River Calder - Psalm 33

Psalm 33 – The Sovereignty of the Lord in Creation and History

This is a Psalm of praise. It is probable that David wrote it but we are not told so, because God would have us to look above the writer to that blessed Spirit that moved and guided them. This Psalm naturally expresses the pious affections of a devout soul towards God. The Sovereignty of the Lord in Creation and History.

Psalm 33

Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful. Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; make melody to Him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. For the Word of the Lord is upright, and all His work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; He puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him! For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen as His heritage! The Lord looks down from heaven;  He sees all the children of man; from where He sits enthroned He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, He who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.

The war horse is a false hope

The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in His steadfast love, that He may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord;  He is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in His holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in You.

Henry says – The Psalmist expresses the great desire he had that God might be praised. He did not think he praised God enough himself and he wished that others would do it also. The more, the better as it is the more like heaven. Holy joy is the heart and soul of praise and so all good people are encouraged to engage in it (Ps. 33:1): Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous. All our faithful expressions should begin and end with a triumph in God as the best of beings and the best of friends. Thankful praise is the language of holy joy which is required of us (Ps. 33:2): “Praise the Lord; speak well of Him, and give Him the glory due to His name.”

Sing unto Him a new song

Worship songs are the proper expressions of thankful praise (Ps. 33:3): “Sing unto Him a new song, the best you have, not that which by frequent use is worn and thread-bare, but that which, being new, is most likely to move your affections. A new song for new mercies and those compassions which are new every morning.” Music was then used in the temple-songs, that they might be sung better; and this is also here called for (Ps. 33:2): Sing unto Him with the psaltery. “Do it skillfully, and with a loud noise; let it have the best of both head and heart. Let it be done intelligently and with a clear head, affectionately and with a warm heart.”

The reason for this duty is: For praise is becoming for the upright and it is well pleasing to God. God has put so much honour upon us and we are to give honour to Him. The upright praise God appropriately for they praise Him with their hearts. Whereas the praises of hypocrites are awkward, like a parable in the mouth of foolsProv. 26:7.

His promises are all wise

God makes Himself known to us in His Word. All of that which God at various times and in divers ways spoke to the children of men is in it. It is all right and good and there is nothing amiss in it. His commands agree exactly with the rules of fairness and the eternal reasons of good and evil. His promises are all wise and good and Divinely sure. Even His threatenings are designed for our good, by deterring us from evil. God’s Word is right, and therefore all our deviations from it are wrong, and we are then in the right when we agree with it.

He reveals Himself to us in His works which are all done in truth, and are called the scriptures of truthDan. 10:21. God’s works agrees exactly with the great original plan laid in the Eternal Mind. He is a God of inflexible justice: He loves righteousness and judgment. There is nothing but righteousness in the sentence He passes. He never did nor can do wrong to any of His creatures. To those who are wronged He is always ready to give redress which He does with delight. He takes pleasure in those who are righteous. He is Himself the righteous Lord, and therefore loves righteousness.

The earth is full of His goodness

He is a God of inexhaustible bounty: The earth is full of His goodness. The fruits that it produces and the provision that is made for man and beast plainly declare that the earth is full of His goodness. What a pity is it that this earth, which is so full of God’s goodness, should be so empty of His praises. There are so few who live to His glory!

The Psalmist was under the conviction of the Almighty power of God, which was evidenced in the creation of the world. We “believe in God,” and therefore we praise Him as “the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” God made the world, and brought all things into being. All things were made by the Word of the Lord and by the breath of His mouth. Christ is the Word, the Spirit is the breath, so that God the Father made the world. He rules and redeems it, by His Son and Spirit. He spoke, and He commanded (Ps. 33:9), and that was enough.

And it stood fast

With men, saying and doing are often two different things, but it is not so with God. The world and man were both made by the Word and Spirit of God. God said, Let us make man, and He breathed into him the breath of life. By the Word and Spirit the church is built, that new world, and grace worked in the soul of that new man, that new creation. What can that power not do which with a Word made a world!

And it stood fast. What God does He does on purpose; He does it and it stands fast. Whatever God does, it shall be foreverEccl. 3:14. He made all things, the visible heavens, the sun, the moon and stars and their hosts. The waters, and the treasures of them, Ps. 33:7. The earth was at first covered with water, and, being heavier, must sink under it.

But, to show from the very first instance that God is not tied to the ordinary laws of nature, with a Word, He gathered the waters together on a heap, that the dry land might appear. He laid up the depth in storehouses, in secret subterraneous caverns, where they are hidden from the eyes of all living. They were reserved as in a store-house for that day when those fountains of the great deep were to be broken up. They are still laid up there in store, for which use the great Master knows best.

Let us all fear Him

Let all the earth fear the Lord, and stand in awe of Him; that is, let all the children of men worship Him and give glory to HimPs. 95:5, 6. The everlasting gospel gives this as the reason why we must worship God, because He made the heaven, and the earth, and the sea, Rev. 14:6, 7. Let us all fear Him, that is, dread His wrath and displeasure, and be afraid of having Him as our enemy and of standing against Him. Let us not dare to offend Him who having this power no doubt has all power in His hand. It is dangerous being at war with Him who has the host of heaven for His armies and the depths of the sea for His magazines, and therefore it is wisdom to desire conditions of peace, see Jer. 5:22.

He overrules all the counsels of men. Come and see with an eye of faith God on the throne frustrating the devices of His enemies: He brings the counsel of the heathen to nought, so that what they imagine against Him and His Kingdom proves a vain thing (Ps. 2:1). Though the design be laid ever so deep, and the hopes raised upon it ever so high, yet, if God says it shall not stand, neither shall it come to passThe counsel of the Lord stands forever. He is in one mind, and who can turn Him? The execution of it may be opposed, but cannot in the least be obstructed.

He knows better than they themselves

Through all the revolutions of time God never changes, but in every event, the eternal counsel of God is fulfilled. Nor can anything prevent its accomplishment in its time. How at ease may this thought make us at all times, that God governs the world. He did it in infinite wisdom before we were born, and will do it when we are silent in the dust!

Though He has endued man with understanding and freedom of will, yet He reserves to Himself the government of him. The children of men are all under His eye, even their hearts also. Along with all the motions and operations of their souls, which none knows but they themselves. He knows better than they themselves, Ps. 33:13, 14. Though the residence of God’s glory is in the highest heavens, yet from there He not only has a prospect of all the earth, but a particular inspection of all the inhabitants of the earth. He not only beholds them, but He looks narrowly upon them. Not the least thought can escape His observation.

He sees us all

Unbelievers think that, because He dwells above in heaven, He cannot, or will not, take notice of what is done here in this lower world. But high as the heavens are, He sees us all, and all persons and things are naked and open before Him. Their hearts, as well as their times, are all in His hand: He fashions their hearts. He made them and formed the spirit of each man within him and brought him into being. So He is called the Father of spirits: and this is a good argument to prove that He knows them perfectly.

God continually moulds the hearts of men and turns them as the rivers of water, whichever way He pleases, to serve His own purposes. He darkens or enlightens men’s understandings and stiffens or bows their wills, according to how He desires to make use of them. He fashions them together; as the wheels of a watch, though of different shapes, sizes and motions, yet all are put together, to serve the same purpose. So the hearts of men and their dispositions, however varying from each other and seeming to contradict one another, are yet all overruled to serve the Divine purpose.

One shall chase a thousand

He considers all their works, not only knows them, but weighs them, that He may render to every man according to His works. All creatures have their dependence upon Him, and can do nothing without Him, Ps. 33:16, 17. It is to the honour of God that no force can prevail in opposition to Him and no force can act independent of Him. The strength of a king is nothing without God. No king is sacred by his royal birth, or the authority with which he is invested.

David was a king, and a man of war from his youth, and yet acknowledged God to be his only protector and Saviour. The strength of an army is nothing without God. A great army cannot be sure of victory for, when God pleases, one shall chase a thousand. The strength of a giant is nothing without God. A mighty man, such as Goliath, is not delivered by his much strength, when his day comes to fall. Let not the strong man then glory in his strength, but let us all strengthen ourselves in the Lord our God, go forth, and go on, in His strength.

We need not fear whatever is against us

The strength of a horse is nothing without God (Ps. 33:17): A horse is a vain thing for safety. War horses were then so much depended on, that God forbade the kings of Israel to multiply horses (Deut. 17:16), lest they should be tempted to trust in them and their confidence should be taken off from God. David pronounced a horse as a vain thing for safety in the day of battle. If the war-horse be unruly and ill-managed, he may hurry his rider into danger instead of carrying him out of danger. If he be killed under him, it may be his death, instead of saving his life. It is therefore our interest to make sure of God’s favour towards us, and then we may be sure of His power engaged for us, and need not fear whatever is against us.

We are to give God the glory for His special grace. Those are blessed who have Jehovah for their God, who governs the world. He has every wherewithal to help them in every time of need. Those were miserable who have Baal for their god, which was so far from being able to hear and help them. (Ps. 33:12): Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, even Israel, who had the knowledge of the true God and were taken into covenant with Him. All others who own God for theirs and are owned by Him are of the spiritual seed of Abraham.

He cultivates and improves them

It is to their wisdom that they take the Lord for their God. That they direct their homage and adoration where it is due and where the payment of it will not be in vain. It is their happiness that they are the people whom God has chosen for His own inheritance, whom He is pleased with and whom He protects and takes care of. He cultivates them and improves them as a man does His inheritance, Deut. 32:9.

God has regard to His people, Ps. 33:18, 19. He beholds all the sons of men with an eye of observation, but His eye of favour is upon those who fear Him. He looks upon them with delight, as the father on His children, as the bridegroom on his spouse, Isa. 62:5. While those who depend on arms and armies, on chariots and horses, perish in the disappointment of their expectations. God’s people, under His protection, are safe, for He shall deliver their soul from death.

If He does not deliver the body from temporal death, yet He will deliver the soul from spiritual and eternal death. Their souls, whatever happens, shall live and praise Him, either in this world or in the better world. From His bounty they shall be supplied with all necessaries. He shall keep them alive in famine; when others die for want, they shall live, which shall make it a distinguishing mercy.

They shall be helped

When visible means fail, God will find out some way or other to supply His own. He does not say that He will give them abundance (they have no reason either to desire it or to expect it), but He will keep them alive; they shall not starve. Those who have the Lord for their God shall find Him their help and their shieldPs. 33:20. In their difficulties He will assist them; they shall be helped through them. In their dangers He will secure them, so that they shall not receive any real damage.

We must wait for God and accommodate ourselves to His workings. Our souls must wait for HimPs. 33:20. Not only in word and tongue profess a belief in God, but it must be inward and sincere, a secret and silent attendance on Him. We must rely on God, hope in His mercy and the goodness of His nature even if we do not have an express promise to depend upon. Those who fear God and His wrath must hope in God and His mercy. For there is no flying from God, only a flying to Him.

Trusting in His Holy Name

These dispositions must befriend each other, a holy fear of God and yet at the same time a hope in His mercy. This is trusting in His holy name (Ps. 33:21), in all that He has made known to us, for our encouragement to serve Him. We must rejoice in God, Ps. 33:21. Those who hope in God hope for an eternal fulness of joy in His presence. Those who do not truly rest in God do not know the unspeakable advantage they have by so doing.

We must seek Him for that mercy which we hope in, Ps. 33:22. He will be sought for that which He has promised, and therefore the Psalm concludes with a short prayer, “Let Your mercy, O Lord! be upon us; let us always have the comfort and benefit of it. Not according to what we deserve, but according to our hope in You. That is, according to the promise which You have in Your Word given to us and according to the faith which You have by Your Spirit and grace worked in us.” This Psalm teaches us to put forth our dependence upon God, and let out our desires towards Him by making melody with our hearts to the Lord.

Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary

 [Slide right to left]
 Power in Praise
 Oh that I could have been a singer
 Armed with a tuneful lyre
 Clothed in sanctified garments 
 Part of Your heavenly choir.
 Your righteousness, my breastplate,
 No need for the power of the sword
 leading the march of glory,
 Praising and thanking the Lord.
 Oh to have been present
 When the devil’s forces were near,
 To see the power of praise
 Inciting hatred and fear.
 And so the fighting continued
 Uninterrupted and sustained
 Dead bodies lying everywhere
 Not a single one remained.
 Yet still we destroy each other
 Inflicting bodily pain.
 But Jesus came, He died for us
 So we may live again.
 Now, who would dare lift a finger
 Or indeed raise a hand?
 As your beautiful army of praise
 Sweeps across the land.
 By the late Andrew Feakin 
 (passed away 16th March 2019)

Prayer for the Day

Prayer: Father, I come to You. May I have a holy joy in my heart and a soul full of praise to You. May all my expressions of praise to You begin and end with a triumph in You. For You are the best of beings and the best of friends. I will praise You with all my heart and give You all the glory. I will dread Your wrath and displeasure, and be afraid of standing against You. Cause me never to offend You.

I am at ease knowing that You govern the world. We are all under Your eye and You know our hearts better than we know them ourselves. Continually mould my heart to serve Your purposes. Cause me to strengthen myself in You as my God and go forth, and go on, in Your strength.

Help me to ensure I have Your favour

Help me to ensure I have Your favour that I may never fear whatever is against me. I give You the glory for Your special graces. Those are blessed indeed who have Jehovah for their God. You are well able to help me in every time of need.

May I be one who fears you for I know that Your eye of favour is upon those who do. You look upon us with delight, as the Father of His children. We are under Your protection and are safe, for You shall deliver our souls from death. And if You do not deliver the body from temporal death, yet You will deliver Your own from spiritual and eternal death.

From Your bounty we shall be supplied with all necessaries. For I know that those who have You for their God shall find that You are their help and their shield. In all our difficulties You will assist us. In all our dangers You will secure us, so that we shall not receive any real damage.

My soul will wait for You

My soul will wait for You with an inward and sincere hope. I will rely on You and hope in Your mercy and goodness. May I have a holy fear and at the same time a hope in Your mercy. I will trust in Your holy name and rejoice in You. I hope in You for an eternal fulness of joy in Your presence.

Let Your mercy, O Lord! be upon me and may I always have the comfort and benefit of it. Not according to what I deserve, but according to my hope in You. According to the promise which You have given in Your Word. And according to the faith which You have by Your Spirit and grace worked in me. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.

Psalm 33

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