Monday, July 20, 2015
Praising the LORD for His Power to Restore and Secure the Future: Learning to Pray 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.
Like Ps 146, Psalms 147 is a hymn of praise to God. It begins and ends with the exhortation, “Praise the LORD.” Psalm 146 focused on God as king and his faithfulness in sustaining the righteous.
Psalm 147 continues this vein and provides additional rationale for praising the LORD. Both Ps 146 and Ps 147 draw from the long history of God’s people. Ps 146 emphasized the need to trust in God rather than in human rulers. Israel’s kings and leaders failed in their leadership. The sins of God’s people led to exile, the ruin of Jerusalem, and the destruction of God’s temple. The psalmist writes from the perspective of deep loss and a longing for a new future.
At first glance, Ps 147 seems to jump from topic to topic. The psalmist praises God for rebuilding Jerusalem/restoring God’s people (vv. 2–3, 5–7, and 12–14 ), for his power over and in creation (vv. 4, 8–11, 15–18), and for revealing his word and laws to God’s people (vv. 19–20). Yet when we ponder this prayer more deeply, there is a crucial message. Ps 147 envisions the renewal of God’s people. Yes, the past recorded loss and suffering, but there is a wonderful future in God.
The good news of this new future is it all depends on the LORD. Israel’s past is now past. It’s future is open because God is willing, ready, and able to restore and renew the fortunes of God’s people. This is how the verses about God’s powerful ability to create fit into the psalm. God’s people can be fully confident in their future because the God, who creates, who numbers the stars, whose power is vast and unlimited, who brings rain to the land, who raises up grass and vegetation, who cares for the animals and who controls the weather simply with a word, is ready, willing, and able to act decisively to renew God’s people.
How do God’s people respond to this abundant future? With gratitude and praise. Ps 147 offers a way through the chaos of the world. The way forward is praise to the God who guarantees our future. This is a crucial word especially when we are in times of want and lack in the present. The answer is a deep trust not in our own abilities or in any human leader or institution but in God.
Ps 147 ends with a reminder of the key resource first mentioned in Ps 1. Unlike all of the nations, God’s people have access to the Word of God. It is our guide as we seek to live faithfully for God’s mission.
How does Psalm 147 teach us to pray?
What are the reasons that Psalm 147 calls us to praise the LORD?
How do the references to God as creator serve to shape our praise?