Psalm 135:1–18comment (0)
September 24, 2009
By Douglas Wilson
Related Scripture: Psalm 135:1–18
Explore the Bible
Associate Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
GOD IS GREAT
When I was a child, one of my earliest prayers was one taught by my parents: “God is good; God is great; thank you for the food we eat. Amen.” This simple prayer verbalizes the essence of the psalm in this week’s lesson. Psalm 135 is a “hallelujah psalm,” referring to the fact that the song begins and ends with the Hebrew phrase “hallelu Yah.” This can be translated as “(y’all) praise the Lord.” God is worthy of our praise because of His inherent goodness and unlimited greatness.
Maturing in the faith requires a deepening knowledge of the glory of God, the seriousness of our sin and the price paid for our redemption. We come to see that He is good by His very nature. God is great in that there is none like Him; He alone is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and eternal. Nonetheless we can never outgrow the simple truths that God is good and God is great.
God Is Good (1–4)
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.” Several psalms begin with this testimony (1 Chron. 16:34; Pss. 106:1, 118:1, 136:1). True believers recognize from the opening verses to the closing chapter of the Bible that God is good. From time to time, we may wonder what causes God to act or why God acts in a particular way, but that never diminishes His goodness.
Bible students sometimes focus on the attributes of God to the exclusion of God Himself. For example, they may speak of the goodness of God without recognizing that God is good all the time. When things go well for a believer, he or she may speak of experiencing God’s goodness. In reality, though, God is always good. Regardless of my circumstances, my finances, my health, my family or even my feelings, God remains good. He is the standard of goodness. As He created, He declared the things He made as good because they reflected His design and character.
God Is Great (5–12)
“Our Lord is greater than all gods” (5). God who created the heavens and the earth also has complete sovereignty over them. While Americans seek out alternative sources of power to run their complex machinery, God is the ultimate source of all power. Nothing that happens takes God by surprise. During the years of Israel’s Exodus, God demonstrated His greatness over and over again. He showed His authority through the plagues so that Egypt would know that He is the Lord (Ex. 7:5). The Passover exhibited His dominion over all the false gods of Egypt (Ex. 12:12). After delivering Israel from Egypt, God gave it victory over nations and kings known for their military prowess. Finally He marked His sovereignty over the land by giving it to His chosen people. None of the gods of the Canaanites could keep them from taking the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
God Is the Greatest (13–18)
The Creator and Sustainer of the universe is without equal. Though cultures reject the one true God and put others in His place, there is none like Him. The Lord is known both by Israel and the nations that heard of His intervention on its behalf. Our understanding of Him is limited, for He exercises both judgment and compassion. For human beings, these characteristics are paradoxical yet both describe the activity of God.
Idols are inanimate objects that possess no power and no life. They may be made with gemstones or overlaid with gold or silver, yet they have no eternal value. Sometimes made in the likeness of humans, they have eyes, ears and mouths that do not function. The psalmist wrote that those who create them and those who worship them are like them. They have no life. By contrast, God is spirit. Without physical eyes, He sees; without ears, He hears; and without a mouth, He speaks.
In the closing verses of the song, the entire congregation of Israel is called to praise the Lord. Then the priests, direct male descendants of Aaron, are instructed to praise God. Finally all the Levites who work as maintenance workers, singers or doorkeepers in the temple are challenged to praise Him. Hallelujah. Praise the Lord.