(1) Hallelujah! (Praise Yahweh!) Praise, servants of Yahweh! Praise, the name of Yahweh! (2) May the name of Yahweh be blessed from now into eternity! (3) From the rising of the sun until its setting may the name of Yahweh be praised! (4) Yahweh (is) exalted above all nations, and his glory above the heavens. (5) Who (is) like Yahweh, our God, enthroned (dwelling) on high, (6) stooping down to look upon the heavens and the earth? (7) He raises up the poor from the dust and lifts up the needy from the refuse pile (8) to cause them to dwell with nobles, with the nobles of his people. (9) He causes the barren woman to dwell in a house, the joyful mother of children. Hallelujah! (Praise Yahweh!)
The three-fold repetition of the command to “praise” (“halel” from which we get “hallelujah!”) sets the tone for the rest of the psalm (vs. 1). In addition to the opening and closing verses, we find “halel” in the middle of the psalm (vs. 3), in all, five occurrences. Other repetitions include “the name of Yahweh” (six times in vss. 1, 2, 3, & 9) and “dwell” (vss. 5, 8, & 9). Note how the psalmist juxtaposes Yahweh’s “stooping down” (vs. 6) with his “raising up...and lifting up” the poor and needy (vs. 7). The rhetorical question, “Who is like Yahweh?” (vs. 5), serves as a key transition point in the psalm.
I. Lifting up: our offering praises to Yahweh (1-4)
II. Transitional question: Who is like Yahweh? (5 & 6)
III. Stooping: Yahweh’s reaching down to lift up the poor and needy (6-9)
Because Yahweh stoops down to lift up the poor and needy, he should be lifted up in our praises as our uniquely exalted God.
The opening lines of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43 remains one of the most famous expressions of human love in modern English literature: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. / I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach...”
The poet penned these words as a personal declaration of love for her husband, Robert Browning. However, they could just as easily have served as a paraphrase of Psalm 113. In this brief but powerfully written psalm the author expresses his love for God “to the depth and breadth and height his soul could reach.” Consider his expressions:
- in time: “from now on into eternity” (vs. 2)
- in space: “from the rising of the sun unto its setting” (vs. 3)
- in manner: “stooping down to look” (vss. 5 & 6)
Normally we use the phrase, “the heavens and the earth,” to indicate all that exists above and below us. Our God is so great that he exists above the heavens and must stoop down to look on that which is still far above us. Consider how far he has to stoop to lift us up. He is willing to reach all the way down to the refuse piles, the garbage dumps of our sin cursed world, to find us and rescue us in our helplessness.
An excellent answer to Browning’s question, “How do I love thee?” for those who have experienced God’s love, is voiced by the Apostle John: “We love because he first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:17). Our prayer should be, “Father, may I learn to respond to your love in accordance with the overwhelming immensity of your love for me.”