< June 07, 2015 >

Commentary on Psalm 113:1-9

 

[This is Week 2 of a 6-week preaching series on Psalms.]

Week 2 (June 7, 2015)

Preaching text: Psalm 113; accompanying text: Luke 15:8-10

Orientation, Part 2: God Stoops Down

Psalm 113 is a classic hymn of praise -- perhaps we can consider it the class hymn of praise -- perfectly embodying the form of a praise psalm: opening call to praise, reasons for praise, closing call to praise. It begins with a triune call to praise, which names the object of praise.

The opening call to praise 1) names whom to praise (the Lord); 2) who is to do the praising (the servants of the Lord); and again, more specifically how to address our praise (to the name of the Lord).

One important aspect here is the connection between praise and being servants of the Lord. Praise is one of the ways that we can become servants of the Lord. In the very act of praising God, we become God’s own people. And the name of the Lord -- YHWH -- is how we address our praise. This is not generic feeling good or telling an unhearing, impersonal universe that we are grateful for life. No. Our praise is to the personal and communal God of the Bible.

As Reinhard Feldmeier and Hermann Spieckermann write in their seminal God of the Living: A Biblical Theology, God’s name itself “constitutes the ground and object of all petitioning.”1 This is also true of praise. The gift of God’s name both offers us the object of our praise (the Lord) and promises us that our praise shall be heard (because God’s name itself reveals God’s faithful character). Indeed, “The message [of the name of God] can be only that God himself, in his proper name protected by holiness, does not want to keep what is properly his for himself but grant it to those who cannot find life themselves but who, freed in the Exodus for a bond with God, continually receive it anew.”2

By way of offering reasons for praise, the psalm describes God’s self-emptying, gracious intrusion into the life of creation. God is enthroned in heaven (Hebrew root: yashab). But God is not content to be a distant, unmoved creator. Instead God “looks down” on the earth and sees those who suffer -- the “poor man” (in Hebrew the noun is singular, not plural) and “the barren woman.” These two -- the poor man and the poor, barren woman -- typify those whom God loves: both genders -- female and male -- even in their suffering poverty.

And what does God do? God stoops down and raises them both. To the poor man, God gives a “seat” (Hebrew root: yashab). And to the poor, barren woman God gives a dwelling (Hebrew root: yashab). Thus, in this salvific action, God empties God’s very self of the quality that distinguishes God as holy (God’s sovereign “enthronedness”) and God shares it with the poor, both female and male.

Praise the Lord!

Hymn Suggestions:

  • "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty"
  • “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
  • “Praise, My Soul, the God of Heaven”
  • “Come, All You People”

 


Notes:

1. Trans. Mark E. Biddle (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2011), 17.

2. Ibid., 21.