“The Bible Says…” Are You Sure? (part 4)
In part 3 of this 5-part series, we succinctly tackled a common misquotation of Scripture. Today, we will examine another saying that is fairly popular in preludes, interludes, and songs on contemporary Christian albums, with choirs and praise & worship leaders and teams, and has even made its way into some sermons.
It is often said,
“If you want to see God give you victory in your [fill in the blank],”
“If you want to put Satan and demons to flight,”
“If you want to see your enemies stumble and fall,”
“If you want God to deliver you from XYZ,”
then you need to understand that:
“Praise is Your Weapon”
I am sure many of you have heard this statement used in connection with any or all of the above mentioned exhortations. But – by now, if you have been keeping up with this blog series, you know the question that follows – does the Bible say or teach that praise is our weapon? Obviously, some would say yes. Those who answer in the affirmative normally land on one or more of the following passages of Scripture to make their case: Joshua 6:1-20; 2 Chronicles 20:1-23; and Acts 16:25-26. Let’s briefly examine each text and see if indeed these passages substantiate this view.
1. Jericho’s Wall (Joshua 6:1-20)
Moses is dead. Joshua has been commissioned by God to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land. The Jordan has been crossed, those born during the wilderness wandering were circumcised, and the Passover has been observed for the first time in the land of Canaan. The people of Israel are now encamped at Gilgal. And the city of Jericho stands before them.
The Lord speaks to Joshua, ensuring him of their victory against the king and mighty men of valor of Jericho. He then instructs him, the men of war, and priests bearing (and blowing) trumpets and the ark to march around the city once for six days with the silenced people of Israel in tow. Then on the seventh day, “you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat…” (Joshua 6:4-5). The biblical record reveals that on the seventh day at the seventh time around the city when the trumpets were blown, “as soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city.” (Joshua 6:20)
In an effort to apply this verse to contemporary times, some would say, “Just like the people of Israel experienced victory over Jericho through a shout, you and I can experience victory in our lives today by praising God as well.” They continue, “So if you want to see the wall of debt, disease, and destitution fall in your life, all you’ve got to do is shout and give God some praise.”
The problem with this type of understanding and application of the passage is simple and obvious: the “shout’ in Joshua 6 had nothing to do with praise, worship, or verbal acclamation of God; it was simply an unintelligible yell or scream – something like a war cry.
2. Jehoshaphat’s Victory (2 Chronicles 20:1-23)
With the ominous threat of invasion by a coalition of enemy forces, King Jehoshaphat proclaimed a nationwide fast and called upon the people of Judah to join him in prayerfully seeking God for help. God answered by speaking through a Levite of the sons of Asaph named, Jahaziel, saying, “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s…You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.” (vs. 15b, 17)
In light of this prophesy, the Bible reports that Jehoshaphat “appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.’ And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.” (vs. 21-22)
So then, preachers – many with sincere intentions – seek to deduce from this a point of application for their audiences and say things like, “The key to victory over your haters, the key to acquiring the wealth of the wicked is your praise! Your prosperity is in your praise. Your breakthrough is in your praise. Your healing, deliverance, etc. is in your praise.”
There is only one problem: God never commanded the people to praise him in order for their victory to be realized. King Jehoshaphat placing the singers in front of the army and the appointed singers praising God was a demonstration of their trust in God to fulfill his promise to them. Their praise was not the reason for their triumph over the enemy, but rather a response to the Lord God who guaranteed and achieved victory on their behalf.
3. Paul and Silas’ Imprisonment (Acts 16:25-26)
After receiving a vision of a man beckoning him to come to Macedonia to help them, Paul, along with Silas, step foot into Philippi, a Roman colony and leading city of Macedonia. During their time there, Paul and Silas encountered a slave girl “who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling.” (Acts 16:16) After some days of her being a nuisance, following Paul and Silas and crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation” (vs. 17), Paul finally gets fed up and commands the demonic spirit to come out of her. Her owners were not too pleased with this because Paul, in essence, just put them out of business (you know how we as humans can get when you start messing with our cash flow). So to make a long story short, they convinced the magistrates that Paul and Silas were rabble-rousers and consequently ordered them to be beaten and placed in prison. Let’s pick up the story from here, shall we?
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.” (vs. 25-26)
I don’t really have to tell you where we go with this as preachers, do I? Well, let’s indulge each other.
“Your earthquake [of deliverance] is awaiting your exultation.”
“Your breakout of prison is contingent upon you breaking forth in praise.”
And on and on it goes; and in some cases, ad nauseam.
Will you notice that Paul and Silas were not just singing, they were also praying. But more importantly and clearly more plausible is the fact that the cause and reasons for the earthquake was due solely to the sovereign grace and plan of God to free Paul and Silas so that they could continue on their missionary journey throughout the region, and also to create an opportunity and provide a hearing for the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus among the prisoners and the jailer and his entire household.
My intent in this post was not to be nitpicky or contentious. I have a deep concern for the spiritual health of those who have been taught this supposedly biblical aphorism. Many people have been praising God for years related to problems they are experiencing in their lives, all with the hope that their praise is the key to unlock the door of their long-awaited deliverance. And for some it hasn’t happened yet and they have consequently and unfortunately become disillusioned with God, even to the point where their devotion and obedience to him has waned. On the other hand, you have those who have experienced victory, healing, deliverance, etc., but have and continue to erroneously attribute it to their praise of God rather than to God alone. This tends to turn Christianity into an impersonal religion of formulaic, fail-proof rituals and routines (to get the life you want), rather than being that which the Bible describes, namely, that Christianity is a religion based on a relationship with God in Christ Jesus.
So, in conclusion, when it comes to our enemies, how about we aspire to do what the Bible teaches and that is to pray for and love them (Matthew 5:43-48). And as far as Satan and his demonic forces are concerned, our weaponry to fight against them is not praise, but “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). So be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might, and wield the truth and promises of his gospel/word.
And let’s leave praise for what it is: a thankful and grateful response to our God for who he is and what he has done, is doing, and will do for us in Christ Jesus and according to his good and wise plans and purposes for our lives.