A God Worthy of Praise (Psalm 147)
1. This morning's Psalm is one of the great praise hymns of the Bible as are each of the last six psalms. They are great praises about God and what He has done. This is most dramatically played out in this morning's psalm. Our psalm this morning isn't just a call for all people in all places to praise God. It's also a checklist of reasons why we should praise our God. It would benefit us this morning to look at the reasons spelled out so that we can truly praise our Lord.
2. God is worthy of praise because He gathers His people. "YHWH builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel" (v2). Throughout history God has called out to His people to return to them. During Holy Week, Jesus laments over Jerusalem, saying, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gather her brood under her wings, and you would not!" (Matthew 23:37). The Scriptures are full of such callings to the people of Israel to repent and be gathered back but they would not. Every time the prophets would bring the light of God's Word to His people, they would scatter like cockroaches when the light switch is turned on. After everything that happened in the Old Testament, Jesus Himself came down to gather His people. By the end of Holy Week, everything was set up for the entire world to be gathered to Him by His Cross. "The Lamb, who is the great I AM," (LSB #543.3) sacrificed Himself to gather us together. He came after you, and for that you can praise Him.
3. God is also worthy of praise because He heals His people. "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds" (v3). In our Gospel reading, we have Jesus leaving the synagogue right after casting out the demon from last week's Gospel. Everyone in town comes and crowds around the door, seeking to be healed. Everyone seeking to be the way they were meant to be. The way God "fearfully, wondrously, made you" (LSB #790.3). With Jesus, we understand that we are broken by our sin. Our wounds need to be bound and healed. Through His sacrifice, Jesus brings that healing to make you just how He originally created you to be. Through His death on the Cross, He has healed the wounds that your sins have made. Wounds that infest our bodies and souls. Wounds that bring on physical, emotional and psychological pain. Wounds that are bound up in His wounds as He was nailed to the Cross. Wounds bound up by the blood flowing from Jesus' wounds as it was applied at your Baptism. The blood that heals all wounds as it forgives all sins. We praise God because He has healed us.
4. God is also worthy of praise because He created and cares for everything. "He determines the number of the stars; He gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure" (vv4-5). He is the God who demands that no one question Him. He is above questioning because He created all things. As Isaiah prophesied, "Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth" (Isaiah 40:21-22). God created everything. He gives everything its life and purpose. But the height of His creation, the crown jewel of all His creatures, you and I don't see it as enough. The psalm continues, "YHWH lifts up the humble; He casts the wicked to the ground" (v6). We call the first sin of Adam and Eve the Fall into sin. Our first parents didn't even want the dominion that was handed to them. They wanted to exalt themselves. Those who wish to exalt themselves are cast down. Their wicked desires causes them to be cast down by God because they want more than what they'd been given. Those who humble themselves find themselves exalted by God. Adam and Eve desired more than what they had been given. As a reward for their sins, they were cast out of Paradise and cast down to the ground that had been cursed because of them. Their self-exaltation brought about their demise. But those who humble themselves, like St. Paul, find themselves exalted by God. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, "For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me" (1 Corinthians 9:16). Paul felt the necessity of the Gospel weighing down on him. The same necessity that weighs upon every Christian's heart and soul. Then again, it isn't a burden either. The necessity that weighs upon the Christian's soul is the value of the Gospel message. It's the joy of the Gospel message. It's the desire to want to spread that message to others. It's the knowledge and understanding that the One who has saved us from our sins humbled Himself in order to exalt each and every one of us. He did this to reset His creation. This restoration leads us to praise God who "covers the heavens with clouds; [who] prepares rain for the earth; [who] makes grass grow on the hills" (v8). As we confess in the Creed, "I believe that God has made me and all creatures, my eyes, ears and all my members, my reason and senses, and still takes care of them" (SC II, 2). This is the reason we can sing, "Praise to the Lord, who o'er all things is wondrously reigning and, as on wings of an eagle, uplifting, sustaining" (LSB #790.2). The praise comes because "He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. ... they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:29-31). God continues to provide for His creation throughout history because He is greatly concerned with our lives here in time and afterward in eternity. All this provisionary oversight brings out even more praise for God.
5. Finally, God is worthy of praise because He loves His people. "His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor His pleasure in the legs of a man, but YHWH takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His steadfast love" (vv10-11). Our own love is imperfect. We tend to love and care for those who care for and love us. We like to be around those who are similar to us. We like to have some commonality with those we associate. There has to be some chemistry before we give away our care and affection. We need something before we're willing to invest ourselves in a relationship. But thanks be to God that He doesn't work that way. He came to be with us because we aren't and can't be what He wants us to be without Him. As we began our service, singing: "What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul, to bear the dreadful curse for my soul" (LSB #543.1). Instead of waiting for us to become like Him, He became like one of us. St. Paul writes about his own imitation of our Lord to the church in Corinth: "To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law ... that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law ... that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings" (1 Corinthians 9:20-23).
6. That's the praise we have in the service of our Lord. We get to share in the blessings which is why the necessity weighs upon us to spread the news of His wondrous love for us. Wondrous love that created and cares for us, that heals our wounded souls, that gathers us together. We're here together not only to receive blessings from His hand. We're here together to strengthen and bolster each other in those blessings. That's the praise we have for our Lord and Savior. That's the praise that we are compelled by its joy to share with all those around us. Amen.