1 Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
2 For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared,
a great King over all the earth.
8 God reigns over the nations;
God sits on His holy throne.
Psalm 47:1-2, 8
Empty hands clap better!
1 Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
The Psalmist calls the people together to clap their hands and shout joyous praise to God. It is a corporate call. This is one of the wonderful things about Sunday worship. The praise of the Lord is magnified when we praise Him together, as one Church and one body with one voice.
But often our praise is fettered due to selfish preoccupation. Even on Sunday, do we feel freedom to sing with a loud voice, or is our song subdued as we are concerned about what we sound like, or distracted by the person next to us, or mentally overwhelmed, rehearsing all the days' worries rather than rehearsing the goodness and steadfast love of the Lord?
If our hands are full of burden and our fists are clenched with that which we seek to control, how then are we to clap our hands? And how do we shout to God with loud songs of joy when our mouths are full of anxious words that stem from anxious thoughts (or proud, angry, insecure, etc)?
We gain freedom when we empty our hands of cares, control and future concerns before His throne. Our thoughts can be trained so that our mouths sing praise. God is with us; He loves us. We have limitless reason to praise Him. We not only have His faithfulness in our lives that invites praise, but we have all of Scripture as a hymnbook, meant to inform our thoughts and instruct our hearts in worship.
Fear of God begets praise.
2 For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great King over all the earth.
We praise God because we fear Him. Biblical fear produces holy terror and awe-inspiring love in us, if we rightly view God as He has revealed Himself.
However we often wrongly conceive God's character. We see Him not as He is—glorious and commanding, steadfast, and loving—but in small and powerless terms. A.W. Tozer observes:
"…Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms...we want a God we can in some measure control...We need the feeling of security that comes from knowing what God is like, and what He is like is of course a composite of all the religious pictures we have seen, all the best people we have known or heard about, and all the sublime ideas we have entertained."
But is that how God is revealed Himself to us in Scripture? A low concept of God does little to stir up worship; instead, it breeds a casual indifference to Him and His commands, entitlement to our wants and desires, and enforces a stubborn pride.
To fear God is to behold His glory. The face of Jesus shines such that the brightest of days is shamed. When the beloved disciple saw Christ, he fell down as though dead in awe at the sight of Jesus' holiness (Revelation 1:17). This is our God. Scripture declares that God is not within our control, but a mighty God, ruling over all creation, whose majesty causes us to bow before Him as He is "high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, [who says] I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit" (Isaiah 57:15).
In the midst of a culture of wealth, status, self-sufficiency, and cushion on every side, do we feel our neediness against the backdrop of His holiness? Or is the very barrenness of our souls deceptively imperceptible due to the many layers of insulation we keep around us as we try to control our lives? When was the last time you sat still before Him in awe?
He is seated. It is finished. His holy throne is over all.
8 God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne.
As we behold Him, He transforms us (2 Corinthians 3:18). We see Jesus seated on the throne. His seat reminds us that His finished work on the cross and His resurrection completely paid for sin and gives saving life to all who call on Jesus in faith (Hebrews 1:3, Romans 10:13). His throne endures forever and is over all nations and all things. It is a holy throne, a throne of grace. And all that is ordered from His throne for us is good as He is trustworthy and true.
We can worship Him because we know Him and His great saving, rescuing, enduring love. The love of God frees us from self-love and cultural comfort to praise and obey Him. We can say, in conformity to Christ's example, “not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
As we lay down our agenda and plans before His throne, we gain the gift of empty hands so that we may more freely and fully praise His holy name. We can follow Him where ever He leads us, singing along the way in joyful refrain, “Thy way, not mine, O Lord, However dark it be; Lead me by Thine own hand, Choose out the path for me” (Bonar). We surrender our lives to the risen, reigning King, Jesus Christ, the conquering One who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20).
He is on the Throne. We are not. Amen!