The Glorious Sun Behind
the Storm Clouds

a brief study of Psalm 47, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 7 March 2008

Psalm 47 and Psalm 46 are distinct psalms. But the Holy Spirit has so put these 2 psalms together that it is, I believe, very profitable to look at Psalm 47 in the context of Psalm 46.

Psalm 46, is set in an ambience of great anxiety. The people of God are experiencing great turmoil of heart and mind and things are expected to get worse. Our Lord gives us this Psalm that we may sing at such times. He exhorts us to be still and know that He is God. He would have us fear not because God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble even if the worst calamity were to happen.

But now we come to Psalm 47, and it is a very joyful Psalm. “O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph” we are enjoined.

So it appears that the troubles are over and we should sing Psalm 47 as a celebratory song only when the troubles are all over.

But does this Psalm teach us to do that? Well, I would put it to you that this is not the case; for if you look at verses 3 and 4, you will see that this song is to be sung in anticipation,—and not merely in celebration,—of victory and rest. Notice the future tense. The enemies are not yet subdued. The war is still raging. Our inheritance is not yet enjoyed.

Psalm 47, in other words, is not an inappropriate song to sing even when the church is going through severe trials. Indeed, it is a Psalm, I believe, that God’s children throughout the ages can sing to praise the Lord and encourage ourselves through all the pains and struggles that we face in this present life.

Let us look at this Psalm.

This Psalm has a very unique structure. It has two parts that are separated by a key verse, namely verse 5. In each of these parts, there is a call to praise the Lord followed by the reasons to do so.

Let’s look at the key verse first, for this is central to this Psalm.

1. The Key

5 God is gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.

What is this verse referring to? Some think that this is referring to the ark of God being brought into a battlefield like in the days of Eli. But most commentators agree that it is a reference to the ark being brought up into Jerusalem by David.

But why is this event important to us? Well, this event is important to us because the New Testament teaches us it was a very symbolic event. It pointed to the ascension of Christ into heaven after His crucifixion and resurrection.

This is what the apostle Paul alludes to in Ephesians 4:8, where he quotes Psalm 68:18.

What about the reference to a shout and the sound of a trumpet? Well, these seem to apply more to the coming of Christ, for Paul says:

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God…”  (1Th 4:16).

What then has the shout and the trumpet to do with the ascension of Christ? Well, it has everything to do with the ascension because as the angel told the disciples:

“This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

I am not sure if there were trumpets and the shout of the archangel at the ascension of Christ, but one thing is certain. The ascension of Christ and His return are intricately tied events. Christ will return because He ascended. Christ’s ascension signalled the beginning of the God-Man’s triumphal rule as God and King.

To put it in another way: The ascension of Christ is one of the most important bases of the Christian hope. The cross is important. But except that Christ rose and ascended to heaven, we have no basis to hope that there will ever be perfect peace and perfect joy in this sin-scarred world.

With this in mind, I believe we can begin to get an idea of what the Spirit is seeking to do in our heart and mind through this Psalm.

The Spirit wants us to look unto Jesus in His ascension and to think of all the things that He has done for us, so that everything in the world begins to pale into insignificance and become strangely dim. The Spirit wants us to bask in the glory of our ascended Lord that our hearts may be filled with praise and thanksgiving in the knowledge of peace and victory through Him our Lord and King.

With this in mind, consider the first half of this Psalm, which is …

2. The First Call to Praise

1  O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.

This is not a call for us to clap our hands in worship. No one in his right mind throughout the history of the people of God from Moses, to David, to Pentecost, to the Reformation would clap their hands in formal worship. Certainly no one would clap their hands while singing this Psalm! And never would the temple be filled with the voice of shouting except during war.

No, no; this is a call to lift up our hearts and rejoice in the Lord. Christians must not be defeatist whatever troubles and difficulties may attend us.

Why? For us who look back, it is because Christ our King has conquered and ascended up on high. He is seated at the right hand of the Father upholding all things by the word of His power.

For the Old Testament saints, who were looking forward, it would be because Messiah their great King would conquer and would ascend up on high.

2 For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth. 3 He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet. 4 He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom he loved.

This seems to look back to the conquest of Canaan, but notice the future tense. The conquest of Canaan is but a type of the great spiritual war that our Lord fought and is fighting for us.

There is a war of ages in progress. Everything in this world including all its pains and suffering, great or small are battles in this war. The enemies are sin and Satan and everything that seeks to rob us of peace and joy in the Lord.

So all family quarrels and church quarrels, all relationship break-ups, all deaths and illnesses, all job-losses and indeed all things that bring a sigh and a tear to our eyes, are all part of the war of ages.

But we thank God that Christ has conquered. He is risen. He is ascended. He will return. The Old Testament saints saw it with eyes of faith and hope. We see it partly in history and partly with eyes of hope.

Our Lord will see to it that however powerful the enemies of our souls are, they will be trampled under our feet. “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom 16:20) says the apostle Paul. Christ has conquered. He conquered on the cross and His victory is sealed with His resurrection and ascension. The victory is secure. The serpent’s head is crushed and will be crushed. He is in his dying throes seeking to sweep as many into damnation with him as possible, which is the reason why there is still no perfect peace as yet, and why Christians must put on the spiritual armour and fight. We must fight till the serpent is stilled, and we have, as it were, “fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ” (Col 1:24). For our crushing of Satan’s head, is one with the Lord’s crushing of his head, for we are one with Him.

So fear not, beloved brethren and children, whatever trials may come your way. They are part of the war of ages which Christ has conquered.

They are there that we may learn little by little, more and more to trust in Him who is our King.

But consider now…

3. The Second Call to Praise

6 Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises.

The word translated ‘sing praise’ may also be translated ‘sing psalms’ as in Psalm 105:2.

“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms” says James (Jas 5:13).

Singing psalms is one of the best ways of expressing joy. Singing psalms is also one of the best ways of boosting our confidence in the Lord.

Four times we are exhorted to sing psalms in praise unto our God and king.

When are we to sing psalms? We are to do so when we are filled with joy. But not only so, for the reason that is given for us to sing is an unchanging reason:

7 For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.  8 God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness. 9 The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of the God of Abraham: for the shields of the earth belong unto God: he is greatly exalted.

Why should we sing? How can we sing with understanding unless we know why we should sing?

We should sing, v. 8, because “God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.   We should sing because our God is the sovereign King of all the earth. He is in absolute control over everything in the universe including the heathen.

But to what purpose does He rule the earth? He rules the earth for the sake of His people,—even the people of the God of Abraham. He rules that they might be gathered together as the trophies of His redeeming grace.

He rules that one day it may be declared:

“The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Rv 11:15).


Beloved brethren and children, every Christian ought to be joyful through all the trials and turmoil of this life.

The reason we are not is because we have a tendency to look at the wind and the waves surrounding us. If only we would think more and meditate more on the great things in this Psalm, we shall be shall be able to stay our minds upon Jehovah and remain joyful in whatever situation that the Lord brings us through.

Let us, therefore, sing this Psalm to remind ourselves. Let us sing it with understanding. Let us sing it to exhort one another. Amen.

            —JJ Lim