Series: Todah Living: The Transforming Power of Thanksgiving
Many of the words for praise in Hebrew have an impromptu kind of context. We can say that praise can be both thought out and spontaneous. 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.
Genuine biblical praise connects our heads and our hearts.
Unfortunately, this is not usually the case today. Between Pentecostals/Charismatics and Evangelicals, typically, there has been a split between the head and the heart. Each is convinced the other group is out-of-balance and that they alone are engaged in true worship and praise. In general, regarding components of praise, Pentecostals emphasize the heart (emotional), whereas Evangelicals emphasize the head (intellectual).
Pentecostals have rightly shown that emotion is just as God-honoring as intellect when both are offered up to the God who created them. And not only feelings, but it is also appropriate to engage the body in praise, in thanksgiving, in worship. The Charismatic movement, despite its many shortcomings, restored to some degree the full range of biblical praise and worship as it relates to the emotions and the body of the believers, something that can get lost in our church traditions.
I say restore because if you know Israelis, you know they are not afraid of emotions. Jewish people are very intense. If you have two Jews, you have three opinions on any issue; and it won't take you long to know that because they will eagerly express their opinion. Even during a Bible teaching like this, it is not uncommon—if you were Jewish and I said something that you thought was wrong—for you to leap up and say something. But most of us have been taught to hold everything in, that we need to be more "spiritual" in our worship.
Ezra is a hero to the Jewish people, second only in some respects to Moses. He restored the Torah to the people of Israel as they rebuilt the Temple after returning from exile. Ezra 10 describes this man of God deeply troubled because the people have violated God's commandment. Ezra is praying and confessing the sins of Israel, and he is weeping openly, throwing himself down to the ground. What happens as a result? A large crowd of Israelite men, women, and children gather around him, and they also begin to weep bitterly. You witness an enormous outpouring of emotion here.
Miriam, the sister of Moses, danced with a tambourine in hand before the Lord, singing and rejoicing with all her might. Why? Because the LORD delivered the children of Israel from Egypt and destroyed Pharaoh's strength in the process!
I'm laboring to show you the importance of balancing intellect and emotion. Spontaneous expressions and outbursts can be very God-honoring if done as acts of genuine praise. Which brings us back to the fundamental question, What is biblical praise? And as I said earlier, the essence of praise is to confess, declare, acknowledge, and proclaim the character and works of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So in whatever form it manifests, praise in the Bible is the recognition of who He is and the testimony of what He has done.
Confusion enters in when the expressions of praise are mistaken for praise itself.
I'm chuckling because that phrase underscores the need to engage your mind to live biblically. What do I mean when I say that confusion enters in when the expressions of praise are mistaken for praise itself?
If the foundations of praise are God's attributes and actions—who he is and what he has done—then every true expression or manifestation is rooted in and arises from that. But don't confuse the two, expressions and manifestations are not the praise itself; instead, they can and should be demonstrations of praise directed to the One who alone is praiseworthy.
The worship, praise, and thanksgiving arising from who He is and what He has done pleases our faithful Father—and has transformative power in your life.
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.