Psalm 147
A Song Of Joy

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1.  The words of scripture we read today are Psalm one hundred and forty-seven.  Psalm 147 begins with "Hallelujah" and ends with "Hallelujah."  A psalm like this is called "A Hallelujah Psalm" as there are several [hallelujahs] in [this] psalm and the others in which [hallelujah] appears linked throughout the psalms numbered 146 to 150.  "Hallelujah" means "praise the Lord."  It begins with "Hallelujah" and ends with "Hallelujah."  Our everyday lives should be like it is in this psalm.  Today, as we thus read together and get a feel for this psalm which praises the Lord, I would like us to praise the Lord with them as we make the hearts of the old time believers our hearts.

The Lord Heals The Crushed Heart

2.  So then, let's read first of all from verses one to six.

Hallelujah.
How happy to sing praises of our God
How beautiful and pleasant are the praises for God!
The Lord will rebuild Jerusalem
He will gather the exiled people of Israel.
He will heal the person with a crushed heart.
He will dress that person's wounds.
The Lord has set the number of the stars
He has given names to each one.
Our Lord is a great one, His power is mighty
The number of his intelligent works is not known.
The Lord encourages the poor
[But] he makes the rebel fall to the ground, "(verses one to six).

3.  The joy of the people giving praise to God is filled to overflowing in this psalm which starts with a shout of "Hallelujah."   It is filled to overflowing with thanksgiving for God.

4.  However, we should not overlook the fact that at the background to the joy which is overflowing here there is a history of a deep sadness in the people.  When we carefully read this psalm the troubles which they had experienced come out in the open.  The phrase "rebuilding of Jerusalem" shows the truth that their former capital had been torn down and had come to ruins.  The phrase "he will gather together" shows there were people who had been scattered by military might and exiled to a foreign land.  In the [backdrop here], there were people who had broken hearts.  There were people who bore deep wounds in their hearts.  This is the event historically called the Babylonian captivity.  They were a people who had experienced a nationwide fall.

5.  In the night of these troubles, the dawn came in.  The morning sun arose into the place that seemed as if just about everything had been demolished and utterly lost and only despair remained behind.  Their troubles did not finish off as trouble.  The people were allowed to return to Jerusalem again, the temple was also rebuilt, and the city walls were constructed again.

6.  However, they knew that what had rebuilt Jerusalem was not merely human strength.  Neither was "time" the thing that had healed their broken hearts and wounds.  They saw the work of God alive among them.  The praise in this psalm is overflowing from that [perspective].

7.  The one who did not let their wounded past end stay wounded was almighty God, who is not only powerful, but at the same time a gracious God full of mercy.  Because he is a powerful God and at the same time a gracious God, he has been a saving God.  Neither one of them are one and the same.  Therefore, this psalm begins to take up singing that the powerful God is simultaneously a gracious God.

8.  This God is the one who created heaven and earth.  The psalmist ponders the works of God as he looks up into the whole sky full of star after star.  In addition, he thinks on how he sees an orderly system in this world of stars and [says], "God has created all of these.  And God has given a name to each one of them."  All the stars, too numerous to count, are surely memorized in the heart of God.  Since that is true, God can not forget even one person even though he or she is one among the many many people in this world.  Even though there are so many poor and little individuals beyond number, they won't be forgotten by God.  The Lord encourages the little guy.  On the other hand, the power of God which governs the starry skies and his intelligent works show forth the fact that no matter how strong the powers of this world which go against God's orderly system might be, he will always bring them down to naught.

9.  In this way, [our] powerful and gracious God does not forget the ruins, but builds them back up again for us.  He does not forsake that which has crumbled apart due to sinful humanity, but rebuilds it back again.  Also, this very God is a God who heals our crushed hearts.  god treats and heals the heart which has borne deep wounds due to the sins of humanity or from our own sinfulness.  The people have experienced this power and grace of God through history's hardships.  Therefore, the people sing of their joy.  They cry out, "Praise the Lord!"  I would like us also to join in along with their voices and give praise of the Lord.

What The Lord Desires [Is] For A Person To Fear The Lord

10.  As we go on, let's read beginning with verse seven.

Sing to the Lord offering up an offering of thanksgiving
Join with the harp and sing a praise song to our God.
The Lord covers the heavens with snow, he prepares rain for the earth
He causes the grass to sprout forth in the mountains.
If the beasts or certain crows cry or chirp
He will give them food.
The Lord does not rejoice over the courageousness of a horse
And does not take pleasure in the swiftness of a person's feet.
What the Lord desires [is] for a person to fear the Lord,
A person who waits in desire for the lovingkindness of the Lord," (verses seven to eleven).

11.  In addition, the people sing a song of thanksgiving.  What is resonating in this [song] is the singing voices of thanksgiving for the harvest.  Because they know that the giving of thanks for the harvest is for none other than the Lord who brought forth the harvest.  Those who know that they do not live by their own strength, but are granted life from the magnificent One will offer up thanks for being given life.

12.  As the psalmist sings a song of thanksgiving, he looks across the world of nature.  He discovers the lovingkindness of God in the vegetation in the mountains.  God covers the heavens with snow, makes the rain fall, and causes the grass to sprout giving it life.  Not even the smallest plant life of them all is forgotten by God.  In addition, the psalmist thinks of the beast in the field and the crow.  Even these are nurtured by God and given life.  Even the very beasts of the field do not slip through the thoughts of God.

13.  The words of this psalm might bring us to recall the words of the Lord Jesus.  "Consider the crow [or the raven].  They neither sow seed nor reap, and have neither shed nor storage house.  Yet, God nurtures the crow.  How much more are you worth [to God] than the crow?  Who among you can extend his or her life span even a smidgen by worrying?  Why do you worry about other things if you can't even do this minor matter?  Consider how the flower in the field is raised.  They neither work nor spin.  But, I say [to you].  Even Solomon with his extreme luxury did not dress up as even one of these flowers does.  Today it is in the field and tomorrow, it is only grass to be thrown into the furnace, and God will judge in this manner.  But, you are so much more than that [flower].  O you weak ones in faith," (Luke 12:24-28).

14.  The person without thanks for being given life by the Lord only attempts to preserve himself or herself with the strength of this temporary world.  The courageousness of a war horse or the abilities of a human being, they suppose, are indispensable for self-preservation.  But, Jerusalem was destroyed even though they had the courageousness of a war horse and even though they had human abilities that was outstanding.  They recall the truth of that.  Both the strengths of a horse or of a human are not in and of themselves bad.  But, they knew physically that God was not pleased when a person put their trust and dependence on [these limited strengths].  Indeed, they aren't the only ones to do that.  The time is soon coming when [all] will be made to realize the vanity of ultimate dependence and trust on anything without God.

15.  At that time they will understand what it is that God desires.  Now [we] know from these giving this praise.  What God wants is a person to truly fear the Lord.  They are not to forget that they owe everything to God and are to live in expectant hope for the lovingkindness of God.  A person of this sort will not return the glory to man or woman when he or she has gotten something.  They will not forget [to be] thankful even at harvest time.  They will cry out, "Sing to the Lord offering up offerings of thanksgiving."

Ice [Turns To] Melting, Flowing Water

16.  In addition, let's read beginning from verse twelve.

O Jerusalem, praise the Lord
O Zion, make praise of your God.
The Lord fortifies the bars to your city gates
He will bless the children living among you.
He places peace in your national borders
He will let you be filled with the best of wheat.
The Lord issues a command to the earth.
His word runs swiftly.
He causes the sheep woolen snow to fall
He spreads the ashen frost
He hurls the hail like scraps of bread.
Who could endure that cold?
If he sends his word, it will thaw
If he blows some of his breath, it will become flowing water," (verses twelve to eighteen).

17.  Moreover, the psalm calls out to the rebuilt Jerusalem to give praise of the Lord.  It calls out to them to adore the Lord in praise.

18.  The walls to the city of Jerusalem were rebuilt.  But, the people knew that the city walls did not keep the capital city safe; for, they knew that the walls had once tumbled down.  The fact is the one who guards the gates is the Lord.  It is the Lord who blesses those within them.  It is the Lord himself who brings the peace and not human strength.  A person should never forget that.

19.  The destruction and rebuilding of Jerusalem and the goings-on in the natural order appear to overlap in the eyes of this psalmist.  Because he sees that either way we have the will of the Lord there in both of them.

20.  When it turns winter, the snow falls.  The frost comes down.  It seems like cold blocks of ice head for the earth hurled out of heaven.  To a traveler walking in a snow storm it seems unbearably cold.  The cold is difficult to endure for the poor working person as he or she walks around through the freezing cold.  "Who could endure that cold?"

21.  The person who is able to endure that cold is none other than the one who knows spring is on the way.  Since the snow fall and the frost coming down are the will of God, the word of God is sent from the same will of God and the ice turns to melted flowing water.  Those who know this can endure the cold.

22.  The people of Jerusalem had to endure that cold.  There had been sin in Jerusalem.  God exposed their sin through the prophets and brought down judgment.  Jerusalem was destroyed, the walls knocked down, and the people exiled to a foreign land.  The one who made the cold winter come was God himself and none other.  "Who could endure that cold?"  -- There were people who did endure that cold.  Those who endured were the people who had admitted their sin and had seen the will of God behind the scenes of that wintry cold.  Also, there were people who believed that that same God through his mercy and forgiveness sent his word and blew out some of his breath to them.  Those who were waiting in expectant hope for the lovingkindness of God had believed that the ice would soon melt through the word of the Lord and turn to water.

23.

The Lord announced his word to Jacob
And his commands and condemnation to Israel.
Against any other nation
He has never planned anything like this.
They are unable to know the judgment of the Lord.
Hallelujah," (verses nineteen to twenty).

24.  They gave praise over God.  They did so not just because Jerusalem got rebuilt or their hardships and sorrows had gone, but because they had seen God behind the scenes to all that happened.  They were rejoicing to be made a people who knew the commands and the condemnation of God, the plan of God.  Those who only rejoice because hardships are gone only go back to the raw basics of life.  True salvation does not lie there.  Only the person who sees the will of God in such times becomes a person who lives praising God.  This psalm begins with "Hallelujah" and ends with "Hallelujah."  Our every day lives should be like that too.

 
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