PSALM 113 TALK: HALLELUJAH – GOD IS EXALTED AND GRACIOUS

PSALM 113 TALK: HALLELUJAH – GOD IS EXALTED AND GRACIOUS

(This Psalm is is part of a series of Psalms that feature the word “Hallelujah” which means praise the Lord. This Psalm praises God as the great exalted God of the universe who is also gracious in that he stoops down to our minute speck of cosmic dust called earth that he created and lifts up the poor and needy of the earth to be exalted before him).

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INTRODUCTION

My good friend and mission partner Ted Penney and I had the privilege on our recent trip to Myanmar to visit the famous Chin Hills. We have made so many Chin christian friends over the years and had visited many times the township of Kalaymyo which is a large town on the plains just bellow the Chin Hills where many Chin people had migrated from.

Up unto two years ago no foreigners had been allowed to go into this very mountainous area between Kalaymyo and the Indian border for nearly 40 years. Now that their is a new democratic government and peace in most parts of Myanmar foreigners like us now could freely explore this amazing and beautiful area of Myanmar.

I say explore because the road up to the Chin state capital called Hakha 6,500 ft high was probably one of the roughest roads I have ever travelled on over a long distance. Constant work is being done on the road to improve it but it was still full of big bends and at times uneven rough surfaces and it took our four wheel drive four hours to travel 50 miles and I got car sick on the first day of travel.

Once in Hakha the capitol of the Chin state we decided to look at some of the towns attractions or points of interest and of course we had to stop and view from a lookout this amazing town built on the top of a high mountain they call a hill because it is part of the hills or smaller mountains that lead up to the massively high Himalayan Mountains.

The next place of interest was the first church built by the original Christian missionaries who came to Hakha and the Chin Hills with the life saving message of the Gospel in 1899. Just down from this large and impressive Baptist Church is the graves of some of these original missionaries and some of the early converts and first ordained local ministers. The first missionary in the Chin hills was a man named Arthur Carson and his wife Laura and both laboured for the Lord in what would have been considered a inhospitable corner of the ends of the earth in their day.

Ted and I could not imagine the hardship and difficulty those early missionaries must have faced after our arduous trip on the rough road we had just experienced to get their ourselves and yet these pioneer missionaries would have had no roads, just primitive tracks with very poor food and living conditions to contend with as well.

In a article I read since coming back from Myanmar a couple of weeks ago I read these words from a article in The Baptist Bible Tribune by Thomas Ray about how Laura Carson initially reacted to these appalling conditions,

“The Mountain Chin were extremely suspicious of foreigners and unbelievably superstitious. On their arrival, Laura Carson was appalled by what she saw. As she looked upon the half- naked and filthy Chin she began to cry and said, “Author, I can’t do it! I thought I could go with you anywhere that God called and stay there and work with you. But, I have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. I can’t live my life in this awful place among these loathsome people”.

The article goes on to say that Arthur Carson comforted his wife and even told her she did not have to stay and then the article went on to say,

“The next morning, Laura Carson looked into the face of a beautiful young half – naked native girl. She later wrote, ‘I saw beneath the grime and filth and saw the need of the soul’. Not once in the next 21 years did Laura think about abandoning her post”.

The Carson’s took six years of teaching and preaching the word of God before they saw their first convert and three years later in 1908 Arthur Carson died of acute appendicitis unable to be treated properly in such a remote part of the world. Laura laboured on for another 12 years before she too got very sick and had to return to the U.S.A but now it is estimated that 90% of the Chin people call themselves Christians.

This story spoke to me powerfully of how the love of God for the lost of this world can a does inspire people like the Carson’s to take the message of his love to the ends of the earth. These people are only copying what God has done for us.

Paul says this about The Lord Jesus Christ in Philippians 2: 5 – 8,

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross”.

So Paul is telling us that Jesus was exalted in heaven yet he chose to stoop down or descend to earth to become a human being like us to not to live and reign in luxury but become a servant and then to die like a common criminal for us on the cross.

This is the message of Psalm 113 as verses 4 – 6 says,

“The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens, Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?”

The next verse tells us how far he stoops down,

“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap”.

The ash heap or dunhill was the place all ancient towns dumped their rubbish and refuse and this place is where the poorest and most wretched people lived and so God stoops as low as the rubbish tips of life to lift up the poor and needy of this world.

Laura Carson in 1899 felt she had come with her husband to the rubbish dump of humanity in Hakha in the Chin hills of Myanmar but as she looked into the eyes of that native half naked chin girl she saw the need of the love God and the potential of God’s life changing Gospel message and she and her husband laboured on and saw the beginning of a transformation where these poor Chin people spiritually echoed the words of verse 8 of Psalm 113,

“He seats them with princes, with the princes of the people”.

In heaven all true believers in the Gospel of Christ will reign with Christ in heaven as Paul says in 2 Timothy 2: 11 – 12,

“Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; If we endure, we will reign with him.”

So this third Hallelujah Song (Psalms 111 – 118 are called the Hallelujah Songs) we are called to sing and say “Hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord” because our God is both Exalted and Gracious and we will explore this theme in both this Psalm and in the teaching of the New Testament in this Psalm talk.

So with the theme of how God is both exalted and gracious in mind my outline for this Psalm is:

(1 – 3). A CALL TO PRAISE THE LORD

1. (vs. 1) Praise the Lord you servants
2. (2 – 3) Un-ending and universal praise

2. (4 – 6) PRAISE THE GOD WHO IS EXALTED AND GRACIOUS

1. (4- 5) Praise the exalted and glorious God of heaven
2. (vs. 6) Praise the Gracious God of heaven

3. (7 – 9). PRAUSE THE EXALTED AND GRACIOUS GOD WHO RAISES THE LOWLY

1. (7 – 8) Praise the God who lifts humanity from the garbage heap of life
2. (vs. 9) Praise the gracious God who blesses the childless women

(1 – 3) A CALL TO PRAISE THE LORD

1. (vs. 1) Praise the Lord you servants

The Psalm like most of these “Hallelujah Songs” commences with the Hebrew word “Hallelujah” and they often start with call to praise.

The other introductory comment I would like to make here is that this Psalm and the one that follows it have a tradition of being Psalms or songs sung before great Hebrew or Jewish festivals and particularly the Passover and it has been suggested by many bible commentators that this Psalm and the one that follows it, Psalm 114 could be the very Psalms Jesus and his disciples sang before they left the upper room to go Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Matthew 26: 30,

“When they had sung a hymn, they went to the Mount of Olives”.

This is also recorded in Mark 14: 26.

So it is not surprising then that this call to Praise the Lord is to all God’s “servants”

Spurgeon picks up the slave / servant image as it applies to the passover with these words,

“While they were slaves of Pharaoh, the Israelites uttered groans and sighs by reason of their hard bondage; but now that they had become servants of the Lord, they were to express themselves in songs of joy. His service is perfect freedom, and those who fully enter into it discover in that service a thousand reasons for adoration. They are sure to praise God best who serve him best; indeed, service is praise”.

So it is with us we were slaves to sin before Jesus died for our sins on the cross and brought unto us the glorious knowledge of this Gospel or Good News that because of what Jesus did for us on the cross we are no longer slaves of sin but servants of the the most high God as Paul speaks of in Romans 6: 17 -18,

“But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness”.

In the first verse of 1 Corinthians 4 Paul tells us to regard ourselves as servants of Christ with a great job to do,

“This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed”.

Our job or role then as servants of Christ is to proclaim God’s revealed mysteries revealed to us in Christ and what he has done for us, namely the Gospel message.

Psalm 113 calls all servants of the Lord to praise him and one of the best ways we can praise him is to proclaim the message of how the exalted God of heaven and earth stooped down to earth to become a human being like us to serve and not be served and to give his life as a ransom for many, Mark 10: 45,

“For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”.

2. (2 – 3) Un-ending and universal praise

Verse 2 and 3 then tell us the scope of this praise for “Yahweh” the “yah” of Hallelujah, which is the supreme name for God that declares that he is the great “always being” or eternal supreme God of heaven and earth.

The scope of this praise is expressed in two ways:

Forevermore (vs. 2)
To the ends of the earth (vs. 3)

Lest’s have a closer look at each of these scopes of praise:

Forevermore (vs. 2)

Verse 2 simply says,

“Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore”.

The first scope of this praise for “Yahweh” then is the length of time this call to praise desires and it is expressed in two words, “now” and “forevermore”.

Leupold explains this verse best for me when he writes,

“Since his deeds are so manifold, His praise should be continuous and unending”.

Leupold then points out aptly that the word “forevermore” is used four more times in Psalms that follow this one namely, Psalm 115: 18, 121: 8, 125: 2 and 131: 3 making this word a popular expression of the eternal nature of God and the praise he deserves in book five of Psalms.

I have pointed out many times in previous Psalm talks that Paul spoke a lot about giving praise or thanks to God in all circumstances like 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18,

“Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

All circumstances includes all the time which verse 2 of Psalm 113 says and it also says that it includes “now” and “Forevermore” and so endless praise or praise or thanks in all circumstances is described by Paul as, God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

Endless praise is the great theme of the extent of praise in heaven in the book of Revelation as we see in a verse like Revelation 7: 11 – 12,

“All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honour and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”

It is a interesting thought that Jesus with his disciples might have sang this Psalm as he was going to the place where he was betrayed by a man he loved and trusted which would have been one of the lowest points of his life and ministry and yet he was full of eternal praise to his father in heaven.

This reminds me of stories of Christians being martyred for their faith in Christ even today at the hands of extreme muslims I have read of Christians going to their horrible deaths praising the Lord they truly love and seek to serve even in their deaths for him and I would say that really is praising God in all circumstances.

To the ends of the earth (vs. 3)

The scope of praised being called for in this opening section of Psalm 113 is extensive as we read this expression in verse 3,

“From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised”.

This expression of the sun rising and setting is used in scripture to express the ends of the earth or even the entire earth as we read in Psalm 50 verse 1,

“The Mighty One, God, the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets.”

Or Malachi 1: 11,

“My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty”.

Isaiah saw the literal fulfilment of this kind of praise in the coming of the promised Messiah as he writes in Isaiah 59: 19,

“From the west, people will fear the name of the Lord, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory. For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the Lord drives along”.

It is only through, then, the coming of Jesus Christ or Jesus the Messiah as Christ is the Greek term for Messiah that this scope or extent of praise for God has been fulfilled and that has come through the Gospel of Christ going out into all the world as Jesus commanded his disciples to do in passages like Matthew 28: 19 -20,

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

In my introduction of spoke of the story of the Gospel going into the remote and difficult Chin Hills area of Myanmar and how Arthur and Laura Carson endured great hardship and difficulty in seeking to make disciples of the desperate spirit worshipping people who lived their. I have just come back from that area and on two occasions I had the pleasure of attending two churches in that area and joining with those people in singing Hallelujah or praises to the God who is highly exalted yet he scooped down to earth in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, his one and only Son to save even these Chin people who live as far as even other tribal groups in Myanmar are concerned the ends of the earth.

2. (4 – 6) PRAISE THE GOD WHO IS EXALTED AND GRACIOUS

1. (4- 5) Praise the exalted and glorious God of heaven

As so many of these praise Psalms go from a call to worship and praise to some reasons why we should worship and praise the Lord and this Psalm 113 is not different as we have in the next two verses two reasons why we as God’s servants should praise the Lord forevermore and to the ends of all the earth and those two reasons are because he is both:

Exalted (vs. 4 and 5)
Gracious (vs. 6)

Exalted (vs. 4 and 5)

In verse’s 4 and 5 he is described as a the great exalted and glorious God enthroned on high,

“The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high”.

The exalted nature of God is expressed twice in David’s Psalm 57 as a kind of chorus or refrain in that Psalm as both verse 5 and verse 11 say the same thing,

“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth”.

In my comments of these words in verse 11, the last verse of Psalm 57 I wrote,

“David is telling us in this use of the refrain that his God is the Lord or King of heaven and earth and we can see his glory in all the earth”,

David wrote Psalms 8 and 19 that express and flesh out the exalted glory of God that can be seen in nature as Psalm 19 verse 1 says,

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of his hands”.

David wrote Psalm 57 as a call for mercy and help from God as he faced his enemy who we believe was probably King Saul who sought to kill him. In that Psalm he testified to God’s love and faithfulness in helping him against his many enemies like verse 3,

“He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me – God sends forth his love and his faithfulness”.

So then twice David speaks of the exalted nature of God who declares his exalted glory in the world in what God has made and continues to uphold.

However Psalm 113 verse 4 speaks of how the Lord is exalted over all the Nations. We cannot tell when this Psalm was written but it seems that it was placed in the last book of Psalms after the return from Babylonian exile and therefore the people of that time would have seen God showing in his saving deeds in their recent history of how he is exalted above the nations in the fall of the Babylonians through the rise of the Persians. Therefore not so much in nature now do we see the glory of God but in his victory over the nations in the form of victory and judgment of the Babylonian empire and in the using of their Persian conquers to bring his people back to the land of Israel.

We can see in history again how God revealed his glorious exalted state over sin and evil in the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ. Jesus death and resurrection has cosmic significance as we see in the words of the writer to the Hebrews in chapter 2: 9 – 10,

“But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered”.

I mentioned in my introduction the famous passage in Philippians 2 about how God stooped down from heaven through his Son Jesus Christ becoming a human being like us and stooping even further down by becoming a servant and even dying on a cross for us like a common criminal.
But that passage then turns to speak of how Jesus Christ has been exalted by God in his resurrection and ascension and will be gloriously exalted and acknowledge by everyone when he comes again to judge this world of sin and take to glory those who truely turn to him, Philippians 2: 9 – 11,

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

So, as Psalm 113 verse 4 says,

“The Lord (who is Jesus) is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens”.

Then the writer of Psalm 113 asks a rhetorical question in verse 5,

“Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high”.

I recently taught at a number of different Bible Colleges a series of 8 Psalms in fourth book of Psalms that speak of how our God the king reigns from heaven over all the earth. These “Our God the King who Reigns” Psalms start with Psalm 93 and end with Psalm 100 and I believe the answer to Psalm 113 rhetorical question in verse 5 is answered by the opening two verses of Psalm 93,

“The Lord reigns he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure. Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity”.

Of course my simple answer to this rhetorical question is the obvious answer which the Psalmist does not have to state, no one is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high.

I have already declared Paul’s words in Philippians 2: 10 and 11,

“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

Finally the book of Revelation speaks of the exalted state of the Lord Jesus in heaven who is called symbolically in that book “The Lamb” as he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world as John the Baptist said in John 1: 29. Now John writing in his final book of the bible says this about the exalted state of Jesus in heaven and the praise he will receive because of who he is and what he has done for us in Revelation 7: 9 – 12,

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:
“Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honour and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”

2. (vs. 6) Praise the Gracious God of heaven

So we have seen that Yahweh deserves our praise because he is the exalted God of heaven and earth who sits in glory on his throne high up in heaven but now his glory and greatness is seen in an amazing other way.

Verse 6 declares the second reason why “Yahweh” the God of the bible deserves our praise,

“Who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth”.

I am writing this Psalm talk only a few days after Christmas and Christmas is the amazing story of the incarnation which is the real message of Christmas. The verse uses the term “who stoops down” and of course it was through Jesus coming to earth as a man that is the most incredible example of God’s stooping or lowering of himself which reveals the extent to which the God of heaven and earth would descend to in his loving rescue of mankind.

John expresses the reality of God’s stooping down so well in John 1: 14,

“The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

The Psalmist did not know of course the message of the incarnation as he was writing hundred of years before it actually happened but he did know that the God he was urging his hearers to praise not only a transcendent God but a imminent God or God who has made himself known and has acted on behalf of his people. Again as David put it in Psalm 57: 3,

“He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me – God sends forth his love and his faithfulness”.

I remember the words of Richard Dawkins the famous atheists in a debate with the Christian scholar John Lennox when he basically said that Christians believe that the so called creator of the vast and limitless universe could not think of a better way to deal with the problem of sin than to descend to this small spec of cosmic dust called earth to be tortured and executed so that he could forgive himself.

Dawkins says this is:

“profoundly unscientific and does not give justice to the grandeur of the universe and is petty and small minded”.

However that is the point of the incarnation or the stooping down of God it is simply an amazing idea and it is so amazing it deserves our praise.

The God of the bible is then not only exalted and glorious but is gracious and loving in that in his exalted state he chose to stoop down to a part of his creation, earth and sacrifice his only Son to deal with the problem of sin and make a way back to knowing and serving him as he originally intended us to be as his special creation.

The editors and maybe even the writer of this Psalm had just seen God’s amazing stooping down to look on the heavens and the earth and in fact intervene in the case of the freeing of his people from captivity in Babylon through the nation of Persia conquering what seemed the all powerful unstoppable super powerful nation of Babylon. Then through the Persians God made it possible for his people Israel to return to the Promised land of Israel to not only live there again but re-build Jerusalem and the Temple that the Babylonians had so ruthlessly destroyed some 70 years before.

Christmas is the time we should stop and ponder how much God stooped down to save us from our sins and also cause us to not only praise him for that but reflect on the reality of his second coming when Jesus will stoop down again not to save but to judge this world, doing away with sin and rebellion and to raise to heaven all who believe in him.

As Paul speaks of in 1 Thessalonians 4: 15 18,

 “According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words”.

This was the message that Arthur and Laura Carson took to the Chin people in Myanmar and it was this act of God stooping down to earth that transformed this poor wretched people into the strong and vibrant Christian Chin state of Myanmar today.

It is the message of the Gospel and it has done the same thing for many people from every Nation of this world and it is the message we must continue to take to the world unto the day Jesus decides that the day of Salvation or the Gospel age is over when he returns to earth the second time.

3. (7 – 9). PRAUSE THE EXALTED AND GRACIOUS GOD WHO RAISES THE LOWLY

1. (7 – 8) Praise the God who lifts humanity from the garbage heap of life

The writer then spells out two poetic examples of this gracious God in action in our world and these two poetic examples are expressed in verses 7 and 8,

“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes, with the princes of his people”.

The bible is full of God’s gracious love for the poor and needy and indeed even the great King of Israel, King David often called himself poor and needy like Psalm 40: 17,

“But as for me, I am poor and needy”.

David wrote these words when he was possibly on the run from King Saul and at that time he would have been materially poor and needy but he used the same expression or similar ones to describe himself when he was King of Israel and would have been materially very rich, like Psalm 70 which could have been a taken by David from Psalm 40 for a new prayer when he was around 60 years of age and on the run from his rebellious son Absalom, Psalm 70: 5,

“But as for me, I am poor and needy, come quickly to me, O God, you are my help and my deliverer; Lord, do not delay”.

Or the opening of Solomons Psalm 72 which applies to Solomon and the people of real faith in God who live under his rule through King Solomon, Psalm 72: 1 -5,

“Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness. 2  May he judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice. 3  May the mountains bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness. 4  May he defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; may he crush the oppressor. 5  May he endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations”.

Solomon was one of the riches men materially in the bible yet the Psalm 72: 4 says,

“May he defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; may he crush the oppressor”.

This is obviously referring to spiritual need which is what Jesus is referring to in the first beatitude in Matthew 5: 3,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven”.

gotQuestions?org makes it clear what Jesus is saying here with these words,

“Jesus is declaring that, before we can enter God’s Kingdom, we must recognise the utter worthlessness of our own spiritual currency and the inability of our own works to save us”.

So when Psalm 113 says that God,

“Raises the poor from the dust”

It is not just speaking of the materially poor but in fact both materially poor and materially rich people must all recognise their spiritual poverty before God and that they cannot save themselves but God has to stoop down to lift us up and save us and this is not our own doing but a gift of God as Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 2: 8 – 10,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.

David in both times of riches and poverty always saw himself before God as poor and needy as he writes in Psalm 69: 30 – 33,

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. 31 This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hooves. 32 The poor will see and be glad – you who seek God, may your hearts live! 33  The Lord hears the needy and does not despise his captive people”.

So David is saying in Psalm 69: 32 that the spiritually rich are those who realise that they are poor before God and because of this they,

“Seek God”,

So God raises the poor according to verse 7 of Psalm 113 but from where does he raise them from?

The Dust
The Ash heap

Lets have a closer look at these two important poetic images:

The Dust

It is interesting to note that these concluding verses of Psalm 113 mirror part of Hannah’s song after God blessed her with the birth of a son she named Samuel and when she took him to the Temple to serve the Lord when Samuel was three years old. 1 Samuel 2 and verse 8 is a direct pinch from that song of Hannah for verse’s 7 and 8 of Psalm 113.

In 1 Samuel chapters 1 and 2 we have God blessing the childless women Hannah and being childless in bible times meant great hardship and even poverty for a women. Even a few years ago in Australia a women with a child or children who did not have the support of a husband or family faced incredible hardship and poverty. In bible times a childless women was often divorced and left destitute and so to was widowed women with or without children as children were the ones who looked after her once they were grown up and generating income for their families and their poor widowed mother.

To be raised from the dust would signify then being very poor and also spiritually “dust” in the old testament signified repentance and prayer for forgiveness as the outward sign of this was to put on sackcloth (rough uncomfortable clothing) as we read of David doing in 1 Chronicles 21: 16,

“David looked up and saw the angel of the Lord standing between heaven and earth, with a drawn sword in his hand extended over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell facedown”.

Ashes where usually thrown around on the hands and face and repentant sinners like David and his elders would have been literally kneeling in a pool of dirty ashes as a way of saying to God they were truly repentant of their sins. Mourning the dead often employed not only wailing but wearing sailcloth and Ashes.

Also earnest prayer like Hannah prayed in 1 Samuel 1 often was done in sackcloth and ashes. It is not said that Hannah used sackcloth and ashes but 1 Samuel 1: 10 says that Hannah weeped bitterly as she prayed for a son to be born by her.

David we believe wrote Psalm 30 after God delivered Israel from a great plague caused by God when David sinned by disobeying the Lord and counting his fighting men throughout the land as recored in 1 Chronicles 21.

However God stooped down in the person of the Angel of the Lord and stopped the plague and saved the people of Jerusalem obviously responding to Davids prayer of repentance and David writes in Psalm 30 verses 11 and 12,

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12  that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever”.

God answered the earnest repentance prayer of David and the earnest desperate prayer of Hannah for a son in 1 Samuel 1. So God stooped down or intervened in the lives of David and Hannah and lifted them up from the dust or their despair and wretched state to answer the prayers of his needy faithful servants who although still sinful were blessed by the gracious exalted God of the bible.

In the New Testament the custom of sackcloth and ashes does not continue but both James and Peter speak of humbling yourselves before God and Peter writes in 1 Peter 5: 6 – 7,

 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

God therefore will lift us up from the ashes of despair if we would but humble ourselves before him because we can be assured the he does truly care for the spiritually poor and needy.

The Ash heap

The parallel rhyming thought of verse 7 of Psalm 113 and verse 8 of 1 Samuel 2 is,

“And lifts the needy from the ash heap”.

C.J Elliott the great 19th century commentator says that the term “Ash heap” could be translated as “Dunghill” or “heap of rubbish” and then explains to OldTestament times meaning of such a term or image,

“Before each village in Israel there is a place where the household heap up the sweepings of their stalls, and it gradually reaches a great circumference and a height which rises far above the highest buildings of the village.”

Today we would call the “Ash heap” the garbage heap or garbage dump so this poetic image is that God lifts the spiritually needy repentant sinners of this world from the garbage dump of this life.

The bible presents clearly that man’s sin has trashed both our lives and this world as Paul says in Romans 1: 24 – 25 the results of sin in our lives in this world,

“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen”.

Even creation itself has been trashed by our sin and looks forward to its release from man’s sin and rebellion to God in Romans 8: 19 – 21,

For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.
20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God”.

So Psalm 113 verse 6 says God,

“Swoops down”

Now verse 7b says God,

“lifts the needy form the ash heap”

Or the garbage dump of sin by throwing himself on that garbage dump of sin through his death on the cross to lift us up from sin or that garbage dump to sit with him in eternity in heaven and even now before we arrive in heaven he offers the needy or those who realise they need his forgiveness life now and life in all its fullness, John 10: 10,

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”.

If you think I am getting a little carried away with my image of God through Christ his only Son stooping down to the garbage heap of life or sin to lift us up to heaven then let me quote how Paul put it, 2 Corinthians 5: 21,

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.

Remember the writer of Psalm 113 is using a direct quote in these verses from the song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2: 8 and he continues this quote with Hannah’s words of how God raises the poor and needy with the words,

“He seats them with princes, with the princes of his people”.

Hannah’s child, a result of God stooping down to answer her desperate prayer for a child turned out to be Samuel who grew up to be a great prophet and leader of his people and more than that he in turn became a king maker not once but twice in the persons of King Saul and the great King David.

Both Saul and David started out as relative poor and needy men who had low social status yet both of them became princes or even more than princes, Kings of their people.

Unfortunately King Saul stopped thinking he was spiritually poor before God and in his pride turned away from following God and in the process lost his mind and his kingdom.

On the other hand David, the lowly youngest son of a minor family in Judah who was given the lowly job of shepherd was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13: 14 and Acts 13: 22) David basically was a man who always recognised his spiritual poverty before God and went on to be the greatest King of Israel and the founder of a dynasty through his great descendant Christ that would last forever. Yes David sinned and at times sinned badly but he always returned to God in repentance and faith and called on the love and faithfulness of his God.

David is a role model of how God wants us to live which is as men and women who recognise their spiritual poverty and need before God and who accept his gift of love or grace and it is God’s grace that saves as God’s love is underserved. God’s grace comes to us through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives who raises us up from the garbage heap of sin and this world to serve and praise the God who is both highly exalted and wonderfully gracious.

I will let David have the final word of praise here in what he says at the end of his Psalm 57, verses 10 and 11,

“For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. 11 
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth”.

2. (vs. 9) Praise the gracious God who blesses the childless women

As I have been pointing out the writer of Psalm 113 seems to have been inspired by some of the words of Hannah the mother of Samuel who wrote a song recorded in the second chapter of the historical book of 1 Samuel and the previous two verses come directly from one verse, verse 8 of that song. Now the final verse of Psalm 113 seems to continue the influence of Hannah’s song.

Hannah was a poor childless mother in a relationship or marriage where her husband a man named Ramathaim had two wives, Penninnah and of course Hannah. Penninnah was blessed by God with children but for many years Hannah did not have a child and was tormented by Penninnah for being childless.

I have already pointed out the importance of women in bible times being both married and having children and this problem seems to crop up in the bible in a number of places. We have at least four other women who faced childlessness in bible times, Sarah, Rachel, Manoah and Elizabeth in the New Testament, mother of John the Baptist.

So Hannah, childless for many years praises God for the miraculous birth of her son, Samuel with these words in 1 Samuel 2: 5,

“Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry are hungry no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away”.

So Hannah goes on to speak of how God heard her cries for help which she expresses as a person who was before God was poor and needy and gives us a verse that the writer of Psalm 113 uses to write his verses 7 and 8,

“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; 8  he seats them with princes, with the princes of his people”.

Then our writer of Psalm 113 closes the Psalm with, I think Hannah in mind with the words of verse 9,

“He settles the childless women in her home as a happy mother of children”.

Although Hannah only had Samuel in her home for three years because she takes him to the Tabernacle then in Shiloh to serve the Lord, though I’m sure she still saw lots of him and continued to have a great influence over him in his early years.

Interestingly all the other women in the bible who had problems with bearing children were like Hannah raised up or lifted up by God to become happy mothers of very important and blessed sons, Sarah or course the mother of Isaac, Rachel the mother of many including Joseph, Manoah the mother of Sampson and in the New Testament, Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist.

These stories show how much God cares for women and uses them in wonderful ways for his plans of salvation for the people of God. Jesus born of Mary and through Jesus all the people of the world were blessed.

I taught scripture at a Girls High School in the 1970’s when at Bible College and the girls in my scripture classes on the first week at that high school told me the Bible was nothing more than a chauvinistic book that had nothing to say to women in this modern world. I switched all my lessons for the next 12 months of teaching there over to women in the bible and not only were my students enriched as young women but I gained a greater appreciation of God’s love and grace to women and how just as he calls men to serve him and play vital roles in his Kingdom he equally calls women to serve him and play vital roles in the extension and building up of his kingdom here on earth.

I love the prophecy in the Old Testament about the role of men and women in this Gospel age that started to be fulfilled on the day of Pentecost recored for us in Acts 2: 17 – 18,

“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy”.

God calls men and women to serve him in this world in various ways and even through the bearing of children God’s stooping down to raise us up from the garbage heap of sin in this world can and has been used by God to help extend his Kingdom. This reveals to us our God’s great exalted glorious and gracious nature as he continually stoops down to raise us up from the garbage dump of life.

CONCLUSION

This Psalm ends as it began with the Hebrew word “Hallelujah” which is translated in our English bibles as “Praise the Lord”. We have seen in this Psalm that we should praise the Lord or praise “Yahweh” because he is the great exalted and glorious God who sits on his throne high in heaven above far greater and more powerful than anything or anyone in the entire universe.

Also the Psalm encourages us to praise this great and exalted God because even though he is exalted on high he chose to stoop down to what the atheist, Richard Dawkins calls “this spec of cosmic dust we call earth”, to get involved in our world and to lift up all who realise they are spiritually poor and needy and who turn and accept his gift of forgiveness that makes us right before him.

This lifting up through scooping down goes as far as the great and glorious God coming to the garbage dump of this life’s sin and the degradation and through his Son’s death on the cross he raises us up and gives us the gift of righteousness so that we can serve him now and forevermore.

I started this Psalm talk with the story of Arthur and Laura Carson who gave up a comfortable life in America in the late 18th century to go to a poor and primitive place considered the ends of the earth in their day to bring the message to the Chin people in Myanmar of how God scooped down through his son, Jesus Christ . He did this so that they could know his forgiveness through his death on the cross and also be transformed into his servants who are through faith in his Son now part of his eternal family.

I mentioned how difficult it was for me and my friend Ted Penney to travel to the Chin hills even today yet in 1899 the Carson’s somehow made that arduous journey into the Chin Hills and Laura Carson after realising the difficult living conditions of this place and seeing the pitiful state of the Chin people wanted to return home.

However the next day Laura Carson looked into the eyes of a poor Chin girl and realised that God had led them to this place to bring his life changing message of his love and then she never looked back from joining her husband in bringing the Gospel to the Chin people.

Even though Arthur Carson died within nine years of arriving in the now Chin state capitol, Hakha he did witness the first Chin convert and started to baptise a few more. Laura Carson pushed on with some other new missionaries for another 12 years before ill health forced her to return to America. Now after 118 years from when the Carson’s came to the Chin Hills with the message of the Gospel it is estimated that 90% of the Chin people claim to be Christians and their lives have been transformed or lifted up through God’s stooping down through the death and resurrection of his only Son Jesus Christ.

This all then should lead us to sing and say “Hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord”.

I close as I usually do with a poem and a prayer:

GOD STOOPED DOWN (Based on Psalm 113)

Praise the Lord you servants now
For God’s name speaks of his mighty power
His name surely does declare
That he is great and is always there.
God should be praise for evermore
From east to west and from shore to shore.

Praise the exalted God above
Who’s glory is seen in his great love
No one is like this God so high
For he is great and reigns on high
Yet he chose to stoop to earth
Through his son’s amazing birth.

Chorus:

God stooped down
Yes God stooped down
Jesus gave up glory to come down
God stooped down
Yes God stooped down
Through his death we’re heaven bound.

Praise the Lord who lifts the poor
To sit with him forever more.
Poor in spirit because of sin
Needing forgiveness and peace within
He came to our garbage world of sin
To die on a cross a death so grim.

Praise the Lord he has cleared a way
To be give us righteousness today.
For his death paid for sins great price
And won for us eternal life
We are now part of his family
That God now blesses eternally.

Chorus:

God stooped down
Yes God stooped down
Jesus gave up glory to come down
God stooped down
Yes God stooped down
Through his death we’re heaven bound.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

We praise you Father in heaven because you are the great exalted and glorious God of heaven and earth who made this universe and this world. Yet Lord we know that as great and exalted as you are you decided in your love to stoop down to this garbage dump of sin and degradation in the person of your Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins on the cross. We praise you O Lord because through that death for our sins we can now have the gift of your righteousness which means we can live with you in heaven.
Even now your Sons death for us on the cross gives us your blessings and hope in our day to day lives. Now may we live for you and for the extension of your Kingdom here on earth. In Jesus

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