about something or someone; to give a shout of ovation or triumph; to issue an authoritative command of faith, and to dance in a celebration of victory..."
To quote from the great work of Gerald Rowlands:
"...We do not always have to shout. But there are occasions when a triumphant shout is the only fitting manner in which to praise God..." - (The Shepherd's Staff).
There are also instances when it may appear as if there is a thick cloud of darkness all around us. Other times, a pall of heaviness may come to rest on us. The best response is an authoritative Shabach Praise!
I read the story of an elderly woman who was once so tormented by Satan that she eventually had to resort to Shabach Praise to deliver herself from his infamy. It so happened on a certain occasion that while she was busy ironing some clothes, her mind came under constant assaults of hate-filled, negative thoughts.
She offered a word of prayer concerning the flow of evil thoughts but it wouldn't just let go of her, but grew stronger than ever. She then tried singing, but it didn't help either. Finally, in an act of absolute faith, she walked towards the kitchen door, and flung it open.
She then opened her mouth and made the following declaration into the air:
"Satan, I charge you, leave my kitchen and leave me alone now! I resist you and your invasion of my thoughts in the Name of Jesus! And don't you forget for one moment that Jesus conquered you! You've been stripped of your authority! You are God's idea of nothing, so, get lost! Jesus is Lord! Now listen to me while I praise Him for whipping you!"
Right after that, she burst out into singing, putting Psalms 35:27 & 47:1 into practice. Without further ado, the fowl evil spirit that was tormenting her left in a frantic, huge hurry!
What that dear old lady did was to combine Hallal and Shabach Praise to kick out the devil from her home. You too, dear child of God, should not hesitate to use those tools next time evil thoughts attempt to overrun your mind, or invade your heart!
This word is almost next in meaning to Shachah the Hebrew term for Worship.
Barak is to '...kneel in humble and reverent adoration...' In worship, we often kneel before God, and by so doing; we are acknowledging His Almighty Worthiness and exalted position of Supremacy and Superiority.
This reverent act of kneeling before God connects us with His throne of grace where we may then freely obtain mercy and find grace to help in our times of need.
However, like Towdah, there is also a negative side of Barak, in which instance, a person may ostensibly kneel before God in worship, but might actually be using the corners of the mouth to utter blasphemies, imprecations and invectives against God!
Fortunately, God is "... the Lord of knowledge, and by Him, (words) and actions are weighed," (1st Samuel 2:3). Also, we recall that in Isaiah 29:13-14, God strongly indicted the hypocritical Jews who "...draw near with their mouth and with their lips do honour (Him) but have removed their hearts far from Him..."
The following scripture verses also capture the power of Barak Praise:
* Psalm 22:24
"For He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath He hid His face from him; but when he cried unto Him, he heard."
* Lamentations 3:31-33
"For the Lord will not cast off for ever; but though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men."
* Psalm 72:12-15
"For He will deliver the needy when he cries for help; the afflicted also, and him who hath no helper. He will have compassion on the poor and needy. And the lives of the needy, He will save. He will rescue their life from oppression and violence; and their blood will be precious in His sight - let them bless (or Barak) Him all day long."
This term as used in the Hebrew lexicon is an obvious reference to instrumental praise/worship. The term literally means to 'touch or play on the strings.'
Zamar Praise mostly incorporates a full-scale rejoicing in God's presence, using just about every available mechanical and artificial objects that when jangled, shaken, twang, strummed, beaten or blown, produces a form of organised and melodious sound, noise or cacophony.
Most of the instruments mentioned or alluded to in Psalm 150 are mostly percussive or rhythmic in nature, and were intended to create lots of clamorous cacophony to be used exclusively in rejoicing and celebrating joyfully before God, (1st Chronicles 15:16).
Therefore, we can authoritatively infer that God fully endorses the use of musical instruments in our praise and worship of Him; and as for those who still argue against the use of musical instruments in church worship services, the application of this word, Zamar, hopefully lays to a permanent rest such baseless contentions for ever more!
The literal meaning for this Hebrew word is fully explained by its practical application and direct reference in the text of Colossians 3:16, which reads in part:
"...teach and help one another along the right road with your psalms and hymns and Christian songs, singing God's praises with joyful hearts," (Philip's).
Tehillah is also a plural verb word for praise. Most specifically, Psalm 22:3 which reads in part, "... God inhabits (or is enthroned) in (or on) the praises of His people..." is a beautiful expression of this form of plural praise.
In the passage cited above, the word 'praise'is in the plural sense. This verse also shows that Tehillah Praise is expressly and explicitly stated to be where God dwells. On the other hand, [and like we had noted much earlier on], Tehillah is the chanting or singing of Hallal Praise!
Please, note the ending part of Colossians 3:16 where we are encouraged to sing '... God's praises with joyful hearts...' It follows therefore, that Tehillah Praise is a joyful celebration of our God in Christian songs. In fact, Tehillah, [which we have seen to be a close relation of Hallal], is a steadily progressive build-up on all the other Hebrew terms used to define the subject of praise.
Again, in some learned theological circles, it has often been vigorously argued that Tehillah is a form of Spirit Praise. I guess this is so because there is a general understanding that in Tehillah Praise, the Holy Spirit comes to take over the entire Worship Service, during which time, He goes into thorough inner work in the lives of God's people.
This eighth Hebrew word for praise is further derived from the root origin of Hallal, and to help us fully define its practical functionalities, we shall again freely quote from the contributions of Gerald Rowlands as taken from The Shepherd's Staff:
"... Hilluwi ... is a celebration of thanksgiving for the completion of harvest. Such praise is to be expressed in merriment. A post-harvest scene in any agricultural country would illustrate the essence of this word. The long months of anxious waiting are over. The harvest is safely gathered in. The hard work is finished; the tools are laid down, (and) the crops are safely stored away. It is, (therefore), the time to celebrate the successful completion of the harvest. It is a time of merriment and celebration. Singing and dancing are (usually) the order of the day..."
It is therefore, safe for us to opine that Hilluwi is Harvest Praise. Hilluwi is the kind of effusive and jubilant celebration that accompanies our times of thanksgivings, children dedication services, marriage anniversaries, or the special family thanksgiving services.
During such services, we come to celebrate God's faithfulness to us in the Tabernacle of the Righteous ones, and especially when He must have done something very praise-worthy for us; for example - a long-delayed fruit of the womb; a miraculous deliverance from fatal accidents, fire disasters, or armed-robbery attacks, et cetera. Hilluwi Praise ought to become a part and parcel of our lives as saints, and not just restricted to only agricultural harvests.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
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