August 1 – Psalm 147


Psalm 147 is all about praise; it even mentions the delightfulness of praise itself in the first verse. It’s three stanzas, v.1-6, v.7-11, and v.12-20, all start with a command to praise or sing to the Lord. Verses 1-6 praise God for tending to his people and sustaining them in their humility. Verses 7-11 praise God’s universal care for all of creation and his special love for his people. And verses 12-20 praise God for his power in creation and the power of his word.

First and foremost we see God, the cosmic Creator, who alone knows how many stars there are and can summon them all by name. He reigns over the whole earth, commanding all the various elements and circumstances in our world and, in particular, supporting the life on our planet that surrounds us in abundance. But we also see a companionship, not a contrast, between God’s universal power and his tender love for his people. Based on the reference to building up Jerusalem and gathering the “outcasts of Israel” in verse 2, there’s a chance this psalm was written during the Reconstruction, when the people of Israel were able to return to their homeland from their exile in Babylon (c. 500 BC). As joyful as this return was, it was also fraught with difficulty, as neighboring nations resisted giving back the territory and political power that they had gained in Israel’s absence (Neh. 4:4-5). During the Reconstruction it was perfectly clear that God’s people desperately needed both his universal power and his tender love.

Of course that’s still true for us too, but often it’s hard to think about both God’s power and love together. When we dwell on God’s bigness it can be easy to feel insignificant to him, as if he’s much too big to be troubled with our small selves. But this psalm describes no incompatibility between God’s infinite power and our finite concerns. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”(147:3) Instead of his divine nature making him inaccessible it actually makes him readily accessible at all times, and his love and power show us that he both cares about our troubles and is strong enough to do something about them. Ultimately this combination of big and close finds its highest expression in Jesus, who “emptied himself” (Phil. 2:7) in order to “lift up the humble.”(147:6)

Lastly, we see in verse 11 that this unimaginably big God, who can create whatever splendid things he wants, experiences real joy and delight when people put their life’s hope in him. And, because of Jesus, we know his delight in us is never subject to change. Those who put their whole hope in Jesus share in the declaration God made on the day of Jesus’ baptism, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”(Matt. 3:17) Because of Jesus’ perfect life and obedient death in our place, we don’t have to keep filling up God’s love towards us as if it’s something that drains out or gets used up. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Rom. 8:38-39)

Questions for Discussion

• Would someone read Psalm 147 for us?

• What stood out to you in this passage?

• How does this psalm talk about God’s bigness and his closeness?

• Do you ever feel like God is too big to be bothered with you? If so, why?

• Could someone read Philippians 2:5-11?

• How does Jesus show the bigness and closeness we’ve been talking about?

• Look back at Psalm 147. What reasons for worship does this psalm give us?

• How do you personally want to keep growing in your worship?