Hebrews 13: “Proper Praise”

As we read through the book of Hebrews, it seems that once you hit the second half of Chapter 10, there’s a mad dash to cram as much information before the end of the message in Chapter 13.

I found myself at a loss on what direction to go with this chapter. On one hand I’m drawn to the powerful promise from God in (verse 5) For God has said,

“I will never fail you.
    I will never abandon you.”

and then be reminded that this promise comes right after the beginning of the verse… Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. 

I’m also drawn to the imagery and responsibility found in (verses 11-14) 11 Under the old system, the high priest brought the blood of animals into the Holy Place as a sacrifice for sin, and the bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp. 12 So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. 13 So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore. 14 For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.

In fact, it’s important that we start here with these verses because they only give context to the passage I want to focus on. At the start of (verses 15-16) we find the word “therefore.” Like I’ve mentioned before, whenever we see the word “therefore,” we have to ask ourselves, “what’s it there for?” The word therefore always connects to the previous statement.

Hebrews 13:15-16 (NLT) 15 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. 16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.

Proper Praise

So what can we learn from the writer of Hebrews regarding proper praise:

  1. Praise that pleases God is only offered through Jesus.
  2. Because of Jesus, our High Priest, we can now offer a continually and is no longer limited to once a year.
  3. Our praise to God should be sacrificial. We are replacing the sacrifice of animals and offering with the sacrifice of praise.
  4.  Doing good and sharing with those in need is an example of a sacrificial praise. Praise is not the only sacrifice that pleases God. We also perform sacrifice that pleases God when we do good and share. Praise and worship are important, but the Christian’s obligation does not end there.

Although I like the NLT, there are times when the interpretation falls a little short. Verse 15 is one of the occasions for me: Hebrews 13:15 (ESV) 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

5. More than just “acts” of worship or silent prayers of praise to God, the writer of Hebrews encourages his listeners to physically speak out or sing songs of praise to God. It’s important to always remember that although the bi-product of a fruit tree is fruit, it’s only fruit if there’s life in the tree! Jesus in Matthew 15:8 (NLT) ‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.

Work of the Lips   vs.   Fruit of the Lips

This is not the endorsement of Hebrews 13. Instead, the writer of Hebrews is trying to indicate the different between the “work” of the lips and the “fruit” of the lips. You can move your mouth without uttering a song. But with a heart leaned toward God, and a sacrifice of praise being continually offered, the only natural outcome will be the fruit of lips acknowledging the name of Jesus.

Donald Guthrie is quoted as saying, “What proceeds from the lips is regarded as fruit, which reveals the character of its source, as the fruit of a tree reveals the nature of the tree.”

Today

So today, don’t just bring a sacrifice of praise, but be a sacrifice of praise in both word and deed. As the Psalmist said, I will praise the Lord at all times.
    I will constantly speak his praises. (Psalm 34)