Our reading today is three Psalms. Our first Psalm is Psalm 47, attributed to the Sons of Korah. This was likely written after the return from Babylon by those in charge of the musical worship. The theme is YHWH’s kingship over all the earth, not just Judah. Though the returning remnant were still subjects of Persia, it is God Who is the true King! For this, the Psalmist calls for the clapping of hands and the shouts of joy (47:1). This is picturing the coronation of a King (see 2 Kings 11:12). And this King is YHWH Himself, the King of all the earth (v. 2). The same God Who put nations under Israel’s rule (v. 3), whom He chose as His (v. 4).
In verse 5 we have the picture of a victorious king. The people sing praises for His victory (v. 6) which is the subduing of all the earth (v. 7). God has established Himself as Ruler of all (v. 8). So even the princes of the nations come to worship Him like the offspring of Abraham (v. 9). This is picturing the whole world acknowledging YHWH’s reign, which will happen!
Psalm 135 is a Psalm of praise to God for all He has done for His people. This Psalm may have been written after the rebuilding of the Temple following the Babylonian captivity. It is a song that brings to remembrance all that YHWH has already done so His people will trust what He is still doing. It begins with a call to praise God (135:1) for those who stand before Him in the Temple (v. 2). The Psalmist points out that they are still God’s chosen people (v. 4). And God has not changed. He is still above all other gods (v. 5), is sovereign over all (v. 6), and is Sustainer of all (v. 7).
This God fought for His people in Egypt (vv. 8-9). He fought for them against the nations (vv. 10-11) to bring them into His promised rest in the land (v. 12). Since God is the same as He always was (v. 13), He will yet bring His people victory (v. 14), because other gods – the gods of the nations – are worthless idols (v. 15), impotent and useless (vv. 16-17). In verse 18, we see that we become what we worship. Those who worship idols will become as impotent and useless as they are. Because God is the God of Israel now and forever, the Psalmist calls for Israel, the priests (v. 19), the Levites, and all the God-fearers (v. 20) to bless God. He is the God Who is with them (v. 21)!
Psalm 136 is a famous Psalm because of the refrain: “for His steadfast love endures forever” (literally: “His hesed is for forever”). This Psalm is a Psalm of thanksgiving to God because what He has done for His people flows from that hesed love. He is only ever good (136:1). He is the supreme God (v. 2) and Lord (v 3). He alone created the heavens and the earth (vv. 4-9). Note the similarities between these descriptions and those of the creation account of Genesis 1. He made the heavens (v. 5 – see Gen 1:1). He made the great lights (v. 7): the sun to rule over the day (v. 8) and the moon to rule over the night, along with the stars (v. 9 – see Gen 1:16).
We then go to the book of Exodus. YHWH alone saved Israel from their captivity in Egypt (vv. 10-15). He killed the firstborn of Egypt at the Passover (v. 10 – see Ex 12:29). He led Israel out of Egypt (v. 11 – see Ex 12:51) with His strong hand (v. 12 – see Ex 13:3). He parted the Red Sea (v. 13 – see Ex 14:21) for Israel to pass through on dry land (v. 14 – see Ex 14:22). Then He destroyed the Egyptians in the sea (v. 15 – see Ex 14:27-28).
Then we get to the book of Numbers. YHWH alone sustained Israel through the wilderness wanderings (v 16). He alone defeated the kings of the land (vv. 17-20) and gave the land to Israel (vv. 21-22), like with Sihon (v. 19 – see Num 21:23-25) and Og (v. 20 – see Num 21:33-35).
Verse 23-25 may be a reference to the return from captivity. The idea here is the same as in Psalm 135. The God Who is sovereign over all, and Who has done all these great things for His people, is the same God Who is sovereign even over the captivity and the return of the remnant (vv. 23-24). God will continue to provide for His people like He always has (v. 25). Nothing can change Who He is, or His love for His people. For this, God’s people are called to thank Him (v. 26) – for His steadfast love endures forever!