131124 Psalm 47

Last Updated on Sunday, 24 November 2013 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Psalm 47
Theme: Sing To Our King!

Tucked neatly into the middle of the Bible is a priceless treasure commonly known as the Psalms. In some ways this collection of Hebrew poetry is the Old Testament equivalent of our hymnal, but the psalms are much more than inspired songs.

The psalms have been a source of great comfort for believers for thousands of years. In Psalm 50 God invites us: "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me" (15). In Psalm 91 the Lord assures us that "he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone" (11,12).

Other psalms contain verses that define key Bible doctrines. Psalm 51:5, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me," is often cited to establish the doctrine of original sin. Psalm 139 beautifully describes the omniscience (1-4) and omnipresence (8-10) and omnipotence (13,14) of God.

Still other psalms are Messianic. In other words, they give God's people prophetic glimpses of the promised Savior. In Psalm 22, for example, King David provides us with many details about Jesus' suffering and death a thousand years before it happened.

The opening words, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (1), were repeated by Jesus himself as he was hanging on the cross. When Jesus' enemies mocked and ridiculed him, they were unknowingly paraphrasing verse 8, "He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him." And verses 16 and 18 give us amazing insight into the manner of Jesus' execution: "They have pierced my hands and my feet...they divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing."

Not all of the psalms are Messianic like Psalm 22. Not every psalm is as comforting as Psalm 23. And that's okay. Some psalms were written to teach. Some were written to comfort. Some were written to inspire. And some psalms were composed to encourage God's people to sing God's praises. Psalm 47 is a perfect example.

Psalm 47 is heavy on repetition. There are five references to praising God in nine verses, and there are at least four places where God is described as a king. All of this repetition makes Psalm 47 an excellent choice for Christ the King Sunday.

Today we give thanks because our God is in control. Today we rejoice because our God rules. This morning we raise our voices with the Sons of Korah and...

SING TO OUR KING!

I. Praise Him because of what he has done for us
II. Praise Him because of what he still does for us

Most of the psalms were written by Jews for Jews, but the scope of this psalm stretches far beyond the nation of Israel. It begins: "Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy" (1). Psalm 47 was written for all people. That means this psalm was written for you and me.

Clapping and shouting aren't exactly the norm when it comes to Lutheran worship, but we need to remember that the setting of these verses isn't a church sanctuary or even a synagogue service. Instead I want you to picture the glorious procession of a triumphant ruler: I want you to imagine thousands of adoring subjects shouting: "How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth" (2)!

Pizza is not awesome. Fourth of July fireworks are not awesome. Even natural wonders like Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon, they aren't all that awesome when they are compared with the God who created them. The Lord Most High is truly awesome, and over the course of human history he has done things that have filled his people with awe.

"He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet" (3). The psalm itself doesn't explain how and when God subdued nations and peoples, so I will. How about the time when the armies of Egypt had the poor, defenseless Israelites trapped with their backs against the Red Sea? What did God do? He directed Moses to part the waters so that the people could cross over on dry ground. And then he commanded those same water walls to crash down and destroy the forces of the Pharaoh (Exodus 13 & 14). How awesome is that?

Or how about the time when the Israelites came up against the heavily fortified city of Jericho? What did God use to bring down the walls? A battering ram? A massive siege ramp? A series of underground tunnels? The Lord directed his people to march around the city seven times and blow their trumpets, and the huge stone walls just collapsed (Joshua 5 & 6). How awesome is that?

Or how about the time when Joshua led an army against a group of Amorite kings? Not only did God give his people a great victory, not only did he send a hailstorm that killed more soldiers than Israelite swords, but he also made the sun stand still so that Israel's enemies couldn't escape (Joshua 10). How awesome is that?

God gave his people many military victories, but these conquests were only a means to an end. Every army that was defeated, every king that was conquered, every battle that was won brought Israel one step closer to possessing the land God had promised them. "He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loved" (4).

When Abraham pitched his tents in Canaan, he was a stranger living in a strange land. And still God promised him that his descendants would call that land their own (Genesis 15). When Jacob stole the birthright from his brother Esau, he was forced to leave the Promised Land and flee for his life. And still God promised Jacob that he would return (Genesis 28).

It didn't happen for a few hundred years, but the Lord made good on his promises to Abraham and Jacob. He transformed the land of Canaan into the nation of Israel. And even more important than that, God fulfilled this far-reaching promise: "All peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Genesis 12:3, see also Genesis 28:14).

"All peoples" includes us, and we most definitely have been blessed. We are blessed through Abraham's offspring. We are blessed because God kept his promise to send a Savior. We are blessed because Jesus gave up his throne in heaven to become one of us. We are blessed because Jesus gave up his life to take away our sins. We are blessed because our King "has ascended amid shouts of joy" (5). We are blessed because we will rule with him in heaven.

We didn't do anything to earn our salvation. We can't do anything to earn our salvation. So what do we do? We sing to our King. We thank him. We praise him. We praise God for everything he has done for us. But we don't stop there because God didn't stop there. On this Christ the King Sunday we praise God because of what he still does for us.

And that leads to an interesting question. What is God doing right now? Is he sitting on a solid gold throne attended by legions of angels? Is he watching everything happening on earth on thousands of heavenly monitors? Does he follow some kind of heavenly schedule?

Psalm 47 doesn't go into great detail describing what God is doing, but it does give us this general description of his divine activity. "God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne" (8).

Simply put, God rules. God rules over rulers. God is the only true superpower because every nation and every citizen of every nation is subject to him. But the Supreme Ruler of heaven and earth isn't a tyrant or a dictator or even a benevolent despot. Our King is our Father. Our King is our Savior.

And he has made each of us citizens of his kingdom. "The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham" (9). Do you understand what that verse means? Let me read it again: "The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham" (9).

The Israelites were physical descendants of Abraham. The Jews boasted because they were the children of Abraham. But they weren't special because they had Abraham's blood coursing through their veins. They were blessed because they held onto the promises God had given to Abraham. And those promises were not exclusive to them.

The Bible tells us that Abraham was saved by faith, and so are we. By faith we are the children of Abraham. By faith we are the people of the God of Abraham. By faith we belong to God and live in the kingdom of his grace. And even now he is ruling in our hearts.

But it doesn't always feel like it, does it? If we are honest with ourselves, there are probably times when we wonder if God really is in control. I'm not saying that we openly question God's authority, but it can be a struggle when we see what's going on in the world.

If God is in control of everything, why does he allow massive typhoons to kill thousands of people? If God is in charge, why does he permit people to kill themselves and others is the name of religion? If the Supreme Ruler of the universe is on my side, then why am I struggling? Why am I hurting? Why isn't God helping?

These are legitimate questions. These are difficult questions. But before we look up there for answers, perhaps we need to look in here. We need to examine our own hearts. We need to ask ourselves some tough questions. Questions like...

Do I always put my trust in God, or are there times when I would rather believe that I am in control? Instead of going to God in prayer do I try to go it alone? Do I make the best use of the blessings God gives me to strengthen my faith? Instead of asking God those tough questions, do I need to ask for God's forgiveness?

We don't know why everything happens, but God does. We can't always explain why things happen, but God can. And sometimes he does. But even when he chooses to keep his plans hidden from us, his love for us always remains in view.

When Jesus was crucified, Pontius Pilate had this notice affixed to his cross: "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews" (John 19:19). That was an accurate statement, but it wasn't quite complete. Jesus was the King of the Jews, but he is our King too.

And Christ our King has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Our King will never permit us to be tempted beyond what we can bear (I Corinthians 10:13). Our King will never allow the gates of hell to overcome his church (Matthew 16:18). Our King is intimately involved in every aspect of our lives, and everything he does for us here on earth brings us one step closer to eternal life in heaven.

"All's well that ends well." The person who coined that phrase probably wasn't talking about the Christian calendar, but he could have been. Today we come to the end of another church year, and it ends very well. In fact, with Christ as our King it couldn't end any better. Today it is our honor and privilege to sing to our King. We praise him because of what he has done for us. We praise him because of what he still does for us. Amen.

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