The Psalms are the literature of worship and their most prominent feature is praise. “Praise the Lord!” is the shout that reverberates from one end of the Psalter to the other. Singing, shouting, dancing, rejoicing, adoring–all are the language of praise.Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (1998, p. 168)
Praise. It is a tricky word… It seems so simple and straightforward on the surface, but when you dig a little deeper or start asking questions about it you find yourself in a pretty significant cavern of uncertainty. Is it music? Is it synonymous with worship? Do we praise with words, song, or actions? What if I don’t like the ‘praise’ music?
The trouble is a little bit due to the nature of the relationship between our modern English as it pertains to the concepts of praise handed down from the Hebrew and Greek in Scripture. From the Psalms we see praise all over, with the word occurring dozens of times, in a myriad of contexts. If we look beyond our word “praise” to what it is translated from, we see that there are seven different and distinct terms used to describe a variety of responses to God, His sovereignty, and His character.
Five years ago, Chris Tomlin, a popular Christian worship songwriter, and his pastor, Darren Whitehead, worked together to take a sermon Darren had delivered and make it into something shareable on a larger scale. In Chris’ words, “It was a game changer…” He connected each of the words with one of his songs and together they put it all in a book titled, Holy Roar: 7 Words That Will Change The Way You Worship.
Over the next several months, I would like to use that text to uncover each of these Hebrew terms so that we might together gain a better understanding of the broad praise as it pertains to us today. Maybe we will find that in each term, we see ourselves approaching the Throne of Grace a little differently… A little more intentionally… A little more worshipfully.