There are all kinds of issues and thoughts surrounding singing in church. People are ever ready with to express their personal opinions and tastes. It is easy to find the reasons for praise in the things that please us. But praise is not a way of building up an atmosphere nor is it something we are to spectate rather than join. It is not primarily about connecting us together (though of course it does that in spiritual terms). What matters is the God who is being praised. We are to find our reasons and focus for praise in Him. The command to sing praise to the Lord is one of the most frequently repeated in Scripture. It is not something we can take or leave. It is a powerful way to express our obedience to God as well as our devotion to Him. God inhabits the praises of His people and Christ leads it (Psalm 22:2 and Hebrews 2:12). If we consider even a few of the reasons for triumphant praise it surely ought to fill our hearts as well as our voices.
Praise is a special means of glorifying God (Psalm 50:23) and so it is frequently commanded. In the space of just two verses, we are commanded five times to sing praise to God (Psalm 47:6-7). But one of these is to sing praise with the understanding (v7 see 1 Corinthians 14:15). The whole psalm helps us to do this by giving reasons for joyful praise. In the psalms God gives us not just many commands to sing praise but also reasons for it and not only that but the very words to use. Using the same kind of ascension language as Psalm 68:18 it also points to a time of a gospel kingdom rather than simply the Jewish people praising God. It reveals a future king, clearly the Messiah who would subdue the nations and have everything under His rule (Ephesians 1:22).
David Dickson describes this psalm as a “prophecy of the enlargement of Christ’s kingdom, and of the conjunction of Jews and Gentiles in one body under Christ their Head and Lord”. It is an exhortation to “Jews and Gentiles, joyfully to praise the God and Saviour of His people Jesus Christ” whom the Psalmist sees “ascended into heaven triumphantly after the full payment made of the price of redemption”. Christ is gathering His redeemed people, Jews and Gentiles, out of all nations. The benefits of His kingdom belong to more nations than one “for in Him the redeemed in al the nations of the earth are blessed” (Psalm 47:1).
It is a matter of chief joy when the kingdom of Christ comes to anyone because it means deliverance from “sin, Satan, and misery”. He has conquered these enemies and also brings “sure mercies of righteousness, peace, and joy” with eternal life. The Gentiles are commanded “to clap their hands and shout, and to shout with the voice of triumph”. They are to “shout to God, the triumpher, who in all this Psalm is the Redeemer Christ” “distinctly to be praised for His work of victorious redemption of sinners”. Thus it says “shout unto God with the voice of triumph” (Psalm 47:1). In the following updated extract Dickson goes on to show the reasons that this psalm gives us for praise. “None can praise God, or praise Christ sincerely, who do not understand the reasons for which they should praise” so it follow that praising with the understanding stirs up the affections also.
1. Christ is Sovereign Over All the Earth
The first reason for joyful praising of Christ is taken from His sovereign majesty over all the world (Psalm 47:2). The Redeemer, the victorious triumpher is the Lord: very God, essentially Jehovah, the Lord most high. Christ has the right and just title to erect a church in what country and kingdom He pleases without asking the permission of any. He is able to set up the profession of His name and the practice of all His ordinances in doctrine, worship, and church government. “He is a great king over all the earth.”
2. Christ’s Kingdom is Increasing
The second reason for joyful praising of Christ is taken from the increase of His own kingdom, and the exalting of all His subjects above the rest of the world (Psalm 47:3). The true church of Christ may from age to age promise herself new additions and their enemies being brought under their feet. If may not please the Lord to convert or bring down the enemies of the church at the time we would wish. Yet He will not fail to make His own people victorious over their opposition, power, and persecution, and more than conquerors in this respect.
3. Christ is Providing for His People
The third reason of Christs praise is taken from the care He has for the welfare of His people (v4). Just as the earthly Canaan was provide for the inheritance of His people, so He will provide for the sustaining of all His people in all ages, both bodily and spiritual. He is most loving and more wise to choose what is good for us, than we ourselves are. He will exercise His wisdom and love in choosing our inheritance and not leave it to us. The main part of the inheritance of Christ’s subjects is no earthly thing, but His very best blessing as was given to Jacob above Esau, “the excellency of Jacob.”
4. Christ Has Triumphed Over His Enemies
The fourth reason of Christs praise is taken from His glorious triumphing over all His enemies and ours when He ascended to heaven (v5). Christ being very God, descended in humbling Himself to take on Him the form of a servant, and when He had perfected the work of redemption ascended in our nature, still the very same person which descended (Ephesians 4:9).
The ark of the covenant, the type of Christ, ascended up to Zion, and God’s presence in it after the victory over the chief enemies of the church. So Christ after His victory over his chief enemies on the cross, ascended triumphantly into heaven.
5. Christ is Our King
Christ is praised particularly for His work of redemption and because of His special nearness to His people (Psalm 47:6-7). Although the Lord shows His glory in the works of creation and providence; yet in the work of redemption, conversion and salvation of souls His glory is manifested far more. Praise, praise, praise, and the fourth time praise is called for here.
Believers in Jesus Christ see reasons of praising joyfully the glorious Godhead of Jesus Christ and singing praises to Him as God again and again. They consider how He humbled Himself to assume our nature, paid the ransom for us and was victorious over all our enemies in our name. And also in considering how He ascended in our nature with the shout of the victory, and sound of the triumphant trumpet they cannot but praise.
It was said to the Jews in this Psalm “sing praises to our king” and in this song all may join with those Jews who have embraced Jesus for their king. He took His human nature from them and was born a Jew. Yet Christ also extends His kingdom over all the earth, not only His overall power as God but in His special grace gathering subjects out of all parts of the world: “God is the King of all the earth.”
6. Christ is Gathering His Kingdom from All Nations
The sixth reason of Christ’s praise is taken from His maintaining among the Gentiles, for gathering the redeemed out of all languages (v8). He reigns among them as king of saints, and author of holiness. We must in all the promises, works and praises of Christ still remember that as He is now very man, so is He also eternally God. No one can praise Him with understanding as the redeemer and perfecter of what is spoken of Him in Scripture unless they acknowledge Him to be God. Christ is therefore called God eight times in this Psalm and actions that only God can do are attributed to Him. Twice He is called Jehovah, and in this verse twice called God reigning over the heathen.
Holiness is the summation of Christ’s kingdom. His work is to teach, prescribe and command holiness; to take away sin, and powerfully to apply and work holiness in His own redeemed ones. He continues in governing His people till He has made each and every one of the redeemed perfectly holy. His throne is especially called “the throne of his holiness.”
7. Christ is Able to Convert the Most Powerful
The seventh reason of Christ’s praise is taken from His converting the great people of the earth such as kings and princes (v9). He brings them to the obedience of the faith and into union with the true church. It is often the case that not many rich, noble, or powerful are called. Yet God for His own glory is from time to time bringing some of them in. When it may glorify His name, He will bring them in and perfect what is promised and prophesied here. “The princes of the people are gathered together.” Christ gets the praise in converting people in that His omnipotence makes them willing subjects, yet also with the hearty consent of the will on the part of those converted.
The church of the Jews is the mother-church, of which Abraham and the godly Jews and even Christ Himself were members. The church of the Jews is the olive-tree into which all the converts of the Gentiles are ingrafted, gathered, and made one people with Abraham and the faithful among the Jews. “The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of the God of Abraham.” There must be a union of Jews and Gentiles in one visible Christian Church because it is promised and prophesied here that it shall be so.
David Dickson points out that when we have said all we can in praise of Christ we have to acknowledge that we cannot fully express His glory as it deserves. We must rest content with this: that Christ is and shall be very highly glorified. He concludes this from the way in which Psalm 47 closes. After all the reasons have been mentioned for praising Christ it is necessary to conclude with this, “He is greatly exalted.”
A line of praise is worth a leaf [page] of prayer, an hour of praise is worth a day of fasting and mourning
– John Livingstone
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