The Book of Psalms

Friday: Who Is Like God?

Psalm 113:1-9 In this week’s lessons, we learn that the one true God, the Lord of heaven and earth, cares for the lowliest individual, however great their need.
Lifting Up the Downtrodden

That brings us to the last stanza of Psalm 113. What it tells us is that God stoops down in order that he might lift the downtrodden up. And more! He lifts them to be as he is. Do you see the parallel between these two stanzas? God is exalted over the nations, so he exalts the poor, raising him from the dust. God is enthroned on high, so he raises the poor to sit with princes. The psalm says,

He raises the poor from the dustand lifts the needy from the ash heap;he seats them with princes,with the princes of their people. (vv. 7, 8)

These two verses are picked up almost exactly from the song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:8. She had been childless, had prayed for a son and was given one by God. He became the prophet Samuel, and her song is a psalm of praise to God for his goodness in giving her the child. The verses are also echoed later and at a higher level in Mary’s great Magnificat in anticipation of the birth of her son, who was Jesus Christ (see Luke 1:46-55).

What shall we say about the last verse of Psalm 113? Some of the more modern pedantic scholars suggest that it is a weak ending because they fail to see how a psalm calling for praise of the exalted God can properly end on a reference to God providing for “the barren woman” v. 9).

But that is exactly the point of psalm. What is most praiseworthy about God, according to the psalmist, is that although he is infinitely exalted above everything, even the heavens, he nevertheless stoops to raise the poor from the dust, the needy from the ash heap, and even the barren woman from the disgrace her condition brought her in those days.

Or let me put it another way. This psalm ends by saying that the great and exalted God of the Bible is not only concerned about needy people in general, but with the individual. He cares about you personally.

Here are two final applications:

1. He saves us from our sin one by one. Not everyone has the experience of being raised from the dust to a throne or from an ash heap to sit with princes in this life. But all who are saved by Christ are lifted from the pigsty of this sinful, decadent world to sit with Jesus in his glory and rule with him. And it happens one by one! In our sin you and I have been the lowest of the low. But God has raised us up through faith in Jesus Christ. Has that been your experience? Do you know Jesus not as some great Savior in general, but as your own personal Savior and Lord?

2. He rescues us when we are cast down. Downtrodden individuals are not a collective mass, though this is how society generally regards them. They are individual people who have suffered specific defeats or setbacks. They are not discouraged in general. They are individuals with individual discouragements. But here is the important thing: God knows each of these persons individually. He knows you. If even the very hairs on your head are numbered (Luke 12:7), God clearly cares for you and knows exactly what you are suffering. Moreover, he is able to do something about it. He is able to lift you from the ash heap and enable you to sit with princes.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “Such verses as these should give great encouragement to those who are lowest in their own esteem.”1 Has life cast you down? Turn to God who is able to lift you up, and trust him to do it.
1Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 3a, Psalms 111-119 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), p. 31.

Study Questions
  1. Why does God stoop down?
  2. For what reason did Hannah give praise to God? How does this illustrate God’s work?
  3. Explain why the psalm ends with a reference to the barren woman.
  4. Why does it matter that God deals with us individually?

Reflection: Think of a time you were cast down and God lifted you up. What does this psalm teach about God’s concern for you?
Prayer: Praise God for his attributes. Ask him to lift you up.
Application: As you witness to others about God’s love, remember to express how he lifts us each up individually.

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