Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord... Psalm 33:12
Psalm 33 is a poem about the blessing that comes from trusting in God. The central word, literally, is the word "blessed" or "happy." In Hebrew there are exactly 80 words before and after it. As is so common in Hebrew poetry this central word or phrase sums up the psalm. We can only be blessed or find happiness when we place our hope in God.
Although this is not an alphabetic acrostic psalm it is structured in a similar manner with 22 verse lines and a clear parallel structure to the lines. It seems to have been purposely designed to be a prelude to Psalm 34 which is an alphabetic acrostic psalm.
When you read the psalm notice the parallel structure: two phrases where the second line (subordinate clause) is a repeat of the first (main clause) or a commentary on it. So the second phrase is not necessarily a new thought but often a very creative repetition of thought.
Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Psalm 33:1
Another significant aspect of the psalm is the frequent use of God's covenant name, YHWH, which occurs 13 times.
There is some disagreement over structure but I will go with that of Dr. C.J. Labuschagne. I see two main parts (cantos) with 3 sections (canticles) in each.
PART I - God Is Great
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully, and shout for joy. Psalm 33:3
The psalm begins by exhorting us to praise our great God. Three things stand out to me in this section:
- Praise God with music. God loves music and we are encouraged to use music when praising God.
- We are encouraged to sing to him a new song. God is a creative God and He enjoys new creative acts. There is nothing wrong with singing the older songs we love, but we must also make room for the new song.
- Play skillfully. God deserves our best. When we worship God together we should prepare in such a way that we can offer Him a gift of skillful music.
God Is the Good Creator
This section is full of the attributes of God. His righteousness, truth, faithfulness, justice and love are all declared. It ends by describing God's powerful act of creation. Simply by speaking God created everything.
He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
he puts the deep into storehouses. Psalm 33:7
God is so powerful that He can gather up and store the waters of the deep. This may be referring to the crossing of the red sea or possibly speaking of God's power over the chaos in creation - where the Spirit of God hovered over the waters (Genesis 1:1) and then began the creative process recorded in Genesis 1. This idea also fits well with the creation images preceding it.
God Is Sovereign
Let all the earth fear the Lord... Psalm 33:8
The first half of the psalm reaches its climax in this section. A God this great is worthy of our fear and reverence. Our plans and purposes are nothing compared to the Creator God. What He plans, He will accomplish.
But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations. Psalm 33:11
And so, with this in mind, it is a great blessing to be the nation God chose for His inheritance. When God chose Israel to be His covenant people to represent His name to the rest of the the earth, it was a very special blessing.
The good news for those of us who are not Jewish is that God has a blessing for all people who trust in Him. And that is the topic of the second half of the psalm.
PART II - Trust Only in God
God is Watching
God's eyes are not only on Israel. He sees all people and considers their actions.
from his dwelling place he watches
all who live on earth— Psalm 33:14
It is a sobering thought to remember that God is always watching - to reward, to punish or to save. In context, though, I believe this section is not intended to scare the reader but rather to comfort them as the next section explains.
Only God Can Rescue
No power on earth is truly able to deliver us from the troubles and trials of life. The psalm speaks of armies and horses and strength. In our lives we might look to money or influence or hard work. But none of those are the final deciding factor. Remember verse 11? It is God's plan that will be accomplished in the end.
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine. Psalm 33:18-19
God's eyes are not looking over the earth to find someone to punish. God wouldn't have to look hard for that. No, God is seeking for the one who fears Him and trusts totally in Him. This is the person God seeks so that He can protect and deliver.
Our Hope Is in God
At the end of the psalm we have a sudden shift from talking about God to a prayer to God.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you. Psalm 33:22
Place your hope in God. There is no other place to go if you want to find the blessing of joy and peace.