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Psalm 147

Sunday is fast approaching and Bible teacher, Warren Wiersbe, has the smash and grab key to this psalm that can jump start your sermon. He looks at verses 3 and 4: He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Then he writes:

The God of the galaxies is also the God of the brokenhearted. Yes, the God of the heavens is the God of your heart. The God who numbers and names the stars knows your needs. He knows all about you, and thus He is able to meet your every need. The God who controls the planets in their orbits is able to take the pieces of your broken heart and put them together again. He will heal your broken heart, provided you give Him all the pieces and yield to His tender love.[1]

In Psalm 147, we see the psalmist’s laser focus on God the Almighty. The psalm is a multifaceted gem with each verse taking a look at God from a different angle. This is so completely about God that the first-person pronouns of “I” and “we” are never used. The third person pronoun, “he,” occurs 14 times and each time it refers to God. The word “Lord” appears five times. It could not be more obvious that God is the focal point of this psalm.

Eugene Peterson’s insightful take on Jesus’ status as the “only begotten,“ in John 3:16, results in the phrase: “the one and only.” When it comes to the Trinity, we can reverse the old saying, “Like father, like son” for “Like Son, like Father” and the truth remains. There is none like God the Trinity. God also is “the One and Only.” This Psalm confirms that fact in the breadth of topics covered.

  1. Our God is the architect and builder of Jerusalem, the city of David. – v. 2

  2. Our God rounds up Israel’s exiles from their captivity. – v. 2

  3. Our God heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. – v. 3

  4. Our God has numbered and named all the stars. – v. 4

  5. Our God is all powerful and all knowing. – v. 5

  6. Our God helps the humble and defeats the wicked. – v. 6

  7. Our God’s people thank him with singing and instrumental music. – v. 7

  8. Our God is responsible for the weather that causes grass to grow. – v.

  9. Our God provides food for animals, even for baby ravens. – v. 9

  10. Our God is neither impressed with horsepower nor human strength. – v. 10

  11. Our God is impressed by those who reverently worship him and hope in his faithful love. – v. 11

  12. Our God’s people praise and exalt him. – v. 12

  13. Our God strengthens the homes of families and blesses them with children. – v. 13

  14. Our God brings peace and provides the finest food to his people. – v. 14

  15. Our God commands and pronounces his word quickly. – v. 15

  16. Our God supplies the snow and frost. – v. 16

  17. Our God can send hail that is cold and unbearable to people. – v. 17

  18. Our God’s word can melt the ice and turn it into flowing water. – v. 18

  19. Our God reveals his word and laws to his people. – v. 19

  20. Our God does all this with just one nation – his chosen people. – v. 20

This is not just any God. This is our One and Only God whom the Psalmist celebrates verse by verse without repeating himself. Our God is truly amazing and completely worthy of our praise.

Note: A useful exercise would be to paraphrase this psalm in your own words. For several excellent examples of paraphrases, see James Taylor’s Everyday Psalms[2] and Leslie F. Brandt’s Psalms Now[3] which are published in paperback and Kindle editions.

Most commentators maintain that this psalm was written after the exiles had returned from Babylon and had rebuilt Jerusalem. As a result, it is categorized as a postexilic psalm.

Donald Williams outlines the psalm in four textual chunks:

Call to Worship (147:1)

The God Whom We Worship (147:2-6)

Our Response in Song (147:7-11)

Our Response in Praise (147:12-20)

If we step back far enough, we discover bookends on this Psalm. The bookends are the phrase: “Praise the Lord!” Four times in this psalm, the reader is called to “Praise the Lord!” (vv. 1, 7, 12, and 20) If we step back even further, we will discover these same bookends appear in each of the last five psalms of the Psalter – Psalm 146 through Psalm 150. These final five psalms are known as the Hallelujah Psalms. The Hebrew word, hallelujah, is translated into English as “Praise the Lord!”

J. Oswald Sanders notes that Christ bookended his day in prayer. Sanders writes, “He prayed in the morning, at the gateway of the day (Mark 1:35). He prayed in the evening, when the day’s work was over (Mark 6:46).”[5] Since the Psalms are meant to be both prayed and sung, it is likely that Christ bookended his day with praise to God the Father. It’s a great habit to develop.

In the NIV, verse 1b is translated: how pleasant and fitting to praise him! This observation is not etymology, just simple word play. Often college admissions recruiters, coaches, and HR officers look for people whom they deem to be a “good fit” with their school, team, or company. In this verse we learn that people who praise God will be deemed a “good fit” by God.

God built Jerusalem in Old Testament times and God is now building his church in the present time. Psalm 147 notes that the building process is contributed to by the outcasts (v. 2), the brokenhearted (v. 3), the wounded (v. 3), and the afflicted (v. 6). Compare this list with the ones recorded in Isaiah 61:1 and Luke 4:18. The similarities are apparent.

Verse 2, although only two lines long, refers both to the rebuilding of Jerusalem following the Babylonian captivity and to Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the wall. Although, Nehemiah reconstructed the wall about 90 years after the first Babylonian exiles had returned, this verse most likely refers to both of these distant events.

In verse 3 we see God healing and helping the brokenhearted. Without even a segue, the psalmist seems to interrupt himself in verse 4 by describing God’s work of counting and naming the stars. In the Garden of Eden, God had Adam name all the animals. Adam joined in God’s creative activity. In this psalm, only God counts and names the stars.

Little did the psalmist know how many more stars there are in the vast universe that are unseen to our naked eye. Science tells us that 9,096 stars can be seen with the naked eye. In 2015, thanks to the Hubble Telescope, scientists determined the existence of at least 200,000 galaxies. As to the number of stars, the current estimate is 1 septillion. That’s 1 followed by 24 zeros.[6] And God has named them all.

Without knowing the magnitude of the universe, the psalmist had a rough idea as to the scope of God’s ability to count and number the stars. In a way, the growth of our understanding of the universe continues to expand our view of the magnitude of God’s creative power. Here the psalmist intentionally compares God’s omnipotent power of creating, numbering, and naming the stars with his gentle care for his oppressed and brokenhearted people.

Verse 7 calls God’s people to praise God once again and do so while playing a harp.

Verses 8 and 9 describe God as the provider of food for both cattle and young ravens. By extension, they are representative of all the animals of the earth for whom God provides. But why single out the young ravens? The reason is

…they were most contemptible, especially to the Jews, to whom they were unclean and [forbidden for food; partly, because they are greedy and voracious; and partly, because] they are not only neglected by men, but also forsaken by their dams as soon as ever they can fly, and so are wholly left to the care and keeping of Divine providence.” (bracketed text added by Matthew Poole to John Wesley’s Note) [7]

The psalmist takes us through the gamut of God’s care. First in verse 4 with the curating of the seemingly innumerable stars of the universe and then in verse 9 as he care for the most uncared-for birds in all his creation. Such a God, whose care ranges from galaxies to annoying birds, is completely capable of healing the brokenhearted.

We see that God is not impressed with human or animal strength (verse 10). His power is so much greater. God is impressed with people who obey and worship him (verse 11). A lot of people do not care about God Our Father. Because of that, God is impressed when he finds faith in those who do care.

Note: The next section of the psalm, verses 7 to 19, are not a part of this Sunday’s lectionary and so will not be commented on in this article.

The psalm ends with the author making the point that God has a special relationship with his chosen people that is not found in any nation that does not follow God’s law. As people of God’s new covenant, it is up to the church to offer continuing praise and worship to Our One and Only God.

Let us praise the Lord! [1] Wiersbe, The God of Your Heart. [2] Taylor, Everyday Psalms. [3] Brandt, Psalms / Now. [4] Williams, 515. [5] Sanders, “Chapter Five: The Matchless Teacher.” [6] How Many Stars Are There? Published on YouTube by “It’s Okay to Be Smart.” [7] John Wesley first published this quotation in his Notes on the Bible – Old Testament: First Samuel to Psalms. Matthew Poole later published the quote without attributing it to Wesley. Poole did add the phrase “forbidden for food; partly, because they are greedy and voracious; and partly, because” to his commentary. David Guzik picked up the quote from Poole and cited it in his Enduring Word online commentary, Psalm 147 – Praising God of Care and Creation. Note: “dam” is a term meaning “female parent.”



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