God Is Great, God Is Good

Psalm 147

More than any other group of people Christians should need little if any encouragement to praise. 38x in final 5 psalms strong exhortation to praise! Apparently still enough of our old bad habits hanging about still need multiple reminders. Wonder what John Calvin would think today:

he indirectly censures a sin which is all but universal of becoming wearied at the very mention of God, and counting it our highest pleasure to forget both God and ourselves, that we may give way to unrestrained indulgence.” Calvin, 1557

Mindset certainly more obvious in society at large now than 50 years ago, however basic human nature not significantly different – still fallen, motivated by sin and enslaved to it. The Christian though, a different story: no longer bound or blinded by sin. Still dealing with lingering effects of sin, ever-present need to “mortify the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13), to walk according to the Spirit, not the flesh. Summarized briefly Rom. 8:5 “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”

Is somewhat a process (not strictly an event), each day making progress in Christ-likeness. Just like faith w/o works is dead (James 2:26), so faith w/o work is dead. Doing as God requires is work – not intended to be burdensome, but doesn’t just happen. Not expected to succeed in own power, yet must contribute all we can to growth in holiness. One of best helps we have: God’s Word… accompanied by God’s Spirit… and God’s people.

Warning: don’t cruise on by portions of God’s Word or principles found in it because they’re familiar. Especially ones that are there multiple times. It’s that way on purpose! Sandwiched between exhortations to praise in present psalm are reminders that God is great, God is good, God is good to us.

A. exhortation to praise v.1

it is good (1a)

is good to do – right and proper for God’s dependents to praise him; obedience always good; is good to exalt who/what is good

brings good to us – singing praise has significant effect on thoughts / emotions: shifts focus from temporal to eternal, from negative to positive, from inward to outward

praising God, esp. when Bible provides material, often reminds of other similar content: e.g., v.2 and Isa. 11:12-16; v.4-5 and Isa. 40:26-28; v.15-18 and Isa. 55:10-12; parallels with Job 38-41

it is pleasant (1b)

what gives pleasure, enjoyment – if mind is fully engaged in formulating praise, what can supply greater pleasure than thinking about God and reasons for praise

consider prominent theme in Revelation… angels, elders, living creatures, myriads of saints are doing what?? – praise integral part of what makes heaven desirable

it is beautiful (1c)

beauty: quality in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit

praise is good in itself, gives pleasure to one praising, is also source of enjoyment and edification to brothers and sisters

if praise is proper element of prayer, here is good reason for corporate prayer – mutual benefit of praising God together

B. God is great v.2-6

is good to praise God for various ways his greatness is evident; also good to think about how/when God has demonstrated greatness in one or more ways in your life, then praise specifically

he builds up (2a, 6)

perhaps immediately in view here: rebuilding Jerusalem, bringing people back from exile, rebuilding temple and commencing worship

is ongoing activity expressed: “is building”; Isaiah passage has far more than simple city in view, sees that as exemplifying Christ building his church

God does not sacrifice individual in his dealings with the group – He pays attention to true followers, the humble, deals with their enemies

he gathers (2b)

required power and greatness of God to restore exiles from foreign lands – God had to move Cyrus’ heart, later Artaxerxes

all w/o exception are outcasts from true Jerusalem; if to be any residents, God must be one bringing “back” from exile in sin

this whole concept should really lift our spirits: God not only is great, he uses his greatness for good of his people

yes, he uses means and we are among them; equally true that is God in Christ who is building up his Church against all opposition, is adding to his church daily

he heals (3)

regularly ask, then praise God for physical healing, and so we should; more essential to seek spiritual healing for particular people we know – family, friends

is the specific work / ministry of Christ to do this: Luke 4:21 “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

absolutely cause for praise when God displays his greatness in conversion of sinner and enemy into son/daughter and friend

he knows (4, 5b)

is Pluto a planet? a dwarf planet? God knows… for certain, along with its real name! yet, goes far beyond simple knowledge

God named them – he exercises sovereign authority over entire universe, from smallest to largest; absolutely everything does his bidding… w/o exception

he understands – means God can fit all the pieces together, of all created things, and himself: no limit whatever to his understanding

he is great (5a)

God is truly awesome – immense so that he fills all created space with his presence and power, at same time is completely distinct from his creation… no other being like him

have here in these verses material for praise, also “bullet points” for prompting further study

C. God is good v.7-11

repeated exhortation

sing with thanksgiving (7a)

proper response to recognition of God’s greatness: praise and thanksgiving; our response should be as frequent as God’s demonstrations of power on our behalf

sing with instruments (7b)

our best musical endeavors should be turned to praise – to extent instrument can honor God, it should

in present culture, e.g., should not need words to set music apart from what world chases; God deserves the best, what clearly points to him and draws attention to his goodness

he provides for his creatures (8-9)

God leaves nothing to chance, even something that might look like it’s on auto-pilot… the water cycle, following nature’s laws

oversees from start to finish, including things that it leads to: clouds make rain, rain makes grass grow, grass feeds creatures

his providence is gracious (10)

does not provide for his creatures in anticipation of payback – cares for them because he is good; in fact, only way they could pay God back is with what he already gave

he is pleased with goodness (11)

faithful dependence on God what pleases him most – will be expressed in heartfelt worship; God has no competition in this picture: full reliance on God in context of covenant relationship

D. God is good to us v.12-20

third exhortation to praise

call to the church – “O Jerusalem, …O Zion” – is certainly right for individuals to celebrate and praise, God is good to individuals; is also good to the ‘group’, should be ‘group’ praise in response

he protects (13a)

God protects his people from unprofitable hardship – need not fear what man can do to Christ’s church, whether by false doctrine, false accusation, other hardship they may devise

he blesses with children (13b)

is God who must continue church for next generation; his first choice to work with: children already in the church

he makes peace (14a)

no secret, if there is to be any kind of lasting peace, must be kind God alone can bring… especially peace in midst of hostile world

he supplies abundantly (14b)

God doesn’t give his kids junk food, neither short rations – supplies what we need in abundance, material and especially spiritual

he governs “nature” (15-18)

poetic description of what Hebrews’ author summarized in 1:3 – the Son “sustains all things by his powerful word”

he gives his word (19)

more particularly his word of special revelation – without this, would be in complete dark about all the rest including redemption

all we need to know to rightly believe and behave found only in God’s word the Bible, an inestimable treasure

he treats us special (20)

has not given these privileges to everyone; has revealed spiritual truth only to his people by his Word and Spirit

God is great, God is good, God is good to us – we know that and are able to praise him properly because of his living Word sent to redeem us, his written Word given to instruct us, his Holy Spirit sent to enlighten and equip us. Hallelujah!

 

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