Praise the LORD! - by Richard Neufeld
Psalm 147 is the second of five psalms known as the Alleluia hymns, the last of which closes out the entire book of Psalms. These five hymns both start and end with the phrase Praise the LORD! and put a final exclamation point on this psalter which is called “praise.”
It is written in the style typical of a hymnal of praise; there are three stanzas, each of which begin with a call to praise followed by reasons for which we ought to give praise. This call to praise is repeated four times, once at the start of each stanza and a fourth time at the end:
The thing I love most about this psalm is the way it emphasizes His care; not only for the great celestial bodies that illumine the night sky, not only for the grandeur of the sky and seasons, but for you and for me, for the outcasts, for the broken-hearted, and even for the birds of the sky and beasts of the land. Read it again and notice His care for all things, large and small. Notice the contrast: “He covers the heavens with clouds … He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds; He determines the number of the stars - He gives to all of them their names … The Lord lifts up the humble, He casts the wicked to the ground.”
It is poetry like this, so rooted in the rich soil of history, by which the Holy Spirit can whisper peace to even the most fractious spirit, the most anxious heart. Read verse nine, “He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry.” Compare that to the words of our Lord Jesus in the Gospel of Luke 12:7, “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
In a world where instant gratification is constantly pushed as the only sort of gratification, remember to take a step back and look at the big picture; God knows your coming in and your going out, He knows your every thought and sin and shame; He knows your plans, your fears, your motives, and your desires; He knows your future and your past, your present moments, your 4 AM thoughts, your darkest secrets – and He loves you! He knows and has numbered each and every hair on your head (even though the number of mine has, well, decreased significantly). The sooner I’m able to grasp that, the sooner I’m able to start living each day in the joy and comfort of knowing that the God who created all things, from galaxies to atoms, knows me, a lowly sinner who has clung to Him for dear life.
As this is my last blog for this year and for some time, let me encourage all of you still reading that you, yes you, are known and so, so loved by your creator. Even when you were at your worst, Christ died for you! So don’t hesitate – if the news that Jesus loves you feels like it has fallen flat, re-examine scripture and see what that really means. Don’t ever let that wonder fizzle out, for it is our joy and our strength. Our Father Almighty, the Ancient of Days, to whom we sing Holy, Holy, Holy has such tender love and care for you.
Your first priority as a Christian is to know God. Not out of mere duty and obligation, but from a starting place and overflow of joy, praise, and thanksgiving. When we learn to embody this reality, we will not be able to help but start and end each day with this simple phrase – Praise the LORD!
Lord God, thank you for these blogs and the ways in which you have used them. Thank you for everyone faithfully participating in this ministry of yours. We pray that all those who, at this stressful and lonely time of year, are in need of lifting up get a double dose of your presence, your comfort, your peace, and your strength. Thank you for knowing us and allowing us to know you. Thank you for the incredible gift of your Son and your Holy Spirit. Help us to make the joy of the Lord our strength and so steep ourselves in your presence that all those who see our good deeds and our love may give glory to you, our Father in heaven. Amen!
Song: How Majestic Is Your Name (Shane & Shane)
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.