The Psalms: Thanksgiving and Praise

In the session about psalms of lamentation, we explored the pole of plea (or disorientation) in the Psalms. These were the heartfelt, agonized cries to God to help or deliver the believer from trouble. This time we will look at psalms of thanksgiving and hymns of praise, which move us from plea to praise (or from disorientation to new orientation).

Psalms of Thanksgiving

Where laments cry out to God for help and often end with a promise of praise, thanksgiving fulfils the promise of praise after successful conclusion of the crisis. Dr. Bellinger offers Psalm 30 as an example that shows the typical structure of a thanksgiving psalm. He notes that three elements of a thanksgiving psalm are:

    Introduction – Usually announces the intent to praise and give thanks to God (v. 1-5).

    Narrative – This part describes the crisis (v.6-7), the prayer for help (v. 8-10) and the deliverance (v. 11).

    Conclusion – The psalm ends with a new promise of praise (v. 12).

Crises are described in the same poetic way as they are in lament psalms. The difference is that they are looking at it from the other side, after God has delivered them. The writer goes on to describe the deliverance in very poetic imagery, and declares the intent to continue praising the God who saves.

At their root, psalms of thanksgiving are testimonies. They are recited to encourage others who hear to trust in the Lord.

Hymns of Praise

Hymns of praise have a structure that is similar to to that of the Thanksgiving Psalms. Dr. Bellinger offers this synopsis of Psalm 117 as an example:

Psalm 117

    Introduction – The hymns begin with a call to praise (v.1).

    Body – Reasons for praising God (v. 2).

    Conclusion – Renewed call to praise. Often similar to or identical to the opening call to praise (last line of v. 2)

The main characteristic of this type of hymn is that they provide reasons for praising God (other than specifically thanks for deliverance). Most of the subtypes of hymns contain this feature of giving reasons for praising God.

Dr. Bellinger tells us that the word “Hallelujah,” which is made up of two Hebrew terms. “’Hallelu’ is a plural imperative call to praise, and ‘jah’ is a shortened poetic form the of the special Hebrew name for God, Yahweh.”

Although these general features are found in most of the Hymns, their order and combinations vary in very creative ways. Some of the different ways they are used can be found by studying the subcategories of Hymns, including Royals Psalms, Enthronement Psalms and Zion Psalms. We will look at examples of these kinds in later posts.


About John Valade

I facilitate and teach in Wascana Fellowship. I have been married to Wanda since 1984. M.Div. from Briercrest Seminary, SK in 2011 and B.R.E. Canadian Bible College (now Ambrose University College) in 2000.
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