Bible Commentary: Psalm 145

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Psalm 145

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Psalm 145, the last of the final collection of eight Davidic psalms (Psalms 138-145), is a grand hymn of praise for God the Great King and His majestic reign and gracious acts-including the deliverance of His people. It serves as the closing frame of the five prayers of David seeking rescue from wicked enemies (Psalms 140-144)--perhaps placed here as grateful and worshipful praise in collective response to God's intervention in all these past situations and His faithfulness to continue intervening (compare Psalm 145:18-20). The hymn also serves to transition to the final five untitled psalms of Hallelujah ("Praise the LORD") that close the book of Psalms (146-150). This psalm is specifically titled a "praise" or tehillah (derived from hallel)--the only psalm so titled. From the plural form of this word, tehillim, has come the traditional Hebrew name for the book of Psalms--Sefer Tehillim or "Book of Praises."

David composed Psalm 145 in the form of an alphabetic acrostic, with each succeeding verse beginning with a succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet--with the exception, according to the Masoretic Text, of the letter nun. A number of modern versions, based on other texts, include an additional verse corresponding to this letter after verse 13 (though not numbered as a separate verse). However, this does not appear to be justified. As John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible comments: "This psalm is written alphabetically, as is observed on the title of it; but the letter 'nun' is here wanting.... Nor is the order always strictly observed in alphabetical psalms; in the thirty-seventh psalm the letter 'ain' is wanting, and three [letters] in the twenty-fifth psalm. The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, supply this defect here, by inserting these words, 'the Lord is faithful in all his words, and holy in all his works,' as if they were begun with the word Nman, but they seem to be taken from Psalm 145:17, with a little alteration" (note on verse 13).

David begins his hymn of praise with a powerful declaration that he will extol (exalt or lift up), bless and praise God every day forever and ever (verses 1-2)--demonstrating an understanding that he himself will live forever to render this worship. He then states the theme of his psalm: "Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable" (verse 3; compare Romans 11:33). David can compose praise from uncountable manifestations of God's greatness: His nature, His creation, His plan of salvation, His dealings with mankind.

In verses 4-12 David mentions a number of ways that praise for God will be promulgated. He starts by declaring that praise for God's awesome works will resound from one generation to the next (verse 4). This is accomplished as stories of God's great acts are taught to succeeding generations. The passing on of such knowledge is primarily the responsibility of parents (compare Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 6:7).

Another means of transmitting this knowledge is through the recording of God's acts for posterity, as was done in the Scriptures. In fact, observe next in Psalm 145 the back and forth of "I will meditate" (verse 5) and "Men shall speak" (verse 6a), "I will declare" (verse 6b) and "They shall utter" (verse 7). Modern Bible versions often eliminate these shifts, but they are clearly present in the Hebrew. Perhaps the idea here is that David is declaring God's praises in this and other psalms-which others in later generations will sing and talk about.

David then inserts here God's revelation of Himself through His character, essentially repeating God's description of Himself to Moses as gracious, compassionate, full of mercy or loving devotion, slow to anger, and good (verses 8-9; compare Exodus 34:6-7). Similar wording may also be found in other psalms (e.g., Exodus 86:5, Exodus 86:15; Psalm 111:4; Psalm 112:4).

In the next verse (Psalm 145:10a), David says that all of God's works will praise Him, echoing Psalm 19:1-3, where the evidence of God's creative handiwork in the heavens "declares" God's glory.

And a further method of the transmission of God's praise is through the speaking of His saints--His sanctified people--whose task it is to proclaim His Kingdom and mighty acts to the sons of men, the people of this world (verses 10a-12). This is primarily accomplished today, as the New Testament makes clear, through the Church's proclamation of the gospel of the Kingdom. Yet in an ultimate sense, this may picture the saints, when resurrected and glorified as kings and priests in God's future Kingdom, teaching the gospel to all nations.

Verse 13, it should be noted, stresses the eternal nature of God's Kingdom and dominion. We should realize that Scripture presents God's Kingdom in three ways. In the first two senses it is a present reality. God is particularly the King of His people--both ancient Israel and spiritual Israel, His Church, today. Moreover, God is of course always and ever the King of the universe--Sovereign over all His created realm. Yet for the time being, God permits resistance to His rule. And this brings us to the third, future sense of God's Kingdom. When Jesus Christ returns, He will set up God's Kingdom over all nations, enforcing its laws throughout the world and leading everyone to accept God's sovereignty or be removed. All these senses of God's reign appear in the remainder of the psalm.

Verses 14-16 illustrate God's compassion and goodness as, through His sovereign rule, He helps the needy and provides sustenance for all living things. Note that the word "gracious" in verse 8 is translated from hannun, meaning stooping in kindness to help (Strong's No. 2587, from 2603). In verse 17 the word translated "gracious" is hasid (Strong's No. 2623)--an adjective form of hesed (No. 2617), meaning loyal love or devotion. Indeed, in verses 17-20 we see God's loyal love to His devoted people. He will answer their prayers and save them.

While the deliverance and preservation of God's people in these verses happens today, the ultimate fulfillment of this passage will come with the establishment of God's Kingdom on earth in the future, when the wicked who refuse to come under God's loving authority will be destroyed (verse 20) and David's praise will be part of a vast chorus of all people praising God for all time (verse 21).