Weds 7th June - Psalm 147
1 Praise the Lord.[a]
How good it is to sing praises to our God,
how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the exiles of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.
5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit.
6 The Lord sustains the humble
but casts the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the Lord with grateful praise;
make music to our God on the harp.
8 He covers the sky with clouds;
he supplies the earth with rain
and makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He provides food for the cattle
and for the young ravens when they call.
10 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
11 the Lord delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love.
12 Extol the Lord, Jerusalem;
praise your God, Zion.
13 He strengthens the bars of your gates
and blesses your people within you.
14 He grants peace to your borders
and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.
15 He sends his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
16 He spreads the snow like wool
and scatters the frost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his hail like pebbles.
Who can withstand his icy blast?
18 He sends his word and melts them;
he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.
19 He has revealed his word to Jacob,
his laws and decrees to Israel.
20 He has done this for no other nation;
they do not know his laws.[b]
Praise the Lord.
- Psalm 147:1 Hebrew Hallelu Yah; also in verse 20
- Psalm 147:20 Masoretic Text; Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint nation; / he has not made his laws known to them
Meditation on Psalm 147
The original Hebrew word is ‘Hallelujah’.
Each section begins with a call to praise the LORD, followed by the reasons why we should.
- PRAISE HIM WHO RESTORES Verses 1-6
Praising God is…
- good – He deserves our best
- pleasant – having qualities that tend to give pleasure is the dictionary definition.
- fitting – it is right to praise Him
Remember He is ‘our God’. We have a relationship with Him because Jesus opened the way into His Father’s presence.
When we come to the Communion Service we use these words to encourage us to praise God.
‘Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give Him thanks and praise.
It is indeed right, it is our duty and our joy, at all times and in all places to give you thanks and praise, holy Father, heavenly King, almighty and eternal God.’
Come back to Psalm 137 when the people of God were in exile in Babylon. They were asked by their captors and tormentors to ‘sing us one of the songs of Zion.’
How did the people of God reply? “How can we sing the songs of the LORD in a strange land?”
They were thinking about their homeland – Jerusalem. “If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.”
Now they are back in their homeland because ‘the LORD builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the exiles of Israel.’
Now they can sing to the LORD.
When they were in exile, they were downhearted, downcast and scared. But now the LORD ‘heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds’
This takes us back to the story of Nehemiah. He arrives in Jerusalem from his job as ‘cup-bearer to the king’, to find that the walls of the city had been broken down and there were huge gaps all round the wall. Nehemiah had been called by God to repair the broken walls. He arrives in Jerusalem and, after three days, he took a few Israelites to walk round the city at night – “I had not told anyone what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem.”
Having talked about his plans, the people said, “let us start rebuilding.”
Fast forward to Nehemiah 6:15 and we read ‘so the wall was completed…in fifty two days.’
Who is this who brings about such restoration? It is ‘the LORD’.
The psalmist then speaks about some of the great characteristics of the LORD as if to say, ‘you want some reasons to praise the LORD? Well, here are a few for starters.’
Just think about the night sky on a clear, dark night. The moon shines brightly and the stars are spread across the sky in perfect formation. Astronomers marvel at this display but they only know a little about a small percentage of the total number of stars. Come back to Genesis 1:16. Just five words capture what the psalmist is saying.
These five words are ‘He also made the stars’! Then come back to the psalm and read in verse 4, ‘He determines the number of the stars and he calls them each by name’.
Meditate on those words in Genesis 1:16 and Psalm 147:4 and then praise Him who, as verse 5 says, ‘great is the LORD and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.’
BUT …whilst He is great and mighty, yet He looks out for those who are humble.
‘He sustains the humble.’
He also knows about the wicked, ensuring that they will not have the last word.
- PRAISE HIM WHO PROVIDES Verses 7-11
As before – and to come – this section begins with a call to sing to the LORD ‘with grateful praise’. Remember as we said in the previous section, ‘it is right to give Him thanks and praise…’
The psalmist adds musical instruments –‘make music to our God…’
Here is the Creator God, looking after His creation. Even though we have made a mess of His creation, He still provides.”
Look up and see the clouds across the sky. No one cloud pattern is the same as another. ‘He covers the sky with clouds’.
“Oh no” we cry out, “it’s pouring with rain.”
Or some people will be crying out, “Oh if it would only rain.” It is God who provides the rain as and when it comes. And the result is that grass grows.
He looks after the animals He has created.
There are those who would put themselves on a pedestal as if they are important, but one commentator has put it like this, ‘we need to remember that He is interested not only in physical matters such as the strength, speed and endurance of His creatures but is even more interested in their hearts.’
God’s pleasure is…
- in those who fear the LORD – i.e. those who stand in awe of the living God, those who glorify Him, those who trust Him wholeheartedly.
- in those who put their hope in His unfailing love. Where else could we go to for such hope; such love? Who else could we turn to?
He is ‘our God’.
He is our great Provider and, therefore, we praise Him.
- PRAISE HIM WHO CARES AND COMMUNICATES Verses 12-20a
Again, the psalmist calls us to extol the LORD – i.e. to praise Him above all other.
He calls upon the people of God to praise ‘your God’. He is a God of relationships with His people.
The psalmist comes back to the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem and reminds us about God’s care over His people.
- He provides safety and security. He ‘strengthens your gates’
- He blesses His people
- He grants peace
- He provides food
An African commentator says, ‘our nations today could enjoy blessings like those described in the psalm if only we would trust God and walk in His ways.’
How does our God communicate with us?
Through His word – ‘He sends His commands to the earth; His word runs swiftly.’
His word controls natural events - e.g. snow, frost, hail, icy blasts. ‘He sends His word and melts them’ He stirs up His breezes and the waters flow’
After all, the opening chapter of our Bibles – Genesis 1 – makes it clear that ‘God said…and it came into being.’ He is the Creator and He rules over His Creation.
And He has given His word – His law and commandments. This was given the His people; those He brought out of Egypt – verse 19-20 ‘He has revealed His word to Jacob, His laws and decrees to Israel. He has done this for no other nation.’
And Amos confirms this when he reminds the people what God said, “You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth.’
Every nation has its laws which it has formulated but Israel was given God’s word as their law and commandments.
We, as the people of God through the work of Christ, are given the word of God for our own living and also to be a light to those who, as yet, haven’t come into that relationship with God.
What a privileged people we are.
No wonder the psalmist ends with ‘Praise the LORD’. Hallelujah!