Guest Post by Jordan Beckworth
When was the last time you sat in a worship service and felt free to give your all to God? You felt free to lift your hands, to shout or to cry out to the Father? You felt no fear of what people thought of you or who was watching?
What if I told you there’s more to praise than what we may know? What if I told you the roots of praise go far beyond the reach of our modern understanding? The knowledge of true praise is enough to break down barriers and free worshipers from chains of condemnation in their praises.
The English language is known to be one of the most difficult languages to learn. Part of the reason for this is the number of words that have multiple meanings. A prime example of this is our English word “Praise.” Merriam-Webster dictionary defines praise as “to express a favorable judgment of; commend” or “to glorify (a god or saint) especially by the attribution of perfections.” Contrary to English, the Hebrew language, the language of the Old Testament, has SEVEN different words for our one English word “praise.”
I firmly believe knowing these seven Hebrew words for ‘praise’ will transform the way you offer praise to our God.
*All following definitions and excerpts taken from Holy Roar, written by Chris Tomlin & Darren Whitehead.*
Yâdâh (yaw-daw’): To revere or worship with extended hands. To hold out the hands. To throw a stone or arrow. “May all the peoples praise (yâdâh) you, God; may all the peoples praise (yâdâh) you.” – Psalm 67:3 Found over 111 times in scripture. It describes those moments when the Hebrew people were so overcome by the glory of the Lord that their hands shot upward in response. Yâdâh is not constrained to a particular time in history. Instead, the people of God will yâdâh for all eternity. It’s an active posture of praise expressed by those who adore God.
Hâlal (haw-lal’): To boast. To rave. To shine. To celebrate. To be clamorously foolish. “Let them praise (hâlal) his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp.” – Psalm 149:3 Word from which the biblical word “hallelujah” is derived. It’s an exuberant expression of celebration. True hâlal contemplates laying aside your inhibitions and killing your self-consciousness. “…. In that moment, the worshippers began to shout, laugh and dance. They jumped around, hands raised. To the outside observer, they might have appeared drunk or foolish, but they were most sober in their celebration of God; they were incarnating hâlal.”
Zâmar (zaw-mar’): To make music. To celebrate in song and music. To touch the strings or parts of a musical instrument. “I will sing a new song to You, O God; On a harp of ten strings I will sing praises (zâmar) to You. – Psalm 144:9
“Praise and worship music can be a powerful tool to draw us into a personal experience with God. Music is more powerful than we even understand. It can soften our hearts, soothe our troubled souls. It opens a door to the spiritual world. It paves the road for the Spirit’s coming. If you are a musician, ask yourself: When is the last time I simply played my instrument for God alone? When is the last time I felt the power of God in my music, even when no words were sung?.
Tôwdâh (to-daw’): An extension of the hand. Thanksgiving. A confession. A sacrifice of praise. Thanksgiving for things not yet received. A choir of worshippers. “In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God; I will render praises (tôwdâh) to You.” – Psalm 56:11-12 In tôwdâh, we lift our hands in the presence of God, not only for what he has done, but also for what we believe he will do. He will bring an end to all violence, so we lift our hands in praise. He will release us from bondage, so we lift our hands in praise. He will provide what we need, so we lift our hands in praise. He will heal us, both now and in eternity, so we lift our hands in praise.
Bârak (baw-rak’): To kneel. To bless God (as an act of adoration). To praise. To salute. To thank. “Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him… And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised (bârak).” – Psalm 72:11, 15
Bârak embodies the notion of kneeling before God, of blessing and adoring him, of recognizing one’s position in relation to him. It’s the idea of falling to your knees adoration and gratitude. To bârak is to be transfixed.
Tehillâh (teh-hil-law’): Laudation. A hymn. A song of praise. A new song. A spontaneous song. “But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises (tehillâh) of Israel.” – Psalm 22:3 The book of Psalms is a collection of these kinds of songs, and in fact, in the Hebrew language, the book of Psalms is called the Tehillum. Tehillâh is a word that was used fifty-seven times in the scriptures, with over half of these occurrences being found in the psalms. Song of tehillâh may not rhyme; perhaps they don’t have the catchiest tune. These songs may not be the most polished, but they come from the worshippers heart, in the moment. Songs of tehillâh flow from the depths of intimacy with God.
Shâbach (shaw-bakh’): To address in a loud tone. To shout. To commend, glory and triumph. “One generation shall praise (shâbach) Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts.” – Psalm 145:4 Quite literally, it means to raise a holy roar. The word is used sparsely in the Old Testament, a mere eleven times, but each time, it has a powerful effect. The same as groups of individuals shout and scream in celebration for sports teams and other events, our shouts of praise to God are shâbach. Every time we gather with God’s people to praise him, one voice unites with another. Songs become anthems. Anthems become declarations. Declarations become a holy roar.
What a thought; Our lack of understanding has robbed not only us, but God, from our full capability of praising Him. Whether it’s raising hands, playing an instrument, praising in faith, kneeling, spontaneously singing or shouting, we have so many ways to praise Him. Often times we think the only praise we can offer is our congregational or solo singing, but there is so much more.
Allow these seven words for praise to free you from your chains of bondage in the forms of nerves, condemnation, and pressure to ‘fit in.’ No person around you is lifting their hands? Lift yours. No person around you is acting excited about Jesus? Get excited. Do not fear biblical praise; Embrace it.
We were created to praise & worship our Creator. The next time you praise Him will be the first time you praise Him with a new knowledge of what it means to praise, and how we can do it. Conquer your fears, defeat your doubts and embrace your freedom to praise.