Reading: Psalm 148
Praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens
and you waters above the skies.
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for at his command they were created,
and he established them for ever and ever—
he issued a decree that will never pass away (NIV).
As we draw to the end of the Book of Psalms, we are slowly building to a crescendo. It’s a crescendo of praise for the LORD. Today’s reading from Psalm 148 represents another stepping stone in that rising crescendo of praise.
The word praise appears nine times in this six-verse portion of the psalm. The psalmist repeatedly calls for all of creation to praise the LORD—to praise him. In today’s reading the call to praise is focused on the heavenly realm. You would think that the angels and the heavenly hosts would need no reminder to praise the LORD, but nevertheless the psalmist calls on them to praise their Creator. Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts. Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars.
If the angels need a praise prompter, then I know that I certainly do. There are days when I have a greater tendency to complain than to praise. If I am feeling a bit out of sorts or experiencing discomfort, it doesn’t take much to trip me into full-blown, grumble mode with a side order of self-pity tacked on for good measure. Praise for the LORD is a distant thought or a faint memory.
But has God changed? Has His mercy been diminished because I have a grumbly tummy or a kink in my neck? Of course not. The LORD is constantly worthy of praise—even in hard times—especially in hard times. In hard times I need to change my focus. I need to lift up my eyes to the heavens. I need to see the big picture rather than be caught up in the trifling details of my life. God is still on His throne even if I burn the toast or spill that glass of milk. Praise has greater significance at such times because it springs from a troubled heart that has shifted to become a thankful overcoming heart.
In the midst of his great suffering, Job made this declaration about his faithfulness to the LORD, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15a). Will that be your testimony? In all these things, the LORD, our great Creator, remains steadfast and worthy of praise.
Response: LORD God, give me a heart that is eager to praise you—even in hard times—especially in hard times. Your constant care for us does not change. Let my praise for you be just as constant. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you have a greater tendency to grumble or praise? Can you change that tendency?
Reading: Psalm 147
He has revealed his word to Jacob,
his laws and decrees to Israel.
He has done this for no other nation;
they do not know his laws.
Praise the LORD (NIV).
Have you ever asked yourself this question: Where is God?
It’s a valid question. But when we ask that question, it may indicate a lack of faith or at least a level of doubt. When disaster strikes it’s not unusual to wonder, where is God in all this?
There are several theologically correct answers to that question. One could reply that God is in heaven, where He always has been. Or we could say God is everywhere because the Bible teaches that the LORD is omnipresent. See Psalm 139:7-10. Still others may say that the Lord is in their heart. St. Paul reminds us of this truth with this admonition: Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
The simple truth is God needs to reveal Himself to us. The most obvious way that God does this is through His written word. Today’s reading from Psalm 147 speaks of the importance of that revelation. He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel. He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws.
But the written word of God can be nothing but dead words on a page to us unless those words are activated—made alive by the Spirit of God. We need the intervention of God—a revelation from God. When that happens, the written words dance off the page and into our hearts. The writer of Hebrews expresses it this way. For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
Just as God revealed His word to Jacob, we need God to speak to us today. He does that through His written word, but He also does that through the direct prompting of the Holy Spirit. God still speaks to people today. Are your ears open to hear His voice?
The greatest revelation of God came through the person of Jesus Christ. He is the word incarnate—the logos of God who came to dwell among us. At Christmas we celebrate the miracle of Jesus’ birth—God revealed in human flesh.
Where is God? He is in the person of Jesus. Jesus, come and dwell in my heart.
Response: LORD God, I need a greater revelation of you. When you show yourself to me, I am changed. Come, Lord Jesus. Invigorate my life. Help me to know you better. Speak deeply to my heart. Amen.
Your Turn: How does God speak to your heart? Does He reveal Himself to you in a variety of ways?
Reading: Psalm 147
He strengthens the bars of your gates
and blesses your people within you.
He grants peace to your borders
and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.
He sends his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
He spreads the snow like wool
and scatters the frost like ashes.
He hurls down his hail like pebbles.
Who can withstand his icy blast?
He sends his word and melts them;
he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow (NIV).
What does a swiftly running word look like? Does it have legs on the bottom of each letter so it can run along, somewhat like a scurrying centipede? Or maybe when words run, they flow like a babbling stream rushing around and over rocks? How do you visualize running words?
Here in Psalm 147, the psalmist uses this metaphor to describe God’s word in action. He [the LORD] sends his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.
We can be sure of one thing. When the word of the LORD is sent forth, it accomplishes its purpose. The prophet Isaiah wrote of that unchanging truth. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:10-11).
God’s word brings blessing. That’s the picture that the psalmist paints. Isaiah uses different brush strokes, but in essence he paints a similar picture. The outpouring of the word of God onto His people brings a bountiful blessing. He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your people within you. He grants peace to your borders and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.
Wherever God’s word reaches, it brings new life and fullness to life. Yes, it often brings conviction of sins, but those are the dead limbs that need to be cut off so new growth can flourish. God’s word reorients my life from a path that leads to death to the way everlasting.
The inner peace and security that I need are found in the presence of the LORD. I need a constant flow of God’s word into my heart and my mind. True prosperity, healing and strength are found in the swiftly running words of God. I want to be immersed in those running words.
Response: LORD God, I treasure your commands and your words. I want your word to be active within me, cutting off those sins and habits that are unproductive, and then bringing forth new life and the fruits of righteousness, peace and joy. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you allow God’s word to run and play in your mind? Has a Bible verse changed your life?
Reading: Psalm 147
He covers the sky with clouds;
he supplies the earth with rain
and makes grass grow on the hills.
He provides food for the cattle
and for the young ravens when they call.
His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
the LORD delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love.
Extol the LORD, Jerusalem;
praise your God, Zion (NIV).
I grew up on a farm on the prairies. During the hot summer it was not unusual for rain to be in short supply, but rain is essential for growing field crops of any kind.
As a child one of my favorite garden projects was growing watermelons. Two key ingredients are needed if you want to grow watermelons: lots of direct sunlight and a plentiful supply of water. I could count on the sunlight pouring down from the sky, but rain was far less dependable. There may be afternoon or evening thundershowers, but they were often of the hit and miss variety. All too often on the thundershower scoreboard, we scored a miss. In such conditions daily watering was essential.
Each of my watermelon plants could count on a daily supply of a gallon of water. Barring a major downpour, I was their supplier. I brought my plants pails of water from the well. By September all the hard work of summer began to pay off. The garden-grown watermelons were delicious and juicy beyond compare.
Today’s reading from Psalm 147 reminds us that the LORD is our supplier. He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.
The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. What a comforting thought! The LORD delights in me. Wow!
I need a daily supplier. I need a supply of daily bread—those necessary things that sustain life. But beyond that, I also need less tangible things like love, encouragement and peace of mind. Sometimes those things fall from the sky. But there are other times when I need to go to the well—the well of my salvation. There is a supply of grace stored up there for me to access. “The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation (Isaiah 12:2b-3).
Response: LORD God, I am thankful that you are my supplier. You provide for all my needs and many of my desires as well. Your grace is abundant. You are my salvation and source of joy. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you have a steady supplier? Do you have access to the well of salvation?
I will praise Him!
I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of your great love,
you who save by your right hand
those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings
from the wicked who are out to destroy me,
from my mortal enemies who surround me.
(Psalm 17:6-9, NIV)
I will praise Him!
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the LORD.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
(Psalm 16:6-11, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 147
He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit.
The LORD sustains the humble
but casts the wicked to the ground.
Sing to the LORD with grateful praise;
make music to our God on the harp (NIV).
How many stars are there in the Milky Way galaxy? According to astronomers the answers is somewhere between 100 billion and 400 billion. That’s quite a wide range. If we don’t know the number of stars in our own galaxy, how can we possibly know the total number of stars in the universe?
The difficulty of this calculation has not stopped scientists from coming up with an estimate. There are about two trillion galaxies in the known universe, so multiplying the number of stars in an average size galaxy by two trillion will give us an answer. Using these figures the total number of stars is 1 with twenty-four zeroes after it. But astronomers admit the actual number could well be ten times higher.
We need to understand today’s reading from Psalm 147 in the light of this astronomical number. He [the LORD] determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.
The size of the universe blows my mind. It is so beyond comprehension in size and scope that we are left staggered and breathless. We can’t begin to take in the smallest fraction of it. But our great Lord knows the name of every star. If the universe is so big then it’s painfully obvious that my concept of God is far too small. He boggles the brain. The word awesome doesn’t begin to capture His greatness. He is truly limitless in time and space.
Knowing the greatness of God and his created universe should leave us in wonder about the next statement in this psalm. The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.
Why would this great limitless God care about me and the state of my heart and mind? Why would He consider me significant? Why would He care for me? Why would He fix His attention on anyone on this earth—this speck of dust in greatness of the universe? The LORD has galaxies to tend to.
But He cares. This great, limitless God cares for the likes of you and me. Now that’s the wonder of it all. That’s the biggest ‘wow’ in the universe. I’ll never get over His love—the love that hung suspended between heaven and earth on a wooden cross. That’s love—limitless love.
Response: LORD God, I can’t begin to fathom your greatness. You are far too wonderful for me. I don’t deserve a moment of your thoughts. But you did so much more. You sent Jesus. Thank you for your creation and your great redemption. Amen.
Your Turn: How big is your God? Does He fill your universe?
Reading: Psalm 147
Praise the LORD.
How good it is to sing praises to our God,
how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds (NIV).
There are a lot of brokenhearted people in this world. No, I’m not talking about sports fans who have suffered heartbreak because their team has lost. I’m talking about the more serious issues that arise—the loss of a home, a career, or a family member. I’m talking about those devastating life events from which full recovery may never be possible.
Today’s evening news carried the story of a woman who had lost her home due to severe flooding throughout our region. There she stood with her voice breaking as she described all the work she and her husband had put into their lovely home. Looking beyond her you could see nothing but brown water lapping against the sides of her house. Everything they had worked for was ruined.
Every Friday morning for a dozen years I have been meeting with a group of men who have entered into a covenant to grow stronger in their relationship with the Lord. We are accountable to one another in our commitment to grow in love and service to Jesus. But faithful commitment to the Lord provides us with no guarantee against personal heartbreak.
One of the leaders of our group lost his wife last fall due to pancreatic cancer. Now Chris must cope with the loss of his wife while also providing care and comfort for his young son and his teenage daughter. That’s heartbreaking. That’s a daunting task!
I’m not sure that I could cope with that level of loss.
In today’s reading from Psalm 147, we see a call to praise coupled with a promise that the LORD will build up, restore, and heal the heartbroken. The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
I need words like that. I need healing words. The wounded need healing words. As God’s people we need to give and receive words that comfort the grieving, build up the downcast, and minister healing to the wounded. All too often our tongues do more harm than good. Too often we speak words of judgment, when we should leave judgment to the LORD.
Today, remember there are a lot of brokenhearted people in this world.
Response: LORD God, heal my hurts so I can help heal the hurts of others. I pray that your people will find comfort in your word. May your words bring health and healing. You are worthy of praise. Amen.
Your Turn: How can we bind up the wounds of others? Do you have wounds that need healing?
Reading: Psalm 146
Praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD, my soul.
I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD their God (NIV).
Last week I had a delightful telephone conversation with my mom. She was pleased to report that her last and final round of cataract surgery had gone very well. Her vision has greatly improved. Speaking of her follow-up exam, she said, “The most excited person in the room was the doctor. He was thrilled that the surgery turned out so well. I was the oldest patient he had ever operated on.”
My mom is ninety-four, but she doesn’t let a minor thing like that slow her down. After all, age is just a number. She still keeps a busy schedule and out works many women half her age. Who else but my mother would annually sew a hundred quilts and donate them to Lutheran World Relief?
But she knows, just as we all know that her life here on this earth will come to an end. We best make the most of it while we have this precious gift. Time marches on, and time will eventually march us off to the grave as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow on a new day.
In today’s reading from Psalm 146, the psalmist makes a lifelong commitment. He commits himself to praise the LORD. Praise the LORD, my soul. I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
This is not an insignificant commitment. We were made to worship and we all do it, even the atheists among us. Some worship their money; others worship the pleasures of this world. Perhaps the greatest god of the current age is the god of self. Monuments to personal vanity have been erected all around us. I have been known to set up a few of these myself.
Genuine praise for the LORD tears down personal idols. It establishes His lordship over our lives. It acknowledges that He is in control. I have so little power. I can’t turn a white hair to black, at least not in the true sense. But the LORD knows the number of hair on my head and the number of my days. Ultimately, my life is in His hands. My life here is temporary. That’s why I need to put my hope and my trust in God—the eternal One. The psalmist’s words ring true. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God. And that blessing holds true for ninety-four-year-olds too.
Response: LORD God, I thank and praise you for the gift of life. You are worthy of worship. I commit to worshipping you every day for the rest of my life. Thank you for eternal life through Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Will you praise the LORD for all of your life? Are you ready to make that commitment?