I was reading and praying Psalm 145 again this week and got a reminder about this powerful word. Tehillah means praise, but it’s not the most common word for praise in Hebrew or in the Bible. Yet praise is one of the central things God wants us to learn and practice, so it should be a common activity for us.
If only it were so. Praise in the Bible’s sense is something that we don’t do often enough. It’s more than “thanks”. It’s putting God first, front and center. He is the focus, the one who takes action. And when he acts, he is always righteous, always loving, always wiser than our limited understanding.
The language of praise is extravagant: praise him, exalt him, bless him–at least four different Hebrew words for praise are used in this psalm. It is also emotional. Most English translations tone it down a little, but in the original language the volume is both loud (ringing cry, shout, scream, cry out) and soft (meditate), but there is no doubt that the worshipper is fully engaged in all expressions of praise.
Tehillah is not the most common word for psalms of praise in the book of Psalms. Mizmor is much more common. In fact, only Psalm 145 has Tehillah as its title (“Praise”). It’s also repeated in the last concluding verse. So it is fitting that Tehillim, the plural form of the word, is used in Hebrew for the title of the entire book of Psalms. Tehillah means praise!
The artistry of words
Psalm 145 is also an acrostic psalm, which means each line of poetry begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. From a to z (or aleph to tav) we are to praise God. It takes some meditation and contemplation to come up with the right words and arrange them in alphabetic order. In words (or lyrics) as well as in music, we give our praise to God.
To give a clue to which word in English is a translation of the lead word in each line of the acrostic, I’ve underlined that word in my translation below. I’ve also given an indication of some key Hebrew words for those who want to go deeper. Notice how certain words are tagged or repeated in the next verse or two verses later. I hope this blesses you to pray Tehillah to God.
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A prayer of praise (tehillah) of David
1 I exalt (rum) you my God the king and I will bless (barak)/praise your name forever and always.
2 Every day I will bless (barak) you and praise (hallal) your name forever and always.
3 Great is Yahweh and praised (hallal) beyond limits, his greatness is beyond searching out.
4 One generation praises (shabach) your acts to another generation, and they will declare (hagid) your mighty deeds!
5 Awesome/majestic is the glory of your splendor and what you speak (davar), I will meditate (asiach) on your wonders.
6 They will tell of the power of your fearsome acts, and I will declare your greatness.
7 They will pour forth a memorial to your great goodness and give a ringing cry to your righteousness.
8 Yahweh is gracious and shows compassion, (he is) longsuffering and shows steadfast love.
9 Yahweh is good to all and he shows compassion to all he has made.
10 All your works shall praise you Yahweh, and your faithful (ones) will bless you.
11 They will speak of the glory of your kingdom/royal power and talk of your might/power,
12 To make known to the sons of man his mighty acts, the might and glory of your kingdom/royal power.
13 Your kingdom is a kingdom lasting for all time, and your reign/royal rule endures for all generations.
14 Yahweh supports/upholds all who fall, and raises up all that are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all wait on/hope in you, and you give them their food at the right time.
16 Open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17 Yahweh is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all his works/what he does.
18 Yahweh is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him sincerely/in truth.
19 The desire/longing of (those who) fear him he fulfills, and he will hear their cry/scream for help and save them.
20 Yahweh watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will wipe out/destroy.
21 The song praising (tehillah) Yahweh my mouth will speak, and all creatures (flesh) will bless (barak)/praise his holy name forever and ever.
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This article is an expanded version of an earlier post on our blog titled “Tehillah Psalm 145“.
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