Psalm 145:1-7, 17-21
Brent Peterson | Dean of the School of Theology and Christian Ministry, NNU
Context of the Text
This is a Royal Psalm, a political psalm, a post-exilic psalm, a psalm of praise. This is a reminder within our culture today that our worship of God is our political work. To affirm God as King, Jesus as Christ, is to say all earthy derived kings and queens and their kingdoms are never to receive allegiance and loyalty above our worship of the Triune God. Psalm 145 is the final psalm in the Davidic collection. Some scholars note that at one time the Psalter may have concluded with 145. Book V was set to address the exile and the aftermath. It is therefore crucial as a post-exilic psalm to hear the importance of Kingship of God in this psalm. One of the great tragedies with the Israelites wanting an earthly King was that it led (perhaps inevitably) to losing God as King. As the Israelites would emerge from exile, their only salvation would be to affirm and make Yahweh their one and true king, not a return to Jerusalem with nostalgic longing for the past. It is also crucial that to a post-exilic people that this Psalm declares the strong sovereignty of God. Ironically while many thought exile was a limitation on God’s love and righteousness, it actually undergirds and affirms it. This full poem works as an acrostic from which the first Hebrew letter in vv. 10-13 spell the word “king” and “kingdom.”
Notes on the Text
Verse 1 This verse focuses on our worship of God, not focused on what God has done, but simply that God is worthy of praise and exaltation for who God is. Praising the name of God for ever and ever is not a declaration of how righteous and holy we are for our long praise, but a celebration of a hope beyond this life.
Verse 2 Again, for exiles this is a season of celebration. It leans into this holy calling that every day my work, my addiction, my life will be guided by praising God. And again God’s name will be celebrated every day for ever and ever.
Verse 3 Again, this theme of God’s greatness guides the hope of the text.
Verse 4 After these first three verses declaring the greatness of God, this verse moves the community to celebrate how the gift of praising God is to be passed down to the next generations as the greatest gift a mother and father can give to their kin. Of course subtly the sharing of this gift will be observed by watching those who have gone before and participating.
Verse 5 This verse anticipates a successful handing down of the kerygma (teaching and story of faith) and patterns of worship. This verse also invites us to have our minds and hearts focused and intent on God. There are many wonderful and beautiful things in this creation, along with the evil and ugly. Yet within all of the distractions of life, God is to be the center of our hearts and imaginations. To meditate is to become lost and caught up in the glory of God. It is a recognition that our daily hopes come from God and not form the circumstances of life.
Verse 17 The text here again describes a facet of God who is both righteous and loving toward all of creation. Do not miss this celebration of sovereignty to an exiled people. It again is a celebration of faith that God’s nature and name is love and as such God acts rightly. Of course within this celebration of God’s loving rightly and rightly loving, this does not mute or silence our lament, but in actuality lament is undergirded by this celebration of God as righteous and loving.
Verse 18 Here the psalmist celebrates and clarifies that God is close to those that call on God, but then intensifies this by noting not simply those who call, but those who call in truth. This truth is more than getting the correct answer, but truth is embodied by living into the truth of God’s healing and redemptive grace.
Verse 19 This verse celebrates and further exposes those who come to God in truth. Those who come in truth also come in fear, awe, reverence, and humility. This is not fear moving one to huddle in terrorized captivity, but a fear that moves us to penitent praise. Those who come in fear, God will hear and save. It is important to celebrate that those who are heard and saved are not necessarily spared from the hard circumstances of life. In light of all scripture and especially the lament psalms, to be saved is a promise of God’s presence even as the storms rage on.
Verse 20 This verse celebrates the God who is righteous and loving who is watching over all. This watching over is not one of “the sinners in the hands of an angry God.” This is loving and watchful care, as a mother watching over his children. Certainly God watches over all those who love and are wicked. Part b of this verse should not be interpreted as a wrathful, vengeful God filled with delight to punish and obliterate the wicked. Rather as in the spirit of Romans 1, the wicked are those who have turned their back on God, those who have rejected light, love, and life. God honors their choice and God’s wrath is on display by God allowing them to be destroyed by their wickedness.
Verse 21 This verse returns to the theme of verse 1. The psalmist inserts her own voice again (as in verses 1-2) by declaring “my” mouth will speak of praise. But this act is an invitation to command and commend that all creatures praise the name of God for ever and ever.
Preaching the Text
It is crucial that this psalm be understood as a psalm for exiles. While many Israelites felt like God had abandoned them in exile, in actuality exile was a hard discipline of love. Exile was not an accident for the Jews, but was brought about by their own disobedience. Hence, these exiled people rather than shy away from God’s sovereignty were to embrace it and thus find life. The main premise of this Psalm celebrates that those who affirm the sovereignty of God will experience salvation while wicked will be left in their own destruction. To reject God as sovereign is to assert oneself (or another creature) as sovereign. God’s wrath is simply not intervening in this toxic idolatry.
This distinction between those that love God and the wicked is not about reward or punishment, but it is about their presence or distance from the source of life, God.
This text invites the readers to celebrate God not because of all the great blessings God gives, but simply for who God is. God’s nature and name is love. Who God is invites us to praise. This celebration of adoration, praise, and exaltation helps to guide our worship from any notion that I praise God only because God blesses my life. In Genesis 1-3 the reader is invited into the promise that the only thing worthy of worship is that which has not been created but is THE CREATOR. God is worthy of our praise for simply being God.
This text also thinks about the rhythm of our lives as each day God’s name will be extoled for ever and ever. This is much more than eternity as an endless succession of days, but a depth of eternal joy and shalom that is both deep and wide.
Another invitation of this text celebrates the gift of passing on the heritage of faith. As verse 4 celebrates how one generation shares the good news of who God is, it is noteworthy that the next generation would receive this instruction by watching and participating in this praise which would be done every day. While cognitive discussion of theological beliefs has its place, we must not underestimate the power of having our children simply watch and participate in the liturgy of praise to God.
The Psalmist declares that to find life is to about being open to this sovereign God who is righteous and loving. To praise God is a recognition that I am not God and thus am desperately dependent upon God.
To sing this Psalm confesses God’s sovereignty and our desperate need for God. This is a liturgy and rhythm to live in ways that may be contrary to those who put their faith in human derived kings and kingdoms. One’s primary vocation is to be one of praising God which is the road to life in the presence of God.