In today’s reading, the psalmist looks to the past to remind God’s people of his faithfulness to them in the present. How has God been faithful to you in your life?
1 Praise the Lord.
Praise the name of the Lord;
praise him, you servants of the Lord,
2 you who minister in the house of the Lord,
in the courts of the house of our God.
3 Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant.
4 For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own,
Israel to be his treasured possession.
5 I know that the Lord is great,
that our Lord is greater than all gods.
6 The Lord does whatever pleases him,
in the heavens and on the earth,
in the seas and all their depths.
7 He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth;
he sends lightning with the rain
and brings out the wind from his storehouses.
8 He struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
the firstborn of people and animals.
9 He sent his signs and wonders into your midst, Egypt,
against Pharaoh and all his servants.
10 He struck down many nations
and killed mighty kings –
11 Sihon king of the Amorites,
Og king of Bashan,
and all the kings of Canaan –
12 and he gave their land as an inheritance,
an inheritance to his people Israel.
13 Your name, Lord, endures for ever,
your renown, Lord, through all generations.
14 For the Lord will vindicate his people
and have compassion on his servants.
15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
made by human hands.
16 They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but cannot see.
17 They have ears, but cannot hear,
nor is there breath in their mouths.
18 Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who trust in them.
19 All you Israelites, praise the Lord;
house of Aaron, praise the Lord;
20 house of Levi, praise the Lord;
you who fear him, praise the Lord.
21 Praise be to the Lord from Zion,
to him who dwells in Jerusalem.
Sometimes we can be overwhelmed by present circumstances and so we ‘read’ our lives through a lens of despair. Walter Brueggemann talks about our ‘tendency to absolutise the present moment’.* Like the book of Romans, this psalm reminds us to look beyond the present moment by remembering well; that is, remembering that we worship a loving and compassionate God who has acted in history to deliver his people and who will act powerfully in our own lives.
This psalm begins with an imperative: ‘Praise the Lord.’ Why should God be praised (v 3)? God is not only God of his chosen people (v 4); God is above all gods (v 5) – he is the God of the whole world (vs 6,7). Then the psalmist looks at the initiative God has taken to deliver his people in history, remembering how God saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt through the Exodus (vs 8–12).
Finally, the psalmist, like Paul in Romans 1:21–23, reminds us that all false idols are impotent, and therefore a dependence on things other than God will not save us (vs 15–18).
*Walter Brueggemann, Abiding Astonishment: Psalms, Modernity, and the Making of History, Westminster John Knox Press, 1991, p 26
Whatever our present circumstances, we need to remember that we worship a known God who has acted in history, ultimately in sending us his Son. Praise God for his compassion, mercy and grace.
Deeper Bible study
‘How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!’1
Equality is an important value for us – increasingly so in decent societies: everybody should be treated fairly without regard to privileges of birth and social position. This resonates with the idea that all people are made in the divine image. Yet there is a false understanding of equality that assumes that nothing is superior to anything else. This makes neither logical nor spiritual sense.
The people of Israel had no hesitation in declaring the superiority of their God (v 5). This very worshipful psalm encourages God’s people to enter into a sacred space (tabernacle or Temple or congregation) to join in praise to God (vs 1–3,19–21). God is to be praised because of those qualities that make God truly God: goodness (v 3), greatness (v 5), sovereignty (v 6), creativity (v 7), eternity (v 13) and compassion (v 14). God’s greatness is specifically seen in the election of Israel as God’s treasured possession (v 4) and in their deliverance from captivity and protection from lethal warlords on entering the Promised Land (vs 8–12). God shows favour to all the nations, but there is a special purpose for Israel.2
In words of biting satire, the superiority of the one God of Israel is contrasted with the paltry gods of the nations that are the creation of humans’ own hands. They cannot speak, see or hear – in contrast with the Living God they are dull and dead and only serve to deaden those who trust in them (v 18). If there is a surprising word in this psalm it is ‘pleasant’: God’s name is pleasant (v 3). If the God of Israel evokes awe and wonder in us, God’s name and very self also bring pleasure. Amazingly, we can take pleasure in God and find delight in God’s goodness and purpose. Never forget to enjoy God.
‘For even if there are so-called gods … yet for us there is but one God’.3
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: Leviticus 17,18; Acts 10
Pray for Scripture Union
SU Egypt is very excited to be working on a new translation of the New Testament, Genesis, Psalms and Proverbs into Colloquial Egyptian Arabic, the spoken dialect of more than 100 million people. The fact that the Bible is being written in this spoken-only dialect is groundbreaking. Please pray for wisdom and good progress.