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Psalm 47 1
1 Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. 2 For the LORD Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth. 3 He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet. 4 He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loved. 5 God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets. 6 Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. 7 For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise. 8 God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne. 9 The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted.

Background

We do not know who wrote this psalm or when it was written. What we do know is that something happened that saved the city of Jerusalem. Speculation is that it was when Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, attacked Jerusalem in 701 BC.  God protected the city.  In one night, 185 000 Assyrian soldiers died. We do not know why. It was a strange illness, but we do not know what it was (2 Kings 19:34-36).

The God with whom we have our relationship is a God of awful majesty. The universal and absolute sovereignty of a holy God would be too much for us even imagine if it were not for the sacrifices of His Son, Jesus Christ. While God’s people express confidence and joy and encourage each other through serving Him, it is always the sinner who must repent, submit to God’s authority and accept His Grace. Jesus is to gather the Gentiles as sheep into the fold, not for slaughter, but for preservation, eternal preservation. Jesus has earned our affections and made us a faithful people. The psalm speaks of God giving rest and peace. Now apply this spiritually –  God Himself has undertaken to be the inheritance of His people. This shows itself as true through our faith and willingness to obey His commands. This psalm is the language of every gracious soul: The Lord God is choosing your inheritance for you because He knows what is good for you better than you do.

The psalm speaks of praise as a duty which should be frequent and abundant. But there is a rule given to us: Sing our praises with understanding.  We are called to  understand why and for what reasons we praise God. It is not praise if there is no understanding of God. We should never forget what Christ (who is God) has done for us. There is no bond of membership with God and His Son unless they are the cornerstone of our heart and soul through faith.

Items for Discussion

  • What are the attributes of God that cause you to praise Him?
  • How do we recognize the need to offer God praise and thanks?
  • Where and what do you do to personally seek to improve your understanding of God?
  • This passage was chosen for a Mother’s Day Service – How are the reasons for offering praise to God similar to the reasons of praising a mother?

 

Philippians 4:4-9
4 Rejoice in the LORD always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The LORD is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Background

Paul is pleading with two women leaders at Philippi who are at odds with each other. We know nothing else about them, or about the “loyal companion” mentioned earlier who Paul asks to help. What we do know is that they were valued fellow missionaries who had shared Paul’s struggles. They provide evidence for the leadership roles of women in Paul’s churches. Paul commands us to rejoice! Again, how surprising this is, coming from a person experiencing the horrors of a Roman prison. The reason is not difficult to find: “The Lord is near.” Paul expects the imminent return of Christ, who will put all things right. But as we have seen throughout the letter, Paul also experiences the nearness of God in Christ, even in his present captivity. So he commands us to rejoice.

Paul tells us to focus our minds on what is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise. There is the immediate reality of a world in which human beings are constantly at war somewhere, betraying one another, brutally suppressing each other in order to get ahead, and so forth. This was true of the Roman Empire, and it is true today. Every day we hear and see a culture that focuses on what is false, dishonorable, unjust, impure, and shameful. We think that to act hopefully in such a world is unrealistic.

But Paul also sees another reality, and it is the reality that holds the future. That is the reality of God’s redemption, already here and still drawing near. Training our minds to think of this reality, and thereby to act with hope, is a daily mental discipline. For such a discipline, we need to experience the reality of God’s rule in the midst of tangible human relationships. Paul offers his own relationship with the Philippians as just such a tangible experience to the temptation of despair and futile thinking.

Items for Discussion

  • What are your tips for handling the depravity and sadness in the world today?  How do you keep positive?
  • Where do you go to find peace? Where are your places of respite?
  • What is the impact of a Church on your goals? In other words, “the fellowship of other believers?” What do other like-minded people do for you?

Discussion Challenge

  • How would you change our church so that a “new comer,” entering our doors, immediately saw it as a place to find peace?

 

 

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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