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A Biblical View of Hand Clapping Worship


should_we_clap_hands_in_church

Is it OK to Clap Hands in Church

The answer is yes, it okay to clap hands in church worship but only if you are earnest. Let’s state something quite basic (to me anyway). We bow our heads, clasp our hands, when praying to the Lord, correct? Is it credible to believe “clasping hands in prayer” is Holy but “clapping them in praise” is not?


Any who read this must see the hypocrisy in such an unbiblical position against praising the Lord through clapping. Would you believe me if I said there is little difference between “praying” and “clapping hands”? Both show submission to Jesus as Lord and are a form of “praise”.


Sorry, I did not mean to destroy such an unbiblical position this early in the article! Based on the biblical evidence, those who do "hand clap" are robbing God of His praise. I was searching for other information when I came across this question on Google. I thought: “this cannot be serious?” It is serious, and I do not patronize those who asked this question. The Bible speaks about use of hands in worshiping the Lord God.


Here are a few examples:


1. Psalms 47:1 - “Every nation should clap their hands and shout to God with a cry of joy”.


2. Isaiah 55:12 - “You will leave with utter joy and be led into a place of peace; even the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands“. Even non-intelligent life (such as trees) will literally clap their hands to praise God. This is not figurative regardless of what so-called scholars say. Don’t forget Jesus said if we do not praise: “the rocks will cry out”.


Digging a bit further into this thought, we discover that not only is clapping hands a blessed thing, but raising hands to God is as well. Here are examples from the biblical narrative:


1. Psalms 134:2 - “lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord”. Although this may not be clapping, it certainly demonstrates that hands can be used in the worship of God.

2. Psalms 63:4 - “I will praise you as long as I live and in your name will I lift up my hands”.

3. 1st Timothy 2:8 – “therefore I want men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing”. Apparently, worshiping with our hands keeps peace in the church!


In summary, certain denominations who sit in church like mannequins, frozen in place, rather than praising the Lord must flee such ungodliness. I went to it silent church once, and it was the saddest thing I’ve ever experienced. The House of God being as quiet as an “ACT & SAT” testing classroom? I am not saying a meditative style service is not appropriate from time to time. But as a lifestyle, I fail to see how this worships the Lord.


What Instruments are in the Bible

Most instruments in the Bible require some form of hand involvement. I’m not trying to patronize anyone just stating the obvious. For these purposes, let’s focus on a few which can be called “handclapping amplifiers”. First, in Exodus 15:20, Miriam, Prophetess, and sister of Moses, had a tambourine and led the women in praise. The Hebrew word for tambourine is “toph” just in case someone believes I mistranslated.


Here are other examples of “amplifiers” being used:


1. Judges 11:34 - when Jepthah was to return to his home, people were supposed to meet him with dancing and the sound of the “toph” (tambourine).

2. 1st Samuel 10:5 - some would go down to Gibeah of God, which was a Philistine outpost, where a procession of instrument wielding Prophets would be. One (1) of these instruments was “cymbals” which are hand praise “amplifiers” as well.

3. Psalms 81:2 - this Psalm instructs us to praise with music, play the tambourine, and the harp, and lyre.

4. Psalms 150: This entire Psalms is dedicated to praising the Lord God with our breath and instruments. A few of the instruments mentioned are timbrels and cymbals.


In summary, “handclapping amplifiers” were used in biblical worship. To believe that we can use instruments to amplify our handclaps, yet it is somehow unrighteous to directly clap our hands, is a most unsatisfying biblical position.


3 Spiritual Benefits to Hand Raising Worship

There are three (3) spiritual hand raising benefits to the worship experience. First, it demonstrates our joy toward the Lord Jesus Christ. Many congregants clap their hands just because everybody else does. They have no joy and, at least at that moment, are not experiencing the freedom given through Jesus’ messiahship. However, there are others who sincerely experience joy compelling them to clap, raise their hands, or both. Another benefit is its provision of “peace that passes all understanding”.


In the more traditional African-American church, handclapping is misunderstood as something which people use to largely “keep time” (demonstrate rhythm). While this is true, it is not the entire story. Second, our hands are literally another God gifted instrument requiring no training to use. Before we had electricity in our churches, for modern instruments, we clapped our hands and stomped feet. Nothing has changed although we are much more prosperous than in decades past. When we clap our hands and raise them to God, this is acknowledging the peace, through reconciliation, He provides.


Third, giving thanks to God for all He has done is another catalyst for hand-based worship. We have much (really everything) to thank Him for, regardless of race, denomination, or other divisive silo instituted by the religion of man. Often, we focus more on what we do not have, and allow that to affect our praise. An old preacher once said: “if you do not even have a pair shoes, praise God for your feet”! The point is – we all have something to thank the Lord God for.


What Does Raised Hands Worship Mean to God

Raised hand worship, and handclapping, mean nothing to God if not done from a heart of obedience. Jesus said, with respect to people’s physical actions: “these people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8-9). Of course, Jesus was repeating something written by the Prophet Isaiah. Nevertheless, the inclusion of hands as instruments, or extensions of worship, is pleasing to God when done in "spirit and in truth".


Here are biblical examples of earnest worship:


1. King David danced before the ark of the covenant to show his joy and gratitude for God delivering him from Saul (2nd Samuel 6:14-15).


2. Elijah’s sacrifice on Mount Carmel during the showdown with the false prophets of Baal. Elijah prayed earnestly and his prayer was answered (1st Kings 18:36-39).


3. The prayer of Nehemiah in seeking forgiveness for the sins of the people (and his) while they were in captivity (Nehemiah 1).


4. The worship demonstrated by the early church in the Book of Acts. These believers earnestly devoted themselves to prayer, fellowship, and worship (Acts 2:42-27).


In summary, any style of worship means nothing to God if not done from a humble and earnest spirit. So many who “feign” praise are not submitted to God, and it is evident by their lifestyle. We must seek to, in all ways, “present ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable, and blameless, which is a reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).


Header Image Courtesy of Pavel Sternberg @ Pixabay

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