“Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!
Shout to God with the voice of triumph!”
–Psalm 47:1 (NKJV)
I came across this verse when looking for a name for my blog. The phrase “voice of triumph” immediately caught my attention. Looking into the original Hebrew underlying the phrase, I found some interesting – and slightly surprising – insights.
According to the BibleStudyTools.com Interlinear Bible, the Hebrew word used here for “triumph” is rinnah. Rinnah means “a ringing cry”, either of “entreaty, supplication” or (more commonly in the Bible) “in proclamation, joy, praise”.
So, the second half of the verse can be read: “Shout to God with the sound of a ringing cry of joyful proclamation!”
I was struck by the intensity of the sound rinnah describes, whether in entreaty or praise. This isn’t a timid whisper, a composed conversation, or even an overloud public speech. This is a bold, top-of-voice, everyone-must-hear-me communication. In entreaty: “God, help me!” In praise: “How great is our God!”
Both fervent supplication and earnest praise are important in our relationship with God, whether in times of suffering or safety. On one hand, when in need, we can and should boldly approach God with our requests. On the other hand, we can and should praise Him at all times with a joy that shakes mountains.
God honors and welcomes both.
Crying Out to God
Throughout the Bible, God is often compared to a parent, shepherd, helper, or other provider figure. He cares for His creation and takes joy in even the smallest of its creatures – including humans.
Story after story testifies to both His power and willingness to meet needs. He provided food and water for the Israelites wandering in the desert (Exodus 16-17). He provided a family and security to a young widow in a foreign country (Ruth 3-4). Jesus provided healing to the sick and even life to the dead (Luke 7). And most importantly, He provided forgiveness of sin and the promise of future resurrection through His own crucifixion and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15).
Not only does He delight in meeting needs, He also enjoys hearing us ask. Jesus tells people to “ask…seek…knock” with faith and persistence (Luke 11:1-13). He often asked those who came to Him for healing, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51, NIV)
The Lord knows our needs. But He also desires relationship – and relationship often involves request. When we cry out to Him, He may not answer the way we expect, or when we expect. But He satisfies our deepest needs – always. He hears, He whispers, and He works.
The Joy of the Lord
The Psalms contain some of the Bible’s most heartfelt cries to God (Ps. 22:19, 42:1-3, 109:26). They are also full of calls to be joyful and celebrate His goodness (Ps. 96, 103, 150). Readers are encouraged to sing, shout, clap, leap, and dance. Even the trees and hills are summoned to praise God (Ps. 148:7-13).
The expressions of joy in Psalm 47:1 remind me of a Messianic Jewish dance troupe that visited our church a few years ago. Their dances were full of deft footwork, graceful arm movements, rich music, and rhythmic clapping. Watching them made a person want to leap up and dance before the Lord.
Their performance (and this verse) reminds us how powerful and compelling our joy is meant to be. God is a God of stillness (Ps. 46:10)…but He is also a God of joyful noise and motion. Our expressions of joy may vary based on personality and situation. But true joy found in Christ is a powerful, enduring force, so much so that we can say, “The joy of the Lord is [my] strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10, NIV).
In times of hardship, it may feel difficult to rejoice. In those times we can ask the Lord to give us joy to help us through grief and discouragement. We can also reflect on what He has done for us – especially His saving grace in Christ. And we can choose to give a ringing proclamation of that grace.
Request and praise go hand-in-hand. The apostle Paul grasps this when he tells readers to “rejoice in the Lord always” and then instructs them to bring God all their requests, so that His unfathomable peace may guard their hearts and minds in Christ (Philippians 4:4-6,).
May we continually rely on God and praise Him with boldness as we seek to know Him more.
How do you express joy? How can you combine request and “proclamation, joy, praise” in prayer?