Theme: Good, Pleasant, and Fitting Praise
In this week’s lessons, we are shown an abundance of reasons for which to praise the LORD.
Scripture: Psalm 147:1-20
Many interpreters divide Psalm 147 into three parts, each part starting with a call to praise God: verses 1-6, 7-11 and 12-20. But the stanzas found in the New International Version handle the content well and give us seven distinct matters for which God should be praised.1 If we use this division, we can capture the thrust of the psalm’s praise by thinking about: 1) God’s care for his people; 2) God’s care of the least significant; 3) God’s provision for his creation; 4) God’s delight in the godly; 5) God’s blessing on the nation; 6) God’s rule over creation; and 7) God’s revelation of himself to Israel. These categories, like the psalm, focus on God entirely.
The first verse draws on Psalm 33:1, which says that it is “fitting” to praise God; Psalm 92:1, which declares that praising God is “good”; and Psalm 135:3, which says that praise is “pleasant.” In Psalm 147:1, all three adjectives occur together: “How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and how fitting to praise him!”
Why is it that praise of God is good, pleasant and fitting? The first of the psalm’s answers is provided in verses 2 and 3, which use four verbs to record what God does or has done for his people: 1) he builds up Jerusalem; 2) he gathers the exiles of Israel; 3) he heals the brokenhearted; and 4) he binds up their wounds.
Quite a few commentators suggest that Psalm 147 may have been written for the dedication of the reconstructed walls of Jerusalem in the time of Nehemiah, and they may be right. The twelfth chapter of Nehemiah tells how the Levites were brought to the city to lead a great celebration “with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres” (Neh. 12:27). The professional singers were collected, and when they were assembled two choirs led the people in worship—one choir proceeding in one direction along the top of the newly reconstructed walls, and the other choir proceeding in the other direction. After the circuit, they took their places in the temple along with the nation’s leaders, singing under the direction of Jezrahiah, and the rejoicing was so loud that it could be heard far beyond the bounds of the city. We do not know if Psalm 147 was composed for that occasion or even if it was known by Nehemiah’s choirs. But we can sense how good, pleasant and fitting it would have been for them to have sung these words: “The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” God had done exactly that in bringing the exiles back from remote Babylon and enabling them to rebuild their walls and repopulate Jerusalem.
As for us, we have no continuing city here, no earthly Jerusalem. But we are citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, and we praise God for gathering us from this perishing, sinful world, binding up our hearts, healing our wounds, and building up our city, which is the Christian church. Surely it is good, pleasant and fitting for us to sing the same kind of praises to God.
1The Septuagint divides Psalm 147 into two psalms, the second starting with verse 12, but combines Psalms 9 and 10. So the numbering of the psalms, which diverged from the established Hebrew text through the middle part of the Psalter, gets back into agreement here. The total number of psalms is 150.
List the seven categories for Psalm 147’s praise.
From what other Scripture does v. 1 draw?
For what four reasons is praise of God good, pleasant and fitting?
What may be the setting for Psalm 147?
Key Point: We are citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, and we praise God for gathering us from this perishing, sinful world, binding up our hearts, healing our wounds, and building up our city, which is the Christian church.