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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.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Psalm 147:1-6 – Why should we praise God? Because he is the powerful restorer

Why should we praise God? The unknown psalmist tells us why in verse 1 – it is good, pleasant and fitting. Praising God is good because it reveals we are thankful to him, praising God is pleasant because it gives a sense of his presence, and praising God is fitting because we are made in his image as his creatures and we have received his blessings as members of his family. In the psalm, the author ten provides three examples of praising God and we will think of the first today, which is that God is the powerful restorer.

The psalm seems to have been composed after the exile in Babylon was over and the people of Israel were able to return to their own land. What had seemed impossible had occurred – they had been restored to the place they loved and although they were weak they had the Lord on their side.

So why were they brokenhearted at such a time? If the psalm was composed after the exile, we get an answer in the book of Haggai where we are informed that the returnees who could remember the glory of the former temple wept at the poverty, in comparison, of the rebuilt temple. How did God comfort them? He reminded them that this smaller rebuilt temple would have the privilege of being the place where the Desire of all nations would come and bring peace. In other words, he comforted them by reminding them of the promised Saviour. Focussing on the past may not bring spiritual comfort, especially if what God is doing in the present seems to be smaller in scale. Yet in our concern, the Lord comes along with reminders of what Jesus will do in the future, and those reminders bring great comfort into our sad souls.

How do we know that he can care for all of us? The psalmist turns to how God works in his creation with regard to the stars (vv. 4-5). He never forgets what any one of them is called and he never forgets to ensure that each one of them is enabled by him to fulfill its function. The author deduces from that regular divine activity that the Lord’s power and grasp of all situations is unlimited and perfect. Since God does take care of the innumerable stars, he will also take care of his weak people, each one of whom he knows personally.

What will he do to our opponents? When the people returned from the exile, they encountered one hindrance after another from determined opponents. Yet this opposition was not a sign that the Lord was uninterested in the situations faced by his people. The psalmist reminds them of the Lord’s intention to elevate his people and bring down those who opposed him. This change of circumstances happens to a degree in this life and will happen to its utmost degree after the Day of Judgement.

The way the psalmist describes believers is important – they are the humble. Such think little of themselves but they think a lot about their God and praise him for what he has done for them and will yet do. It is the humble who offer praise that is good, pleasant and fitting. It was good because such praise expressed their gratitude for what he had done for them, it was pleasant because it led them to a source of joy that their opponents could not understand, and it was fitting because they were residents of the new Jerusalem living temporally in the old Jerusalem after leaving Babylon.

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