1 Praise the Lord.
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.
Praise the Lord.
(Psalm 147:1-20 NIV)
Like Psalm 146, Psalm 147 begins and ends with worship (“Praise the Lord”). The author is not named, nor is any context provided that might help date the writing. The only clue we have about the date of this psalm is in verses 2, 13, and 14. In these verses, the psalmist refers to a time when God’s people are returned from exile, the city gates are restored, and God’s people live in peace. This might coincide with the return of the Jews to Israel after the 70-year exile to Babylon.
As this psalm begins, we hear the psalmist give thanks to God in caring for His people (vv. 2-6). The psalmist worships the Lord for healing His people physically, emotionally, socially, mentally, and financially. Just as the Lord knows and names each star in the sky, so He knows and cares for each person (the ancient Israelites, as well as you and me!).
The psalmist then invites us to join in worshiping the Lord along with him (v. 7). The psalmist calls us to observe how God’s Providence and care extends not only to His people but to all nature. Rain on the earth, clouds for cover, grass on the mountain for the animals to eat, even food for adolescent birds learning to search and forage (vv. 8-9).
The psalmist now pauses to ponder what pleases God, what brings the Lord joy. Is it human effort? Is it military power? Is it athletic ability? Is it work? (v. 10). The implied answer is “no” to all the above. The answer lies in relationship, not human effort. The Lord delights in those who fear (have a healthy awe and respect for) God, who obey Him, and look to Him for their provision, care, and acceptance (v. 11).
The psalmist began worshiping alone, then invited those around him to join in. Now the psalmist casts the net much wider and invites the entire city of Jerusalem to participate in worshiping the Lord (v. 12). The psalmist then remembers all the Lord has provided for His people:
- security and blessing in families (children) (v. 13)
- peace from neighboring nations, and food to eat (v. 14)
- His word to govern life and relationships to Himself and each other (v. 15)
- the change of seasons, including winter and spring (vv. 16-18)
- His covenant with Israel, His people (v. 19)
As the psalmist concludes this psalm, he notes God’s special care for His people Israel. No other nation on the face of the earth has been so blessed by the Lord as they have. The only thing the psalmist can do is humbly bow in worship to the Lord (v. 20).
As I ponder this psalm, I see the psalmist focusing not on himself but on the Lord. Notice that nearly every verse begins with “The Lord” or “He” (referring to the Lord). This psalm is God-centered, not me-centered, with the emphasis on what the Lord has done and is doing and not on the benefits to the psalmist (or us).
When I stop to examine my worship, I ask: is it centered on what I get out of it or the benefits I receive from God? Or is my worship focused on Him and Him alone?
If the Lord is powerful enough and wise enough and big enough to create the stars, fling them into space, and name each one of them, and cares for young birds learning to find food to eat, then He can and will care for me.
That frees me up to offer thanksgiving and worship to the Lord.
It’s not an attitude of “I have to”, of obligation or duty.
Rather, it’s an attitude of “I get to”, of freedom and desire to serve Him with my entire being, to worship and obey Him.