Few things are as off-putting to me as arrogance, the smug superiority that constantly looks down upon “lesser beings.” I recently finished reading Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice. As I read, I was repulsed by the self-importance and snobbery reeking from Lady Catherine de Bourgh in almost every scene in which she appeared.
Lady Catherine was wealthy and high-society. Though she would not characterize herself in this way, she expected, and even demanded the worship of her underlings and was appalled by any who stood up to her, refusing to yield to her position and her magnificence. She was the definition of prideful and prejudiced.
People tend to be turned off by self-aggrandizement—by braggarts—to such a degree that even other braggarts find it distasteful.
But there is a proper time for bragging.
The Time For Bragging
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
– Psalm 34:1-3, ESV
In the opening of this psalm, David is praising God, yes, but it is much more than that. David is bragging about God to anyone and everyone who will hear him. His lips never stop praising Yahweh, and his soul has become a braggart.
It reminds me of the 1950s, greyscale television programming wherein we find two boys coming almost to fisticuffs as each boasts on his own dad.
“Yeah, well my dad is stronger than your dad.”
“Well my dad is smarter than your dad!”
“Oh yeah? Well . . . ” and on it goes.
The term David uses for “boast” is תִּתְהַלֵּ֣ל, a form of hallêl, from which we derive our word hallelujah. When you say, “hallelujah,” you are boasting of God. Hallêl is a term of delight, often involving shouting or crying aloud.
In our boast, we magnify, we extol, we glorify, revere, acclaim, and laud the only one worthy of such honor and tribute. We hallêl individually and we hallêl in community. Scripture teaches us that pride comes before a fall,1 but not in this case. Here, pride is entirely appropriate because the object of our pride is Yahweh and not ourselves.
Magnify the Name of Yahweh
Having proclaimed his hallêl in Yahweh, David says others must גַּדְּל֣וּ gadêl with him. I say “must” because the verb “magnify” is in imperative voice. We are given no choice in the matter of making Yahweh great, elevating Yahweh’s importance. We remember his great deeds and we magnify and exalt his name together.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
covering yourself with light as with a garment,
stretching out the heavens like a tent.
– Psalm 104:1-2, ESV
And it is not only the Psalms that demonstrate hallêl and gadêl. Consider this exaltation from the prophet Isaiah:
O LORD, you are my God;
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
– Isaiah 25:1, ESV
And do not make the mistake of confining this to congregational singing. This is anytime and anywhere. Oh, yes, we do praise and magnify as a body of believers, but you can hallêl any time you want to.
To this day, I remember driving with my young (eldest) son through the county with the windows down and praise music playing rather loudly through the stereo. Caught up in the moment, he laid his seat all the way back closed his eyes and began singing along as loudly and passionately as he could.
In the middle of nowhere, he was making his hallêl. Now, go make yours.
Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.
– 2 Corinthians 10:17, ESV
1. Proverbs 16:18