Category: Old Testament

Psalm 33 is a bit odd because it is one of four psalms that do not have a title (Psalm 1, 2, 10, and 33).  Some people even believe it is a continuation of Psalm 32.  While both share the theme of praise, their contents vary in the direction of praise.  Psalm 32 praises God because He forgives sin; Psalm 33 praises God because He is Sovereign.  The call to rejoice in the Lord is one that is unique in Scripture.  It is a call that is only given to believers, in both the Old and New Testaments (Psa. 33:1, 97:12; Joe. 2:23; Hab. 3:18; Phil. 3:1, 4:4).

Rejoice in the LORD, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. (Psa. 97:12)

Rejoice in the Lord alway:  and again I say, Rejoice. (Phil. 4:4)

Since we are given this special charge as believers, it is imperative that we understand praise and how it fits into our Christian life.  It is an aspect of our priesthood as believers (Rev. 1:6).  Vance Havner said, “Every Christian is a priest, not offering a sacrifice for sins – since that has been done once and for all – but offering his person, praise, and possessions.”

Righteous’ Call to Praise God (33:1-3)

Call of Comeliness (33:1) – The world has a different standard of beauty than that which is described in Scripture.  The world promotes immorality and lust and slaps the label of beauty upon it.  The psalmist says that beauty is praise unto God from His people.  It is a picturesque scene when the people of God turn to their Lord and magnify Him for His goodness and greatness.  Praise offered from the tongues of those who do not know the Great God does not compare to the majesty of righteous joy.  Spurgeon said, “No jewels are more ornamental to a holy face than sacred praise.  Praise is not suitable from unpardoned professional singers; it is like a gold jewel in a pig’s snout.”

Call of Completeness (33:2) – There is much to be said about a believer that gives his or her all to God.  Giving only one part of your life to God will leave you with an incomplete understanding of God’s graces to us as believers and an imperfect appreciation.  The focus of verse two is not the diversity of the instruments, but the completeness of the praise.  All the notes are to be given to the praise of God.  Every fiber of our being is to cry out with a “joy unspeakable” (1 Pet. 1:8).  Matthew Henry says, “What we win by prayer we may wear with comfort, and must wear with praise.”

Call of Creativity (33:3) – If verse two is a call to give every area of our life over to God as praise, verse three is a call to use every blessing in our life to praise.  I believe there are two features of creativity in praise that need to be addressed.

1.  Freshness of Spirit – You are a new creature in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  You do not offer praises to God with the old spirit of the flesh.  You are the Temple of God and the Holy Spirit dwells in you if you are a child of God (1 Cor. 3:16).  It is not the old man praising, it is the new man!

“Put off oldness!  You know the new song.  A new person, a New Testament, a new song.  A new song does not belong to the old; it belongs to those renewed through grace.  This is the kingdom of heaven.” (Augustine 353-429)

2.  Freshness of Style – Do you have a regular routine for prayer and Bible reading?  Do you have a regular “method” prayers you offer up to God?  Routines are not bad per se, but when we become more attached to the routine than the communion with God it is time for a new routine.  By way of personal illustration, from time to time, I will change the way we pray on Wednesday nights.  There has been nothing wrong with the ways we were praying previously, yet it sharpens our attention or refocuses our minds when the regular schedule is interrupted.

Now that we know WHAT we are called to do in regards to praise, the question must be asked—WHY should we do it?

Righteous’ Cause to Praise God (33:4-12)

Worthy Because of His Personality (vv. 4-5) – All that God does is good.  The universe was created in the perfection of God’s person and when He looked upon it He saw that “it was good” (Gen. 1:31).  All creation was perfect before the Fall of Man in Genesis 3.  The anomalies and discrepancies we see with our human eyes in creation are not the product of a faulty God, but a sinful man.  I quote Spurgeon once again who said, “Earth might have been as full of terror as of grace, but instead it teems and overflows with kindness.”  God’s work is an outgrowth of His word.  God is truth.  God’s word is truth.  God’s work is truth.  There are no lies in God’s words and there is no evil in His works.  Truth abounds in all that God says and does.

Worthy Because of His Power (vv. 6-9) – The atheists and agnostics rage today as if God is dead.  Sadly, many professors live their lives from day to day as if God is dead too.  They forget the power of God that makes Him worthy of praise.  I often pray to the Lord and merely kneel in awe of His power.  Psalm 32 praises God for the work He does for sinful man.  Psalm 33 calls for the believer to rejoice simply because God is.  It is in this facet of praise I believe many people are lacking, including true believers at times.  What I mean is this—if God had never sent His only begotten Son into the world to die for our sins, He would still be worthy of praise.  If God did not demonstrate to us daily His loving kindness and long-suffering, He would still be worthy of praise.  If God had offered no plan of redemption to sinful mankind, He would still be worthy of praise.  But I thank God Almighty that I praise God for who He is and for what He has done!

Each description that is given of God in these verses are displays of His great power.  Truly, God’s power transcends our human understanding, but the psalmist offers us these pictures as a means of envisioning God’s omnipotence.  Our God did not mold or shape the worlds into being – Scripture declares “. . . He spoke, and it was done” (Psa. 33:9).

Worthy Because of His Providence (vv. 10-12) – Providence is the unseen hand of God.  It is not the miraculous intervention we witnessed upon Mt. Carmel as Elijah faced the false prophets.  It is the subtle and the workings of God in the lives of His people (e.g. Esther).  Two elements are important to note here:

1.  The Unfaithful – Verse 10 declares that God’s plans will succeed regardless of anyone else’s plan.  This psalm was written at a time when Israel was surrounded by enemies that longed for their destruction.  Much like today, Israel was small in comparison to the great super-powers of the ancient world; however, God’s hand was upon them.  For the Christian, this verse speaks of God’s sovereignty and His absolute control over the affairs of men.

Isaiah 46:10-11 — Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: 11 Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.

Psalm 135:6 — Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.

Many are bothered by such statements in Scripture because as sinful, prideful creatures the thought that someone else is more powerful and in control of their lives.  As a Christian, I take comfort in the fact that my Father is in complete control and there is nothing mysterious to His all-knowing mind and nothing outside His ever-watching eye

2.  The Faithful –The same word translated “heathen” in 33:10 is the same word used of nation in 33:12.   This means there is not a variation of content, but a variation of substance.  A nation that follows God will be blessed.  A nation that does follow God will be brought down.

Righteous’ Comfort to Praise God (33:13-19)

Comfort in God’s Awareness (33:13-14)—The picture of God given here is of Him seated high and exalted above all the earth looking down upon the affairs of men.  It reinforces the idea of God’s omniscience, His all-knowing nature, but it also serves as a reminder in the affairs of men.  There are no secret places in the world that can be hid from the eyes of God.  There are no secret places in the mind and heart of man that can be kept from Him.

Comfort in God’s Alertness (33:15-17) – We are well aware of the atheist movement in our world today.  USA Today released a report this week (July 29, 2012) that stated 1 in 5 people now declare themselves atheist, agnostic, or some other form of “none” in regards to belief in God.  We expect people such as this to live their lives as if God is not watching from Heaven; however, there is a silent movement that is thriving among those who claim to know the God of Heaven.  These groups of practical atheists, as I like to call them, give lip service to the Almighty; yet live their lives as if He does not exist.

God sees the lives of men and these verse only reiterate what has been stated throughout this entire psalm—God is in control.  The emphasis here though is that even though God is fully aware of all that goes on in the world, He is also interested in all that is happening in the world.

Comfort in God’s Affection (33:18-19) – The closing verses of this psalm are some of the most comforting you will find in Scripture.  It has declared to us that God is worthy of praise because He is Sovereign.  He deserves our devotion because He is Almighty God who created the entire universe.  It is with this in mind that he psalmist then draws our attention to God’s loving-kindness toward us; his intimate relationship with His children.

I know that I’m quoting Spurgeon a great deal, but he puts this thought so well that I will close with it:

“The Lord’s hand goes with His eye.  He sovereignly preserves those He graciously oberserves.  Rescues and restorations hedge about the lives of the saints.  Death cannot touch them until the King signs the warrant and gives his leave, but even then, his touch is not so mortal as immortal.  He does not so much kill us as kill our mortality.”

A shift in person that takes place in verse 20 highlights the intimacy of God with His children.  From the beginning of the psalm, the writer has been sharing his thoughts as an outside observer, watching God’s dealings with mankind.  However, it is here that he shifts to the first person.  He is not an observer in the workings of God, the psalmist is a partaker in God’s goodness.

When it comes to rejoicing, are you an observer or a partaker?  Do you watch as others give God the glory He deserves?  If you are a child of God this morning, you have an obligation to honor your Heavenly Father.  I do hope that if you are a child of God that you have more than an obligation, but a strong desire to give glory to your Savior.


On August 21, 1911, an Italian immigrant took his revenge upon the nation of France.  Vincenzo Peruggia moved from his native Italy to Paris in hopes of joining its art world.  Peruggia eventually did make it into Paris’ most renowned art museum, the Louvre; however, it was as a handyman and not an artist.  From some reports, Peruggia  was verbally abused by some Parisians, calling him ‘sale macaroni‘ or ‘dirty macaroni,’ an overt and racially charged insult.

As one considers the various avenues of conflict resolution, there are some old standards that come to mind.  First, you can speak with those with whom you have an issue.  This is the peaceful solution to any problem and is the first step with most peaceable and civic-minded citizens.  Noting that Peruggia exacted his revenge in 1911, one might first jump to the conclusion that the Italian immigrant resorted to violence.  If you chose either of those options, sadly, you are wrong.  So how did Peruggia seek revenge upon the people and country that scorned him and made him long to return to his beloved Italy?  He stole the Mona Lisa!

No, your monitor is not displaying that wrong.  Peruggia stole the Mona Lisa.  Believing that Napoleon had stolen it from Italy (he didn’t by the way, da Vinci sold it to Francis I when he moved to Paris to become the court artist), suffering from homesickness, and just a general dislike for the French, Peruggia walked out of the Louvre with da Vinci’s masterpiece hidden under his smock.  The theft is not the most interesting aspect of the story.

Before being stolen, the Mona Lisa was a famous masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci.  It was well-known in most art circles.  Beginning around 1860, it was beginning to gain interest from art critics and art lovers, yet Mona had not reached the iconic status she enjoys today.  Author and historian James Zug states, “The ‘Mona Lisa’ wasn’t even the most famous painting in its gallery, let alone in the Louvre.”[1]  Peruggia’s theft transformed da Vinci’s work from a well-crafted portrait into a world-famous masterpiece overnight.  People rushed to the Louvre and the museum’s attendance steadily rose.

The painting would not return to the Louvre for nearly 2 years.  Peruggia would eventually try to sale the painting and be arrested for the theft.  Mona would take a tour of Italy before being returned to the Salon Carre and reclaim her place on the wall.  In the course of those 2 years, more patrons visited the Louvre to see a blank space upon the wall than had come to the museum in the previous decade.

I read the story of the Mona Lisa and Peruggia in disbelief.  The crime did not surprise me, though I was a bit taken aback with the motive.  My disbelief came from the people’s reaction to the theft.  They marched into a museum filled with masterpieces, yet it was a blank part of a wall that drew their attention.  There was not a drop of paint upon this bare spot.  No brush strokes to analyze, no colors to discern, and certainly no scene to envision.  The people had been drawn by the grandeur of the event.  They did not quite understand it, but they knew it was important.

As I tried to put this into a more modern context, I thought of the church.  Here during the Christmas season many churches see an influx of visitors.  Acquaintances and friends who barely have the time or spiritual inclination to make an appearance show up during the Christmas season.  The allure of the event is too much to be ignored.  But I have to ask, are we missing the big picture?

I believe the answer is a resounding yes.  One of the least offensive narratives of the Gospel story is the birth of Jesus.  His poor earthly father and mother travel in hardship to Bethlehem.  The trip is made especially more difficult because Mary is pregnant and nearing her delivery time.  The story’s tension grows as they reach Bethlehem and find there is no place for them to stay.  Either in greed or mercy, an innkeeper gives them his stable to rest in for the evening.  We assume Joseph and Mary are surrounded by animals, hay, and dirt when the child is born.  They wrap the child in strips of cloth and place him in an animal trough.  Angels sing, shepherds praise, and a star shines in the heavens.  The call comes for peace on earth and goodwill toward all men.  It is an upbeat story.  A beautiful story.  It is also only part of the story.  We are missing the big picture.

Why did Jesus come?  Why did he take on “the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men?” (Phi. 2:7)  While Matthew and Luke go on to answer these important questions, the prophet Isaiah had already painted a beautiful picture that answered these questions.  I shared this portrait with my congregation on Sunday, December 11, 2011.

I.             The Portrait is Made Public (Isa. 53:1-3)

His Coming Announced (v. 1)– Isaiah’s proclamation appears to imply that the coming of this servant has been alluded to before to the nation of Israel.  As NT believers, we know this to be an accurate statement as we look back upon the OT and see the various declarations of God concerning the coming of His Messiah.  Beginning in Genesis 3, the Lord has been promising a Savior for sinful man.  The prophet is making the public proclamation and describing the Christ.  Even in the proclamation, there is an element of foreshadowing concerning what is to come.  The word “arm” that is used in this passage is the Hebrew word zeroah, also used to describe the shank of the lamb that was eaten during the Passover.  Already, this Messiah is being portrayed as the Passover Lamb—a substitutionary death.

His Charm Annulled (vv. 2-3) – I can only imagine how shocked the people were when they first heard Isaiah description of the coming Messiah.  Surely, anyone that God will send will be glorious to behold!  His beauty will radiate, His riches will enthrall, and His life will be the envy of all whom see Him.  Sadly, this is not the picture that Isaiah is painting at all.  Notice the words he uses, “no comeliness; no beauty; despised; rejected; sorrow; and grief.”

Matthew Henry says, “No where in all the Old Testament is it so plainly and fully prophesied, that Christ ought to suffer, and then to enter into his glory, as in this chapter. But to this day few discern, or will acknowledge, that Divine power which goes with the word. The authentic and most important report of salvation for sinners, through the Son of God, is disregarded. The low condition he submitted to, and his appearance in the world, were not agreeable to the ideas the Jews had formed of the Messiah. It was expected that he should come in pomp; instead of that, he grew up as a plant, silently, and insensibly. He had nothing of the glory which one might have thought to meet with him. His whole life was not only humble as to outward condition, but also sorrowful. Being made sin for us, he underwent the sentence sin had exposed us to. Carnal hearts see nothing in the Lord Jesus to desire an interest in him. Alas! by how many is he still despised in his people, and rejected as to his doctrine and authority!”

II.            The Portrait is Marred (Isa. 53:4-9)

In the classic book The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde tells the fanciful story of young Dorian Gray.  He is attractive, rich, and is quickly becoming the talk of London.  Having been corrupted by a hedonistic noble, Dorian begins to believe that beauty is the only worthwhile aspect of life.  After seeing a portrait of himself, Dorian wishes for the portrait to grow old, but for himself to remain forever young and beautiful.  His wish is granted.  The picture begins to change and reflect the sinfulness of Dorian’s life and ways.  The book is a lesson that everything beautiful is not good and vice versa.

Isaiah has not painted what many would consider a very flattering portrait thus far.  He has described the Messiah as one who is without beauty, rejected, and despised.  However, we must continue reading to find the true beauty of this picture.  Before we get there, we must first see how the portrait is marred.

The Servant is Sin-Bearing (vv. 4-6) – These verses recognize that the Messiah was to die for the sins of others and not His own iniquities.  All the punishment that is received is undeserved if the Messiah’s actions are taken into account.  It is our actions that are being considered though, and unlike this servant of God, we are not without sin.  Isaiah states that people will look upon His suffering and assume that God is punishing Him for his own transgressions.  As we think to the scene at the cross, the Jews shook their heads, mocked, and cursed Him just as Isaiah describes here.  They thought God had brought judgment upon Jesus for his own actions, when in reality, God was pouring our sin upon Him.

The Servant is Silent (v. 7) – Though He was innocent, He spoke not a word.  Jesus is recognized as the Lamb of God in the NT (John 1:29; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; Rev. 5:6), and here more detail is added to the picture.  The Messiah will be the sacrificial lamb of God.  He will resemble that sacrificial lamb that was introduced in Exodus (Exo. 12:3, 6); who through sacrifice and substitution was able to save lives.

The Servant is Slain (vv. 8-9) – So there is no mistake as to what is implied in the text, Isaiah tells us, “he is cut off from the land of the living.”  The death of this servant is a certainty for there is no other way to pay the harsh penalty of sin.

 III.          The Portrait is Magnified (Isa. 53:10-12)

The Seed of the Servant – What is the seed spoken of here?  It is the effect of Messiah’s labor and work.  Offspring will be produced through this righteous work.  And He will see that fruit of his labors.  This is a foreshadowing to me of the resurrection.  Isaiah has already told us that he was cut off from the land of the living.  And now, He will witness His offspring/seed.

The Satisfaction of the Servant – Not only will He see the fruit of His labors, but He will be satisfied.  If    the death that took place in verse 8 were permanent, then these final verses would be illogical.  Something miraculous is going to have to take place if the Messiah is going to see His offspring and be satisfied with the redemption of humanity.

The Spoil of the Servant – There is a reference to great victory in this final verse of chapter 12.  Perhaps you are familiar with the old adage, “To the victor go the spoils.”  This is in reference to the winning army taking the treasures of the defeated.  The servant is said to “divide the spoil with the strong.”  Will the Messiah be victorious?  The answer is a resounding yes!