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Psalm 145: God Is All

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
November 17, 2022 12:01 am

Psalm 145: God Is All

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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November 17, 2022 12:01 am

The closing psalms create a crescendo of praise to which the entire book of Psalms has been leading. Today, W. Robert Godfrey takes a close look at the celebration of God's goodness in Psalm 145.

Get 'Learning to Love the Psalms' with W. Robert Godfrey for Your Gift of Any Amount: https://gift.renewingyourmind.org/2410/learning-to-love-the-psalms

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In Psalm 145 we read, This is what the Lord revealed to Moses. This is what is celebrated over and over again throughout the Old Testament. It's celebrated in the Psalter over and over again, and really brings us to the heart of biblical religion.

It's a beautiful picture of God's character. And shows us how the entire book has been leading to this crescendo of praise. We come now to the last Psalm in Book 5 of the Psalter, Psalm 145.

I promised you last time I would explain how that can be. My theory, and it's just my theory of how the book is composed is that we have this recapitulation of the history of Israel in Book 5, and then we come to the last five Psalms of the Psalter, each of which begins, each Psalm begins with praise the Lord and ends with praise the Lord. And so they are clearly a unit, five Psalms. None of them have a title, and so because they come at the end of the Psalter, it draws our mind back to the beginning. We had an introduction with two Psalms not ascribed to an author, Psalm 1 and Psalm 2. So is it possible that we now have a conclusion of some sort in these five Psalms at the end, linked together by beginning and ending with two words, praise the Lord?

Seems possible, even seems likely. The question then becomes why five? Maybe that this is pointing prophetically to the five points of Calvinism, but I would never argue that.

Where does the number five come from in the Psalter? Well, it comes from the five books, doesn't it? And it seems to me a case can be made, although we don't have time to make it today, a case can be made that each of these five concluding Psalms functions as a conclusion to each of the five books of the Psalter. And it's a kind of culmination of praise. This is the book of praises after all.

This is the culmination of praise, bringing the whole Psalter together. So I would suggest that Psalm 146, for example, is praise for God's care. Book 1 was about God's care.

So this is praise for God's care. Book 2, you remember, was about God's kingdom. So I think Psalm 147 is praise for God's kingdom.

Book 3 was about God's promises and the crisis of God's promises perhaps not being fulfilled. And so I would suggest that Psalm 148 is praise for God's promises. Then Book 4 was about God's faithfulness, and I'd suggest that Psalm 149 is about praise for God's faithfulness. And then Psalm 150 really is a conclusion of the whole Psalter, but particularly of Book 5 with praise for God's salvation. So there's this culminating, growing praise binding the various books of the Psalter together.

I'll leave you to study that and see if you're convinced. But for right now, I would just like us to look for a little while at this marvelous Psalm, the last Psalm of David in the Psalter, perhaps the concluding Psalm of Book 5, at least in a certain sense. And what I hope we'll find together is how really marvelous this Psalm is, how grand, how splendid, how appropriate it is to sort of bringing Book 5 to an end in a sense. It's what is known as an alphabetical Psalm. As I've mentioned as we've gone along, the psalmist liked to explore different literary forms as they're writing their poems.

They don't want every poem to look alike or sound alike, so they use a variety of devices. And one of them that is particularly challenging and intriguing is to write an alphabetical Psalm. And an alphabetical Psalm means that each line of the Psalm begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. And we have nine Psalms in the Psalter where this methodology is used. The biggest and splashiest is Psalm 119, where not only every letter of the alphabet is used, but each stanza of eight lines begins with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet all the way through that stanza.

So the first stanza, each of the eight lines begins with the Hebrew letter Aleph or A. And so what this does, of course, is challenge the poet to creativity in his choice of words so as not to be repetitive. It challenges him to create a poem that still moves even though it's sort of straight-jacketed by this literary form. And so it really challenges the artist, which is what the poet seems to like. And if you want to go back and look at these Psalms, it's 9, 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, and now 145. And of course, even in these Psalms, there is an artful variation. Occasionally, they'll leave out a letter. And some people get very upset about that. Did they make a mistake?

No, it's the artful variation at work. They want you to be engaged. They want you to be thoughtful. They want you to notice if you misspeak a word or if you leave out a letter that they'll catch it, and it'll draw you even further into the Psalm. And so we have an interesting question about that in this Psalm, 145, because at least in my English Standard Version edition of the Bible, if you come to verse 13, maybe if you have different translations it may be printed differently, but the second half of verse 13 in my English Bible is in brackets. And then if you look at the footnote, the footnote says, these two lines are supplied by one Hebrew manuscript, the Septuagint and the Syriac translation. Compare the Dead Sea Scrolls. So you go home and compare the Dead Sea Scrolls tonight.

That would be a very… I don't know why they put that in there. Anyway, most of us are not in a position to compare the Dead Sea Scrolls on this point. But what is interesting is that that bracketed material in verse 13 is the letter Nun or En. And so if this material belongs in the Psalm, then we have a complete alphabet. If this material is not original to the Psalm, then we have an artful variation with one letter left out. And, you know, sometimes it's hard to make a decision whether this is an edition or whether it dropped out in some of the translations.

And Bible scholars often say the way to answer that question is to say, well, what are the best manuscripts that include it and how weighty should we make them? And what's the harder reading, as they put it? What's more unlikely?

What's more likely to have been changed? And it's a little hard here. There are good versions that say it should be in. You could say, well, you know, other times they leave out a letter. They probably left out a letter here.

Somebody came along and said, wow, they left out a letter. I'm going to add it back in. I think most of the time Hebrew copyists don't add a whole verse back in that wasn't there. So I'm inclined to think this is original. It makes the thing work well. It makes sense. It's very much in the spirit of the poetry. On one level, you could say it doesn't add anything brand new, so we don't have a new doctrine if we include it and lose a doctrine if we eliminate it. But I think it balances the psalm well, and we ought to include it. What's glorious about this psalm, though, are not these problems or this literary form, literary straitjacket, if you will. It's the enthusiasm of the psalmist that we don't want to miss here. It's the enthusiasm for the Lord and for His works, and it's the enthusiasm for the greatness and the fullness of what God has done and what God is continuing to do. There's a universality to this psalm that is simply splendid. It's as if the poet can't contain himself with all of the excitement he has for who the Lord is and what the Lord is doing, and that's sort of the movement back and forth, but talking about and praising the character of the Lord and then praising the works of the Lord. And he just moves back and forth with his delight in who the Lord is and what the Lord has done.

And you could see that as we read along. I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord. See, there's the character of God. What do I want to say about our God?

Well, one of the things I want to say is He's great. The Lord is great and greatly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable. You see how it's piling up the celebration of the greatness of the Lord. We can't think it all the way through.

We can search it out. We can understand some of it, but it's greater than we can ever understand greatness to be. And so it's this great celebration. One generation shall commend your works to another. And here he's now moving from the character of God to the works of God. One generation shall commend your works to another and shall declare your mighty acts. And so now there's some reflection on the works of God, but you may notice they're left very general in this first half of the Psalm. It's general, the mighty acts, the deeds, the works of the Lord. And the intention then is for us to fill in the blank.

What works? Well, all the works, so many works, all kinds of works. That's what we're declaring. That's what we're praising.

That's what we're giving thanks for. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, there's the character of God, majestic, and on your wondrous works, there's the work of God, I will meditate. So the Psalter began with meditation. It's ending with meditation on the works of the Lord. They shall speak, that is one generation to the next, shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. Here we go back to the character of God.

He's not only great, but He's good. This is an important element of Christianity, that God is not only great, but He's good. Some religions only testify to the greatness of their God, and we're insistent that the great God is a good God, full of steadfast love and kindness for His people. And if you wanted to highlight one or the other in the Psalter most of the time, not that you want to play these two things off against each other, but it's particularly the goodness of God to His people that is celebrated in the Psalter, and we have that wonderfully declared here. The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

This is what the Lord revealed to Moses. This is what is celebrated over and over again throughout the Old Testament. It's celebrated in the Psalter over and over again, and this, yeah, really brings us to the heart of biblical religion, that for His own the Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. What a wonderful picture of God's character of mercy and love and compassion, provision, patience.

I told you that Psalm 103 is the favorite psalm amongst the Dutch Reformed, and this is right there at the heart of that psalm, taking up the reading of verse 7 of Psalm 103. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the people of Israel. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will He keep His anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love to those who fear Him.

As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him. And here in Psalm 145, there's this celebration of the compassionate character of God in this marvelous way. Verse 9, God is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made.

What an expansive statement. It's a remarkable statement that the goodness and the mercy of God extends to the whole world that He has made, and that no one is excluded from that love and mercy who turns to Him. Here's a celebration, you see, of that universality of the love of God and the Word of God going out with the Word of the gospel. All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord, and all Your saints shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom and tell of Your power, to make known to the children of man Your mighty deeds and the glorious splendor of Your kingdom. And this is really the center of the Psalm, 11 and 12, talking about the glory of the kingdom and the children who will make known His mighty deeds in that glorious, splendid, beautiful kingdom. And again, it's almost as if you can't stop with this celebration of universality. The kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your domain endures through all generations. This is really great stuff.

It's great stuff to read when discouraged. Where is the Lord? Why isn't the Lord acting?

Is He standing around with His hands in His pockets? Well, read Psalm 145. It's good to have, you know, Psalm 88 when we're really down and we can read it and know that other people have really been down, but I think it's even better to read something that can bring us up and hear this celebration of God's goodness, His greatness, His splendor that radiates down through the generations in a kingdom that is everlasting is so glorious. And then in verse 14, we begin to get the Psalmist being a little more specific about the works of God.

He's been general about the works of God, and now he becomes more specific. The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. There's a beautiful picture of the mercy of the Lord. You can go and read Psalm 111, another alphabetical Psalm, develops that thought of the Lord high and lifted up, coming down to the lowly and lifting them up and seating them above princes.

It's a beautiful picture of the mercy of the Lord, the provision of the Lord, really of the salvation of the Lord. Verse 15, the eyes of all look to you and you give them their food in due season. The Lord is the one who provides food for all His creatures, particularly for His own people. You open your hand and you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

Again, this is exuberant to a point where we might say, well, is that really true? Does He really satisfy the desire of every living thing? Well, He satisfies the desire of everyone who desires Him. But the great point here is how stupendous the provision of God is, how overflowing. There is nothing miserly about God. There is nothing cheap about God. He desires to lavish goodness upon His people.

That should not lead you to a prosperity gospel. It's the great spiritual blessing of the Lord upon His people, often in physical terms as well. The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His works. You know, I think sometimes, again, we can wonder about the kindness of the Lord. In a world with so much pain and so much evil and so much struggle, is the Lord kind? And the psalmist wants us to remember He really is kind, and we have to see through the struggles of the day to who He is. The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.

There's a wonderful promise of prayer answered. The Lord preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked will He destroy. That's the negative note in the psalm. Again, almost every psalm has a contrast between the wicked and the godly. The wicked should not use this psalm to say, well, if He loves everybody, I'm safe. No, footnote verse 20.

That is not to be concluded. There is grace for everyone who seeks it. There is grace for everyone who finds it. No one has ever asked for grace and been denied. That's what is being said here in verse 18, the Lord is near to all who call on Him.

But for those who refuse to call upon Him, there is no mercy. And so then this wonderful conclusion, my mouth will speak the praise of the Lord. Let all flesh bless His holy name forever and ever. And here again, there's such a unity of themes from the Psalter. The individual, my mouth, and the universal communal, all flesh shall praise Him together.

Real biblical religion is always very personal and individual, but also always, always a part of a community and of the church, and that's all being celebrated here. So it really is a most fitting, most wonderful end to this fifth book and indeed to the Psalter as a whole. If this is the book of praises, it's very right that this last verse should be, my mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord.

And I hope that this little appetizer about the Psalter has whetted your whistle for knowing the Psalter better. We said at the beginning that the title of this series really should be, Learning to Love the Psalms. That's my hope that you will be eager to continue to love the Psalms. And I know sometimes when you hear somebody who knows a little Hebrew talk about the Psalter, it can be discouraging.

You say, well, I don't know Hebrew. I couldn't find all that. You can find so much more than you can ever make use of in the Psalter, just on your own. Don't be discouraged by that. Every bit of effort you invest in learning the Psalms will be richly rewarded.

And how can you do that? Well, just by reading them, familiarizing yourself with them. What I've tried to do is provide some helps along the way so things that might be discouraging won't be discouraging.

You'll know how to deal with them and know how to function with them as you go along. A great way to learn the Psalms is to sing them. My older son is pastoring a congregation that was not in its history Reformed. And at one point they concluded that maybe they weren't as biblical as they wanted to be. They really wanted to be biblical.

So they started studying a number of things, and one of the things they began to study was their worship. And as they began to study worship, one of the leaders of the church came in one day and he said, you know, I was Googling and I found there are Psalms set to music. Did any of you know there were any Psalms set to music?

Nobody in the church knew there were any Psalms set to music. And so the guy said, you know, I found that there's a book of Psalms for singing. And everybody said, wow, what a great way to learn the Psalter. Why don't we get that book?

And they did. It's a funny looking maroon kind of book. And they've been singing out of that book ever since, not as a matter of principle, but they're just so excited to be learning some Psalms. And they said, you know, when we finally really know the Psalms, maybe we'll sing something else.

But they are excited. And people who were entirely unacquainted with the Psalms now are finding such a rich treasure in the objective statements of the character and works of God, in the subjective response of the heart, in repentance and in praise and in faith to the Lord. So find a way to spend more time in the Psalms.

Singing is a great way. Reading, encourage your churches to have a class or a series of sermons on the Psalms. It's such a blessing and will really deepen us, I believe, in our growth, in our faith and in our confidence.

So Lord, bless you as we finish this series. Bless you with an eagerness to continue to learn to love the Psalms. Well I hope that's true of you as we wrap up Dr. Robert Godfrey's series, Learning to Love the Psalms. We've seen this week here on Renewing Your Mind that the Psalms truly are a treasure. They provide us with language to communicate with God. Augustine said, if the Psalm prays, you pray. If the Psalm laments, you lament. If the Psalm exalts, you rejoice.

Everything written here is a mirror for us. We've aired only a few of the 12 messages in this series, but we would be happy to send you the full 2-DVD set when you contact us today with a donation of any amount. And when you've completed your request, we'll also add the digital study guide to your online learning library. You can find us online to make your request at renewingyourmind.org, or you can call us with your gift at 800-435-4343. In this series, Dr. Godfrey invites us to press into the Psalms to gain a greater understanding of and a love for these beautiful verses. So again, request Learning to Love the Psalms when you call us at 800-435-4343.

Our web address again is renewingyourmind.org. And by the way, this series is one of the many courses that we offer in Ligonier's online learning community that we call Ligonier Connect. This is a great tool for studying on your own, but it's also designed to foster learning and growth in community with others. Explore the many courses that are available.

There are more than 100 of them at connect.ligonier.org. Tomorrow we have the privilege of hearing R.C. Sproul read one of his beloved children's books. Here's a preview. Suddenly, without warning, the road ended in a cliff.

If his trusty horse had taken even one more step, they would have plunged to their deaths. I hope you'll join us Friday as R.C. reads The Night's Map, here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-17 13:27:31 / 2022-11-17 13:36:52 / 9

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