These oft-sung words from the hymn “We’re Marching to Zion,” penned so many years ago by Isaac Watts, seem to indict what is happening in many churches today. Increasingly, our pews are filled with worship spectators and not worship participants. Yet, the biblical admonition to sing happens over 80 times in scripture with no addendum, “Sing, but only the songs you like.”
In Psalm 150:1 it reads, “Hallelujah! Praise God in the sanctuary. Praise Him in the mighty heavens.” This psalm contains the root word for “hallelujah” or “praise” no less than 12 times in the 6 verses of the psalm. The Psalm begins and ends with this word and drives the point home with 10 other mentions of it.
So, how do we define the word “Hallelujah”? What is the meaning of the word “Praise”? We better understand it because it is something God intends for us to do when we gather as a body of believers.
It’s obvious to most what it means to praise someone or something. But, one aspect of this word is important to note. The root form of “Hallelujah” also carries the idea of outward expression. One scholar suggests that, colloquially speaking, the word denotes, “Putting on a show.”
None of us wants a worship experience that is just for show. The idea offends us. But, when you color this word with this aspect of its meaning, you discover that when the Psalmists says “Praise the Lord,” he is actually saying, “Make an outward, visible, and audible expression of the attributes of God!”
We should never fold our arms and sit in silence when the church sings. Obey the biblical admonition.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.