January 2024 – Call and Benediction

January 2024 – Call and Benediction

Call to Worship

Psalm 147:1-6

Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
    for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
    he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
    his understanding is beyond measure.
The Lord lifts up the humble;
    he casts the wicked to the ground.

This is one of the longer calls to worship that we use at Grace. Psalm 147 is part of the “hallelujah psalms” that close out the psalter, named because they each begin and end with “hallelujah!” translated in the ESV as “Praise the LORD!” which is a command to praise God.

After the initial command, the psalm gives the reasons or grounds for the command, signaled by the word “for.” The reasons for praising God begin with the sheer fact that it is good and appropriate to do so (v. 1b). The psalmist then turns his attention to what God does for His people – He builds, gathers, heals, and binds. In light of the coming of Christ, we should apply the references to “Jerusalem” and “Israel” not to the physical city and nation, but to the church, which belongs to the heavenly Jerusalem (Gal. 4:26) and is the true Israel (Gal. 3:7).

From there, the psalm moves to God’s infinite power and understanding in creation, shown forth in His numbering and naming the stars (v. 4-5).

The final ground is God’s exaltation of the humble, and judgement on the wicked (v. 6).

These verses are eschatological in orientation, that is, they look forward to the consummation of all things. In Revelation 21-22 we read of its fulfillment: in the New Creation God will gather His people in the New Jerusalem, heal them of all their hurts, wipe every tear from their eye, and judge the wicked who have rejected Him.

It is plausible that even verses 4-5 reflect this future orientation. Though in them the psalmist focuses on God’s creative act, behind that may lie a reference to Genesis 15:5

And [the LORD] brought [Abram] outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

This promise to Abraham is fulfilled in Christ as the gospel goes out to the nations and brings in an innumerable host (Rom. 4:18, Rev. 7:9). Furthermore, in the New Creation, the saints will be named by God (Rev. 22:4, cf. Rev. 2:17).


Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

This benediction is somewhat unusual as it comes in the middle of one of Paul’s letters. It comes as the conclusion to a larger section, which Paul also began with a benediction (Rom. 15:5-6)! The intervening context is primarily one in which Paul shows how Christ’s ministry fulfills the Old Testament expectation of Gentile inclusion (Rom. 15:8-12), which ends with the phrase, “in him will the Gentiles hope” (Isa. 11:10 LXX).

In the benediction, God is addressed as the “God of hope,” that is, the God from whom all hope comes. The blessing for those who believe (“in believing”) is that they would be filled with joy and peace. That is, as they hear God’s word and trust God’s promises (which Paul has just been quoting), they will receive the blessing of joy and peace. Finally, it ends with a purpose – that they might, through the Holy Spirit, abound in hope.

In summary, the God of hope, through His blessing, causes His people to abound in hope. What a hopeful way to end our worship service!

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