This calendar year I decided not to read through the Bible in a year, not because it isn’t a wonderful, faith-growing discipline but because at least for me, reading the entirety of the Bible in a year gives little time for reflection because of the quantity of reading required to keep up. I started this year with the goal of sticking to the Psalms I like the most and journaling about them. Think depth instead of breadth. I haven’t been nearly as consistent as I would like. But when I take the time to practice this, God often gives insights that are convicting and reassuring. Below are my journal entries related to Psalm 147:1-11 over the course of a few days. I offer this as an example of Bible study that doesn’t require a whole lot more than time, thought and discipline. For me, it yields an enjoyment of the Scriptures as well as conviction, which is exactly what God wants to happen in us as we come to His Word. If what I wrote below helps, praise God. If it doesn’t, delete it! Keep in mind these are mildly edited thoughts more than definitive statements, and if you’d like to talk about any of it feel free to reach out to me.
147 Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The Lord lifts up the humble;
he casts the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre!
8 He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives to the beasts their food,
and to the young ravens that cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
Psalm 147:1 (7/14/18)
1 – The command is to praise the Lord. Why? Because it is good for us and leads to our joy. Lord, I praise you for being so sovereign, awesome, compassionate, kind, loving, wise, powerful, beautiful. Cause my heart to be moved in love and affection toward You before anything or anyone else. And let my life reflect this love and affection towards you. It is very pleasant to praise God, it leads to feelings of joy and purpose and love. It leads to humility.
Psalm 147:2-6 (7/16/18)
What an interesting set of descriptions of our God and His goodness and power. The Lord:
- builds up jerusalem
- gathers the outcasts of Israel
- heals the brokenhearted, binds up their wounds
- determines the number of stars, names them all
- Great, abundant in power is the Lord
- His understanding is beyond measure
- lifts up the humble
- casts the wicked to the ground
In the same passage, God is recognized as caring for the weak, his own weak people, healing those who are hurting and broken, creating all the starry host and knowing every single star by name. God loves his creation, he is personally invested in it, even the impersonal stars. He is great and abundant in power, he understands all things, far beyond any human measuring. And yet, he lifts the humble, and cares for them. But the wicked he casts down to the ground. O Lord, help me to worship you truly and in power, and to be humble. And help me to trust you that you will take care of the wicked so I don’t have to worry about them.
Psalm 147:7-11 (7/18/18)
The command again is to praise God, to give thanks to him and make melody and sing. Something about singing causes us to be moved to feel the transcendent God. Those who sing at concerts feel the same thing, but it is a different form of worship. I wonder – is it acceptable for us as Christians to go to a Coldplay show and sing it out and raise hands? It seems to me it is so similar to worship that it feels like idolatry, even though it is incredibly enjoyable. Plus there is the $150 price tag of going. Is that ok? Should we do that or is that too much like worship? The people playing in the band are godlike certainly – they are famous, they are revered, women throw themselves at them, they are fabulously wealthy. Is it idolatry or just the enjoyment of the creative talents given to people by God? What is the distinction between a huge live concert with people singing along, having sacrificed their hard-earned money, raising their hands, closing their eyes, their consciousness altered by alcohol or weed? Why would that not be a worship experience, a transcendent experience? But it isn’t praising God, it is instead praising the band or the content of the song (often content that is completely at odds with glorifying God).
The Psalmist then gives us more reasons to praise this great God of the universe:
- v. 8 — he covers the heavens with clouds and fills them with rain for the earth (how amazing this is that creation is set up to give the most precious resource out to earth regularly)
- v. 9 — he provides food for the animals all the world over. We see God’s role as sustainer of all things everywhere we look, from the heavens (where the rain comes from) to the earth below our feet (where the grass is that feeds the animals).
- vs. 10-11 — Because God is so powerful, one might conclude that God loves in His creation that which reflects His own strength (“strength of the horse/legs of the man”). But no, it is the not the virtue of strength but the virtue of knowing our place and our need for God that He delights in. Those who hope not in themselves but in the Lord. Not those who are fearless but those who fear God (and who therefore do not fear people). This is a different hierarchy, and a different kind of strength. In our world hierarchies are all around us – the football team has a hierarchy according to who the most valuable player is, or the future D1 athlete is. The chess team has a hierarchy – whoever is the best player is at the top. Whoever has the placard outside her office that reads “CEO” is at the top. But in the hierarchy that matters most is God’s hierarchy, and those who trust Him and fear Him are at the top. That means that the single mom in South Linden scraping by who loves Christ and honors Him and takes care of her children is higher on the totem pole than the successful entrepreneur who believes in his heart that he is the cause of all his success and that he is God’s gift to society because of all his amazing gifts. Of course one could be a successful executive or surgeon or entrepreneur or basketball player and fear God, and hope in His love over earthly wealth and fame and success. But to God, dependence upon Him, and hope His love is more important than strength. This is yet another Old Testament passage that points to Jesus Christ, because we know that “by grace we have been saved” (Ephesians 2:8), not by strength or competence. All the more reason to cause God to delight in us by fearing Him and hoping in His love.