Sunday 17th May 2020 Psalm 147 1 -11
1 O praise the LORD! How good it is
to sing him songs of praise!
How pleasant to give thanks to him
for all his gracious ways!
2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
and he it is alone
Who reaches out to Israèl
to bring the exiles home.
3 He heals his people’s broken hearts,
restores the bruised and lame.
4 He sets the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.
5 Great is our Lord and great in power;
his wisdom is profound.
6 The LORD sustains the meek, but casts
the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the LORD with thankfulness;
with joy his praise proclaim;
And with the music of the harp
give glory to his name.
8 He clothes the vast expanse of heaven—
the sky with clouds he fills;
He makes the rain refresh the earth
and grass grow on the hills.
9 He sees the beasts that roam the fields
and feeds them when they call;
The ravens’ young cry out to him,
and he supplies them all.
10 In horses strong, equipped for war,
the LORD takes no delight;
Nor does he care for proud displays
of human power and might.
11 The LORD takes pleasure in his saints
who worship him in fear,
And those who trust his steadfast love
will always find him near.
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this Psalm here
Reflection – Nature and nurture
‘God of Stars and Broken Hearts’. That’s the title one commentator gives to this Psalm (Leslie Allen, Word Biblical Commentary). This is a hymn about creation and compassion, about nature that shows God’s power and the nurture that embraces God’s people. In this Psalm greatness and goodness go together, the splendour of God’s world and the secure relationship God offers to those who trust.
There are three movements in the whole Psalm (vv.1-6, 7-11 and 12-20): two of them are in our reading. The three together issue a lively and repeated call to praise, and together they paint a picture of grace at work. Each of the three explores and connects the psalm’s two big themes – creative power and covenant love. In creation, the first tells of the starry skies, the second of rainfall, watering the earth and feeding animals and plants, and the third of winter storms and summer crops. Then in covenant we hear first of a broken and scattered people restored, second of a call to trust and hope rather than rely on worldly might, and finally of a people shaped by God’s purposeful word. A wrap-around creation, of skies, seasons and sustenance matches the loving care that gathers, guards and guides.
A Psalm like this is always both a comfort and a challenge. The power that made the earth is a personal power, a power that notices people and calls us into relationship, a power we can turn to and trust. That’s the comfort. The challenge is never to take God for granted. God’s grace is no reason for our complacency. When God builds us up and binds us up, this is an invitation to live faithfully, to reflect grace and pass it on, that others too may trust in this God of creation and care.
When I look at the starry heavens, Lord, help me to feel small but secure.
When I see the green earth,
keep me aware of your presence and provision.
In trouble teach me to trust.
Out of healing may I learn hope.
That I may praise you, gladly and gratefully.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.