1 Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.
Is it possible that you have read this Psalm as an encouragement to praise when it’s actually a command to praise?
You see if it’s simply an encouragement to praise, then I would have the choice to praise or not to praise. In other words, choosing not to praise would not be an issue of disobedience or rebellion, but rather a simple choice of the will based on whether we feel like it or not.
If it’s a command to praise and I choose not to then it is an issue of disobedience or rebellion.
Disobedience if I fail to obey out of ignorance. Disobedience if I really want to obey but struggle to obey. Rebellion if it’s something we know that we should be doing, but defiantly refuse to obey.
So is it an encouragement or is it a command?
The Hebrew word translated as “praise,” in this one Psalm a total of 13 times, is the word halal (haw-lal'), which means “to be clear, both in sound and color.” It means, “to shine”, “to make a show”, “to boast”, “to be foolish”, “to rave”, “to celebrate,” and to “sing praise”.
Looking at the meaning of this word and how it’s translated is not enough to figure out if it’s an encouragement or a command.
You have to go a step further to see how the word is used. Fortunately I tools to help me do this with ease.
The fact is this Hebrew verb is written in the IMPERATIVE, which makes it quite clear that it’s a “direct command demanding an immediate response.”
When I say the words “praise and worship”, you may wrongly conclude that I’m talking about fast and slow songs.
Reality is praise and worship has little to do with the songs we sing.
Worship in simple terms is how we esteem God. It’s the attitude of adoration in our heart toward God. Reality is that you can worship God without ever opening your mouth or making a sound.
Praise is the outward articulation, via sound and color, of the inward attitude of adoration of the heart toward God. Biblical praise is all about what God sees and hears.
So please don’t confuse praise with the fast songs we sing. It is much more than that.
Wherever the Bible commands us to “PRAISE” Him, it’s calling us to express the adoration of our heart toward God. Whereas true worship can take place in complete silence, Biblical praise NEVER does.
Here are five things worth writing down if you are taking notes:
- Praise in itself has no power.
- The power of praise stems from the object of our praise.
- The true power of praise cannot be fully realized unless the object of our praise is the one true God.
- True praise must flow outward from an inward heart of true adoration.
- True praise releases the breaker anointing of God to break open or break through the way before us.
A great example of this is Elijah’s confrontation with the 450 prophets of Baal.
1 Kings 18:19-39
19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table."
20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel.
21 Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." But the people said nothing.
22 Then Elijah said to them, "I am the only one of the Lord's prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets.
23 Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it.
24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire — he is God." Then all the people said, "What you say is good."
25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire."
26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it.
Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. "O Baal, answer us!" they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.
27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. "Shout louder!" he said. "Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened."
28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.
29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come here to me." They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which was in ruins.
31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, "Your name shall be Israel."
32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed.
33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, "Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood."
34 "Do it again," he said, and they did it again. "Do it a third time," he ordered, and they did it the third time.
35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.
36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.
37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again."
38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The Lord-he is God! The Lord-he is God!"
Some things worth noting:
- The praise of the 450 prophets of Baal was powerless.
- Their praise was powerless, because the object of their praise was powerless.
- No matter how pure their devotion to Baal, Baal is a false god, a creation of their own imagination.
- The outward acts of inner adoration mean nothing if the object of our adoration is a god of our own imagination.
- Elijah’s inner adoration and devotion to the one true God required him to take action.
- Elijah rebuilt the altar of the LORD that had been lying there in ruins.
- Elijah knew that it was about restoring God’s honor.
- It was about turning the hearts of God’s people away from idols back to pure devotion to only true living God.
- Elijah’s praise had nothing to do with singing songs to the LORD.
- All of Elijah’s outward acts of praise were not to show the world how powerful a man of God he was, but to show the world how powerful and awesome is the LORD our God.
- In the end the heavens opened up and fire fell from God’s throne broke through from the realm of heaven into this earthly realm.
A simple courageous act of praise that flowed from a pure heart of inner adoration made it possible for the power of God to be manifested among the sons of man.
Psalm 22:3 makes it clear that God is enthroned in the praises of His people.
To here the full audio sermon preached on September 26, 2010 visit our Audio Sermon Archive under the Resources tab.