In a post on my Facebook timeline, I recently compared Psalm 107:21 in different Bible versions. The Matthew Bible (and also KJV) spoke of giving God praise. The Geneva Bible spoke of “confessing before” God, and the NIV of giving God thanks. Now those are three quite different things. But I was too tired to think about it, except that it seemed to me that “praise” engaged the heart more. It seems to reach higher somehow. I have sometimes felt, when truly praising God, that only then are my thoughts pure, and it is when I love God the most. So I preferred the MB, but couldn’t explain it any better than that.
♦ 1537 Matthew Bible: O that men would praise the Lord, and the wonders that he doth for the children of men.
(=Praise God and praise what he does for men.)
♦ 1599 Geneva: Let them therefore confess before the Lord his loving kindness, and his wonderful works before the sons of men.
(= Acknowledge (or express) God’s kindness before him, and what he does before men (?) )
♦ 2016 NIV: Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
(= Thank God for his love and what he does for men.)
After posting these verses without comment, I went to bed, opened a little book that I recently found in a thrift store, and there was a whole chapter discussing praise. I found there a most interesting and relevant comment, which I would like to share:
Praise to God [is] one of the exalted [path]ways on which the soul approaches the Eternal. “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me,” that is, by this one attitude and act the soul attains that which has rightly been called “the chief end of man.” …There is thus greater wealth of riches attached to the offering of praise than to any other exercise of the human spirit. It also affords to man the opportunity of doing something as a requital to God for all that has been done for him in redemption….
There is that in the offering of praise to God which possesses for the true Christian a special attraction. It is an opportunity for the going forth of the heart to an object outside self. Prayer may so easily become the means of obtaining from God some blessing that is needed for life – our own, or for others. Even thanksgiving may become little more than animal gratitude for blessings received. But true praise is the drawing out of the soul to that which is wholly external to the self. It is the appreciation of what God is in Himself, and of his wonderful works. “He is thy praise and thy God,” said Moses to Israel (De 10:21). The Psalms abound in the thought of God Himself being the object of praise; so also the prophets.”(1)
Praise matters in and of and for itself. I think it loses something, in understanding and practice, to substitute it with confessing, or, especially, giving thanks. It seems to lose the fullness of the knowledge of that exalted pathway to the Eternal. (Perhaps I am being a little too harsh on the Geneva here, but I think it would have been best to keep ‘praise’.)
(1) Canon R.H.A. Haslam, An Highway Shall Be There (Toronto, Canada: Evangelical Publishers, 1948), pages 79-80.