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Praise and Life
Psalms 147:1 ; Psalms 148:12
I. The Universal Hallelujah. One has amplified and localized and modernized the application of this Psalm because it is, perhaps, in its call to Nature to find a voice and praise the Lord, more nearly akin to our own modern thought, more like the high Christian teaching of our own poet Wordsworth than any other in the Hebrew Psalter.
II. A Pagan Hymn of Praise. We should err if we thought that the idea of praise to the Most High God was either Jewish or Christian. The pagan worshippers of Isis in Egypt have left on record their sense of the need of praise. But there is a difference. The pagan feels that praise is due to the great creating power, knows it is a good thing to sing praises unto the Lord, but he does not see that everything which hath breath can and must praise the Lord, by living its life to the full. And here come in the Hebrew ideal and the Christian ideal to help us. Praise is life that recognizes its fountainhead, utters its joy to the Giver by living life at its best, and magnifies the Giver of all life by fulfilling its appointed life-task with its utmost perfection.
III. Christ's Praiseful Life. Christ's life was one long hymn of praise at its noblest and best. He came to glorify the Father by living His Father's life in human shape at its highest. It was in order to teach men that life lived in fullest obedience to the Divine will and in entire dependence upon God was praise, that Jesus pointed men to the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, and showed that in their perfect obedience to the law of their being there, and in their entire dependence upon the Divine will, they the makers of sweet praise were patterns for us men and our salvation. And since the day of Christ, who came to be the bread for all the world, men whose spirits have eaten the bread of life He gave them that sweet food from heaven which was knowledge of and obedience to the Divine will, coupled with power from on high to assimilate that knowledge and make it part of daily life the world has known that just in proportion as they were really alive unto God, men could praise God, and has realized that the dead (those in whom the Spirit of Christ is not) cannot praise God, neither they that go down to the pit of selfishness and sin; nay rather, but that the living, they alone can praise God as we do this day.
H. D. B. Rawnsley, Christian World Pulpit, No. 1868, p. 123.
References. CXLVII. 1. Blomfield, Sermons in Town and Country, p. 335. CXLVII. 2. Morrison, Sermons Preached at Lyme Regis, p. 145. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxii. No. 1320. CXLVII. 2-5. J. Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. i. p. 217.
The Builder of Jerusalem
If we were asked to select a passage to read to somebody about our God, could we select a much more beautiful passage than this 147th Psalm? It is so simple, so sublime. The sentences are so short, they might all almost be put into words of one syllable. Just as the sun itself is reflected in the dewdrop, so the glory of our God is reflected in these simple words.
Consider the lovableness of our God.
I. First of all, notice that His work is constructive? God does not destroy and cast down: He builds up constructs. Our God builds us up, that is Creation. He took us out of the dust of the earth and built us up into perfection. That is the whole history. What building! He took the very lowest, you see Dust. Where did the dust come from? Poor dust body. He breathed into it the 'breath of life' Equipment under the action of God. That is our Creation Construction: and our whole life, Edification: and the end, Perfection. 'The Lord doth build up.' 'Who shall build the tabernacle?' 'Let us make three tabernacles.' The heavens cannot contain Him, Who dwelleth with those who are of a humble and contrite heart. 'The Lord doth build up.' II. Notice what it is He builds up Jerusalem. This is no localization. If you want an idea of localization, go to Jerusalem and see for yourself, but the Jerusalem for us is the Jerusalem which cometh down out of heaven: it is a city where we may dwell all together, and the light of the city is God Himself. A Holy City He builds, an Eternal City, a City of Peace. 'He gathereth together the outcasts of Israel.' It is not God's will that any should be an outcast He gathereth them together. If anybody is an outcast it is not that God has cast Him out, but that he has cast God out of his soul.
III. 'He healeth those that are broken in heart.' So many people in this cruel world are what we call 'brokendown' people broken in health, broken in wealth, lost their money, lost all thought, lost all sympathy, lost all love lost all peace, lost heart, 'broken-hearted'. Our God healeth those that are broken in heart. It is not a partial or tentative healing; it goes to the very core, it goes down to the very root: He healeth the heart. He is the only real heart doctor. If the heart is all right all else will be right. 'He healeth those that are broken in heart.' Our God alone can do it. He Who made the heart can heal it.
IV. 'And bindeth up their wounds.' Note the tender expression. Some people think that the Old Testament is hard and crude, and the New Testament loving and sweet. You cannot find any verse in the Bible more lovely and tender than this verse about our God. He, 'bindeth up their wounds'. The Hands that made you will bind up your wounds; The Fingers that created you will heal you. What more can you want? It is like the text which says: 'He maketh all my bed in my sickness'.
V. And while God is doing all this, what about the Universe? Does He leave the universe to take care of itself? to go on as it likes? Oh, no. 'He ordereth all things in heaven and earth.' If once He let the universe go, where would it go? a general crash. 'He telleth the number of the stars.' No man has ever yet been able to tell the number of the stars, and there never will be a man who can tell their number, for they are infinite. But God, Who is infinite, can tell the number of them. And why? He will not miss one of them. The Lord who will not let a lamb be lost out of the flock will not let a single star be lost out of the firmament. He Who will bring back the wanderer, and get the outcast of Israel home, telleth the number of the stars. He telleth every one. And what is more singular than that: there is a sort of familiarity between God and the stare. Look up into the heavens and think, 'He calleth them all by their names'. We call the stars by heathen names. I do not think the names by which we call the stars are the same as the names by which God calls them just as if He spoke to the stars and the stars answered him back again, a sort of sympathetic give and take between the Creator and the created. Who knows? 'His wisdom is infinite.' What if the light created speaks to the Light Uncreated, which is God? How do you know? There are many more things in heaven and earth than you or I understand, and science is every day showing to us how very little we know of the things that are. 'He telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names.' How great is His power! and 'His understanding is infinite!'
VI. Bring this subject under the glorious light of the Gospel. 'The Lord buildeth up Jerusalem.' We who know the Gospel know how He did it. He built it up with His Blood. The Church of God is built up with the precious Blood of the Covenant.
'He gathereth together the outcasts of Israel.' You know what that means now. You know how they cast Him out of the city, and that He was the great Outcast of Israel, and the poor outcasts of Israel are brought home by the great Outcast of Israel.
'He healeth those that are broken in heart.' How could He heal the broken-hearted so well? Because His own Heart was broken and wounded. It is wounded men that need a wounded Saviour. A broken-hearted man needs a broken-hearted Saviour.
'He telleth the number of the stars.' What are the stare but His Saints? The Saints shine as the stars for ever and ever, and God knows them. 'Right dear in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints,' and they shine as the stars.
References. CXLVII. 3, 4. F. Bourdillon, Plain Sermons for Family Reading, p. 122. CXLVII. 5. W. F. Shaw, Sermon Sketches, p. 15. CXLVII. 7, 9. C. Kingsley, The Water of Life, p. 317.
Ruskin writes: 'Look up towards the higher hills, where the waves of everlasting green roll silently into their long inlets among the shadows of the pines, and we may, perhaps, at last know the meaning of those quiet words of the 147th Psalm, "He maketh grass to grow upon the mountains"'.
References. CXLVII. 9. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii. No. 672. CXLVII. 16-18. Ibid, vol. xii. No. 670.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Psalms 147". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent