But you are holy,Psalm 22:3 (CSB)
Enthroned in the praises of Israel.
Over the last several months we have been journeying through the seven distinct Hebrew words that capture what we condense into our English word praise. In a way we have been distilling the many facets of what praise is with the goal of informing how we ‘enter in’ and worship as Christians in a more modern setting, or even in private worship. I have tried to appeal to different settings, moods, and contexts to convey not just what this word means, but also looks like, feels like, and does. For our next word, I might have to take a more nuanced approach.
My son, Nathan, and I have been reading through The Lord of the Rings. A couple nights each week before bed, I will read aloud as far as I can muster – 20-30 pages or so (aside: Nathan is a great reader, but he is also an amazing listener – this method allows us to not get ahead of each other). If you have read any of Tolkien’s work, or even watched the motion pictures, especially in this series, you have come to see the role of song as it pertains to history and storytelling.
Many times throughout the story, a character will sing many stanzas of a song as a memory comes to mind. These songs carry the essence of times, events, and legends of things past. One particular event in the chapter titled, “The Departure of Boromir,” a character named Aragorn sings a new song to commemorate the great Boromir, cementing in history his valiant efforts as a member of the Fellowship of the Ring.
This is the essence of the Hebrew word, tehillâh: a song of praise or hymn, or a new spontaneous song. We can see this defined in the context of Psalm 22:3: “But You are holy, Enthroned in the tehillâh (praises) of Israel.” The book Psalms themselves are called the Tehillum in the Hebrew language. These do not require the polish of many songwriters and the melody does not demand a refrain because the core of this song is that it comes from the heart of a worshiper who is overcome by who God is and what He has done.
This word invites us to recognize the beauty and intimacy of spontaneity or worship (even if it is uncomfortable). It doesn’t have to be public. We can commemorate the greatness of our God as we sing a new song to our God in private, too.