I. The Lord & His Praise (33:1-3)
A. Joyful people of God
- The thirty-third psalm begins uniquely, “Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright.” It is rather easy to misread this and think that the psalmist is calling for us to praise God. However, the psalmist is telling us that we need to be joyful in the Lord. The shout for joy is not to the Lord, but is in the Lord.
- We have so many reasons to be joyful people in Christ. Paul commanded, “Be joyful always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). We can forget too easily all the good that God has done and is doing in our lives that we become pessimistic, cold-hearted, angry, depressed people. But such attitudes do not display the love of Christ and the grace of God in our lives. This psalm will go about explaining and showing more reasons why we ought to always be joyful in the Lord.
B. Thankful worship
- Verses 2-3 are also interesting because of what the psalmist describes as worship. Notice the words “make melody,” “play,” and “sing” are used as encouragement to the people to participate in their worship under the law of Moses. But there is one other word that is part of this Hebrew parallelism that stands out, “give thanks.” This does not seem to fit with the other words make melody, sing, and play. What is being described for us is that our worship must also consist of giving thanks to God. To give thanks to the Lord is to praise and worship the Lord.
- Part of this worship is singing a “new song.” Nine times the phrase “new song” is used in the scriptures. The phrase is found twice in Revelation, once in Isaiah, and the rest of the occurrences are in the Psalms. A new song seems to suggest a giving of praise and honor based a renewed perspective of God’s greatness. God will do something great, such as answer prayer or deliver, and a new song will then be encouraged from the worshipper. We see this in Revelation 5:9-10, “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” This new song seems to show a renewed awareness of God’s power and greatness as the Lamb is able to take and open the scroll.
- The psalmist is calling all the people of God to vigorously worship the Lord their God. Verse 1 described the joy of the worshipper and verses 2-3 described the giving of thanks that should come from God’s joyful people. Worship is to be a joyful event to us, not something that must be done. It is hard to change our language from saying that we have to go to church to we want to go worship the Lord. But worship is to be joyful and desired by all of God’s people, not something that puts us to sleep or is considered a chore.
II. The Lord & His Power (33:4-9)
A. The moral power of God’s word (vs. 4-5)
- Verses 4-9 describe the power of the Lord. But the power of the Lord is described through the word of the Lord. Verse 4 tells us that the word of the Lord is upright. The word of the Lord does not cause evil. The word of the Lord is righteous and all the work of the Lord is faithful.
- The word of the Lord is in keeping with God’s character. Unlike humans whose words often do not match their character, when we speak with lies, hypocrisy, and malice, God’s words cannot be anything but the revealing of His character. Therefore, through God’s word we see His love for righteousness and justice. The word of the Lord reveals the steadfast love of the Lord throughout all the earth.
- Notice the Hebrew parallelism found again in these verses. The beginning of verse 4 describes the word of the Lord while the end of verse 4 changes to the work of the Lord. These are being considered one and the same thing in Hebrew poetry. God works through His words. God does not have to lift a finger to accomplish any task. God merely says the word and His will is accomplished. Consider the creation of the world. Did God have to perform any action? No, God simply said what He desired and it came into being. This concept leads us into the next couple of verses.
B. The visible power of God’s word (vs. 6-7)
- The power of God’s word is clearly seen in the creation. “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.” All that God wants to accomplish is done by His words. I do not think we can fully grasp that kind of power. We are impressed with those who have the power to build great things by their hands. We are awed by athletes who have the ability to perform great tasks with their bodies. But can you visualize the power for someone to accomplish something simply by saying, “let there be light” or “let us make man in our image?”
- The visible creation testifies to the great power of God’s word. Verse 7 describes more of the power of God’s word. God can gather the waters of the sea and place them in a heap. God can gather the water and place it in storehouses. This description seems to call to mind (at least my mind) the great waters of the flood. God stored water to destroy the world and move the waters from the land when He determined the time for judgment to cease.
C. Call to stand in awe of God (vs. 8-9)
- The psalmist declares that all the earth should fear the Lord and stand in awe of Him. How can we not stand in awe and fear the power that is able speak and have things come into existence! When God speaks, things happen. There is no doubt concerning God’s word. The word of God is not empty. When the word of the Lord goes out, what is said will certainly take place.
- This should help us have a healthy awe and reverence for the word of the Lord which we hold in our hands. The word of God which we hold has the same power for it is still God’s voice. If God said something, it will surely happen and we have no reason for doubt. When God spoke of a judgment, it took place, no matter how impossible the judgment sounded.
- One of my favorite proofs of God’s power is the city of Tyre. Ezekiel 26:3-14, 21, written about 593 BC, made great predictions about the city of Tyre. (1) Many nations would come against Tyre, (Ezekiel 26:3); (2) She would be made a bare rock, like the top of a rock, (26:4); (3) Fishermen would spread their nets there, (26:5); (4) Her stones, dust and timbers would be thrown in the water, (26:12); (5) Never be rebuilt, (26:14); and (6) Never be found again, (26:21).
- Consider the fulfillment of these prophecies:
a. Nebuchadnezzar sieged the mainland city in 585 BC and continued the siege for 13 years, the city being destroyed in 573 BC. When Nebuchadnezzar finally entered the city, most of the people had moved to an island one-half mile off the coast and fortified a new city there. he city remained a powerful city for several hundred years.
b. Alexander the Great laid siege to the city about 332 BC when they would not cooperate with him in his plans to conquer the Persians. Since Alexander possessed no fleet he demolished the mainland city and with the debris built a 200 foot wide causeway to the new city.
c. The history of Tyre was not complete after Alexander’s conquest though. The island city was rebuilt then destroyed again some 18 years after Alexander’s destruction by Antigonus. Many other countries fought against Tyre until the Moslems laid it in ruins in 1291 AD.
d. At the present the causeway still exists with the site of the mainland city being a bare rock occupied by fishermen. One can still look down into the water and view the granite columns and stone block that once stood on the mainland. A final point of interest needs comment concerning the prophecy. The prophecy seems to be contradictory. On one hand it says that the city would never be found again but on the other hand it says that it would be a place for the spreading of nets. The answer to this is that the wealthy merchant city of Tyre never has been found again. Instead, rising up from the same site is a fishing village which uses the bare rock of the mainland city site to dry their nets. Thus, the prophecy is fulfilled in a most unique way. There are many more examples that we could consider to show the power of God’s word. We must respect and believe every word God says for what He says will take place.
III. The Lord & His Providence (33:10-19)
A. God rules over the nations (vs. 10-12)
- In verse 10 we read about an active God working against the nations of the world. The nations make their plans and attempt to achieve their foolish goals, but the Lord brings their plans to nothing. How often the nations are going against the will of God and believe that they can accomplish their own will! God rules the nations and will frustrate their plans.
- We forget that God is at work among the nations. We think things are happening only by the will of man instead of realizing that the events of this world are through the hand of God. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (Romans 13:1-2). God’s plans will be carried out to all generations (vs. 11). We are foolish if we think God will not accomplish his will or that we can thwart his plans.
- Now the positive reward is expressed, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.” The morality of a nation matters to God. Who we choose to be our leaders matters to God. We are foolish if we think the workings of our government are inconsequential to God. A nation will not be blessed by the Lord when God is not their Lord. The decline of our country is proportional to our departure from God. The more our society rejects God, the more we will see darker times in this land.
B. God is the true sovereign (vs. 13-17)
- The Lord is looking down from heaven and sees all of our actions. The one who created each of us is watching all of our deeds. The nation is not saved by their own actions. The king is not saved by having a great army. The soldier is not delivered by his own strength and wits. By implication, God is declaring that He is the one who is overseeing and taking care of the nation.
- We would like to think that the United States stands because of our immense military and warfare capabilities. I think September 11 should have reminded us that all the weapons in the world is not enough protection. God is the only protection we can rely upon. When we stray away from the Lord, we are losing the protection God has offered. God is the true rescuer.
- Again, who we choose in this election, therefore, is very important. If we choose immoral, deceptive people to be our leaders, can we honestly expect God to protect this nation and look out for us? When we choose people who do not meet God’s values for more evil men simply based upon political party lines, economics, or some other reason besides the will of God, what do we expect to happen to us? God is the true ruler of this nation and this world. We must choose people to lead us that will care about that.
IV. The Lord & His People
A. Fear the Lord (vs. 18-19)
- The psalmist ends the psalm with a fourfold admonition to the worshippers. The first admonition is to fear the Lord. The eye of the Lord is on those who fear the Lord. We saw this same beautiful promise made in Psalm 32:8, “I will counsel you with my eye upon you.“
- This admonition also restates verse 8 of psalm 33, “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.” We must have a respect and awe of the Lord because of the power of His word. We must always respect the words of God because of the sureness of His words. When God says something will take place, it certainly will happen.
B. Wait for the Lord (vs. 20)
- The second admonition is to wait for the Lord. Have patience in the power of God. God is our help and our shield, but that protection requires personal patience. God is the powerful creator and our lives are in His hands.
- The psalmist is declaring that he and the people of God have every reason to be confident in the Lord. God is their help and is their shield. God will not let them down. God has the power to do what he says and must do what he says. The moral power of God’s word gives us great security.
C. Trust in His holy name (vs. 21)
- The psalm began by speaking about the joy that the people of God have in the Lord. This theme is renewed in verse 21 where the psalmist declares, “Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.“
- Our confidence in the Lord should bring us gladness. We can trust in the authority and the power of God to be with us and watch out for us. As verse 22 goes on to express, we have the steadfast love of God upon us. In Psalm 32, we saw the steadfast love of God described as surrounding us (32:10). Not only is God’s unchanging and unfailing love surrounding us, but this love is also upon us.
D. Hope in the Lord (vs. 22)
- Finally, we are able to place our hope in the Lord. There is no reason to lose heart with God. There is no reason to give up in our prayers. There is no reason to think that God cannot change the hard times that we go through. There is never a reason to give up.
- Our hope is based upon much of what we have read in this psalm. God has made the entire universe by his mere word and by the breath of his mouth. He foils the evil plans, not only of individuals but of the nations. God’s purposes always prevail. God is always looking upon the affairs of this world and cares for his people. Our hope is in the Almighty God. Let us always put our trust in God no matter the circumstances and wait for God to help us.