Praise the Lord!
Because it is good to sing praise to our God!
Because it is a pleasure to make beautiful praise!
2 The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem,
gathering up Israel’s exiles.
3 God heals the brokenhearted
and bandages their wounds.
4 God counts the stars by number,
giving each one a name.
5 Our Lord is great and so strong!
God’s knowledge can’t be grasped!
6 The Lord helps the poor,
but throws the wicked down on the dirt!
7 Sing to the Lord with thanks;
sing praises to our God with a lyre!
8 God covers the skies with clouds;
God makes rain for the earth;
God makes the mountains sprout green grass.
9 God gives food to the animals—
even to the baby ravens when they cry out.
10 God doesn’t prize the strength of a horse;
God doesn’t treasure the legs of a runner.
11 No. The Lord treasures the people
who honor him,
the people who wait for his faithful love.
Psalm 147:1-11 (CEB)
When UPSem students begin to exegete a text, our training tells us to search for patterns and repetition. Repeated words or phrases give emphasis and directs us to what is important. Psalm 147 certainly offers much by way of repetition: praise, gives, makes, Jerusalem, etc. Each of these words could spark an entire sermon. But the singularity of one word also suggests importance. Among the unique words in Psalm 147, I was drawn to one verb: hope.
Hope, the verb, is an action, ongoing. It’s easy read through hope, the noun, and hope, the verb, without appreciating a distinction. The difference is nuanced, but crucial. Psalm 147 tells us to hope (v.) in God’s love continuously, tirelessly, and through all. You can “have” the kind of hope (n.) in God that you can pack away neatly in a dresser drawer, only to remove it when you choose, but that’s not what we are called to do. We aren’t called to just hold on to it, we are called to use it.
Hope is a powerful tool. Hope in the face of incredible odds can be a game changer. Hope is what inspires people to buy a Mega Millions lottery ticket. Hope is what compels Aaron Rodgers to throw Hail Mary passes in the final seconds of football games. Hope is what powered the Rogue One team to steal the Death Star plans, resulting in its eventual destruction.
Hope can accomplish many things, but hope in the steadfast love of the Lord does so much more. It unlocks the delight of the God who created everything — from the expanse of the universe to the smallest grain of sand. Who would have thought that we could delight a God like that with just a little hope?
The funny thing about hope in Psalm 147 is that we really should do more than hope. We should trust. We are told that the Lord “heals the brokenhearted,” “lifts up the humble,” and feeds the earth; creation itself is a testament to the Lord. We have eyes to see God’s work, we have seen what God can do, yet we often question what God will do. God does a lot of things that we don’t understand, which causes us to doubt, question, and fear. But that’s okay, because hope exists within all three. We don’t have to trust; all God requires of us is hope. Hoping for the best. Hoping God will show up and show love.
Hope is important during Lent because, despite the fact that we know how the story starts, we still don’t know how it ends. The story still hasn’t ended. We must continue to hope through the Lenten season and after. Temptation is not the end. Death is not the end. Resurrection is not the end. But they are each stepping stones along the way, containing just enough hope to carry us, comfort us, challenge us, and ultimately to remind us to place our faith in God — the original author of all of our stories.
Lord, help us to see your continuous work — each new blade of grass on the ground and every star numbered in the sky. Help us to transition from hope, the noun, to hope, the verb, and help us to hope continuously in you. Amen.
Final Level M.A.C.E
Following seminary, Alexa hopes to serve God by working with children either through a C.E. position in a church or as a teacher in a Christian school. She is inspired and ignited by the light and creativity of children and I hope to continue to encourage them to ask questions about the world, God, and “the way things are.”