There are times in all of our lives when circumstances can hurt so much to the point that the last thing we want to offer God is praise. There are situations that grip our hearts to the level of desperation. We feel hopeless, helpless, and powerless to affect any positive change. In Psalm 34 David made a conscious decision to bless ("praise") the Lord at all times. He chose to continually keep the praises of God in his mouth.
We know from Genesis chapter 29 that Leah named her 4th son Judah because with the birth this son, she chose to praise the Lord. She knew that Jacob did not love her in spite of the fact she had borne him 3 sons. But at some point between the 3rd and 4th son, she decided not to lament Jacob's lack of love for her; she said "this time I will praise the Lord"(Gen. 29:35 NASB). It is from this passage that we derive the meaning of the term Judah, being "praise".
When we consider other references to the term "Judah", we will learn that Judah, this same 4th son of Jacob, interceded on behalf of his younger brother Joseph when his brothers plotted Joseph's death. It was on Judah's suggestion that they sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites (Gen. 37:26-27). It was also Judah, several chapters later, who acted as surety for their younger brother Benjamin when Joseph, now a high-ranking official in Pharaoh's government, demanded Benjamin be brought to him (Gen. 43:8-9).
It was from this 4th son that the tribe of Judah descended. The tribe of Judah was the largest of the numbered tribes to emerge from Egyptian bondage. It was from the tribe of Judah that Jesus Christ, and King David sprang. In the book of Judges we see 2 instances where the Lord said the tribe of Judah is to go up first against their enemies in battle. The first occurrence is found in Judges Chapter 1 following the death of Joshua. When the children of Israel inquired of the Lord who should go up first against the Canaanites, the Lord responded, "Judah shall go up. . . " (Judges 1:2 NASB). The second is found in Judges 20:18, when once again the children of lsrael inquired of the Lord who was to go up first against the sons of Benjamin. Again, the Lord’s answer to them was "Judah shall go up first ".
While Judges Chapters 1 and 20 tell of battle in the human realm, where the "praise" tribe went out first against their enemies, the question we must ask ourselves is: when we find ourselves doing battle in the spirit realm, what or who goes first before us in battle? Do we enter the battle alone, or do we allow Judah, or "praise" to go first? Do we merely repeat the problem to God in prayer or in our complaining? Consider the Lord's Prayer. It begins and ends with acknowledging God for Who He is. The Word of God says that flesh and spirit are constantly at war with one another (Galatians 5:17). Praise is not an act of the flesh; it is an attitude of the heart. It takes discipline to train our spirits to send out praise as we enter battle with our enemy, the devil.
It is often a sacrifice for us to offer up praises to God rather than complain. When King Jehoshaphat was facing battle with three armies, he stated the problem to God, but he also called to His remembrance God's faithfulness in the past. He knew God had shown Himself as a Deliverer and mighty Warrior before, and he had every confidence that He would do it again. David knew well that Saul was out to kill him, but that did not stop him from exalting God when he wrote Psalms 34, 57 and 59. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego faced certain death in a fiery furnace, but they continued to exalt God's name and trusted Him for their deliverance. Paul and Silas’ feet were in stocks, yet they offered up praise to God in song and in prayer while in jail.
Praising God when we see no logical reason to do so gives us power to face our obstacles. Praise changes our focus and shifts our minds off the problem and on to God's power to sustain us. In our sacrificial praise, God may choose in His sovereignty to change us before He brings change to the situation. Because King Jehoshaphat stationed a praise choir to march before the army in 2 Chronicles Chapter 20, by the hand of God there was no battle to be fought when they reached the battleground. The enemies of God's people destroyed themselves.
I want to challenge those of you who may be neck-deep in battle right now. In the heat of our spiritual battle let Judah go up first. Let the praises of God go forth out of your mouth. Let the praises of God be as rivers of living water flowing from your belly (John 7:38). Before you spend hours just talking about the problem and how bad things are, stir up the power that God has already given you in your praise to Him; sacrificial though it may be. This is the kind of praise that reaches the heart of God. It is this kind of faith-building praise that will sustain you while you wait on God. This is the kind of praise that will keep you focused on God's promise, His plan, and His provision; it will keep you grounded in His faithfulness, and determined to press into your blessing.
Donna Renay Patrick is the founder of WORDshop Ministries based in Lewisville, Texas. The focus of this Word-based teaching ministry is to help God's people understand the true meanings of praise and worship, and how this knowledge impacts our spiritual walk. Donna currently serves as the Minister of Music at the Emmanuel Fellowship Church in Dallas, Texas. Visit her website at http://www.wordshopministries.com.
© 2003 BlackandChristian.com. This article used by permission.