For 8 Fridays, I’m posting a study on the Psalms.
Week 4 – Vocabulary of Worship
Psalm 95:6 – Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
This Week’s Reading: Psalm 10-20
Last week my husband and I played at the Sunday service. When we came on Thursday evening to rehearse, I got my charts, plugged the in-ears into my personal mixer and called up the sounds on the keyboard. The first song was a jam on the intro and then V1, V2, C, Bx2, C, Tag, End on A. We worked on dynamics and tempos and “footballs on the first chorus.”
My point is, we have our unique vocabulary for playing at church – and with modern technology, we oftentimes also have to learn the vocabulary of working with monitors, mixers, sound guys, and the other musicians. I was reminded of this when I thought about the vocabulary we find in the psalms.
Because we are separated by language and by centuries of time, some of the words lose a bit of their meaning to us today. It’s worth it to take a look at the meaning of these words of the psalms because it makes the poetry that much richer. (The following is adapted from Ronald B. Allen’s book And I Will Praise Him: A Guide to Worship in the Psalms.)
Praise! This word comes from the Hebrew word halal, which means “to be boastful” or “to be excited in joy.” This Hebrew word would be similar to what you’d yell when your kid scores that goal in his Saturday morning soccer game. There are even a group of psalms that are called the Halal Psalms – read Psalm 111 as an example and look for the word “praise” – that’s the word halal in Hebrew!
Thanks! The Hebrew word yadah means “to thank.” But in the Hebrew world, the concept of giving thanks was unlike ours today. Instead, the way you would thank someone would be to tell of their name. As an example, if my van brakes were giving me trouble (which they were) and we took it to our mechanic (which we did) and he fixed them for me at no cost because he realized it was their mistake (which he did), I would tell you his name (Matt at NTB – call him!) as a way of giving thanks. Telling others the name of the Lord is a way to give Him thanks for who He is! Read Psalm 138:1 and look for the word “thanks.” And then replace it with the phrase “to give public acknowledgment.” Tell the name of the Lord to those around you – this is a way of giving thanks for what He has done!
Bless! The Hebrew word here is barak, meaning “to bless.” A way we can bless God is by remembering what He has done for us. To make it more personal, I can look at God in His perfection and think “oh, there’s no way that I, a sinner, could bless the holy God!!”
But verses like Psalm 103:1&2 tell me I can:
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
Reading those verses tells me that not forgetting means to remember what He has done for me. This is how I am able to bless God.
Are there other words in the Psalms you have read over the past few weeks that are part of the Psalm’s vocabulary of praise? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Just for fun, take Psalm 29:2 and rewrite it using modern words.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
Your modern translation of this verse: ___________________________________
Bonus if you can turn that verse into a short praise song!
The psalms are full of beautiful, descriptive vocabulary and yes, sometimes it may take some effort to slow down our reading and concentrate and maybe even do some word studies to fully bring out their meaning to our modern minds. You don’t need to know Hebrew to be able to do this, as there are many good commentaries available to help you in your study. One of my favorite commentaries that goes chapter by chapter through the psalms (and the entire Bible!) is the Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville: Nelson, 1999) or check in the church library to see what resources are there to help aid you in your study.
Praise God for the beauty of language in which we are able to use ancient or modern words to describe who He is and what He does to those around us.
This week, as you pray, use some of the words we looked as you communicate with God:
praise Him for His goodness,
thank Him for His faithfulness and
bless Him by remembering what He has done for you.