Psalm 47 Commentary

Let’s look at Psalm 47 together for this Psalm 47 Commentary.

In Psalm 47, we are confronted with the following theme: Universal Rejoicing for God’s Universal Reign.

Psalm 47 Commentary: Superscription

So, when we get to this psalm, like many other psalms, we first of all run across a superscription. So, let’s briefly look at that.

<[To/For] the [chief Musician/choir director/music director],
A Psalm
[for/of/by] the [sons of Korah/Korahites].>

So, Psalm 47 is one of 55 psalms that is addressed to the “chief Musician.”

It’s also one of 57 psalms labeled “a psalm” or in Hebrew mizmor.

And lastly, Psalm 47 is one of 11 psalms that’s attributed to the “sons of Korah.” In fact, the last three psalms we’ve studied – Psalms 44, 45, and 46 have also been attributed to these “sons of Korah.”

Psalm 47 Commentary: Rejoice Ye People!

And so, this psalm that’s intended for use by the chief Musician which was written by the sons of Korah starts by immediately commanding a certain group to commence a certain action in verse 1. Everyone is supposed to rejoice!

KJV Psalm 47:1 O clap your hands, all [ye people/peoples/you nations];
shout [unto/to/out to] God [with the voice of triumph/with the voice of joy/in celebration].

So, this group translated here as “ye people” is found four times in this psalm of 9 verses.

Here in this verse, this group is told to clap their hands in victory and to shout triumphantly.

Now, to whom and regarding whom are they rejoicing? To God!

And God is a central figure in this psalm as he is in the Scripture as a whole. The Hebrew word translated as “God” like we see in this verse appears 8 times in this short psalm. And God’s covenant name YAHWEH is found twice. In the King James Version, the pronoun “he” is used to refer to God five times. God is referred to as “king” or one who reigns 4 times in Psalm 47.

The point is that God the LORD and king is a central figure in this psalm. And he’s a king – not just over Israel. He’s king over all the people of the earth.

However… reality as we know it now doesn’t seem to agree with this declaration – that God rules the whole world. If you were to be bold enough to go out and ask anyone in your neighborhood, “Hey – who’s your king?” they would think you were crazy.

We have no king in this nation in which we live. And even if we did have a king in the USA, he certainly wouldn’t be the king of anyone in another country.

And yet, this psalm declares that God the Lord is king over absolutely everyone…

But again, I return us to our present reality and remind us that God really isn’t even king over his own chosen people – the nation of Israel. They – by-and-large – reject him to this day.

What – then – is this psalm talking about?

There are two possibilities that I think are legitimate.

First, this psalm could be saying that God is king even if his subjects – both Israel and the nations – don’t accept his ruling over them. And I think that’s true. But I do wonder if there’s something more to this psalm than just that.

I wonder about a second possibility…

Do you remember Psalm 46? Nature and the nations being disturbed – but then God comes and finally brings peace to all of them when he sends his Son Jesus Christ to rule the world. The river that makes glad the city of God in the Millennium, etc. And as we studied that psalm, we discovered that Psalm 46 will likely be sung by those who survive the Great Tribulation and enter into the Millennium.

Well, I think this psalm in front of us now – Psalm 47 – is a follow-up to that psalm.

The people enter the Millennial kingdom ruled by Jesus Christ and they look back on what he has brought them through. That’s Psalm 46.

And now, Psalm 47 is a psalm that will be sung by Israel as they realize that God literally rules both them and everyone on earth!

And Israel is rejoicing. And the nations that are subdued under Jesus Christ are rejoicing. And that’s what this psalm is all about. It’s the second Millennial psalm that we’ve come across in the last two psalms we’ve studied!

So, we see that the people – which is likely a reference to the Gentiles who will enter the Millennium from the Great Tribulation – are called on in verse 1 of this psalm to clap and shout with great joy and triumph.

Psalm 47 Commentary: God Rules Everyone

Why? Verse 2. God is ruling them now in the person of Jesus Christ their king!

2 For the [LORD most high/sovereign LORD] is [terrible/to be feared/awe-inspiring];
he is [a/the] great King [over all the/who rules the whole] earth.

And in the Millennium, Jesus Christ will literally and bodily rule from his throne in Jerusalem. We know that from New Testament teaching.

But in this verse here, who does it say will rule the whole earth in the Millennium?

It’s the LORD. Yahweh. Jehovah.

Now, you’re aware of a group that calls itself Jehovah’s Witnesses. And one of their chief purposes for existing is to deny that Jesus Christ is God come in flesh.

But have they not read Psalm 47, verse 2? Because this verse clearly states that the one who will rule over the entire earth is none other than YAHWEH – Jehovah. And we know from the rest of Scripture that it’s Jesus Christ who will rule over the entire earth in the Millennium.

And therefore… Jesus Christ is YAHWEH – Jehovah!

And a group like the JWs or the Mormons or Muslims or liberal Protestants will seek to deny that this is the case. And yet, we have God’s word declaring to us and to them that someday these groups and everyone else will be ruled by God the Son – Jesus Christ – God incarnate. And they will discover what verse 2 tells us – that he is to be feared – he’s terrible in that sense.

Psalm 47 Commentary: How God Will Be King

But again, we must ask ourselves how this is going to happen. Because, once more, we look around and we see God ruling apparently no one.

I mean, he has no throne. Humanity is currently allowed to just do as we please, more-or-less.

So, how is it going to come to pass that Yahweh God is going to be king over not just his people – but over the entire earth?

That’s what verse 3 explains.

3 He [shall subdue/subdues/subdued] [the people/peoples/nations] [under/beneath] us,
and [the nations/nations/countries] under our feet.

And I think what is so interesting is that those very people that we heard about in verse 1 – the ones who are called on to rejoice in God’s ruling over them – they’re going to need to be brought to a place where they are ready and willing to rejoice in that kind of arrangement – of God ruling over them and of them submitting to that rule.

Because it’s not natural for sinful men to joyfully submit to God. And so, God is going to need to do something to make this happen. And that something is the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

And when Christ returns and defeats the enemies of his people – something very interesting will happen. He will subdue those enemies under the feet of his people.

And we need to consider what is usually the reaction of a vanquished enemy? How do defeated opponents usually respond to their triumphing foe? Maybe sorrow, misery, bitterness, vengefulness…

But that’s not how the “people” entering the Millennium will feel. They will do what we’ve already seen them commanded to do. That is, they will rejoice!

They will rejoice to be subdued. Even to be subdued under the power of God’s covenant people will be a joy to them. That’s the way it is when we get rightly related to the God of the universe. There is a joy in submission – a joy in him conquering us, as it were.

Psalm 47 Commentary: Israel Inherits the Land

And in the Millennium, not only will Israel’s enemies be no more a threat to them – indeed, they’ll be worshippers alongside of God’s people! – but also, Israel will be finally given their land that God promised so long ago to their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We read about that in verse 4.

4 He [shall choose/chooses/picked out] [our inheritance/a special land] for us,
[the excellency of/the glory of/to be a source of pride for] Jacob whom he [loved/loves].

Selah.

And that land has never been fully inherited by Israel up to this day. But it will be – when Jesus Christ comes to be a king over all the earth.

And to the original Hebrew audience of this psalm – and to the future Jewish recipients of this treasured land – this is such joyful news that the author of this psalm was inspired to add a “selah” – which if that means something like a high point or crescendo – is very fitting for how they’ll feel about finally getting their land in-full after literally thousands of years of collective waiting.

Psalm 47 Commentary: Jesus Ascends the Throne

Well, then verse 5 brings us to the scene of Jesus Christ ascending the throne when he comes to rule the earth.

5 God [is gone up/has ascended (his throne)] [with a shout/amid loud shouts],
the LORD [i.e., has ascended his throne…] [with the sound of a trumpet (shofar)/amid the blaring of ram’s horns].

And so, just picture this glorious scene. Jesus Christ has returned and saved Israel. He has come back with resurrected saints – with you and me, I trust. And here we all are – after millennia of everyone else being on the throne and ruling and doing whatever they think is best and messing everything up and stealing glory from the true sovereign – after all of the sin and death this world has suffered through – ah, now the rightful owner of this place takes his seat for a thousand years.

And he’s going to make everything right. No more injustice. Perfect peace and love and joy. Everyone and everything in total harmony under the loving and kind and powerful rule of our Savior – the Lord Jesus Christ!

Psalm 47 Commentary: Response of Joy

So, how are you going to react when you see this? And I phrase it that way on purpose. You will see this! Do you believe that?

How are you going to react when you see Jesus Christ ascend the throne in Jerusalem?

Well, you and I actually already know how we’re going to respond. Because we’re told in verse 6. This is how you and I will respond when we see Jesus Christ mount his throne in Jerusalem.

6 Sing praises to God, sing praises:
sing praises [unto/to] our King, sing praises.

So, do you suppose that when we see Jesus Christ mounting the throne in Jerusalem that we might possibly … “sing praises?” Yes! We’re going to sing praises!

Four times here in this verse alone we’re commanded to do this. We should do this to God in this life – and we will certainly do it when we’re resurrected and witnessing Jesus Christ finally taking what’s rightfully his – the throne from which he will rule over the entire world.

Psalm 47 Commentary: God is the Universal King

And that’s the joyful reality that we’re reminded of in verse 7 – that God the Son will be the universal king.

7 For God is the King of [all the/the whole] earth:
sing ye praises with [understanding/a skillful psalm/a well-written song].

Now, that word translated in the KJV as “understanding” is the Hebrew word maskil. It has to do with skill or wisdom or prudence.

So, the response of the people over which Jesus will rule is and will be to sing skillful praises to him. Praises that take some thought and creativity and contemplation.

We’ll do it in the Millennium when we see his coronation. We should do it now as he rules in our hearts.

Psalm 47 Commentary: God’s Holy Rule

And perhaps an Old Testament Hebrew might think that ruling over the Gentiles – the goyim – and God’s holiness would be mutually exclusive realities. After all, the Gentiles were ceremonially unclean – and unclean in so many other ways in the Old Testament economy.

And yet, God makes it clear in verse 8 that Jesus Christ’s future reign over the entire earth – including Gentiles – will in no way detract from his holiness.

8 God [reigneth/reigns] over the [heathen/nations]:
God [sitteth/sits] [upon/on] [the throne of his holiness/his holy throne].

Christ’s throne will be holy. It will be completely unique. Unlike any other monarch in the history of the world.

Christ will be a just ruler. He has never sinned, he will never sin. He cannot be bribed. He is omniscient. Nothing will escape his notice. He will not persecute good. He will be a terror to evil in the purest way.

His throne and his rule will be completely different – it will be holy.

Psalm 47 Commentary: Jew and Gentile

And in that bright future day when Jesus Christ rules on earth – the reality that we know of in the Church – of Jew and Gentile together in one body – will be fully realized on an international scale according to verse 9.

9 The [princes/nobles] of the [people/nations] [are gathered together/have assembled themselves/assemble],
[even/as/along with] the people of the God of Abraham:

for the [shields/rulers/ones who shield their people] of the earth [belong unto/are under the authority of] God:
he is [greatly/highly] exalted.

So, the psalmist is prophesying that the princes of the people – and I take that as a reference to the rulers of the Gentiles or the non-Jews – well, they gather together with the Jews – the people of the God of Abraham.

Or that could be translated to say that the rulers of the people will gather together as the people of the God of Abraham.

In other words – whereas currently a person is either a Jew or not – in the Millennium there will be the closest of connections between Jew and Gentile. The Gentile people will be either with the people who have worshipped Yahweh for millennia – or the Gentile people will be considered as if they actually were the people who have worshipped Yahweh for millennia.

And that’s because the shields – and those who wield those weapons of war – will belong to God at that point in earth’s history.

And for this reason, God will be highly exalted. And as we wait for these promised realities to materialize, we ought to highly exalt this God – who is our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ – and who will one day cause us and the entire universe to rejoice in his universal reign.

So, as we go to prayer tonight, lets obey Jesus’ admonition to pray that God’s kingdom would come – and that there would soon be Universal Rejoicing for God’s Universal Reign.

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