Series: Todah Living: The Transforming Power of Thanksgiving
Again, we must 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.
I am going to draw applications from this, and it will become quickly apparent to you why this is so fundamentally important to grasp.
1 Praise the LORD!
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2 Who can utter the mighty deeds of the LORD,
or declare all his praise?
- Psalm 106
The psalmist here is declaring something specific about God—his character, as revealed by his actions. He declares that God is good, that his hesed (his love, his mercy, his grace) endures forever. In other words, to praise God is to proclaim all of his mighty acts. That is what it means to engage in biblical praise.
1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
- Psalm 100
What is happening here in this psalm? We have his created works, his covenant works, his generational works. Therefore sing and shout for joy. It is incumbent on his people to find ways to proclaim, express, declare, confess who God is and what he has done. This is praise! This is thanksgiving!
I am trying to impress upon you that biblical praise has a strong intellectual component.
Giving thanks is something you do with facts, not only feelings. Typically throughout the psalms, these facts spring from what God has done for the writer, the praiser. They are not engaged in some theological exercise, analyzing God's attributes. No, they are excited that God has acted on their behalf; he has done something consistent with what he has done historically.
As you begin to praise God this way, acknowledging who he is and recounting his faithful deeds, thanksgiving arises within your heart. When you appreciate God for who he is and what he has done for you—and for others—the feelings will follow the facts.
The word yadah (from which we get todah) can be translated into thanksgiving, but it is also the word praise. The terms are essentially synonymous or interchangeable; thanksgiving and praise are the same concepts of declaring who God is and what he has done. But we use the word thanksgiving today a little differently than it was used in the Hebrew Bible.
So from our point of view, we can say that praise that acknowledges (yadah) leads naturally to the thanksgiving of appreciation (todah). When you begin to declare all that God has done, you start feeling appreciative, and you want to confess it even further. And then you want to feel good about it some more, and then you want to confess it even further. So you see the way these two things interrelate and interact.
There is a strong intellectual component to praise. This does not mean that the intellect displaces the heart; what I am trying to impress upon you is that genuine biblical praise incorporates both the head and the heart. We are commanded to worship God with our whole being.
Many of the words for praise in Hebrew have an impromptu kind of context. We can say that praise is both spontaneous and planned. It is not that you are continually formulating; some words speak of crying out, shouting, and exclaiming for joy. An attitude of praise is prepared to respond to God's goodness, grace, mercy, faithfulness, deliverance, provision ... whatever it is. But it engages the head because you begin to enumerate and to declare the facts of God.
We must connect our heads and our hearts in true biblical praise.
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. Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore his audio seminars.