Having called upon the “servants of the LORD” to praise him “from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,” the psalm next turns to the praise of God directly, extolling him as the one who is “exalted over all the nations” and whose “glory [is] above the heavens” (v. 4). Verses 3 and 4 are paralleled almost exactly in Malachi 1:11: “My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,’ says the LORD Almighty.”
Verse 5 is in the middle of the psalm and is its theme. This is an important and often asked question in the Old Testament. It is not unique to Psalm 113. For example, it is the meaning of the name of the minor prophet Micah and the question he himself asks in chapter 7, verse 18. What amazes Micah is that this great incomparable God forgives sin. He says,
Who is a God like you,who pardons sin and forgives the transgressionof the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry foreverbut delight to show mercy.
A more elaborate treatment of this question is in Isaiah 40:12—41:4.
What amazes the psalmist is that God is exalted so high that he has to stoop low to see not only the earth, but also the heavens, and yet at the same time cares for the lowly. H. C. Leupold says, “He has done two things, each of which seems to make the other impossible. He has taken his seat so high that no one can match him, yet he has regard for the lowliest of the low in that he ‘looks down so far.’”1
When we read of God stooping down to look on the heavens and the earth it is hard not to think of the Tower of Babel. In that story the people of the day decided that they would build a tower that reaches to the heavens” (Gen. 11:4). When God took notice of what they were doing, the story makes clear several times that he had to “come down” from far above to see it (vv. 5, 7). Anything human is infinitely beneath the infinitely exalted God. Yet the psalm goes beyond even that comparison when it says that God has to stoop to see not only the earth but the heavens as well. What it is teaching is that even the most exalted, wonderful and glorious parts of creation are far, far beneath the Creator.
The psalm goes beyond what we are told of God stooping to see what men are doing in Genesis, then. But we should not miss noticing that the New Testament also goes beyond even the psalm when it describes how Jesus not only looked down on us to see us in our misery, sin and sorrows but actually came down to us that he might lift us up.
Philippians 2:6-8 describes it:
[He], being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!
There is nothing more marvelous or more incomprehensible than that. So we may well say, “Who is like the Lord our God?” and answer, “No one.” No one is like our great Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.
1H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969), p. 791.