What is the difference between praise and worship?

Question:

I need a lesson from you about the difference between praise and worship. What is it that we mean when we say "let's praise the Lord" and when we say "let's worship the Lord"? Please help me in that area.


Answer:

Praise

"And she conceived again and bore a son and said, "This time I will praise the LORD." Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing" (Genesis 29:35).

"Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father's sons shall bow down to you" (Genesis 49:8).

The word for "praise" in the Hebrew language is yadah. When Judah was born, his mother did a play on words by calling her son Judah, which is similar to the word for praise. Later Jacob said that Judah's brothers would praise him and bow down to him. It expresses the idea that they will confess or acknowledge something about or to someone. The same idea is used in regards to sin -- to confess one's sins to God. "If they confess (yada) their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me" (Leviticus 26:40). Yadah is also used of thanking God (II Samuel 22:50), which still emphasizes letting something be known (confessing).

There is another word for praise in Hebrew. It is halal, which has a couple of meanings, but we will focus on just a few. It means to "to boast, exult, to praise;" thus, something about God is praised. "Praise (hala) Him, highest heavens, And the waters that are above the heavens! Let them praise (hala) the name of the LORD, For He commanded, and they were created" (Psalms 148:4-5). God is being praised for what He created and has done. If you read the whole psalm, it is talks heavily about God's glory and why we should praise His name. Halal is also used to mean to sing and to use instruments at times to in praise to God (I Chronicles 23:5). Not all uses of halal are toward God. Absalom was praised for having a "perfect" body without defect (II Samuel 14:25).

We are given an example of both words being used in the same statement. "He appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the LORD, even to celebrate and to thank (yadah) and praise (hala) the LORD God of Israel" (I Chronicles 16:4).

There are other words in Hebrew for praise, which mean thankfulness or a thank offering. Overall, the idea of praise is to let something be known, to acknowledge, to extol, boast, praise and give thanks for someone. In regards to God it is a praise of His character, attributes, works He has done, etc.  The Greek words for praise use a similar meaning.

Worship

The word "worship" comes from the Hebrew word shachah, which means to bow down before or to someone or something, such as idols, to prostrate yourself willingly or unwillingly. The Bible translators try to indicate the difference between a literal bowing down and worship. "He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you."… Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you"" (Genesis 22:2,5). Abraham went to Moriah to worship God; yet, if you read the story he never bows down. The act of worship is the sacrifice he was to do. The non-worship use of the word is when someone bows down to show respect. In the sense he humbles himself. "So Abraham rose and bowed to the people of the land, the sons of Heth" (Genesis 23:7).

We can see the same word holding both meanings in one statement. "In this matter may the LORD pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship (shachah) there, and he leans on my hand and I bow (shachah) myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow (shachah) myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon your servant in this matter" (II Kings 5:18).

In the New Testament "worship" has a similar overall meaning: to bow down, worship, pay homage (welcome someone with respect), reverence, to humble.

Summary

Praise: letting something be known, to acknowledge, to extol, boast, praise and give thanks to or for God regarding His character, attributes, or works He has done or will do.

Worship: to fall down, prostrate, humble or doing an act of worship or both at the same time.

When we say "let's praise the Lord," it is an act of worshiping God. However, there are other acts that are also a part of worshiping God. Praise is just one way to worship God.

Even though I can give praise to someone for a good deed he has done, I am not worshiping him as I would God. Men can be praised, but they are not to be worshiped.

I can bow in humility before a king, but I am not worshiping him as a god. You could offer up a sacrifice to God as an act of worship under the Old Testament, but you were not to sacrifice to other gods.

You can see this when Jesus was tempted by Satan. "Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, "All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'" (Matthews 4:8-10). The difference is also seen between John and an angel. "I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. But he said to me, "Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God" (Revelation 22:8-9).

Alan Feaster

Good morning,

Thank you for the teaching. I have learned priceles information here. I will be grateful to receive more teachings from you.

Stay blessed.