PSALM 149: This is Honor

Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples, to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute on them the judgment written! This is honor for all his godly ones. Praise the Lord!

Psalm 149

Absent from this Psalm is any imperative but to “praise the Lord” and to do it loudly (v.5), at that! Yet the repeated refrains of praise interweave with recitations of Israel’s glory, might, and victory before many powerful enemies. Each are true and right reflections, but how can these coalesce? How can it be that Israel’s only imperative is to praise the Lord when there is vengeance to exact, glory to be gained, and power to be won? It must be that there is something more than their effort in the substance of their victory. Otherwise, the proper would be pride and not praise.

Israel’s victory was not their own. Not by their two-edged swords, but by the powerful hand of God were they lead into victory, security and prosperity. Not by their might, but by our sovereign God’s strength have his people bound the kings of armies. The proper response is praise and not pride because pride is a recognition of one’s own accomplishment, whether by perception or in reality; praise is the result of an accomplishment undeservedly lavished on another. The praise of God is on the lips of a people who, in humility, recognize that they are nothing apart from him. Pride is the result of a distorted inward gaze that sees in ourselves than we should ever be due. In the same way, we turn to praise because God has won for us every victory in Christ permanently and decisively and we reject pride because we have nothing on which to stand apart from the finished work of Jesus.

In his reflections on this Psalm, the Charles Spurgeon wrote, “All the godly shared in the triumphs of the Lord”. Such is the promise that we brilliantly share in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20): that by God’s victory, we stand in the triumph of the Lord over death in sin now and forevermore. As the Apostle Paul reminds us (1 Corinthians 15:55), the work of God to “swallow up death forever” (Isaiah 25:8) was gloriously began and decisively gained through Christ’s death. He lived sinlessly (1 Peter 2:22), died gruesomely (Galatians 3:13) and was raised gloriously (1 Corinthians 15:4). Christ alone has “destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). The good news is that now, in Christ, his people can pass from “death to life” (1 John 3:14). This is the work completely and fully of Jesus , yet we now share in his victory.

As God experiences victory, his people experience victory. As God is honored among the nations, so he honors those who love him. Ours is a position of sharing in the experience of God, not as equal persons but as heirs (Romans 8:17) chosen and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12). “This is the honor of all his godly ones” – that God has won every battle, leveled every mountain, and carried us through every valley that we might be thought of as sons and daughters and share in the honor, riches, safety, and security of his decisive victory on the Cross.

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