“From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the Lord is to be praised.”
— Psalm 113:3 (NRSV)
Many do marvel at the works of God and by the power and majesty of the Lord’s being. Indeed, it’s always very cool to find fellow brothers and sisters in Christ engaged in praise. The fact that love hunts best in packs of praise is a sweet revelation.
This first Hallel (praise) psalm of six (Psalms 113-118) starts and ends with the joyous heave, Hallelujah, or Hallel-u-jah... “Praise the Lord!” The psalm is hence emphatic and ecstatic; full with praise. But, just why?
Call to Praise – The Servants of the Lord
Verse 1 calls those of the Lord to praise the Covenant Name. Whenever there is cognition of God’s covenant name it’s to be praised — for it is worthy. And suitable cause is given in the remaining verses, particularly verses 7-9.
Caveats of Praise (Verses 2-4)
These verses give the servants of God constructs for belief — the Lord’s to be praised, and his name blessed, from this time, forevermore (verse 2). That is setting God’s praise in the realm of the eternal.
Next in verse 3, the Covenant Name (“Lord”) is to be praised from sunrise to sunset, which is alluding to every waking hour. Imagine that. There is no moment of consciousness that God’s name is not to be praised.
Verse 4 calls to the fact that God is omnipresent and above all creation, “above” even the heavens. This calls to the mystery of a God that cannot quite be located, even though the Divine Being is everywhere simultaneously.
Who Is Like You Lord? (Verses 5-6)
These verses harness and symbolise the crux of the worshipful message. There is solemn awe expressed by the psalmist as they cannot get their head around the voluminousness of God; both high and low is the Lord, all at the same time.
This fact gives the confidence of hope in spiritual warfare with the enemy. God is superior over thrones, powers, principalities, dominions and the evil-like. These verses hold up the truth of God’s concurrent transcendence and immanence.
Reasons for Praise – The Raising of the Lowly (Verse 7-9)
Evidence always underlines truth. The Lord is the avenger of the lowly in verse 7 and they’re brought to levels of princely being in verse 8. God, alone, is the one making the barren woman conceive and bring her babies to term (verse 9). In each of these cases there is great vulnerability, but trust in God delivers on cause.
This psalm is perhaps represented very well in the New Testament by James 1:9-11 and Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), for instance:
“[The Lord] has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly...”
— Luke 1:52 (NRSV)
God is great to be praised, for the Lord alone is the great equaliser. This is a burgeoning hope for every last one over the earth. Do you perceive it; the justice of God? Justice comes pelting down over a parched land eventually.
© 2011, 2014 S. J. Wickham.
General Reference: W. Graham Scroggie, A Guide to the Psalms: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Psalms (Vol. 3) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1995), pp. 103-109.