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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Psalms 147



Verses 2-5


‘The Lord doth build up Jerusalem: He gathereth together the outcasts of Israel. He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. He telleth the number of the stars; He calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power: His understanding is infinite.’

Psalms 147:2-5

If you were asked to select a passage to read to somebody about your God, could you select a much more beautiful passage than this 147th Psalm? It is so simple, so sublime. The sentences are so short, they might all almost be put into words of one syllable. Just as the sun itself is reflected in the dewdrop, so the glory of our God is reflected in these simple words.

I want to speak to you for a few minutes about the lovableness of our God.

I. First of all, God’s work is constructive.—God does not destroy and cast down: He builds up—constructs. Our God builds us up, that is Creation. He took us out of the dust of the earth and built us up into perfection. That is the whole history. What building! He took the very lowest, you see—Dust. Where did the dust come from? Poor dust body. He breathed into it the ‘breath of life’—Equipment under the action of God. That is our Creation—Construction: and our whole life, Edification: and the end, Perfection. ‘The Lord doth build up.’ ‘Who shall build the tabernacle?’ ‘Let us make three tabernacles.’ The heavens cannot contain Him, Who dwelleth with those who are of a humble and contrite heart. ‘The Lord doth build up.’

II. What it is He builds up—Jerusalem.—This is no localisation. If you want an idea of localisation, go to Jerusalem and see for yourself, but the Jerusalem for us is the Jerusalem which cometh down out of heaven: it is a city where we may dwell all together, and the light of the city is God Himself. A Holy City He builds, an Eternal City, a City of Peace.

III. ‘He gathereth together the outcasts of Israel.’—It is not God’s will that any should be an outcast—He gathereth them together. If anybody is an outcast, it is not that God has cast him out, but that he has cast God out of his soul. If any one of you should say: ‘I have felt as if I were an outcast,’ ‘I should’ say, ‘If you say that for the sake of saying it, or to be peculiar, you utter blasphemy; but if you say it because you feel broken-hearted and it is a kind of sob which comes out of the heart, then remember the sweet music of the psalm, let this sweet song ever have a place in your soul, for it is the music of the Gospel (“He gathereth together the outcasts of Israel”).’

IV. ‘He healeth those that are broken in heart.’—So many people in this cruel world are what we call ‘broken-down’ people—broken in health, broken in wealth, lost their money, lost all thought, lost all sympathy, lost all love—(and what is life without love? A day without sunshine.)—lost all peace, lost heart, broken-hearted. Our God healeth those that are broken in heart. It is not a partial or tentative healing; it goes to the very core, it goes down to the very root: He healeth the heart. He is the only real heart doctor. If the heart is all right all else will be right. ‘He healeth those that are broken in heart.’ Our God alone can do it. He Who made the heart can heal it. ‘I will give them a new heart,’ saith the Lord. Some of us in our best moments pray, ‘God, make me a clean heart: make me a true heart now, make me a real heart, make me a humble heart, make me a believing heart; I want to have a heart.’ And if the heart is right—well, you might make many mistakes, but it doesn’t matter; if the heart is right with God never mind the mistakes. Nobody says that you are infallible, and you are all the more lovable because of your mistakes, if only the heart is right.

V. ‘And bindeth up their wounds.’—Note the tender expression. Some people think that the Old Testament is hard and crude, and the New Testament loving and sweet. You cannot find any verse in the Bible more lovely and tender than this verse about our God. He ‘bindeth up their wounds.’ The hands that made you will bind up your wounds; the fingers that created you will heal you. What more can you want? It is like the text which says: ‘He maketh all my bed in my sickness.’

VI. What about the universe?—Does He leave the universe to take care of itself? to go on as it likes? Oh, no. ‘He ordereth all things in heaven and earth.’ If once He let the universe go, where would it go?—a general crash. ‘He telleth the number of the stars.’ No man has ever yet been able to tell the number of the stars, and there never will be a man who can tell their number, for they are infinite. But God, Who is infinite, can tell the number of them. And why? He will not miss one of them. The Lord Who will not let a lamb be lost out of the flock will not let a single star be lost out of the firmament. He Who will bring back the wanderer and get the outcast of Israel home, telleth the number of the stars. He telleth every one. And what is more singular than that: there is a sort of familiarity between God and the stars. Look up into the heavens and think, ‘He calleth them all by their names.’ We call the stars by heathen names. I do not think the names by which we call the stars are the same as the names by which God calls them—just as if He spoke to the stars and the stars answered Him back again, a sort of sympathetic give and take between the Creator and the created. Who knows? ‘His wisdom is infinite.’ What if the light created speaks to the Light Uncreated, which is God? How do you know? There are many more things in heaven and earth than you or I understand, and science is every day showing to us how very little we know of the things that are. ‘He telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names.’ How great is His power! and His understanding is infinite!’

VII. The Gospel application.—Well, now, let us just bring this subject under the glorious light of the Gospel. ‘The Lord buildeth up Jerusalem.’ We who know the Gospel know how He did it. He built it up with His blood. The Church of God is built up with the precious blood of the Covenant. He gathereth together the outcasts of Israel.’ You know what that means now. You know how they cast Him out of the city, and that He was the great Outcast of Israel, and the poor outcasts of Israel are brought home by the great Outcast of Israel. ‘He healeth those that are broken in heart.’ How could He heal the broken-hearted so well? Because His own heart was broken and wounded. It is wounded men that need a wounded Saviour. A broken-hearted man needs a broken-hearted Saviour. ‘He telleth the number of the stars.’ What are the stars but His Saints? The Saints shine as the stars for ever and ever, and God knows them. ‘Right dear in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints,’ and they shine as the stars. Who, then, shall say that the Gospel is not in the Old Testament? ‘Praise the Lord, O Sion: praise Him, O Jerusalem.’ ‘O rest in the Lord and be glad in Him.’

The Rev. A. H. Stanton.


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Psalms 147:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

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