By Michael Clack –
A while back I was on holiday with my family, and as I came up the stairs, my dad asked me what all the screeching was about coming from the basement. I was singing in the shower…thanks dad. I’m sure most of us believe we are the next best thing when we rock out those tunes in the shower. Fortunately, God doesn’t seem to mind when we make melody (or screech). Today we are going to look at two expressions of praise that excite me so much, and they have to do with singing. If you don’t think you can sing, don’t go away, this is for you too!
The first Hebrew word for today is zamar. This word literally means to pluck or touch the strings or parts of an instrument, or play upon or twang, or to sing. This praise carries the idea of a joyful expression using instruments and voices, creating an atmosphere of celebration. If you’ve read the Psalms, you might have come across the phrase ‘sing praises’. This is a compound phrase, and that’s the word zamar.
The power of music
This praise is only expressed through music/singing, not through speaking. It’s incredible that God gave us such a beautiful gift. He knew that this would be a powerful expression of praise. Our bodies and minds respond in incredible ways when we sing together and hear music being played! Studies have shown that our bodies release endorphins and oxytocin when we engage in corporate singing. These are what I would call ‘happy’ chemicals being released in our bodies. Endorphins make us feel good and release stress, and oxytocin is associated with the feeling of trust and lack of anxiety. Isn’t it amazing that God created us to respond like this? He knew that zamar would be this type of expression of praise and gave us this gift to draw us closer to Him.
These days, we don’t need to go far to hear a song or a tune. They are all around us. It’s an incredible time to be alive! What I’ve also realized however, is that we are losing our own personal sound and song. God has created us to sing to Him, but we don’t use this gift enough because it’s being done for us. I truly hope that I don’t allow anything to stop me from singing out to Him, and that is my hope for you as well. The next Hebrew word for praise will hopefully encourage us to start reclaiming our own sound.
The word tehillah is used to describe the praise which God inhabits. If you’ve never heard this expression before, it comes from Psalm 22:3 which says ‘You are holy, dwelling in the praises of Your people’. A great definition of this word is to sing and extol, especially with a spontaneous, new song. It is both planned and spontaneous songs that God inhabits. But what does this mean?
It’s time to restore freedom
In Luke 4 Jesus quotes a prophecy from Isaiah 61:1-2 and tells us that it has been fulfilled. He says that through the power of the Spirit, He is the one who has come to set the captives free, bring good news to the poor, bind up the broken-hearted, and restore sight to the blind. Isaiah 61:3 goes on to tell us that we will receive a mantle or garment of praise (tehillah) from Him. This praise is therefore directly related to Isaiah 61:1-2. If Jesus has set you free from sin and given you eyes to see Him, you are the perfect person to give Him praise. Not only this, but when we praise Him we allow His freedom to come into any situation we are in. It could be an emotional burden that you’ve been carrying, or a relationship that has been strained, or a fear that is holding you back. Whatever it is, lift up a song of praise to God so that you can be strengthened by His presence and power.
When Psalm 100:4 tells us to enter His courts with praise (tehillah), it’s because the Israelites realized that God’s presence would come down when they praised Him. In Chronicles 5, Solomon had finished the temple, and it tells us that the musicians were to make one sound of praise, lifting up their voices with the trumpets and instruments. What happened next? ‘The glory of the Lord filled the house of God’. Through the work of Jesus, anybody who trusts in Him has become the very temple of God, His dwelling place. If you are a believer, you can praise Him and be filled afresh with more of Him and His grace and power in your life. The Spirit of God is always with believers, but there is something amazing that happens when believers tehillah and ask God to fill them. God comes in extraordinary ways.
Let us sing together
I want to finish with a beautiful verse from Zephaniah 3:17 which says ‘The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with loud singing’. Isn’t this amazing? God doesn’t just desire our songs of praise, but He Himself sings over us and rejoices! What a wonderful picture that is of us singing together with God. As you hear the song of freedom that God is singing over you, I hope that you can lift up your own song of adoration and praise to Him. Listen to the symphony that God is creating, one of joy and freedom and grace. Delight in Him because He delights in you.