Psalm 104

Psalm 104

Praise the Lord, my soul.

Lord my God, you are very great;
    you are clothed with splendor and majesty.

The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
    he stretches out the heavens like a tent
    and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
    and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers,
    flames of fire his servants.

He set the earth on its foundations;
    it can never be moved.
You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment;
    the waters stood above the mountains.
But at your rebuke the waters fled,
    at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
they flowed over the mountains,
    they went down into the valleys,
    to the place you assigned for them.
You set a boundary they cannot cross;
    never again will they cover the earth.

10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
    it flows between the mountains.
11 They give water to all the beasts of the field;
    the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
    they sing among the branches.
13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
    the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
14 He makes grass grow for the cattle,
    and plants for people to cultivate—
    bringing forth food from the earth:
15 wine that gladdens human hearts,
    oil to make their faces shine,
    and bread that sustains their hearts.
16 The trees of the Lord are well watered,
    the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 There the birds make their nests;
    the stork has its home in the junipers.
18 The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
    the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.

19 He made the moon to mark the seasons,
    and the sun knows when to go down.
20 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
    and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
21 The lions roar for their prey
    and seek their food from God.
22 The sun rises, and they steal away;
    they return and lie down in their dens.
23 Then people go out to their work,
    to their labor until evening.

24 How many are your works, Lord!
    In wisdom you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,
    teeming with creatures beyond number—
    living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro,
    and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.

27 All creatures look to you
    to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When you give it to them,
    they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
    they are satisfied with good things.
29 When you hide your face,
    they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
    they die and return to the dust.
30 When you send your Spirit,
    they are created,
    and you renew the face of the ground.

31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
    may the Lord rejoice in his works—
32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
    who touches the mountains, and they smoke.

33 I will sing to the Lord all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
    as I rejoice in the Lord.
35 But may sinners vanish from the earth
    and the wicked be no more.

Praise the Lord, my soul.

Praise the Lord.
(Psalm 104:1-35 NIV)

Similar to Psalm 103, today’s psalm begins and ends with worship – “Praise the Lord”.

This psalm is focused on God as the creator and sustainer of all life.  This psalm carries the same theme (God’s glory) as Psalm 8 and the introduction of verse 1 in Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
(Psalm 19:1 NIV)

Notice how the psalmist switches pronouns when referring to the Lord – sometimes in the second person (“You”), while other times in the third person (“He”).  As I close my eyes and think about this for a moment, I imagine the psalmist sitting quietly with his best friend at the fading of the day, talking to the Lord and to his friend at the same time.  The psalmist effortlessly shifts between praising the Lord directly and sharing God’s wonder with his friend as they worship together.

The psalmist covers a wide array of God’s handiwork in this psalm, sandwiched in between a beginning praise (vv. 1-4) and an ending praise (vv. 31-35).  As you re-read the psalm, notice the following topics:

  • God’s Creation and the Flood (vv. 5-9)
  • God providing water for the earth and its creatures (vv. 10-13)
  • God providing plants as food for the animals and humans (vv. 14-17)
  • God providing food for animals and humans (vv. 18-23)
  • The psalmist admiring the incredible diversity of all God’s creatures (vv. 24-26)
  • The Lord’s care and provision for all His creation, and the contentment and peace that comes from willing and humble dependence on Him (vv. 27-30)

 

As you read and meditate on this psalm, what stirs inside you?

Thankfulness?

Worship?

Contentment?

Awe and wonder?

Here’s an old hymn, written by Robert Grant in 1833, that is based on Psalm 104:1-7 and captures the essence of the psalmist’s worship (with a newer musical arrangement):

O Worship the King, All Glorious Above

Enjoy worshipping in His Presence today…

Blessings,

~kevin

Psalm 103

Psalm 103

Of David.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
    and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
    and remember to obey his precepts.

19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the Lord, you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    who obey his word.
21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
    you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the Lord, all his works
    everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the Lord, my soul.
(Psalm 103:1-22 NIV)

King David spends time in praise and worship of the Lord today.  Thankfully, he wrote down his thoughts so we can join with him many centuries later.  The same God whom King David worshipped in his day is the same God that we choose to worship today.

David breaks his praise and worship into three sections:

  • Personal worship (vv. 1-5)
  • Corporate worship (vv. 6-18)
  • Universal worship (vv. 19-22)

In the first section, David has some personal worship time with the Lord.  David begins and ends this psalm with the same words – “Praise the Lord, my soul”.  If you grew up with a different English translation of the Bible, you might remember this beginning and end as “Bless the Lord, O my soul”.

What is David saying when he talks to his “soul”?  Is this some kind of ancient “self-talk”?  Not at all.

David knows what is going on in his outer, external life – how he interacts with others, what he is doing, his words, his outward emotions to life happening around him.

Now David is taking time to examine his inner life – what’s going on inside him.  What is he experiencing but hasn’t expressed outwardly, what he is feeling, what emotions are stirring within him, the thoughts in his mind.

David is no different than you and I – a thousand, thousand things going on inside, and only a few make it from the inner life to the outer life.  David is ordering his thought life and will and feelings, telling them all to focus on the Lord and Him alone.

In verses 2 – 5, David reminds himself of the benefits of focusing on the Lord – why he is directing his thoughts, will, and emotions to spend time in praise and worship.

And what are those benefits?  forgiveness and restoration (v. 3), redemption (salvation) and righteousness before God (v. 4), blessings and renewal (v. 5).

David, having worshipped the Lord personally, then invites others to join him in corporate worship (vv. 6-18).  David reminds his fellow worshippers of the Lord’s grace and mercy toward His people in verses 8 – 10 as he quotes Moses from Exodus 34:6-7.  David also reminds himself, his fellow worshipers (and us!) of the Lord’s kind, gentle, and fatherly love toward us through the generations (vv. 13-18).

As David closes out this psalm, he flings open the doors of heaven and invites all the universe to join him and the congregants to worship the Lord together (vv. 19-22).  Everyone and everything is invited – angels, mighty beings, heavenly hosts, us, even His created things like animals, birds, sea creatures, bugs – all praising the name of the Lord!

May we remember to take time to look inside ourselves, then choose to focus our will, our thoughts, our mind, our emotions, our body in worship of the Lord.

May you experience the blessings and presence of the Lord and His joy as you take time to worship Him today.

Blessings,
~kevin

Psalm 1

Psalm 1

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
(Psalm 1:1-6 NIV)

As we look at the first psalm, we see a preamble, a pattern for many other psalms – a contrast between the righteous and the wicked.

Verse 1 begins with a beatitude, a blessing on the person who pursues God’s righteousness in God’s way.  And what is the way to pursue righteousness?  The psalmist gives us three negatives and two positives:

The righteous person does not (v. 1):

  • walk in step with the wicked
  • stand in the way that sinners take
  • sit in the company of mockers

Rather, the righteous person does (v. 2):

  • delight in the law of the Lord
  • meditate on God’s law day and night

Notice that our path of life is a choice – where and how we spend our time.  We can walk, stand, and sit with those who oppose the Lord and His ways, or we can delight in the Lord and focus our thoughts and actions on Him.

Verse 3 paints the picture of the person who focuses their life on the Lord.  The psalmist uses a fruit tree to convey the blessings of the life focused on the Lord.  The water represents the life source for the tree, just as delighting and meditating on the Lord is the life source to the follower of God.  The tree is not just for show; it also yields fruit to bless others at the appointed time (in its season).

Notice also the security of the tree.  It is firmly planted – its roots run deep.  No storm can uproot the tree, not can any harm come and cause it to wither and lose its leaves.  So is our security in the Lord – whatever we do for His glory will prosper.  There may be storms of life, but the goodness of God will prevail and protect us.

Verses 4 – 5 contrast back to the wicked described in verse 1.  The psalmist says that they are not like the tree – they are more like the chaff that the wind blows away.  The wicked have no substance, no weight or rooting to anchor them against the strength of the Lord.

Verse 6 concludes with the final contrast of this psalm – God’s knowledge of, provision for, and protection over the righteous ones who delight themselves in Him and obey Him.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine, but it’s true – God knows His followers and watches over them!  The God the universe, with all its billions of people, and all of His creation – has time for you and me!  That is both humbling and deeply peace-giving.

May you delight yourself in the Lord today, focusing your thoughts and actions on Him.

And may you experience His Presence as you go about your day with Him.

Blessings,

~kevin

Psalm 150

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.
(Psalm 150:1-6 NIV)

As we step into this final entry in the Book of Psalms, we see the psalmist’s continued pattern (Psalms 146 through 150) to begin and end the psalm with worship (“Praise the Lord!” or “Hallelujah”).

Today’s psalm is 100% focused on the Lord, and offering Him the praise and worship He so richly deserves.

While this psalm is short (only six verses), the psalmist has a clear outline of his thoughts and teaching:

  1. Where we praise the Lord (v. 1)
  2. Why we praise the Lord (v. 2)
  3. How we praise the Lord (vv. 3-5)
  4. Who should praise the Lord (v. 6)

The psalmist begins by telling us where to praise the Lord.  Obviously, praising the Lord in His sanctuary is a great start.  In the psalmist’s day, the sanctuary was the place God resided among His people.  For many generations, God’s dwelling place among His people was a tent structure (the tabernacle).  Then the Lord allowed King Solomon to build a permanent structure (the Temple) as God’s residing place among His people (1 Kings 5).

In the New Testament, God resides not in a building, but in the hearts of those who follow and obey Him.  As followers of Christ, we gather regularly to worship the Lord.  Many folks gather in churches around the world; some gather in homes, in rented spaces like movie theaters or schools or hotel banquet rooms.  And Jesus promises to join those who assemble themselves together to worship Him:

[Jesus speaking] “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
(Matthew 18:20 NIV)

In addition to worshipping the Lord indoors, we are also to worship the Lord out-of-doors.  The psalmist covers all possibilities for the out-of-doors when he says we are to worship Him “in his mighty heavens” (v. 1).

Where do you like to worship the Lord when outside?  Many people tend to gravitate to one of two places – either the beach or the mountains.  I understand and appreciate both places.  The beach demonstrates the power and vastness of God, and our smallness and limits compared to His creation.  The mountains offer perspective and movement, the changing of seasons, the immensity of His creation and His handiwork in both day and night.

While I appreciate the beach and the ocean, my heart is captured by the Lord when I spend time in the mountains.  As I see the clouds and weather rolling across the land and sky by day and the stars covering the sky by night, I am in awe of His grand design and how He holds everything together on a daily, hourly, even moment-by-moment basis.

The Apostle Paul summarized these thoughts so well:

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
(Colossians 1:15-17 NIV, underlines added for emphasis)

Now that we have looked at where we praise the Lord, let’s look at why we praise Him.  Verse 2 says we praise the Lord for His acts of power and His surpassing greatness.  We see God’s goodness in both the great and small things of life – His daily care and provision for our basic needs, as well as His protection for His own and His divine intervention against His enemies.

When you think about God’s acts of power and His surpassing greatness, what comes to mind in your life?  What have you seen the Lord do recently in your life or the lives of those around you?

Verses 3 – 5 capture how we are to praise the Lord.  Note the wide variety of musical instruments – wind and stringed instruments, percussion, and while not explicitly stated but rather implied in verse 6, our voices.  As we know from other Scriptures, there are skilled musicians that play these instruments and lead others in worshipping the Lord.

Verse 6 concludes by stating who should praise the Lord.  The psalmist does not limit the worship of God to the Israelites, or even to people in general.  Rather, the psalmist invites, even commands “everything that has breath” to praise the Lord.  This includes all human as well as all animal life joining together to worship the Lord.  Unless you live in a major metropolitan city with buildings all around, it’s hard to miss the worship of God’s creation, through the birds in the morning and the insects at night.

As we wrap up today’s study, what resonates in your soul?

  • Where do you worship the Lord?
  • Why do you worship the Lord?
  • How do you worship the Lord?
  • Who do you join to worship the Lord?

May we partner with the psalmist, as we begin, abide in, and conclude each day:

“Praise the Lord”.

Blessings,
~kevin

Psalm 149

Psalm 149

Praise the Lord.

Sing to the Lord a new song,
    his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.

Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
    let the people of Zion be glad in their King.
Let them praise his name with dancing
    and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
For the Lord takes delight in his people;
    he crowns the humble with victory.
Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor
    and sing for joy on their beds.

May the praise of God be in their mouths
    and a double-edged sword in their hands,
to inflict vengeance on the nations
    and punishment on the peoples,
to bind their kings with fetters,
    their nobles with shackles of iron,
to carry out the sentence written against them—
    this is the glory of all his faithful people.

Praise the Lord.
(Psalm 149:1-9 NIV)

Psalm 149, like the three before it, begins and ends with worship (“Praise the Lord”).

The psalmist begins by addressing the entire nation of Israel (vv. 1-2).  This is not just a personal call to worship, nor a family call to worship – the call is to the entire nation!

At first glance, the logical thought is that everyone is gathered at the Temple to worship the Lord.  The Temple, however, could not hold the entire population of Israel, so this was most likely either an outdoor celebration, or various communities of God’s faithful people wherever they gathered.

The phrase “his faithful people” occurs three times in this psalm (vv. 2b, 5a, 9b).  The emphasis on being faithful to God was around loyalty to the Lord.  Despite the enticement of neighboring nations to live selfishly or worship other gods, God’s people remained loyal to Him and Him alone.

So what did this worship look like?

  • it was creative (a new song, v. 1)
  • it involved singing, engaging all a person’s senses (v. 1)
  • it was joyful (v. 2)
  • it was dynamic, involving motion (dancing, v. 3)
  • it included musical instruments (timbrel and harp, v. 3)

And what was God’s thought about all this?  Verse 4 tells us that God delights in the praises of His faithful people, those who come together to humbly exalt His name and thank Him for all He has done for them and for all that He is.

Verse 5 captures the heart of this worship… this was not a mandatory “have to” worship.  In fact, it was quite the opposite… this was a “get to” attitude toward worship.

To pause for just a moment, what is our attitude toward worshipping the Lord?  Do we do so out of duty, or obligation, or even drudgery?  Or do we approach our worship time (whether our personal worship time or our corporate worship time at church) as an “I get to” attitude of excitement and longing to do so?

The reference to singing for joy while on their beds does not refer to when a person was sleeping.  The bed was often referred to as a place of contemplation, of thinking about the Lord or matters of life.

As we consider verses 6 – 9, we must be careful to understand the psalmist’s comments in the correct context.  Topics like vengeance, punishment, and judgment are heavy topics, and must be understood in light of God’s teachings elsewhere in Scripture.

Note that these three topics (vengeance, punishment, and judgment) are initiated and carried out under God’s command and authority alone, not by human will or decision.  Did God use the Israelites to protect their territory and keep their enemies from attacking?  Yes.  Did God use the Israelites to execute judgment on those nations that constantly opposed and attacked God’s people?  Yes.

But all that happened under God’s initiating, not because the leaders of Israel decided they didn’t like their neighbors, or lusted after their land or resources, or didn’t worship the same God that Israel did.

Rather, these were actions of a holy and righteous God who dealt with blatant and deliberate sin against Him, and a holy and righteous God who protects and provides for His people.  Sometimes God used His people to carry out the wishes of those who opposed Him; other times, God acted alone and told Israel to watch as He took care of matters on His own, without the aid or help of the Israelites.

While these examples are out of the Old Testament, the New Testament has similar stories of God sometimes calling His people to action, to care for and minister to those who oppose Jesus, and other times intervening supernaturally to take care of matters Himself.

Whether in the Old or New Testament, the learning, the lesson is the same.  The focus is on our connectedness, our being “with” the Lord to determine whether God is calling us to do something, or whether He instructs us to stand aside as He intervenes on our behalf.

And how do we stay connected, or “with” the Lord?  By spending time with Him through reading and practicing His Word, through prayer, aligning our will with His, and through interaction with others who are faithful followers of Jesus and have the spiritual maturity to help guide our thinking and ask questions to determine our motives (why we do what we do).

May our heart today be that of worship, and may our attitude be “I get to”.

Blessings,
~kevin

Psalm 148

Psalm 148

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord from the heavens;
    praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels;
    praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
    praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens
    and you waters above the skies.

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for at his command they were created,
and he established them for ever and ever—
    he issued a decree that will never pass away.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
    stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars,
10 wild animals and all cattle,
    small creatures and flying birds,
11 kings of the earth and all nations,
    you princes and all rulers on earth,
12 young men and women,
    old men and children.

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for his name alone is exalted;
    his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
14 And he has raised up for his people a horn,
    the praise of all his faithful servants,
    of Israel, the people close to his heart.

Praise the Lord.
(Psalm 148:1-14 NIV)

Like the two preceding psalms, Psalm 148 begins and ends with the familiar worship phrase “Praise the Lord”.

Before we take a closer look at this psalm, it’s worth noting several obvious themes in the text.  The first is the focus on worship.  The word “praise” occurs 13 times across 14 verses.  The second is the inclusiveness of this praise to the Lord.  The word “all” occurs 10 times in the text.  The writer of this hymn was not writing this as a personal or private worship time – this psalm was meant to be shared in community, in corporate worship.

There are two main sections to this psalm:

  • From the heavens (vv. 1-6)
  • From the earth (vv. 7-12)

Verses 13-14 then wrap up or summarize the previous two sections.

As we look at verses 1-6, we see the psalmist inviting the created heavens and heavenly beings to worship the Lord.  Note that the psalmist did not tell us to worship the created beings – the sun, the moon, the stars, the angels.  Instead, the psalmist invites the created beings and God’s creation to worship their Creator.

And why would God’s created objects and beings in the heavens worship Him?   Verses 5-6 give us the answer – because God created them all, and established them forever.  Since God spoke them into existence, these objects and beings have had both a place and a purpose in His grand design.

Don’t believe me?  That’s OK – go check it out yourself.  Go back and read the Creation account in Genesis chapter 1.

Verses 7-12 invite all of God’s creation on the earth to join in worshiping Him.  The psalmist is all-inclusive:

  • The ocean and its depths, including all its inhabitants (v. 7)
  • The weather across all four seasons (v. 8)
  • The mountains and all plant life (v. 9)
  • All creatures on the land and in the air (v. 10)
  • All rulers and human authorities (v. 11)
  • All people on the earth – young and old, men and women (v. 12)

Note that the psalmist uses some poetic license in the lists.  For instance, verse 10 lists wild animals and cattle.  The “cattle” represent all domesticated animals such as sheep, horses, pigs, llamas, etc.  Another example is “small creatures” (v. 10).  This is meant to cover everything from insects and creepy-crawly bugs to small animals like cats and dogs, rabbits, etc.

So why does the psalmist invite all heavens and earth to worship the Lord?  Verses 13-14 give us the answer.  As the Creator of all the heavens and the earth, everything and everyone, God alone is worthy of our praise and honor.  He alone deserves the glory for all He has done.

And is all this glory one-sided?  No.  Verse 14 tells us that God designed this to be a relationship between Himself and His people, the nation of Israel.  In the Old Testament, God shared His glory with Israel as an example of His goodness and love toward His creation.  In the New Testament, God opened this door to everyone – Jew or non-Jew, young or old, male or female, slave or free – all are offered His love and eternal life if they so choose to accept it.  Salvation and eternal life with God cannot be bought, earned, or demanded – it can only be accepted as a free gift from God to us through His son Jesus.

Here’s an old hymn that puts to music the thoughts of this psalm.  Originally penned as part of his Canticle of the Sun poem, these words were written about 800 years ago by Saint Francis of Assisi.  In the early 1900’s, William Draper paraphrased Psalm 148 and Saint Francis’ poem into the hymn we know as “All Creatures of Our God and King”.

Join me in worshiping our Lord:

Psalm 147

Psalm 147

Praise the Lord.

How good it is to sing praises to our God,
    how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars
    and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
    his understanding has no limit.
The Lord sustains the humble
    but casts the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the Lord with grateful praise;
    make music to our God on the harp.

He covers the sky with clouds;
    he supplies the earth with rain
    and makes grass grow on the hills.
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.

Blessings,
~kevin