A Bible Lesson on Psalm 47

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

This is a Bible lesson on a passage outside the current ISSL schedule, Psalm 47.  Kidner said about this psalm “From the first word to the last, this communicates the excitement and jubilation of an enthronement; and the king is God Himself. … and (this is) more than poetry: this is prophecy, whose climax is exceptionally far-reaching.”

Psa 47:1  To the choirmaster. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!

The heavens already declare the glory of God.  Here the people of the earth are summoned to rejoice in His kingship and acclaim Him.  Clap your hands, all peoples, all nations.  There is no one left out here.  All are called upon to celebrate God as king.  All are called upon to shout aloud with loud songs of joy.  Commentators point to the fact that this Psalm (obviously) follows Psalm 46, and the final verse of that psalm, speaking to God’s conquered enemies is

Psa 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

“Quiet!  Leave off!  Enough!  Stop your noise and recognize your Master!  He will be exalted in the earth.”  Here in Psalm 47, that command turns to this invitation to rejoice over the fact that God is King.  As the last stanza of Psalm 46 says, He is a conqueror.  He imposes peace.  He breaks the bow, shatters the spear, and burns the chariots.  He disarms His foes and those who would attack His people.  But He’s no tyrant.  It’s a good and wonderful thing that He imposes His peace. It’s something that (once we get our fingers out of our ears and start paying attention, once He brings us to our knees) we, every one of us, have reason to rejoice over.  It’s a great thing that He is King!

Psa 47:2  For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth.

For the I AM, Jehovah, Yahweh, the self-existent and self-defining One, the Most High is to be feared.  That title, the Most High, first shows up in Scripture in regard to Melchizedek, priest of the Most High God.  Abraham recognized in Melchizedek the representative of One who was far beyond himself, far greater than himself, and gave tribute to Melchizedek, an Old Testament type of Christ.  Hebrews 7 goes on at length about this. The I AM is also the One whose representative Abraham met and paid tithes to in Genesis 14.  This One is to be feared/respected/held in awe, a great King over ALL the earth, not just part of it, but ALL.

Daniel used this title speaking to Belshazzar about Nebuchadnezzar.

Dan 5:17  Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation.

18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty.

19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled.

20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him.

21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will.

Daniel knew that the I AM is the Most High God, is King.

Psa 47:3  He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet.

God is King over all, but He is also specifically King over Israel.  Speaking from the perspective of the Jewish people, the sons of Korah say that God sovereignly chose and protected them and gave them victory over the Canaanites in the promised land.  There’s no apology here for God’s absolute right to choose, and His working on behalf of His chosen people.  That’s the way He’s chosen to reveal Himself to humanity.  Rebel humans say “No fair!  How come them, and not us?”  God doesn’t answer that.  But it is just selfish foolishness on our part.  What?  We’d rather the whole world perish in darkness than someone else get first notice of God’s grace?

4 He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah

He chose our heritage/inheritance for us.  He chose the pride of Jacob for us.  The reference is to the promised land and possibly its division among the tribes.  It was God who gave His people the land, and it was God who chose who got what.  He gave the land to those He loves.  Why does He love them, why does He love you or me?  He doesn’t tell us, it’s not ours to know.  He does tell us it wasn’t because they were many or were few, it wasn’t on any other basis we might expect.  He tells us that it’s His right to choose and that His choice stands whether His people are faithful or not and whether they doubt or not.

5 God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.

Most commentators see here a reference to David bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem.

2Sa 6:15  So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the horn.

Apparently the Hebrew “with a shout … with the sound of a trumpet” is exactly the same in 2Samuel 6 and Psalm 27.  In any case, if this is the right allusion, the picture is one of God the King figuratively ascending His throne in Jerusalem.

Psa 47:6  Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!

The peoples of the earth are called on to sing praises, and to sing them incessantly.  “sing praises” is a single word in Hebrew.  So this verse is spoken very quickly in Hebrew, and one gets a sense of the psalmist’s enthusiasm for this praising of God/our King.

7 For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!

But again He’s not just the psalmist’s King, He’s the King of all the earth.  The people are called on to sing praises with a psalm, or another possible rendering is “with all your art” or “with understanding.”  Kidner thinks that this is what Paul was thinking about in 1Cor 14.

1Co 14:15  What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.

I will sing praise with my mind/understanding, I will sing praise with understanding.

Psa 47:8  God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.

God rules in the affairs of men.  He sits on His throne, but the earth is His footstool and He rules it.

9 The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted!

This is the prophetic final effect of the rule of God.  (It is not yet realized, but is assured by His Kingly person.)  All the peoples of the earth will be gathered together as His people, one people.  Here is Abraham the father of many nations.  Wilcock says “Abraham’s God has met them (the princes representing all nations), overcome their enmity, won their admiration, and called forth their faith.  That is why He is highly exalted.”

Gal 3:7  Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.

8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”

9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

This is the glorious end to which all history is moving: all peoples one people, God’s people.  And the main beauty of it is not that there is peace between men, but that He is exalted and glorified.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s