Praise Psalms

Praise psalms encompass the actual words sung and recited when worshipping God in various circumstances.
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One of the interesting features of our study of the Psalms is learning about the various types of Psalms there are. Most folks who only have a passing knowledge of them usually think that all Psalms are "praise" Psalms, but we have learned that there are very different types or categories of Psalms that include:

  1. Wisdom Psalms
  2. Nature Psalms
  3. Word of God Psalms
  4. Penitential Psalms
  5. Worship Psalms
  6. Suffering Psalms
  7. Assurance Psalms
  8. Praise Psalms
  9. Royal Psalms

There are 21 praise-type Psalms in the book of Psalm. Praise Psalms are usually subdivided into two types:

1. Declarative-type Praise Psalms

These include Psalms 18, 21, 30, 32, 34, 40, 41, 66, 106, 116, 138 (11 in all). They are often referred to as "thanksgiving" or "todah" Psalms (Todah = Hebrew for thanksgiving). Declarative praise Psalms are further divided into two other groups:

  1. Praise of the individual
  2. Praise of the community

There is not a great difference between these, other than the single or plural identity of the ones offering the praise. For example:

Declarative praise Psalms have the following elements:

A. A proclamation to praise God

The Psalm will begin with a clear intention to praise God. The Psalmist will tell what God has done. A vow to praise may have been made in private, but payment of that vow must be made in public. This type of Psalm is a testimony.

1I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up,
And have not let my enemies rejoice over me.
2O Lord my God,
I cried to You for help, and You healed me.
- Psalms 30:1-2
12What shall I render to the Lord
For all His benefits toward me?
13I shall lift up the cup of salvation
And call upon the name of the Lord.
14I shall pay my vows to the Lord,
Oh may it be in the presence of all His people.
- Psalms 116:12-14

B. A report of deliverance

The praise is given first (e.g. ...I will praise...). The psalmist will tell what God has done by looking back at what God has done to save/deliver him. The usual pattern is:

  • I cried out to God.
  • He heard my cry.
  • God drew me out, saved me.

Psalm 18:4-19 is an example of this.

C. Praise or a renewed vow of praise

A renewal of praise. A declaration of the many saving acts of God.

46The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock;
And exalted be the God of my salvation,
47The God who executes vengeance for me,
And subdues peoples under me.
48He delivers me from my enemies;
Surely You lift me above those who rise up against me;
You rescue me from the violent man.
49Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O Lord,
And I will sing praises to Your name.
50He gives great deliverance to His king,
And shows lovingkindness to His anointed,
To David and his descendants forever.
- Psalms 18:46-50

The fourth element found in declarative praise Psalms,

D. Instruction

The author will provide a teaching or exhortation based on his experience with God. Let's use Psalm 138 as an example.

Intention to praise

1I will give You thanks with all my heart;
I will sing praises to You before the gods.
2aI will bow down toward Your holy temple
And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth;

Reason for the praise

2bFor You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.
3On the day I called, You answered me;
You made me bold with strength in my soul.

God answered his prayer by strengthening his inward man, spirit, soul. David does not describe the danger or challenge that he faced, only the fact that, in his time of need, God provided him with the inner strength to face or endure or overcome what he was facing. The channel of this blessing or answered prayer was God's word. David praises God for strengthening him to face a real-world challenge by enlarging or deepening his understanding of God's word in some way.

Vow and instruction

4All the kings of the earth will give thanks to You, O Lord,
When they have heard the words of Your mouth.
5And they will sing of the ways of the Lord,
For great is the glory of the Lord.
6For though the Lord is exalted,
Yet He regards the lowly,
But the haughty He knows from afar.

Others (kings) will also praise God because of His word. A promise here to proclaim God's word with others so they can share in the blessings that come from knowing God's word. An insight and teaching about God - He raises the humble and lowers the proud.

Renewed praise

7Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me;
You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
And Your right hand will save me.
8The Lord will accomplish what concerns me;
Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

The author renews his confidence that what the Lord did for him in the past, he can do again in the future. In these final verses we get an idea of what provoked the author to go to God in prayer in the first place - the threat of enemies.

2. Descriptive-type praise Psalms

These praise Psalms are similar to declarative praise Psalms, but have certain elements that set them apart. These include Psalms 28, 36, 105, 111, 113, 117, 135, 136, 146, 147. The main difference between these and declarative praise Psalms is that they contain more information as to why the praise is given and what it is about God that draws the praise.

Descriptive praise Psalms contain the following elements:

A. Prologue

A spontaneous expression of hallelujah or praise.

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart,
In the company of the upright and in the assembly.
- Psalms 111:1
Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord,
Praise the name of the Lord.
- Psalms 113:1

B. A call for others to praise

This is also seen as a call to worship.

Praise the Lord, all nations;
Laud Him, all peoples!
- Psalms 117:1
Praise the Lord!
Praise the name of the Lord;
Praise Him, O servants of the Lord,
- Psalms 135:1

C. The cause for the praise

The main body of the Psalm usually sets forth the reason(s) God is to be praised. The author usually puts forth a summary statement of the cause for worship and this is usually followed up by examples of it. The summary statement usually has two parts:

1. God's greatness (i.e. Lord of creation)

2Great are the works of the Lord;
They are studied by all who delight in them.
3Splendid and majestic is His work,
And His righteousness endures forever.
4He has made His wonders to be remembered;
The Lord is gracious and compassionate.
5He has given food to those who fear Him;
He will remember His covenant forever.
6He has made known to His people the power of His works,
In giving them the heritage of the nations.
- Psalms 111:2-6

Note that the author states how wonderful the works of God are and then he goes on to list several of them.

2. God's grace

Your lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
- Psalms 36:5

How wonderful is God's grace.

6Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
Your judgments are like a great deep.
O Lord, You preserve man and beast.
7How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
8They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house;
And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights.
9For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.
- Psalms 36:6-9

The author lists the various blessings obtained by God's grace.

D. Conclusion

Once the author has listed the reasons and examples of God's greatness or grace he then renews his original call for his readers to praise God.

1Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
2Give thanks to the God of gods,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
3Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
4To Him who alone does great wonders,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
- Psalms 136:1-4

A call to praise God for both His greatness and mercy.

10To Him who smote the Egyptians in their firstborn,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
11And brought Israel out from their midst,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
12With a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
13To Him who divided the Red Sea asunder,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
14And made Israel pass through the midst of it,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
15But He overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
16To Him who led His people through the wilderness,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
17To Him who smote great kings,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
- Psalms 136:10-17

Examples of His mercy

Give thanks to the God of heaven,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
- Psalms 136:26

Conclusion: A renewed call to praise God.

Sometimes the conclusion is a general exhortation, a petition or a teaching of some kind.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments;
His praise endures forever.
- Psalms 111:10

E. Epilogue

The author sometimes book-ends his poem by placing at the end the same expression he used to begin the Psalm.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
- Psalms 136:1
Give thanks to the God of heaven,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
- Psalms 136:26


Praise Psalms celebrate God's greatness and mercy in the following ways:

  1. They begin by offering words of praise or calling on others to recognize and praise God.
  2. They enumerate and describe the things God has, is, and will do, that are signs of His greatness and mercy.
  3. They repeat the exhortation for others to begin or continue in their praise of God.
  4. They finish with a teaching or final word of praise.

Psalm 135 - Example

Begins with words of praise (prologue)

1Praise the Lord!
Praise the name of the Lord;
Praise Him, O servants of the Lord,

Encouragement for others to praise.

2You who stand in the house of the Lord,
In the courts of the house of our God!
3Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
Sing praises to His name, for it is lovely.
4For the Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself,
Israel for His own possession.

Examples of His greatness and mercy

5For I know that the Lord is great
And that our Lord is above all gods.
6Whatever the Lord pleases, He does,
In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.
7He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth;
Who makes lightnings for the rain,
Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries.
8He smote the firstborn of Egypt,
Both of man and beast.
9He sent signs and wonders into your midst, O Egypt,
Upon Pharaoh and all his servants.
10He smote many nations
And slew mighty kings,
11Sihon, king of the Amorites,
And Og, king of Bashan,
And all the kingdoms of Canaan;
12And He gave their land as a heritage,
A heritage to Israel His people.
13Your name, O Lord, is everlasting,
Your remembrance, O Lord, throughout all generations.
14For the Lord will judge His people
And will have compassion on His servants.
15The idols of the nations are but silver and gold,
The work of man's hands.
16They have mouths, but they do not speak;
They have eyes, but they do not see;
17They have ears, but they do not hear,
Nor is there any breath at all in their mouths.
18Those who make them will be like them,
Yes, everyone who trusts in them.

Renewed call to praise God (Epilogue)

19O house of Israel, bless the Lord;
O house of Aaron, bless the Lord;
20O house of Levi, bless the Lord;
You who revere the Lord, bless the Lord.
21Blessed be the Lord from Zion,
Who dwells in Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!
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