Word Study: Make It Shine הלל


Jeremiah 20:13: “Sing unto the LORD, praise ye the LORD: for he hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evildoers.”

I was listening to an old song by the Imperials this morning entitled Praise the Lord. One line of that song says: “Praise the Lord, He can work through those who praise Him.” I love that idea but is it really Biblical. After all praise seems to be an expression of gratitude. I find praise used in the Bible to bring peace, to bring honor to God for his greatness etc., but the idea of God working through us because we praise Him seems a bit out of character for the word praise.

Webster defines our English word praise as the act of expressing approval or adoration. It is the offering of grateful homage or the state of being approved or admired. The English definition of praise has little to do with prompting God to work through us or even giving Him the ability to work through us.

The word praise as used in Jeremiah 20:13 is the Hebrew word halal where we get the word Hallelujah. Hallelujah is a compound word. The word hallel for praise and the word Jah for Jehovah God. In other words praise the Lord. Halal is a curious word, in its Semitic root it means to shine or flash forth light. It also means to be boastful. It comes from an old Akkadian word ellu which means bright. In other word halal which we translate as praise means to make God shine, to make Him bright for all to see.

By that definition it is true then that God can work through those who praise Him because when we make Him shine so others can see Him God can manifest Himself. What do you think you are doing on Sunday morning during your worship service when you lift your hands to praise God? Do you ever stop to think what this praise is all about? Unfortunately, in our culture we are trained to focus on ourselves, look out for number one. Many people praise God because they think they will win God’s favor and He might see fit to answer a prayer or two. Praise has nothing to do with bribing God. Nor is God that self centered or insecure that He needs our constant praise. He needs us to make Him shine so others will see just how wonderful He is.

I have heard people say: “I don’t go to that church anymore, I try to praise God and I just don’t feel His presence, but the church I go to now I really feel His presence when I praise Him.” I really question if that is the presence of God they feel and not just their own emotional reaction to music they happen to like. Some people seem to think that praise and worship is all about them and making them feel good. If you don’t feel something, then you are no worshipping and praising. There is nothing in the word halal which talks about feeling something.

My father used to tell the story of two men who were stranded in a cabin during a snow storm. The snow piled so high that they could not leave the cabin. They rationed their food knowing it would be sometime before they were rescued. The one man was just always praising God. The snow storm hit, “Well, praise the Lord.” They discovered they were trapped, “Well, praise the Lord.” They discovered their food supply running low, “Well praise the Lord.” Finally, they were down to just one piece of meat. They carefully prepared it as they knew it was the last of their rations. They saved this piece of meat until they were so hungry they just had to eat. As they put the prepared meat on the table their dog jumped up, grabbed it and cobbled it down before they could react. The one man’s first thought was: “Well, I think we finally have a situation where my buddy will not be able to praise the Lord.” But sure enough his friend said: “Praise the Lord.” The other man demanded: “How can you praise the Lord over something like this?” The friend replied: “Praise the Lord, I still have my appetite.”

God can work through those who praise Him because when our car breaks down and we make Jesus shine, His brightness is more apparent than when we praise Him or make Him shine when things go good.

So praise the Lord, make Him shine for His shinning Light is what brings life. John 1:5: “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” God works through His Light and we must allow His light to shine through us and praise is simply making that Light shine.