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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Psalm 33 - Responding to love

This psalm is concerned with responding to the revealed love of the Lord. His love is eternal, a reminder that it had no beginning and will have no end. The required response to his love is exuberant praise. The exuberance is described in verses 1 to 3 where the psalmist urges loudness, both with the human voice and musical instruments. This was the Old Testament form of worship found at the temple. When the people are urged to sing a new song, the psalmist probably means to sing with new spiritual life; it is hard to imagine that the psalmist wanted a new song in a literal sense on each occasion of worship.

The basic reason for worship concerns the word and the work of the Lord (v. 4), and the psalmist proceeds to look at various ways in which the Lord’s word is heard and his work is seen. His attributes are displayed in what he says and does, and the psalmist mentions several of these attributes in verses 4 and 5. This is a reminder that God wants us to understand or discover who he is from his words and actions.

The first occasion of God’s speaking and doing that is mentioned is his creation of the universe at the beginning of time (vv. 6-9). His word was a word of power as his ability to create reveals. There was no contradiction between what he said and what he did. The particular aspect of creation that the psalmist mentions is God’s power to hold all the oceans and seas in their places. They have been there since he made them. Looking at the seas and oceans should remind believers of the greatness of God.

The second occasion of God’s speaking and doing is his working in providence, particularly with the various ways he counteracts the intentions of all peoples (vv. 10-12). One common element of all their diverse intentions is their rejection of the Lord’s revealed will. Therefore he has to over-rule all their different thoughts, which reveals his profound wisdom. In a marvellous way, he always works according to his eternal counsel, and his plan is always fulfilled, even in situations which are marked by great opposition to him. Given that the other nations were in such a state of rebellion, it was a great privilege for Israel to have been set apart by God to be his people.

A third aspect of his speaking and doing concerns his current response to what was happening among his people (vv. 13-20). The psalmist takes his awareness of God’s knowledge of each person’s thoughts as a reason for having confidence in him. Even although he was king, David did not depend on his army. It is possible that the psalm was written during a time of war, and the correct response was to look to God for protection (v. 20). The psalmist reasoned that since God knew his circumstances, he deduced that God would also use his power on his servant‘s behalf. Even if their current troubles resulted in famine (v. 19), they could still anticipate God’s help in a situation in which no other could help them.

The outcome will be joyful trust in the Lord, with the accompanying hope that the faithful God would continue to show his love to his people (vv. 21-22).

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