Psalm 33
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
In this section of the Commentary we aim at discovering the unity of the psalm, and of dealing with it accordingly, reserving the treatment of specific verses as separate texts, for another department. This psalm has neither title nor author's name appended thereto. It is manifestly an outburst of glad and gladdening song from some Old Testament believer, and is a glorious anticipation of Philippians 4:4. It is refreshing to the spirit to find that in the olden times there were pious and holy souls, receptive of the revelation which God had even then given of himself, and who could gather up their thoughts in grateful calm as they mused on the perfections of their ever-reigning Lord. In this psalm there are no historic considerations presented, nor is there any individual experience suggested at which we have to look in studying this amazing illustration of joy in God. It is the "itself by itself " - the pure thing, the uplifting of a soul from the cloudland of earth to the sunland of heaven. Here is -

I. AN ENRAPTURING VIEW OF THE GLORY OF OUR REVEALED GOD. We use this word "revealed," as indicated By this psalm, advisedly on two grounds. For

(1) the name "Jehovah" (ver. 1) is the name by which God revealed himself to Israel (Exodus 6:3). The name "I am that I am" at once removes the God of the Hebrews far above all anthropomorphism. Then

(2) in ver. 4 we are told, "The Word of the Lord is right;" so that, as the word is the expression of thought, and as expressed thought indicates will, it is here declared that God had made known his will (see Psalm 103:7; Hebrews 1:1). How far God's early disclosures of himself went, our Lord Jesus Christ tells us (Matthew 22:31, 32). And it is by the light from words of God that we read his natural works. Having, then, God revealed by name and by word, what are the contents of that revelation which are here pointed out?

1. Right. (Ver. 4.) The Word of God, as given under the Old Testament, was preeminently right. As being such, the whole of the hundred and nineteenth psalm extols it. And now no nobler ethical code does the world possess than that given to Moses and the prophets, and confirmed by Christ.

2. Truth. (Ver. 4.) I.e. faithfulness. As righteousness marks the Word, so fidelity to the Word marks the works of God.

3. Goodness. (ver. 5.) I.e. loving-kindness. The earth is full of it. The sound eye rejoices in the sunshine; and the pure heart reads the goodness of God everywhere.

4. Power. (Vers. 6, 7, 9.) We cannot rejoice in bare power; but when infinite power is in alliance with perfect goodness and with loving-kindness, then we can.

5. Wisdom. (Ver. 10.) There is not only a power that sways matter, but a wisdom which controls mind, so that among the nations there can never be any plotting which can frustrate or intercept his plans.

6. Omniscience. (Vers. 14, 15.) He espies from afar the hidden thought of every soul (Proverbs 15:3; Psalm 139.). He knows men's hearts, as having created them (ver. 15) "alike," i.e. altogether, in one. There are variations in mind, but yet all minds act responsively to some necessary laws of thought inlaid in their original structure.

7. Steadfast counsels. (Ver. 11.) This is true of the plans of providence; but it is most gloriously true of the hidden mysteries and triumphs of his grace (1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 3:9; Acts 15:18).

8. All his counsels are in alliance with a holiness which warrants and invites confidence. (Ver. 21.) He cannot do wrong; he cannot be unfaithful or unkind (Psalm 92:15).

9. On some he looks with special favour and love. (Vers. 18, 19; see Psalm 18:25, 26.) Those who trust God most fully and follow him most faithfully will find that their lot is as beautifully ordered for them as if God had no one else to occupy his care. They will be guarded in peril, supplied in need, and comforted in sorrow; the loving glances of a gracious eye and the cheering words from a loving heart will give to such many a song in the night. Let all these nine features of God's glory be put together and looked at in blended sweetness, and see if they will not raise to an ecstasy of delight.


1. The joy has uprightness for its condition. Upright souls! Only such. But this does not mean absolutely perfect men, but men who mourn over the wrong, who have confessed it before God, who have received his pardoning mercy, and who loyally conform their lives to God's holy will and Word, who would not knowingly harbour any sin or aught that would grieve their God - men who have gone, in fact, through the experiences of Psalm 32. (of which, indeed, this may possibly be a continuation).

2. This joy has grace for its resting-place. (Vers. 18, 22.) "Mercy." The joy would have no ground stable enough if it were settled on any other basis than God himself, nor unless that basis were "mercy." "O God, be merciful to me I" is the cry which goes up from the penitent's lips more and more pleadingly as he moves forward in the pardoned life.

3. This joy has all that God is, has, and does for its contents. So the whole psalm teaches us; for the pardoning mercy of God has brought us so near to him that we know there is for us such an outpouring of love Divine as makes us infinitely rich for time and eternity.

4. This joy has boundless hope for its outlook. (Ver. 22.) As Bishop Perowne well remarks, "hope" indicates the perpetual attitude of a trusting and waiting Church. Believers know that God will do exceeding abundantly for them above all they can ask or think. As the rich disclosures of God under the prophets have advanced to their unveiling in the unsearchable riches of Christ, so will the wonders of Christ in grace move forward to those of Christ in his glory. We yet seek a Fatherland. "God is not ashamed to be called our God, for he bath prepared for us a city."

5. This joy has prayer for its upward expression. (Ver. 22, "Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us," etc.) Not that this is its only form of expression (for see below), but it is a joy which must and will find outlet in prayer for the constant supply of that mercy which feeds and sustains it.

III. THE JOY IS SUCH THAT IT MAY WELL RIPEN INTO A HOLY FELLOWSHIP OF MUSIC AND SONG. Here in vers. 1-3 the psalmist calls on all upright souls to join him in sounding forth the praises of the Lord.

1. God having taken off all our burdens of guilt and care, the tongue is set free for praise.

2. A common joy in God may wall suggest a grand concert of song. Fellowship in trouble is soothing; fellowship in peril is uniting; fellowship in need touches common sympathy; fellowship in gladness creates a grand inspiration and a mighty burst of praise.

3. In giving vent to our joy musical instruments may be "skilfully made subservient thereto. (Ver. 3.) To plead against this verse that we live in another dispensation, is not in place; for musical instruments in the hands of sanctified men are the servants of the Spirit, and we do but utilize God's own world of harmony when we press them into the service of celebrating redeeming love.

4. The right use and ample enjoyment in hallowed mirth, as we celebrate the praises of the Lord, may be made a holy and blessed means of grace. It is of no mean importance to recruit the bodily powers for God by means of the enjoyment of sacred music and song. And if, indeed, Christian people of musical tastes would seek to sanctify their special powers for God and his Church, many an abuse of their talents might be prevented, and many a holy outlet for their use secured. Well might Frances R. Havergal write -

Take my voice, and let me sing
Always, only, for my King."

5. The largest scope for the noblest music is opened up by the wonders of redeeming love. Poetry, painting, sculpture, music, - all are grandest when inspired by the Cross. - C.

as at once the Almighty Creator and Ruler of the world, and the Protector of his chosen people. Ver. 12 may he regarded as the pivot on which the whole psalm turns. What was true ideally, and in part of Israel, is true in fact and perfectly of God's people. "Blessed" -

I. BECAUSE THE LORD IS THEIR GOD. The prophets delight to mark the contrast between the gods of the heathen and Jehovah (Deuteronomy 32:31; Psalm 86:8; Isaiah 40:18-25). The vital difference between the false and the true was brought out powerfully in Egypt (Exodus 8:10), and with still more intense and dramatic effect on Mount Carmel in the day of Elijah (1 Kings 18:24). No doubt some of the heathen attained to high views of duty, but amongst the people it was otherwise. As has been said, their gods were like themselves -

"Gods partial, changeful, passionate, unjust,
Whose attributes were rage, revenge, and lust." But our God is the living and true God. His character commands our highest admiration (vers. 1-3). His Word and his works call forth our most devoted homage and praise (vers. 4-11). Idolaters and all with idol-loving hearts may be constrained to say, in the day of their trouble, "They have taken away my gods, and what have I more?" (Judges 18:24). But no power can take away our God. He says to us, "I will never leave thee." And we cry to him with exulting faith, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee" (Psalm 73:23-28). To Israel God appealed as the God of Abraham, and claimed their obedience as the Lord their God, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt (Exodus 3:6; Exodus 20:1); but he stands in a nearer relationship, and has higher claims upon us, as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3, 7; 1 Peter 1:3, 7).

II. BECAUSE UNDER GOD'S GOVERNMENT THEY ARE BEING FORMED TO THE CHARACTER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. Righteousness is the great want of the world. Get people made righteous - right in their being and their life, and there would be an end to the great evils that afflict society. Righteousness is the craving of all consciences and the hope of all troubled hearts. God's great aim is to make his people righteous. For this end he has given his Law; for this he sent his Son into the world; for this, as the potter with the clay, he is continually working in his gracious providence, "fashioning" the hearts of men. Well, therefore, has Paul said, "We are his workmanship" (Ephesians 2:10). God is blessed because he is righteous; and he would have his people made happy after the same fashion (Isaiah 32:17). "Righteousness exalteth a nation" (Proverbs 14:34); and this holds true also of individuals. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6).

III. BECAUSE THEY HAVE A GREAT FUTURE BEFORE THEM. Nations have their decline and fall. Even Israel, because unfaithful, have been scattered (Deuteronomy 29:24-28); but the true Israel shall be under the eye and the keeping of the Lord for ever. They are his own inheritance (cf. Ephesians 1:18). Therefore they are encouraged to "hope," to "wait," to "trust." Their golden age is not in the past, but in the future. What Jacob said on his death-bed may be said with joy by all his true children, "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord!" (Genesis 49:18; cf. Luke 2:28-32; 1 Peter 1:10-13). - W.F.

The psalm is anonymous, and was composed apparently to celebrate some deliverance of the nation from heathen oppression, resulting from God's interposition and without war. Vers. 1-3 are a summons to praise God, the song to be accompanied with instrumental music. God is to be praised -


1. His Word is upright, always fulfilling itself.

2. All his conduct is faithful and righteous.

3. All his manifestations of himself are full of loving-kindness.


1. His Word - the breath of his mouth - was sufficient for the creation of the heavens.

2. He gathered together the waters of the sea.

3. Such manifestations of his power ought to fill us with reverence and awe. Study God's works as well as his Word. In the nineteenth verse we have the thought of the sixth verse repeated.

III. As THE IRRESISTIBLE RULER IN THE HISTORY OF MEN. (Vers. 10, 11.) Contrast here between what God does with the thoughts and counsels of men - bringing them to nought - and what he does with his own - making them to stand fast to all generations. The counsels which he brings to nought are evil counsels; he prospers and establishes the counsels of the righteous, and fulfils his own plans and purposes. - S

The call to praise God is supported by a setting forth of that which his people possess in him. The theme of this second part of the psalm is set forth in the twelfth verse, "Blessed is the nation whose God is Jehovah."

I. BECAUSE GOD IS THE CREATOR HE HAS THE MOST PERFECT KNOWLEDGE. (Vers. 13-15.) He not only observes men's doings, but knows their hearts, as having created them. You cannot know a man perfectly from his acts; you must know his thoughts and purposes to know his character.


1. The victory of the king and the safety of the warrior are not they own works. Even the war-horse, a thing that promises much in strength, can in reality do nothing apart from God's overruling power.

2. The eye of God is ditched towards those that fear him, to deliver them from danger and death.


1. The Church waits for God. (Ver. 20.) To be its Help and Shield.

2. The Church rejoices in the holiness of God. If he were not perfectly good we should have to tremble with terror and not rejoice.

3. The Church hopes in God. Hope has been the attitude of the Church through all the ages. It must be our personal attitude towards God in Christ. "Which hope we have as the anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast," etc. What can sufferers do but hope? - S.

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