And They Clapped Their Hands

“….And they clapped their hands, and said, God save the king’’. II Kings 11:12b

Today I would like to talk a little with you, young people, about the clapping of the hands. Real little children are taught to clap their little hands in their mother’s hand, with the little song, “Patty cake, patty cake, baker’s man, bakes the cake as fast as he can.” And such clapping of their little hands is becoming to such little ones. However, when we cease to be such little children we no longer sing such a little ditty; we have then put away the things of a little child.

You have grown now to be young men and women. You meet in your high school assemblies, and you clap your hands at occasion giving applause, giving public approval of a score tallied at the basket­ball game, or when scholastic honors are given out, and when the new class president is presented. Then we clap our hands. Youth expresses its joys and approvals with hand-clapping. Sometimes at the Young People’s Convention we also applaud. It is not the rule that this is done when the “speakers” at the convention have finished their serious exposition of the Word of God. That is as it should be. When the Word of God is addressed to us by one of God’s faithful servants, we have heard what the Spirit says to the churches. It is a time to listen and say, “speak LORD, thy servant heareth.” The reverent silence that follows such preaching of the Word of God is precious rubies compared with any cheapening applause. A great minister used to tell his congregation that they applaud in the theatre and in the opera house, where men bow in the glory that is given them, and respond with an encore.

I am writing this on the island of Jamaica. Here too, we have clapping of the hands, with the beat of the drums and the cymbals, and lusty singing of the “choruses.” These are sometimes denominated “pocomania” songs. In this singing there is a very rhythmic clapping of the hands, in which men and women, young people and children join, so that the beat is stepped up and the crescendo rises! This singing is not ever very euphonious for the ears of us missionaries and visitors from the States. When these same people are asked to sing “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty…” they do not clap their hands. Nor do they beat their drums. The music and the words are too sublimely divine and heavenly. Here we do join in with their beautiful singing—without clapping a rhythmic beat. It would be out of spiritual taste.

Now it is interesting to notice that the Bible speaks of different kinds of clapping of the hands. The sacred Scriptures record for us some exhortations to “clap the hands.” We do well to make a little study of this for our instruction in proper “clapping of the hands.”

We call attention to the incident of the crowning of young King Joash, the son of Ahaziah, by the aged High Priest, Jehoiada. This was the restoration of the house of David upon the throne in Jerusalem after the murderous attempt of Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah. It was a great day in Israel, a day of the triumph of the church, “great with child!’’ (Rev. 12:1-3). The dragon, who had attempted to kill the “Man-child” before he was born, lies in the dust of shame, and the son of David sits on David’s throne, which shall be forever, and on which Christ shall sit at God’s right hand. And when Athaliah is dead, guilty with the blood of the royal sons, the people rejoice. It is not vain applause in honor of the hoary Jehoiada, but it was an acknowledgement of God’s keeping His faithful word concerning David’s house forever. And they clapped their hands for joy and thanksgiving. This was profound clapping of the hands before the Lord. It was clapping which meant to convey “joy in their king.” And they said, “Long live the king.” (II Kings 11:12).

This is the very opposite of the hand clapping of wicked Ammon. Babylon had destroyed Jerusalem, the city of the great king, and had burned the temple, after plundering the sacred vessels. It was then that Ammon, the aged enemy of Israel, clapped his hands in wicked and fiendish glee. But the Lord in heaven heard and was wroth with Ammon: for he loves Israel, His chosen people. The Lord had taken notice of the “hand clapping” of Ammon, for we read. “For thus saith the Lord God: because thou hast clapped thine hands, and stamped with thine feet, and rejoiced in heart with all thy despite against the land of Israel, …behold, therefore I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and will deliver thee for a spoil to the heathen, and will cut thee off from thy people, and will cause thee to perish out of the countries: I will destroy thee: and thou shalt know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 25:6-7). Here is a hand clapping with hellish design against God’s people, when they hang their harps upon the willows. But the Lord hears the cry of his elect who cry unto Him day and night.

The Psalms of Israel speak of clap­ping of their hands, for God’s people are victorious in the battle. Here is not the hand clapping of fools, but here is exultation with true spiritual under­standing of the history of Israel, and of His sovereign dealings. The key to Israel’s joyful hand clapping is that their King has gone up with a shout to sit on David’s throne, at God’s right hand. The King lives forever, indeed. He is caught up into heaven, and he triumphs over the beast. Wherefore we read in Psalm 47:6 “O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph!” In the ascension of Christ to God’s right hand, we have the Mystery of God which is great without any contradiction. “God is gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of the trumpet. Psalm 47:6.” Here is the profound clapping of the hands when heaven touches earth. This is no cheap applause; it is profound worship of God.

One day heaven and earth will be perfectly united, and all creation shall share in the glory of Christ in the church. (Rom. 8:18-20). In view of creation sharing in the glory of David’s throne and king, and participating in the adoption of sons of all the saints, the Scriptures enjoin heaven and earth to join in glad accord and to “Clap their hands.” This we read in Psalm 98:8 where we also read, “Let the floods clap their hands, let the hills be joyful together.” Yes, this is poetic prophecy of the Spirit of Christ which signifies the sufferings to come upon Jesus, and the glory to follow. Isaiah, in the prophetic vision, sees this grand panorama unfolding before his eyes, and sees the bringing in of the saints from distant lands into the Kingdom of the sure mercies of David, and speaks of the triumphs of the Gospel, and breaks forth into a joyful jubilee, “for ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” This is poetic prophecy at its best.

In this clapping of the hands we hear the joyful song of the redeemed in our churches. This is not cheapened by the rhythmic music, nor should it be cheap­ened by the thunderous organ which drowns out the singing. (Organists must be spiritually sensitive!) But the Lord must be worshipped with understanding. God is King of all the earth in Christ Jesus. Wherefore “sing ye praises with understanding. Psalm 47:7.”

On Sunday the princes of the earth are gathered together. They are the off-spring of Abraham by Sarah, born from the promise. Are you deeply conscious of this in your “hand clapping”, young people? You are the people of the God of Abraham!

For the shields of the earth belong to God! He is greatly to be exalted!