Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Psalm 33

Psalm 33 (NET) reads:

You godly ones, shout for joy because of the LORD!
It is appropriate for the morally upright to offer him praise.

2 Give thanks to the LORD with the harp!
Sing to him to the accompaniment of a ten-stringed instrument!

3 Sing to him a new song!
Play skillfully as you shout out your praises to him!

4 For the LORD's decrees are just,
and everything he does is fair.

5 The LORD promotes equity and justice;
the LORD's faithfulness extends throughout the earth.

6 By the LORD's decree the heavens were made;
by a mere word from his mouth all the stars in the sky were created.

7 He piles up the water of the sea;
he puts the oceans in storehouses.

8 Let the whole earth fear the LORD!
Let all who live in the world stand in awe of him!

9 For he spoke, and it came into existence,
he issued the decree, and it stood firm.

10 The LORD frustrates the decisions of the nations;
he nullifies the plans of the peoples.

11 The LORD's decisions stand forever;
his plans abide throughout the ages.

12 How happy is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people whom he has chosen to be his special possession.

13 The LORD watches from heaven;
he sees all people.

14 From the place where he lives he looks carefully
at all the earth's inhabitants.

15 He is the one who forms every human heart,
and takes note of all their actions.

16 No king is delivered by his vast army;
a warrior is not saved by his great might.

17 A horse disappoints those who trust in it for victory;
despite its great strength, it cannot deliver.

18 Look, the LORD takes notice of his loyal followers,
those who wait for him to demonstrate his faithfulness
19 by saving their lives from death
and sustaining them during times of famine.

20 We wait for the LORD;
he is our deliverer and shield.

21 For our hearts rejoice in him,
for we trust in his holy name.

22 May we experience your faithfulness, O LORD,
for we wait for you.

Psalm 33 is a psalm of praise for YHWH's faithfulness. The opening lines of the psalm instruct the community to offer up praise to YHWH with their voices and their instruments. Then, the psalmist moves to reasons that YHWH deserves praise--His righteousness, His power in creation, His power over the nations, and His faithfulness to those who fear Him. Then, the psalmist notes the futility in relying on military strength instead of YHWH, and once again urges the community to put their trust in YHWH.

I am becoming more sensitive to the notion of loyalty in the Scriptures (especially in the OT). We translate the Hebrew chesed as lovingkindness or faithfulness, but loyalty is often the idea of the word. The ancient Hebrews understood YHWH as a loyal God. He knew who were His own and He looked out for them. In response, He asked the people to be loyal to Him by obeying the law, etc.

So, the verses that stick out to me in this psalm are vv. 18–19, "Look, the LORD takes notice of his loyal followers, those who wait for him to demonstrate his faithfulness by saving their lives from death and sustaining them during times of famine." The NET says that "loyal followers" is a dynamic equivalent of "those who fear him." So, the psalmist encourages us to "fear the Lord" and "wait upon Him." What does that look like?

In the context of this psalm, I think it has to look (in part) like vocalizing to others God's greatness. There is a reason that the psalmist encourages the community to break out the ten-stringed instruments--God deserves them. We can't take lightly what happens in our worship services when we are singing to YHWH. God invented music, and He enjoys listening to the songs of His people. Another part of "fearing the Lord" is following His ways when we can think of shortcuts to success. (This is what I think the vv. 16–17 are getting at.)

How do I respond to this psalm? First, it's a reminder to me that I need to be vocal about my appreciation of God. Second it's a reminder that I need to follow Jesus and not worry so much about what might happen to me.

"Father, I thank you for Your goodness to me. I thank You for Your provision and Your answer of prayer. Too often I worry about things that are insignificant in the cosmic scope of history. You're there. You're faithful. You're able. You're wise. Amen."

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