By James Boice
Theme: God’s Word and Works
In this week’s lessons the psalmist teaches us how and why we are to praise the Lord.
Scripture: Psalm 33:1-22
Verse 3 encourages us to sing a “new song” to God. That is an unusual thing to say, and there have been various explanations of what the author meant by “new.” At one point Alexander Maclaren suggested that it might be that this is the first psalm like this in the Psalter.1 Others suggest that the psalm is a new telling of Genesis 1 and Exodus 15, which are echoed in the psalm’s main section. It is more likely, however, that “new song” simply means that every praise song should emerge from a fresh awareness of God’s grace. H. C. Leupold says that a new song is “one which springs freshly from a thankful and rejoicing heart.”2 Peter Craigie calls it “the ever-new freshness of the praise of God.”3 Maclaren adds, “There is always room for a fresh voice to praise the old gospel, the old creation, the old providence.”4
So here are three important worship qualities: freshness, skill (because of the instruments), and fervor. God’s people need to make use of all three.
The body of the psalm (vv. 4-19) expresses the psalmist’s praise to God, and the two opening verses of this section establish the theme. They tell us that God is to be praised for his word and his works: “For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.”
The “word of the LORD” leads off the stanza. “All he does” refers to God’s works. (The King James Version says, “All his works are done in truth.”) In verse 5, the “righteousness” and “justice” God loves are not the practice of these virtues by human beings, though God does love the pursuit of justice and righteousness by men and women. Rather they are the righteousness and justice that God himself demonstrates in his dealings with mankind.
There are six qualities of God in these verses—rightness and truth (which describe his word) and faithfulness, righteousness, justice and unfailing love (which describe his actions). However, each of these is seen in all God’s words and all God’s works. God’s words and God’s works always go together.
How different it is with us. we say one thing and do another, so that we are inconsistent at best and hypocritical or blatantly dishonest at our worst. God is utterly consistent, always upright and consistently good. Thus he is always to be praised for everything he says and for everything he does. There are no areas of his speech or actions for which he can be faulted.
- What does this psalm mean when it tells us to sing a new song?
- List and describe the three important worship qualities mentioned in this psalm.
- What are the six characteristics of God seen in verses 4-19?
Reflection: Compare God’s speech and actions to your own. How do they differ?
1Alexander Maclaren, The Psalms, vol. 1, Psalms 1-38 (New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1893), pp. 312, 313.
2H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), p. 295.
3Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 19, Psalms 1-50 (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), p. 272.
4Alexander Maclaren, The Psalms, vol. 1, Psalms 1-38 (New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1893), p. 314.
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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.