PSALM 147 OVERVIEW.
Subject. This is a specially remarkable song. In it the greatness and the condescending goodness of the Lord are celebrated The God of Israel is set forth in his peculiarity of glory as caring for the sorrowing, the insignificant, and forgotten. The poet finds a singular joy in extolling one who is so singularly gracious. It is a Psalm of the city and of the field, of the first and the second creations, of the common wealth and of the church. It is good and pleasant throughout.
Division. The, song appears to divide itself into three portions. From Psalms 147:1-6 , Jehovah is extolled for building up Zion, and blessing his mourners; from Psalms 147:7-11 , the like praise is given because of his provision for the lowly, and his pleasure in them; and then, from Psalms 147:12-20 , he is magnified for his work on behalf of his people, and the power of his word in nature and in grace. Let it be studied with joyful gratitude.
Verse 1. Praise ye the Lord, or Hallelujah: The flow of the broad river of the Book of Psalms ends in a cataract of praise. The present Psalm begins and ends with Hallelujah. Jehovah and happy praise should ever be associated in the mind of a believer. Jove was dreaded, but Jehovah is beloved. To one and all of the true seed of Israel the Psalmist acts as choir master, and cries, "Praise ye the Lord." Such an exhortation may fitly be addressed to all those who owe anything to the favour of God; and which of us does not? Pay him we cannot, but praise him we will, not only now, but for ever. "For it is good to sing praises unto our God." It is good because it is right; good because it is acceptable with God, beneficial to ourselves, and stimulating to our fellows. The goodness of an exercise is good argument with good men for its continual practice. Singing the divine praises is the best possible use of speech: it speaks of God, for God, and to God, and it does this in a joyful and reverent manner. Singing in the heart is good, but singing with heart and voice is better, for it allows others to join with us. Jehovah is our God, our covenant God, therefore let him have the homage of our praise; and he is so gracious and happy a God that our praise may best be expressed in joyful song.
For it is pleasant; and praise is comely. It is pleasant and proper, sweet and suitable to laud the Lord Most High. It is refreshing to the taste of the truly refined mind, and it is agreeable to the eye of the pure in heart: it is delightful both to hear and to see a whole assembly praising the Lord. These are arguments for song service which men who love true piety, real pleasure, and strict propriety will not despise. Please to praise, for praise is pleasant: praise the Lord in the beauty of holiness, for praise is comely. Where duty and delight, benefit and beauty unite, we ought not to be backward. Let each reader feel that he and his family ought to constitute a choir for the daily celebration of the praises of the Lord.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. The whole Psalm is an invitation unto praising of God. Arguments therein are drawn, First, from God's general goodness to the world (Ps 147:4,8-9,16-18): Secondly, from his special mercy to his Church.
- In restoring it out of a sad and broken condition ( Psalms 147:2 - 3).
- In confirming it in a happy and prosperous estate, both temporal, in regard of strength, peace, and plenty ( Psalms 147:12-14 ); and spiritual, in regard of his word, statutes, and judgments, made known unto them ( Psalms 147:19-20 ). Lastly, these mercies are all commended by the manner of bestowing them -- powerfully and swiftly. He doth it; by a word of command, and by a word of speed: "He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth: his word runneth very swiftly" (Ps 147:15).
The temporal part of this happy estate, together with the manner of bestowing it, is herein described, but we must by no means exclude the spiritual meaning. And what can be wanting to a nation which "strengthened" with walls, "blessed" with multitudes, hath "peace" in the border, "plenty" in the field, and, what is all in all, God in the sanctuary: God the bar of the "gate", the Father of the children, the crown of the "peace", the staff of the "plenty"? They haven "gate" restored, a "city" blessed, a "border" quieted, a "field" crowned, a "sanctuary" beautified with the oracles of God. What can bc wanting to such a people, but a mouth filled, a heart enlarged, a spirit exalted in the praises of the Lord? "Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion", etc. ( Psalms 147:12 ). -- Edward Reynolds in a Sermon entitled "Sion's Praises", 1657.
Whole Psalm. The God of Israel, what he has done, what he does, what he can do -- this is the "Hallelujah" note of his song. So happy is the theme, that in Ps 147:1 we find a contribution for it levied on Psalms 33:1 92:1 135:3; each must furnish its quota of testimony to the desirableness of giving praise to such a God. --Andrew A. Bonar.
Verse 1. Praise ye the Lord. Alleluia. An expression in sound very similar to this seems to have been used by many nations, who can hardly be supposed to have borrowed it from the Jews. Is it impossible that this is one of the most ancient expressions of devotion? From the Greeks using eleleu ih, as a solemn beginning and ending of their hymns to Apollo, it should seem that they knew it; it is said also to have been heard among the Indians in America, and Alia, Alla, as the name of God, is used in great part of the East: also in composition. What might be the primitive stock which has furnished such spreading branches? --Augustin Calmer, 1672-1757.
Verse 1. It is good to sing praises unto our God. Singing is necessarily included and recognised in the praise of Psalms. That the joyful should sing is as natural as that the afflicted should pray -- rather more natural. Song as the expression of cheerfulness is something universal in human nature; there were always, both in Israel and among all other nations, songs of joy. Hence it is constantly mentioned in the prophets, by whom joyous singing is used as a frequent figure, even as they threaten that God will take away the song of the bridegroom and the bride, and so forth. The singing of men is in itself good and noble. The same God who furnished the birds of heaven with the notes wherein they unconsciously praise their Creator, gave to man the power to sing. We all know how highly Luther, for example, estimated the gift and the art of song. Let him to whom it is granted rejoice therein; let him who lacks it seek, if possible, to excite it; for it is a good gift of the Creator. Let our children learn to sing in the schools, even as they learn to read. Our fathers sang more in all the affairs of life than we do; our tunes are in this respect less fresh, and artless, and joyous. There are many among us who never sing, except when adding their voices to the voice of the church, -- and therefore they sing so badly there. Not that a harsh song from a good heart is unacceptable to God; but he should have our best. As David in his day took care that there should be practised singers for the sanctuary, we also should make provision for the church's service of song, that God may have in all respects a perfect offering. How gracious and lovely is the congregation singing with the heart acceptable songs! --Rudolf Stier, in "The Epistle of James Expounded", 1859.
Verse 1. The translation here is doubtful. It may either be rendered, "Praise the Lord for he is good", or, "for it (praise) is good." Why is it declared to be "pleasant" and "comely" to praise the Deity? Not only because if we glorify him he will also glorify us, but because he is so infinitely glorious that we are infinitely honoured simply in being reckoned worthy to worship One so great. -- John Lorinus.
Verse 1. It is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely. These points are worthy of careful consideration.
- To praise God is "good" for divers reasons.
- That is good which God commands ( Micah 6:8 ). So that thanksgiving is no indifferent action, no will worship, but it is cultus institutus, not to be neglected.
- It raiseth the heart from earth to heaven; and being the work of angels and saints in heaven, joins us with that choir above.
- It is good, again, because by it we pay, or at least acknowledge, a debt, and this is common justice.
- Good, because for it we are like to receive a good and a great reward; for if he that prays to God is like to be rewarded ( Matthew 6:6 ), much more that man who sings praises to him; for in prayer we consult with our own necessities, in our praises we honour God, and bless him for his gifts.
- To praise God is "pleasant."
- Because it proceeds out of love; for nothing is more pleasant to him that loves, than to make sonnets in the praise of that party he loves.
- Because it must needs please a man to perform that duty for which he was created; for to that end God created men and angels, that they should praise him.
- Because God is delighted with it, as the sweetest sacrifice ( Psalms 50:23 ).
- It is pleasant to God, because he is delighted with those virtues which are in us, -- faith, hope, charity, religion, devotion, humility, etc., of all which our praises are a manifestation and exercise.
- To praise God is "comely"; for there is no greater stain than ingratitude; it is made up of a lie and injustice. There is, then, all the decency in the world in praise, and it is comely that a man be thankful to his God, who freely gives him all things. --William Nicholson.
Verse 1. David, to persuade all men to thankfulness, saith, It is a good and pleasant thing to be thankful. If he had said no more but "good", all which love goodness are bound to be thankful; but when he saith not only "good", but "pleasant" too, all which love pleasure are bound to be thankful; and therefore, as Peter's mother-in-law, so soon as Christ healed her of a fever, rose up immediately to minister unto him ( Matthew 8:15 ), so we, so soon as Christ hath done anything for us, should rise up immediately to serve him. --Henry Smith.
Verse 1. There is no heaven, either in this world, or the world to come, for people who do not praise God. If you do not enter into the spirit and worship of heaven, how should the spirit and joy of heaven enter into you? Selfishness makes long prayers, but love makes short prayers, that it may continue longer in praise. --John Pulsford, 1857.
Verse 1. Praise. There is one other thing which is a serious embarrassment to praising through the song service of the Church, and that is, that we have so few hymns of praise. You will be surprised to hear me say so; but you will be more surprised if you take a real specimen of praising and search for hymns of praise. You shall find any number of hymns that talk about praise, and exhort you to praise. There is no lack of hymns that say that God ought to be praised. But of hymns that praise, and say nothing about it, there are very few indeed. And for what there are we are almost wholly indebted to the old churches. Most of them came down to us from the Latin and Greek Churches ... There is no place in human literature where you can find such praise as there is in the Psalms of David. -- Henry Ward Beecher.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. Praise. Its profit, pleasure, and propriety. --J.F.
Verse 1. The Reasonable Service.
- The methods of praise: by word, song, life; individually, socially.
- The offerers of praise: "ye."
- The objects of praise: "the Lord, our God."
- The reasons for praise: it is "good", "pleasant", "becoming."
- The Privilege of Praising God.
- It is good.
- The Duty of Praising God.
- For gathering a church for himself among men: "The Lord doth build up Jerusalem."
- For the materials of which it is composed: "The outcasts", etc.
- For the preparation of those materials for his purpose: "He healeth", etc. Ps 147:3. --G.R.