Several years ago, I heard the concept “high praise” at a prayer gathering, and it was the first time that I could remember that I had heard that term, at least the first time it registered. I tucked that thought in the back of my mind, and every once in a while would reflect on it. Later on, during some devotion time, the Spirit really seemed to emphasize this concept as I was reading Ps. 149 in the NKJV where vs. 6 reads, Let the high praises of God be in their mouths… I started reflecting on what the high praises of God might look like.
My first thought was LOUD!! This might make those of us CRC’ers who are more reserved, just a bit nervous, and I don‘t blame you. We have no problem cheering and shouting out loud at a concert or a match-up of some of our favorite sports teams, but in Church? Is that even reverent?
So I studied some of the Hebrew words for praise. We are familiar with “halal” the root of hallelujah. When the Hebrews heard “halal,” their understanding was to celebrate with exuberance, clamorous, loud, to boast in/of the LORD! It was intended to be intense. Psalm 150 uses it in every verse 2-3 times. Another fascinating time it is used is Ezra 3:10-13, where it is further testified as a great shout, like a battle cry or a victory shout. Hmmm, interesting.
Another Hebrew word for praise is “yadah.” It literally means to use the hand, especially to revere and worship, so when the Hebrews would hear this “praise” in worship (i.e. Ps. 139:14), they would physically worship by using (possibly clapping) or raising their hands. It was a physical action as well as with the mouth. Hmmm again.
So, is there good biblical precedence for high praise? I think so!
This song of praise, originally sung by David is probably one of his most intense times of worship that we know of (2 Samuel 6; I Chron 15/16; see 16:34), and it is used multiple times in scripture. The context of each time is significant:
- 1 Chron. 15/16 (see vs. 34); 2 Samuel 6. The ark of the LORD coming to Jerusalem. David praised and danced with all his might, along with the Levites/Israelites shouting and praising loudly. Definitely high praise!
- Ezra 3:10-13, especially vs. 11. Another powerful example of high praise!
- 2 Chron 20. King Jehoshaphat/Judah is about to be annihilated. They don’t stand a chance, humanly speaking (v12). They seek the LORD through a nationwide call to fast and pray (vs. 3-13) and God comes through. They will not need to fight (15-17), they fall down on their faces in worship (vs.18), they worship with voices loud and high (vs.19), they praise the beauty of His holiness with David’s song (vs. 21-22), the enemy annihilates each other instead (22-24), Judah praises God some more for in less than one week, they have gone from the potential and very likely possibility of being completely wiped out, to prosperity and on the beginning edge of extended peace (26-28). That’s high praise!
- 2 Chron 7. Solomon dedicates the temple. Fire came down from heaven and consumed the offering/sacrifice, the Presence of God was so strong, the priests couldn't even enter the LORD‘s house. Instead, they were on their faces worshipping with this high praise! Wow!
So, have we ever experienced high praise in our congregations? Maybe not quite like that, but I believe we offer a form of high praise when we speak or sing scripture, especially those scriptures where high praise is occurring. We are offering the inspired words we’ve received from God, back to Him. "Praise the LORD, He is good, His love endures forever!" (Ps. 136)
I am sure there are more ways to give high praise and I would love for you to share any thoughts you have. Hopefully this will start you thinking about the concept if it’s something you aren’t very familiar with or just haven’t thought much about before.