Worship and Praise

“I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” (Psalm 138:2)

Praise and worship are widely taught in Scripture but are seldom used to describe the same actions. “Worship” describes an attitude of obeisance and reverence (usually by bowing or prostrating) during a formal act of sacrifice or some other structured observance. “Praise,” especially this word used in Psalm 138, emphasizes joyous thanksgiving, recognizing God’s specific blessing or God’s worthiness in character, power, deed, or authority.

There are only two events recorded in Scripture where the people of God both “worshipped” and “praised” at the same time. The first was at the dedication of the great temple of Solomon. When the prayer of dedication was finished, the fire of God’s glory descended on the temple and entered the Holy of Holies. That awesome event drove everyone to their knees “with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and [they] worshipped, and praised the LORD” (2 Chronicles 7:3).

The other occurred right after Ezra led a remnant back from Babylon. As the people heard the Word read to them for the first time in many decades, they became so convicted of their disobedience that they began to cry and confess their sin. They stood for about three hours and “confessed [same word as ‘praise’], and worshipped the LORD their God” (Nehemiah 9:3).

In neither case did the people jump up and down, clap, or otherwise demonstrate exuberance. They were so overwhelmed at the presence of God that they fell down on their faces! Then they poured out their heart in intimate worship and praise for His lovingkindness, His truth, His name, His being, and His attributes, because God has magnified His Word above all His Name. HMM III


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