Psalm 33 When we gathered for praising God at Massanetta, we waited until all were together outside the door of our worship space before we entered. We were called to worship not as individuals, but together, as an entire body of 300 youth and adults, walking in between a two sided wall of welcoming high fives from our leaders, to loud, energetic music that just made you have to dance a bit. It seems to me that we were gathering to praise God for multiple reasons. We praised God for the opportunity to be all together in one place, to be focused together on a gospel message of inclusiveness, as well as to physically be in the midst of God’s green mountains and valleys of Virginia. We stood to sing and dance, so much so that some complained of their feet hurting, but we did it together as a body of believers praising God.
Praising God is a key theme in many psalms. Psalm 33 is definitely one of the psalms of praise. Like other praise psalms, it starts with a call to praise God, followed by a reason for praising God, then a detailed listing of reasons for praise, and ends with additional praises to God. The psalmist gives a reminder as to why the people who claim to be righteous, the God-followers, must praise God. It befits them!
Have you ever worn a new outfit and a friend says to you: you look great– that really fits—it is so you! Maybe it matches your eyes or compliments your skin or somehow expresses your personality in a way that is obvious. Or you get a new job, and you see that it matches your skills in a way that really fits. You have the experience, the training and the desire to fit exactly into the new position.
This is the kind of “fit” the psalmist means when he calls the God-followers to praise. As he calls the people of God together to praise God, he says: praise befits you. You wear it well. Praising God is obviously what you ought to be doing. Eugene Peterson, in The Message paraphrase, writes: “you sound best when praising.” And how about you? Do you look and sound your best when you are praising God?
Using verbs in the imperative, or command, form, the psalmist calls the people to rejoice, to praise, to make melody, to sing and to play the stringed instruments. I think of the song from Zimbabwe which we have sung here before: Come all you people, come and praise your maker. Come. It is a request, an expectation, a command. Come. Praise. Sing a new song. It is what we do every Sunday as we are called to worship. Come, Praise, Sing a new song, Use the cymbals, the drums, the stringed instruments, the organ, your voices, your hands, your feet. Come and praise the Lord. It is a call, an invitation, a form of a command.
Why? What is the root of all this praise of God? The answer starts in vv 4/5 and then is embellished, expanded and enlarged for the remainder of the psalm. The God-followers praise God because God’s word is right, everything God does is done in good faith, God loves righteousness and justice, God’s love fills the whole earth. It is because of who God is, how God relates to us and what God has done for us. God is absolutely sovereign, ruling over four arenas—the created world, the nations, human beings in general, and the community of faith. The people of Israel can speak to the truth of God’s action in the world, they have seen it, they have experienced it, and because of who God is, God is deserving of praise.
God’s all inclusive action is underscored by making this psalm exactly the number of lines of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet—22. As if including everything from A through Z, God is praised for God’s complete sovereignty, complete control over the created world, the nations, individuals and the community of faith.
Let’s take a look: First—God is creator of all. The psalmist mentions the skies made by God’s word, the gathering of the ocean waters, and all of the inhabitants of the earth (animals too!) standing in awe. When we look at the creation God has given us, we recognize the power of God. God’s handiwork is obvious.
Second, God is the God over the nations. The Lord overrules what the nations plan, he frustrates what the peoples intend to do. That is, when the nations work against God’s plan for a globe covered with steadfast love. All of our threatening and posturing and jockeying for power is really useless according to the psalmist. None of it lasts. Kings are not saved by the strength of their armies, or their nuclear warheads or their long range missiles. Warriors are not rescued by their power or their guns or their sophisticated chemical warfare. Kingdoms fall, rulers die, but ultimately, God’s plan stands forever.
Third reason for praising God: God is the God over human beings, individuals like you and like me. God created our minds, understands what we do. We are intimately known, known inside and out, by this same God who created the entire world, the same God who rules the nations. God’s eyes are watching us.
Fourth reason for praising God: God is the God of salvation. God offers deliverance from death, life in a time of scarcity. God is the one in whom the people can put their hope, for God is their help and their shield. It is God who they wait for and put their trust in.
Psalm 33 follows a similar pattern to our services of worship— come and praise the Lord. Why? Because of who God is, and then a fuller explanation of God’s word at work in the world. And then it closes with an affirmation of faith: We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and shield. Our heart rejoices in God because we trust his holy name. Statements of confidence and trust. And then seeking a blessing at the end: let your faithful love surround us, because we wait for you.