Unlike the creation story in Genesis, Psalm 33 starts with humanity instead of creation. The writer of Psalms 33 wants to emphasize the relationship between humanity and God the Creator.
The primary aspect of humanity’s relationship to God is praise. The first words of the writer say, “sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous people; it is fitting for the upright to praise him,” (Ps. 33:1). Our response to God the Creator should be joy and thankfulness for the gift of life. Without God, nothing would exist. Humanity was made out of love as an expression of God’s unfailing love which flooded Creation. (Ps. 33:5). The correct response to this is joy.
That unfailing love does more than create joy, it also inspires us to create. The creation story in Genesis invites us into co-creation with God, and here the writer shows that in relation to joy: “Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy,” (Ps. 33:2-3). In our co-creation, we worship God. Our creations flow from our joy in our Creator, so those creations reflect, continue, and express that joy.
The writer specially displays joy in relation to music, but we see this joy expressed in all sorts of creation. I cannot do music skillfully. I cannot sing on pitch or play an instrument, but that does not prohibit me from participating in the skillful creation of things that express my joy. I create sermons and lessons to express my joy of the Creator. In these, I get to talk about the amazing, unfailing love of our Creator and the hope that flow from that (Ps. 33:18). Others paint beautiful things that honor the beautiful works of God. Others express their joy of life given by the Creator by saving the lives of others. Whatever gifts and skills we were created with, part of our purpose is to use those to praise, glorify, and shout for joy to the Lord.
In verse 4, the writer moves to talking about the nature of God the Creator. Verse 4 and 5 parallel each other. “The word of the Lord is right and true,” (Ps. 33:4a) and “the Lord loves righteousness and justice,” (Ps. 33:5a). We know that God spoke the world into existence (Ps. 33:6, 9; Gen. 1; John 1: 1-3). The writer portrays that Word, which was the moving force of Creation, as right and true. Because God loves righteousness and justice, God creates the world through a process that is right and true so that Creation can be righteous and just. In this creation process, God “is faithful in all he does,” (Ps. 33:4b) so that “the earth is full of his unfailing love,” (Ps. 33:5b).
This is why in Genesis 1/2 we see a beautiful state of shalom, which is perfect harmony. This exists between all created things and between created things and God. In those moments, we see the righteousness and love of God. When humans chose to stop responding to God in joyful praise and instead chose to break our harmony with God, we placed ourselves at war with the righteousness and justice of God. The afflictions in our lives come from the disharmonious state, the broken shalom, that we live in. Yet, God is faithful (Ps. 33:4b) and our hope is in the unfailing love of the God (Ps. 33:18, 22). That is why in Revelation we see the restoration of the broken shalom we caused (Rev. 21:1-5; 22:1-5).
The basis of Creation is the righteousness, truth, justice, and unfailing love of God. This is what everything was built on and by, and these things flow through all Creation. In Creation, we see the wonderful display of God’s transcendence and immanence.
Here, the writer’s joy is displayed in reverence for the transcendent power of God:
God “spoke, and it came to be,” (Ps. 33:9a).
“The plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations,” (Ps. 33:11).
Our praise comes from respect for God’s transcendence. We praise God because God’s righteous words spoke everything into existence. We praise God because God’s plans of righteousness and love stretch through all eternity. From generation to generation, God is always displaying righteousness and love.
Here, the writer’s joy is displayed in thankfulness for the immanent presence of God:
“From his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth…he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do,” (Ps. 33:13, 15).
“The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine,” (Ps. 33:17-18).
We praise God because God knows us. God formed our hearts and knows us more than we know ourselves. We praise God because God watches us with eyes full of unfailing love, ready to deliver us from death and provide for our needs.
Lord, you are Creator of all things. Through righteousness and truth, you spoke the heavens into existence. With righteous and justice, you spoke the earth into being. In all this you spoke love. You spoke an unfailing love that echoes through all eternity, and you are speaking love now.
In our brokenness your love spoils our plans to ruin the world. In your love we have hope for a better world. In your great power you have control of all things. In your great and wonderful presence you choose to know us.
So, we shout for joy! We fall before you in praise. We rise up in your presence in praise. In all we do, may we praise you. May every action we make be a shout of joy unto you. When we fail to do this, may we find joy in your unfailing love that brings us hope. To the One who created all things by Word and through Spirit, hear our cry of joy!
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