Shâbach

Larry BruceWorship CornerLeave a Comment

One generation will declare your works to the next
and will proclaim your mighty acts.

Psalm 145:4 (CSB)

Modesty is an interesting word. By definition, it refers to behavior that is intended to avoid impropriety or indecency, being ‘unassuming’ or keeping within the measure of what is acceptable. Considering that definition, modesty is inherently social; it exists because the social context around certain behaviors are considered appropriate or inappropriate. For this reason the word modesty comes loaded with connotations related to certain settings, and as such, might even stir certain emotions. 

I call this word up, however, in order to acknowledge the way in which most of us have learned to behave in church. I don’t think I am the only one who was taught from childhood to act modestly in the pew: sit or stand calmly, quietly, speak or sing only when expected to, and above all, do not draw attention to yourself. 

Our seventh and final Hebrew word for praise is one which defies modesty as we have learned it. Shâbach (shaw-BAKH) is a word that means to address in a loud tone, or shout, in a manner that commends, gives glory, and triumph. It is a word full of faith and is indeed a robust and loud act of praise. It exists far fewer times than some other words of praise, but is one that calls upon large groups, nations and generations, to issue a shout or a roar and declare the greatness of our God. We can see this in Psalm 145:3-4, “The Lord is great and is highly praised; his greatness is unsearchable. One generation will [shâbach] your works to the next and will proclaim your mighty acts” (CSB). If we have seen God’s mighty acts, if we are beneficiaries of God’s salvation-working miracles, it is as though we do harm to our faith to hold it in. 

Shâbach is not a small word and it connotes a very different setting than that to which we have grown accustomed. These are big, overt, attention-drawing adjectives. That is, unless we do not shout alone. The Psalmist calls us to shout as one; individually, but as a congregation; singular voices, but as a nation.

Shâbach.

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