It was almost 18 years ago now that our oldest son at age 14 was diagnosed locally with what was an apparent life-threatening condition – presumed to be cancer. We were sent to Johns Hopkins and to a specialist there. (It turned out to be a bone marrow infection instead, but was an exceedingly rare medical event.)
On the day of our first appointment, we were at the check-in window and must have been wearing on our faces the concerns that were tearing us apart within. The rather elderly lady behind the counter looked at Diana and said, “Honey, yo baby gonna be awright cause you be at da Johns Hopkins Hospital an dat doctor be the best they is!”
When you have a medical crisis, or any other big deal going on in your life, you want to be in the very best and most capable hands possible.
At Hopkins, we fell into the hands of a doctor who sensed immediately that the problem was not likely what we were told, but was rather a lesser, though still serious condition – yet was something he was familiar with from his vast experience.
Years later, when our next son Ben almost cut his arm off with a chain saw, the doctor at UMD Shock/Trauma who literally pieced him back together was famous around the world for having done a total face transplant … being highly skilled from military experiences of putting soldiers back together in Afghanistan.
But whatever the problem in our lives, we have as a resource the person who is at the very top of it all – the Creator God. And these Praise Psalms that we are beginning our summer series by studying proclaim this very theme. The guy who made it all can be depended upon to sustain it all and be faithful to His own in the midst of any crisis.
In Psalm 33 today, the writer calls upon God’s people to sing his praise because he is dependable in accord with his covenant love and faithfulness.
1 Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
2 Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.
4 For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.
5 The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.
As the song moves into more of the lyrics and verses, it expands upon this idea of God’s dependence by giving three reasons to worship and trust God. First, we can trust him because he is more powerful than his creation – after all, he made it!
6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him.
9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.
The biblical teaching as to how God spoke the world into existence will forever be ingrained in my mind with the title tune from our church kids musical program from this past spring – “Creation Sensation” – with the song “Something out of Nothing.” I’m sure our children will go the rest of their lives with the same experience – and that is the value of music as an educational tool.
The Psalm speaks of the immensity of water on the earth. We moderns know how small the earth is relative to the vast reaches of space, and the ancients understood that to some degree. But when they thought of things that were huge, the most common picture was of mountains and seas. The mountains spoke of majesty and firmness, while the seas were unpredictably powerful and often fearful – certainly beyond human control. But the picture of the writer in verse seven is how God can take the waters of the earth and bottle them up, almost like in a collection of a few jars.
Secondly, we can trust God because He is the Lord over history and all nations and peoples.
10 The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
11 But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
God has a plan for the ages that he is working out in his own wisdom. This gives a context to history and a calm vision about the future, even while living in a turbulent world.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance.
Naturally this speaks of God’s special plans with and through the nation of Israel, expressed in the Abrahamic Covenant – where promises were made to that Patriarch of personal, national, and universal blessings (the latter fulfilled in Christ).
13 From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; 14 from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth—15 he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. 16 No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.
God is connected to the affairs of the world. He knows what the heart condition of the people of his creation is – and apart from him, it is oft focused on self.
There is no power above God, and there is no validity ultimately to the belief of man that he who has the largest army with the most tools is the most powerful.
And thirdly, we can trust God because He is faithful in his love to those who honor Him.
The final verses take on a decidedly personal twist that brings it home to the individual worshipper, small as he is in a vast universe.
18 But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, 19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.
These last verses turn the focus from God’s actual activity to man’s response. Why worship? Because no other gods are worthy of this level of devotion. If God was not wholly worthy of our attention, then Christianity would make no sense or—at best—be reduced to the level of a hobby. But if God is everything He says He is, then this faith demands my all.
20 We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
22 May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.
There is no reason to fear an out-of-control world – of natural forces, or the evil forces of man, for God’s eyes are on you. His heart is to deliver you because of this covenant love. And he is at the top of it all, since he made it all.