When the Bible says “sacrifice of praise,” what does it mean? One passage literally talks about the bull calves of our lips! How does the sacrifice of praise apply to our Christian lives today?
In modern English, the words sacrifice and praise don’t seem to go together. Sacrifice often carries the meaning of suffering, enduring hardship in order to fulfill a duty, like a mother sacrificing her own needs to care for her children.
Praise, on the other hand, carries a positive connotation of encouragement, appreciation and joy.
So what does the Bible mean when it connects these very different words?
Old Testament references to the sacrifice of praise
Three passages in the New King James Version of the Bible use the terms sacrifice or sacrifices of praise. Two of these are in Jeremiah’s prophecies, and one is in the book of Hebrews.
“And they shall come from the cities of Judah and from the places around Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin and from the lowland, from the mountains and from the South, bringing burnt offerings and sacrifices, grain offerings and incense, bringing sacrifices of praise to the house of the LORD” (Jeremiah 17:26, emphasis added throughout).
Other Bible versions have “thank offerings” or “thanksgiving offerings” in place of sacrifices of praise, connecting them with the “sacrifice of thanksgiving” in Leviticus 7:12. Jeremiah’s list of sacrifices includes most of the types of offerings described in the early chapters of Leviticus.
Sacrifices of thanksgiving were one of three types of peace offerings. The Hebrew concept of peace is broader than the English word, and it includes wholeness, completeness, soundness and well-being. These were sacrifices of joy, fellowship and celebration, unlike the sacrifices for sin.
Jeremiah also mentions the sacrifice of praise in chapter 33:
“The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say: ‘Praise the LORD of hosts, for the LORD is good, for His mercy endures forever”—[compare Psalm 106:1] and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause the captives of the land to return as at the first,’ says the LORD” (Jeremiah 33:11).
Again, Jeremiah’s use of the term sacrifice of praise seems to relate to the sacrifices of thanksgiving that gave praise to God and provided a festive fellowship meal for the offerer and family. The Psalms also include calls to offer the sacrifices of thanksgiving to God for His goodness, wonderful works, grace and mercy (Psalm 107:22; 116:17).
Though these Old Testament examples probably refer to literal animal sacrifices, the attitude of praise and thankfulness reflects the attitude God still wants us to have today.
Read more about the Old Testament peace offerings in our article “Types of Sacrifice in the Bible and What They Mean for Us.”
New Testament sacrifice of praise
The book of Hebrews in the New Testament shows how the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed to and were fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s perfect sacrifice. His death is enough to pay the penalty for all sin. No animal sacrifice can do what Jesus’ sacrifice did in making forgiveness possible.
Our praise and thankfulness to God in prayer, singing and worship are a sacrifice that pleases God.Because of Jesus’ great sacrifice, the author of Hebrews calls for us to respond. He shows that there are still sacrifices that a Christian should give.
“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15).
Our praise and thankfulness to God in prayer, singing and worship are a sacrifice that pleases God.
The following verse mentions additional spiritual sacrifices that God enjoys: “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (verse 16).
Examples of the sacrifice of praise
The Bible includes many beautiful examples of the sacrifice of praise. Let’s look at few.
After Israel had suffered under the oppression of Jabin king of Canaan for 20 years, God miraculously helped Israel defeat him. Judges 5 records the song Deborah and Barak sang in celebration and in praise:
“When leaders lead in Israel, when the people willingly offer themselves, bless the LORD! Hear, O kings! Give ear, O princes! I, even I, will sing to the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel” (Judges 5:2-3).
A couple of hundred years later, David, the most famous king of Israel and a man after God’s heart, was noted for his songs of praise. He organized many of the Levites into choirs and groups of instrumental musicians whose service was to praise God (1 Chronicles 23:30). Of the Levites, “four thousand praised the LORD with musical instruments, ‘which I made,’ said David, ‘for giving praise’” (verse 5).
The book of Psalms contains many songs of praise by David and others.
One of my favorite Psalms of praise is 148, which begins, “Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him all His hosts!” (verses 1-2).
Another is Psalm 150, the last psalm, which ends, “Praise Him with loud cymbals; praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!” (verses 5-6).
Even proud and powerful Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar came to recognize God’s greatness for a time, and said, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down” (Daniel 4:37).
“Out of the mouths of babes … You have perfected praise”
One of the most beautiful spontaneous expressions of praise came when Jesus was entering Jerusalem near the end of His short life. A great multitude spread their clothes and tree branches on the road before Him.
“Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!”’” (Matthew 21:9).
The religious leaders were not pleased. “But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant and said to Him, ‘Do You hear what these are saying?’”
They didn’t believe Jesus deserved worship and wanted Him to stop the people. But Jesus said to them, “‘Yes. Have you never read, “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise”?’” (verses 15-16).
The childlike attitude of humble appreciation, zealous trust and exuberant joy was pleasing to God.
The Church and praise
Praise was also a hallmark of the New Testament Church. When Christ ascended to heaven, the disciples “worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen” (Luke 24:52-53).
After receiving the Holy Spirit, the Church “ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46-47).
How to give the sacrifice of praise today
With no temple or functioning priesthood, animal sacrifices are not performed today. As we have seen, the book of Hebrews shows the sacrificial system was designed to point to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins. He is our perfect sin offering and is also the ultimate peace offering (Colossians 1:20).
Christ is our High Priest, and we are called to be “a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. … But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:5, 9).
One aspect of being a living sacrifice is the sacrifice of praise. Hebrews 13:15 defines it as “the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”What spiritual sacrifices does God want today? Christians are to offer ourselves wholly to God.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).
Verse 2 explains this means not being conformed to the world—not being blemished by its evils. Instead, we are to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
One aspect of being a living sacrifice is the sacrifice of praise. Hebrews 13:15 defines it as “the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”
This harkens back to Hosea 14:2, where the prophet painted the memorable word picture of offering “the sacrifices [literally, bull calves] of our lips.”
What are some specific ways we can do that?
- Singing praise.
The apostle Paul taught the importance of music in worshipping God. “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20).
- Studying the Psalms.
The word praise is used 126 times in the book of Psalms (out of 237 total in the New King James Version), so there are plenty of examples to show us how to praise God in this book of poetry and hymns.
The words of praise in the Psalms can spark and inspire our own private prayers of thanksgiving. All of our prayers should include praise and thanksgiving to God. Jesus said we should pray “hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9). The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates this as “Your name be honored as holy.”
Paul also taught the importance of always praying with thanksgiving: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).
He instructed the Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Praising God in prayer includes giving thanks for meals, as Jesus did (Matthew 14:19).
Praise should be a major part of our meditation and daily prayer life.
- Rejoicing and worshipping on God’s Sabbaths and festivals.
The sacrifice of thanksgiving was an offering designed to be shared between the priest and the worshipper and his family and friends (Leviticus 7:12-15). God’s weekly Sabbath and annual festivals also provide opportunities for sharing and rejoicing together in thanksgiving and worship to our giving Creator. For more on this, see our article “What Kind of Worship Does God Want?”
God is still pleased by the sacrifice of praise. He desires these spiritual sacrifices that reflect hearts becoming more like His own.
Study more about praise in our articles “Songs of Praise” and “Prayers of Praise.”