Series: Todah Living: The Transforming Power of Thanksgiving
The psalmist declares, "I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth." Paul exhorts the faithful in Thessalonica to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances. He continues, "for this is God's will in Messiah Jesus for you." (1 Thess 5:16-18)
To believers in Colossae, he writes, "Let the word of Messiah dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Col 3:16-17). Immediately preceding this appeal, he writes, "let the peace of Messiah rule in your hearts."
Paul's memorable phrase echoes the great prophet Isaiah who proclaimed this good news. "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Shalom). Of the increase of his government and of peace (shalom) there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this." (Isaiah 9:6-7)
We can take this to mean that the more we permit the Prince of Peace (Sar Shalom) to govern our lives, the more peacefulness, wholeness, completeness, well-being, and security we will experience. Alluding to all of this, the great Apostle writes, "let the shalom of Messiah (the Prince of Shalom) rule in your hearts."
The ancient, biblical path to expelling fear and expanding peace is what I call, todah living.
It is a play on words; todah in Hebrew is the word for thanks or thanksgiving. I want to teach on the subject of living in an attitude and with the actions of thanksgiving. There is such incredible transforming power in todah living if we will but lay hold of it. My prayer is that you learn new things about many of the things you are already familiar with. For the good of your soul and your witness in the world.
I want to examine the concepts of thanksgiving, praise, and worship. How are they related? How should our praise, thanksgiving, and worship be expressed—both individually and corporately? What is appropriate for those desiring to improve their practice todah living?
Let's begin with a core question. Who is to praise the living God?
Everyone and everything! Psalm 148 is one of the culminating expressions of all that has been sung and prayed to this point in Israel's Book of Psalms (Tehillim).
1 Praise the LORD! [Hallel-lu-yah!]
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
2 Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts!
3 Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
4 Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
5 Let them praise the name of the LORD!
For he commanded and they were created.
6 And he established them forever and ever;
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.a
7 Praise the LORD from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all deeps,
8 fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word!
9 Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Beasts and all livestock,
creeping things and flying birds!
11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and maidens together,
old men and children!
13 Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his majesty is above earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his saints,
for the people of Israel who are near to him.
Praise the LORD!
Indeed, the very last verse in the Psalter sums up the question of who is to praise, "Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD! (Hallel-lu-yah!)" (Psalm 150:6). If you have breath, you are commanded to praise God. The psalmist does note, however, that the dead do not praise Him, so if you are not praising, you better check your pulse.
What is Praise?
What does this word praise, or thanksgiving, or worship mean? I have heard it taught that we are to: give thanks to God for his goodness, praise God for his greatness, and worship God for his holiness. They make this distinction between praise, thanksgiving, and worship. It sounds good, but it is so typical of the Greek mindset, wanting everything in nice neat packages.
The problem is the biblical text does not support such an approach as it creates an artificial distinction between praise, thanksgiving, and worship. It is basically an incorrect analysis, even though some excellent teachers have taught it. The fact is that the terms praise, thanksgiving, and worship are interrelated, interdependent, and in some cases, interchangeable in the Hebrew text.
The most critical word translated as praise in the Bible and in the Book of Psalms is yadah. There are many other diverse, varied, and colorful words, but yadah is by far the most important. What does it mean? Yes, it is translated as praise, but to go deeper, we have to ask, what is praise from a biblical perspective? Yadah, in essence, means to confess, to praise, or to give thanks. The primary meaning is to confess, acknowledge, or declare God's character and God's works.
I am going to draw applications from this, and it will become apparent to you why this is so fundamentally important to grasp.
For now, let's establish this as a foundation stone. The essence of praise is to confess, declare, acknowledge, and proclaim the character and works of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It originates from a word which means to cast or to throw and can be found translated that way in certain Hebrew forms. What yadah emphasizes is the recognition and the declaration of facts. Praise in the Bible is the recognition of who HE is and the testimony of what HE has done.
So in whatever form it manifests, biblical praise, thanksgiving, and worship engage you in acknowledging and proclaiming, confessing and declaring, both who God is and what He has done. At the heart of yadah is expressing appreciation for His attributes, character, actions, and works.
This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice. He founded JC Studies in 1984. Click here to explore his audio seminars.