A SACRIFICE OF PRAISE Hebrews 13:15

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1 1 A SACRIFICE OF PRAISE Hebrews 13:15 Jesus Christ has offered the gift of God s love the last bloody sacrifice which God will ever accept. Therefore there is no need to offer Levitical sacrifices. God has a better way: praise (v. 15) and service (v. 16): Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise the fruit of lips that confess His name (13:15). How is true faith to be manifested? It is by the sacrifices of genuine praise (v. 15) and compassionate sharing and help (v. 16). Worship and service: these are the fruits produced by genuine life from God. The only sacrifice acceptable to God is praise for the gift of His Son! The Old Testament required offerings and sacrifices of animals. In the New Testament a number of offerings and sacrifices are described as acceptable: the body as a living sacrifice (not a dead animal Ro 12:1); a gift to a servant of God (Php 4:18); and here, the fruit of lips that confess His name (Heb 13:15). Sacrifice is used metaphorically here to represent an offering to God (Ro 12:1; Php 4:18). Animal offerings are no obsolete. We are to always offer sacrifices, but not the bloody sacrifices of the Old Covenant, but the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of our lips. The writer to the Hebrews spells out what is essential to proper praise: a sacrifice of praise. Sacrifice speaks of that that which is costly and thus inconvenient. In Hosea 14 God says to the people: Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him: Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips (Hos 14:2). This is another appeal God makes to His people and this appeal for repentance (Hos 10:12; 12:6) would have to be sincere in order for the people to receive the gracious response from the Lord who had made such a promise (Hos 14:4-8; Ps 130:7-8; Isa 55:6-9).

2 2 They were to take words with them, that is, animal sacrifices would not be enough only words of true repentance would be sufficient. The fruit of the lips then is a thank offering to the Lord. DEFINED The word praise has been defined and described in various ways. Webster defines the word praise as to say good things about and is synonymous with words such as admire, commend, extol, honor and worship. Christian praise is an expression of approval or admiration; of gratitude and devotion; a celebration of God s goodness and grace. It is also the acknowledgement of God s nature, works and benefits. PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING Some have made the distinction between praise and thanksgiving by pointing out that in most cases, praise is directed toward God Himself who He is whereas thanksgiving is directed toward what God has done on our behalf. REASONS FOR PRAISE Because of Who God Is Praise is ordained by God. This is primarily because of God majesty, that is, because he deserves our praise. The psalmist illustrates this well in Psalm 8: O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth? (Ps 8:1-2,9) The focus in praise is primarily on God because He is God (Ex 15:2,11) who is highly exalted (Ex 15:2) because of His greatness (Ps 96:4-6), strength (Ex 15:2) and salvation (Ex 15:2). Because It is the Right Thing To Do Praise is also pleasant and fitting, that is, the right thing to do: Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise Him! (Ps 147:1)

3 3 Because It Helps Us to Remember God s Benefits Praise helps us to remember God s benefits: Praise the Lord, O my soul, all my inmost being, praise His holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle s (Ps 103:1-5). Praise strengthens us: Because It Strengthens Us Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength (Neh 8:10). THE TIMING OF PRAISE 7). Unlike preaching, teaching and prayer, praise is something we will do forever (Ps 145:1- Praise is to be done regularly and continually (literally through everything dia pantos Heb 13:15), not spasmodically (Ps 145:2). Praise that is pleasing to God is more than just thoughts directed towards God. It is spoken out unto the Lord, either is prose or in song. Just as fruit from a tree reveals the nature of the tree, so what comes from the lips is regarded as fruit because it reveals the character of its source. WHO OR WHAT IS TO PRAISE GOD? Everyone and everything is to praise God (Ps 148). WHERE ARE WE TO PRAISE GOD? We are to praise God everywhere with every kind of voice and instrument (Ps 150). HEAVEN IS WHERE OUR PRAISE WILL BE PERFECT AND LAST FOREVER Praise encompasses heaven (Ps 4:6-11; 5:9-14; 7:9-12). WARNING ABOUT EMPTY RITUALS Praise is to be done through Jesus, that is, by His Spirit rather than by empty rituals.

4 4 Hosea reminds us what God thinks of empty rituals: For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings (Hos 6:6). Similarly Isaiah states: "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk (Isa 58:6-9). Just as the chains of the Hebrew slaves were rightly released during the siege of Jerusalem (Isa 9:4; 10:27), so God s people were to release the people from the bondage of the Law. Jesus said of many in His day: "These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me" (Mt 15:8). The writer to the Hebrews believers is not that they should simply honor God with their lips. That may be the work of the lips, but it is not the fruit of the lips. The "fruit" of lips is the natural outgrowth of the heart. And therefore what is most important is the cultivation of a heart through worship. Praise that is pleasing to God not only must be sincere, but it is also more than just thoughts directed towards God. It is using lips that confess His name. It is using words that are spoken to the Lord, either is prose or in song. Just as fruit from a tree reveals the nature of the tree, so what comes from the lips is regarded as fruit because it reveals the character of its source.

5 5 PRAISE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT Praise is mentioned 332 times in the Bible. The following are occurrences of praise in the New Testament: Luke 1:64: Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. Luke 2:13: Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests. Luke 2:20: The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told them. Luke 18:43: Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. Luke 19:37: When He came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, was now approaching, near the whole crowd of the disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen. Luke 24:52-53: Then they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. Acts 2:46-47: Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Acts 3:8-9: He jumped to his feet and began to walk. The he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. Acts 16:25: About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Ephesians 1:5-6: He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. Ephesians 1:14: Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God s possession to the praise of His glory.

6 6 Revelation 19:5: Then a voice came from the throne, saying: Praise our God, all you His servants, you who fear Him, both small and great! Because we have caught a glimpse of the infinite majesty, greatness, holiness, justice, power, wisdom, goodness, mercy and love of God, we give ourselves unreservedly to God in worship and service. As a church as the people of God we are here to worship God by praising Him continually! The hymn writer caught the importance of catching a glimpse of who God is and put it to song in a hymn entitle, Be Thou My Vision : Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart, Nought be all else to me save that Thou art Thou my best Thought, by day or by night, Waking or sleeping, Thy Presence my light. Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word; I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord; Thou my great Father, I Thy true son; Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one. Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight; Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight; Thou my soul s Shelter, Thou my high Tower: Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power. Riches I heed not, nor man s empty praise, Thou mine Inheritance, now and always: Thou and Thou only, first in my heart, High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art. High King of Heaven, my victory won, May I reach Heaven s joys, O bright Heaven s Sun! Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all. The original Old Irish text has been attributed mostly to Dallan Forgaill in the 6th or 8 th century. The text had been a part of Irish monastic tradition for centuries before it was set to the tune used most often today. It was translated from Old Irish into English by Mary E. Byrne in The English text was first versified by Eleanor H. Hull, in 1912, and is now the most common text used. 1

7 7 APPLICATION Let us worship in wonder and awe. Let us adore and joyfully praise Him. This is vital because worship must precede work or work will become wearisome. After all, it is the joy of the Lord which is our strength. Our work for God is to be energized and sustained by God s glory. Therefore we need to worship with fresh, new zeal. Because Jesus sacrificed His life shamefully, therefore let us be willing to sacrifice our lives the same way He did. Because the old form of Judaism has been fulfilled and replaced by Jesus Christ, He who is the same yesterday and today and forever is our spiritual food to strengthen our hearts. Let us praise God continually as a sacrifice to Him, that is, when we feel like it and, especially, when we don t. Let us join the psalmist who said: "I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips (Ps 34:1). NOTE 1 The New Methodist Hymn Book Illustrated, edited by John Telford (Epworth Press, London, 1934).

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