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PRAISE THE LORD WHO RESTORES ISRAEL

Psalm 147:1-147:20
Key Verse: 147:2

This Psalm is called “Hallelujah” psalm because it starts with Hallelujah, which means, ‘Praise the Lord’, and finishes with it. This psalm was probably written to commemorate the rebuilding of Jerusalem at the time of Nehemiah after returning from exile to Babylon. The psalmist was filled with praises to God when he thought of God’s great restoration for his people.

Let’s read verse 1. “ Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!” He is praising God because it is good and pleasant, and most of all fitting to do that. Why is it so fitting to praise God? Why does God so deserve our praise? In this passage the psalmist gives us reasons why it is so fitting to praise God.

First, God heals the brokenhearted (1-6). Look at verses 2 and 3. “The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Jerusalem is the city of God where the temple of God was located. But this city was destroyed, and her people became the exiles to Babylon. After 70 years of Babylonian captivity, the LORD rebuilt Jerusalem and gathered the exiles of Israel. In this way God restored his people Israel. But the real restoration came into the hearts of his people.

Let’s read verse 3 again. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Here, ‘the brokenhearted’ are those whose hearts are broken due to their unbearable human circumstances. The exiles of Israel thought they became brokenhearted because of national tragedy. Psalm 137:1 says, “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remember Zion.” But it was not their human circumstances that made them brokenhearted. Hosea 6:1 says, “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces, but he will heal us; he has injured us, but he will bind up our wounds.” It was God who torn their hearts to pieces, and injured them. Why did he do so? It was because he loved them. It was God’s divine love for them.

As we study about the spiritual condition of God’s people before Babylonian captivity, we can understand why God did this to them. God brought them into the promised land so that they may serve God and live as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. But they did not serve God in the promised land God gave them. Instead, they only sought material prosperity and worldly successes. They became idol worshippers from top to bottom. They became like prostitutes whose hearts were drawn to many other men. God called them to repentance and faith in him again and again through his servants. But they were not willing. Biblically speaking, Babylonian captivity is God’s divine discipline for his people to restore them.

How does God heal and restore his people? Isaiah 37:15 says, “For this is what the high and lofty One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” God’s healing and revival comes when his people are contrite and lowly in spirit. After 70 years of Babylonian captivity, God’s people became humble. They became contrite and lowly in spirit. They began to realize what their real problem was. This was the beginning of their restoration. When they humbly returned to the Lord, God healed their broken hearts and bound up their wounds. God restored them again as his glorious people. God’s discipline is God’s divine love that leads us to healing and restoration.

Look at verses 4 and 5. “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.” Verse 4 teaches us that God is the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. We learned that stars in the universe are countless. But God determines the number of stars because he made them all. He also calls them each by name. God knows each one personally. Once God took Abraham outside when he was depressed, and asked him to look up at the heavens and count the stars. Then he promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. The God who determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name would gather his scattered exiles and call them each by name, no matter how many they are, even if they are as numerous as the stars in the sky. Our God is great because he is mighty in power. God is able to heal and restore his people because he is mighty in power. Our God is a mighty healer. He would heal their broken heart and bind up their wound with his might power. In God there is no sickness beyond healing, and no wounds beyond recovery.

Our God is great because his understanding has no limit. Who can truly understand the brokenhearted and the wounded? Who can understand my situation and my problems? Parents’ understanding of their children has limitation. A shepherd’s understanding of his or her sheep has also limitation. In fact, man cannot understand man, because human understanding has great limit. But God’s understanding has no limit. What an amazing knowledge it is that God’s understanding has no limit! God is the only One who can truly help us because he truly understands us. God is the only One who can heal and restore us because he is mighty in power and his understanding has no limit.

Look at verse 6. “The Lord sustains the humble, but casts the wicked to the ground.” Our God is the great God who owns the Universe. But he is a humble God, so humble that he sustains the humble. In this world, people become proud when they have something. The more they have, the more they become proud. But is it not amazing that our God who owns everything became so humble? This humble God came to this world through Jesus. Jesus is the example of humbleness. He emptied himself and humbled himself to the point of death on the cross. Jesus humbled himself to save us from our sins. Whenever we think of God’s humbleness, it seems mystery beyond our understanding. As for me, the true greatness of God is not in his great power, but in his great humbleness. Because of his humbleness he is able to hear the groaning of the brokenhearted and the wounded. May God bless us to grow in the humbleness of God so that so that God can use us to heal the brokenhearted and bind up the wounds of young people in UofT campus.

Second, God cares all his creatures and his people (7-11). Look at verses 7. “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make music to our God on the harp.” The Psalmist sings to the Lord with thanksgiving. He plays music to God with the harp. What is the reason for his praise? Look at verses 8-9. “He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. 9 He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.” He praises God for his provision for all his creatures. How does he do that? First, he forms clouds in the sky, and supplies the earth with rain. The water makes grass grow on the hills. These grasses become abundant food for the cattle. God’s grace is limitless. It comes on the grasses in the hills and the cattle in the field. Even God cares and provides for the young ravens when they call. In New Living Translation, verse 9 says, “He gives food to the wild animals and feeds the young ravens when they cry.” Job 38:41 says, “Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?” It is God who provide food for them when they cry. They say that ravens cast their young out of the nest when the time comes. So when the young ravens are kicked out of their nest, they are on their own. Who will provide food for them? It is God who provides food for them when they cry. Who cares young ravens wondering in hunger? But God cares and give them food when they cry to God. How much more God would care for his children while he cares for even worthless young ravens? Jesus also said in Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” The One who hears even the young raven’s cry will not ignore our humble cry. He will hear our humble cry and provides all our need.

I heard the inspiring story this morning. Allen and Jesse and Ada were in airport yesterday, and Jesse lost her passport and was rejected at the Custom. Then they prayed together. When they went back after prayer, a woman found her passport in the washroom and brought it to them. They were amazed of God’s care and put their faith in God all the more. I also thank God who cared for Paulina while she was alone in the mission land. She had many problems, but God cared her perfectly and used her greatly for his glory. When Jing realized that God cares for her personally through Bible study, she found reasons to live all the more. She is full of hope in God.

When I first came to Canada, I was like a young raven that just came out of the nest. I was helpless not knowing what to do. I was humanly young and spiritually weak. People might ignore me, but God did not ignore. Whenever I cried for his help, he was there to help me. When I was hungry he fed me, and when I was wandering in my sin and weakness he led me into the path of righteousness. He provided me and my family with all things necessary to live a life of faith and mission. I praise God who cared for such a worthless person like a young raven.

I pray that God may be with M.Moses and Hannah and care for them at the difficult time of life. May God help them to put their trust in God and cry and cry like the young ravens.

Verses 10 and 11 tell us what God’s pleasure is. What really makes God happy? Look at verse 10. “His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man;” In the battle, the strength of the horse is very important. But God is not happy when his people depend on the strength of the horse. That is why God told Joshua to hamstring all the horses he captures from enemies. God also does not delight in those who depend on their own legs. Legs are very important in walking or running. Especially, the strength of legs is critical for runners like Usian Bolt. But God’s delight is not in the legs of a man. God does not delight those who depend on their own strength.

Then what makes God delight? Look at verse 11. “the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” God delights those who fear God and put his hope in him. Who are those people? They are humble people who knows who God is and who they are. Because they know who God is they fear God and respect him. They humbly depend on God in all circumstances of life. How can we know if people fears God and respects him? We can know when we see their attitude toward God’s word. They respect God’s word and tremble at his word. They delight God’s word and meditate on it day and night. God delights them and blesses them with abundant spiritual blessings. God gives him true joy and freedom. “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” (Psalm 1:3) God also delights those who put their hope in his unfailing love. Hope is very important for man. Without hope we cannot wake up in the morning. Because of hope we sustain our present life despite many difficulties and move onto the future. Because of the hope of getting gold medal, athletes are enduring all kinds of trainings. But the more important thing is where we put our hope. What is the true object of our hope? All hopes in the world will eventually disappoint us. All worldly hopes are like rainbow in the sky, which fades away in the matter of time. But those who put their hope in God’s unfailing love will never be disappointed. God is our true hope. Isaiah 40:31 says, “but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.“ When we put our hope in God, he will bring us into eternal kingdom of God. Peter said in 1Peter 1:3 and 4 say, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you,” God gave us a living hope. The kingdom of God is our living hope. God is pleased to give his kingdom to those who put their hope in his unfailing love.

Third, God sends his word to the earth (12-20). What happens to his people when God delights in them? Look at verses 12-14. “Extol the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion, 13 for he strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your people within you. 14 He grants peace to your borders and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.” ‘Strengthening the bars of your gates’ is God’s promise of protection for his people. Under God’s protection, God’s people will experience God’s blessings and his peace and abundant food. God would establish his people as strong people of God.

How doe God bless his people? Look at verse 15. “He sends his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.” God created the heavens and the earth with his word. The Creator God also sustains his creation with his word. The word of God that came from the mouth of God never falls to the ground in vain. It runs swiftly and carries out God’s purpose in his creation. All natures obey God’s command. Look at verses 16 – 18. “He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes. 17 He hurls down his hail like pebbles. Who can withstand his icy blast?” It is God who brings cold winter by spreading the snow like wool and scattering the frost like ashes. When winter is too cold and too long, we feel that it will never go away. But look at verse 18. “He sends his word and melts them; he stirs up his breeze, and the waters flow.” When the word of God melts cold snow and icy blast, spring comes. God stirs up his breeze and the water flows. That is how God restored his people. God brought them cold winter by taking them into Babylon. But after 70 years he brought them back to Jerusalem. Spring came to them. There is the time when we feel that the winter is too long and too cold. There is the time we feel that we hit the bottom humanly and spiritually. But this is the time we must hear the word of God. God will melt away all the snows and icy blast from our life through his word. He will stir up gentle breeze of spring so that the water of God’s life flows into our life.

Look at verse 19. “He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel.” Here, Jacob is God’s chosen people Israel. God has revealed his word to his people. They could see the wonderful things in the law. They could find precious treasures in the word of God. They could find God’s salvation through God’s word. These blessings came to us through the Bible, the written word of God. Why did God give his word to his people? Look at verse 20. “He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws.” God did not give us his word to make us proud and self-righteous. God gave us his word so that we may reveal his word to other nations which do not know his laws. God gave us his word so that we may become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

Hallelujah! Praise the Lord for all the blessings he has given to his people. Thank God for his wonderful care for his people. We have enough reasons to praise God with all our heart. May God heal and restore us and use us in his restoration work in our campus and in our nation. May we be the people who fear God and put hope in him alone. Especially, thank God for giving us wonderful words of God. May we love your word and reveal your word to those who do not know God through 1:1 Bible study.

Written by James Lee

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