A Call to Worship Fulfilled in the Gospel: A Meditation in Psalm 47
Reading: Psalm 47 ESV
Psalm 47 is a call to worship for the whole world and finds its fulfillment through the Gospel in our own day. For many years I read Psalm 47 with the emphasis on the call to clap your hands and shout. Being raised in a religious tradition that was very staid in its worship, what was surprising in the psalm to me as a teenager was that call to clap my hands in worship. However in the day it was written that was not the startling aspect of the psalm or even the first sentence.
(1) Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! (2) For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth.
What would have stood out to the original audience is found in the words, “all peoples.” In this psalm “all peoples” doesn’t mean “all Jewish people,” or “all Israeli people,” but rather, it is “all the peoples of the earth” for the Lord is “a great king over all the earth.” In the next verses we see that the same word is used for the Gentile nations of the world around us.
(3) He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet. (4) He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah
The call to all peoples of the world to worship God with great expression is rooted in the fact that He has subdued peoples (other nations) under the feet of Israel as they inherited the promise land. They can see the evident uniqueness of the Lord as not merely a local deity but as the Great King over the whole earth. He is therefore in a unique position to demand worship from all.
As the psalm continues, it becomes even more clear that the theme stated in the second verse—the Lord is “a great king over all the earth”—is the reason for this call to all peoples everywhere to clap and to shout with loud songs of joy.
(5) God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
(6) Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
(7) For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!
(8) God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.
Because God reigns over the nations, the nations – not just Israel – are called to worship Him. Then the most surprising part of the psalm comes at the end.
(9) The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted!
The princes of the peoples (these are the peoples of the whole world again) gather as the people of the God of Abraham. Christopher J. Wright points out that the word supplied in English, “as,” is not in the Hebrew.
“The nobles of the nations” and “the people of the God of Abraham” are simply set in apposition, the one being identified with the other. That God in this context should be specifically named as the God of Abraham is surely significant, in view of the universality of God’s promise to Abraham. So the register of the nations will not set the other nations behind, beneath or even merely alongside Israel, but will actually include them as Israel, as part of the people of father Abraham.1
“The shields of the earth” is an expression representative of the mighty warriors or leaders of the earth who belong to God. They are either equal to or closely connected with the “princes of the peoples.” Not just the Jewish people but the princes and leaders of the world belong to God, and by implication therefore, all the peoples who belong to those leaders belong to God.
None of this is particularly surprising to the New Testament, but it certainly was surprising in the Old. It is a look forward in keeping with the promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4). If the princes of the nations are to gather as the people of Abraham, indeed all the nations are called to gather as those people, to clap our hands, and to shout with loud songs of joy. That is a call to be fulfilled in the New Covenant people of God.
Psalm 47 is a call to worship for the whole world and finds its fulfillment through the Gospel in our own day as all peoples on earth are assembling as the people of Israel. So clap your hands and shout with loud songs of joy. It is a call to worship that, as we are seeing in our current series in the book of Acts, echoes through the pages of Acts to the nations of the world.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,
1 Christopher J. H. Wright. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Kindle Locations 6716-6719). Kindle Edition.