God's Greatness for Our Good
On Sunday evening, Rev. James MacIver preached on Psalm 147, a sermon entitled, ‘God’s Greatness for our Good’.
He began by sharing some statistics about the universe, including the fact that the sun is, apparently, 1.3 million times the volume of the Earth. These statistics, Mr MacIver said, are impressive, but the degree to which they impress depends entirely upon that with which they are compared. God is not likely to be particularly moved by any of this data collected by scientists, because, as verse 4 tells us, ‘He determines the number of the stars’.
Yet, although the psalm details His greatness for us in terms of His creation of the universe, that is not the psalmist’s intended emphasis. We see, in verses 5 and 6, God’s greatness in the context of helping those who are in need: the weak, the poor, the humble.
Mr MacIver considered four different aspects of this greatness.
Firstly, His is a greatness which gathers the homeless. It is likely that Psalm 147 was written after the Babylonian exile and is, consequently, a song of restoration. This theme, therefore, links it with chapter 40 in the book of Isaiah, which signals the return from exile. In chapter 40, the prophet has much to say about the greatness of God and then, right in the midst of all this, at verse 11, he paints a very tender picture of the Lord as a shepherd who ‘will gather His lambs in His arms’.
This God, who has placed every single one of the stars, is more than capable of dealing with the problems of mankind. Moreover, He is willing in His greatness to intervene for our good. It is He, and only He, who is capable of undoing the scattering caused by sin, and of mending our faults. He is not just concerned with our broken relationships with one another, but about repairing the very faculties of our souls – conscience, will, etc. – which are so detrimental to our relationship with Him.
Every human being has burdens and hurts, but God is not simply saying here to bring them to Him, but to bring them to Him in His greatness in which He is more than capable of healing all.
We are frequently moved by the plight of refugees on our television screens and would in no way trivialise or exploit their tragic circumstances. Their situation is, however, an illustration for us of our own suffering in sinfulness. We are refugees in this world because of the sin which drove us out of Eden. God gathers us from the wasteland of sin to a home with Himself, where we belong. Once adopted into His spiritual family, we cannot be driven from Heaven.
Secondly, His is a greatness which heals the wounded. There are frequent references throughout the Bible to people who are suffering. Every human being in this church, Mr MacIver said, carries their own pain and worry, and there is nothing wrong with displaying the signs of grief. As psalm 56 tells us, He bottles all our tears so that He can apply His greatness to our healing. Surely, then, there is no greater evidence of God’s delight in healing our broken hearts than in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus became a man of sorrows and acquainted Himself with grief for our sakes; He showed His wounds to Thomas so we might finally believe that he had taken all our discomfort and injury to Himself.
In verse 3 of Psalm 147, we see the Lord portrayed as the healer of our wounds. It is not a preacher in a pulpit who mollifies our pain, Mr MacIver reminded, but Jesus Christ, who is the great physician. Like any diligent doctor, He makes His rounds to check on people’s progress, but unlike the best of these professionals, He is always on duty. All He asks in return is that we trust Him, and serve Him in thankfulness and dependence.
Thirdly, Mr MacIver outlined the aspect of God’s greatness which lifts up the fallen. At verse 6, we see reference to the ‘humble’, which really means to convey a sense of their affliction and labouring under a heavy burden.
God bends down, as it were, and sets such people back upon their spiritual feet. One might say that, in His greatness, He applies that very greatness to lift up the afflicted.
Here, the minister referenced Paul’s three-time petition that God might remove his thorn in the flesh, and his eventual acceptance of the reply that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. In this regard, we should understand the Lord as a spiritual physiotherapist – sometimes having to exert pressure, and even pain, in order to help us.
It is a remarkable thought that God’s almightiness has an in-built feature which makes it come into its own precisely where it meets with our need. That which is so completely the essence of God finds fulfilment in that which God could never possess: weakness.
Finally, Mr MacIver spoke of the praiseworthiness of God’s greatness. This psalm begins and ends with the same three words: ‘Praise the Lord’, which was rendered in the original language simply as , ‘hallelujah’.
For many, God is not someone they wish to know. They want to remove His influence from every sphere of public life, they deny His existence, they call Him cold, or a tyrant, or much worse.
Only those who do not know Him could ever say such things about the God who, in His greatness, stoops to pick us up. Those who do know Him are well aware that a life spent in praise of the Lord is a life that has been liberated in the truest sense.