PSALM 147 TALK: WHY PRAISE GOD?

PSALM 147 TALK:   WHY PRAISE GOD?

 (This is the second of the last five Psalms of the book of Psalms often called The Hallelujah Psalms and this Psalm features a detailed answer to the all- important question of why we should praise God and God alone.)

(THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

In 2009 an author named Cooper Lawrence had a book published called “Cult of Celebrity: What Our Fascination with The Stars Reveals About Us” and I read this opening Amazon reviewers description of the book that said,

“America’s fast-growing religion is—let’s face it—celebrity worship. From gossip magazines to entertainment TV, from blogs to ads featuring famous faces, the stars are our new gods and goddesses. But why are we so quick to put them on pedestals? Why are we even more spellbound when they topple back down to earth?”

 What this reviewer said about this book coupled with its title reveals how in our present day we are so easily caught up in praising some kind of celebrity whether he or she be in sport, film, politics or some other field of human endeavour but do they really deserve our praise and adoration?

I believe like the writer of Psalm 147, that God alone deserves our adoration and praise which he clearly states in his opening verse,

“Praise the Lord, how good is it to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him”.

 Unlike human celebrities who come and go, rise and fall and worse still go out of fashion God remains the same yesterday today and forever, he alone has the power and many good reasons for our praise and worship. Psalm 147 sets down many of these good reasons why God alone deserves our praise and worship.

I want to take you through this second Hallelujah Psalm in the final five Psalms of the book of Psalms to show you the answer to that question “Why Praise God”?

However, before we delve into this Psalm I want to answer the question of when it was written and for this Psalm I can even come up with a possible date that it was first sung and that date is 444 BC. This is the date that historians give to the dedication of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem recorded in the bible in Nehemiah 12: 27 – 43.

Many believe this is the time this Psalm was first sung on that great day of celebrations in Jerusalem because of two verses in the Psalm namely verses 2 and 13.

Verse 2 says,

“The Lord builds up Jerusalem, he gathers the exiles of Israel”

 We will see that the exiles of Israel in this Psalm are those who returned from Babylonian captivity not long before the walls of that ancient city where rebuilt under the leadership of Nehemiah.

Verse 13 says,

“He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your people within you.”

 This is a direct reference to the rebuilt gates on the walls of Jerusalem that along with the wall was celebrated and dedicated in 444BC and more than likely this Psalm took centre stage in the praise and worship of the great God of the Bible who made that day possible.

Another piece of evidence for this Psalm being written and used for the dedication of the newly built walls of Jerusalem in 444BC is the fact that the Septuagint, The Syriac versions of the Old Testament ascribe this Psalm along with the previous Psalm to the two prophets of the time of Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah. Albert Barnes sites the actual wording of the Syriac version of the Old Testament that reads like this,

“A Psalm of Haggai and Zechariah, when they urged the completion of the Temple in Jerusalem”.

 This took place around the time of the dedication of the newly built Jerusalem walls around 444BC that had happened 60 years or so after the dedication of the Temple around 515BC.

Interestingly Zechariah gets a mention as one of the priests and Levites around the time of the building and dedication of the walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiah 12: 16:

“Of Iddo’s, Zechariah of Ginnethon’s, Meshullan”

With the theme of the answer to the question of why we should praise God my outline for this Psalm is:

  1. (1 – 6) PRAISE GOD BECAUSE HE IS OUR GREAT SAVIOR
  1. (vs. 1)    Praise God because he alone deserves it
  2. (2 – 6)    Praise God because he saves the lost

     2  (7 – 11)  PRAISE GOD BECAUSE HE IS THE GREAT  

                         PROVIDER

  1. (7 – 9)    Praise God because he provides food for all
  2. (10- 11) Praise God because he delights in those who

                          put their hope in his love

      3 (12 – 20) PRAISE GOD BECAUSE HE IS BLESSES HIS

                            PEOPLE 

  1. (12 – 14) Praise God because he blesses his people with

                            peace and security

  1. (15 – 18)  Praise God because he controls this world
  2.    (19 – 20)  Praise God because he gave us his word

Let’s have a closer look at this Psalm then using this outline:

  1. (1 – 6) PRAISE GOD BECAUSE HE IS OUR GREAT SAVIOUR
  1. (vs. 1) Praise God because he alone deserves it

As all of the closing five Psalms in the book of Psalms do this Psalm starts and finishes with the special ancient Hebrew word for praise, “Hallelujah” which is translated in English as “Praise the Lord”. Hallelujah literally means “Praise Yah” or more specifically, “Praise Yahweh” and “Yahweh” is the special covenant name of the God of the bible.

 This covenant name carried with it many wonderful truths about God like his eternal and loving nature and once this opening “Hallelujah” is spoken the psalmist goes on to state his first reason for praising this great God of the universe and covenant, he writes,

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

The writer here spells out three reasons for why we should praise this great eternal and loving God of the bible who alone deserves our praise:

1.    It is good

2.    It is pleasant

3.    It is fitting

Alan Harman says:

“There is a cumulative impact created by these adjectives”

But even though these three reasons for why we praise God have a cumulative impact individually they have much to tell us about why God alone deserves our praise so I will give you some of my insights into these three reasons for why we should praise God alone.

1.    It is good

Alfred Barnes quotes another use of this term Psalm 92: 1,

“It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High”

Barnes goes on to make some great comments but I like this one the best,

“it is good as it is due to God. For all his favour, we should be thankful – and all that we enjoy is his gift”.

David makes this clear in his own beautifully poetic way in Psalm 34: 8,

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him”.

So, praising God because he is good brings blessing because that act of faith when we acknowledge God’s goodness opens up God’s blessed help and protection.

As Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 4: 4 – 5,

 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

  1. It is pleasant

I like H.C Leopold’s comment on this when he writes,

“The idea is first reinforced praise itself is a pleasant and most delightful occupation”.

 All through the bible praise and worship is not a drudge or dull thing to do but is a very pleasant and joyful activity as we see in the first two verses of Psalm 95,

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgivingand extol him with music and song”.

 Even Paul speaks of and encourages the churches to engage in joyful and pleasant praise and worship as we read in Colossians 3: 16,

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts”.

 Finally, heaven itself will be a very pleasant, joyful place of worship because it will be focussed on a God who loves and cares for us so much as we read in Revelation 19: 6 – 10,

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.Let us rejoice and be gladand give him glory!For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his

bride has made herself ready.Fine linen, bright and clean,was given her to wear.”

(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”10 At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.”

 Then in chapter 21 of Revelation heaven is presented as a very pleasant place of praise and worship as it will be the place where there is no more death, mourning, crying or pain for we will be with God forever, Revelation 21: 1 – 8.

3.    It is fitting

Praising God is fitting because as Tremper Longman 111 says,

“Praising God is what we were created for”.

 Often in my Psalm talks I have quoted the first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism and that first question goes like this:

“What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever”.

 To glorify God is to enjoy God and likewise to enjoy God is to glorify or praise God as Paul points out to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 17,

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

It is God’s will because we were made to be in a special relationship with God but sin separated us from God and that special relationship he design us for but praise God through the Lord Jesus Christ death on the cross our sin has been paid for.

Because our sins have been paid for we can come through Jesus and his death for us back to God as Paul so triumphantly speaks of in Romans 5: 1 – 8,

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,  peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but   glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

 This passage alone should bring us to our knees in adoration and praise because it demonstrates how fitting and right God through The Lord Jesus Christ deserves our praise and worship.

  1. (2 – 6) Praise God because he saves the lost

Even the writer of Psalm 147 writing over 400 years before the coming of Christ, we believe knew that the God of the bible deserved our praise because he is a loving saving God of those who are lost.

He speaks of this in the way he and the people of his time knew the great truth of the amazing love of God in the historical story of how God brought back his people from their desperate state of captivity in Babylon to rebuild the ruins of Jerusalem particularly represented by the rebuilding of its fallen smashed walls and this is what I believe the writer is speaking of in verse 2 – 3,

“The Lord builds up Jerusalem: he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds”.

 I believe this Psalm was first written to celebrate with praise the dedication of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem under the leadership of Nehemiah. God laid on Nehemiah’s heart the broken spirits of his people back in Jerusalem after they had returned from exile to find the devastation of the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem still very obvious in that place.

We read of this in Nehemiah 1: 1 – 4,

“The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah:

In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.

They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven”.

 Nehemiah goes on to pray to God for the restoration of his homeland based on the promise God gave Moses long ago recorded in Deuteronomy 30: 4 – 10 which involved Israel confessing their sins, which Nehemiah does on their behalf and receiving from God his redemption out of his love for them which would lead to God’s full and wonderful restoration, see Nehemiah 1: 5 – 11.

His final words in his prayer asks God to give him success in granting him favour to obviously help his people achieve this restoration of their ancient capital of Jerusalem.

Nehemiah was certainly in a great position to find help for his people as he held the privileged position of cupbearer to the great Persian King Artaxerxes a position of great trust and a position that gave Nehemiah direct access to the king’s ear. However, if Nehemiah spoke up for his people in the king’s presence he could have lost his life as such behaviour was forbidden in those times.

God used Nehemiah’s broken-hearted state to prompt King Artaxerxes to ask why he looked so sad and this gave Nehemiah the opportunity to tell the king about the terrible state of his people which still was a dangerous thing to do but God blessed Nehemiah and gave him the answer to his prayer. The king gave Nehemiah official leave and permission to return to Jerusalem to organise the re-building of the city walls.

This is what I believe verses 2 and 3 is speaking about as another great reason for the people of God in Nehemiah’s time to praise God,

“The Lord builds up Jerusalem: he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds”.

What is the New Testament or Christian application of these two verses?

To me when I read of Jerusalem in the Psalms I think of the place of God’s special presence with his people which is particularly symbolic in the ancient building called in the bible the Temple on the hill in Jerusalem called Zion.

Jesus in his ministry on earth predicted the destruction of the Temple which happened historically in AD 70 less than 40 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus so what has replaced the Temple in New Testament thought?

The surprising answer to this is found a couple of times in the writings of Paul like 1 Corinthians 6: 19 – 20,

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your bodies”.

 So, God’s special presence is now in every true believer of Christ and I have said before that we are like walking Temples of God or walking presence’s of God in our world and in fact when we meet together as the church of God on earth Jesus promises this in Matthew 18: 20,

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

The writer to the Hebrews speaks of the church as one day being the Heavenly Jerusalem or Heavenly Zion, Hebrews 12: 22 – 24,

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”.

 We as individual members of the New Jerusalem called into being from the lowly state of sinners under the judgment of God which fits well with the wording of verse 2 of Psalm 147,

“He heals the broken hearted  and binds up their wounds”.

 This should always be a wonderful reason for us to praise God alone as Paul does in 2 Corinthians 4: 15,

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God”.

Then surprisingly the writer of Psalm 147 seems to jump from personal salvation of his people speaking about God’s saving word to God’s cosmic power and might in creation, he writes in verses 4,

“He determines the number of the stars and calls them by name”.

 Why does he do this?

I think this writer does this all through this Psalm to demonstrate the power and majesty of the God he is praising who as I have been saying all through this Psalm talk alone deserves our praise and worship.

I heard a bible teacher many years ago make a very wise and informative statement, he said something like if you want a big faith in God you need to get a big view of God. This is what this writer of Psalm 147 is seeking to give us a bigger view of God to inspire bigger praise of this mighty wonderful and powerful God.

This is the God who he has just claimed in verse 3 heals the broken hearted and now the same God who created the billion upon billion of stars in the universe and who not only created them but knows them all so well he has named them so he controls them for to name them means he is in control of them.

The God of the bible is just what the next verse says about him,

“Great is the Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit”.

 Allan Harman explains,

“Encouragement comes to the people with the thought that the restorer of Israel is none other than the God of creation. Even the stars are his and he knows them individually because he controls and knows them all”.

 Modern science and astrology only makes this fact even more mind blowing as we now know the incredible vastness of the universe so this God of the bible is truly both great and powerful and therefore he alone deserves our praise and worship.

However, the writer of Psalm 147 wants us to realise why he has just spoken about how great and powerful this God of the bible is for us and that is again made clear in verse 6 which simply says,

“The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground”

 God wants us all to come to him in praise and worship but we can only do that by humbling ourselves before God and he will give us his grace or undeserved favour as Peter speaks of when addressing younger people submitting to their elders, 1 Peter 5: 5 – 7,

“In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,“God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.”Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”.

 The opposite thing to humbling ourselves before God is to remain proud and self-reliant which in Old Testament terms is to stay wicked and the writer of Psalm 147 says that the fate of the wicked is to be cast to the ground which is a picture of judgment also spoken of in the New Testament like John 15: 6,

“If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned”. 

     2  (7 – 11)  PRAISE GOD BECAUSE HE IS THE GREAT

                        PROVIDER

  1. (7 – 9)    Praise God because he provides food for all

This Psalm has three clear sections and each section starts with a call to praise God expressed in a different way each time and this section puts the call to praise this way in verse 7,

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

 Allan Harman points out that the Hebrew word for sing literally means respond but the reference to a musical a compliment in the rest of verse 7 makes singing the way this writer wants us to respond to what we will see is the God who provides food here in verses 8 and 9 to all his creatures, he writes in verses 8 and 9,

“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”.

 So, the writer goes for the bigger picture of God to inspire a bigger praise for God here again and God is the controller of the weather and even what modern science calls the water cycle of clouds producing rain that helps makes things grow and then this food provides the grass and crops that feed the animals, here cattle and birds.

This is similar to what we read in Psalm 104: 13 – 14,

“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”.

 Why does the writer pick out the raven to represent the feeding of birds?

I Like David Guzik’s who quotes a commentator named Poole to answer this,

“Young Ravens” Which he mentions, partly, because they were most contemptible, especially to the Jews, to whom they were unclean and forbidden for food; partly, because they are greedy and voracious; and partly, because they are not only neglected by men, but also forsaken by their dams as soon as ever they can fly, and so are wholly left to the care and keeping of Divine Providence.”

God even cares for the downcast birds of nature which man and other creatures despises such is his love for the unlovely.

Here again we have yet another reason to praise the God of the bible. God is merciful and so should we be like him if we truly seek to live a life of praise to him as Jesus simply states in Luke 6: 36,

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”.

       2. (10- 11)  Praise God because he delights in those we put  

                             their hope in his love                 

In my introduction, I referred to the cult of the celebrity or the worship of human personalities and here in verse 10 is an Old Testament or ancient Israelite example of this kind of false worship for 10 says,

“His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior”.

You see in ancient time what men thought was great and important particularly for their security and prosperity was the soldier and his strong horse. Maybe today a lot of people put their trust in their counties military might, planes, missiles and well equipped and well- trained soldiers but God sees no value in these so called human powers and abilities as Allan Harman says,

“Human strength, even military might, is no substitute for divine power”.

We might not care much for military power but our faith or adoration for some famous celebrity or maybe Politian is misplaced and misguided for these people are human just like we are and so often these so called great ones fall and fail causing us a great sense of disappointment and pain but we should have the same adoration and faith as the next verse, verse 11 expresses so well,

“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love”.

This is a round- about way of saying don’t trust in so called human strength and ability but trust or hope in the God of Heaven and earth, the God of the bible for he alone deserves our praise because he is the God of unfailing love.

Note it says “unfailing” which means God and his love is constant and therefore will not let us down like obviously human forces or celebrities will let us down. As John writes in 1 John 4: 16,

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them”.

 Verse 11 speaks of fearing God which is another way of saying revere and praise God which is the basis of all true worship and we praise God according to these verses by hoping or trusting in the unfailing love of God which we show by who we really serve in our lives.

In the New Testament Paul speaks of the basis of true worship now that we have the love or mercy of God shown to us in Christ in Romans 12: 1

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship”.

3  (12 – 20) PRAISE GOD BECAUSE HE IS BLESSES HIS

                         PEOPLE 

  1. (12 – 14) Praise God because he blesses his people with

                            peace and security

We come then to the third call to praise at the start of the third and final section of this Psalm 147 that we have seen has been telling us in some detail the answer to the question of Why praise God.

Before we look at the final reasons of why we should praise God I will make couple of comments on this third call to praise, which reads this way in verse 12,

“Extol the Lord, Jerusalem praise your God, Zion”.

 The Hebrew word for extol apparently to Hebrew scholars is another word for praise and Albert Barnes points out,

 “In addition to this general praise in which all may unite, there are special reasons why Jerusalem and its inhabitants should praise God”.

 As I said in my introduction I believe this Psalm was at least adapted if not written for the dedication of the walls of Jerusalem as recorded in Nehemiah 12: 27 – 47 in which two large choirs plus large musical performers went to the top of two of the main gates on the newly built walls around Jerusalem.

Here the choirs, musicians, leaders and people below are called upon to extol or praise the Lord and the reasons for praise here include the peace and security God has given them. This is evident in a physical way by the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem and re-building or the Temple a few years before the walls were rebuilt.

This becomes clearer by what we read in verse 13,

“He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your people within you”.

 Note how the wording of this verse has both a physical and spiritual aspect to them for the gates on their own do not guarantee peace and security but God strengthens the bars of the gates and he blesses the people within them.

The people are not being called on to praise the physical strength of the gates and walls but rather the strength of the God who made them possible as it was only God’s divine and providential leading and prompting of Nehemiah that led to his return with the authority and resources of their Persian overlords to organise the re-building of these gates and walls.

This blessing by God of peace and security is made even clearer by the next verse, 14 which says,

“He grants peace to the borders and satisfies you with the finest wheat”.

 Here the physical blessings of God for his people who praise Him and as we read in verse 11, put their hope in his unfailing love mirror the spiritual blessings we have in and through The Lord Jesus Christ as Paul speaks about God giving us peace in difficult times in Philippians 4: 7 after turning to God in faith and prayer:

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

 This peace God gives us what I call peace to cope not the cessation of conflict and this peace to cope is yet another reason why we should praise God.

  1. (15 – 18)  Praise God because he controls this world

As this Psalmist has done twice already in verses 15 – 18 he turns to the bigger picture of God’s control and power seen in nature. As I said before he wants his readers or even those who use this Psalm in worship to get a bigger view of God which leads to bigger praise and bigger faith in the hearts and lives of those who read, speak or sing this Psalms.

He speaks of God doing four incredible acts in nature that all should inspire and strengthen our faith in God:

  1. God’s swiftly answered commands (vs. 15)
  2. The spreading of snow (vs. 16)
  3. The hurling down of hail (vs. 17)
  4. The melting of ice and snow by his word (vs. 18)

 I will now make a brief comment on each of these four acts of God in nature.

  1. God’s swiftly answered commands (vs. 15)

As I said in my last Psalm talk the God of the bible is the Real Deal as this verse indicates how God operates in our day to day natural world, verse 15 says,

“He sends his command to earth; his word runs quickly”.

 This is reminiscent of the often- repeated term in Genesis 1,

“And God said”

 God simply speaks or here commands and things happen such is the power of the word of God. Things happen so quickly and wonderfully when God speaks or commands that the writer describes it with the phrase,

“His word runs swiftly”

 John in the opening of his Gospel calls the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ “The word” and describes his creating work this way in John 1: 1 – 5,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcomeit”.

 Paul goes even further in describing the Lord Jesus Christ as the creating word and force of everything including our salvation, Colossians 1: 15 – 20,

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. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross”.

 This gives us a much bigger view of God and his Son the Lord Jesus Christ and should lead us to a bigger praise of him.

  1. The spreading of snow (vs. 16)

The second reason for praising God that uses God working through the natural world is the phenomenon of snow and frost, verse 16,

“He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes”.

 I had not realised that snow fell in ancient or modern Palestine even more so Jerusalem but I read this interesting comment in the Pulpit commentary on this Psalm and this verse that says,

“Snow, though rare in Palestine, does occasionally fall, and is said to “cover the streets of Jerusalem two winters out of three. It generally comes in small quantities; but there are sometimes very snowy winters.” In 1879, for instance, snow lay in Jerusalem to a depth of seventeen inches”.

 Our writer must have witnessed one of these rare Palatine winters and described vividly the spreading of snow being like probably fluffy wool. Frost in winter in Palestine is not as rare as snow and frost both come from the hand of God and this indicates that the swift commands or word of God in creation is still happening daily in our weather winter, Spring summer or autumn.

This also is a reason to praise God although these reasons and the next of hail stones could be seen by some as a reason not to praise God owing to their discomfort and possible danger. However, God has the weather under his control and he has his good reasons for their workings so we must join with Paul and by faith claim the truth of what Paul says in Romans 8: 28,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. 

  1. The hurling down of hail (vs. 17)

Verse 17 speaks of a natural phenomenon that God can send down on the earth not only in winter as it is the natural phenomenon of hail, verse 17,

“He hurls down his hail like pebble. Who can withstand his icy blast?

 Where I live in Australia big thunder storms that send down often massive size hail causing much damage at times is in the height of summer not winter although we can get the occasional thunder storm in winter as well.

 As I said in the last natural phenomena that the Psalmist uses as a reason to praise God namely hail some might see as a destructive power and a reason not to praise God. However, as I said by faith we can join Paul and believe in God’s sovereign good will in all things that seem to us both good and bad.

As I have been advocating if we have a big view of God we can have a big faith in God and take him at his word that he works all things together for good for those who love him and have been called according to his purposes. Spurgeon makes this insightful comment about the words at the end verse 17 that says,

“Who can withstand his icy blast?”

 “That which God sends, whether it be heat or cold, no man can defy with impunity, but he is happy who bows before it with childlike submission”.

 This is the nature of true biblical praise that we put into practice the words of Paul in 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”. 

  1. The melting of ice and snow by his word (vs. 18)

The last natural phenomena that is presented as a reason why we should praise God is the melting of snow and ice again by his word as we read in verse 18,

“He sends his word and melts them; he stirs up his breezes, and waters flow”.

 So, God might send down snow, frost and even destructive hail but they end or stop when he decides by his word or command as verse 15 told us so God is sovereign over nature and everything.

God’s word is powerful and achieves exactly what he wants it to do as Isaiah tells us in Isaiah 55: 11,

“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it”.

 Or as the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 4: 12,

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”.

 The question I would like to ask is that if God’s word can melt snow, frost or hail can it also melt the cold unbelieving hearts of man?

The answer to that I believe is he certainly can as we just read in Hebrews 4: 12 that God’s word can penetrate,

“even to dividing soul and spirit”.

 I spoke with some good friends recently who sadly as a couple had to leave their church they faithfully attended for many years because the word of God was now downgraded and even made to be irrelevant and of little use in our modern world. That church was losing the life changing heart melting power and force of God’s word and is now doomed to die as a result.

God in nature melts the snow, frost and hail by stirring up a breeze, no doubt a warm breeze and the ice and snow melt and become water.

Jesus speaks of the power of his spirit which we receive by faith in his word as a powerful force of water in John 7: 38,

“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them”.

 This is yet another wonderful reason why we should praise God alone.

  1.    (19 – 20)  Praise God because he gave us his word

The writer of Psalm 147 has called three times on the people of God to praise the Lord and has given us many reasons why we should praise him.

He started with how good, pleasant and fitting it is to praise the God (vs. 1) who made heaven and earth and then moved on to what God had done recently for the re-building of Jerusalem (vs. 2, 13 and 14). He then speaks of how this rebuilding of the broken nation of Israel through his unfailing love is yet even more reasons why me should praise God (vs’s 3 – 6 and 11).

Throughout the Psalm he has pointed us to the cosmic and natural hand of God’s control and provision as yet another reason why we should praise God (vs’s 4 – 5, 8 – 9 and 15 – 18).

However, all these reasons why we should praise the Lord of heaven and earth cannot match the final great reason why we should praise God and God alone and that is how he has revealed himself to us through his word, through initially the ancient nation of Israel and then through the The Lord Jesus Christ.

We read of God’s revelation of himself as a reason why we should praise him in verses 19 and 20, that says,

“He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel. He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws. Praise the Lord.

 We know from this revelation of God we call the bible that because mankind has turned its back on God we are all in the dark especially when it comes to knowing God as he is.

I like the way the apostle John explains this reality of how people are in the dark, spiritually and actually it seems John suggests we naturally like the darkness so much we shun the light or revelation of God when it shines on us, John 3: 19 – 21,

 “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God”.

 Many years ago, when I worked as a church Youth worker I taught scripture classes in three high schools where there were hundreds of young people who had no contact with Christians and the Christian Gospel message. I was often asked the question:

Why did God, if he exists at all have to speak to us through a book called the bible, why doesn’t he simply just speak directly to us?

When I was first asked this question I simply could not think of an answer and then it came to me. Imagine what it would be like if the students got what they were asking for and when I explained my answer to them I would curl up a piece of paper to look like a megaphone and then yelled at the top of my voice,

“Hey all you people down there I am God listen to me”

 Even in a school class room this was a very unpleasant experience and I pointed out that big voices in the sky still would not be believed as many people would say how do we know that the voice is the sky is God speaking to us.

I would also point out that God is spirit and is great and awesome so he chose the best way possible to reveal himself which was through the story and history of a special nation he called into being and then through that nation he made himself known more fully as a person just like you and me yet also he was still God and this is of course is The Lord Jesus Christ who the apostle John speaks of this way 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 writer of Psalm 147 speaks of God revealing his word to Jacob who was one of the founding fathers of the nation of Israel God chose to reveal himself to and then eventually the world.

The name Jacob reveals that God spoke to a sinful fallen man as Jacob in Hebrew means supplanter and Jacob through most of his life was a self- serving devious man who sort to bring down his older twin brothers birth right to advance himself.

Jacob later in his life had a special encounter with God recorded in Genesis 32: 22 – 32 and after wrestling with God, through an Angel of God Jacob is humbled with a permanent injury to his hip causing him to limp and God gives him a new name which is Israel that means “Struggles with God and prevails” and that is the name of the Nation he helps to bring into being.

The writer of Psalm 147 then speaks of the special revelation of God to the Nation of Israel with these words in verse 19,

“His laws and decrees to Israel”

 This is a direct reference to the covenant agreement God made with the ancient nation of Israel a covenant that speaks of God choosing to love and bless a nation called Israel and they are as their part of this covenant or binding agreement to keep his laws.

The story of Israel and the bible is that by and large Israel failed to keep God’s laws so God had to fulfil the covenant agreement another way and that was by providing the perfect sacrifice for our sins in the person of his Son the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is what the writer to the Hebrews is speaking about in Hebrews 9: 14 – 15,

“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

The last verse of this Psalm speaks of the unique position Israel as a nation holds in world history as God chose only one nation on earth through which he made himself known,

“He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws”.

 One commentator I read spoke of how the truth of this would have been clear to the Jews who had just come from the Babylonian captivity as living in Babylon they would have felt first- hand how nations without the revelation of God and his laws were so much in the dark and how this meant they had no idea about the One True God as they lived in total spiritual darkness not knowing or understanding who he is and what he requires of them.

As Christians, we are called to be The New Israel of God as Paul calls the church in passages like Galatians 6: 16 and implied by Galatians 3: 26 – 29. This means we also are in a unique position in the world we live in as Peter speaks so powerfully of in 1 Peter 2: 9 – 10,

 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

 So, we can join in the writer of Psalm 147 call to praise the God of the bible for his special revelation of himself that has called us as Peter declares in verse 9,

“Out of darkness into his wonderful light”.

 This is the last and greatest reason why we can join the writer of Psalm 147 and say or sing,

“Hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord”.

I close as usual with an original poem / song and a final word of prayer:

IT IS GOOD TO PRAISE THE LORD

(Based on Psalm 147)

 Praise the Lord

For it is good to sing praises to the Lord

Praise the Lord

How fitting and pleasant it is to praise the Lord

For he builds up his church

As he gathers them together as one

For he heals the broken hearted

Through the selfless giving of his only Son.

 

Chorus:

 

It is good to praise the Lord

For he’s done so much us

And he longs to bless us now

But we must turn around and trust.

 

Praise the Lord

For he made the stars up above

Praise the Lord

For he now controls the universe with love

And great with mighty power

Is our God who’s understanding has no end

And he sustains those who fall

And who seek his kingdom to extend.

 

Chorus:

Praise the Lord

Who takes no pleasure the strength of a horse

Praise the Lord

Who does not delight in human fighting force

But his delight is in those

Who trust and hope in his amazing love

For he sent his son to die

So that one day we could all rise up above.

Chorus:

 

Praise the Lord

For his wonderful provisions for the earth

Praise the Lord

Who makes the rain that gives our world new birth

And his revealed himself to us

Through his people called Israel who lived long ago

And through them he sent his son

So that message of his love to the world could now go.

Chorus:

 

It is good to praise the Lord

For he’s done so much us

And he longs to bless us now

But we must turn around and trust.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

We praise you Lord, Father in heaven above who made the universe and still keeps it going with your mighty power and your love. We praise you because you alone deserve our praise for all the wonderful loving things you have done for us and continue to do for us. Above all we praise and thank you for how you sent your Son to both reveal yourself to us and to die for our sins on the cross so that we could be forgiven of all our sins and come out of our darkness into your glorious eternal light. In Jesus name we pray this, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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