High And Low
Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah!)Praise, O servants of the Lord,Praise the name of the Lord. Blessed be the name of the Lord From this time forth and forever. From the rising of the sun to its setting The name of the Lord is to be praised [with awe-inspired reverence]. The Lord is high above all nations, And His glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God,Who is enthroned on high, Who humbles Himself to regard the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor out of the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, That He may seat them with princes, With the princes of His people. He makes the barren woman live in the house as a joyful mother of children. Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah!)
Mark’s Gospel tells us that after Jesus had taken the Passover with His disciples “they sung a hymn” and went out to Gethsemane(Mark 14:26).
In all likelihood, the hymn came from the collection of six psalms known as the Hallel(praise), Psalm 113-118. These psalms were traditionally sung by a Jewish family as it partook of and completed the Passover meal.
Thus, if you want to know the portion of Scripture which sustained Jesus as He entered the most difficult hours of His life, you will find it here- beginning with Psalm 113.
If you were facing a garden of sorrow and a hill of crucifixion, would you have felt like beginning and ending your prayer with praise to the Lord(verses 1, 9)?
Jesus did! Why?
In both the beginning of His ministry as He entered into the wilderness of temptation and again as He entered the darkness of Gethsemane and Calvary, He relied on what is always true. What appeared to be out of control things that were happening did not mean that God had abandoned or forsaken Him.
We, too, must learn how to distinguish between how we feel from what we know. We may not always feel God’s presence and our emotions may imply that God has somehow abandoned us. We may not feel like praising God, and yet five times in the first three verses of Psalm 113, we are invited to give God praise rather than blaming Him, fussing at Him or accusing Him. Instead, we are to praise Him.
The magnificence of the words are breathtaking to this praise that is eternal: “now and forevermore”(verse 2) and universal: “from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets”(verse 3).
Scripture tells us that Jesus “for the joy that was set before Him” approached His hours of suffering and death knowing that what He was doing for humanity would produce a worldwide, ceaseless praise from the redeemed on earth.
We may be powerless, but He is powerful, we might be confused, but He never is, we might have the rug yanked from under us but He sits solidly upon the throne of heaven(verses 4,5); therefore let us never project our weaknesses upon Him.
The second half of Psalm 113, teaches and reminds us that God who is above also “stoops down to look.”(verse 6).
His is not the look of the priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan who looked at the wounded man lying beside the road but passed on by and offered no assistance. The Good Samaritan’s conduct shows us that just as he looked and that look produced action, so it is with God(Luke 10: 31-33).
Through Jesus Christ, God stooped low to look at us on our level and to help us.
Psalm 113 says that there are two groups that benefit from the caring look of the Lord:
The poor and needy(verses 7, 8). In the Gospel of Luke we find Jesus opening His ministry with the words of Isaiah 61: “anointed me to preach the good news to the poor.” The truth is that the kingdom of God only opens to those who say, “Lord, I need help.” Having said that, we must know that Christ not only came for the poor but for any who find themselves lying on the pile of burned out dreamers and broken hopes, worthless feelings and those who feel used and abused. In Him our value is completely restored.
The second group is the “barren”(verse 9). In a number of cultures, including the Jewish one, a childless wife is looked down upon as an unproductive member of society. Hannah, Samuel’s mother, represents a host of women who have shed copious tears of anguish and grief, praying for the blessing of giving birth to a child(1 Samuel 8, 16).
It doesn’t matter what the nature of our barrenness is, the words of Psalm 113 reminds us that God is committed to helping us.
Imagine how much this psalm must have strengthened Jesus as He was preparing to leave the Upper Room where He had shared the Passover observance with His disciples. The first half of this psalm refreshed His confidence in the greatness of His Father and the second half reminded Him of why He had come.
You and I today can allow this psalm to produce this in us. May God remind us as we enter the places of adversity of His great love and power and may we also remember that in our adversity “He stoops low” in His commitment to help us. David, in Psalm 23 says: “Even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, For thou art with me”
Dr. John Thompson