Psalm 47 – Praising the King of All the Earth
The title tells us both the authors and the audience of the psalm: To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. Some believe that the Chief Musician is the LORD God Himself, and others suppose him to be a leader of choirs or musicians in David’s time, such as Heman the singer or Asaph (1 Chronicles 6:33, 16:5-7, and 25:6). Korah was a descendant of Levi (Exodus 6:16-24), and therefore the sons of Korah were Levites. Most assume that the specific sons of Korah addressed here and in the titles of ten other psalms were Levitical singers in the tabernacle/temple ceremonies, and perhaps they were performers of the psalm rather than the authors of it.
This is a wonderful psalm celebrating a great victory of a great King. Perhaps it was occasioned by the victory of a king such as Jehoshaphat (as in 2 Chronicles 20:15-23), but there is no doubt that it prophetically has in mind the ascension of the Messiah to His throne and celebrates His reign over the whole earth. “In later Jewish usage Psalm 47 was utilized as part of the New Year’s service.” (Willem VanGemeren)
A. The King of all the earth blesses His chosen people.
1. (1) The command to praise.
Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!
Shout to God with the voice of triumph!
a. Oh, clap your hands: The clapping of hands draws attention to something, usually as an outward expression of inward joy. The Bible uses it both in a negative and positive sense.
i. There is both clapping for praise (Psalm 47:1, Psalm 98:8, Isaiah 55:12) and clapping in derision (Job 27:23, Lamentations 2:15, Nahum 3:19).
ii. This is a word for all nations, and “If they cannot all speak the same tongue, the symbolic language of the hands they can all use.” (Spurgeon)
b. All you peoples: This is a command to more than Israel or followers of God; it is a command to all…peoples. It is ultimately the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham to bless all the peoples of the earth through his Descendant, the Messiah (Genesis 12:2-3).
i. “Psalm 47 follows quite naturally after Psalm 46. Psalm 46 is focused on the security of God’s people, noting how God had delivered them from one of their great enemies. It challenged the nations to observe that deliverance and stand in awe before God. Now, in Psalm 47 God says to those same people: ‘Rejoice and be happy; the King of Israel is also the King of all the Earth.’” (Boice)
c. Shout to God: The note is strong and happy. The psalmist did not have in mind sleepy singing or whispered prayers.
i. Most people are not against shouting or enthusiastic outbursts; they simply believe there is a right and wrong place for such shouting. Sadly, many who think a loud exclamation is fine at a football game think it is a scandal in the church.
2. (2) The reason for praise.
For the LORD Most High is awesome;
He is a great King over all the earth.
a. The LORD Most High is awesome: The psalmist presented this without proof, as a self-evident fact. He considered it obvious to everyone, as much as water is wet and fire is hot.
b. He is a great King over all the earth: Both the office and the realm are important. He is a great King, in that He is the King of Kings and the highest monarch. His realm extends over all the earth, and He is sovereign in all places.
i. The pagan gods of the ancient world (Baal, Molech, Ashtoreth, and so forth) were imagined to be territorial gods. Their authority was limited to a nation or a region. The psalmist proclaimed that the LORD God is not like one of these imagined gods.
3. (3-4) God’s special care for His chosen.
He will subdue the peoples under us,
And the nations under our feet.
He will choose our inheritance for us,
The excellence of Jacob whom He loves. Selah
a. He will subdue the peoples under us: Here the psalmist spoke as one of God’s chosen nation, Israel. He looked forward to the time when the righteous reign of the great King would be exercised over all the earth, and Israel would assume its destined place of leadership among the nations.
i. Without doubt, the psalmist knew that this great King would be the Messiah; yet he looked ahead to the hope of the Messiah. We look back at the fulfillment of the promise to send the Messiah, fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He is the great King who will rule the earth and subdue the nations, granting believing Israel superpower status in the coming age.
b. He will choose our inheritance for us: The psalmist was confident in the wisdom and goodness of the great King. He was happy to let the great King choose our inheritance.
i. It is a glorious fact that our great King Jesus has chosen the inheritance of His people. Ephesians 1:3-6 is just one passage that describes some of His choosing for us:
· He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.
· He chose us to be holy and blameless before Him in love.
· He chose us to be adopted as sons into His family.
ii. It is a wise prayer, to ask our great King Jesus to choose our inheritance for us. We often get into trouble by wanting to choose our own inheritance.
· We sometimes want to choose our own blessings. One has health, another has wealth, a third has great talents; each wishes he had what the other has. Yet it is far better to let God choose our blessings.
· We sometimes want to choose our own calling. One sees the calling of another and thinks that the calling of the other is better, or he wants to imitate the calling of another instead of running his own race.
· We sometimes want to choose our own crosses. We think that our own problems are so much worse than others, and we think that we could bear any number of crosses – except the one He chose for us.
iii. Charles Spurgeon thought that this was a psalm of David and not the sons of Korah – that David wrote it, but they sang it. He wrote, “Our ear has grown accustomed to the ring of David’s compositions, and we are morally certain that we hear it in this Psalm.” This may or may not be true, but certainly David knew that his King chose his inheritance at each stage of his life, and he showed contentment with the inheritance God chose for him:
· As an anonymous shepherd boy.
· As a warrior against Goliath.
· As a fugitive running from Saul.
· As a king over Israel.
· As a disciplined sinner.
c. The excellence of Jacob whom He loves: This explains why we can be at peace with the inheritance He chooses for us. We know that for Jesus’ sake and because we are in Him, God is for us and not against us. He loves us as His chosen; because He chose us we are happy to let Him choose our inheritance for us.
i. “The Holy Land is called ‘the excellency of Jacob,’ or ‘the pride of Jacob,’ on account of its beauty, and the excellence and variety of its productions (see Deuteronomy 8:7-9; 2 Kings 18:32).” (Rawlinson)
ii. The excellence of Jacob: “The pride of Jacob is a brief way of saying ‘Jacob’s glorious land.’” (Kidner)
iii. Whom He loves provokes a question: Why does God so love Jacob? Why does God so love the church? Why does God so love the world? The answer is that the reasons for His love are in Him, and not in the ones whom He loves.
B. A call to praise the King of all the earth.
1. (5) The fact of praise.
God has gone up with a shout,
The LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
a. God has gone up with a shout: The going up here refers to ascending to a royal throne. The idea is that the great King has taken His throne and therefore receives a shout of praise.
i. The idea is that God comes down from heaven to help and save His people, and when He goes back up to heaven, He deserves praise and acclamation from His people.
ii. Jesus ascended the royal throne in heaven after He finished His work for us on the cross and proved it by the empty tomb. He can only go up with a shout because He came down in humility to fight for His people and to save them.
b. The LORD with the sound of a trumpet: In the world of ancient Israel, the trumpet made the strongest and clearest sound; it was the sound of victory. To honor God clearly and strongly for His victory on our behalf, the sound of a trumpet is heard.
2. (6-7) The call to praise and the reason for it.
Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth;
Sing praises with understanding.
a. Sing praises: In this context, this is almost a command. It is a fitting command in light of the glory of the King of all the earth. God might have given speech to humanity without the gift of song; there are some tone-deaf people in the world. What is the case of some might have been the case of all; but God gave the gift of song and music to men, and the highest use of this gift is to praise the God who gave it.
i. “Let a thousand people speak at once; all thought and feeling are drowned in hubbub. But let them sing together in perfect time and tune; both thought and feeling are raised to a pitch of energy else inconceivable.” (Rawlinson)
ii. Sing praises: “A single word in Hebrew, with therefore a swifter, livelier impact.” (Kidner)
iii. “This word is four times repeated in this short verse, and shows at once the earnestness and happiness of the people. They are the words of exultation and triumph. Feel your obligation to God; express it in thanksgiving.” (Clarke)
b. The King of all the earth: The idea from the second verse is repeated for emphasis. God’s glorious authority extends far beyond the land or people of Israel. He is the global God, the King of all the earth.
c. Sing praises with understanding: Praise is appropriately offered with singing and should also be made with understanding. God wants our worship to be intelligent and not mindless. It is not necessary to be smart to worship God, but we should worship Him with all our being, including our mind (Mark 12:30).
i. “We must not be guided by the time, but the words of the Psalm; we must mind the matter more than the music, and consider what we sing, as well as how we sing; the tune may affect the fancy, but it is the matter affects the heart, and that God principally eyes.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Sing praises with understanding: According to Kidner, Paul had the Septuagint translation of this phrase in mind when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:15, I will also sing with the understanding.
iii. All in all, this psalm shows us how we are to praise God:
· Praise Him cheerfully when you clap your hands as an expression of your inward joy.
· Praise Him universally together with all you peoples who should praise the Lord.
· Praise Him vocally as you shout unto God with the voice of triumph.
· Praise Him frequently, as the idea of sing praises is repeated often. You cannot praise Him too much.
· Praise Him intelligently, as you are to sing praises with understanding and to know and proclaim the reasons for our praise.
C. The King of all the earth and the nations.
1. (8) The reign of the King.
God reigns over the nations;
God sits on His holy throne.
a. God reigns over the nations: The LORD is not King of all the earth in only a passive or ceremonial sense. He reigns over the nations and moves history toward His desired destination.
b. God sits on His holy throne: When John had his heavenly experience as recorded in Revelation 4-5, he described everything in heaven in relation to this occupied throne. The center of heaven – indeed, the center of all creation – is this occupied throne in heaven.
i. God sits upon the throne; it is not empty. He is not an empty or ceremonial ruler.
ii. It is His throne; it belongs to Him and to none other.
iii. It is a holy throne, where the holiness of God has been perfectly satisfied by the work of Jesus on the cross. Therefore, it is both a holy throne and a throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).
2. (9) The King is exalted above the nations.
The princes of the people have gathered together,
The people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
He is greatly exalted.
a. The princes of the people have gathered: In the mind of the psalmist, the leaders of God’s people gather to both receive and exalt the King of all the earth.
i. “The promise concerning the blessing of the tribes of the nations in the seed of the patriarch is being fulfilled; for the nobles draw the peoples who are protected by them after themselves.” (Keil and Delitzsch)
ii. “The princes of the earth belong especially to God, since ‘by him kings reign, and princes decree justice’ (Proverbs 8:15).” (Rawlinson)
b. The shields of the earth belong to God: “The Septuagint translates this hoi krataioi, the strong ones of the earth.… The words refer to something by which the inhabitants of the earth are defended; God’s providence, guardian angels, etc.” (Clarke)
i. “It is the abundant fulfillment of the promise of Genesis 12:3; it anticipates what Paul expounds of the inclusion of the Gentiles as Abraham’s sons (Romans 4:11; Galatians 3:7-9).” (Kidner)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org