Psalm 150

Praise God in His sanctuary

Where is the “sanctuary” mentioned in verse 1, where we ought to praise God?

Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. (Psalm 150:1 KJV)

The Hebrew word “sanctuary” is usually translated “Holy”, such as in its first occurrence in the Bible:

And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. … And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. (Exodus 3:2, 5 KJV)

So it’s not necessarily speaking of a separate place, but a nearness to God. In the case of Moses and the burning bush, it was the ground around the presence of the angel that was holy, and where Moses had to alter his behaviour to signify his humility and obedience.

With our prayers and praise, is it possible that there is a state of mind, of reverence and tranquillity, that we could say is set apart for God? It would be a state of mind that recognises that God’s name, purpose and character are Holy and separate.

If God is separate and Holy, we need to get to know who God is through His word rather than assuming who He is. Thus while this Psalm seems to be advocating praise without any limits it is in fact referring to specific instruments and songs. These were ordained by the prophet David to be played and sung in front of the Ark of the LORD:

And he appointed certain of the Levites to minister before the ark of the LORD, and to record, and to thank and praise the LORD God of Israel… with psalteries and with harps; but Asaph made a sound with cymbals; Benaiah also and Jahaziel the priests with trumpets continually before the ark of the covenant of God. Then on that day David delivered first this psalm to thank the LORD into the hand of Asaph and his brethren. Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk ye of all his wondrous works. (1 Chronicles 16:4-9 KJV)

These were specifically appointed people, specifically appointed instruments, and specifically commissioned songs. Once the Ark was placed in its tent, David set up ministers to “do according to all that is written in the law of the LORD, which he commanded Israel”. In other words, to be fully obedient to the word of God:

So he left there before the ark of the covenant of the LORD Asaph and his brethren, to minister before the ark continually, as every day’s work required: … To offer burnt offerings unto the LORD upon the altar of the burnt offering continually morning and evening, and to do according to all that is written in the law of the LORD, which he commanded Israel; (1 Chronicles 16:37, 40 KJV)

For us there are no set songs or set prayers, since we are able to approach God in prayer through our high priest, the Lord Jesus. Yet the Psalm draws on what David did, and if we are to praise God as the Psalm requires, we are to do so with minds set apart to God. These minds must be prepared by reading, meditating on, and understanding of God’s word. This is how we can praise God in His sanctuary.

Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD.

Praise ye the LORD.

Psalm 149

The two-edged sword

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 KJV)

Thus says the New Testament book of Hebrews, but why should we be considering it here? It is because the same phrase crops up in this Psalm:

Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand; To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people; To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; To execute upon them the judgment written: this honour have all his saints. Praise ye the LORD. (Psalm 149:5-9 KJV)

The word of God, when embodied in a person who understands and knows it, will pronounce righteous judgement. This is what Hebrews says. It is because the word is able to discern the hidden “thoughts and intents of the heart”, because that’s how God has designed it.

But it only works for our own heart, and our own intentions. We cannot use this sword on anyone else than ourselves. This self examination is the subject of that chapter in Hebrews where we get the reference to the two-edged sword.

So, since the word of God is consistent, this must also be what the sword is in our Psalm — not a physical sword — but the ability of the word of God to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.

It therefore stands to reason that what the Psalm is actually talking about is the saints of God being given the ability to look into the hearts of others and to discern the thoughts and intentions they see there. If this prophecy is speaking of the Kingdom age, it means that there will be no place to hide for those who continue to hate the Lord Jesus, and despise the righteous laws he instigates.

But there is a reason to believe that the Psalm isn’t talking about the Kingdom age, but just before. Look at this passage again and see if you notice anything odd:

Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand; (Psalm 149:5-6 KJV)

Did you spot the reference to the saints in their beds? Well, in the Kingdom age, saints will have no need for beds, for:

For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven. (Mark 12:25 KJV)

So this Psalm may be speaking of a time before the Kingdom, when the Saints, for whatever reason, are given the responsibility for triggering the judgements on the world that have been so long prophesied.

Whether or not that is the case, it seems from other prophecies that this judgement role will certainly be there in the Kingdom age:

Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? (1 Corinthians 6:2 KJV)

Psalm 148

Praising God

All the earth praises God. All His creation joins together in magnifying Him and exalting His greatness. In all of His creation can be seen His magnificence, wisdom, and perfection. Everything works as it should, doing exactly what God intended it to do. The waves lap upon the beach, the tide goes out and comes in, the moon goes on it’s synchronous course, the dark descends and lifts again, animals wake, forage, eat, sleep. Day after day, hour after hour, here and there, everything declares God as perfect and praises His name.

Except us.

In verse 11 we see mankind taking their part in the daily continual praise of God. It is what should be happening, yet it never fully has been.

Since the mistake of Adam and Eve, we are alone in God’s creation to have disobeyed the purpose for which He created us. We daily turn away from the path He has set for us. The sun, moon and stars, the seasons, the cycles of life all condemn us in our obstinacy. Do any of them ever disobey or run off their course?

The song of praise of the whole earth is marred by us. That earth has been waiting for us to join it in praise:

For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. (Romans 8:19-22 KJV)

We need a new song. The old song is torn and tattered, and ready for disposal. We have spoiled the perfect and harmonious creation of God. In Psalm 149 verse 1 the Psalmist praises God with a new song, a song sung in the assembly of saints.

Praise ye the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints. (Psalm 149:1 KJV)

It is the song sung by the new creation, a people born again and recreated, as we are if we are with Christ. It is those who are humble (v4) and have let go of their old life, embracing in meekness the life lived by grace. These new creatures sing a new song of praise, re-joining with the rest of creation, in one purpose and one common goal, that of Psalm 150 verse 6:

Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD!

Psalm 147

The invisible people

This Psalm is about the invisible people. It’s about the outcasts; the ones who no-one notices. Do you feel like that sometimes? In verse 2, he gathers them:

The LORD doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel. (Psalm 147:2 KJV)

In verse 3, God heals them from their broken heart.

He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3 KJV)

In verse 4, we see that He knows them all by name, no matter how small, or how hidden, or how insignificant they feel.

He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names. (Psalm 147:4 KJV)

In verse 6 He exalts the meek.

The LORD lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground. (Psalm 147:6 KJV)

In verse 7 he makes grass to grow on the mountains where no-one can see it or access it — except for the lonely beasts that graze there.

Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains. (Psalm 147:8 KJV)

In verse 9 he feeds even the ravens no matter how far they are from civilisation.

He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry. (Psalm 147:9 KJV)

In verses 10-11 He tells us that He takes no pleasure in the measures of importance we use, but that His love is for those who serve him, no matter how small they feel.

He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy. (Psalm 147:10-11 KJV)

So if you feel small, alone, unworthy or forgotten, this Psalm is God’s message to you.

Psalm 146

Which God do you mean?

If someone asked you if you served God, you’d say “yes”. But if they asked you: “Which god?”, what would you say? We live in a world where the gods of the major religions are blurred into one, especially by the media, while it is quite clear that they’re not the same. “God” is after all just a title. In verses 5-10 we have an excellent summary of who God is, or in other words, what name He goes by.

I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works. And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts: and I will declare thy greatness. They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness. The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. All thy works shall praise thee, O LORD; and thy saints shall bless thee. (Psalm 145:5-10 KJV)

Here’s some more of the different parts of His name to think about:

  • the God of Jacob
  • the God who made heaven, the earth and the sea
  • the God who executes judgement for the oppressed
  • God who loves the righteous
  • the God who relieves the fatherless and the widow
  • God who upturns the way of the wicked

We can use these stated characteristics of God to explain who He is. Many who might cal themselves Christians, for example, do not worship the God of Jacob (Jacob is the former name of Israel), choosing rather to ignore that aspect of Him. That’s not the same god. Many choose to believe in evolution rather than a god who created the heaven, earth and sea. Not the same god. Many choose to create god in the image of a beneficent old gentleman who cares for the wicked and the good equally. Not the same god. Many have a god that they believe looks after their own financial affairs when in fact He cares more about the fatherless and the widow who may be afflicted because of their greed. Not the same god. So I think the question is not just about how we describe God to others, but about which god we ourselves worship.

Have we truly bothered to find out who He is?

Psalm 145

Proclaim God’s goodness

We’re probably used to the idea of preaching. It tends to involve spreading the message of the gospel of salvation. But in this Psalm, which is about spreading the news about God, how much of it involves the message of salvation?

For example, in v4 David declares God’s “mighty acts”.

One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts. (Psalm 145:4 KJV)

In verse 7, it is His great goodness and righteousness:

They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness. (Psalm 145:7 KJV)

In verse 9, it is that He is good to all:

The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. (Psalm 145:9 KJV)

It seems to me that the Psalm is suggesting we talk to others about God’s character and His achievements. For example, it might involve speaking about how God has saved us from some trouble or anxiety (v14,19)

The LORD upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down. … He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them. (Psalm 145:14, 19 KJV)

Or how He answered our prayer for something we needed (v15-16).

The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing. (Psalm 145:15-16 KJV)

Notice that the Psalmist is not necessarily talking about what he will say to unbelievers. How regularly do we talk to our families and friends, even those who already believe in God, about who He is and the things He has done? What else can we find in this chapter worth talking to others about?

Psalm 144

The LORD my Rock

Notice the language David uses to describe God, and consider that he might have been taking refuge in the rock caves of En-Gedi at the time:

A Psalm of David. Blessed be the LORD my Rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle– My lovingkindness and my fortress, My high tower and my deliverer, My shield and the One in whom I take refuge, Who subdues my people under me. (Psalm 144:1-2 NKJV)

At this time it may literally have felt that God was their only hope, the rock within which they were taking refuge. It was here that men gathered to David, many of whom had their own problems, so that David saw it as a miracle that these men were willingly subject to him as their leader.

And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men. (1 Samuel 22:2 KJV)

David may have been thinking about Moses who had a similar problem, stuck in the wilderness with argumentative and dissatisfied people. The word “Rock” (Hebrew tsuwr) that David uses for God is first used in the book of Exodus:

Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. (Exodus 17:6 KJV)

And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: (Exodus 33:21-22 KJV)

It was when Moses brought water out of the rock that the people were quieted (Deut 8:15) and in Deuteronomy 32, the Song of Moses, the whole song establishes God as the Rock:

Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. (Deuteronomy 32:3-4 KJV)

Psalm 143

Being justified (made righteous)

David is obviously in mortal danger while he prays the prayer recorded in Psalm 143. It is a desperate plea to God for help. The interesting thing about it is in verse 2:

And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified. (Psalm 143:2 KJV)

Notice that he mentions that no-one is justified – and the word “justified” means righteous or sinless. It suggests the reason David was in trouble, was because God was chastening him for his sin. This fits in with the time period after his sin with Bathsheba (see 2 Samuel 12). David’s plea isn’t merely for God to save him from trouble, but from the cause of that trouble; namely his own sin. In v6-7 we see how desperately he longed for that forgiveness.

I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah. Hear me speedily, O LORD: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit. (Psalm 143:6-7 KJV)

The lesson for us is in v11-12 – note the phrase “for your righteousness sake”:

Quicken me, O LORD, for thy name’s sake: for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble. And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant. (Psalm 143:11-12 KJV)

So David had come to realise that there was no self justification for his sin. The only option open to him was to appeal to God’s righteousness and His mercy. The same goes for us:

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. … For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: (Romans 3:20, 23-24 KJV)

God had provided His son to declare God’s righteousness, so that, as David understood, justification might be seen by all to result from God’s goodness, grace and mercy:

Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26 KJV)

Psalm 142

Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are stronger than I

In the previous two Psalms we have the same context as this one. All three speak of snares and traps being laid secretly for David, so it appears that the three Psalms are linked. The heading of this Psalm tells us that this was written while David was in the Cave, so we could assume that all three Psalms are about the time when David fled from Saul and took refuge in the cave of Adullam (1Sam 22).

Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I. (Psalm 142:6 KJV)

David was well aware that Saul and his army were stronger than he. This must have weighed heavy on him, since there were men, women and children with him. He would have felt the burden of their well-being on his own shoulders.

So David placed his burden upon the Lord, allowing Him to take on the responsibility for his life and the life of those with him:

…I cried unto the LORD with my voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication. I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble. (Psalm 142:1-2 KJV)

It is important for us too to realise that the difficulties we face in life are bigger and stronger than us, and in doing so, to allow God to take them on for us. This is how true peace of mind can be developed:

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? … for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:30-33 KJV)

Psalm 141

Trusting in God when depressed

Our bones are scattered at the grave’s mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth. (Psalm 141:7 KJV)

If we take this Psalm as being written at the same time as Psalm 140 and 141 (see comment for Psalm 142), then David and his men are hiding in caves.

Maschil of David; A Prayer when he was in the cave. I cried unto the LORD with my voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication. (Psalm 142:1 KJV)

The same word for “cave” in the heading to Psalm 142 is used of graves, since in Israel caves were used as burial sites. Presumably David was at this time quite depressed and visualizing the woodcuttings at the mouth of the cave he is hiding in, as if they were his bones and the bones of his men. His conclusion in verses 8-10 is an example to us all, in that he banishes such thoughts by trusting in God, the one who can deliver us from all our troubles.

But mine eyes are unto thee, O GOD the Lord: in thee is my trust; leave not my soul destitute. Keep me from the snares which they have laid for me, and the gins of the workers of iniquity. Let the wicked fall into their own nets, whilst that I withal escape. (Psalm 141:8-10 KJV)