David begins with God’s greatness (vv. 3, 6b), a word that is horribly overused in our day and applied to anything from deodorant to the most obnoxious professional athlete. Historically, many have taken the adjective Great and made it part of their name: Alexander the Great, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and in our own day the comedian Jackie Gleason simply went by the title, The Great One.
I beg to differ. God alone is Great! Furthermore, his greatness is unsearchable (v. 3). No one ever has or ever will fully fathom the depths of his greatness. Not all the minds of all the ages using the most advanced scientific equipment can capture all that God is. He is utterly beyond and infinitely past finding out.
David also points to his majesty (v. 5), or better still, the glorious splendor of his majesty. There is a great light or luster or spiritual brilliance that emanates from the magnificence of his majesty. God’s majesty is blinding and breathtaking and beyond comprehension or calculation.
Ah, but he is also good (vv. 7a, 9a). Can you envision how horrific it would be if this great and powerful and awesome God were bad? Don’t take his goodness for granted, but joyfully celebrate it and declare it aloud and rest confidently in it.
Our God is also righteous (v. 7b). To say that God is righteous is not to say he conforms to human standards of right and wrong. Rather he conforms perfectly to the standards of his own perfections. But if he is wholly and holy righteous, how can unholy and unrighteous people like you and me enter his presence? The answer follows.
According to v. 8, God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Yes, God has a holy temper, but he has a very long fuse! Even those who deny and blaspheme his name are recipients of his patience and long-suffering. He permits his enemies to live, to spew forth their horrid sacrilege, all the while blessing them with food and air and earthly pleasures, affording them even more time and opportunity to repent (cf. Romans 2:4-5).
“Steadfast love” is the translation of the Hebrew word hesed, elsewhere rendered by such terms as mercy, goodness, loving kindness, loyal love, and occasionally by the word grace. Its primary emphasis is on God’s covenant love, his steadfast commitment to his people.
All these qualities of character inform his deeds and give shape to his providential oversight of creation. So let’s look briefly at what this great and majestic and good and righteous and gracious and merciful and longsuffering God does.
For one thing, he works (vv. 4, 5b, 6a, 9, 12a). David goes even further and speaks of his mighty works, his wonderful works, his merciful works, and hisawesome acts!
More specifically, he rules (vv. 11-13). But unlike every other ruler or potentate, God is in office for life (see Daniel 4:3, 34)! There is no transition team to move from one heavenly administration to another. There are no inaugural ceremonies (God has always been on the throne). There is no concern over the qualifications of a Vice-God should the Almighty be unable to serve out the full extent of his term. There are no tearful good-byes to the staff, no waving “so-long” from the steps of a helicopter, no cleaning out of the desk in the heavenly oval office to make way for his successor.
Among earthly kings, especially in British history, we hear of James I and James II and Charles I and Charles II and Charles III, etc. Not in the heavenly kingdom. There is no Yahweh I and Yahweh II, for God is first and last and there is no other. None preceded him and none shall succeed him.
The everlasting ruler sustains (v. 14) all he has made. We should read this verse in connection with v. 13 and “admire the unexpected contrast: he reigns in glorious majesty, yet condescends to lift up and hold up those who are apt to fall” (Spurgeon, 3:B:380). He also supplies (v. 15) food and life andsatisfies the desires of his creation (v. 16).
He is altogether righteous in his dealings with us (v. 17a). Of course, that’s easy for us to believe when things are going well. But God is righteous in allhis ways, not just in the circumstances that favor us. Nothing is more difficult to acknowledge when we are in trouble, or when he afflicts us, or when we feel he has been unfair.
And we must never forget that he is not only righteous but also “kind in all his works” (v. 17b). We don’t typically put those two words together, for it’s difficult to be both at the same time. We swing to one or the other extreme and are either rigid and demanding or excessively lenient and tolerant. But in God they find perfect harmony, as seen most readily in Jesus, who was simultaneously high and humble; both strong and tender; righteous, yet gracious; powerful and merciful; authoritative, yet tender; holy, yet always forgiving; just, yet compassionate; at times angry, yet also gentle; and firm, yet friendly.
Finally, he answers prayer (vv. 18-19), preserves the righteous (v. 20a), and destroys the wicked (v. 20b).
How does one respond to such a God? Needless to say, such splendor, majesty, mercy and might call for the loudest and most passionate of praise.
We are to extol him (v. 1a), which literally means “to be high.” God is high and we acknowledge and declare it so. To extol is to exalt above all others, to set as pre-eminent over every other thing. We also bless (vv. 1b, 2a, 10b) and praise (v. 2b), and commend and declare (v. 4, 6b) and meditate (v. 5) and speak (v. 6a) and pour forth praise of his abundant goodness (v. 7a).
As if that weren’t enough, we sing aloud (v. 7b) and give thanks (v. 10a) andmake known (v. 12) his mighty deeds. And let’s be diligent to do it every day(v. 2a), forever and ever (vv. 1a, 2b, 21b):
“Through all eternity to thee,
A joyful song I’ll raise;
But oh, eternity’s too short
To utter all thy praise.” (Adam Clarke; quoted in Spurgeon, 3:B:384)
A heart flooded with thoughts of the splendor of God and what he does can no more conceive of an end of praise than it can conceive of an end of God himself!
One final thought, and I close. Above all else, may our praise and honor and joyful celebration of this God be great, for “great is the Lord, and [therefore]greatly to be praised” (v. 3a). True worship must always be proportionate to the object of adoration. Great praise for a great God. “No chorus is too loud, no orchestra too large, no Psalm too lofty for the lauding of the Lord of Hosts” (Spurgeon, 3:B:376).
So much more could be said, and more will be said, as we continue our focus on worship in Psalms 147 through 150.