Sacrifice of Praise

image 2Hebrews 13:15 “through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that openly profess His name.”

The phrase “sacrifice of praise” has been ringing in my ears and lingering in my thoughts for weeks.  Over and over again I hear these words “sacrifice of praise” as I struggle to understand what the Lord is teaching me.  And in true fashion, today He revealed it to me and even gave me a song to sing!  No, don’t worry I will not record my voice and make you listen.  I will, however, as part of my illustration provide the lyrics and you may sing it yourself.

Praise is something we are told to do.  In Psalm 150, God tells us how to praise:

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens.Praise Him for His acts of power; praise Him for His surpassing greatness. Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise Him with the harp and lyre, praise Him with timbrel and dancing, praise Him with the strings and pipe,praise Him with the clash of cymbals, praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. 

Praise the Lord.

I had never considered praise to be a sacrifice.  He has been so good to me that I can’t help but praise Him when I think of Him. I count my blessings daily and I sing praises to Him sometimes loudly and sometimes silently.  And when I think of Jesus who was the sacrifice for my sins, I am humbled.  And yet, these words “sacrifice of praise” kept coming. I yearned to understand its meaning and like all good students in a world of technology, I googled it.  I found numerous thoughts on its meaning and also did a word search on for scripture references.  Here are some of the verses I found:

Romans 12:1-2 teaches us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice.

1 Peter 2:5 “offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus”.

Isaiah 61:3 makes reference to “a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair”.

Sacrifice means “to kill or slaughter for a purpose”.  The ancient Jews understood the meaning of offering a sacrifice.  It brought to mind the death of an animal- a dove, a bull, a lamb to be killed or slaughtered for the purpose of pleasing God and obeying His commandments.  Something had to die in order for a sacrifice to be made. Does that mean something in us must die in order to offer a sacrifice to God?  Yes, we must die to self and our old way of life.  Yes, we must die to sin by accepting Jesus as Savior because of what He did for us.

Praise to me has always reflected a joy and happiness for the things God has done in my life, but I know sadness, pain, and despair are part of every human experience at some point in time. It is part of living in a world of sin.  And while I do not understand why bad things happen to good people I do know that God grieves over sin and evil.  I know that because Jesus is my Savior I have the assurance that all things that happen in a Christian’s life serve a greater purpose. God has a plan for every life and He can use whatever happens for His purpose and the glory of His Kingdom.

Praise is the opposite of despair.  It is knowing that whatever happens God provides an unshakeable expectation that He will make something good out of something that seems broken beyond repair. The sacrifice of praise is being able to praise God even when the circumstances in my life seem shattered. When I give God my brokenness, dying to self and my will to be in control, God can work through me in whatever way He chooses.

A strong example of the sacrifice of praise can be seen in the life of Horatio Spafford, a successful lawyer and entrepreneur.  Spafford lost all of his possession in the Chicago fire of 1871 and the market crash of 1873 took his financial assets. He was left with nothing but his precious family.  Shortly after this, however, his only son died at the age of four with scarlet fever.  His family had already planned and paid for a trip to Europe.  Spafford sent his wife and four daughters on without him with plans for him to join them after he finished a business deal he had been working on.

His four daughters and wife sailed joyfully away on the Loch Earn headed to Europe. The ship sank drowning all four of his daughters.  His heartbroken wife sent a telegram to him with two grieving words “Saved alone.”   As Spafford traveled to meet his wife, the ship passed the very spot where his young daughters drown.  In the sadness and grief he felt at that moment, he was inspired to write the words to the song “It is well with my soul”

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, 
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, 
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, 
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! 
My sin, not in part but the whole, 
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
 For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:  
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.”

Praise does not just occur when we “feel” grateful or joyful. For those who know Jesus as Savior, an assurance and peace comes because we know that God is in control of every situation.  It is then when our lips can praise not because we feel like it but because we know without a doubt that “all is well with my soul”.  Then and only then can we offer a sacrifice of praise.

“ …. let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that openly profess His name.”