Psalm 147
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
This psalm carries on and gloriously sustains the great Hallel of adoring gratitude and glad thanksgiving with which the Book of Psalms ends. This first verse contains a threefold laudation of the Lord's praise.

I. BECAUSE "IT IS GOOD." And this is most true.

1. In reference to God. For it ministers pleasure to him. Do not the experiences of many a parental heart bear witness to this truth? Are not we delighted with the loving utterances of our children, by which they testify their heart's affection towards us? It may be but the prattle of childish lips, or the lispings of such as are hardly more than babes, but it is delightful all the same; and our children's affection, when it has become older and more thoughtful, - what would our homes be without it? And right sure are we that our poor praise delights the Lord to whom it is rendered; he recognizes in it that response to his own love, for which all love, and emphatically his, cannot but crave. And it is good in his sight, further, because it wins him glory from men.



When the poet Carpani inquired of his friend Haydn how it happened that his church music was always so cheerful, the great composer made the following reply: "I cannot make it otherwise; I write according to the thought I feel. When I think upon God, my heart is so full of joy that the notes dance and leap, as it were, from my pen, and since God has given me a cheerful heart, it will be pardoned me that I praise him with a cheerful spirit." Religious life and relations are often wrongly toned through the influence of the strange sentiment that what is acceptable to God must be a strain and trial to us. This strange sentiment rests on the mistaken idea that matter itself is evil, and, as man is material, his work is, at every cost, to master and crush the material element. This is at the root of Hinduism and Buddhism; it inspires the hermit; it fills nunneries and monasteries; and it explains the bodily austerities of good men, such as Henry Martyn, who walked about with pebbles in his shoes, as if to make himself miserable and so make himself acceptable to God. This notion is far more widespread, and far more mischievous, than is usually recognized. Constantly we find good people suspecting themselves of insincerity, or quite sure that something dreadful is going to happen, if they find themselves happy, and really enjoying their religious duties and exercises.

I. TO FEEL THE PLEASANTNESS OF PRAISE IS A SIGN OF CHERISHING RIGHT THOUGHTS OF GOD. What he recognizes is the good of his creatures, and that includes their happiness. And this characteristic of God is in no way affected by the fact that man has sinned. God is still anxious for his happiness, and helps him out of the bondage of sin that he may be happy. Long faces, miserable tones, depressing anticipations, and exaggerated and constant wailings about sin, do not honor or please God. He wants even his sinful children to find and feel the pleasantness of the praise they offer to him. It is comely to enjoy our religion.

II. TO FEEL THE PLEASANTNESS OF PRAISE IS A SIGN OF CHERISHING RIGHT THOUGHTS CONCERNING OURSELVES. There are times when a man ought to cherish a due sense of his sinfulness and sin, but to he always wailing over it nourishes formality and insincerity. A man is a sinner, but he is a child of God nevertheless, and does well to remember his sonship oftener than his sin. - R.T.

Celebrates God's almighty and gracious rule over his people, and over the world of nature, but mingles with this a special commemoration of his goodness in bringing back his people from their captivity, and rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.


1. He created the heavenly worlds. (Isaiah 40:26.)

2. He has a perfect knowledge of them. (Ver. 4.) He knows all the innumerable multitude: "telleth the number of the stars." And knows each one of them in particular: "and calleth them all by their names." "Not one faileth." God is great in power, and great in knowledge; "there is no searching of his understanding." The inference from all this is only suggested, not stated.

II. GOD IS ALL-GOOD AS WELL AS ALMIGHTY AND OMNISCIENT. (Vers. 2, 3, 6.) He must know and be able to succor human woe to whom it is an easy thing to create and count and guide the stars.

1. He can recover from slavery and restore to freedom. (Ver. 2.) Those who have been taken captive, and dispersed abroad. Slaves are those fit for slavery.

2. He can restore men from the depths of suffering and despair. (Ver. 3.) The broken in heart, and most deeply wounded.

3. God's justice is perfect in its retributive work. (Ver. 6.) He exalts the righteous above their afflictions, and casts down the prosperous wicked. - S.

It takes a brave soul to bear all this so grandly, said a tender-hearted doctor, stooping over his suffering patient. She lifted her heavy eyelids, and, looking into the doctor's face, replied, "It is not the brave soul at all; God does it all for me." "He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." The second clause of this sentence may but repeat the first with a slight variety, according to the Hebrew fashion of composition which we have had several times to observe. But we may meditatively recognize a distinction between the clauses, referring the first to the heart-sphere, and the second to the bodily.

I. MAN'S SUFFERINGS BELONG TO TWO SPHERES. Answering to man as a dual being. He's a spirit. He has a body. So he has the possibility of suffering in the spirit that he is and in the body that he has. Bodily wounds bring before us the whole sphere of sufferings which relate to the bodily organization and relations. It may be true that bodily pain directly affects the spirit, but it is equally true, if more subtle, that pain in the spirit affects the body. Still we can keep the two separate in thought. What an accumulation and variety of pains and woes can affect the human body! How tempted we are to think that these are the supreme woes! They are not. The broken heart is the woe of woes. The distresses of the spirit are the supreme distresses. Afflict a man's body, and body-sphere, even as Job was afflicted, the man does not know what suffering is until he suffers in his soul. This is impressively seen on Calvary, where was the very height of bodily woe. There we see the transcendent woe of the suffering soul.

II. GOD'S HELP BELONGS TO THE TWO SPHERES, "Who forgiveth all our iniquities, and healeth all our diseases;" "He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." This is no less true, because for his healings in the bodily sphere God uses agencies that we can recognize. He uses agencies also for his healings in the spirit-sphere, though they often are such as we cannot recognize. Even when we are willing to pray to God for the healing of our bodily pains, we are mournfully unwilling - or it may be we do not think it right - to seek God's help in our suffering mental and spiritual states. God for our woes of feeling we all but very imperfectly realize. - R.T.

This term often means "the afflicted." This word "meek" has several distinct meanings as used in the Word of God, but its root-idea seems to be "lowly feeling about ourselves." This associates with both "humility" and "disinterestedness." Sometimes the bad side of the word comes into view, and it expresses the feeling of the crushed man, who has become heartless, spiritless, who is broken down, who has wholly lost his energy; who, like David in his time of distress, wails out his faithless fear, "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul!" There is something of that heartlessness and hopelessness indicated in this text.

I. THE LORD IS NOT ALTOGETHER INDIFFERENT TO THEM. He might be. They must be to him somewhat as the wayside beggar is to us. How often we pass him by with utter indifference! and when we have any feeling at all, it is only a revulsion from the miserable object. Yet when we think of it, that state of mind distresses us. We cannot be really good; for if we were, no form of humiliation or distress would fail to touch us with the tenderest pity. God cannot be indifferent to the meek.

II. THE LORD DOES NOT PITY THEM, AND STAND ASIDE. As the priest and Levite did when they came and looked on the stripped and wounded sufferer. Too often man pities, and does nothing; comforting himself with the thought that he pitied, and so was evidently tender and sensitive in feeling. Situations presented in novels excite our pity, but they do us no moral good, because we have no chance of putting our pity into helpful action. We could have no heart-rest in God, if all we could be sure about him was that he pitied us.

III. THE LORD GRACIOUSLY HELPS THOSE WHOM HE PITIES. As did the good Samaritan, spending himself to relieve the man whose distress awakened his pitiful feeling. The help God gives is put into a word which precisely matches the word "meek." He upholdeth. The crushed, humbled, heartless man is in danger of falling and fainting. He can hardly hold himself up. So precisely what he needs is steadying, upholding, everlasting arms put about him until he can feel his feet, recover his strength, find life flow freely again, and smile into God's watching face the smile of recovered hope. - R.T.

A fresh burst of praise because of God's Fatherly care, as shown in his provision for the wants of the cattle and the fowls of the air. And as he feeds the ravens, which have neither storehouse nor barn, but only cry to him for their food, so amongst men his delight is not in those who trust in their own strength and swiftness, but in those who look to him, and put their trust in his goodness. God is to be praised -

I. BECAUSE HE PROVIDES FOR THE FERTILITY OF THE MATERIAL WORLD. Clouds temper the heat of the sun as well as pour forth rain to fertilize the earth, and make it productive of food for man and beast. The chain of connection between God and man bountifully set forth in Hosea 2:21, 22, "I will hear the heavens," etc.

II. BECAUSE OF HIS BOUNTY TOWARDS ALL ORDERS OF THE ANIMAL CREATION. Grass upon the mountains where the herds and flocks feed, and which the plough and labors of man cannot reach. God is the Shepherd of all inferior as well as superior life. The young ravens, which are forsaken and cast off by their mothers very early, unconsciously cry to him for food, and are fed. The great and the small equally provided for by his bountiful, universal care.

III. THOUGH GOD IS THE SOURCE OF ALL STRENGTH, HE HAS ONLY AN INFERIOR PLEASURE IN PHYSICAL STRENGTH. (Ver. 10.) "The strength of the hills is his also;" "Strong in power; not one faileth." He must delight in power of all kinds, intellectual and moral, as we do. But neither for himself nor for man is mere strength his chief delight.

IV. GOD'S GLORY IS IN DISPENSING HELP TO THOSE WHO TRUST AND HOPE IN HIM. His delight is in goodness. Gives confidence and courage to those who fear him. Gives strength and riches to those who hope for his loving-kindness. Gives to them his mercy. - S.

The following extract from Hugh Macmillan's 'Bible Teaching in Nature' suggests both sermon-topic and illustration, and the peculiarities noticed are fresh and unfamiliar: "The mountain grasses grow spontaneously; they require no culture but such as the rain and the sunshine of heaven supply. They obtain their nourishment directly from the inorganic soil, and are independent of organic materials. Nowhere is the grass so green and vigorous as on the beautiful slopes of lawn-like pasture high up on the Alps, radiant with the glory of wild flowers, and ever musical with the hum of grasshoppers, and the tinkling of cattle-bells. Innumerable cows and goats browse upon them; the peasants spend the summer months in making cheese and hay from them for winter consumption in the valleys. This exhausting system of husbandry has been carried on during untold centuries; no one thinks of manuring the Alpine pastures; and yet no deficiency has been observed in their fertility, though the soil is but a thin covering spread over the naked rocks. It may be regarded as a part of the same wise and gracious arrangement of Providence that the insects which devour the grasses on the Kuh and Sehaf A1pen, the pasturages of the cows and sheep, are kept in check by a predominance of carnivorous insects. In all the mountain meadows, it has been ascertained that the species of carnivorous are at least four times as numerous as the species of herb-eating insects. Thus, in the absence of birds, which are rare in Switzerland, the pastures are preserved from a terrible scourge. To one not aware of this check, it may seem surprising how the verdure of the Alpine pastures should be so rich and luxuriant, considering the immense development of insect-life. The grass, whenever the sun shines, is literally swarming with them - butterflies of gayest hues, and beetles of brightest iridescence; and the air is filled with their loud murmurs. I remember well the vivid feeling of God's gracious providence which possessed me when passing over the Wengern Alp, at the foot of the Jung Frau, and seeing, wherever I rested on the green turf, the balance of nature so wonderfully preserved between the herb which is for man's food, and the moth before which he is crushed. Were the herbivorous insects allowed to multiply to their full extent, in such favorable circumstances as the warmth of the air and the verdure of the earth in Switzerland produce, the rich pastures which now yield abundant food for upwards of a million and a half of cattle would speedily become bare and leafless deserts. Not only in their power of growing without cultivation, but also in the peculiarities of their structure, the mountain grasses proclaim the hand of God. Many of them are viviparous. Instead of producing flowers and seeds, as the grasses in the tranquil valleys do, the young plants spring from them perfectly formed. They cling round the stem, and form a kind of blossom. In this state they remain until the parent stalk withers and falls prostrate on the ground, when they immediately strike root and form independent grasses. This is a remarkable adaptation to circumstances; for it is manifest that were seeds, instead of living plants, developed in the ears of the mountain grasses, they would be useless in the stormy region where they grow. They would be blown away, far from the places they were intended to clothe, to spots foreign to their nature and habits, and thus the species would speedily perish." Ruskin says, "Look up to the higher hills, where the waves of green roll silently into long inlets among the shadows of the pines, and we may perhaps know the meaning of those quiet words of Psalm 147:8." - R.T.

What can be lovelier than the glittering jewels with which the hoar-frost bedizens every leaf and spray of the woodland? Or the translucent azure of the glacier crevasses with their long pendants of lustrous ice? There are beautiful things in winter as well as in summer; and we need the cold, unearthly splendors of the one as much as the glowing, living charms of the other to educate our sense of God's greatness in his works. But beauty is everywhere in nature the flower of utility; and in the realms of frost this quality is most strikingly displayed (Hugh Macmillan). There is a short, but sharp winter-time in the Holy Land, extending from the middle of December to the middle of February. There are severe winds from the north and north-east, with heavy rains and frosts. Kings often had "winter houses." Even the seasons God has made to fit in with man's highest needs. Winter is the stillness and re-rooting of the year. It is as truly a busy time as any other time of the year, but the activities go on in secret, underground. So in man's religious life. He needs re-rooting times. Seasons when activity must give place to culture, in preparation for further and higher activities. Times of stillness, sickness, trouble, are the great winter-times for soul-rooting. The actual winter-time is a time of great opportunities for our religious life.

1. It may be a time of personal soul-culture.

2. It may be a time of intellectual nourishment.

3. It may be a time of social intercourse.

4. It may be a time of Christian work.

It is the Church's best time for work. When telling what the Lord Jesus did in Solomon's porch, John says, "It was winter." lie did not suffer himself to be unduly affected by outward conditions, or hindered in his work by them. In winter he was still "about his Father's business." He mastered the cold to carry out good plans. Winter is, for us, full of temptations to self-indulgence. Are we mastering the temptations, and winning our winters for God? - R.T.

He wraps the earth in snow as in a warm white woolen garment, and scatters the frost so that the trees, etc., appear as if powdered with (wood) ashes blown about by the wind. The rain, the frost, and the snow are all forms of moisture. Winter is God's time for putting things to rights. Three things especially want renewing and replenishing - the earth, the air, the water, and to do this replenishing is the mission of the frost, the snow, and the rain. But everything that God does is beautiful as well as useful; and so we find the hoar-frost makes an exquisite silvery world; the snow hangs in festoons of wonderful glistening whiteness; and the rain makes the lovely cascades leap from crag to crag down the hillsides. We think now chiefly of their usefulness. The frost breaks up the ground, checks the too abundant growth of insect-life, and keeps the air cool to check vegetation, and make the sap in the trees wait for its due time. The snow penetrates the soil, and nourishes it both with warmth and moisture; and it carries to the ground some of the chemical elements it needs to fit it for its new year's work. And the rain refills the secret springs whence our fresh water comes, and washes down from the hillsides new soil with which to fertilize the valleys. God does grandly in his winter-time what we see the farmer doing in his little way - ploughing, manuring, hedging, ditching, road-repairing, etc.; getting ready for summer's life and growth. And the frost and the snow may carry this as their message to our hearts concerning God's dealings with us. "We have apparently very severe and hard things to do for God; but we try to do them cheerfully, and we try to do them well, and, after all, they are really very kind things, only the gracious severities of the infinite love. - R.T.

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