Songs of Greatness is a sermon series on the greatness of God from the Psalms. The Earth is Full of His Unfailing Love — Why should we worship the Lord? Why should we go through all the work of getting ready, gathering together, and singing songs of praise? Because God is good! And when we needed salvation, the earth was full of his unfailing love. Recorded on Aug 1, 2021, on Psalm 33, by Pastor David Parks.
For the next year, in our preaching ministry, we’re focusing on The Greatness of God. And I’ve said, after all the turmoil of the last year and a half, it was obvious to me that way too many Christians have way too small of a view of who God is. So we’ve started this annual theme with a sermon series from the Psalms in the Bible called, Songs of Greatness. Now, the Psalms are a collection of songs/poems that the people of God have used in the worship of God for 1000’s of years. And the psalms cover the whole range of human experience, but some of the psalms are all about the greatness of God. Today, we’ll consider Psalm 33, which is a massive call to worship. And why should we worship the Lord? Because when we needed salvation, the earth was full of his unfailing love. I love the message of this psalm. If you have a Bible/app, please open it to Ps 33. Because it’s a little longer, we’re going to unpack this psalm in three parts: 1. The Call to Worship, 2. The Reasons for Worship, 3. The Life of Worship. So first, The Call to Worship. v. 1.
Psalm 33:1-3, “Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. 2 Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. 3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.”
This is the call to worship. I envision a leader calling out to the people of God, gathered to worship the Lord, who is calling them, “Sing joyfully, call loudly, rejoice, shout for joy!!” This is a call to stand up and make some noise to the Lord. This isn’t some sleepy call to contemplative prayer alone where no one can see you. This isn’t a time to be bashful about what to do with your hands or to worry about what others might think of you. This is a call to make a joy-infused, sweat-producing ruckus. And it’s not just a good thing or an optional thing. The psalmist says it’s the right thing to do. It is fitting for the upright to praise him like this. Like how? v. 2. says with instruments. With your voice and with any instrument at your disposal. In their day it was with the harp and the ten-stringed lyre, which was a little like a guitar. Other psalms refer to drums and cymbals and flutes. Today we would say with guitars and keys and drums and bass. Sing to him, what? a new song. Traditions are powerful. Traditions can be a really good thing, provided they reinforce and pass down from one generation to the next, things/ideas which are good/right/true. But having traditions for the sake of being traditional is not at all a Biblical idea. Sing to the Lord a new song. A new song requires a break with tradition. A new song requires hard work from both a songwriter/composer to creatively compose a new song, and work from the musicians/congregation to learn to play/sing a new song. You can’t be on autopilot and sing a new song.
But in this call to worship, this call to sing a new song, we are called to play skillfully AND shout for joy, and I love this. Good worship will include both the handwork and dedication, the hundreds of hours of practice required, to hone the skills of playing and singing. But also good/Biblical worship will connect to the heart in an emotional expression, a shout for joy. Worship is not just a professional performance, but it’s also not only an emotional experience. Now, some churches emphasize skill more than emotion. All the people up front are professionals and there’s no room for imperfection. Other churches emphasize emotion over skill. It doesn’t really matter what happens so long as everyone has a good cry. But here, the psalmist says that it’s both. The whole person needs to be involved — head, heart, and hands (or feet if you’re playing the piano or the drums). So again, this is the call to worship. And maybe this should be expected from a church. But why? The why behind what we do makes all the difference. Why should we work so hard, why should we rejoice and shout for joy? Here’s why. Part 2: The Reasons for Worship. v.4.
Psalm 33:4-9, “4 For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. 5 The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love. 6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars[a]; he puts the deep into storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him. 9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.”
The first reason for our worship is the unparalleled goodness of God — both in himself, in his own character/being, and in everything that he does. In v.4., the psalmist says the word of the Lord is upright or right/true as the NIV says. He is faithful in all he does. God doesn’t sneak around or do things that are sketchy. God is always faithful. Let’s keep going with v. 5. “The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.” The earth is full of his unfailing love. If you took out a measuring tape and measured the circumference of the love of God, it would wrap around the earth like the arms of a father wrap around his little kids. And what does this love look like? According to the psalmist, it looks like righteousness/justice. God loves righteousness, that is, living according to what is right. Righteousness is how God made the world to work, and everything in it. But this world is a broken world. Ever since the fall, when sin entered into God’s good and perfect world, all sorts of things are not right about the world or in our lives. And wherever righteousness is lacking, anytime there is something off/corrupted/broken in this world, that is the time/place where justice is required. Doing justice isn’t a cultural/political issue and it’s not a PR thing. The Lord loves justice. Biblical justice simply means to take something that is wrong and make it right. God loves it when his people do justice because it helps the world be a little more like what he created it to be in the first place, to undo the power of the curse. If God didn’t love righteousness or justice, would he still be good?
The rest of this passage points back to creation and shows that Lord’s power is unrivaled. Look at how easy it is for him to rule over creation. He simply speaks. It was by the word of the Lord that the heavens and all their starry host were made. As I said last week, God is not straining with these big things. The ocean is like a glass of water to him. The Lord puts the deep, that is the primordial abyss of pre-creation chaos, in its place. And do you know what? If you spent some time contemplating this. If you really sat down and thought out the vast power and wisdom it would take to manufacture our universe, it would humble you. Because when you get your theology right, when you get a real understanding of the living God, you would fear/revere/stand in awe of him. Why? “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” God doesn’t make suggestions. He asserts his will and that is what reality is. Yahweh God, as revealed in the Bible, isn’t a local deity. He isn’t just the God of ancient Israel or only the God of Christians today. He is the maker of the heavens and the earth. He is the ultimate authority over all people everywhere and in every time. God is good but God is also very great. And what does God do with all this power? What does God do with all this authority? Does he oppress people? No, he liberates them. The first reason for worship was the goodness of God. The second reason for worship is the sovereign power of God to save. v. 10.
Psalm 33:10-19, “10 The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. 11 But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance.13 From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; 14 from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth— 15 he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. 16 No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. 18 But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, 19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.”
The second reason for worship is the sovereign power of God to save. The plans/purposes of God’s heart have always been for the salvation of his people. v. 12 says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance.” This doesn’t mean that God will only bless the countries today that are majority Christian. In the context of this psalm, the psalmist was writing about the ancient people of Israel. Those were the people that God had chosen for his inheritance. But even when his people were in exile in Babylon, God told them in Jer 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.“ The ancient people of God were lost and needed rescue. But God had rescue plans. Would God not save the people he had chosen? Of course, he would. Because God is faithful in all that he does.
But if this is who God is, why do so many Christians put so much time/energy, so much faith, in politics? I understand that in our culture today, everything is political. But this has bled into the church. Christian men and women today are being discipled more by social media and the news than by the Bible. And one of the results is that people on the left and on the right are living in fear. Not the fear of the Lord which leads to the humility/hope of Ps 33, but fear of whatever we’re told is the crisis of the day. But Church, the Lord foils the plans of the nations. The Lord is God Almighty. He is over every political power and authority of this world. From heaven, the Lord looks down and sees all mankind from the greatest to the smallest, from the king and the warrior on down. He looks down from on high. He understands the thoughts of our hearts. Do you see what the psalmist is doing here? All of this language and these themes are meant to remind us of how small we truly are. But even more so, this section points us to our true need: our need for salvation. Where do we see this? Look at v. 16 one more time.
Psalm 33:16-19, “No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. 18 But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, 19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.” Sometimes we come to the Bible/faith/God with a problem. Maybe it’s a health issue or a difficult relationship or something like that. We struggle and fail and eventually think, “Maybe God could help with this?” So we come to church. Or we start to read the Bible. And you know what often happens? We realize we haven’t yet even seen our biggest need. The struggles in our lives that we can see are usually just the tip of the iceberg. And there is so much going on under the water. But when we come to passages like Psalm 33, it exposes what’s going on under the surface. In fact, it shines a spotlight all the way down to the bottom. In the end, all our other struggles and difficulties pale in comparison with our need to be delivered from the power of death. Nothing even comes close. You know, it doesn’t matter if you have enough money to fly to Mars. You will never outrun death. So why do we worship? If death is inevitable, why do we work so hard to sing to the Lord a new song with shouts of joy? What is the reason for our worship/hope/faith? Well, because God is good, for one. But also because of the sovereign power (and I’m going to add, the will) of God to save. “But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, (on who?) on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, (to do what?) to deliver them (that is, literally, to deliver their soul) from death.” Psalm 33 returns again and again to the unfailing love of the Lord. The love of God is the source of our hope, even in the face of death. The love of God is the reason for our worship. The love of God inspires song after song. Let’s finish the Psalm with part 3: The Life of Worship. So what do we do now? How do we live in light of this call to worship and the reasons for our worship? v. 20.
Psalm 33:20-22, “20 We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. 22 May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you” There are so many facets to a life of worship, but I’m going to mention just three here. First, the life of worship is a life of hope. Hope in what? In the salvation of our God, he is our help and our shield. And in the fullness of time, we have come to see and believe that God has accomplished this salvation through the person and work of Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead, breaking the power of death once and for all. So he is our hope. Second, the life of worship is a life of faith. We trust in his holy name, we believe in him, we put our faith in him. It is by grace you are saved through faith in Jesus. Third, and finally, the life of worship is a communal life. Notice all the we’s and the our’s at the end of this psalm: We wait, our help, our shield, our hearts, we trust, our hope. God always deals with people as individuals. But when you’re saved, you’re saved into something greater than yourself as an individual. In Christ, you are saved into the church, into the family of God, into the community of worshippers forever singing. Songs about what? That the earth is full of his unfailing love.