Weds 21 September - Psalm 47
1 Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.
2 For the Lord Most High is awesome,
the great King over all the earth.
3 He subdued nations under us,
peoples under our feet.
4 He chose our inheritance for us,
the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.[b]
5 God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
7 For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
8 God reigns over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne.
9 The nobles of the nations assemble
as the people of the God of Abraham,
for the kings[c] of the earth belong to God;
he is greatly exalted.
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Meditation on Psalm 47
How appropriate that we should be looking at this Psalm his week. Although you might read it at a later date it will be online two days after the funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth II.
Whilst we mourn her death after 70 years of loyal service to the UK and around the world, we give thanks for her unwavering Christian faith and her sharing that with millions of people, especially through her Christmas messages. ‘The Servant Queen and the King she serves (it will have to be renamed to ‘the King she served’) is a little book in which she wrote the preface and speaks of her devotion and loyalty to God and to her Saviour, the Lord Jesus.
But our Psalm this week reminds us of ‘the great King’. We don’t know the occasion(s) that caused this psalm to be sung by ‘the sons of Korah’.
‘The sons of Korah’ refers to the Levitical choir made up of the descendants of Korah. They were appointed by David to serve in the temple liturgy. They may have been just the musicians but not necessarily the author. There are seven psalms ascribed to ‘the sons of Korah’ in Book II of the psalms (i.e. Psalms 42-49) and four more in Book III (i.e. Psalms 84-85 and 87-88)..
All that by way of introduction. It’s one of those psalms that jumps out of the page as we consider the implications of what it is saying.
- THE CALL TO PRAISE Verses 1-4
When we clap, we are drawing attention to something or someone. We have seen and heard a lot of clapping in these past few days as the funeral cortege goes past and, again, at the funeral procession.
Clapping in the Bible can be for praise but it can also be used for derision.
e.g. Psalm 98:8-9a ‘let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the LORD.’
Issaiah 55:12 ‘you will go out in joy and led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you and all the tress will clap their hands.’
But clapping can also be used for derision.
e.g. Job 27:23 refers to ‘the wicked’ (verse 13) ‘it claps its hands in derision…’
Lamentations 2:15 ‘all that pass your way clap their hands at you, they scoff and shake their heads at Daughter Jerusalem. Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth?’
Let’s make sure our clapping is for praise of
Notice that the psalmist refers to ‘all you nations.’ One day this will happen when Jesus comes again.
This is a word for all nations and, as Spurgeon says, ‘if they cannot all speak the same tongue, the symbolic language of the hands they can all use.’
This is not a quiet celebration…
- ‘shout to God’. This doesn’t mean that God is deaf – far from it. It means that our worship of God should take precedence over all other noises.
- ‘with cries of joy.’ Remember when Solomon was crowned King of Israel? ‘Long live King Solomon!...And all the people went up after him, playing pipes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound.’ (1 Kings 1:41). This is not to say that our worship becomes a performance. Rather, in awe and reverence we worship Him who is the King of kings.
Why should we praise the Lord?
- He is awesome
- He is the great King over ALL (capitals mine) nations
- He is the subduer of nations
- He has given us an inheritance. This obviously referred back to the Exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land. For us it refers to the inheritance we have in the Lord Jesus, as Peter writes: ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lod Jesus Christ. In HIs great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or of fade.’ (1 Peter 1:3-4)
- THE LORD IS ON THE THRONE Verses 5-6
Verse 5 looks backwards and forwards and the theme of praise is the same.
Looking backwards, we see God’s presence being restored to its rightful place. We need to read 2 Samuel 5:12-15 when David brought the Ark back to Jerusalem. It had been captured by the Philistines but David wanted to bring it back because it signified the presence of God among His people.
Looking backwards also reminds us of the ascension of Jesus back to heaven after His death and resurrection.
Looking forward we can look forward to the day when Jesus comes back from heaven to take His people home. We who know Him will meet Him in the air and we will be forever with the Lord as He takes us up with Him into glory.
Whether we look backwards or forwards our response should be, as verse 6 says four times:
- ‘sing praises; sing praises; sing praises; sing praises’
And note the recipient of our praise…
- ‘to God’; ‘to our King.’
Many tributes have been paid to Queen Elizabeth – and rightly so – but she would be the first to change the direction of such praise and thanks and focus it on God and the Lord Jesus.
- HE IS SOVEREIGN Verses 7-9
Whilst the Queen knew she was the Sovereign, she also knew that she wasn’t THE Sovereign. After 70 years of faithful service as a demonstration of her faith in God, she has gone. The days of official mourning are over and we have a new king.
But these closing verses of our psalm remind us that our Sovereign LORD is Sovereign for all time and eternity. The day is coming when ‘the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He will reign for ever and ever.’ (Revelation 11:15)
Remember some kings who thought otherwise – e.g.
Exodus 5:2 Pharoah, king of Egypt, challenged Moses and Aaron as they came to tell him what the LORD had said. His reply was: “Who is the LORD that I should obey Him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.”
He was soon to learn otherwise.
Daniel 4:34-35 Nebuchadnezzar had many opportunities to recognise the sovereignty of God and he eventually came to this conclusion: “then I praised the Most High. I honoured and glorified Him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion, His kingdom endures from generation to generation.”
King Herod wasn’t happy that the baby boy, Jesus, was born as King of the Jews. He couldn’t cope with a rival but he was to learn that the King of the Jews has no rival.
Dwell for a while on these statements from this psalm:
- ‘God is King of all the earth’
- ‘God reigns over the nations’
- ‘God is on His throne’
- ‘the kings of the earth belong to God’
As Paul said to the Ephesians: ‘…one God and Father of all and through all and in all.’
And, as the psalmist says:
‘sing to Him a psalm of praise.’ (There are plenty to choose from!)
And let us remember – ‘He is greatly exalted.’