August 19: Sacrifice of Praise

There is an old chorus we used to sing in worship:

“We bring a sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord . . .
We offer unto You the sacrifices of thanksgiving, We offer unto You the sacrifices of joy.”

When we speak of offering our lives, our talents, our money, we can more easily visualize how that relates to sacrifice. In these cases we are giving something up. How can offering praise relate to sacrifice?

The phrase “sacrifice of praise” is most easily tracked in the King James Version of the Bible. In the NIV, this phrase is translated so many different ways, it is harder to follow through the Scriptures. The Old Testament is replete with the phrase, but in the New Testament the best reference is found in Hebrews 13:15-16: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of our lips that confess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

The “fruit of our lips” is a phrase we find in the NIV version of Hosea 14:2. The KJV has a much more colorful way to describe it, saying we “render the calves of our lips.” Here there can be no doubt the Scripture is relating our words to sacrifice. In Psalm 50, it says God is not interested in our bull or goats. He wants praise, saying, “whoso offereth praise glorifieth me . . .”

So why is it that the fruit of the lips is such an offering to God that He would desire it above the legal ritual He Himself had instituted? Jesus gives us the answer in Matthew 12:34 and Luke 6:45, where He says, “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” As with everything else we have learned about offerings, it gets back to an issue of the heart.

God isn’t just interested in high-sounding words of praise—lip service. In fact, in Psalm 78:36, He condemns Israel by saying, “But then they would flatter Him with their mouths, lying to Him with their tongues; their hearts were not loyal to Him, they were not faithful to His covenant” (emphasis mine). People may be susceptible to flattery, even when they suspect it is insincere, but God has an infallible phonymeter, which detects the insincere heart. Flattery is really self-focused, seeking to manipulate someone to your cause by creating favor. It is pride-driven and self-serving, and God sees right through it.

Psalm 51:15-17 pleads, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise. You do not delight in sacrifices or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” It is out of that kind of heart that a sacrifice of praise arises. It is one thing to praise God out of a joyful heart, or a thankful heart: that He will gladly receive and is due Him. It is another thing entirely to praise God out of a broken and contrite heart.

Remember Job’s response after he received wave after wave of unbelievably tragic news? He went and worshiped God: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” That is not a natural response. That is a sacrifice of praise. When the world, when your closest friend, when your flesh urges you to “curse God and die,” yet you praise Him, that is a sacrifice. It is every bit as much giving when it hurts as the widow’s mite.

It is not insincere to praise in such a situation, it is an act of faith. It is an act of humility. The Word says that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). And this makes even more sense when you combine it with the Scripture that says God inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3, KJV). When you come to the altar with your sacrifice of praise, God will meet you there and give you grace. He will indwell your praise. It will be an offering of sweet savor, pleasing to Him; an act of obedience, an act of faith.

A sacrifice of praise is an act that confounds His enemies, and brings the murmur of wonder among the counsel of the heavenlies. The angels praise God continually, but who of them must praise Him in the midst of suffering? Who of them offers sacrificial praise?

Whether our broken and contrite heart is, like David’s, a result of repentance, or of humble trust in a difficult situation, it is the kind of heart which pleases God and makes our sacrifice of praise pleasing in His sight.

by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries