November 27, 2018

When Praise is a Sacrifice

“Let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God …” Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV) 

Whoever thought of praise as a sacrifice?  Sacrifices sound more like painful offerings connected with the Old Testament.  Isn’t praise the natural expression of a grateful heart giving thanks to God?  When times are good, it is natural to praise; even unbelievers can do that.  What about our response when times are bad?  If we follow what comes naturally, we probably are not praising, are we?  Now, you understand the meaning of the sacrifice of praise.

Do you praise God when times are bad?  Do you praise Him when the other guy got the promotion and you were passed over?  Do you praise Him when you’re feeling bad and the world just won’t stop around you? Do you praise Him when the kids are all crying, the diapers need changing, and dinner is not prepared because you forgot something at the store?  Enough already!  Who doesn’t struggle with a “praise attitude” in those times?

Yet, the writer of Hebrews tells us to “… continually offer the sacrifices of praise to God ….”   The best example of that was a man named Job.  In just two days he lost seven sons, three daughters (all ten children), his wealth, and then his health.  Talk about a bad day!  And he had two of them back to back.  You may be familiar with the story as Satan attempted to destroy Job’s faith through extreme trial.  In the end, God proved His point that saving faith could not be destroyed no matter how much trouble a believer suffers or how incomprehensible and underserved it seems.  What was Job’s response to his trials?  He said, 

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”  Job 1:21 (NIV) 

Job understood the sacrifice of praise.  Not everyone does, not even those closest to you.  In fact, Job’s wife didn’t get it.  She said, 

“Are you still holding on to your integrity?  CURSE GOD and die!”  Job 2:9 (NIV) 

Given Job’s string of bad luck and grotesque infirmities, I’m not sure if she was thinking more of putting him out of her miseries or his own.  Nonetheless, the Bible says, 

“Job did not sin in what he said.”  Job 2:10b (NIV) 

Another example of the sacrifice of praise comes from a prison in Philippi.  Picture the scene in your mind for a moment.  Paul and Silas had been assaulted by an angry mob, falsely accused before the city magistrates, stripped and beaten.  

“After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully … he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.”  Acts 16:23-24 (NIV) 

Sadaam Hussein didn’t receive such inhumane treatment!  What crime had Paul and Silas committed?  They were preaching the gospel, baptizing a new believer and setting another free from an evil spirit – my, what terrorists!

You might expect the response of these missionaries to throw in the towel, quit and go home on the next camel.  No!  The next verse tells us, 

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.”  V. 25 (NIV) 

That’s the sacrifice of praise, isn’t it?

What happens when we continually offer to God the sacrifice of praise?  The psalmist tells us that God inhabits the praise of his people (Psalm 22:3).  The sacrifice of praise gives God the opportunity to work in our behalf.  It honors God by recognizing His control even over adverse circumstances.  It demonstrates our love for Him and the eternal perspective of the believer.  It impacts a watching world with wonder and awe!  So amazed was the Philippian jailer at Paul and Silas’ response that, before the night was over, he received Christ and was baptized along with his family!  He even washed Paul and Silas’ wounds from the flogging!

How can we continually offer the sacrifices of praise to God?  Look at the verse again. 

“Therefore by Him (Jesus) let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”  (NKJV) 

The fruit of our lips reveal the root of our heart.  Jesus said, 

“For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”  Matthew 12:34b (NIV)  

Fill your heart with praise and your mouth will give thanks.  

Are you continually offering to God the sacrifice of praise giving thanks to His name?  I’m not talking about vain repetitions of praise.  That can be mechanical and meaningless.  Watch your speech today to check your heart condition.  Is it filled with praise or complaining?  Ask God to give you a grateful heart.