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Praise: From the Beginning

Since musical praise has existed since the foundation of the world and is still a vital part of our lives and our worship today, let us consider together the origins and importance of praise and music as explained to us in scripture.
By JEFF RAMIREZ
Read Time: 7 minutes

In the beginning, God created the heavens, the earth, and all that is in them. Among the myriad of things that God created are our needs and desires as people: to work, to raise a family, to parent, to play or experience joy. Even athletics are found in the scriptures!

It is God, then, who created us with the ability to sing and with the ability to make music, which is an important part of worship and praise. Verses referencing music are found throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.

Since musical praise has existed since the foundation of the world and is still a vital part of our lives and our worship today, let us consider together the origins and importance of praise and music as explained to us in scripture.

THE ORIGINS OF MUSICAL PRAISE

Within the very first generations of man, we are told of Jabal, the father of those that have livestock. We also hear of Tubal-Cain, the ancient blacksmith, working with bronze and iron to forge tools of many kinds (Gen 4:20- 23). How easy it is for us to consider these two professions as key to our survival!

Raising livestock as a food source, along with the manufacturing of tools for tilling, are livelihoods essential to the growth of agriculture. When considering livestock and tools together, we see the key foundations of farming, the basis of food production for the feeding of our bodies. In other words, they represent what our flesh needs for survival.

In addition to tools used for agriculture, we know that tools of bronze and iron allow for the ease of shelter construction, or can be weapons for hunting, protection, and fighting. The works of Jabal and Tubal-Cain are clearly important keys in the survival of any society.

Sandwiched between the mention of these two men with undeniably important skills, we have Jubal (Gen. 4:21), described as “the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.”1 It doesn’t take long when opening the Bible to see the importance of music in the life of God’s people. Here we have it in the book of Genesis, mentioned in the same breath alongside essential trades.

The Scriptures teach that music and praise are an expectation that God has for all of us

Music is not an unproductive activity. It is not something to be done only when all other crucial things have been completed. It is not simply a pleasant compliment to other more important ecclesial activities, but rather an expected and important aspect of living a Godly life.

There is no reason, Scripturally, to expect participation is limited to the musically talented or inclined. Although the Bible does show that at times some were appointed for musical duties, it also makes it clear that this is something for all believers.

The Scriptures teach that music and praise are an expectation that God has for all of us, on some level! As the last verse of the Psalms declares, “Let everything that has life and breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.” (Psa 150:6).

SO, WHAT IS PRAISE?

When we think about praise in the Scriptures, we should also consider synonymous words such as bless, exalt, extol, glorify, magnify, thank, and confess, to help us visualize the entirety of what praise can look like. In addition, praise and music are often considered together, but praise can also occur separately from music or instrumentation.

For specific examples of what it looks like to praise God, we may read and meditate on the last six Psalms. In those Psalms there is no lamenting, no petitions, no references to self, just pure praise to God. They begin, “

I will extol Thee my God, O King; and I will bless Thy name forever and ever, every day I will bless Thee, and I will praise Thy name for ever and ever. Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised for His greatness is unsearchable.” (Psa 146:1-3).

Through praise, we attempt to express the unique nature of God, which really is difficult for us, as humans, to contemplate. We are attempting to capture His character with our limited knowledge and ability; characteristics such as His majesty, His mercy, the enduring nature of His Truth, His goodness, the justness of His ordinances, His covenant faithfulness, His everlasting love.

In doing so, phrases such as the following are expressed:

“all that is in the heavens and in the earth is Yours” “riches and honor come from you” “in your hand are power and might” “you are exalted above all” (1 Chr 29:11-12).

We know that praise is so important to God that David appointed a portion of the Levites to the purpose of praise. That was their job, to praise and thank God (1 Chr 16:4).2 God’s nature, all that He is, is fully worthy and deserving of our praise. Here are just a few scriptures that express this truth:

For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised. (Psalm 96:4).
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. (Psalm 145:3).
I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised. (2 Sam 22:4).
Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. (Rev. 4:11).

We are to call attention to His glory, His greatness. What can be said to capture His glory? What can He be compared to that properly captures the greatness of our unseen God? Nothing, really, but we are asked to try, and in our attempts, praise is found.

A multitude of methods to give praise, if sincere and based on truth, are all acceptable: musical lyrics or poetry, our use of musical instruments, even our silent meditations. We are sons and daughters doing our best to please the Father.3 Think about how a small child will create something at school—a picture, maybe some collage out of construction paper and glue to bring home as a gift for mom or dad.

Parents accept these gifts joyfully and with a smile, not because they are items of use or of monetary value, but because they are expressions of the child’s love towards the parent, which is the real gift.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF PRAISE?

Praising God has a beneficial impact on us in many ways. It serves to remind us of His greatness and our position before Him as loving and grateful children. It is an expression of faith, an acknowledgement that He is the Creator of all, and a reminder of God’s greatness. It is a recognition that our existence is surrounded by and subject to those things which are of God.

We are inclined to be self-focused. Praise takes the spotlight off us and places it where it belongs, on our heavenly Father. It removes any praise we might apply to ourselves, allowing it to be a productive way to push away pride. Of course, we are not expressing to God things He is not already aware of, but this is not the purpose of our praise.

Praise is a way we show we are God’s people; the whole reason we were created was to bring Him praise. As Isaiah 43:21 says, “the people whom I formed for myself, that they might declare my praise.” Jeremiah 13:11 also speaks to this idea,

“So I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the LORD, that they might be for me a people, a name of praise, and a glory.”

Music focuses the mind on God and drowns out the other thoughts that invade

This is what God wants of us, His people. Not that we praise only out of duty, but because it brings us pleasure. In doing this, we declare we are in harmony with God’s purpose. Psalm 68:3-4 nicely captures this sincere outpouring of feeling toward God.

“But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy! Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to Him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD; exult before Him!”

THE ROLE OF MUSIC IN PRAISE

We now turn to a specific form of praise: music. The praises of God found in Psalm 150 provide an excellent example of using music to praise. This psalm also shows the diversity in musical instruments and forms (including dance) that can be used to give glory to our Creator.

Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in His sanctuary: praise Him in the firmament of His power.
Praise Him for His mighty acts: praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet: praise Him with the psaltery and harp.
Praise Him with the timbrel and dance: praise Him with stringed instruments and (pipe).
Praise Him upon the loud cymbals: praise Him upon the high sounding cymbals.
Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.
Praise ye the Lord. (Psa 150:1-6).

The beneficial effect of music can be extremely significant in the walk of a believer. It focuses the mind on God, and when done as a group it becomes a shared experience, creating a harmonious act of praise. Music drowns out the other thoughts that invade the mind and provides a place of quiet, while calming the body. This physical response allows us to draw closer to God.

Music generates joy and humility within us, all the while elevating God. In addition to being a perfect vehicle for praise, music provides a method of positive instruction among believers. Paul wrote to the ecclesia in Colossae,

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Col. 3:16).

Music also provides a way for sisters and brothers to communicate with one another. We are encouraged in Ephesians to,

“be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” (Eph 5:19).

JESUS AND PRAISE

When Jesus teaches us how to pray through the example of the Lord’s prayer, we may notice that the first element included in this template for prayer is to hallow, to exalt, to lift up the name of God. In other words, to praise Him. Matthew 6:9 reads:

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’”

Although we may find that expressing fitting praise can be difficult for us at times, the instruction given to us in Matthew is so straightforward, so simple. Through praise we are doing our best to acknowledge and express God’s unique nature, His great and wonderful Holy Name.

Even Jesus, who is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,” (Heb 1:3) found it fitting to verbally lift up his Father’s name in praise and worship. Let us follow Jesus’ lead in this area as in all others, remembering to include praise or better yet, begin with praise in our conversations with the Father.

In the last moments of his pre-resurrection life, musical praise remained a necessary element of Jesus’ life. As we read later in the same gospel account, “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Matt. 26:30). We can all imagine the strength this simple act of worship would have given Jesus before he faced the cross.

Likewise, let praise and music remain an essential element in the life of a believer, giving us strength for each day and pointing us towards our hope for tomorrow.

Jeff Ramirez,
Verdugo Hills Ecclesia, CA

 

1 All references taken from the English Standard Version.
2 At the time of 1 Chronicles 23, there were 38,000 of the tribe of Levi (v.3) and a total of 4,000 (v.5), about 10% of them, were appointed to serve in the temple as musicians. There is no doubt that music is important to God!
3 Psalm 148 provides a good example of hallowing God’s name within the natural limitations of man, as it describes a variety of earthly creations all united in directing the observer to praise God.

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Bro. Randy Yoshida
4 months ago

Thank you a Bro. Jeff. This is an excellent reminder of the importance of what can sometimes be seen as just another part of the memorial service.

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