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Jeremy Ham, AiG–U.S., explains some of the biblical concepts associated with praising God.
You are my God, and I will praise You; You are my God, I will exalt You. Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. (Psalm 118:28–29)
Today’s big question: what does praising God mean?
The phrase “Praise God!” is common in the Christian vernacular, but what does it really mean? Of course, God’s Word is the best place to look to define our terms. We must be careful to not get too caught up in traditions and culture practices and lose the meaning that God has given to us through His Word. The book of Psalms (sacred songs) is well-known for its focus on praising God, which is where we will direct our study.
In today’s passage, the Hebrew word for “praise” is yadah, which means to praise, give thanks, or confess. In fact, the word translated “give thanks” later on in the passage comes from the same Hebrew word used earlier for “praise”—context determines meaning.
Furthermore, there are multiple Hebrew words that can be translated as “praise,” and it does not necessarily just have one definition. The Hebrew language has specific words for the type of praise being given, so we must examine more of these words before we can come up with a proper definition.
For example, there are two different Hebrew words for “praise” in Psalm 149:3: “Let them praise [halal] His name with the dance; Let them sing praises [zamar] to Him with the timbrel and harp.” Halal means to praise, glorify, boast, commend, etc., and zamar means to make music or sing praises.
In all of these instances, praising God is simply giving Him the recognition He deserves. One way we can define what we mean by praising God is to consider the end result. The end result of giving God praise is to exalt Him and His name. I believe this is one of the reasons the psalmist quickly followed the declaration of praise with exalting God.
We can praise God in song, and singing praises to God was common even back in biblical times. The main purpose of the Psalms is to praise God—indicated by the numerous songs on praise. We can also praise God in dance, prayer, proclamations, studying God’s Word, and the list goes on.
No matter how we praise God, we must be sure to lift up His name above all else. “For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods” (Psalm 96:4). Putting other people or things before God is easy to do, but with the Holy Spirit’s help, let us praise God with all of our might.
Today’s big idea: when we praise God, we should exalt Him above all else.
What to pray: in order to properly give God praise, ask God to help you put Him first in your life.