1 Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord,
praise the name of the Lord!
2 Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore!
3 From the rising of the sun to its setting,
the name of the Lord is to be praised!
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4 The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens!
5 Who is like the Lord our God,
who is seated on high,
6 who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?
7 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
8 to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
9 He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!
The Greatness of a Transcendent God
This psalm begins in verse 1 with a call to praise. Then, the reason for that praise is given: God’s supreme greatness.
There are many reasons God is so great. The first is given in verse 2: we praise him because he is God, from this time forth and forevermore. God transcends time and is eternal.
Reason two is found in verse 3: we praise him because he is God, from the rising of the sun to its setting. God created all things, and is omnipresent.
The fourth reason to praise is in verse 4: we praise him because he is the God who is high above all nations. He is more glorious and beautiful than all the kings and rulers of the world.
The Greatness of a Humble God
Next, the psalmist contrasts God’s greatness with any other seeming greatness we see in the world. He presents the most important reason we have to praise God – a reason that is even more manifest when it is viewed in the context of the previous reasons given in the first four verses. This final reason, which continues throughout the remainder of the psalm, brings the praise to a climax.
There is no God as supreme as our God, yet so humble. Our God is willing to stoop to the lowly. He intervenes in human history to lift up and redeem the lowly. Verses 7-9 give some examples: “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!”
This text is almost a verbatim quotation from the Song of Hannah. [The Song of Hannah is the prayer of exultation Hannah prayed after God answered her prayers for a child with the birth of her son, Samuel.]
The psalmist shows us that we have reason to praise God, not only because of his supreme greatness, but also because of his inherent, personal greatness. God’s greatness does not consist only in his creation of all things and his transcendence of his creation. His greatness is also found in his ability to enter humbly into the midst of we, the lowly. He stoops down to our level and delivers us.
A Nature Which Stoops
Historically, this psalm was one of a series of psalms used by the Jews every year at Passover. They began the series with this psalm, Psalm 113, and ended it with Psalm 118, which was customarily sung at the Passover. This group of songs were probably the last psalms sung by the Lord Jesus before his suffering. Mark 14:26 refers to this: “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” This reminds us that the fulfillment of the story of the Exodus from Egypt is based on God’s nature, a nature which stoops down to and delivers the lowly.
The greatness of God’s presence and the greatness of his humility is ultimately embodied in Christ; “for from him and through him and to him are all things.” Our God was willing to become a baby in swaddling clothes, to become like humans in all aspects, and ultimately to die on the cross, the most terrible ordeal of all.
The humility of God accomplished salvation, so that we, the lowly, may sit with him, reign with him, inherit the universe, and govern it. This psalm shows us this deep part of the very heart of God.
Preacher Yang is the pastor of a house church in Xiamen, China. He received his Master of Divinity from Singapore Theological Seminary.
We praise you, God, because your greatness surpasses all things, and you are the source of all things. We praise you because you are willing to dwell in the hearts of us who are as lowly as worms and maggots. You save us, guide us, and sanctify us, even though we are often weak and even resist you, and you will not leave us until you come again to make us complete in your likeness.
Thank you for such great love. Thank you for loving us so humbly and so purely that we long to love you, follow you, glorify you, and serve you all the days of our lives, until you one day see in us the image of the glory of Christ. Amen!