Psalm 33—An Invitation

Psalm 33 sounds the call to worship, inviting righteous people to praise the Lord, busting out the lyres and harps, creating new songs and shouting of the Lord’s character. And then the psalmist offers the warrant for such a praise summons:

For the Word of the Yahweh is upright,
all his work is in faithfulness;
loving justice and righteousness,
the love of Yahweh fills the whole earth.

Psalm 33:4-5

That last line filled my imagination this morning—what does it mean to say that creation is full of the love of God? Everything God does evidences God’s faithfulness to the love-soaked creation. The love is everywhere, laid open. Mary Oliver’s poem, “I Wake Close to Morning”, captures the sentiment:

Why do people keep asking to see
God’s identity papers

when the darkness opening into morning
is more than enough.1

The psalm adds some color by invoking images of creation, and then invites humanity to stand in awe of a God who “spoke, and it came to be; he commanded and it stood firm.” When God speaks the word, creation comes into order, obeying the Lord’s voice.

Then the contrast: this isn’t like the people in charge of the nations. rather, their plans end up being frustrated, and their armies don’t have the power to save them. Their war horses [read: technological innovations] are “vain hopes for victory”, unable to save them [read: sustain their dominance].

And yet, those who are attentive to the Lord, who fear Yahweh and who hope in God’s love, are delivered from death, and rescued from famine. They can survive scarcity and violence, in other words.

The whole Psalm plays on the contrast of world leaders who seek their own good and scheme to sustain their own power, but ultimately fail to do so, and the Lord who fills the earth with gifts, signs of love, and whose rule is marked by righteousness and justice: those great Biblical words signaling care for vulnerable, marginalized people.

Ultimately, this is what the Psalm calls us towards. Not simply praise for God’s righteousness, but for imitation of it. It calls us to recognize the difference of God, who has true power but uses it generously, and enthroned people who use their incomplete power to inflict harm on others. The psalmist invites us to see such fools from the divine perspective—to watch God watch them—and to see what God sees. Those powers may inflict real harm, but ultimately they turn out to be pretenders, unable to master even their own inner lives, much less order the world.

God sees it all, and invites us to wipe the sleep from our eyes, and see too. Seeing is believing, after all. And all good and true believing becomes doing—in this case, the humble doing of just and righteous people, attentive to the way of God.

  1. This is the opening poem in Oliver’s collection Devotions which is almost cover to cover a meditation on this theme. ↩