The dawn of life on this earth was accompanied by the echoes of immortal voices united in a song of universal praise. It was the first praise of the new world: when “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy”.

Immortal Praise

When the colourful history of the planet is culminated,  the echoes will be taken up, amplified and enriched  with the appreciation of Divine wisdom, righteousness  and love illustrated from the unfolding ages: “Great  and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty,  just and true are thy ways thou King of saints. Who  shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name?  For thou art holy…” These are both praise. Notice that  at both of these milestones in history it is immortals  that are found praising Yahweh.

Praise in its ultimate and purest form can only  be offered by immortals, because excepting God’s  son, mortal minds cannot expel the distractions and  attain the state of concentration that these prayers  are made of. Words such as those in Psalm 111:1  are really only possible for an immortal—“I will  praise Yahweh with my whole heart.” To engage the  faculty of meditation or enter into communion with  the Supreme Being of the Universe is the highest  function the human mind can attain. True praise and  meditation is as rare amongst men and women as it  is exalted, since it requires a motivation not native  to mortal minds. Psalm 65:1 reads “Praise waiteth  [‘is silent’ av mrg] for thee O God, in Sion: and unto  thee shall the vow be performed.” This is translated  by Rotherham: “Thine are silence [and] praise, O  God, in Zion: and to thee shall be paid the vow.”  True praise is only possible when the clamour of  earthly distraction is silent. “Let all the earth keep  silence before him” (Hab 2:20).

What We Praise is an Insight into Who We Are

The wise man wrote, “Fining pot for silver and  crucible for gold; and a man is to be tried by what  he praiseth” (Prov 27:21, roth). What we praise and  what we most often speak of is an insight into who  we are and what we value. The things closest to our  heart are first on our lips. “For out of the abundance  of the heart the mouth speaketh.” We can quickly  gain an insight into a person by what they praise.  When we stand before the King of Israel we will  be judged by what we praised. The test is simple.  What we talk and think about now is what we will  be judged by then. What excites and interests us  now is what we really value and what we really  value will be our reward. God always gives us what  we really want in the end.

What is Praise? The Confession of God’s Name!

There are seven Hebrew words variously used in  the context of praise and thanks, the most common being yadah (99 times): for instance, “All thy works  shall praise thee, O Yahweh” (Psa 145:10). Although  yadah is most often translated “thank” in the English  version, this does not really do justice to the actual  idea behind the Hebrew. In fact in the Old Testament  there is no word for “thank”. The nearest is berek,  to bless, which refers to gratitude from one man to  another but not usually from man to God. In view of  this, it appears the Old Testament does not convey an  independent concept of thanks; rather, the expression  of thanks to God is included in praise.

Make no mistake, thankfulness is very important.  Paul attributes the moral and social evils of our day  in large part to ingratitude (Rom 1:21). Heading  a catalogue of degeneracy is, “neither were they  thankful”. However there is really quite a difference  between praise and thanks. Praise says much more  about the person you are addressing. It is much more  than the perfunctory, “For that which we are about  to receive may the Lord make us truly thankful.”  Praise invariably has Yahweh or His Name as its  object. For example, “According to thy Name… so  is thy praise” (Psa 48:10). Yadah carries the principal  meaning of acknowledgement or confession. It could  be an acknowledgement of sin, human weakness or  frailty, or the public declaration of the great qualities  of God and His mighty works. This concept lies at  the heart of the meaning of praise.

Thus in the New Testament, Paul adopts this idea  when he says: “By him [Jesus Christ] therefore let  us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually,  that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to [Greek:  “confessing to”—see mrg] his name” (Heb 13:15).  The words translated “giving thanks” or  “confessing to” are represented by the one Greek  word homologeo which literally means “to speak  the same as” or we might say to agree. How can  the sacrifice of praise confess or agree to the Name  of the Father? It could be put this way. When we  embrace the Truth, we fall in love with a person not  a principle. Praise is a confession or declaration of  Yahweh’s personal attributes seen in His Character,  His Being and His Purpose as expressed in His  Name. At the judgment seat of Christ, every knee  will bow and every tongue confess (Rom 14:11,  citing Isaiah 45:23). Again, the word confess is  homologeo. What will everyone ‘agree’ in that day?  In the day of judgment all will have to agree that  God is righteous. This was powerfully demonstrated  in the story behind the words Paul quoted. These  words of Isaiah were dramatically rehearsed on  the night when the Persian king Cyrus overthrew  Babylon as Belshazzar feasted with his court.  Yahweh was vindicated in that day as every knee  bent and every tongue swore He was a “just God  and a Saviour” (Isa 45:21).

We cannot consider the way we pray in isolation  from our identity as a community. The idea of praise  as a “confession” of God’s Name is at the heart of  what makes the Truth unique. Remember, when  we embrace the Truth we fall in love with a person  not a principle. For this reason living the Truth is  more a matter of praise than anything else. It is  about spontaneously desiring to please the one we  love, not about keeping a set of rules. Even doctrine  itself must ultimately conform to this test, the test  of praise. Every doctrine we hold must stand up to  the inquiry, “Does this honour Yahweh?” All the  doctrines of the Truth as we know it derive from  His character, not from clever reasoning on our part.  Every doctrine must agree with the attributes of  Yahweh. If it does not, our understanding must be  false. It follows that the character of God will also  dictate the way we live. In this way we can truly be  said to “show forth the praises” of Him who hath  called us “by glory and virtue”. This is sometimes  called “God manifestation”.

The Spirit of Praise

What God finds most pleasing about praise is  the spirit in which it is given. True praise is the  expression of a willing spirit. Thus, “I will freely  sacrifice unto thee: I will praise [yadah] thy name,  O Yahweh; for it is good” (Psa 54:6). It is good,  the highest good a man can aspire to, for praise is  something that is entirely the expression of a man’s  freewill. This is the greatest honour a man can offer  God, for it is the one thing alone that a man can give  his Maker. Nothing glorifies God more.

Yahweh declares that He values the “sacrifice  of praise” above anything else a man can give (Psa  50). “Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood  of goats?” He asks. “Offer unto God thanksgiving  [or praise, Heb towdah, from yadah]; and pay thy  vows unto the Most High.” For, He explains, “whoso  offereth praise [Heb towdah, as above] glorifieth me:  and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I  show the salvation of God.” Two things are evident.  Praise glorifies God; and a right conversation or way  of life is equivalent to praise through action. God  promises to show His salvation to such a man.

In the New Testament, we find the Lord Jesus  Christ using another device in his prayer to invoke  the Name of his Father. In his prayer (John 17), the  Lord invokes the particular Divine attribute that is  appropriate to his request. Christ sees his Father’s  divine attributes as an expression of His Name. For  instance, when the Lord is asking his Father to keep  his disciples separate from the world, he addresses  Him as “Holy Father”. Why? Because this expresses  the separateness of God and he wants his disciples to  be embraced in this quality. At the same time, Christ  is conscious that this is achieved only through the  sanctifying (or separating) influence of the Father’s  Name and what it stands for, since he prays, “Holy  Father, keep through thine own name those whom  thou hast given me” (v11). There is no doubt that  Christ saw the Name of Yahweh as expressive of  all that makes His purpose, character and being  separate. Later, the Lord invokes another attribute  of his Father when he prays, “Righteous Father, the  world hath not known thee: but I have known thee  and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I  have declared unto them thy name, and will declare  it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may  be in them, and I in them” (v25,26).

In fact, though the Lord nowhere here uses the  Hebrew name Yahweh, his prayer is all about that  Name. Christ shows how we can manifest the Name  of the Father, and apply His titles and attributes  discerningly. For instance, if we were to pray for  Christ’s return, we may invoke Yahweh as “Faithful  God”, since in this prayer we are asking Him to  make good His promises.

“Thy Lovingkindness is Better than Life”

Praise addresses the whole object of our existence.  It is something that we offer to God—not out of  compulsion, nor of necessity—but purely because  we desire to express our admiration and love for  Him. We know it pleases Him to hear our love for  Him expressed. Our way of life should also be  praise to God. We are separated to show forth the  praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness  into His marvellous light (1 Pet 2:9).

Other forms of prayer are necessary factors  in our reconciliation to God, such as praying for  forgiveness, or our petitions for the needs of self  or others; but when we praise God, we are at last  fulfilling the reason for our existence.

“Because thy lovingkindness is better than life,”  wrote David, “my lips shall praise thee. Thus will  I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in  thy name. My soul shall be satisfied [ie ‘my life  shall be fulfilled’] as with marrow and fatness; and  my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: when I  remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee  in the night watches” (Psa 63:3–6).

It is because of the spontaneous nature of praise  that it is so often associated in the Psalms with  shouting aloud, singing, stretching out the hand,  kneeling in adoration, laudation, playing with a  musical instrument, or celebrating in song or music.  All these actions are described in the Hebrew words  for praise, suggesting that praise is very much an  act of the emotion as well as of the intellect. In the  final analysis, the Truth is about emotion—about  faith, about hope and, most of all, about love—the  love of God.

To truly praise God we need to be able to picture  Him, to be able to visualize the exalted person we  are addressing. While it would be impossible to  create a realistic image of the Creator in our mind’s  eye, we can try to construct a picture of the kind  of person we are speaking to. We cannot really  praise a God we do not know. We must have some  appreciation of who Yahweh is to genuinely praise  Him. Scripture amply helps us to do this.

“Praise him according to his excellent greatness”,  writes the Psalmist (150:2). “Honour and majesty are  before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary”  (96:6). “Oh that men would praise Yahweh for his  goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children  of men!” (Psa 107:8).

Praise in Time of Trouble

The triumphant song of Moses and the children of  Israel arose from their deliverance at the time when  all seemed lost, as the people faced the apparently  certain annihilation on the shores of the Red Sea.  The children of Israel rose from terror and despair  to freedom and relief. Their song was an expression  of their gratitude and wonder at the unexpected  miracles that delivered them: “I will sing unto  Yahweh, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse  and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. Yahweh  is my strength and song, and he is become my  salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him a  habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him”  (cp Psa 102:17,18; 106:47; 107).

Consider the pathos and trust of David’s psalm  written upon his escape after being trapped in a cave  while his bitterest enemy, Saul, slept an arm’s length  away. “Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto  me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea in the shadow  of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these  calamities be overpast… Be thou exalted, O God,  above the heavens; let thy glory be above all the  earth… My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed:  I will sing and give praise. Awake up, my glory;  awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early.  I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people: I will  sing unto thee among the nations. For thy mercy is  great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds.  Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: let thy  glory be above all the earth” (Psa 57:1,5,6,8–11).

Jonah, in his terrifying ordeal trapped in the  suffocating, clammy prison of the great fish, poured  out his prayer, concluding with praise: “I will sacrifice  unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving: I will pay that  that I have vowed. Salvation is of Yahweh.”

The disciples, when they were beaten by the  Jewish officials for speaking in the name of Jesus,  departed from the presence of the Council rejoicing  that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for  his name. Paul and Silas, cast into prison, torn and  bleeding from the rods of the Roman lictors, sang  praises to God at midnight.

These instances suggest that extreme and trying  circumstances can heighten our appreciation of  Yahweh and increase our desire to praise Him. Here  is an anomaly. In an age where more people have  more, there is a greater incidence of depression  today than apparently at any other time. In the  midst of great adversity, the apostles found it within  themselves to praise their God for the privilege of  even being allowed to suffer for Christ. Is praise  today being suffocated by comfort? Does lack of  pressure produce dissatisfaction and ingratitude?

His Praise Endureth Forever

In the end, the praise of Yahweh becomes our  guarantee of immortality. How? We have seen  from the proverbs that a man is proved by what he  praises. Conversely the quality of our praise reflects  on the person praised. To be true praise, God’s  praise must be eternal and unending because He is  eternal and His virtues without number. Anything  less would not do justice to His infinite greatness  and goodness. A closer look at the Psalms reveals  they constantly say this. For instance: “But I will  hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and  more. My mouth shall show forth thy righteousness  and thy salvation all the day; for I know not the  numbers thereof” (Psa 71:14, 15). Or this: “His  praise endureth for ever” (111:10).

The trouble is, men’s praises die with them (Psa  49:18–19). The dead do not praise God (115:17).  If our praise is to satisfy the measure of God’s  greatness then we need to live for ever. This is what  the Psalms reveal: “Thou wilt prolong the king’s  life: and his years as many generations. He shall  abide before God for ever: O prepare mercy and  truth, which may preserve him. So will I sing praise  unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my  vows” (61:6–8). “So we thy people and sheep of thy  pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will show  forth thy praise to all generations” (79:13).

David invoked this principle on more than one  occasion when he felt his life was in peril. “What  profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the  pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy  truth?” (Psa 30:9). Heman appeals in similar terms:  “Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead  arise and praise thee?… Shall thy lovingkindness  be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in  destruction?” (88:10, 11). When our lips and our  lives are truly praising Yahweh we are assured of  immortality, for His praise endureth for ever. We  perish if we cease to praise.

“They will be Still Praising Thee”

Our lives become so much more meaningful, our  horizons are so much broader and problems take  on their right perspective when each day begins  and concludes with praise and thanksgiving. As we  contemplate the goodness of a merciful, righteous  and infinitely wise God, our minds are lifted by  the power of His love and the expansiveness of  His grand design.

The angel-sons of God rejoiced and sang praises  to God at the dawn of life in the new world. Man,  their creation, praises Yahweh now in the knowledge  that he has been fearfully and wonderfully made. As  the Creator’s plan of the ages reaches its pinnacle,  the close of the millennial day, every creature in  heaven and earth and sea unites in praise of the One  Who is the author of life, light and love. From then  on, only immortal voices will praise God Who will  be all and in all. True praise, the praise God desires, is everlasting, and can therefore be only offered by  immortal beings, those who dwell in the Divine  presence. “Blessed are they that dwell in thy house:  they will be still praising thee. Selah” (Psa 84:4).  But we only learn to appreciate the goodness and  greatness of God through the adversity and trial that  we experience now. The praises of the future age are  being shaped in the womb of the present.