As we continue our study on praise, we will look at Biblical expressions of praise.
How do you praise God? Do you praise God with your lips only or do you praise God with your whole body, soul and spirit?
Mark 12:30 – “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
Romans 12:1 – “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
In this teaching I hope to challenge you to praise God in new ways and use your whole being in praise. God wants our whole soul engaged in praise: mind, emotions and will. God wants our bodies to be engaged in praise as well. When you praise God, are your mind, emotions, will and body totally engaged? In Mark and Romans, we saw that God wants all of who we are. God doesn’t want half given praise, but full praise.
In God’s Word we see a number of biblical expressions of praise that I believe are applicable for us today. The first one we will look at is expressing praise through the lifting of ones hands.
Psalms 134:2 – “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the LORD.”
Why does God’s psalmist encourage us to raise our hands in praise?
1) Raising of one’s hands can be a symbol or expression of:
- Submission – A police officer asks a person to raise one’s hands because it is a symbol of surrender. It shows the police officer that the person is not hiding anything in their hands. In the same way, when we raise our hands in praise and worship, we are saying to God that we are fully surrendered to Him and hiding nothing in our hearts from Him.
- Affection – In the same way we embrace others to show our affection and love, when we open our arms in praise and worship, we are symbolically embracing the Father in love.
- An offering of praise- In the O.T. they had wave offerings which were an offering of thanks and a fellowship offering. (Lev. 23:9-11; 23:15-21)
2) The raising of one’s hands can aid us in concentrating on God. When one lifts his hands, the natural tendency is to lift one’s head and look upward. It will often aid us in thinking upward or heavenly. Also, he’s less likely to look around at what is happening and less it’s likely for one’s mind to go astray.
The second expression of praise to God is clapping our hands in his honor.
Psalms 47:1 – “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.
It is a natural thing for most people to clap their hands in delight (celebration) or as a way of recognizing a person’s accomplishment (praise). We often cheer people on by clapping our hands. Why do some people clap for others, but are not willing to clap for God who has accomplished more than any other person on earth? Is it just humans that like encouragement?
Now we must keep in mind when the Bible speaks of clapping unto God. It does not refer to clapping as in keeping the beat of music. Clapping with the music is not an action of praise. Yet, clapping and rejoicing in what God has done or is doing is praise.
The third expression of praise is playing an instrument unto God.
Psalms 150:3-5 – “Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.”
Now playing an instrument because you love playing is not praise. When you play an instrument for the pleasure of others, this is not praise. When you play an instrument as an accompaniment to a song or music, this is not praise. Yet, when a musician plays from his heart to the Lord as an expression of love and honor, this is praise and worship.
The fourth expression of praise is standing in God’s presence.
II Chronicles 7:6 – “The priests took their positions, as did the Levites with the LORD’s musical instruments, which King David had made for praising the LORD and which were used when he gave thanks, saying, “His love endures forever.” Opposite the Levites, the priests blew their trumpets, and all the Israelites were standing.”
Why is standing the preferable position in praising God?
1) Standing in praise shows respect. In most cultures, when you come before a dignitary, you don’t just plop down in a chair when you arrive without being given permission. Sometimes we approach God too casually. We must not forget that He is the creator of all things and King over all. Sitting during the praise part of the service is acceptable when the Holy Spirit gives us permission or the leader requests us to do so. It is acceptable to sit as well when your physical body demands it.
2) Standing during praise keeps us from sleeping and enables us to use our whole body in praise. Standing is an active position while sitting is a position of rest, relaxation, receiving or contemplation. Praise is to be active, not passive. The intent of praise is to give, not receive.
The fifth expression of praise is dancing before Him.
Exodus 15:20-21 – “Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.”
When Miriam danced before the Lord, it was celebratory. Do you ever get so excited that you can’t sit still? You want run, jump or dance. If you responded ‘yes’ to this question, then why not dance with excitement and joy before the Lord. I hope that you are excited about God. If you are, then please show it.
2 Samuel 6:14-16 – “Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets. As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.”
2 Samuel 6:22 -23 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.”
Many people do not dance in praise and worship because they feel uncomfortable doing it or they are afraid what others will say or think. They may think it is unbecoming or not very dignified. Yet, David danced with all his might before the Lord. He didn’t care what others thought. He was so excited about God and bringing the ark into Jerusalem, which was where the presence of God was seated among the people of Israel.
The sixth expression of praise is praising with a loud voice and a shout.
Psalms 66:1 – “Shout for joy to God, all the earth!”
Psalms 95:1-2 – “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”
Psalms 98:4 – “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;”
We are commanded to shout for joy to God. Shouting is mentioned in conjunction with praise 26 times in the O.T.
Does this mean we need to sing and shout at the top of our voice in praise? Yes and No
There are 2 aspects to this. The one is singing and praising loudly because we are so excited and worked up in praise. There is nothing wrong with this. It is natural for most people when they are excited about something or expressing strong emotions to be loud. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that we have to be loud all the time. There are times we can praise God softly. The second aspect to shouting is the idea of letting out a great shout in unison as a group of people with the intent of re-enforcing the words spoken or in the attitude of boldness or repelling the forces of darkness.
There are numerous other actions we could do while praising him, but these are the biblical ones that I have found.
Whatever actions we do, they should be purposeful. The actions should go with what we are thinking or saying. The actions often strengthen our words, make them more meaningful, and help keep us focused on God.
Not all of us are expressive or animated in our worship. What should be our measuring stick for how animated we are to be in praise and worship?
First and foremost, it should be dependent on the moving of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit communicates to our spirit and our spirit communicates to our body. In other words, when the Holy Spirit wells up in our spirit, we need to give Him freedom to express Himself through us as the Holy Spirit sees fit.
Secondly, we need to take our personality into account.
By nature are you an expressive person?
Do you like to embrace others, especially those you love? Then you should be embracing God in praise.
Do you like to smile when you are happy? Then smile when you praise.
Do you use your hands when you talk or get excited? Then you should be using them in praise.
Do you flail your arms when you get excited? Then flail your arms in praise.
Do you raise your voice when you get excited? Then raise your voice in praise.
Do you shout at sports events? Then shout in praise.
Do you jump up and down when you get excited? Then jump up and down in praise.
Do you clap your hands at events or when someone does well? Clap your hands in praise.
Do you like being theatrical? Then be theatrical in praise.
Do you like to dance? Then dance in praise.
Do you dance around when you get very excited? Then dance in praise.
Now for some of us, we are more animated when there is no one around us. My challenge for you today is to get over being self-conscious. You need to be as God intended you to be.
Now for those of you who are statues and never show your excitement, then you can praise God without showing any excitement or joy. Yet, for everyone who likes to express themselves, but do not do it in praise, you need to get over being fearful of what others will think. You need to break out in praise. You need to give your whole self to praise. This is pleasing to the Lord.