1 Praise ye the Lord. Praise, O ye servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord.
2 Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and for evermore.
3 From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord's name is to be praised.
4 The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens.
5 Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high,
6 Who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth!
7 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill;
8 That he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people.
9 He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord.
The Lord is very high and transcendent above all things, but He takes a special interest in reaching out to the most despised and needy persons.
We are struck by God’s absolute sovereign power over the nations, but simultaneously awed by His care for the poor in the earth. If you were to look at the earth from the vantage point of the sun or a distant star, you would never be able to see those tiny man-creatures. We cannot even make out the tiny mites that crawl on our skin or the bacterium that swim about in blood. Nor are we interested in establishing a relationship with these mites. Why, then, should God take an interest in these poor, sinful creatures that crawl about on this tiny little planet, tucked away in the Milky Way Galaxy? It is humbling for us to see God humbling Himself to interact with these ignominious, sinful creatures!
Men are good at praise. They know how to praise one another, and they love to be praised. The newspapers glorify and praise political heroes, cultural heroes, and sports heroes every day. Having been made in the image of God, men know something about this matter of praise. However, they misdirect that praise to man, as if he were a god worthy of praise!
We were made to praise, for we were made by God who, by definition, must be praised. Three times, in the first verse of this Psalm, we are directed to give God the praise. Before anybody is going to praise God, however, he must first see himself as the servant of God. This is the basis for praise. Those who are servants to big government leaders will praise their leaders, and those who are servants to the sports stars will praise the sports stars. Those who are servants to big money will praise the rich and famous. Why do we enslave ourselves to these systems of men when we could serve the true and living God? After all, He is the best Master. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. His rewards are unmatched by anything men could give to us. There is no greater freedom than that which we find under His rule! There is no greater privilege than to be a servant of the true and living God! Let us praise the Lord.
The greatest men who ever lived are peons next to God. They have good days and bad days, and eventually they just fade away, largely forgotten by future generations. On the other hand, we can never say enough to properly reflect the greatness of God. Words fail us. We would run out of words and thoughts before we said all we needed to say about God’s power, wisdom, and goodness. Moreover, God never has a bad day. He is always worthy to be praised, from morning until evening, from this day forward into eternity.
In similar form to many other Praise Psalms, the rest of the verses are taken up with the reasons why God is to be praised. This Psalm is unique, in that it sets His transcendence beside His imminence. Other religions (like Islam), present a transcendent god who is, by definition, unknowable and inaccessible. By His own design, the God of the Bible makes Himself knowable to His people, particularly through Jesus Christ, His Son. This in itself is hard to comprehend! Why should this powerful, sovereign God over heaven and earth desire a relationship with His people? In fact, He even circumvents the powerful and famous in order to establish relationship with the poor and lowly in the earth. He brings empires down by the son of a humble peasant woman and the step-son of a carpenter from Nazareth. How can one be of such authority, yet be so approachable? Wouldn’t the imminence violate His transcendence? Of course, this mystery is resolved in another mystery. While man-made religions (like Mormonism, Humanism, etc.) concoct a faith in which man becomes a god, the true God provides a different way for man to relate to God. According to the Christian faith, God becomes man by the Son of God taking on a human nature. It was a tremendous act of humiliation, but it brought about an eternal relationship for mankind with the true and living God forever.
Jesus Christ’s ministry perfectly exemplified the truths set out in this Psalm. Over and over again, He expressed dismay over the weakness of faith, the hardness of heart, the minimalistic application of God’s law, and the pride and hypocrisy that dominated among the Jews. Nevertheless, our Lord commended the faith of a humble Canaanite woman from Tyre who wanted a few crumbs off the Master’s table. Then there was the Samaritan leper who returned to give thanks, and the “sinner woman” who washed Christ’s feet with her tears. While He raised the poor and needy out of the dust, the grace of God passed over millions of others, many of whom felt they had achieved some religious status. There was the Pharisee in the temple who stood up and said, “Thank God I’m not like other men. I fast twice a week. I tithe. . .” He received no mercy. It was the publican who cried out “God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” that went home justified! (Lk. 18: 13,14) God circumvents the proud (those that see no need for grace), and He draws near to the humble and the self-consciously undeserving. This also represents the nature of the kingdom work of Christ over the centuries. If you want to know where the Gospel is most active, look for the lowest castes, the slaves, the lowly, and the cast down.
Barrenness is no longer perceived as the curse that it once was (verse 9). The modern woman seeks independence of men and freedom from the “bondage” of home and children. She is encouraged to kill her children and live an “independent”, self-oriented lifestyle, where she becomes increasingly dependent upon state work programs, medical programs, and welfare programs. Thus, the modern existentialist and socialist woman cannot relate to the last verse in the Psalm.
But great joy and deep fulfillment comes with the blessing of children, for a woman. In biblical times, women would feel a sense of loss in barrenness. This is the testimony of Hannah, Rachel, and Rebekah (Gen. 30:1, 1 Sam. 1:5-20). How many times has God answered the prayers of some unobtusive woman, who quietly pleaded with God for the blessing of a child? He listens to the prayers of the most humble and despised people in the world.
If we are to have fellowship with the God of heaven, we must be humble. This applies as much to the impoverished, barren woman in India as it applies to the President of the United States. It is not impossible for a rich or powerful man to see the kingdom of God, but it is somewhat rare. God resists proud “Christians” who are proud of their righteousness. He also resists homosexuals (known today as “gay pride”) who are proud of their wickedness. Proud people will get no grace (Prov. 3:34, James 4:6).
We can only approach God in humility because He “resists the proud and gives grace to the humble,” (James 4:6). The Creator of heaven and earth will brook no competitors. God does not associate with big shots (or people that think of themselves as “big shots”). Nevertheless, He is not above communion with the lowly, humble, and repentant. What a great incongruity this appears to the natural human mind! Rich and powerful men do not usually associate with the poor and downcast. This itself is worthy of our awe and praise.
1. Why is God more worthy of praise than sports stars and politicians?
2. What do we mean when we say “God is transcendent?” What do we mean when we say “God is imminent?”
3. What is the best example of the imminence of God?
4. Give several examples in Christ’s ministry where He raised the poor out of the dust.
5. Give several examples of Praise Psalms.
1. Why have many women lost an appreciation for having children? Why do they prefer barrenness? What is our family’s perspective of children?
2. What are the things that motivate you to praise God?