By Michael Clack –
God has been growing my absolute wonder of what music and praise can do in our lives, especially as we get together as the church. Having led music ministries for several years, music is a great passion of mine! In this series, I want to dive into the richness of what God has given us in His Word, especially when it comes to the word ‘Praise’. I believe that as we unlock what it means to truly praise God, it will grow intimacy with Him, and His presence will manifest itself in our daily lives in power and authority. Too often do I see fear hold people back from walking in God’s stride, and my heart yearns to see a freedom that can only come from Him to release us from our fears. As we go through these seven different expressions of praise, we will be enriched as we grow closer to the Father.
In this post, we will be looking at the most common word for praise found in the Old Testament which is halal. This is the primary word used for praise, and it occurs over 110 times in the Old Testament! The word ‘hallelujah’, which is often found in songs sung by the church, comes from this word. Several meanings are attached to halal:
to be clear, to shine and radiate, to boast, to show, to rave, to celebrate, or to be clamorously foolish.
I realized as I studied this that these definitions are often not associated with praise. What draws me in even more is that this word encompasses both sound and colour!
Ps 113:1 tells us to ‘Praise (halal) the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD!’ Each ‘praise’ is the word halal. Try to take the meanings I’ve given and insert them into this verse – ‘Boast in the LORD! Rave about Him, O servants of the LORD, celebrate the name of the LORD!’ Look at how rich this verse becomes when we understand the original meaning. We are to shine, or radiate God. When we praise God, people can clearly see who He is.
A very interesting definition for me is that of being clamorously foolish. When I first heard this, I was a bit sceptical. What does being clamorously foolish really mean? I started to see that it begins with the attitude of our heart. It is the ability to completely surrender ourselves to God, even if it means we feel a bit foolish doing so. I also think that this attitude in our hearts can be expressed physically. I started to read through ways in which people in the Bible expressed this ‘foolishness’. Many of them sang out loud or clapped their hands. Others, like David, danced before God without regard for those around Him. We could even say that other people praised God amidst a struggle or trial, something that could be considered foolish in the eyes of others! Paul says in 1 Corinthians that God has made foolish the wisdom of the world and that He has chosen the foolish to shame the wise. This excites me and really encourages me to express myself in ways that we have mentioned, ways that might seem strange! I believe that as we start to relax and let God deal with the fears in our heart, it will be so much easier to express ourselves before Him in ways that might not make sense. This could be singing or dancing or being joyful in a struggle. We can therefore be free to express ourselves in ways we might not have tried yet.
Walk in freedom
The Psalmists loved to rave about God, to boast about Him! They were not afraid to be foolish for Him, not caring about what others thought, but giving their all to Him as they radiated His greatness and His goodness to everyone around. The more I understand and live with these definitions, the more I see my fear of others fade away as I express myself before Him through singing and sometimes even dancing (I know right).
It’s time to focus
If we look at the term Hallelujah, it is actually a command given to ‘Praise the LORD!’ Inserting the new meanings into this phrase, there is a whole new world that opens up as we are commanded and encouraged to praise Him in a host of different ways. When we halal God, we find a freedom that can only come from Him to relax as our self-consciousness vanishes and our eyes look to Him and not to ourselves. When the focus is put on Him, a burden is lifted off as His love completely envelops us! In the Old Testament, certain people were appointed to the task of boasting about God, to shine forth and act foolish. As they did this, all of Israel joined in and agreed with them to create an environment of intimacy with God’s awesome presence! In the same way, we can be released into a new freedom of expression as we walk into all the truth that God has for us.
Picture by Paballo Thekiso