Our services of worship always begin with a call to worship, which is a verse or short passage from the Bible summoning us to worship the Lord. And normally the call to worship not only includes the summons, but it also includes a reason or reasons for worshipping the Lord. For instance, I often use Psalm 100 where it says:
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
So, we’re summoned to come before the Lord and to give thanks to him and to praise his name, ‘for’ or ‘because’ the Lord is good and his love endures forever. Or there’s Psalm 95 which begins like this:
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
So, let’s come and sing to the Lord and make a joyful noise to him, ‘for’ or ‘because’ the Lord is a great God and a great King.
In these calls to worship we’re summoned to worship the Lord and we’re reminded of why we should worship him. And Psalm 33 begins with a call to worship in verses 1 to 3; and then — in verses 4 to 19 we’re given reasons to worship the Lord. And verses 20 to 22 are the conclusion to the psalm. So, this psalm is a psalm of praise to the Lord. And we’re going to study it today.
Verses 1 to 3
So, we have the call to worship in verses 1 to 3 which is addressed to those who are righteous and upright. In other words, the psalmist is addressing the Lord’s people, who are declared right with God through faith and who seek to do what is right in God’s sight and to live good and upright lives before him. And in the call to worship, the psalmist uses six different expressions for praising God. Firstly, he calls on them to sing joyfully or to shout for joy to the Lord. Secondly, he says it is fitting for them to praise the Lord. Thirdly, he summons them to praise the Lord or to give thanks to him with the harp. Fourthly, he calls on them to make music to the Lord on the ten-stringed lyre. Fifthly, he summons them to sing to the Lord a new song. And sixthly, he calls on them to play skilfully and with loud shouts.
So, he’s calling on the Lord’s people to praise the Lord using musical instruments and to sing a new song. A new song of praise was needed to celebrate a new victory. For instance, in the days of Moses, after the Lord saved the Israelites from the hands of the Egyptians who were pursuing them, Moses and the Israelites sang a new song of praise to the Lord to celebrate his victory over their enemies and the salvation he won for them. Well, here’s the psalmist calling on the Lord’s people to sing a new song of praise to the Lord.
Verses 4 and 5
In verses 4 to 19, the psalmist gives reasons why God’s people ought to praise him. And, firstly, he begins in verses 4 and 5 with a four-part summary of some of God’s perfections. So, he refers to God’s word which is right and true. Then, secondly, he says that God is faithful in all he does. So, he’s reliable and dependable; you can always trust in him. And then, thirdly, he refers to how the Lord loves righteousness and justice. The Lord always does what is right and he judges the world with justice, so that no one can ever complain that he is unfair. And fourthly, he refers to God’s unfailing love which fills the earth. This is God’s steadfast love, his covenant love towards his people which is from everlasting to everlasting. And the effects of his steadfast love for his people can be seen throughout the world.
Well, these four descriptions of the Lord summarise what we’re going to read in verses 6 to 19, because verses 6 to 9 are about God’s word; and verses 10 to 12 are about God’s faithfulness; and verses 13 to 15 are about God’s righteousness and justice; and verses 16 to 19 are about his steadfast love.
Verses 6 to 9
So, firstly, verses 6 to 9 are about God’s word and how, in the beginning, the Lord made the heavens and the earth by his word. So, by his word, by the power of his word, the Lord made the heavens above and all their starry host. So, he only had to speak, and the sun and the moon and the stars and the planets were made. And in Genesis 1 we’re told how, in the beginning, water covered the face of the earth until the Lord gathered it into one place and made the dry land appear. And so, he formed the sea and the land. And the psalmist refers to that in verse 7 in poetic form by saying the Lord gathered the sea into jars and into storehouses. And so, he calls on all people throughout the world to fear the Lord and to worship him, because he is such a great and mighty God, who only had to speak and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. ‘Let there be light’, he said. And so, he created the light; and there’s still light today. ‘Let there be an expanse between the waters’, he said. And so, he created the sky above; and it’s still there today. ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered’, he said. And so, he created the seas and the dry land; and they’re still there today. ‘Let the land produce vegetation’, he said. And ‘let there be lights in the sky’. And ‘let the waters teem with living creatures’. And ‘let birds fly above the earth’. And ‘let the land produce living creatures’. And ‘let us make man in our own image’. The Lord said all of these things; and whatever he said happened. And whatever he created has stood firm and it’s still there today. And he did all this by his word, by speaking. That’s how great and mighty and powerful our God is. And so, no wonder the psalmist calls on God’s people to shout for joy to the Lord, because he made all things by his word.
Verses 10 to 12
Verses 6 to 9 are about God’s word. Verses 10 to 12 are about his faithfulness. In particular, it’s about his faithfulness to his people. So, look with me first of all at verse 12 where the psalmist refers to the nation whose God is the Lord; and to the people God chose for his inheritance. He’s referring to the people of Israel, because of all the nations of the world, the Lord chose them to be his people. So, while the other nations would say that ‘Baal is my God’ or ‘Dagon is my God’, the Israelites were the one nation of the world who were able to say ‘the Lord is my God’. And in the book of Deuteronomy, the people of Israel are described as God’s ‘inheritance’ or God’s ‘heritage’ to signify that they belonged to him. And just as you or I might keep safe something we inherited, so the Lord was going to keep safe the people of Israel, because they were his treasured possession. And sure enough, as you read through the Old Testament, you’ll read how the Lord rescued the Israelites from Egypt where they were being oppressed; and he brought them through the wilderness; and he helped them overcome the Canaanites and to take possession of the Promised Land, that land flowing with milk and honey where they had everything they needed. They did not deserve it, but the Lord graciously and freely gave them the Promised Land and he filled their lives with good things. No wonder the psalmist says they were blessed, because the Lord blessed them with one good thing after another.
And in order to bless his people like that, and in order to take care of them, he had to foil the plans of the nations and he had to thwart the purposes of the peoples. For instance, when Goliath and the Philistines came against the Israelites to attack them and to take over their land, the Lord foiled the plans of the Philistines and he enabled David and the Israelites to defeat them. The Lord foiled the plans of the other nations and he thwarted their purposes so that his plans to bless his people and to give them peace and rest in the Promised Land stood firm and were accomplished. In other words, the Lord remained faithful to his people and to his promises to them to be their God and to take care of them. And so, no wonder the psalmist calls on God’s people to shout for joy to the Lord, because he is faithful to his people and to all his promises to them.
Verses 13 to 15
But let’s move on now to verses 13 to 15 which are about God’s righteousness and justice. In these verses, the psalmist depicts the Lord as the judge, who sits enthroned in heaven above. And from his throne in heaven above, he looks down on and he sees the inhabitants of the earth. He watches them so that he sees everything they do. And since he formed their heart, he knows what’s going on inside them and he knows their thoughts and desires and inclinations. And so, he knows everything about the people on the earth. And look at the final line in verse 15:
[he] considers everything they do.
He considers everything they do in the sense that he evaluates everything they do. He is righteous judge who judges the world with justice. His judgments are just and true, because nothing is hidden from him and no one can deceive him or fool him in any way. Human judges try to judge justly, but they will make mistakes because they don’t have all the facts or because they’re taken in by appearances. But the Lord knows everything about us and his judgments are always true and just and fair. And so, no wonder the psalmist calls on God’s people to shout for joy to the Lord, because he alone is perfectly righteous and just.
Verses 16 to 19
And so, we come to verses 16 to 19 which are about God’s unfailing love, his steadfast love, his covenant love for his people which is never-ending.
He refers to a king with his great army and his mighty warriors and with his horses and riders. So, think of the Egyptian army in the days of Moses, which came charging down the road to recapture the Israelites after they had escaped from their slavery. The Pharaoh’s army was very strong and powerful and frightening, whereas the Israelites were only farmers and labourers and they had no military experience and they had no weapons. And yet, in the end, the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea and the Israelites were kept safe. Why were the Egyptians defeated despite their large army and mighty warriors and powerful horses? Well, it’s because no king is saved by the size of his army and no warrior escapes because of his great strength and a horse is a vain hope for deliverance. Instead of trusting in those things, we ought to trust in the Lord and in his unfailing love for his people, because the Lord has bound himself to his people with a promise to be their God and to take care of them and he will work all things together for their good and for his own glory. And so, no wonder the psalmist calls on God’s people to shout for joy to the Lord, because he loves his people with an everlasting love and will therefore take care of them.
Verses 20 to 22
And so, the psalm ends in verses 20 to 22 with the Lord’s people confessing their faith in the Lord, who is their help and their shield: he’s the one who helps them every day; and he’s the one who shields them by his mighty power. And they can therefore rejoice in him, because his unfailing love, his steadfast love, rests upon them.
Once again this is a psalm which has God’s covenant at the heart of it. Throughout the psalm the psalmist refers to God as the LORD in capital letters, which is God’s covenant name and it speaks to us of his commitment to his people. And when the psalmist refers to God’s faithfulness, he’s referring to God’s faithfulness to his people. And God’s unfailing love, as I’ve already pointed out, is God’s covenant love for his people which is never-ending.
God has established a covenant with his people in which he promises to be their God and to take care of them. And so, his people can wait in hope for the Lord, because he has promised to help them and to be a shield around them. They can trust in his holy name, because his name ‘the LORD’ speaks to them of his commitment to them. And they can put their hope in him, because his love which rests on them is unfailing.
And so, let’s think about the psalm again. The psalmist refers to how God created the heavens and the earth and all that they contain by his word. And he who made all things in the beginning — and who therefore rules over all things — controls and directs all things for the benefit of his people. In the past, he caused the wind to blow so that the waters of the Red Sea divided for his people. And he’s still able to control and direct all things in the heavens and on the earth for the benefit of his people. So, there’s nothing in the world which we need to fear, because our God controls all things.
The psalmist refers to how the Lord foiled the plans of the nations in order to take care of his people. In the past, he foiled the plans of the Philistines who wanted to destroy David and the Israelites. And he’s still able to thwart the plans of people in order to defend his people from danger. So, there’s no one in the world we need to fear, because our God rules over all people.
The psalmist refers to how the Lord looks down upon the people of the world and considers what we do and think. In the past, he revealed to his people his willingness to pardon their sins and to forgive them for their iniquities. And he’s still willing and able to forgive his people and to remove their sins from them while remaining righteous and just. So, we do not need to fear his wrath, because our God is willing to pardon us.
The psalmist refers to God’s steadfast love and to how he delivers his people from death and from famine. In the past, he delivered the Israelites from famine by bringing them to Egypt; and then, when the time was right, he delivered them from their slavery in Egypt. And he’s still willing to deliver his people from whatever dangers they face; and, in the end, he will deliver his people from the grave by giving them everlasting life in his presence. And so, we do not need to fear death, because our God is able to deliver us from it.
The Lord does not change. Just as he bound himself to his people in the past when he promised to be their God and to take care of them, so he binds himself to his people today and promises to be their God and to take care of them. And though we are by nature his enemies, and we deserve nothing from him but his wrath and curse because of our sins, nevertheless — as part of his covenant commitment to his people — he sent his one and only Son into the world to live for us and to die for us and to make peace between us, which we receive by faith.
And having made peace between us by his life and death and resurrection, the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven, where he now represents us before the Father to ensure that we receive all that the Father has promised his people. All the good things the Father has promised his people and has stored up for his people and wants to give to his people come to us through Christ the Saviour and we receive them from him by faith. And so, if you trust in Jesus Christ for peace with God, you need not fear anything in the world, and you need not fear anyone in the world, and you need not fear God’s judgment and wrath, and you need not fear death, because the one who rules and reigns over all is the Lord and he has promised to be your God and to take care of you for ever.
Let me add one more thing before we finish and for you to think about. The psalm ends by saying we put our hope in God. We put our hope in God to help us in this life, don’t we? However, ultimately, what we’re hoping for is everlasting life in God’s presence. And the reason the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to make peace between God and his people is so that we can live with God in glory for ever and for ever. And this psalm anticipates our great hope. The psalm speaks to us of God’s creation, but the Lord is preparing for us a new creation, a new heaven and earth, where we will dwell with him for ever. And the psalm speaks to us of how God faithfully protects his people from their enemies. Well, in the world to come, there will be no one to hurt or harm us. And the psalm speaks to us of how God considers our deeds. Well, in the world to come, we’ll be made perfect and all our deeds will be pleasing in his sight. And the psalm speaks to us of deliverance from death. Well, in the world to come, disease and death will be no more. And so, we will live with our God and with all of his people for ever and for ever.