The Primacy of Praise

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Another group of psalms in the Psalter contains the psalms of praise. Not all the psalms speak of praising the Lord, but many do. There are many reasons to praise God and if you just take a few minutes to think about your life, I bet you could write your own “psalms of praise!” But then again, there are some people who should keep their thoughts to themselves. Democratic senator Barbara Boxer, for example.

Those who survived the San Francisco earthquake said, ‘Thank God, I’m still alive.’ But, of course, those who died, their lives will never be the same again.

Read it again, you’ll see it.

When we study the life of David, it becomes very obvious that the worship of God was very important to him, both on the personal level and on the national level. In fact, even though the man was Israel’s king, he also wrote songs to be used in worship services, organized choirs and even invented new musical instruments to add to the fullness of Israelite worship. David was a real renaissance man.

Psalm 33 – Praise God for His Sovereignty

The first Psalm of praise concerns God’s sovereignty; the fact that He is the Creator of the universe and remains its providential ruler. This psalm contains some theology that today’s Christian needs to be reminded of constantly. Look at verse 4:

What the Lord says is right and true. He is faithful in everything he does. (Psalm 33:4 NIrV)

God’s doings are always right, they are never wrong. God’s actions are not prompted by hatred or greed or selfishness. It is He who sets the standards of righteousness. All truth, all of man’s laws and justice are measured against His norm. In other words, the Supreme Court of America is not the final authority on anything. God’s Word is. There is a Higher Law above any government established on earth and the Christian is obliged to follow that Higher Law; God’s Law.

Several themes appear in Psalm 33 after the first three verses, which are essential a call to worship. These verses contain no less than five imperatives. In the psalmist’s mind, giving praise to God IS quite literally an imperative because, as he wrote:

It is right for honest people to praise him. (Psalm 33:1b NIrV)

Praising God is the normal thing for His people to do.

God is faithful, vs. 4, 5

The Lord loves what is right and fair. The earth is full of his faithful love. (Psalm 33:5 NIrV)

That God is faithful to His people is beyond dispute. As verse 4 said, God is faithful in everything He does. This means that God has never done anything in the past and will never do anything in the future that goes against His perfect character. He is faithful to His nature. Over in the New Testament, we read this:

Every good and perfect gift is from God. It comes down from the Father. He created the heavenly lights. He does not change like shadows that move. (James 1:17 NIrV)

Only good descends from God the Father; He is incapable of doing anything evil or of acting in a way that contradicts His character. There are, in all, five words in these two verses that speak to God’s character: right, true, faithful, fair, and love.

God is the Creator, vs. 6 – 9

Next to the account of Creation in Genesis 1, these verses teach clearly that God created the world out of nothing. He did it all simply by speaking.

The heavens were made when the Lord commanded it to happen. All of the stars were created by the breath of his mouth. (Psalm 33:6 NIrV)

This powerful verse is an expression of the kind of power God wields: He wills something to happen, and it happens. David didn’t fully understand it, but by the time John wrote his Gospel, what really happened at Creation had been fully realized: the Word that resulted in the material universe being formed out of nothing was really the Son of God. The glorious second Person of the Trinity was the creative force behind all that we see.

All things were made through him. Nothing that has been made was made without him. (John 1:3 NIrV)

Implicit in verses 6 – 9 is the command of verse 8 –

Let the whole earth have respect for the Lord. Let all of the people in the world honor him. (Psalm 33:8 NIrV)

In other words, in light of the fact that God created your world, He deserves your respect and your honor.

God’s role in international politics, vs. 10 – 12

Turning from God’s sovereignty in creation, the psalmist looks at His sovereignty in the politics of the nations. Just saying the word “politics” in an American church runs the risk of the person who said it being hit with flying hymnals, but the Bible makes it abundantly clear that God is intimately involved in our (mankind’s) politics.

The Lord blocks the sinful plans of the nations. He keeps them from doing what they want to do. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever. What he wants to do will last for all time. (Psalm 33:10, 11 NIrV)

Taking verse 10 alone can leave you with the wrong impression. Nations sin all the time. Our own “godly” nation now has a culture that is so sinful a decent person has to stand downwind of it just to keep from passing out from its stench! Verse 10 must be read in concert with verse 11. When you do that, you realize the truth of the old axiom:

Man proposes but God disposes.

Man’s plots and programs are often vetoed by God, but not always. He gives nations enough rope to hang themselves. A nation’s ideas and ideals change by the decade but God’s ideas and ideals endure forever. Unlike nations that rise and fall with astonishing predictability, the God-fearing nation will always prosper.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. Blessed are the people he chose to be his own. (Psalm 33:10 NIrV)

You may think that verse puts America in a very precarious position. But don’t despair. You are only living here temporarily; your citizenship is really in Heaven! So, verse 10, then, does carry a special meaning to Christians of any earthly nation:

But God chose you to be his people. You are royal priests. You are a holy nation. You are a people who belong to God. All of this is so that you can sing his praises. He brought you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9 NIrV)

God sees all, vs. 13 – 15

As noted already, God created the world. More to the point, He created the material universe. A very common idea today is to acknowledge God as the Creator, but to ignore the fact that He is also the Sustainer. God didn’t make the world to just leave it up its own devices! This group of verses reminds us that God knows all and He sees all.

From heaven the Lord looks down and sees everyone. (Psalm 33:13 NIrV)

God maintains a careful oversight of that which He created. God sees the nations of this earth; every one of them. He knows what they are doing and what they are planning. He sees you and He sees me. Absolutely nothing escapes His eyes. Not only does He see everybody, but He hears them, too.

He creates the hearts of all people. He is aware of everything they do. (Psalm 33:15 NIrV)

Do you think God is unaware of what’s happening in the Middle East? In the halls of Congress? In the United Nations? Think again! Moffatt –

He alone made their minds, he notes all they do.

God alone is trustworthy, vs. 16 – 19

The weakness of man is contrasted against the strength of God in these verses, but they also teach God’s sovereignty. Contrary to outward appearances, it’s not the size of the army that wins a battle, it’s God. It’s never a man’s strength or determination that saves him, it’s God. If the Lord doesn’t deliver, then relying on mere military prowess is useless.

A king isn’t saved just because his army is big. A soldier doesn’t escape just because he is very strong. People can’t trust a horse to save them either. Though it is very strong, it can’t save them. (Psalm 33:16, 17 NIrV)

Truly a nation’s safety depends on its relationship with God. A godly nation will endure. A nation that turns its back on God will not. This is proven in history. Rudyard Kipling’s Recessional serves as kind of a modern commentary on these thought:

Far-called, our navies melt away; On dune and headland sinks the fire – Lo, all our pomp of yesterday Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!  Judge of the Nations, spare us yet, Lest we forget – lest we forget.

For heathen heart that puts her trust In reeking tube and iron shard – All valiant dust that builds on dust, And guarding, calls not Thee to guard – For frantic boast and foolish word, They mercy on Thy people, Lord!

Amen.

Amen indeed!  Psalm 127:1 is a good commentary on these ideas –

If the Lord doesn’t build a house, the work of its builders is useless. If the Lord doesn’t watch over a city, it’s useless for those on guard duty to stand watch over it. (Psalm 127:1 NIrV)

Because of God’s character, He can be depended upon for deliverance as long as an individual or nation fears Him and puts their hope in Him. This is why nations rise and fall. Endurance and permanence depend on God. It was Roger de Rabutin (Comte de Bussy), the French memoirist, who famously remarked:

God is usually on the side of the big squadrons against the small.

And Voltaire observed:

God is on the side not of the heavy battalions but of the best shots.

But according to the Bible, both of these guys got it wrong.

God in redemption, vs. 20 – 22

Only redeemed people can say these words with complete honesty!

We wait in hope for the Lord. He helps us. He is like a shield that keeps us safe. Our hearts are full of joy because of him. We trust in him, because he is holy. Lord, may your faithful love rest on us. We put our hope in you. (Psalm 33:20 – 22 NIrV)

These words represent a sort of self-dedication, which can be considered an act of worship in and of itself. It’s ironic that when we dedicate ourselves wholly to God, it is we who benefit. Our hearts rejoice. We receive the benefits of His protects and love. And yet, in a way God also benefits from our dedication and consecration. John Piper notes –

The climax of God’s happiness is the delight He takes in the echoes of His excellence in the praises of His people.

Praising God should come easily for those who take God and His Word seriously. When you read this particular psalm, how can you remain silent? God’s sovereignty is not meant to instill fear or dread, but rather a sense of wonder and adoration, that leads to praise and worship.

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