Last week we began a series on the psalms, beginning with Psalm 145, Part 1. Part 1 also includes some brief but helpful introductory remarks about the Psalter in general. If you did not read Part 1, I recommend reading at least the introductory remarks in that article before proceeding with this Part 2.
For the first psalm in this series, we are reading Psalm 145, a psalm of thanksgiving. Luther says of this group of psalms:
“This class includes all the psalms that praise God for His works. These are the psalms of the first rank, and for their sake the Psalter was created; therefore it is called in Hebrew Sefer Tehillim, that is, a praise book or book of thanksgiving.”1
In verses 1-2, David praises the universal reign of his God the King over all creation. In verse 3, David proclaims the greatness of the Lord. This week we pick up Psalm 145 at verse 4:
“4 One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
6 They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
7 They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.”
After proclaiming the Lord’s greatness in verse 3, David returns to praise. In this section, David emphasizes both the corporate as well as the individual aspects of worship, alternating between “they” and “I.” The psalms are God’s words written for our use in speaking with Him. They are equally suitable for corporate worship as well as for individual prayer.
When the psalmist praises the “works” or “mighty acts” of God, he usually is referring to the saving works of God on behalf of His people. God’s works are “mighty,” “wondrous,” “awesome,” and demonstrate His “abundant goodness” and “righteousness.”
The psalmist will meditate on God’s Word which records the saving works of God. Bringing God’s works on behalf of his people to our remembrance both comforts the afflicted and sustains faith in God’s faithfulness to His promises no matter what the circumstances.
When we meditate on the wondrous works of God in the Old Testament, we read of types and pointers, all of which should lead us to God’s ultimate saving work – The Word made flesh; the “I am” of the burning bush, who was incarnate of the Holy Spirit by the virgin Mary and made man; who dwelt among us.
This Son of Man, Jesus, who is both Son of God and Son of David through His incarnation, was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. On the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father.
His mother, Mary, foresaw Him before His birth: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47); two of His disciples recognized him after His resurrection in the breaking of the bread: “Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24:35) Thomas recognized him from the fresh scars in his resurrected body, confessing: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28); Stephen also saw Him just before his martyrdom: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56)
All of these testimonies of the wondrous works of God (and many, many more) “are written so that [we] may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing [we] may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)
“8 The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The Lord is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.”
In this section, David returns to proclamation. Here he proclaims the grace of God. Verse 8 is a paraphrase of Exodus 34:6 in which God proclaimed grace and mercy to Moses after the idolatry at Mt. Sinai. The inclusivity of the “all” in the proclamation of the Lord’s universal goodness and mercy is remarkable.
The Lord is “good to all”, even unbelievers. Christ “upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Heb 1:3) He gives food to all creatures in due season (Ps 145:15). God’s ultimate goodness is demonstrated by His love for fallen humanity for whom He sent His only begotten Son into the world “in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17).
We can only opaquely grasp the height, depth and breadth of God’s mercy. The word in verse 9, which the ESV translates “mercy”, comes from the Hebrew word for “womb.” God’s compassion for fallen mankind is analogous to (but surpasses) the compassion of a mother for her baby in the womb.
That the Lord is slow to anger (or longsuffering) and abounding in steadfast love flows from His mercy. His desire is not to condemn us, but to grace us: “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” (Ezek 18:32; see also 1 Tim 2:4)
David received the grace of God through faith in the promised Christ. That promise has now been fulfilled: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” (Titus 2:11). This appearance was the advent of Jesus Christ our Lord, who gave himself for us: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Pet 3:18).
The Holy Spirit brings us to God through the hearing of this proclamation of God’s grace in and through Christ. It is a hearing of “joy and gladness” (Ps 51:8). May His Word of grace dwell richly in each one of us and bring us all joy and gladness, both now and forever. Amen.
Thank you for reading. Next week, we will pick up Psalm 145 at verse 10 where David begins his third section of praise for the Lord’s universal kingship and eternal kingdom. Amen.
1 Concordia Publishing House. Reading the Psalms with Luther. 2007. Print. p. 15.