Lifting hearts to God in thanks and praise.

Saturday Psalm: 33

1 Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!
    Praise befits the upright.
Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;
    make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song;
    play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

For the word of the Lord is upright,
    and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
    the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
    and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap;
    he puts the deeps in storehouses.

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
For he spoke, and it came to be;
    he commanded, and it stood firm.

10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
    he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
    the plans of his heart to all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
    the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

13 The Lord looks down from heaven;
    he sees all the children of man;
14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out
    on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
    and observes all their deeds.
16 The king is not saved by his great army;
    a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
    and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
    on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
    and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
    because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you.

To listen to this Psalm sung, I first recommend listening to this version by Karl Kohlhase while reading not his words but the ESV version printed here or your own favorite version on BibleGateway. (Note that Karl uses verses 1-5 as a refrain between verses 11 and 12 and again at the end.) If you’d like to try some other versions (based on this Psalm but not verse by verse), how about this one by Marty Haugen, or this by Mark Haas or these two: Blessed the People and Lord Let Your Mercy from Journey Songs Third Edition, vol. 2. Then there’s Jason Silver with this lovely version that’s very close to the text. (I like to start with a sung Psalm because, like plays were written to be seen not read, Psalms were written to be sung and heard.)

The first thing I noticed in this Psalm was the couplets. Everything said has a double in the next line that furthers the meaning. That’s the highlight of Hebrew poetry, that and chiasm which is a movement in and then out again, with parallels in subject as it moves out. I don’t see chiasm much in this psalm except for the framing verses at the beginning and the end.

The second thing I noticed was that there’s no appeal to God to save from enemies! So many of the Psalms I’ve looked at so far have this element that it’s a surprise that this one doesn’t. Of course in praising God the people are reminded that he is above all, to save those who hope in him, but it’s an indirect way of encouraging people in need, and yet when we call others (or are ourselves called) to worship the true God, we are most encouraged by him.

Then the third thing I noticed was the communal nature of the psalm. The first verse doesn’t determine that the righteous are plural, so with my usual modern sensibility I think first, am I righteous? I want to be one of the righteous. But the psalm moves from address to command and reason (how and why to praise God) and truth. Verse 8 has all the earth, and verse 12 and 13 mention nation, people, and all the children of man, but it’s the ending verses that finally impressed me.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
    because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you.

Our soul, help, shield, heart, for we trust, hope in you. How is it that you can use a plural possessive and a singular noun? (asks the English teacher in me) It portrays a community, so tight, so close that they have oneness although they are many. That’s what hit me in this psalm. The righteous are a group of those who wait for the Lord, trust in  (our help and shield) his holy name, depend on his steadfast love while they hope in him. It’s so compelling, not just to say, “I want to be that,” but to say, “Yes, that’s where I belong. Those people are my people.”

All thanks and praise to God!

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