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Deeper Commentary


Psa 147:1

Praise Yah, for it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant and fitting to praise Him-
The LXX attributes Psalms 146-148 to Haggai and Zechariah. According to the LXX titles, there were certain Psalms which were written for the dedication of the rebuilt temple, and others written by Haggai and Zechariah. They include: Psalms 96,138,147,148. These all seem to speak as if the time of a glorious temple was to be the time of God’s Kingdom; this was the possibility, and it was the prevailing hope in the minds of the faithful minority. But the Psalms had to remain prophecies of the future day of Zion’s glory, for the temple was not rebuilt by the returned exiles according to the specifications of Ez. 40-48. Although I suggest they are all initially Psalms of David, relevant to his experiences, but used under inspiration in these later contexts.

Psa 147:2

Yahweh builds up Jerusalem, He gathers together the outcasts of Israel-
The Jews returned from Babylon to the land of their own volition; but it was Yahweh who gathered them back, as if He called them almost of His volition rather than theirs. But the majority resisted this gathering of God and chose to remain in Babylon, for all the strength of His will for their restoration. Just as many do today in their rejection of the Gospel. Those who returned rebuilt Jerusalem; but actually, Yahweh did, through His confirmation of all the freewill effort of men like Haggai and Nehemiah (see on :1).

This verse is alluded to by the Lord in Lk. 13:34, where He how He would fain have gathered together the children of Jerusalem, “but you would not”. The words of the Psalm speak as if this is what the Lord God is going to do. But Jesus understood it as being impossible of fulfilment if the outcast children would not allow themselves to be gathered. Likewise the statement that the Lord will build up Jerusalem was made in a restoration context; but again, it was dependent upon the Jews’ obedience for its fulfilment. God was and is potentially ready to work with us.  

Psa 147:3

He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds-
The broken hearted and wounded were the exiles; see on :1. But they were comfortable in Baylon-Persia, as the book of Esther confirms. They were no longer broken hearted, and took their healing from material prosperity rather than God's Spirit. They were warned in Is. 6:10 that the potential healing of their hearts would not happen unless they were open to it. The broken hearted were those who had broken their own hearts in recognition of their sins as David had done (Ps. 51:17; 69:20 s.w.), and had followed his path to repentance and restoration. But the exiles generally were impenitent; and so the good news announced to them of healing of broken hearts was rejected (s.w. Is. 61:1).

Psa 147:4

He counts the number of the stars, He calls them all by their names-
The stars which can't be numbered by man refer to the true seed of Abraham. Each have their own individual name in God's mind, reflecting His appreciation of their unique characteristics. The tragedy was that God called each of the exiles back to the land, desirous to fulfil the promises to Abraham; and the majority of them refused that call.

Psa 147:5

Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite-
This infinite understanding develops the thought of :4; God knew every unique characteristics of His potential people, the stars of Abrahams potential seed. David sees his sins and their consequences as "without number", but he uses the same word for God's "infinite" or "without number" "understanding" (s.w. Ps. 40:12). God understands better than we do the nature of our sins and their consequences. And His power to deal with all that  is limitless, as David discovered in his experience with his sin. The exiles too had sinned, and God infinitely understood every nuance of that; but His power was such that He would restore each of them see on :4). But they rejected such mighty power, for He allows it to be circumscribed by human freewill.

Psa 147:6

Yahweh upholds the humble; He brings the wicked down to the ground-
"Brings... down" is the term often used for those humbled by God's condemnation, e.g. the proud who are brought low (2 Sam. 22:28; Job 40:11; Ps. 75:7; 147:6; Prov. 29:23 and very often in the prophets). And yet God by grace remembers and lifts up even those humbled by such condemnation (Ps. 136:23). This is absolute grace; to save even those suffering condemnation for their sins. This was all exactly relevant to the exiles (see on :1).

Time and again, the Biblical contrasts are between the sinners and the humble- as if humility is the epitome of the acceptable. It is the meek who shall inherit the earth (Ps. 37:11). This is how significant humility is. God right now puts down one and lifts up another– all of which He will also due at the last day (Ps. 75:7; Lk. 14:10 alludes here). The essence of judgment is ongoing now; “we make the answer now”.

Psa 147:7

Sing to Yahweh with thanksgiving, sing praises on the harp to our God-
LXX "Begin the song with thanksgiving", clearly an indication that this Psalm was to be sung in the sanctuary. This had only just been rebuilt at the time of this Psalm (see on :1).

Psa 147:8

who covers the sky with clouds, who prepares rain for the earth, who makes grass grow on the mountains-
As God prepares the earth for the grass and manipulates the clouds above, so the eretz / land / earth was prepared for the restoration to happen (s.w. Is. 45:18; 62:7). The tragedy was that the majority of the exiles preferred to stay in Babylon rather than return to the land prepared for them. By contrast, the land / kingdom was prepared for David (Ps. 119:90) whilst he was in exile, and he received it. The sending of the rain represents the power of God's word of restoration coming down and producing growth (Is. 55:10,11). And yet this was precluded by the exiles, and will come true fully at the last day.

Psa 147:9

He provides food for the livestock, and for the young ravens when they call-
The hint is that if the exiles truly called to God for help, He would respond. The fact He responds to calls for help is encoded throughout creation; for when even the ravens call, God answers their needs. The fact God "provides food" to His people far more than even to "the livestock" means that we should be faithful to covenant with Him (Gen. 28:20 s.w.). His provision of food to the natural creation is a reason to praise God for His grace to men (s.w. Ps. 136:25). Constantly, the natural creation is read as an encouragement to faith in God.

The raven was considered a bad omen. But still God cares for them; and how much more for His people. This is the force of the Lord's argument in Lk. 12:24, "Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them". Clearly God doesn't simplistically punish the evil and bless the righteous immediately in this life. His grace reaches out to all.

Psa 147:10

He doesn’t delight in the strength of the horse, He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man-
The Psalm was in the context of the restoration (see on :1). Perhaps the allusion is how the wicked Haman 'delighted' in the strength of a horse (Esther 6:9,11 s.w.). Haman and those like him all came to nothing, and couldn't thwart the glorification of God's captive people.

Psa 147:11

Yahweh takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His grace-
This was originally David who hoped in grace (Ps. 33:18). But the exiles are asked to hope in God's grace (Ps. 130:7); for their restoration was by grace, in that their judgment was absolutely called for.

Psa 147:12

Praise Yahweh, Jerusalem! Praise your God, Zion!-
The situation in the time of Haggai and Zechariah (see on :1) was not apparently worthy of so much praise. But the Psalm asks the exiles to praise God, as David did, for that which was promised and was yet to come.

Psa 147:13

For He has strengthened the bars of your gates, He has blessed your children within you-
As noted on :1, this Psalm was relevant to the exiles. Nehemiah's record stresses how the exiles themselves strengthened the bars of the gates of Jerusalem; but it was Yahweh working with them to achieve this. But the blessing of their children was only potentially available; for Haggai (see on :1) records how there was much suffering amongst the exiles from famine and plague, because they had not truly returned to their God.

Psa 147:14

He makes peace in your borders, He fills you with the finest of the wheat-
But at the time of Haggai and Zechariah (see on :1) they experienced famine and opposition from within their borders. The great potentials possible for the exiles who returned didn't come about; their impenitence precluded the reestablishment of the Kingdom as was prophetically possible. "Fills you" translates  word often used to describe how God's people in His land would be "filled" or satisfied"; if they were obedient to the covenant (Dt. 6:11; 8:10,12; 11:15 and very often).

Psa 147:15

He sends out His commandment to the earth; His word runs very swiftly-
LXX "He sends his oracle to the earth: his word will run swiftly"; as in :19 "He sends his word to Jacob". A word running swiftly was an idiom for the fulfilment of that word (see on Hab. 2:2). See too on Jer. 23:18,22. The idea was that the word of restoration was now coming true for the exiles (see on :1). But tragically their impenitence precluded it coming true at that time as it might have done.

Psa 147:16

He gives snow like wool, and scatters frost like ashes-
The idea is that God turns the water into snow, and then His word melts the snow, and the waters flow. The water changes from one state to another. The idea is that Judah went into captivity by God's word, they were as it were frozen in captivity, but God's word would melt them and change their state, so that they would flow again, back to Zion. But most of them preferred to remain frozen in captivity.

Psa 147:17

He hurls down His hail like pebbles- who can stand before His cold?-
See on :16. "Who can stand before" Yahweh is the language of men facing condemnation (1 Sam. 6:20; Ps. 76:7; Nah. 1:6; Mal. 3:2). Only those forgiven by Him can stand before Him (Ps. 130:3). The exiles had been judged, and were now forgiven. As noted on :16, the freezing of the waters into ice was seen as their judgment in Babylon, and God's word of restoration was to change their state (:18). It was Babylon who was now to be unable to stand before Him (s.w. Jer. 49:19; 50:44). 

Psa 147:18

He sends out His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow and the waters flow-
See on :16. Note the parallel between God's word and His wind / Spirit. The exiles could have been released from their frozen condition in exile, their state could have been changed from snow to flowing waters. The idea of God's wind / Spirit blowing over the waters is that of creation. A new creation could have been brought about; but they refused.

Psa 147:19

He shows His word to Jacob, His statutes and His ordinances to Israel-
As in :15 LXX has "He sends his word to Jacob". The reference there was to how God's prophetic word of restoration could have come true for Jacob / Israel; but they had to be obedient to His statutes. And they were not, for the most part, as the sad record of the restoration makes clear.

Psa 147:20

He has not done this for any other nation; they don’t know His ordinances. Praise Yah!-
The gift of God's laws was not to be perceived as onerous, but the greatest blessing a nation could have. To perceive that God's word is shown to us... leaves us with an awesome impression. This is what grasping the meaning of an inspired Bible should do for each of us. Whoever wishes to believe in that word has had God's word shown to them (:19); and thereby become God's new Israel.