Have you ever felt bored during church worship? People are yawning, Granny’s in the back sleeping, friends are texting on their cell phones. No wonder non-Christians see this as lame: it is lame, forcing ourselves to sit through it because it’s what we should do. It’s what makes God happy, right? No. He’s probably drooling at the same time we are when we “worship” this way.
We don’t serve a boring old geezer who enjoys you falling asleep as you sing to and about Him. The Lord is a warrior poet who gets passionate. As image bearers, we need to be enthusiastic about praising Him. It’s time we adopted a new rule: no more mediocrity in this area.
The Hebrew people had lots of different ways of worshiping, and none of them were standing around trying to stay awake.
The first one is yadah. It means to worship by lifting your hands to God in absolute surrender, like when a little child says to a parent, “Pick me up, I’m all yours.” This is the word used in Psalm 42:11 when David writes, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”
Then there’s tehillah: to sing a spontaneous new song. This is you making up songs in your car and belting them out to the Lord. It feels weird the first few times, but God loves it. This is the kind of praise that Psalm 22:3 says God inhabits. He gave you creativity and wants you to use it in making up your own songs to Him. Psalm 40:3 says, “He has put a new song in my mouth—praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord.” The next term is barak, kneeling or bowing before God as an act of adoration. Read Psalm 95:6 and you’ll see it at work.
The word “hallelujah” comes from hallal. It means to praise, to make a show or rave about, to celebrate, to be clamorously foolish about your adoration of God. Imagine if you found a seat in church next Sunday, turned to the people beside you and said, “I’m sorry for what’s about to happen,” and then absolutely cut loose in a flagrant exhibition of your enjoyment of God? Hallal is used over 110 times in the Old Testament, including 1st Chronicles 29:13: “Now, our God, we give You thanks, and praise Your glorious name.”
Zamar is the next term. This is what you probably think of when you hear the word “worship.” It means to celebrate in song and music, to sing forth praises. We zamar every Sunday morning. This is the word Psalm 66:2 uses when it says, “Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious.” The fifth kind of praise is a fun one. It’s called guwl, which means to spin around under the influence of any violent emotion. According to Psalm 118:24, “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice (guwl) and be glad in it.”
Next we have something called alats. This word means to jump for joy or triumph. The Bible uses it in Psalm 68:3—“But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God. Yes, let them rejoice exceedingly.” Then there’s dagal: to flaunt, to raise a flag, to be conspicuous, to set up with banners. It means you want people to see how crazy about the Lord you are. It means you show Him off. It means you aren’t hiding God like you’re ashamed of Him in front of others. Psalm 20:5 says, “We will rejoice in Your salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners!”
The word kara means to bow down. Psalm 95:6 says, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker.” It means that you bring yourself down low in reverence to God. Finally, the last one is macha: clapping in exultation. Some of us have rhythm, some of us don’t. But God loves it when we clap for Him. Psalm 98:8 says, “Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord.”
We think that Christians have to be proper and quiet. Boring. Refined. God isn’t really into that. That’s what the Pharisees did—they obeyed all of the rules and worried about what everyone else thought of them. King David, on the other hand, danced in God’s presence. Naked. His wife griped, “You need to stop acting like a fool! You look so undignified!” He replied, “For my God, I will be even more undignified than this.” This man after God’s heart cared more about making his King happy than about anybody else wearing judgement pants.
When we worship as a local body of believers, we’re not meant to worry about everybody else. We want to focus on praising God freely. The Bible says that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. We’ve been given the freedom to come before Him without shame or pretense. Are you getting the idea that God’s concept of praise is anything but boring? He wants you to be energetic when it comes to expressing your love for Him. Let’s see some life, people!