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Wednesday, October 4th, 2023
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 33

Pett's Commentary on the BiblePett's Commentary


In Psalms 32:7 the Psalmist declared that he would be surrounded by songs of deliverance. Psalms 33:0 is one of those songs of deliverance. It will be noted that it takes up where Psalms 32:0 finishes off, urging rejoicing and praise from the righteous and the upright. As we will see as we go through the Psalm, it may have been written in thanksgiving as a result of some great deliverance from national peril, although if so there is no way of identifying which one. On the other hand it may just be an ode in recognition of the sovereignty of God.

It can be divided up as follows:

1). Introductory Call to Praise (1-3).

2). The Grounds For Praising YHWH (4-12):

· Because of His moral activity (4-5).

· Because of His creative omnipotence (6-9).

· Because of His sovereign rule over the nations (10-11).

· Because of His choice and care of His people (12).

3). A Declaration of God’s Sovereignty Over The World (13-19).

· God looks down on men and sees all that they do (13-15).

· None are saved apart from His sovereign power (16-19).

4). Final Words. The People Wait On YHWH And Hope In Him (20-22).

Verses 1-3

1). The Introductory Call to Praise (1-3).

This is a call to make a loud noise so that all may know that they are praising YHWH and giving Him thanks, using every means at their command.

Psalms 33:1-3

‘Sing aloud in YHWH, O you righteous,

Praise is comely for the upright.’

Give thanks to YHWH with the harp,

Sing praises to him with the psaltery of ten strings.

Sing to him a new song,

Play skilfully with a loud noise.’

Once again it is the righteous and upright who are called on to give praise and thanks to YHWH, and to sing aloud and make a loud noise. Indeed for the upright it is ‘comely’ (seemly, beautiful) to do so. He is to be praised in every way possible. There can be no true participation in His worship by those who are not upright and righteous, at least in intent. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.

Note the musical instruments that are called into play, the harp and the ten-stringed guitar. They are to use them without restraint in His praise. And they are to sing a new song, compare Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3, because He is continually doing new things for them.. Indeed the idea that the people of God should continually be creating new songs in response to His new mercies is common in Scripture. See Psalms 40:3; Psalms 96:1; Psalms 98:1; Psalms 149:1; Isaiah 42:10.

Verses 4-12

2). Grounds For Praising YHWH (4-12).

a). Because of His moral activity (4-5).

Psalms 33:4-5

‘For the word of YHWH is right,

And all his work is done in faithfulness.

He loves righteousness and justice,

The earth is full of the lovingkindness of YHWH.’

The first reason for praising God is because of what He is. The word of YHWH is right (or ‘upright’), He does nothing that will not help to fulfil His purposes of goodness and love; His work is done in faithfulness, so that He can be totally relied on; He loves righteousness and justice, and the earth is full of His lovingkindness.

‘His word’ signifies what He wills to do, He speaks and His purposes go forward (compare Isaiah 55:11-13). His work is what is accomplished through His word, the fulfilment of His purposes. And all is done because He loves what is right and just, and because the earth is filled with His lovingkindness (compare Matthew 5:45, ‘He sends His rain on the righteous and the unrighteous’).

b). Because of His creative omnipotence (6-9).

Psalms 33:6-9

‘By the word of YHWH the heavens were made,

And all the host of them by the breath (Spirit) of his mouth.

He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap (or ‘as in a wineskin’),

He lays up the deeps in store-houses.’

Let all the earth fear YHWH,

Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.

For he spoke, and it was done,

He commanded, and it stood fast.’

The word of the Lord is not only right and effective in the carrying out of His will, but it is also the means by which He made the heavens. It was important that men realise that all that is in the heavens was created by YHWH. ‘He made the stars also’ (Genesis 1:16). Indeed they were made by His word and His Spirit. ‘By the word of the Lord were the heavens made and all their host by the breath (Spirit) of His mouth.’ Compare John 1:3, ‘the Word -- all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made’. Genesis 1:2, ‘the Spirit of God hovered over the waters’. ‘He spoke’ and it was done (Genesis 1:0). Note how the word and the Spirit are in close alliance through the ‘breath’.

Picturesquely he then goes on to portray YHWH as establishing the earth by gathering up the seas in a heap, and placing them in storehouses, and the tense reminds us that He continues doing so. Thus are they kept within their bounds by Him. ‘In a heap’ might have in mind what happened at the Red Sea (Psalms 78:13; Exodus 15:8), as one of many examples of His control of the sea. However, the Versions, on the basis of the same ancient Hebrew text, use another pointing and translate ‘as in a wineskin’ (nod instead of ned), paralleling this with Job 38:37. The picture is then of an all-powerful YHWH carrying the seas in His wineskin preparatory to putting them in storage. Compare Isaiah 40:12 for a similar vivid picture, ‘He has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out heaven with a span - the span of His fingers - and assessed the dust of the earth in a pint pot, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance.’

And the result is to be that the whole earth will fear His Name and all its inhabitants will be in awe of Him, for at His word all was accomplished, and at His command all was established. He was sovereign in creation through His word and at His command (compare Amos 4:13; Amos 5:8; Amos 9:6).

c). Because of His sovereign rule over the nations (10-11).

Psalms 33:10-11

‘YHWH brings the counsel of the nations to nought,

He makes the thoughts of the peoples to be of no effect.

The counsel of YHWH stands fast for ever,

The thoughts of his heart to all generations.’

The third reason for praising YHWH is because He brings the counsel of the nations to naught. Whatever they plot against His people will come to nothing. Their thoughts will be of no effect. In contrast His counsel and thoughts are permanent and effective into the distant future, for all generations, and will accomplish all His will.

d). Because of His choice and care of His people (12).

Psalms 33:12

‘Blessed is the nation whose God is YHWH,

The people whom he has chosen for his own inheritance.

In contrast to the helplessness of the nations before YHWH, the nation whose God is YHWH are blessed. (They are not just happy, they are positively blessed). They are the people whom He has chosen for His inheritance, and they will enjoy all the benefits of His care and watch over them.

Verses 13-19

3). Declaration of God’s Sovereignty Over The World (13-19).

a). God looks down on men and sees all that they do (13-15).

Psalms 33:13-15

YHWH looks from heaven,

He beholds all the sons of men,

From the place of his habitation he looks forth,

Upon all the inhabitants of the earth,

He who fashions the hearts of them all,

Who considers all their works.

The Psalmist then reminds us of God’s sovereignty over the world as He looks down on it from heaven. Compare Psalms 22:28, ‘for the Kingly Rule is YHWH’s, and He is the ruler over the nations’. He see all the sons of men, as He looks continually forth from His dwellingplace on all the inhabitants of earth (compare Psalms 11:4; Psalms 14:2; Psalms 102:19-20). And it is He Who fashions all their hearts (He ‘works within them to will and do of His good pleasure’ - Philippians 2:13; compare Zechariah 12:1, ‘He shapes the spirit of man within him’), and considers all that they do. Nothing escapes His attention. ‘All things are naked and open to the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do’ (Hebrews 4:13).

b). None are saved apart from His sovereign power (16-19).

Psalms 33:16-17

‘There is no king saved by the size of an army (multitude of a host),

A mighty man is not delivered by great strength.

A horse is a vain thing (literally ‘a delusion’) for safety,

Nor does he deliver any by his great power.

The stress here is on the fact that whatever happens on earth, it is all under His control. Men look for deliverance to their armies and weapons of war, the champion looks to his great strength, the cavalry look to their mighty horses, but all are failing instruments. Unless He determines it they will fail in their purpose. For in the end deliverance or otherwise belongs to YHWH. Napoleon said that God was on the side of the big battalions. God agreed, but declared that it was He Who has the big battalions.

‘There is no king saved by the size of an army.’ It may appear so from an earthly point of view, but if so, it was only because it was within YHWH’s purposes. How then can men be certain that they will be saved? And the answer is by trusting in YHWH. ‘Who is like to you, saved by YHWH?’ (Deuteronomy 33:29). Compare Psalms 20:7, ‘some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will make mention of the Name of YHWH our God’; see also Psalms 44:3 ff.; Psalms 60:11-12.

‘A horse is a vain thing (literally ‘a delusion’) for safety, nor does he deliver any by his great power.’ Powerful and swift though a horse may be, it cannot totally be relied on. Once again it depends on YHWH’s will and purpose. Compare Proverbs 21:31, ‘the horse is prepared against the day of battle, but victory is of YHWH’, and Isaiah 31:1; Isaiah 31:3, ‘woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and stay on horses and trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they look not to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek YHWH -- the Egyptians are men and not God, and their horses are flesh and not spirit’. We must therefore put our trust in One Who is God and Who never fails.

Psalms 33:18-19

‘Behold, the eye of YHWH is on those who fear him,

On those who hope in his covenant love,

To deliver their soul from death,

And to keep them alive in famine.

What matters for those who would be delivered is that they have YHWH’s eye upon them (Psalms 32:8; Psalms 34:15), and that they are united with Him within His covenant, so that He can show them His covenant love and His faithfulness towards them. He it is, and not their fast horses, who can deliver a person from death, and can keep them alive in famine. As well as war, famine was a common problem in those days, compare Psalms 37:19; Isaiah 51:19; Jeremiah 18:21.

Verses 20-22

4). Final Words. The People Wait On YHWH And Hope In Him (20-22).

Psalms 33:20-22

‘Our soul has waited for YHWH,

He is our help and our shield.

For our heart will rejoice in him,

Because we have trusted in his holy name.

‘Let your covenant love, O YHWH, be upon us,

According as we have hoped in you.

The Psalm approaches the end of the Psalm with a declaration that His people have ‘waited’ for Him. They have looked to Him in confident expectation, both as their help and their shield, the One Who gives them powerful assistance, and the one who protects them from all that their adversaries can throw at them. And they have done this both by rejoicing in Him with their whole beings (their hearts), and by trusting in Him for what He is (trusting in His holy Name). So in view of this they pray that His covenant love, that love which caused Him to choose them and set His Name on them, may truly rest upon them in accordance with their hope in Him.

‘Our soul has waited on YHWH.’ The word for ‘wait’ is not the one often translated as ‘wait’, but also occurs in Psalms 106:13; Isaiah 8:17; Isaiah 30:18; Isaiah 64:4 etc. The idea is the same.

Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 33". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/psalms-33.html. 2013.
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