A Hymn Of Thanksgiving Unto Our Powerful, Wise & Compassionate God

a brief study of Psalm 147, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 11 May 2012

Part 1 of 2

Psalm 147 is the second of what is known as the Concluding Hallel. A Hallel is a psalm of praise.

All the psalms in the Concluding Hallel begin and end with the Hebrew hallelujah! They contain no word of petition. They are all of praise or, more accurately, commands to praise God.

In Psalm 146 we are taught to praise God because He is dependable and because He is compassionate. But in Psalm 147, we are encouraged to praise God because He is powerful, wise and compassionate. We may entitle it, “A Hymn of Thanksgiving unto our Powerful, Wise & Compassionate LORD.”

This psalm can roughly be divided into two parts. The first part is from verse 1 to 11, and the second part is from verse 12 to the end. Verse 12 begins with a call to praise the Lord, similar to that in verse 1. It is probably for that reason the Greek translation of this psalm, i.e. the Septuagint, breaks this psalm into two psalms according to this division.

Some commentators believe that this psalm was written after the Babylonian exile when the Jews were re-gathered in Jerusalem under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. With this in mind, it is pointed out that the first part of the psalm has to do with the building up of Jerusalem (v. 2); while the second part has to do with the strengthening of Jerusalem (v. 13).

But whatever the case may be, you will find in this psalm 10 timeless reasons to praise the LORD. Let’s look at each of them briefly.

1. Praise is Pleasant & Comely

1 Praise ye the LORD: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely.

Why should we praise the LORD? We should praise the LORD because it is good to do so. Why is it good? Because it is pleasant and comely! It is pleasant and delightful to praise the LORD. And it is a comely and beautiful thing to do.

Thank God He has given us His word that we may praise Him.

But secondly, let us praise the LORD, for….

2. The LORD Builds the Church

 2 The LORD doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel.

As mentioned earlier it is thought that this psalm was written when the Jews of old were re-gathered after the Babylonian exile. For the Jews of Old, the thought of God gathering the saints back after He had scattered them, would always stir their hearts to praise Him.

Now, the gathering of Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile is a type of the gathering of the elect under the New Covenant.

As gentiles, we were the outcasts of Israel. We were strangers and foreigners of the household of God. But thanks be to God for He brought us together to build up Jerusalem.

“But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” says the apostle (Heb 12:22). Jerusalem is the Church of Christ.

Shall we not praise Him that He has gathered us as the body of Christ? Think of what you were, and think of what you are today? Can you imagine life without Christ? Can you imagine life without the church?

Let us praise the LORD for He has powerfully and graciously gathered us together into His church that we may worship together and walk together in our journey to the Celestial City. 

But thirdly, let us praise the LORD for…

3. The LORD is Compassionate

 3 He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.

Many things break our hearts. Many things cut our souls so that we bleed within. Very often no one sees. Like the sackcloth of king Joram (2 Kgs 6:30), our grief is hidden from view. And very often no one can help. I know no mortal man who can piece a broken heart together or stitch a wound in the soul.

But I know of one who can. Who is He who can? It is He who lovingly invites us to cast our burdens upon Him because He cares for us.

Beloved brethren, no one but Jehovah can heal the wounds in your hearts and soul. The devil can shoot arrows at your soul. Man can stab at your heart. Only the LORD can heal you.

Is there not reason to praise Him for His kindness and compassion, especially when we consider that we are but insignificant poor creatures of dust in a vast universe?

Indeed, the fact that the LORD is great in power and infinite in understanding is another reason why we should praise Him.

4. The LORD is Great in Power & Understanding

 4 He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names. 5 Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.

Who can tell the number of the stars? Who can call them by their names? Abraham could not. Abraham could not even number the stars which he could see with his naked eyes. More than 4,000 years have passed since Abraham. Has man been able to count the number of stars? In 1997, NASA believed that there we 1021 stars in the universe. In 2006, Australian researchers proposed that there are 7 times more stars than that. There are 70 sextillion, i.e. 70,000 million, million, million stars, they say. Today some scientists are saying that there are possibly 100 times more than that. If that is correct, there are more than 1000 times as many stars as there are grains of sand on all of earth’s beaches and deserts. And that is just the number of stars that can be observed today!

Has man counted them all? No, this is but a very, very rough estimate. How many billions of billion more stars remain out of sight because they are too far to be seen?

How great is our God! All the stars of the universe are but like a palm full of sand in His hand. He made the stars. He knows their names; He knows their number. His understanding is infinite. He does not discover day by day.

This is the great God you and I serve. Shall we not praise Him?

Indeed, fifthly, shall we not praise Him, for He is not only great, but humbled Himself to show us kindness?

5. The LORD is Kind to the Meek

6 The LORD lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground.

God is infinitely great and glorious, but He is concerned about man. He is intimately concerned about how we live our lives. He casts the wicked down to the ground. He will not allow them to oppress the poor or the righteous. He is a just God.

But at the same time, He is kind to the meek. The meek are those who do not always try to justify themselves. They are those who have been oppressed and discouraged and but do not seek to lift themselves up in sinful ways.

Their souls are therefore often bowed down to the ground. Does anyone care? Yes, there is One who cares, even God infinite in power and wisdom. God stretches out His hands daily to lift up the meek.

Who are the meek? No one in the world is meek, but God’s children in whom is the Spirit of Christ (cf. Ps 22:26; Ps 25:9; Ps 37:11; Ps 149:4; Mt 5:5; Mt 11:28-30)

Let us praise Him, for He gives us the Spirit of Meekness, and He upholds us when we are brought low by providence.

But sixthly, let us remind ourselves to praise Him for…

6. The LORD is the God of Providence

 7 Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God: 8 Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains. 9 He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.

We must stir up our hearts and strum our heart-strings to praise the LORD. Why should we praise Him? We should praise Him because He is the God of Providence. He causes the cloud to form; He waters the thirsty land; He plants the grass in the mountains; He feeds the lions and the squirrels; and He feeds the young ravens chirping in their nests.

Our God is the God of providence and Christ has been appointed to uphold the world by the word of His power.

It is amazing, is it not, that Christ our Lord should not only care for us, but is caring for the mountains, the ocean and the sparrows. He is caring for all these so that all things work together for good to them that love God. Is this not a reason for us to praise the LORD?

But seventhly, let us praise the LORD, for…

7. The LORD takes Pleasure in Us

10 He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. 11 The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.

This psalm was written at a day when the greatest display of power is in the strength of the horse or the legs of man. Man will always be fascinated by the power and speed that was associated with the strength of horses and the legs of man.

Today we are still fascinated by power and speed. Many grown-up men will wake up in the middle of the night to watch soccer games on TV. What is the draw of soccer games but the legs of man? Others are drawn to watch Olympic races, car races, horse races—anything that involves power and speed. These are the delights of man.

What are the delights of God? The Lord takes no delight in these trivialities. He takes delight in “them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.

Who are these? These are those who truly know who they are and who God is. They fear God because they know He is their Creator and He is holy whereas they are creatures of dust and sin. They hope in His mercy because they recognise that only He can forgive their sin.

Such are true believers. Such are those whom the Lord delights in. They are the vessels of his mercy. They are the part of God’s creation that brings Him greatest joy. The brightest and most beautiful galaxies in heaven do not bring Him so much delight. The praises of the cherubim and seraphim do not bring Him so much joy.

The praises of His children who fear Him and hope in his covenant mercies bring Him the greatest delight. Yes, your voice may be out of tune. Yes, your praise will be tainted with sin. Your old man will ensure that your praise is not perfectly free of self and hypocrisy. But your praise is sweeter to your heavenly Father than the voice of a million angels.

Is that not a good reason to praise Him?

…to be continued next Sabbath