Meditations in Hebrews 13: 58. A Life of Praise
Heb 13:15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name.
We will jump the verses on leadership because there are more later and we’ll take them all together. Instead we will pick up on the two exhortations in verses 15 and 16 which complement the two ethical exhortations we have just considered in verses 4 and 5, in that they are about the Christian’s general outlook on life. First of all we’ll consider verse 15 and the life of praise and then in the next study, verse 16, a life of goodness.
Praise, a Bedrock: We have commented before that there have been a number of instructions about very basic things in the life of the Christian, and this is certainly true of this present verse. In fact one might go as far as to say that how the individual reflects and lives according to this particular verse will say a great deal about them. I have entitled this study ‘A Life of Praise’ because when the writer uses the word ‘continually’, he does not mean every second but that we have a general outlook that is filled with praise for God. It is more than just an occasional thing, because as Christians we have so much for which to praise God that is should be the very bedrock of our lives.
Through Jesus: Now we could praise God for being the Creator of all things and that would be legitimate and right, and I often do that, but that can be a little impersonal and so there are two little words at the beginning of the verse that we could miss but which are important – ‘Through Jesus’. Now there are two things to be said about those two words. The first is that who Jesus is and what he has done for us, provides a rich treasury from which praise should flow, and of course that is more personal because it applies to us; it is what he has done for me. The second thing is that the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, always seeks to honour and glorify the Father. Praise for what He has done through His Son Jesus, always glorifies Him.
Definitions: Now perhaps we should pause up to define the language we use. Praise means to acknowledge achievement, and it honours and congratulates a person for what they have done. Thankfulness is about gratitude, appreciation, thanks, and so there is a difference between praise and thanksgiving. Praise is more objective in that it highlights a person’s activity and achievement in general and then praise focuses that achievement on how it has personally blessed or changed us through what has been done and expresses our personal thankfulness for it.
Now in our verse above there is another word we should note – sacrifice. This very simply acknowledges it is all of God and not me and, as in the Old Testament they brought animals to say thank-you, we simply bring as our ‘sacrifice’ or ‘offering’ praise, the acknowledgment that all else has been done so we need to nothing to put ourselves right with God, Jesus has already done it. It is that awareness, I would suggest, that should bring praise to our lips every day. This isn’t to make you a better Christian or anything like that, but it just acts as a reminder to me,, and to the onlooking powers and principalities, that I am what I am because of what God has done through Jesus on my behalf. This stops me striving to be something – for I already am, His child! It also stops me trying to appear great in the eyes of others, for it reminds me that I was lost and helpless and hopeless and so what I am today is not a result of my efforts but of his.
Reasons we don’t & effects: A failure to bring this daily offering of praise can be by casual indifference (which indicates an insensitivity to the Holy Spirit) or specific ignorance (we haven’t ever given real thought to it), and it makes me vulnerable to enemy attacks, for he will try and either make me feel a guilty failure because my efforts to become holy and good are inadequate, or he will drive me to ever greater self-efforts and make the Christian life seem drudgery – which it is not!!!!
Jesus focus: If the beginning of that verse focuses us on Jesus, so does the end: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name.” Confess his name? We who are Christian believers, we alone are the ones who can praise God for the work of Christ on the Cross and of the Holy Spirit applying it into our lives. The rest of the world remains silent, self-absorbed and godless, for they have never come to a realization of just who it is who brought this world into being and who upholds it by the word of his power and who has provided a path back to heaven if they will only take it.
The OT Support: The Psalmist summed it up well in one of his exhortations: “Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD.” (Psa 117) God is WORTHY of our praise and so when we fail to give it, we reveal our own poverty of knowledge and vision. Why praise him? The psalmist says it well: “For great is his love toward us.” That is the starting place and all that followed in time-space history flowed out of His love. Moreover, “the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.” i.e. He is utterly unchanging and so His love and the things He has done to restore us to Himself will remain there, valid and for the taking for ever, although we now there that there is a time limit, because one day Jesus will return as a conquering king to wind it all up, but until then we can utterly trust Him and for that we should praise Him AND give thanks.