If you had to choose a spiritual, Christian song to praise God for saving you, which song would it be?
I Could Sing of Your Love Forever
Your Grace Still Amazes Me
Grace Flows Down
Your Grace Is Enough
‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus
Wonderful Grace of Jesus
Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
The Love of God
Graves into Gardens (Elevation Church)
Is He Worthy? (Chris Tomlin)
At The Cross (Chris Tomlin)
I can tell you which songs saints in the Old Testament chose: Psalms 113-118. How do I know this? Israelites sang these particular praise songs for Passover to commemorate God’s miraculous and wondrous salvation of the nation from Egyptian bondage. Of course, their salvation began when they, by faith, painted the door posts of their homes with the sacrificial blood of an innocent lamb. So, they sang songs to remember God’s redemption, and to praise Him for what He had done for them. Psalm 113 through 114 were sung before the holy meal to set the tone for their worship and praise of the Lord who lovingly saved them from bondage.
According to Paul, Jesus, the Messiah, is now, based on His sacrificial death for our sins (as prophesied in Isaiah 53), our Passover lamb (1 Cor. 5:7). Rightly, then, do we purposefully sing spiritual songs of praise to Him for what He has done for us. Do you? Do you have those favorite ones you like to play in your car or listen to while you have Youtube running in the background? Do you have songs you play when you are working out and listening to your Apple Air Pods?
What do all of these praise songs about Christ’s salvation has in common? They praise Him for His person and His provision. To put it another way, they extol Him for some facet of His divine character, and this is usually followed by moving words describing His saving activity. As you might surmise, Psalms 113 and 114 reflect this structure as Egyptian deliverance is remembered by the cultus, Israel. No doubt we can learn much about how to praise God by studying ancient worship songs like these.
Structurally, we could say Psalm 113, which is the focus of our study right now, is divided into three movements. First. You have The Rule (vv. 1-3), which is God’s command for us to worship Him. Second, this is followed by The Reason (vv. 4-8), wherein we discover why we should worship the Lord. Third, the author uses a figure of speech called inclusio whereby he finishes where he started. Here in the closing verse we, therefore, encounter The Rule (v. 9) again. Why? Because the Psalmist, by means of divine inspiration, doesn’t want us to ever forget how important it is to praise the Lord who have graciously redeemed us.
Thematically, the main motif arising from this structure cannot be missed:
Saints Should Praise God For His Person And His Provision
For our purposes, I think it is helpful to boil the structure of this passage down to just the two concepts it develops. Our praise of Christ’s redemption from our sins should always be founded and grounded upon to practical concepts.
One, we should be mindful to . . .
Praise God For His Person (Psalm 113:1-6)
Mark well how more verses focus on God’s person, His character, than mention the amazing things He has done toward His people. Perhaps this can give you some much needed insight in how your praise should be structured. So thoughtfully read these six divinely inspired verses, underscoring what they specifically say about who God is.
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 forever. 3 From the rising of the sun to its setting The name of the LORD is to be praised.
The opening verse, as well as the closing verse (9b) gives us a strict command in Hebrew to praise God. In fact, the command is stated a whopping three times just in verse 1:
הַ֥לְלוּ יָ֙הּ׀ הַ֭לְלוּ עַבְדֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה הַֽ֜לְלוּ אֶת־שֵׁ֥ם יְהוָֽה׃
The fact the command is repeated again in verse 9 merely reminds you just how important it is for you, as a believer in Christ, to be committed to praising the Lord who has saved you from your sin and eternal destruction. Are you committed? What does a committed life of praise look like? It is one which is frequently reminded of God’s rich grace poured out on him or her, resulting in an outpouring of momentary praise. Praise like this probably occurs many times in a given week in the life of an appreciative, maturing saint.
Working our way down through verses 1 through 6, we can readily identify the divine character the Psalmist finds praiseworthy.
Throughout these verses the Psalmist calls God, the LORD. He does this eight times. This is God’s main name, Yahweh, the name He gave to Moses at the burning bush.
Exodus 3:14 וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה וַיֹּ֗אמֶר
כֹּ֤ה תֹאמַר לִבְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה שְׁלָחַ֥נִי אֲלֵיכֶֽם׃
And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" (Exod. 3:14)
The verb, hayah, or to be ( הָיָה) quickly became the name which described the unseen God. Rightly did God choose this verbal stem for His name because it best denotes His eternal existence. He is always in a state of ontological being outside of time and inside of time. While there are views and logical arguments favoring that God existed in time prior to the creation of the cosmos and that time will continue to exist as God’s kingdom program comes to fruition, I believe God is the timeless One who created time when the cosmos began. Along these lines, 2 Timothy 1, verse 9 is most enlightening, especially in the Greek text.
NIV 2 Timothy 1:9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life-- not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
BGT 2 Timothy 1:9 τοῦ σώσαντος ἡμᾶς καὶ καλέσαντος κλήσει ἁγίᾳ, οὐ κατὰ τὰ ἔργα ἡμῶν ἀλλὰ κατὰ ἰδίαν πρόθεσιν καὶ χάριν, τὴν δοθεῖσαν ἡμῖν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ πρὸ χρόνων αἰωνίων . . .
The phrase “the beginning of time” in Greek uses the noun chronos (χρόνος), which denotes time as we know, or time as it moves methodically from one moment to another. God’s saving grace, therefore, was something God determined to give to repentant sinners before chronological time was created. Amazing.
Regardless, however, of where you stand on the philosophical/ theological issue, God’s name as Yahweh highlights the fact He always was, always is, and always will be (Rev. 4:8). He is the First and the Last and the Alpha and the Omega (Isa. 41:4; 48:12; Rev. 1:17; 2:8; 22:13). In Isaiah 44:6, the divine One draws a clear correlation between His name as the eternal LORD and the fact He is the first and the last, the beginning and end of all things, the One who stands outside of time and space.
He is, also, the eternal One who stepped into the time and space He created with the goal of bringing salvation to the very people who rebelled against Him in the Garden of Eden. Interestingly enough, when you trace this great name of God through the Torah, you quickly run into texts where it is clearly associated with His redemptive activity for messed up sinners.
21 And the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them (Gen. 3).
The eternal LORD lovingly provided the first sacrificial covering for sinners when He gave them these garments. According to Genesis 7:1, 5, 16, it was, again, the LORD who told Noah to build an ark to save himself and family from God’s impending judgment against sinners. Further, it was the LORD who told the Israelites in Egyptian bondage how to by-pass His coming wrath against their oppressors by slaying a sacrificial lamb and painting its innocent blood on the door posts of their homes (Ex. 12:1-13). Finally, when the divine One gave Israel the sacrificial system to cover their sin in Leviticus chapters 1 through 7, He employed the eternal name Yahweh, almost exclusively, eighty times as opposed to Elohim, God, in only two verses (Lev. 2:13; 4:22). The point of this is well-taken: The eternal God who has revealed Himself wants us to be able to secure an eternal relationship with Him.
Again, I would say, amazing. No wonder He should be blessed forever (Psalm 113:2), as well as praised from “the rising of the sun to its setting,” or over the entire face of the earth. He who is eternal, stepped into the temporal, to give sinners the ability, through the prescribed sacrifice, to find eternal peace and to secure an eternal relationship with Him. Jesus talks much about this in the gospels (Matt. 25:46; John 3:15; 5:39; 6:54, 68; 10:28; 12:25; 17:2-3). Why? Because He was, and is, the eternal God who has made eternal salvation possible. Praise is in order; wouldn’t you agree?
In addition to praising God’s eternal nature as it is directly wedded to redemption, the Psalm directs us in verse 4 through 5 to praise the divine One who enjoys as unique cosmic position:
4 The LORD is high above all nations; His glory is above the heavens. 5 Who is like the LORD our God, who is enthroned on high, 6 Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth?
רָ֖ם עַל־כָּל־גּוֹיִ֥ם׀ יְהוָ֑ה עַ֖ל הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם כְּבוֹדֽוֹ׃
“Ram,” ( רָ֖ם) which is the Hebrew participle for “high,” is a durative pointing to God’s ongoing lofty position over all the kings and politicians of all of the nations on the planet. These leaders and their people will come and go, but He is always on His throne, which is located in a position far above those on earth. God’s unique regal position moved the prophet Isaiah to remark:
15 Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing (Isa. 40).
They might think they are all that and a bag of proverbial chips, they might think their power is unlimited and perpetual, they may rule and dominate their people like it is their right, they bend and twist rules to perpetuate their (feeble) power, but at the end of the day the true God is always sitting on His throne watching them and preparing for the time when He comes to deal them in judgment (Psalm 2:1, 8; Isaiah 24-27; Amos 1:2; Zech. 14; Matt. 24-25; 2 Thess. 1:8). How can this facet of God’s character not move a saint to praise? When the wicked think they are high and lifted up and the righteous are brought low by the unscrupulous, deceptive, and ruthless activities of their leaders, praise the eternal LORD who is eternally (not temporally) high and lifted up and will one day move to rule over them, not they over Him (Psalm 22:28; 47:8).
What’s more, praise the eternal LORD who resides “above the heavens.”
4 The LORD is high above all nations; His glory is above the heavens.
רָ֖ם עַל־כָּל־גּוֹיִ֥ם׀ יְהוָ֑ה עַ֖ל הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם כְּבוֹדֽוֹ׃
This prepositional phrase tells us that the eternal LORD’s glory, or the brightness and brilliance of His person, is located first and foremost above the cosmos as we know it. Measuring between the earth and the known edge of the observable, expanding universe, we know it is 46 billion light years away. To traverse the massive universe in a conventional spacecraft would take a whopping 225 trillion years. If that craft could fly at the speed of light, it would still take 93 billion years to arrive at the intended destination. No doubt, no temporal carbon form on the ship would ever make it, correct? Jaw-dropping, isn’t it? This tells us, in a small fashion, just how high God is above the nations. It also tells us where His glory is located. It is above the known heavens, and I would dare say those heavens, containing billions of stars, serve as a faint statement of the presence of His absolute blinding brilliance, which is wedded, of course, to His utter holiness. Once more, how can this truth not move us to praise Him?
What’s more is we know He has allowed His dimension to intersect with our dimension so we could get a taste of His glory. Even Jesus showed us this much on the Mount of Transfiguration, and we know from many texts that His brilliance will be seen when He comes
18 Violence will not be heard again in your land, nor devastation or destruction within your borders; But you will call your walls salvation, and your gates praise.
19 No longer will you have the sun for light by day, nor for brightness will the moon give you light; But you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, and your God for your glory. 20 Your sun will set no more, neither will your moon wane; for you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, and the days of your mourning will be finished (Isa. 60).
The LORD who saves us and will eventually allow us to see His glory is certainly worth our continual praise.
His person also moves us, like it did the prophet, to pose the logical question to anyone who will listen:
5 Who is like the LORD our God, who is enthroned on high, . . .
The answer to the rhetorical question is clear: No one is like the living, eternal LORD of LORDs, whom the heavens cannot contain (1 Kings 8:27). His lofty, heavenly vantage point causes us to praise Him.
In addition, He is not just transcendent, He is immanent. Put differently, He’s not just distant, He is purposefully close to the creatures He created:
6 Who humbles Himself to behold The things that are in heaven and in the earth?
Don’t you find this paradox mind-numbing and humbling all at the same time? God is far beyond us positionally and practically, but desires . . . really longs . . . to be with us.
Think about this, please. He who controls the massive and complex mechanizations of the entire cosmos is interested in you. He could easily say He is too busy to be concerned with your life, that His schedule will not permit Him to ever know anything about you. Even when I was invited to pray for Vice President Pence’s staff twice a week at the White House, I never thought that a man as busy as he was had any time for me. I never even saw him at one of those prayer times over four years. The one time he was supposed to show up, he didn’t because of some type of national emergency. But the eternal LORD always stays up on my life, and yours as well. Unbelievable.
Is it any wonder, then, the Psalmist calls us to praise God for His person because there is, ostensibly, no one like Him? No one will ever compare.
Two, we should always . . .
Praise God For His Provision (Psalm 113:6-9)
In these three verses the Psalmist pauses and gives us two (of many) illustrations of just how tapped into people God is. He does not just know about the finer details of what is happening to them, He eventually steps in to act to alleviate pain, suffering, and problems. Read on and you’ll see what I mean:
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
To read through the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy) and the Prophets (Major and Minor) is to readily discover that God always has a place His heart for the less fortunate, for the financially challenged (Deut. 14:28-29; 16:10-15; 24:19-21; Isa. 1:16-18; Jer. 7:4-10; 22:3-5; Zech. 7:9-14). Of these texts, Deuteronomy 24:19-21 is most instructive:
19 When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow (Deut. 24).
God’s people were to be like God insofar as they were to be cognizant of the needs of the poor, and this knowledge, in turn, would cause them to leave a little of their abundance for the less fortunate to enjoy as they came behind the reapers. What compassion from One who is high and lifted up.
Ruth became a recipient of this divine provision, didn’t she? After the lost her young husband tragically, a famine forced her to leave her homeland of Moab and live in Bethlehem with her mother-in-law. Eventually, as this poor woman gleaned in the field of wealthy farmer named Boaz. Do you think she wound up there by pure accident? Do you think she just happened to catch his eye as he checked out his crops? Don’t you know that the Lord knew this poor Moabite widow was in this particular field, owned by a descendent of her mother-in-law’s deceased husband? Can’t you see the hand of a caring God working in the life of this poor young woman we know as Ruth so that she would be positioned to marry Boaz, the rightful kinsman-redeemer?
While it is true that we will always have the poor among us (Deut. 15:11; Matt. 26:11) until the Lord returns, God’s eye is upon them and there are times when He moves in a profound fashion to bless them greatly like He did with Ruth. She did move, as it were, from the “ash heap” to the palace, for in due time her great, great grandson would be King David, and down the halls of time the Messiah, Jesus, THE King of Kings would come from her.
Does God see your sad, complex, heart-wrenching situation? Yes. Is He aware of what you are going through? Yes. Does He care? Immensely. Does He always reverse the fortunes of His people? Sometimes, but not always. Why? I can give you reasons, but they will flounder in the face of difficulty. For me, it is enough to say I will trust that “the secret things belong to the LORD our God” (Deut. 29:29). What I do know from the historical story of the rich man and Lazarus, the poor man, the LORD will ultimately reverse your fortunes with you stand with Him in glory (Luke 16).
A second illustration, and praiseworthy snapshot of the LORD’s grace and mercy is showcased in verse 9:
9 He makes the barren woman abide in the house as a joyful mother of children. Praise the LORD!
Remember Hannah and how she longed for a child? 1Samuel 1, verse 5, specifically says the eternal LORD had closed her womb. This did not keep her from pouring out her heart to God, asking the LORD of hosts (1 Sam. 1:11) for a baby boy. Eventually, the God who knows and sees all, and has a kingdom plan beyond anything we, as mortals, can ever begin to understand, allowed Hannah and Elkanah to have a baby. What a baby he was. His name? Samuel. He was the great man who went on to be one of Israel’s greatest judges, priests, and prophets before the period of the kings.
Did God reverse the fortunes of every barren mother in Israel? No. Just like He didn’t reserve the fortunes of every poor person. But He did in this instance in order to fulfill His intricate kingdom and redemptive plan for Israel, and ultimately mankind. Does this mean He didn’t, and doesn’t care, other women who struggled like Hannah? Far from it. We know from this psalm He saw their pain and their heartache, just like He still sees your pain and your heartache. But this much we do know of Him from two pivotal, instructive texts:
8 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts (Isa. 55).
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8).
Along these lines, I must tell you that both of my sisters were not able to have children. Yet, both of them were blessed with children in other ways. My little sister, Julie, has had many children as she has led children’s programs at churches over the years, and has taught countless children how to play the piano. God has allowed her to be joyful mother with countless children God has directed to her life.
My sister Marla, who was a year older than me, couldn’t have children either. But as the music director for the Spokane, Washington school district for over twenty-five years, she did, in fact, have many children. This truth hit me as I sat on the front row of her funeral service. Hundreds of children filled the room, along with adults, who had been impacted by her creative, loyal, and thoughtful musical leadership. Many of the students created posters to tell her good-bye and how much they appreciated her leadership in their lives. I’ll never forget all of those colorful handprints as I read their names. By earthly standards Marla was never a mother, but by God’s standards He had bless her with literally thousands of children over the years both inside the school district and in the local church setting.
Mark this well. Even in the pain of loss, which He is privy to, He is working out something beautiful in your life, something which will bless you. Therefore, what are we to do in the presence of the eternal One who really knows us and seeks to work profoundly in our lives? We are to trust Him, for sure, knowing that His wise way is the way. Additionally, we are to always be mindful to praise Him . . . just like the practical psalm states in its opening and in its closing.