October 24, 2010
Lesson: Psalm 147
Key Verse: Psalm 147:12
God’s people need to be stimulated in order to be a pleasing odor unto Christ, the King of Zion. We are admonished by God’s Word, that by Christ we are to “continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name” (Heb. 13:15). The writer adds to the fruit of our lips, the fruit of our lives, “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Our hearts, our lips, our service, our fellowship, our hospitalities, our love, our giving, all are to be stirred up to Praise the Lord! Remember, to praise means to radiate all that God is, and that he has done, and is doing. Charles Spurgeon testified: “A peculiar people should render peculiar praise. The city of peace should be the city of praise; and the temple of the covenant God should resound with his glories. If nowhere else, yet certainly in Zion there should be joyful adoration of Zion’s God.”
We are again exhorted to praise the Lord and to sing Praises. Psalm 147 emphasizes the inward quality of praise. The word ‘Praise,’ Halal, means ‘to shine,’ to celebrate, to glorify; and ‘sing praises’, means to celebrate or sing songs, as in poetry, or to make music. We have been called by our Lord to be his heralds of his glory in Christ Jesus our Savior. We, as God’s chosen people, have great reasons for the desire in our hearts to praise our Lord, to sing praises to our God. Encompassing all the reasons is this statement before us, “For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful.” Do the following words of David Dickson express your hearts, the desire of the Church of our Savior and King? “All God’s praises are the believer’s advantage and storehouse; and it is pleasant; full of sweet refreshment, as when a man veiweth his own rich and well situated inheritance. It is honorable …to be heralds of the Lord’s glory.”
Five reasons are given in verses one through six, for praising our Lord:
First. we praise our Lord because it is good, pleasant, and beautiful. It lifts up the soul to the Lord in obedience and service.
The second reason is this: “The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers together the outcasts of Israel.” As we have been taught in these ‘Zion’ psalms, the Triune God has chosen for himself a place where we can call upon him. For it is out of Jerusalem, Zion, his Congregation or Household, we shall be blessed (128:5). Psalm 46:4–5 reveals the reality of this life with our Father in heaven: “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.”
This truth of God’s presence in His Household is seen in these words of our Savior: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). The Lord builds up Jerusalem by the gathering together the outcasts. The congregation may seem to be in ruin at times, God’s children dispersed with little hope. However, in all times we are encouraged by the truth that Christ is building his Congregation and the gates of hell will collapse. God is the “former and architect of the Church;” He therefore encourages us by making us “aware that by his power it remains in a firm condition, or is restored when in ruins. Hence he infers that it is in his power and arbitrament to gather those who have been dispersed” [Calvin}.
The third reason for praise is God’s care for those believers who are burdened with the afflictions of his world: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Though wounded in spirit or burdened in body, our Lord brings healing to the soul. He is the loving surgeon who brings us to repentance when we sin, covers our sins in the blood of Christ, and comforts us when we are sick. These two reasons are bound together in that, where the Church finds affliction, rebellion, discourse, sin, oppression, or division, God in Christ Jesus brings healing to his eternal Jerusalem, in which the healing balm of the Spirit dwells.
The fourth reason is that we worship the Lord who is Creator, Provider, and Protector of his Creation. He knows each and every star that travels his heaven: “He counts the number of the stars; he calls them all by name.” Calvin wrote that “the admirable work of God to be seen in the heavens, where we behold his matchless wisdom, in regulating, without one degree of aberration, the manifold, complex, winding courses of the stars. To each of them he assigns its fixed and distinct office, and in all the multitude there is no confusion.”
Therefore, we understand the fifth reason for our praise. For as he numbers and places the stars in its orbits, he understands and personally knows the whole of his Creation—including man, male and female, who was made after his image, and given a living soul. Thus God’s adopted children cannot hold back their praise: “Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; his understanding is infinite.” It is in his wisdom, authority, and counsel that our Lord rules over all nations, and in particular, his Jerusalem. Here then is the object of our faith: the Sovereign Triune God who “is a Spirit, in of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, every where present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Shorter Catechism #7).
Thus our Lord is able to be our help in time of need. As seen in the way he deals differently with the righteous and the wicked: “The Lord lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked down to the ground.” Those who walk humbly before the Lord are lifted up to God’s glory and grace, knowing that all things are of him and from him. Those who look pridefully and vainly to themselves as the answer to all their needs are brought down, destroyed. “When he speaks of their being cast down even to the earth, there can be no doubt that he passes as indirect censure upon their pride which leads them to exalt themselves on high, as if they belonged to some superior order of beings” (Calvin).
The Psalmist repeats his exhortation for the people of God to praise the Lord: “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; Sing praises on the harp to our God.” Calvin replies, “Again he exhorts to sing the praises of God, intimating at the same time that abundant matter was not wanting, since new proofs still meet our eyes of his power, goodness, and wisdom.”
Two elements are added to our praise of the Almighty Triune God, the Lord: that of thanksgiving and joy. This spirit of gratitude and joy, expressed by the use of the harp, is ours as we learn of the works of our Lord. There are proofs all around us that reveal the love, wisdom, authority, and goodness of our Lord. He reveals himself as the one who “covers the heavens with clouds, who prepares rain for the earth, who makes grass to grow on the mountains. He gives to the beast its food, and to the young ravens that cry.” What a glorious display of his glory as we see the wonder of the sunrise, the cattle feeding in the fields, the birds in their nests, and the rain for his harvest.
We are further motivated to praise with thanksgiving and joy as our Lord takes “pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his mercy”; over against those who depend on the strength of their army, or in the hope of their own wisdom and power. The object of our joy and faith and thanksgiving is the majestic God our Creator. Those who fear him, depend upon him alone, who worship and praise him, are in communion with the Father through Christ, are made acceptable to him; and this by grace and mercy alone. Those who rest upon themselves and their works take honor away from God. The Lord alone is great, “and greatly to be praised”; therefore, we “Proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day …Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary” (Psa. 96:2–6).
We are urged to praise the Lord: “Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!” Again we are brought face to face with the soundness of such an exhortation as the Psalmist gives us reason for such praise. There are six justifying reasons given for the Church to celebrate, to praise our God. It is the congregation, the gathered chosen people of God, Zion, who have been set apart to praise the Lord. This is a privilege for which we continually give thanks.
We are to be in this spirit of celebration because:
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