An updated version of this post can be found here.
This is the fifth in a series on Hebrew praise words. So far we have looked at
- Zamar, Instrumental praise
- Halal, Crazy exuberant praise
- Shabach, Loud praise
- Tehillah, Singing Praise
Yadah means to “hold out or extend the hand”. Although it can be used to mean to shoot a bow or throw a stone, it is used almost exclusively in the Bible to mean praise and thanksgiving. Yadah occurs 114 times in the Old Testament and nearly 100 of those occurrences are translated to mean praise or thanksgiving.
Oh give thanks (yadah) to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever! 1 Chronicles 16:34
So why is a word that literally means “to extend the hand” understood to mean praise and thanksgiving? This is because the Hebrew language is much more concrete in its use of words. It is likely that the practice of extending the hands in praise and worship was so much a part of Hebrew culture that they began to use the word to mean “praise” more often than they used it to mean “extend the hand”.
How can this help us in worship? I think it is essential for us to recognize that we are physical beings and our outward action impact our inward spirit. Of course our inward spirit is more important than any outward actions, but God has made us in such a way that we cannot easily separate the two.
Our physical and spiritual parts are connected in such a way that our actions can change our hearts and our emotions can affect our actions. Check out this article on posture psychology, for instance. According to this article, researches have found that it is difficult to be happy while frowning or sad while smiling and that certain postures open us up emotionally and others close us down. Our emotions are tied to our muscles.
All this to say, take a posture in worship that reflects what you are singing. It will enhance your worship. Try joining the ancient Hebrews and raise your hands when praising or thanking God. When we take an open posture, our emotions also open up.
Some of you are afraid of what others might think, so try this in private. Try praising God with hands crossed in front of you and head down. Then try it with arms wide open and head raised to God. You will feel different.
Don’t restrict your worship to only your mind. Engage your body and emotions and Yadah God today!
Question: Why are some of us so afraid to use our body in worship? How have you overcome this fear? Please leave a comment.
by Jerry Wyrick, President of Worship Arts Conservatory