By James Boice
Theme: Whose God is the Lord
In this week’s lessons the psalmist teaches us how and why we are to praise the Lord.
Scripture: Psalm 33:1-22
Having spoken of God’s providence in thwarting the contrary and hostile plans of the surrounding nations and of firmly establishing his own good purposes for his people, the writer naturally turns to God’s special care of these people, which is what the next stanza (vv. 12-19) explicitly describes.
The author is thinking of Israel as this special people when he writes, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance” (v. 12). That cannot be said strictly of any nation but Israel. But it is said elsewhere in the Bible that righteousness exalts a nation and that even an ungodly nation can be blessed because of the godly in it.
How shall we think of our own nation? Our nation has never been a pure Christian nation, any more than Israel was ever entirely godly. But our nation certainly had strong Christian roots, and God, truth, the Bible and morality were revered even if not always consistently obeyed or practiced in earlier days. The Puritans, who were an unusually strong force in our nation’s founding, looked upon America as a new Israel and regarded their venture as an “errand into the wilderness,” much like the Jews’ desert journey toward the Promised Land. Isn’t it right to say that America was blessed in its early history because in a large measure its God was the Lord? I think that is obvious. Large numbers of our people sought God fervently, and God heard them and blessed them with peace and prosperity.
But now? Now we have a remnant of believing people and have no doubt been spared many great tragedies because of them. But our country is not Christian anymore. It is militantly secular. God is not sought out, nor is his word honored. I fear to think what is coming for the United States of America, whose god no longer is the Lord. America’s real god is money.
And yet, the blessings of God surround his people, even in a godless or fiercely secular environment, and it is right to remember them. What are these blessings? The psalm lists them in three categories.
1. God’s watchfulness over us. The thought of God looking down on us and watching over us is so strong in this section that a number of scholars have titled it “God’s eye,” just as the previous stanza could be titled “God’s word.” The verses stress that God’s eye is upon everyone, the just and the unjust alike: the Lord “sees all mankind” (v. 13); he “watches all who live on the earth” (v. 14); “he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do” (v. 15). This is a good portrayal of omniscience where the race is concerned. But it is not this kind of watchfulness that the writer is particularly concerned about. What he cares about is that God’s eye is upon his people and that he watches over them, as verse 18 makes clear: “But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those who hope in his unfailing love.”
In other words, this is precisely the kind of watchfulness that was mentioned in the preceding psalm, where David quoted God as saying: “I will counsel you and watch over you” (v. 8). It means that God is keeping an eye on us so he can intervene in a timely way to counsel, help and redirect us and thus keep us from wandering off the right path and doing wrong.
Aren’t you glad that the watchful eye of God is on you? If a person is not in Christ, the thought of God’s watching eye is terrifying. It is frightening to know that “all hearts are open, all desires known” by him with whom we have to do. But to those who are in Christ, those whose sins are covered by his blood, the thought of God’s watchful care is comforting.
- List a few examples of ways in which our society has become secularized. How and why have American values changed?
- What does the psalmist mean when he writes of God’s watchfulness?
Reflection: Recount some ways in which you have experienced God’s watchful care.
Key Point: If a person is not in Christ, the thought of God’s watching eye is terrifying. It is frightening to know that “all hearts are open, all desires known” by him with whom we have to do. But to those who are in Christ, those whose sins are covered by his blood, the thought of God’s watchful care is comforting.
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