The Diamond of Praise – Introduction

The Diamond of Praise – Introduction

The Diamond of Praise – Introduction.

“The area of ancient Israel’s greatest creativity, and so what they did best, was the praise of God.” (Ellen Davis, Getting involved with God). “I will extol Thee, my God, O King; And I will bless Thy name forever and ever. Every day I will bless Thee, and I will praise Thy name forever and ever. Great is the Lord Yahweh, and highly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Thy works to another, and shall declare Thy mighty acts, the glorious splendor of Thy majesty, and on Thy wonderful works I will meditate.”  (Psalm 145, a song of praise by David).

Scripture doesn’t define the word “praise,” but it offers plenty of descriptions. Praise can be described as an outward expression of gratitude for all that God has done for oneself, for the community, for the world. Praise is a recounting of the many blessings that God has provided in His grace and mercy. Praise is a grateful appreciation of God’s mighty works. Praise is an expression of thanksgiving to the Lord, an acknowledgement of God’s righteous deeds. To praise God is to thank God and celebrate His presence in the world.

Praise is what we were created to do, it is the chief of our ultimate satisfactions, and we won’t find personal fulfillment unless we develop the habit of forgetting ourselves and praising God. Most of us Christian believers are not following in the footsteps of our Jewish brethren and praising God with an inspired creativity. The fact is, the Hebrew Bible reveals a vocabulary of praise that will help us in our bid to be more expressive of our praise, more imaginative, more creative. The Hebrew Bible reveals praise to be a diamond with an almost uncountable number of facets. There are many words in Scripture that may translate as praise, but the reality is praise has an abundance of angles and facets and dimensions that we need to learn if we want to mature in our praise of God. The Hebrew language is loaded with words that contain the element of praise but with added qualities that expands our view of what praise could mean to us in our walk of faith. Knowing these words will help us to participate more fully and deeply in praising our God, in expressing our thanksgiving to Him in every way humanly possible. “Open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall proclaim Thy praise (tehillah, see below).” (Psalm 51:15 )

Praising God involves all of us, not just our intellect to think with or our bottoms to sit on. Praise and worship in the Jewish tradition is a physical experience as well as spiritual, with lots of meaningful postures and gestures, singing, multisensory, thoughtful yet expressive. Praise and worship in the Hebrew Bible invariably incorporated music and melody and instrumentation. Praise is not a spectator sport, but one that asks for full participation. As Dwight Pryor once said, “Praise is not afraid of feelings, but they are not based on feelings. If praise were a train, the engine that needs to constantly be stoked is God-focus and self-forgetfulness, and the emotional feelings are basically the caboose… still a part of things, but not what’s running the train.”

Praise is our exhale of gratitude and devotion after our inhale of God’s inspired presence. God initiates, we respond. So praising God is like our respiratory system, and unless we are breathing in God and then breathing out praise, we will spiritually expire. If we don’t learn how to respond to God’s goodness with heartfelt praise, our faith will soon become lifeless. Consider this category of “The Diamond of Praise” in the blog to be my meager attempt to polish each facet on this sparkling diamond. Each Hebrew word in this expanded vocabulary of praise will convey a different aspect of praise, and is intended to help us be more creative in our praise, more expressive, more biblical. The thread of praise makes its way through the whole Book of Psalms, and so logically enough the Psalms concludes with the doxology to end all doxologies, Psalm 150. It is the ultimate praise song, inviting all musical instruments, all people, all creatures on the earth, to join together in our Reason for Being: Praise!

“Hallelujah! Praise (halal) Lord Yahweh! Praise God in His holy house of worship. Praise Him in the vault of His power, His mighty stronghold in the sky! Praise him for His mighty deeds. Praise Him as befits His magnificent greatness! Praise Him with the trumpet blast of the shofar! Praise Him with harp and guitar. Praise Him with tambourines and dancing. Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes. Praise Him with loud, crashing cymbals; Praise Him with the cymbals of acclamation! Let everything that has breath, everything breathing, give ecstatic praise to Lord Yahweh! Hallelujah!” (Psalm 150).

This is the perfect time to introduce the first word in our expanded vocabulary of praise. The Hebrew word is Halal, or Hallel, and contains the idea of exuberant praise, an expression of praise that raves about God. Throughout Psalm 150 above, Hallel (Halal) is the word used for praise… HALAL (verb, Hallel): a Hebrew word that literally means, someone with raised arms exclaiming something wonderful towards another; Halal was used 165 times in the Hebrew Bible, and means to praise mightily; to celebrate wildly; to sing loudly with jubilation; to laud and praise almost to the point of foolishness; to use full expression in worship. One scholar claimed that halal was an invitation to a more uninhibited style of worship, such as dancing, jumping and twirling. It is the root word for Hallelujah: Praise the Lord! which was reserved for times of a high level of excitement about God, and so was used rather sparingly. Hallelujah tended to be a spontaneous outburst of extreme exultation. In all of the Hebrew Bible, hallelujah was used only 24 times, all of those times between Psalms 104-150.

Handel’s ‘Hallelujah!’ Chorus live at the Sydney Opera House (

And halal is also the root word for the delightful Hebrew term “Tehillah,” which means exuberantly singing a new song, a spontaneous melody of praise and thanksgiving. One gets the sense that the Psalm 150 worship service was more like a pep really for Yahweh,  boisterous and rowdy and loud, with the presiding priests acting more as cheerleaders than anything else. God must have loved it back in the day, and I’ll bet He continues to love it now. Jewish believers were, and still are, geniuses in praising God. May we follow their example as we continue to learn what it means to praise God.

“All prayer, pursued far enough, becomes praise. Any prayer, no matter how angry and fearful the experiences it travels, ends up in praise. It doesn’t always get there quickly or easily – it may take a lifetime of uphill climbing – but it gets there. Eventually it gets there.” (Eugene Peterson, Answering God).