Saved to Worship
(40) Then the anger of Yahweh was kindled against his people, and he abhorred his heritage, (41) and he gave them over to the hand of the nations so that those who hated them ruled over them. (42) Their enemies oppressed them, and they were humbled under their hand. (43) Many times he delivered them, but they were rebellious in their wisdom and were brought low in their iniquity. (44) Yet, he looked upon their distress when he heard their cry. (45) He remembered his covenant for their sake and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. (46) Now he gave them to be objects of compassion by all who took them captive. (47) Save us, Yahweh, our God, and gather us from among the nations that we may give thanks to your holy name and boast in your praise. (48) Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Let all the people say, “Amen, hallelujah!”
Four repeated terms occur in this last segment of the psalm. “Hand” is used twice and, in both cases, it speaks of Israel under Gentile domination (vss. 41 & 42). The Hebrew pronoun which literally means “to them” is used twice (vss. 44 & 45). While difficult to translate into English, this expression speaks of God’s personal concern for the nation in their distress because of the covenant he had made with them.
A third repetition, the verb “give over,” occurs twice (vss. 41 & 46). The first instance speaks of God’s discipline in using the nations to chasten his people. The second turns the negative into a positive, God’s blessing in giving his people over to the compassion of those who had previously held them captive. In the final two verses, we find the two most frequently used names for God, “Yahweh” and “Elohim,” invoked together as the psalmist first calls on “Yahweh, our God,” for salvation and then summons all nations to praise “Yahweh, the God of Israel” (vss. 47 & 48).
I. God chastening Israel because of her rebellious ways (41-43)
II. God remembering Israel in her distress (44-46)
III. God saving and regathering Israel so she can praise him (47 & 48)
God, who chastened Israel for her rebellion, has remembered them and will save and regather them so that they may worship him.
After a long and painful psalm in which Israel’s sad history of rebellion against God serves as the main theme, the author ends his epic poem on a high note filled with joy. The nation that has for years experienced Yahweh’s hand of chastisement will finally become the object of his blessing. He who gave them over to captivity among the Gentiles will regather his scattered flock and restore them to prosperity in the land as he had promised. For what purpose has he done this? Simply for their salvation and comfort?
The ultimate goal is clearly set forth in the penultimate verse: “so that we may give thanks to your holy name and boast in your praise” (vs. 47). This psalm climaxes with the truth that God has saved us so that we may glorify him in worship. This excerpt, from a sermon given by British expositor, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, expands on this idea: “If I were to ask you what was the greatest activity in which the people of God could ever engage; if I were to ask you what was the highest ambition that any man or woman created by God could ever have; if I were to ask you what would remain when every other activity in this world has fallen away — what would you say? The answer is this: it is to offer to God acceptable worship. This is why God has formed the universe and created human beings. This is why God has sent his Son to redeem a people. This is why God is sanctifying and purifying the church of Jesus Christ and preparing them for glory. It is in order that he might have a people who will bring him acceptable worship. And when you focus it down to your own life, this is why God has made you. This is why God has given you a tongue and lips and a voice. This is why God has created every faculty of your being, that it might be engaged in the proper worship of Almighty God.”