March 24, 2017

All About That Praise (Psalms part 1)

What does God want?

We make that question so difficult to answer that, all too often, it goes unanswered altogether. We analyze our circumstances, our abilities, our limitations, our finances, our desires, our needs, our strengths, our weaknesses, ad nauseum (!!) until we have twisted ourselves into knots so tight and gnarly that the finest sailor could never untangle them. Our intentions are good, but our method is flawed.

So... what DOES God want?

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The answer to that question is found in one of the major themes running throughout the entire Bible: praise.  What does God want? He wants our praise, not as a vain or selfish thing, but as a reflection of the mutual love between us and Him.

When we praise something or someone, what is it that we are really expressing? According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, "praise" means:

  •  to say or write good things about (someone or something) : to express approval of (someone or something)
  • to express thanks to or love and respect for (God)

So, in order to truly praise someone, we have to hold them in very high regard; respect them; approve of them; admire them; thank them; and ultimately, love them.  Right there we have the crux of the matter: the entire Bible is actually the story of God's love for us and His plan to bring us into a proper relationship with Him.

How does all of this relate to the book of Psalms?  

To answer this, we have to go back to the original Hebrew title of the book, which is Tehellim.  This word literally means (can you guess?) "Praises!"  Let that sink in for a moment...

The original title of the book of Psalms was Praises.  This longest book of the Bible is dedicated to praising God, teaching us what praise is really all about, and how we are to offer our praises to God.  Remember, praise is ultimately an expression of love.  The Psalms, therefore, express our love for God.

Let's break that Hebrew word down even further.  The root word is halal, which is very rich in meaning.  Halal literally means "to be clear (of sound)" or "to make a clear sound."  It makes perfect sense that "praise" is built upon "making a sound."  If we are going to DO it, we have to SAY it!  But it gets even more interesting.  Halal can also be translated as "to sing" or "to make a show!"

Ever heard a music minister or song leader driving home the point that they are not there to "put on a show?"  The original Hebrew seems to say otherwise.  Whoah!  Wait!  Wait!  Let me clarify:  the "show" does have to be completely dedicated to praising God, and not toward glorifying ourselves in any way (which is what those folks really mean, anyway).

One final note:  there is a word we Christians use all the time that, I must sadly admit, I didn't know the proper meaning of until just a few years ago.


"Hallel" from halal
"Jah" (or "Yah" as in "Yaweh"), an affectionate version of the Hebrew name of God
Make a clear sound which expresses love for God.

Praise God.


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