What Exactly is High Praise?

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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. 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!
  2. Ezra 3:10-13, especially vs. 11. Another powerful example of high praise!
  3. 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!
  4. 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.

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Participant

Thanks for this Bev.

I just pulled out Logos4 and did some word studies. It looks to me like "high praise" in Ps 149:6 (and Ps.66:7), probably refers to lifting God up in praise. Whether the loudness of the praise is in view here, is hard to say. The fact that the word is not used very often, doesn't help us draw any conclusions about what the "high" in "high praise" actually refers to. Too bad.

On the other hand, you have come to the right conclusion about loudness of volume, exhuberance, etc., being an important part of Hebrew worship. Ps.100 begins with "Shout for joy!" (traditionally softened to "Make a joyful noise").

This makes us uncomfortable because in our worship tradition we tend to emphasize the "Be still and know..." (Ps.46:10), and "let all the earth be silent" (Hab.2:20)  kind of worship. We even tend to see quiet worship as more respectful, even more authentic. We also tend to view exhuberant worship as mere emotionalism, undignfied and even (for some in our tradition) improper before a holy God.

This is clearly out of tune with what we see in the Bible. We have something we call the "regulative principle" for worship, that says we should only worship God as He has told us to worship Him. In principle it's not that bad, in practice, we use it to exclude forms of worship that are Biblical! (We're sort of funny that way.)

I like quiet, meditative worship, and feel very 'at home' there, and for me it's a very intimate kind of worship. But to say that all worship/praise must be quiet is to try to use the same crayon for the whole picture. The Bible evidences a range of expression, of emotion, of activity, of words, of types of praise that encompasses the entire range of the human psyche. Our worship experience at church should reflect all of that Biblical experience (except the temple sacrifices and stuff, of course!).

Thanks for a thoughtful article.

Participant

Thank you Rich, for digging into the Logos/Word some more on this =) and sharing your thoughts and insights...

there's a time for each  - quiet, meditative worship, and loud, exuberant worship, and every level on the continuum between the 2...  it's like you said, we/crc seem to hang out on the quieter end, other than maybe when we hear the organ =)

here's something I posted somewhere on the network last year some time, but I'll post it again, because it is a beautiful example of high praise.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KX2-J6uS-o 

Participant

Nice video. Good example of dance as praise.

Yesterday at church during worship, I felt the urge to give a shout when we were singing a line about Christ's victory over death. I am a person of few words who prefers to stay in the background, so I know it was the Holy Spirit encouraging me to shout out in worship. When I did, a few others joined in. It helped that the worship leader encouraged the congregation to worship in whatever way we felt led to. This is a pretty conservative bunch (Evangelical Free Church), so I am encouraged that God is definitely up to something good in our body.

Participant

bless your heart Heidi... Beautiful, precious...  thanks for sharing!  there are so many psalms that include shouting as praise to God... 

I've been praying for a fresh flow of the Spirit...  your testimony is very encouraging!  Thank You Lord!

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMbTy1FpKuo