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Psalm 111 is a song of praise about the deeds of God in redemption. Psalm 112 is a song of praise about the blessing of God upon the God-fearing. Psalm 113 is a song of praise about the glory of the LORD toward afflicted people.
Psalm 113 is the first of a series of psalms (Psalms 113-118) called hallel-psalms or thanksgiving psalms. They are sung at the great feasts – Passover, Pentecost, and Feast of Booths (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26).
In Psalm 113, is sung to the LORD in His incomparable greatness and exaltation (Psalms 113:1-Numbers :) and in the deep condescension of His love to the afflicted (Psalms 113:5-1 Samuel :). We find this in the praise of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-2 Samuel :) and in the praise of Mary (Luke 1:46-2 Timothy :). In Hannah we see the barren (Psalms 113:9) and in Mary the lowly and poor (Psalms 113:7).
The middle, the center, is the question posed in Psalms 113:5: “Who is like the LORD, our God?” This is the theme of this psalm.
We as creatures know limits, we are limited in time and space. We know length, breadth, height and depth. The LORD cannot be measured, His glory knows no bounds:
His length: to eternity (Psalms 113:2).
His breadth: from whence the sun rises to whence it sets (Psalms 113:3).
His height: Exalted above all peoples … above the heavens (Psalms 113:4).
His depth: Who looks down very low (Psalms 113:6-1 Samuel :).
It brings to mind what we read in the letter to the Ephesians: “That you … may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-Psalms :). This can only be followed by eternal worship: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him [be] the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-Ecclesiastes :).
Encouragement to Praise the LORD
The psalm begins with the exclamation “praise the LORD”, or “hallelujah”, which is at the same time a call to praise Him (Psalms 113:1). The “servants of the LORD” are particularly encouraged to praise the LORD. By this is meant the whole people (Exodus 19:6) and in particular the Levites and the priests.
After the suffering of the Servant of the LORD in Isaiah 53, we also find in Isaiah 54-66 mention of the servants of the LORD as an indication of the faithful remnant of Israel, those who fear the LORD. These servants of the LORD are the results of the LORD’s deeds in Psalm 111. In Psalm 112 we find the blessings of the LORD upon these servants of the LORD. And now here in Psalm 113 we find the glory of the LORD upon these servants of the LORD.
The first task that servants are to perform is to praise “the Name of the LORD”. His Name implies all that He is. That Name is to be praised, not just now and then, on certain occasions, but always, “from this time forth and forever” (Psalms 113:2) and everywhere, “from the rising of the sun to its setting” (Psalms 113:3).
It means it has to happen through all generations and that the now living generation must begin to do so. They can begin doing so because they are now cleansed and have a new heart (Ezekiel 36:25-:). There must be continuity in praise through the ages. Each generation must live in awe of that Name. If that awe is there, if He is acknowledged in His majesty and exaltation, His Name will be praised.
That Name must be praised, not only here and there in Israel, but everywhere on earth, “from the rising of the sun to its setting” (Zephaniah 2:11; Malachi 1:11). There must be continuity in praise throughout the earth (Psalms 50:1). The praise must run with the sun. It also means that we praise Him all day long, from sunrise to sunset.
“The name of the LORD”, an expression mentioned here three times. That Name is to be hallowed and praised. The name “LORD” indicates that this is particularly about His covenant relationship with His people. This should give God’s people, as His servants, extra encouragement to praise (Exodus 3:16).
The Majesty of the LORD
The reason to praise the LORD forever and everywhere is because “the LORD is high above all nations” (Psalms 113:4). The nations presume to be powerful. They strive for world dominion. Also, many of them have done great harm to God’s people. But in the end, none of the nations have anything to argue against God. They are to Him “like a drop from a bucket, And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales” (Isaiah 40:15). He is not merely “above” them, but “high above” them, that is, exalted high above them. His glory knows no bounds: it is not limited to one or a few peoples and not limited to the created heavens.
Not only is He high above the nations of the earth, He is also “above the heavens”. The heavens were created by Him, as was the earth. He is not confined in His creation, but is above it. He oversees everything on earth and in heaven. “His glory” transcends the splendor of heaven. Everything in the universe reflects His glory.
With the high and exalted God nothing and no one can be compared (Psalms 113:5; Isaiah 40:18; Isaiah 40:25Isaiah 46:5; Jeremiah 10:6-Judges :; Jeremiah 49:19Jeremiah 50:44; Micah 7:18). This is the core message of this psalm. It is the center and focal point of this psalm. The message is reinforced by posing it as a rhetorical question: “Who is like the LORD our God?”
All the gods of men are, in their imaginations, unassailably high above them. How very different is the God of Israel (1 Kings 8:23; Isaiah 57:15). He “is enthroned on high”. His very high dwelling place does not prevent Him from humbling Himself to behold all beneath Him to perceive and be involved in what is happening there (Psalms 113:6).
His glory is universal, above all creation, above heaven and earth. The mention of “in heaven and in the earth” connects to Psalms 113:5. The sentence runs like this: “Who is like the LORD our God (Psalms 113:5) ... in heaven and in the earth? (Psalms 113:6)”. The phrases “Who is enthroned on high (Psalms 113:5), Who humbles Himself to behold (Psalms 113:6)” form an interlude.
His glory, however, concerns not only His power, but also His love. He, Who is enthroned on high, is at the same time He, Who humbles Himself to behold. The psalmist and the remnant, as well as we, see that we are objects of His great love. Wonder and adoration come naturally to such a glory. This thought is further developed in Psalms 113:7-1 Samuel :.
Elihu testifies: “Behold, God is mighty but does not despise [any]” (Job 36:5). God bows down to the very lowest people and blesses them (cf. Exodus 3:8). These people have no ability or means to work their way up out of the rubbish of life. If they are then blessed, it is proof that the blessing comes from Him, through His power and through His love.
He chooses the weak and despised to shame the strong and to destroy the wisdom of the wise. He acts in this way so that no flesh will boast before Him. If it were otherwise, the blessings would not be blessings from Him. He is great above the universe and He is great in His blessings of afflicted.
In Psalms 113:7-1 Samuel :, the psalmist gives two examples of God acting in mercy and condescending goodness. These two examples are two sides of the same coin. They are about the outward condition, which is in the dust and dirt, and the inward condition, which is barren.
The first example is about “the poor” and “the needy” (Psalms 113:7). The poor lives in “the dust”, the needy on “the ash heap”. He can be found at the refuse dumps outside the city to see if there is anything edible left. God takes him from the bottom of society and makes him “sit with princes, with the princes of His people” (Psalms 113:8; cf. Job 36:7; 2 Samuel 9:13). He places the poor and needy on the same level as the princes whom He has given a governing role in the people He has made a property people for Himself. That God allows them to “sit” means that He gives them a place of rest and authority. It is sitting on a throne.
The application for us is that we were dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). Then we see what God has done with us: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-Joshua :). What grace!
“The princes” are the God-fearing leaders of His people (Isaiah 32:8). It is clearly an act of His grace. He was able to perform that act because He laid His Son “in the dust of death” (Psalms 22:15) by laying the dirt of our sins on Him (2 Corinthians 8:9).
The second example is “the barren woman” whom God “makes … abide in the house” as “a joyful mother of children” (Psalms 113:9). In Israel’s history, several barren women have had a child or children, such as Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah. We can add to this Elisabeth in the New Testament. In all these cases of barrenness, it is clear that God in His grace gives children.
The psalm concludes with the exclamation with which it began: “Hallelujah!”, i.e. “praise the LORD”. There is all the more reason for this, now that the psalmist has presented God’s sovereignty and His loving care.
Each psalm gives a new reason to praise the LORD. In this psalm, it is the grace of the LORD. As the first of the hallel-psalms, this psalm gives the foundation of Israel’s redemption. This will be worked out in the hallel-psalms to come.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 113". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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