David’s final Psalm: restored nation (145:1–8)

In the last Psalm of David, we hear the messiah’s voice declaring the restoration of God’s reign.

There’s nothing like Psalm 145, titled Praise; of David. No other psalm is called praise (tehil·lāh). This is the ultimate Davidic psalm in the Psalter.

Set among post-exile psalms, Psalm 145 is the voice of the David to come, the anticipated king who would restore God’s reign. That’s why it’s the most quoted psalm in the Jewish prayer book. It was referring to the world to come (Talmud, b Ber. 4B).

Christians believe the long-awaited Davidic king has come and brought his people back into God’s reign. He called it the kingdom of God.  So does this Psalm. His kingship extends to all the people. The Psalm says that too. Phrases foundational for Christian theology are on the lips of the Davidic king in this Psalm.

In this post we’ll cover the first eight verses, where the anticipated David speaks of God restoring his reign over his people. Next time we’ll hear how God’s salvation extends to all people in his messiah (verses 9–16).

We prepared for these posts by explaining the context of Book V and what it means to hear David’s voice in a postexilic setting. Follow those links if you need the background.

Open Psalm 145.

Psalm 145:1–3

When Queen Elizabeth II delivered her Christmas address in years gone by, it was thrilling to hear a reigning monarch acknowledge, “Jesus Christ is my king.” The opening statement of Psalm 145 is that kind of declaration. The Davidic king recognizes the one who reigns over him:

145 1 I will exalt you, my God the King: I will praise your name for ever and ever. (NIV)

If you’ve attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah, you know everyone stands for the majestic Hallelujah Chorus. The tradition began at the premiere performance. It’s said that King George II was so moved by the anthem he stood to his feet. And when the king rises to honour someone, all his people rise with him.

That was Israel’s hope. Every day — even in the dark times between the fall of David’s house and its future restoration — the Davidic voice rises to recognize the enduring reign of my God the king. The coming David will lead his people in recognizing the heavenly throne:

145 2 Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. 3 Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.

Unfathomable? Yes, it was hard to fathom how God’s sovereign authority was playing out for them. At the end of Book III (Psalm 89) the Davidic kingship had failed. Yet, here in Book V, David’s voice rises again. He declares the grandeur of YHWH’s reign, even when they could not comprehend it.

The grandeur of God’s authority outlives the struggles of our lifetime.

Psalm 145:4–6

Abraham lived like that, and we still tell the story of his faith. He trusted God’s multi-millennia agenda: the restoration of God’s reign to the earth.

The exodus generation saw God’s mighty acts deliver them, and we still tell their story — even though they died in the wilderness.

The post-exile generation recalls those stories in support of their claim that — even if it’s beyond their lifetime — Davidic kingship will be restored:

145 4 One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.

Now, watch the pronouns:

145 5 They speak of the glorious splendour of your majesty — and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works — and I will proclaim your great deeds.

  • You = the Lord, the heavenly sovereign who reigns through all generations as he delivers his plan to set the world right by restoring his reign.
  • They = the generations who experience God’s reign in different ways as they participate in their little piece of God’s story. That’s why each generation must share its experience of the glorious splendour of your majesty on high and the power of your awesome works in the earthly realm.
  • I = the Davidic king. Although absent for many generations, his voice rises in this psalm to meditate on your wonderful works in past generations and to proclaim your great deeds for future generations.

For generations living under foreign rule, these transgenerational affirmations maintained their identity. How many generations would it take before David expressed God’s reign on earth again?

Fourteen, according to Matthew. He lists fourteen generations waiting from the time Abraham received the promises until the Davidic kingship was established. Then fourteen generations enjoyed David’s kingship before it all fell apart. Then another fourteen generations of David’s descendants did not reign, as they waited for God to restore the kingdom (Matthew 1:17).

That’s a lot of generations to keep on passing on the Messianic hope! Some feared they may have so offended the heavenly sovereign that they no longer had a role in God’s plan to restore his reign (Lamentations 5:21- 22). But there were faithful people who were holding on to God’s faithfulness, waiting for the consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25).

And God’s faithfulness resounds in the antiphony of verse 6. As they recount the power of your awesome works, the Davidic king joins them: I will proclaim your great deeds. All God’s promises find their “yes” in him.

Psalm 145:7–8

His kingdom is living testimony to the heavenly king’s unfailing grace towards his people. Even as their generation waits for the messiah to be revealed, they acknowledge the ruler who always does right:

145 7 They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

That can be a scary thought. What if treating them right means giving them what they deserve? What if they don’t deserve to be restored?

That’s when the Davidic king takes them back to the revelation of God in previous generations. Within weeks of establishing the covenant — the commitment that YHWH would rule over them and they would be his people — they gave themselves to the golden calf. It was a serious covenant violation, deeply offensive to the God who was seeking to save his people, and ultimately the world through them.

Yet their unfaithfulness became the revelation of God’s faithfulness. The messiah reminds them of Exodus 34:6:

145 8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

Past generations testify to the astounding grace of God’s character (your abundant goodness), how he always treats his people right (your righteousness). That’s why his people still exist.

And that’s the guarantee that God would still restore them to his reign. That’s the basis for believing God would give a new exodus to the postexilic generation, freeing them from foreign rule, establishing them once again as a kingdom under God’s reign in the Davidic king.

Conclusion

What a beautiful expression of messianic hope for people living in oppression. What an astounding proclamation of God’s faithful character and sovereign concern for his people.

Next time we’ll see how God’s grace and goodness and reign extend beyond his fallen nation. The Davidic king declares that God’s kingdom extends to all people and all time — parameters of the astounding rescue mission fulfilled in his Christ.

What others are saying

Nancy deClaissé-Walford et al, The Book of Psalms, NICOT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014), 993–994:

The centerpiece, both physically and thematically, of the acrostic Psalm 145 is vv. 11–13. … Within vv. 11–13, the word kingdom (malkûṯ), derived from the same consonantal root as “king,” occurs four times, at the beginning, the middle, and the end, forming a triangular structure, with its apex at the end of v. 12 and its base at the beginnings of vv. 11 and 13. These verses emphasize the theme of Psalm 145, the kingship of God over Israel and all of God’s “works.” …

Might we read Psalm 145 as the summary statement of the theme of the Hebrew Psalter: The Lord is king over all generations of the Israelites and over all flesh? And might we hear David, the former earthly king of ancient Israel, leading the Israelites and all flesh in a joyous celebration of that confession? All indications are that the answer to the question is a resounding “yes.” In the words of Psalm 145, a new world has been powerfully and decisively spoken into being.

Reuven Kimelman, “Psalm 145: Theme, Structure, and Impact,” Journal of Biblical Literature 113 (1994): 40:

Psalm 145 has its message of divine sovereignty broadcast in three stages to successively broader circles. Each stage is marked by the word “bless,” which crops up strategically in the second colon of lines 1, 10, and 21, the three lines that serve as prelude, interlude, and postlude.

Craig C. Broyles, Psalms, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012), 508:

Psalm 145 … has a specific and remarkable case to make. Yahweh’s great and benevolent kingdom, to which Israel’s experience is a testimony (as evident from the citation of Exod. 34:6), is open to all. His kingdom has no boundaries: “all flesh” is to “bless his holy name” (v. 21). This is a theme Jesus and the NT writers develop over and over.

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Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia

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