Saturday, March 7, 2009

Psalm 33 – Thanks to God, our Just Judge, Provider and Redeemer

Can you imagine being in an 110,000 seat stadium packed to the rafters. There’s a buzz and the glass roof’s about to lift off. The orchestra is assembled in its finery. Suddenly all goes quiet. There’s a rapid hush as he appears before all his fans. Two hundred and twenty thousand eyes are glued and half as many hearts are captivated to this being taking centre stage.

Yet, this is a performance with a difference. You are part of the crowd in Heaven; the occasion is a world more momentous than any other event you’ve experienced. Imagine awe. Triple it... quadruple it... still more awe than that even. You’ve never felt like this. You’ve never even dreamt of feeling like this.

Suddenly all things are reconciled under God. All things are finally and comprehensively just and true. This was the pre-heaven sentiment of the people of ancient Near East Israel.

“For the word of the LORD is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.

The LORD loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love.”
–Psalm 33:4-5 (TNIV).

For ancient Near East Israel, as much for us, justice and God go together.[1] The hendiadys[2] of righteousness and justice in the Hebrew describe more than the English expression ‘social justice,’ in that Hebraic thinking is so concretised. In other words, our Western culture might reflect purposefully on the idea of righteousness and justice, where the Hebrews would seek to do it--it would be culturally relevant.[3]

Psalm 33 is widely considered[4] a hymn of communal praise, hence the earlier allusion to being present in a stadium where God might be praised worthily for all he is, and for what he’s done.

God is celebrated in Psalm 33 for being the God of Psalm 32--the poem where David speaks of how good forgiveness feels when sins are confessed. And all the verses of Psalm 33 entwine themselves with the central tenet of verses 4-5, and the richness of concepts therein.

Wright delves deep into these verses and vast theological riches; his Word, the abovementioned hendiadys, as well as the concepts for faithfulness, and steadfast (unfailing) love.[5]

The Summation of the Psalm – the Basis of our Trust in God

“We wait in hope for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.

In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.

May your unfailing love be with us,
LORD, even as we put our hope in you.”
–Psalm 33:20-22 (TNIV).

What verses 20-22 communicate is the trust we place in God is entirely trustworthy--when we fear him alone and aright we have no basis for any other fear. All this is for the preceding verses; the hymnal evidence our faith is based on. We do place our faith foolishly if it’s placed on anything other than God, our Saviour, through Christ.[6]

According to Craigie, Psalm 33 includes both invocation and substance toward praise, where God’s Word, plan, eye and might are praised for bringing about his will for the created universe.[7]

For ourselves, as for ancient Near East Israel, we understand God as assuredly and historically right and just. We thank him for the overall fact of his provision; not every detail is perfect, but his plans do hold sway.

We can trust him, and for this reassurance thanks and praise is not only worthy and fitting, no other response should be considered. This psalm is a declaration of trust in God, not unlike the declaration a new believer might make having come to their initial and foundational knowledge of the Almighty.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] Christopher J. H. Wright, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 2004), p. 254.
[2] A single complex idea expressed through the use of two words, for instance, ‘law and order,’ or ‘health and safety.’
[3] Wright, Ibid, p. 257. Citing Goldingay.
[4] Philip S. Johnston & David G. Firth (Eds), Interpreting the Psalms: Issues and Approaches (Leicester, England: Apollos/IVP, 2005), p. 297.
[5] Wright, Ibid, p. 258.
[6] See Craig C. Broyles, Psalms – New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers/Paternoster Press, 1999), p. 165-68.
[7] Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 1-50 (Dallas, Texas: Word, Incorporated, 2002 - Word Biblical Commentary 19), S. 268.

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