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Sermon: Psalm 47: Sing Praises To Our King

New Testament Reading: Revelation 4

“After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.  Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’ And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.’” (Revelation 4, ESV)

Old Testament Reading: Psalm 47

To the choirmaster.

A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

“Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth. He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet. He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted!” (Psalm 47, ESV)

Introduction

So you notice that we are not in John this morning. There are three reasons for this.

One, we have been in John for some time now, and I think the change of pace will be nice.

Two, I told you over a year ago that I intend to insert a few sermons on the Psalms from time to time. I doubt you remember the specifics, but we did look at four Psalms back in March of 2014 in between our study of the book of Galatians and James. We looked at Psalm 115, 42 – 43, 37, and 51. We will be considering four more in the month of July.

Three, I will be taking a couple of weeks off at the end of July and you will be hearing from Phil and Russell. I thought it would be nice if, instead of asking them to jump into our study of John, we worked on a mini-series together. I will take a Psalm this week and next, and then they will each take a Psalm to close out the mini-series.

I do love the Psalms. If had to choose one book of the Bible to take with me to a desert island it would be difficult to pass up on the Psalms. There are number of reasons why.

For one, the major teachings of the Bible are found here. The Psalms were written to be sung by the people of God. And the people of God, you will notice, were devoted to singing truth. The Psalms are the truth of scripture in song form. Athanasius called the Psalms “an epitome of the whole Scriptures’”. Basil, the Bishop of Caesarea in the fourth century, called the Psalms a “compendium of all theology.” And Martin Luther referred to the Psalms as a “little Bible”. These men were referring to what I am saying here – that the Psalms manage to gather up the major truths found throughout the scriptures in one place in a most beautiful way.

Also, consider the way that Psalms speak to the human soul. When you read them you notice that they engage the great variety of human emotions. They speak to the human soul in the midst of a diversity of circumstances. The Psalms speak powerfully to those who are happy and sad, joyful and angry, at peace and in turmoil. It has been said that there is “a psalm for every season of life” (Hubbard, 1973).

Calvin spoke of the Psalms as a mirror of the soul:

“What various and resplendent [sumptuous] riches are contained in this treasure, it were difficult to find words to describe… I have been wont to call this book not inappropriately, an anatomy of all parts of the soul; for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror.”

The Psalms do indeed minister to our hears in most powerful way.

Finally, consider this: Christ is present in the Psalms. It’s not that every Psalm contains explicate prophesies concerning the Christ. Some do. But all of the Psalms refer to Christ in one way or another. All of the Psalms anticipate Christ in some way.

Jesus himself testified to this truth in Luke 24, saying, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:44–47, ESV) Christ fulfilled, not only Moses and the Prophets, but the Psalms too!

Let’s turn our attention now to Psalm 47.

This particular Psalm was written by the Sons of Korah. King David wrote many of the Psalms, as you know. But other authors include Moses, Solomon, Asaph, Heman the Ezrahite, Ethan the Ezrahite, and Juduthun. The Sons of Korah wrote seven Psalms, as far as we know, Psalm 47 being one of the.

“Korah was a descendant of Kohath, the Son of Levi (Exod. 6:21), thus a cousin of Aaron. Korah, along with some Rubinites, rebelled against the God-given authority of Moses and Aaron and was killed by the Lord as a consequence. Nonetheless, his descendants became prominent in the service of the temple. At the time of Jehoshaphat, they [the Sons of Korah] are said to have ‘stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice (2 Chr. 20:19).”

Notice that this is the very thing the Sons of Korah are urging us to do in this Psalm.

Verse 1: “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth. (Psalm 47:1–2, ESV) Notice also the presence of this theme in the interlude beginning at verse 6: “Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!” (Psalm 47:6–7, ESV)

There are few things that catch my attention as I consider this Psalm:

This Psalm Urges Us To Sing Praises To God

One, this Psalm urges us strongly to sing praises to God. You would think that this would be a natural impulse for us. You wouldn’t think that we would need coaxing. But that is what the Sons of Korah do. They urge us strongly to give to praise to God. “Clap your hands”, they say. “Shout to God with loud songs!” “Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!”

Why do you think we need the exhortation? Is it not because the cares and concerns of this world tend to distract us from the proper worship of God? The worship of God ought to be the leading concern of our life – Our Father in Heaven, hollowed be your name –  and yet we find ourselves distracted with many things. We neglect the worship of God far to easily and far to often. Therefore, the Sons of Korah exhort the people of God to worship.

This Psalm Urges Us To Sing With Gusto and Joy

Two, notice how this Psalm urges us to sing praises to God with gusto and joy! “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!”, the Sons of Korah say.

We should not make the mistake of assuming that all of our singing should be upbeat and celebratory. Read the other Psalms as see that there are a great variety of songs contained in God inspired hymnbook. There are Psalms for every season of life – Psalms that express the great variety of human emotion – some of them very melancholy indeed. Our singing should follow this inspired pattern. Our singing should be varied, expressing things that are true to the realities of life. But this is a hymn of praise – a psalm of celebration. And it reminds us that our singing should be marked by joy and celebration. The people of God ought to rejoice in God even when life is difficult.

Brothers and sisters, as you read the lyrics of this Psalm, are you not moved by the exhortation contained within? Are you not motivate to gather together with the people of God and sing powerfully and from the heart.? This is not natural to us. The Spirit of God must give us joy in the Lord. The Word of God must move us to it. And we must come with hearts prepared for worship.

As your Pastor it concerns me when our singing is weak. You might respond saying, it is only singing, Joe. The Christian life is about more than singing. We worship with the whole of our lives. I know these things are true, but our singing is significant. The people of God have always been a singing people. Singing together is a very important part of worship. The songs that we sing, and the way that we sing them, say a lot about the condition of our hearts before God.

And don’t say to me, well, we need more upbeat music, or something like that. The truth of the matter is that it is your heart and my heart that matter. I’ve been in worship services where there were no instruments at all – only voices – and yet the worship was most powerful because the people came with hearts prepared to worship through song.

For He is King of All The Earth

Three, notice the reason given for why should worship in this way. We are to worship God because he is God – he is the King of all the earth.

May I suggest to you that one of the reason we fail to worship, or come to worship with hearts unprepared, is because we have the wrong things motivating our worship. The Sons of Korah say, “clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!” And we might ask, why? Why should we sing? What should motivate our worship of God? They tell us what should motivate us in verse 2: “For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth.” Look also at verse 7: “For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!” 

In both instances the word for is significant. The scriptures are revealing why it is that we should worship. We should worship God because he is God. God deserves our worship – he deserves our praise – because he is the Creator, and we the creature. He is the Lord. He is the God who made us. He is God most high. He stands above all things in heaven and on earth. He is the Sovereign King, and is to be feared. 

To fear God is to respect him deeply. To fear God is to revere him, to admire him, to confess that he alone is worthy of glory, honor, and praise. The scriptures tell us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” (Proverbs 9:10, ESV). The proper motivation for worship is the fear of the Lord. We should worship God because he is God. He is Lord most high, maker of heaven and earth, and is deserving of our praise on that basis alone.

Brothers and sisters, what are we doing as we come together on the Lord’s Day? Are we not coming together for the worship of God?

Listen to how Paul spoke to the church at Ephesus. He wrote to them saying, “And do not get drunk with wine [the wine of he Lord’s Supper I presume], for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…”(Ephesians 5:18–19, ESV)

And listen to his words to the church at Colossae: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God…” (Colossians 3:15–17, ESV)

Notice that we are to come together to worship God through the singing of songs. This is a vital component of New Covenant worship. We, like the Old Covenant saints, are to worship God by singing praises to him. And what should motivate our singing? The same thing that motivated the Old Covenant saints: the fact that God is God most high!

This may sound like a very basic thing, but I do wonder if this is truly our primary motivation for worship. If someone were to ask you, why do you go to church? What would you say? Would you say, because it makes me feel good? Or, because my heart is encouraged by my brothers and sisters in Christ? Or, I go to be fed by the word so that I might serve the Lord the remainder of the week. These are all good reasons, and I do hope that they are true of of your experience here, but shouldn’t our first response be this: I go to worship God Almighty!

It is astonishing how much we have made what we do here on the Lord’s Day about us. We go to church if we feel like it. We go to church when it is convenient. We go to church as long as nothing else comes up. We choose our church based upon how it makes us feel or based upon what we get out of it. Should we not be more concerned about the proper worship of God? Shouldn’t our leading concern be this: that God be worshiped in the way he has prescribed in his Holy Word?

Brothers and sisters, gather together with the saints on the Lord’s Day, not because you feel like it, but because you ought to worship God. He is the Lord. He is God most high. He is the King of all the earth. And he is deserving of all our praise.

Let The Nations Praise Him

I’d like to make one more observation before we close. It is clear that Psalm 47 calls us to praise God, and that we are called to praise him with gusto and joy. It is also true that the motivation for our worship is this: God is God, and he is worthy. But notice who it is that is called to worship in Psalm 47. The Sons of Korah call, not only their Jewish brethren to worship, but all the peoples of the earth. This is so significant!

See verse 1: “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!”

There are some who read the Bible as if God’s end goal was the firm establishment of the nation of Israel, and as if God’s goal was to receive worship from the Jewish people. In fact, God’s plan was to receive worship from all the peoples of the earth.

We can see this by looking back into the history of redemption. When God called Abram he promised to make him into a great nation and to give him a land, it is true.  The nation would be the nation of Israel – the land, the land of Israel. But we should not forget God’s greater purpose, that in Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed. Genesis 12:1-3:

“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” (Genesis 12:1–3, ESV)

This can also be demonstrated by looking at the way that Christ commissioned his Apostles. He told them to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you….“ (Matthew 28:19–20, ESV)

This can also be seen by looking at what has been revealed to us about the final state. John wrote these words in Revelation 7:9: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9–10, ESV)

The Sons of Korah understood this. They understood that God’s purposes involved more than the people of of Israel worshiping God in the land of Israel. No, God would, though Israel, draw the whole world – that is, all the peoples of the earth – to worship his holy name.

The Sons of Korah wrote Psalm 46 and notice the way that that Psalm concludes. In verse 10 we read this: “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” In Psalm 47 the Sons of Korah are calling the nations to do the very thing that was promised in Psalm 46. “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!” (Psalm 47:1, ESV)

And why are all people to worship God? Because God is God of all the earth! He is Lord most high! He is King of all the earth!

The point is this: the God of Israel is no tribal deity. He is Lord of all.

This is demonstrated in the fact that God subdued the nations under Israel. Look at verse 3: “He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet. He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves.”

Also, look at the way that the Psalmist speaks of God in verses 7 and 8: “For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.”

And here is, in my opinion, the most beautiful part of Psalm 47.  The Psalm turns in such a subtle way to offer a prophetic word. Verse 9: “The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted!” 

The Sons of Korah were able, through their careful study of scripture, and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to see that God would one day gather the nations to himself. They would come and worship the God of Abraham.

Isn’t it amazing to read this Psalm now that Christ has come and now that the gentiles (the nations) have been brought to Christ and grafted into Abraham by faith? Isn’t amazing to think that you and I are worshipping the God of Israel today in fulfillment to what the Sons of Korah wrote some 3,000 years ago. You and I have responded to their call.

Application and Conclusion 

Brothers and sisters, would you make the worship of God your leading concern?

Would you come each and every Lord’s Day with hearts prepared, read to worship God with thanksgiving and joy?

I pray that you would be blessed in numerous ways as you come to worship, but would you worship for this reason above all else – because God is God – he is King of the earth and deserves our praise.

And may we never forget that God has this as his aim, to gather people from every tongue, tribe, and nation to himself through Christ Jesus our Lord that we may worship him together for all eternity. Let us be devoted to this mission as well!

 

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