When do you clap your hands? Do you clap your hands when you are emotionally overjoyed or wish to display your emotions of being excited? Do you clap your hands at your pet or child in anger as a way to promote disruptive behavior? Do you give applause during sport activities or other performances to show your appreciation or support? The clapping of hands is a big part of our culture and history especially in today’s churches. We teach our children to play patty cake at a very young age and oh how we clap with enthusiasm when they take their first steps. We teach our children that the applause is an expression of approval or agreement.
Clapping has a dual significance in the Bible. The clapping of hands is never specifically mentioned in the New Covenant writings, but it is mentioned nine times within the pages of the Old Testament.
There is the clapping of mockery. Job speaks of hand clapping and hissing. Lamentations refer to clapping at a person. Ezekiel speaks to those who had clapped their hands and stamped their feet against Israel. Nahum tells of the clapping of hands over a despised person. The clapping of hands was an expression of disapproval and derision in some ancient cultures.
However the Bible also speaks of the joyful clapping of hands. Clapping can be an expression of joy. This was considered an act of praise, expressing approval and great happiness. It was a celebratory act. When they made Joash king, they clapped their hands. It is a social function of a gesture and is followed by a shout. In Psalms it invites all people to clap their hands and shout because the Lord is being proclaimed as King. It is an expression of joy about God’s saving actions. It is also offering of praise unto God. Psalm 47 is a psalm of praise to our great King — “Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a skillful psalm” ,”O clap your hands, all peoples; shout to God with the voice of joy Figuratively speaking, the entire creation praises God — “Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; break forth and sing for joy and sing praises. Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre; with the lyre and the sound of melody” (Psalm 98:4-5). “Let the rivers clap their hands; let the mountains sing together for joy before the Lord” (vs. 8-9). “The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Is. 55:12). Hands can express the inner man. Hands are lifted up to God in heaven because we can read about it in Psalms, desperate for a response from God, David says, “I stretch out my hands to thee; my soul thirsts for thee like a parched land.” The next time you are feeling a little excited at church or at home, go ahead and clap. It is a true expression of adoration and love to the King of Kings in worship and praise. Everyone loves a little applause now and then why would Jesus Christ be any different? Clap for Him!
Psalms 47:1 Clap your hands all people, shout to God with the voice of triumph.