Monday, November 12, 2012

The Sacrifice of Praise

Hebrews 13:15-16

"By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."

Thanksgiving is coming up soon and I thought this post appropriate for the coming season of offering thanks. Although not pagan, Thanksgiving in America often is not kept in honor of God. One day (or even a few hours) after being thankful for what we have is when hoards of people rush retail stores willing to trample and injure others to support the biggest shopping day of the year. And all to save a few dollars on often meaningless merchandise. Not everyone participates in that but it illustrates that our thanks can become just something we do outwardly for a few minutes, rather than something we are. 

The Sacrifice of Praise from Hebrews calls to mind the Peace Offering of the Old testament. The Peace offering differed from the Sin offering or Burnt offering in that it wasn't to make a covering for sins, and not to consecrate or dedicate an offering completely to God. It was more a sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise. This offering signified a close relationship with God. 

There are a few different Hebrew words for “praise.” The different words indicate different nuances of meaning. I found at least five concepts behind the words for praise. They are thanksgiving, joy or rejoicing, adoration or worship, blessing and boasting. When we praise God, we feel inclined to do these things.  It prompts song, dancing, or shouting.  It would be a moment where you couldn't stay still. Such things are often spontaneous, and filled with joy that must be expressed before it becomes too much to be kept inside. Of course praise can come with emotion, but praise seems to be something a little bit different than just strong emotion. 

The fact that the Sacrifice of Praise is called a sacrifice may indicate that you may not feel like praising God. Sometimes our circumstances are not conducive to praise. This is when it can be a sacrifice.  At a certain point may also be an exercise of faith.  Doing so can show that we value what God has to offer more than this world.  

Job is a great example of a sacrifice of praise.  After loosing all he had he said: 
"Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." Job 1:20-21 (NIV)  Or in the King James version the last part reads: "Blessed be the name of the Lord".

That is one of the best examples of a sacrifice of praise that I have ever read!

When thinking of praising God I can hardly call to mind a typical sacrament meeting. Not that there needs to be shouting or a bit of chaos to qualify, but in the Latter Day Saint community there seems to be a bit of uncertainty as to what praise looks like for us. Or how it should be displayed in a culturally acceptable way. Sometimes we seem to be so caught up in being reverent that few stop to consider that praise may sometimes be lacking in many of our services. Of course we can also worship and offer praise in many more places than our "synagogues" (to use a phrase from Alma 32:10 in the book of Mormon). Praise can be a witness of God wherever it occurs.

Only through the Lord can we praise and give thanks in spite of our circumstances.  I've seen it in writing, and also seen it in person.  However, the irony is that it may be frowned upon in many church settings.  It may even be termed "irreverent" or "improper".  Our cookie cutter Utah LDS image may not be one that accommodates forms of worship that please the Lord.   But that's another topic.  

If we are to offer the sacrifice of praise, we may need to give up some inhibitions, or let go of various traditions, and in their place have enough of the Spirit burning inside us that praise becomes the natural fruit of our lips. If you've never felt the love of God that fills every cell of your body full of joy, causes your bones to burn, and motivates song and praise to God then the Gospel has many rewards yet to come. Have you ever felt that spontaneous surge of praise? The desire to shout praises to the holy one of Israel? (2 Nephi 31:13). When you just can't hold it in?

I guess the question we all need to ask ourselves is what do you need to sacrifice in order to be able to shout praises to God?

This is another one of those things where you almost need to have the spiritual experience first, then the idea or scripture makes sense in light of the experience.  But before or without the experience, the idea, outward acts, worship, or praise are more like hollow acts, gestures or just words on a page.  But it can be so very much more.  This thanksgiving I'm going to think on the Sacrifice of Praise.

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