Psalm 47 - The Ascension of God part 1
by John Lowe
June 11, 2015
PSALM 47 part 1
Title: The Ascension of God (also called “A Song upon Alamoth.”)
(To the chief Musician. A psalm for the sons of Korah)
Theme: Praise and Worship in the Millennium
Psalm 47 (KJV)
1 O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.
2 For Lord most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.
3 He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet.
4 He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom he loved. Selah.
5 God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises.
7 For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.
8 God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.
9 The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of the God of Abraham: for the shields of the earth belong unto God: he is greatly exalted.
This is the second of the little cluster of prophetic pictures of the millennial kingdom, which is established by the Lord Jesus Christ at his second coming. This is a continuation of the praise and worship of Christ who is now King over all the earth. It elaborates the words “I am exalted in the earth” which occur at the end of the previous psalm.
This psalm is possibly connected to 2 Chronicles 20, where Israel obtained a victory without a battle. They stood still and saw the salvation of God, given in answer to King Jehoshaphat’s prayer. The Korhites, whose name is inscribed above it, are expressly mentioned as having been present (19). Before the people left the battlefield, they held a thanksgiving service in the valley of blessing (26). From that valley God is depicted as having made His assent to Heaven after having gained deliverance for His people (5). This Psalm was probably sung in that “valley of blessing.” It is a double call to praise, addressed first to the heathen (1-4), and next to Israel.
This psalm may also be assigned to Israel’s second greatest king, Hezekiah (His story can be found in found in 2 Kings 18–20, and Isaiah 36–39.). The massive armies of Assyria had deployed themselves around Jerusalem. As Hezekiah watched from the city walls all he could see was a vast sea of troops and tents as far as the eye could reach. The imperial standards of the Assyrian emperor flew in the breeze as the battering rams and slings, the scaling ladders, and all the machinery of war was assembled before the gates. Fierce-faced, bearded men were polishing their shields and sharpening their swords for the onslaught, for the success they were sure would be theirs.
The evening shadows deepened into dusk and campfires glowed as the confident Assyrian commandos set up their watchposts, placed their sentries, and prepared for a good night’s rest before beginning tomorrow’s arduous task of war.
They never awoke from that sleep! That night the angel of the Lord visited the Assyrian camp. He smote the sentries where they stood, smote the generals in their tents, smote the officers as they poured over their last-minute plans for assault, and smote rank and file of the army as they slept. Silently he came, silently he went, and behind him he left a wide swath of death. There were some 185,000 stiffening courses when his work was done. A swift-working pestilence was the weapon he used.
The watchers on the walls had a sleepless night, pacing up and down, their eyes peeled for a surprise attack. Hezekiah and Isaiah doubtless spent the night praying as well as watching. As the dawn broke they made their rounds, encouraged their men, and sought to inspire trust in God, not just in their weapons of war and their massive walls. They looked out over the Assyrian camp as the sun flooded the hills with light. Strange—there was no movement, no sound of the trumpet, no call to arms, nothing! They watched as the sun rose higher. Nothing! Then they saw carrion birds circling around the camp of the foe. Those birds sensed death.
Obviously something had happened in the enemy ranks. Then spies brought the word; the foe was no more, the camp was full of corpses, the war was over without an arrow being fired.
This psalm is rightly regarded as messianic. It was recited by the Jews in their synagogues seven times prior to the blowing of trumpets which marked their New Years day.
David was a prophet, and one of the greatest of the prophets, and Hezekiah was a prophet. Jehoshaphat was one of Israel’s “good” kings. This psalm could have been written by any of the three for it was written to celebrate a great victory by Israel’s army over one of her foes. It describes the people of Israel proclaiming to the surrounding Gentile nations the glorious victory of their God, a victory won without having to fight a battle!
1 O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.
“O Clap your hands,” is what they are called upon to do. It is a token of your own joy and satisfaction in what God has done for you, of your respect, more correctly, your admiration, of what God has done in general, and of your indignation against all the enemies of God’s glory (Job 27:231). “Clap your hands,” like men who are beside themselves with pleasure that cannot be kept from expressing their joy.
“Clap your hands . . . shout unto God.” One would hardly have thought it necessary for the king to say that. Surely gratitude to God would be the immediate and instinctive response of the people. In the wake of such a deliverance it would be superfluous to tell the people to “shout unto God.”
Who are called upon to praise God?—“All ye people,” all you people of Israel; those were his own subjects, and under his authority, and therefore, he will call for them to praise God, for he has an influence over them. Whatever others do, he and his house, he and his people, shall praise the Lord. This psalm may also be taken as prophesy of the conversion of the Gentiles and the bringing of them into the church (Romans 15:11), in which case the command is to “all you people and nations of the earth.”
“Shout unto God with the voice of triumph,” not to make Him hear you, but to make all who are nearby hear you, and take notice of how much you are affected by and filled with the works of God. “Shout . . . with the voice of triumph” of His works, and of His power and goodness, so that others may join with you praising Him. Jewish worship was enthusiastic, but they also knew how to be quiet before the Lord and wait upon Him (Laminations 2:10; Habakkuk 2:4; Zephaniah 1:7; Zechariah 2:13). Now, I know that some of you think such expressions of praise and devout affections seem indecent and even foolish, but you should not be hasty to censor and condemn such actions, much less ridicule the person, because if the shouts come from an upright heart, God will accept the strength of the affection and excuse the weakness of the expressions of it.
“Shout unto God” may also be translated “Sing unto God.” There is very little shouting in our churches today, and heaven forbid and someone should raise their hands as they praise Him. But why sing to God at all? “For the Lord most high is terrible.” He is no mere local god. He is the Creator of the ends of the earth, and the Lord of all history.
The early church patterned its worship after the synagogue and emphasized prayer, the reading and expounding of Scripture, and the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. When the Jewish people clapped their hands and shouted, it was to the Lord in response to His marvelous works. They did not do it to praise the people who participated in the worship service.
We are such an ungrateful people. After the Lord Jesus cleansed the 10 lepers only one came back to give Him thanks, and he was a Samaritan. Said the Lord Jesus sadly; “Were there not ten cleansed, where are the nine?” He could say the same thing over and over again because of our sinful ingratitude and careless neglect of Him.
The psalmist was thankful. He clapped his hands, and “shouted unto God with the voice of triumph.” He was so happy he seized his pen and immortalized his thanksgiving in a written poem of praise.