It may be said that Psalm 145 is a magnificent hymn that reminds believers of all that God has provided for a believing mankind. As a song of praise and thanksgiving it is indeed a psalm written in “g” major—and one that should be very specially felt by every believer.
Psalm 145 occupies a significant place in the arrangement of the Book of Psalms, for it completes a section of psalms ascribed to David (118-145) As a praise psalm it nicely introduces the concluding canonical psalms, which are marked as “Hallelujah Psalms”(146-150). It is also the only psalm designated in its heading by the Hebrew word for psalm (tĕhillāh) whose plural form was the designation for the entire Psalter. It is of further interest to note that Psalm 145 played a special role in the Jewish liturgy. For, “In Jewish practice this psalm was recited twice in the morning and once in the evening service. The Talmud commends all who repeat it three times a day as having a share in the world to come (b. Ber.4b).” 1
Psalm 145 was composed as an acrostic in which each verse begins with a succeeding letter of the alphabet, the only omission being that of the letter “n.” The psalm also has a thematic structure, which is accompanied by clearly distinguishable keys. Thus the whole psalm is bracketed by an ascription of praise to God (vv. 1-3, 21) forming an inclusio. Each individual stanza is closely tied to the next by a series of stitch words. The opening praise of God’s greatness (vv. 1-3) is tied to the following praise of God’s glorious splendor and mighty acts (vv. 4-12) via the thought of “praise” (vv. 3, 4), while this stanza is stitched to the following praise of God’s great beneficence in his kingdom acts (vv. 13-20) by the word “kingdom” (vv. 12, 13).
It should also be noted that the two larger sections (4-12, 13-20) also contain structural indicators. Thus verses 4-12 are bracketed by the words “generation/mankind,” while within the stanza two strophes may be found: verses 4-9 in praise of God’s goodness and grace, which is stitched to the second (vv. 10-12) by means of the phrase “all he has made” (vv. 9, 10). Likewise two strophes are in evidence in the final stanza (vv. 13-20). The first strophe features God’s great gracious beneficence and goodness to his people and creation (vv. 13-16), while the second strophe focuses on God’s just dealing with all mankind (vv. 17-20).
Accordingly, Psalm 145 may be outlined as follows:
I. In praise of God’s greatness (vv. 1-3)
II. In praise of God’s glorious splendor and mighty acts (vv. 4-12)
A. God’s goodness and grace (vv. 4-9)
B. God’s glorious kingdom (vv. 10-12)
III. In praise of God’s kingdom acts (vv. 13-20)
A. God’s gracious beneficence and goodness (vv. 13-16)
B. God’s just dealing with all mankind (vv. 17-20)
IV. Closing ascription of praise (v. 21)
The description of Psalm 145 has a “song in G major” reflects the fact that four major qualities of God’s character that begin with the English letter “g” are contained within the psalm: his greatness, his goodness, his grace, and his glory. We shall give special attention to these four “g’s” in the discussion that follows.
In the opening stanza David declares, “I will extol you, my God, O king! I will praise your name continually” (v. 1).2 Although God’s greatness is praised elsewhere in the psalm in connection with such divine attributes as his omnipotence and omniscience (e.g., Ps. 147:5), in Psalm 145 the poet simply speaks of the essential greatness of God as being unfathomable—beyond human comprehension (vv. 1-3). The fact that David calls God the “king” underscores the widely attested truth of God’s sovereignty over all. Indeed, he is the One who is in charge of all things, not only as Creator but as Controller and Consummator of earth’s history (cf. Ps. 89:11; Isa. 40:1-31; 43:8-13; Dan. 4:34-35; Rev. 21:1-4).3 If in fact David is the author of this psalm as the superscription indicates, because David himself is a king, “The occasion for this appellation is all the more natural and the signification all the more pertinent. . . . Whosoever calls God by such a name acknowledges His royal prerogative, and at the same time does homage to Him and binds himself to allegiance.”4
In the second stanza (vv. 4-12) David goes on to elaborate on God’s greatness in connection with his “majestic splendor” and mighty acts, which are described as so powerful that they are truly amazing, truly “awesome acts” (vv. 5-6). Indeed, the psalmists often sing of God’s mighty acts (e.g., Ps. 150:2) as being “very great” (Ps. 104:1) in his creation and providential control of all things in Heaven and on earth (e.g., Pss. 99:2; 104:2-32; 135:4-14). Thus in the Sabbath psalm known as Psalm 92 the psalmist praises God by saying, “How great are your works, O LORD! Your plans are very intricate!” (Ps. 92:5). It is small wonder, therefore, that God’s greatness was well known in Jerusalem (cf. Ps. 48:1).
It is not just the fact of God’s “amazing deeds” that arrests David’s attention in Psalm 145. Rather, it is the truth that in connection with his activities God always acts in accordance with his essential goodness (v. 7)5 and is always fair and just. God’s goodness sounds a second “g” note in David’s presentation. It is a note, which is sounded frequently in other psalms. Thus on another occasion David declares that God’s very name, which indicates his revealed character and reputation, is well known to his own who rely on him and they know that he is good (Ps. 52:9).
David goes on to mention further qualities associated with God’s inherent goodness (v. 8). The first pair of adjectives occurs together some thirteen times in the Old Testament, twelve of which refer to God (e.g., Pss. 111:4; 116:5). The first of these, rendered “merciful” in the NET (cf. NLT), comes from a Hebrew root that means “be gracious.” Therefore, many English Bible editions give the translation of these adjectives as “gracious and compassionate” (e.g., HCSB, NIV; cf. NKJV) or “gracious and merciful” (e.g., ESV, NRSV). It is evident in any case that whatever way the combination of these three English adjectives with regard to the two underlying Hebrew adjectives is rendered, it emphasizes God’s undeserved favor and his tender compassionate heart with respect to the deep needs of man. Based on the Hebrew root meaning, then, this quality of God forms a third major “g” in the character of God.
Thus not only is God to be praised for his greatness and goodness, but also for how these are conveyed to man in his grace. David continues to praise God by noting further aspects of God’s goodness and grace (v.8). Despite his peoples oft failures, the Lord remains patient with them, and (on his part) faithful to the terms of the existing covenant between them. The apostle Peter reminds his readers that God’s patience was exemplified even during the days before the flood. Although the people of that day were disobedient, “God patiently waited in the days of Noah as an ark was being constructed” (1 Pet. 3:20). Even though mankind continues in its self-indulgent sins, God is patient, “Because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9; cf. 3:15).
In mentioning God’s goodness and grace as seen in his faithfulness (NET, “loyal love”) toward his covenant people, David sounds a note that is heard elsewhere in the Psalms (e.g., Pss. 106:1; 107:1; 118:1, 29).6 In many ways the older understanding of the original Hebrew word here as “lovingkindness” (e.g., KJV, NASB) is always rather apropos. The English word “kindness” is ultimately related to a primitive root from which the English noun “kin” has come.7 In a sense, then, in treating his people graciously and kindly the Lord viewing them as though they were his earthly family, so that his “loyal love” (NET) takes on a nuance that in his great faithfulness to God’s covenant people there is a warmth like that of a father for his children.
David proceeds to reiterate that all of these divine qualities (whether grace and mercy or compassion, or his patience and faithfulness) stem from the fact of God’s great goodness (v. 9; cf. v. 7). Indeed, God’s goodness and compassion are such that they extend even beyond his covenant people. Thus Leupold remarks, “Israel was often so preoccupied with itself that it forgot or overlooked the fact that God was concerned about all that were his creatures. It redounds in His rich praise that His interest is of such a universal breath. One cannot comprehend this broad scope of which divine goodness is capable, but one can regard this as an inspiring article of faith; for it the Lord deserves to be praised abundantly.”8
The second strophe (vv. 10-12) of this portion of the psalm (vv. 4-12) extends the thought of the previous “all he has made” (v. 9) to suggest that the Lord will have “loyal followers” in addition to Israel.9 Indeed, Peter would later come to understand that, “in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is welcomed before him” (Acts 10:35). It is a truth that is realized in the saving power of Jesus Christ (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4-8). All those who belong to the Lord will with thankful heart praise him, and declare his kingship and great power (Ps. 145:10-11). In so doing they will desire all mankind to “acknowledge your mighty acts, and the majestic splendor of your kingdom” (v. 12). “They give thanks for the many expressions of his kingship, all of which reveal his ‘glory’ (vv. 11-12; cf. v. 5), ‘might’ (cf. v. 4), and stability (‘everlasting through all generations,’ v. 13; cf. Da 4:3).”10
Verses 11 and 12 emphasize the fourth “g” major theme relative to the Lord, for David speaks of the “glory of your kingdom” (MT; cf. ESV, NLT, NRSV; NET, “splendor of your kingdom”). To be sure the Hebrew word for “glory” in these verses (kābôd) has already occurred in verse 5 (see NET text note) in connection with God’s majesty. Here, however, it finds a special emphasis in describing the nature of God’s kingdom. This is not at all surprising, for God’s glory is one of the more prominent themes in the Psalms. Although one may speak of God’s glory as the outstanding feature of God’s essential inner excellence, the term “glory” is often used of God’s evident glory or awesome splendor (e.g., Pss. 19:1; 57:5, 11). It is a glory that not only covers all creation and testifies to God’s majesty and power, but, “The LORD is exalted over all the nations” (Ps. 113:4; cf. 108:5). In short, God’s glory is truly great (Ps. 138:5, NET, “magnificent”).
God’s glory is displayed also in his mighty acts such as in the deliverance of his people (Pss. 85:9-13; 97:5-6; 102:15-16). Because of God’s known character and established reputation, his name is a glorious one (Pss. 29:1-2; 102:15). Accordingly, elsewhere David expresses a deep-seated longing to be in the sanctuary so as to be in the special presence of the Lord of all glory.11 Note this strong desire as written when he found himself in the wilderness of Judah:
O God, you are my God! I long for you!
My soul thirsts for you,
my flesh yearns for you
in a dry and parched land where there is no water.
Yes, in the sanctuary I have seen you,
and witnessed your power and splendor. (Ps 63:1-2)
In Psalm 145 David declared that he would focus on God’s “majestic splendor” and “amazing deeds” (v. 5). These now find special attention as he points out that the Lord’s “loyal followers” will proclaim both in connection with the glory of God’s kingdom in order that others may come to recognize and acknowledge them (vv. 11-12; cf. Hab. 2:14).
In the first strophe of the final stanza of the psalm David praises the Lord in connection with his activities as king of the universe and earth, for his “dominion endures through all generations” (v.13). God’s glorious rule is not just seen in sovereign authority and power, but also in his care for all creation and much as a loving Father is concerned for mankind’s welfare (vv. 14-16).
In the second strophe David comments on God’s administration of his kingdom (vv. 17-20). It is accomplished with justice and compassion (v. 17). Moreover, the Lord is ever available to those who are in need and “cry out to him sincerely”(18). These are God’s loyal followers who not only call to him expectantly, but who fear (or revere—see NET text note) him (v. 19), and genuinely love him (v.20).12 Believers may thus count on God’s deliverance of them in times of need or trouble (v. 19) and his protection in times of danger (v.20a). Such is simply the case as guaranteed in God’s righteous and faithful administration of his kingdom (cf. Deut 28:1-14; Pss 1:1-3; 23:1-6). By way of contrast, however, his righteous administration is further revealed in the case of the wicked, for they face his judgment in which, He destroys all the wicked” (v. 20b; cf. Pss. 1:4-6; 73:27).
David closes his psalm (v. 21) with a return to the opening theme of his resolve to praise the Lord continually. He encourages “all who live” (who, as David has shown, are indeed the recipients of his beneficence) to join him in doing likewise.
Psalm 145 is thus rightly seen as a: song in ‘g major,’ for not only is God’s greatness displayed throughout the psalm but also his magnificence and munificence. These are also revealed in connection with God’s inherent goodness and grace toward a needy mankind. All of these point further to the Lord’s essential awesome glory, which is seen in his sovereign, just, and compassionate administration of his kingdom. These four ‘g’s of course appear elsewhere in the Psalter, all of which serve as a reminder of the pure and holy character of the Lord of the universe, and the righteous nature of his kingdom rule over the earth. It is simply true that the great God of all creation is also good, gracious, and glorious!
It should come as no surprise, then, that these same qualities are revealed in God’s unique Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, Christ is declared to be the believer’s “Great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13) as well as his Great Shepherd (Heb. 13:20) and High Priest (Heb. 4:14). Jesus also declared that he is the believer’s Good Shepherd who would lay down his life for his sheep (John 10:11).13 Therefore, believers may be assured that they are known of Jesus even as they know him: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14-15). As Morris points out, “There is a relationship of mutual knowledge. And this reciprocal knowledge is not superficial but intimate.”14
This intimacy of fellowship between Christ and the believer is assured because of the good shepherd’s gracious sacrificial death, which provides for the believer’s salvation (Acts 15:11) and justification (Rom. 3:24) as well as all the wondrous benefits of a new spiritual life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 5:14-17). Because of “Christ’s redeeming work the believer is able to look forward to reigning in life through Christ” and ultimately they will “have a share in the Lord’s kingdom and glory.”15
Indeed, all of the spiritual riches attendant to the believer’s life are now available through Christ’s redemptive work (2 Cor. 8:9), who himself is the ultimate source of grace and truth (John 1:14-17). Accordingly, Peter urges believers to take full advantage of their miraculous new life and “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).
Not only is Jesus characterized by such qualities as greatness, goodness, and grace, but also by the fourth ‘g’ of Psalm 145: glory. Although Jesus’ essential glory existed even before the creation of the world (John 17:5), human appreciation of that glory became possible only through his incarnation (John 1:14). To be sure Christ’s glory was specifically displayed fully but once at the transfiguration (Lk. 9:26-32). Yet the glorious nature of Christ became evident in the performance of his mighty acts (e.g., Lk. 7:16; 13:17; 19:37) such as in his miracles (John 2:11). Although in accordance with the divine plan the “Lord of glory” was crucified (1 Cor. 2:8), he rose from the dead and afterwards entered “into his glory” (Lk. 24:26). He will yet return in “power and great glory” (Lk. 21:27; cf. Matt. 24:30; Mark 13:26) and “in the glory of the Father and the holy angels” (Lk. 9:26; cf. Matt. 25:31). Meanwhile as believers “We wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
As united to Christ (Col. 1:27) believers can both appreciate the four “g’s” of Psalm 145 detailing the person and work of God as well as their display in God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ and apply them to their Christian lives. Although the believer is not to be extolled for personal greatness in his spiritual standing, whatever worldly acclaim he may or may not have (cf. Matt. 20:26), he can enjoy his salvation, which is undeniably great (Heb. 2:3). Rather, his character is to be marked by the godly humility that he achieves through the grace of God (James 4:6). The believers’ greatness lies in the presence of the indwelling Christ and power of the Holy Spirit (Eph.1: 19-20; Rom. 8:14); 1 Cor. 3:16)). It is a greatness of character that the unbeliever neither experiences nor understands (1 John 4: 4). Moreover, as surrendered to the Lord in humble service to him, theirs is a blessed life, which is capped by a heavenly reward (Matt. 5: 3-12; cf. 2 Tim 4:6-8).
The second “g” of Psalm 145 is also very applicable to the believer’s walk before God, for God is the constant source of good for the believer (Ps. 103: 2-5), including even his basic needs (Ps. 107:9). God’s goodness toward the believer is such that he may confidently rely on it (Pss. 27:13-14; 73:28 [see text note]; Phil. 4:19) but not forget to thank the Lord for all his kindness to him (Ps. 136: 1-3). Nevertheless, although the believer may gain strength from such knowledge of God’s care and beneficence, he must keep in mind that God’s very goodness carries with it a challenge to give the Lord first place in his life (Ps 34:10), be pure in heart (Ps 73:1), and demonstrate genuine integrity (Ps, 84:11) and goodness (3 John 11) toward others.
To be sure, believers are saved by God’s grace through faith, but The Lord has redeemed them to reproduce God’s goodness in their lives (Eph 2:8-10). In so doing they will prove themselves as good servants of Christ (1Tim. 4:6). Believers are, therefore, to hold fast to that which is good (Gal. 6:21) and seek to do good things (1 Thess. 5:15) for all people (Gal 6:9-10). They should not neglect opportunities to be of help (Heb. 13:16) nor tire of doing so (2 Thess 3:13). Indeed, they should be “rich in good deeds (1 Tim. 6:18) and maintain a good walk before the Lord (1 Pet. 3:16).
Likewise, grace, the third “g,” is crucial for believers. Believers are the recipients (Rom. 1:5) of God’s grace through Christ (Eph. 1:7), through which they are saved (Eph. 2:7-9). As those saved by God’s grace believers have been given individual spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:6), which they are to steward properly (1 Cor. 15:10). Indeed, Peter reminds believers that they are to exercise these spiritual gifts “to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God” (1 Pet. 4:10).16
Furthermore, God’s grace, which has appeared in Christ’s finished redemption, is available to all and sufficient for believers to maintain a godly lifestyle (Titus 2:11-14), including the use of gracious speech (Col. 4:8). God’s grace is also crucial for achieving and maintaining a godly family life (1 Pet. 3:7). In short, as Paul declares to the Romans, “Since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory” (Rom. 5:1-2). It is to this “glory” that we turn next.
Whatever glory believers have comes to them through their union with Christ (Col. 1:27). It is a glory available to all people and for which God made preparation long ago (Rom. 9:27). God himself is the Father of glory (Eph. 1:18). That glory is clearly embedded in the gospel message (2 Cor. 3:9). Moreover, aided by the Word of God believers may grow in grace (2 Pet. 3:18) and by its transforming power can reflect the glory of God (2 Cor. 3:18). In accordance with the Father’s purposes in Christ Jesus believers can experience the riches of God’s glory through their spiritual union with Christ (Eph. 3:14-19) and so live as to be “to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:12).17
Believers also have the high privilege of sharing the gospel (2 Cor. 3:9; 2 Thess. 1:9-11), in order that others may come to know Christ also and live in a manner worthy of God who calls them “to his own kingdom and glory”(2 Thess. 2:12). Although at times it may be the case that believers may suffer for their stand for Christ, they may rejoice in knowing that their present pain pales in comparison with the greater glory that will be theirs when Christ comes again (1 Pet. 1:6-9). Through all of life’s opportunities, then, as united to Christ believers are to keep their eyes on Christ and live in accordance with God’s high moral standards (Col. 3:1-11).
E. F. Harrison sums up the implications of the scriptural teaching with regard to the believer’s glory quite well in writing “Christ dwells in Christians as their life, and as their hope of glory. At present their life is hidden with Christ in God when the Savior comes again, he will still be their life, but then the relationship will no longer be a hidden one.”18
By way of summary, it may be said that Psalm 145 is a magnificent hymn that reminds believers of all that God has provided for a believing mankind. As a song of praise and thanksgiving it is indeed a psalm written in “g” major—and one that should be very specially felt by every believer. For it not only testifies to the greatness, goodness, grace, and glory of God, but in light of the fuller New testament revelation it also reminds all believers that these spiritual riches are theirs through Christ Jesus, in whom all four of these divine characteristics are manifested Moreover, as united to Christ they possess and may continue to experience something of these qualities in their lives—all to the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. May each Christian make it his wish to declare,. “May I so live that others may see the glory of God revealed in me.” Having laid hold of these truths, believers can echo David’s closing resolve and admonition: “My mouth will praise the Lord. Let all who live praise his holy name forever” (v.21).
Something of the means of grasping and utilizing the full force of these four wondrous divine characteristics is reflected in the hymn writer’s prayer:
May the mind of Christ my Savior
Live in me from day to day,
By his love and pow’r controlling
All I do and say.
May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through his pow’r.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters filled the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.
May His beauty rest upon me,
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.19
1 Willem A. VanGemeren, “Psalms,” in The Expositors Bible Commentary,. rev. ed., eds. Tremper Longman III & David E. Garland (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008) 5:988.
2 Unless otherwise noted all scriptural citations are taken from the NET.
3 See the excellent discussion in Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology (4 vols.; Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005) 2:536-62.
4 Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms, trans. Francis Bolton (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955) 3:388.
5 See NET text note #4.
7 Note also the German kind (“child”).
8 H. C. Leupold, The Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), 977-78.
9 The Hebrew wording (see NET text note, “all his works,” v. 10) may imply as well the frequently found praise of personified nature (e.g., Pss. 19:10; 96:12; 148:7-14). Thus Claus Westermann (The Living Psalms, trans. J. R. Porter [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989], 227) suggests, “All creation joins with the worshipping congregation to praise God.” One is reminded of the words of M. D. Babcock: “This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears all nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres. This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—his hand the wonders wrought.”
10 VanGemeren, “Psalms,” 5:990.
11 Perhaps David’s abiding longing for a sense of the special presence of God was because the Lord of all glory is also a God of love (cf. 1 John 4:16). Henry Van Dyke expressed a similar thought in his well- known hymn, “Joyful joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love.” Delitzsch (Psalms, 2:214) follows reminds his readers of Saint Bernard’s comments: “ lingua amoris non amanti barbara est” (‘The language of love is not foreign to loving”).
12 For the scriptural teaching with regard to the believer’s calling on God, see Richard D. Patterson, “The Call-Answer Motif, “ Biblical Studies Press, 2008. Believers, thus, may count on the God’s deliverance of them in times of need or trouble (v. 19) and his protection in times of danger (v.20a).
13 Andreas Köstenberger (John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004], 306) observes, “Jesus’ appropriation of the title ‘shepherd’ . . . places him firmly within the framework of OT and traditional Jewish messianic expectations.”
14 Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 511.
15 Everett Harrison, “Romans,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, rev. ed.; eds. Tremper Longman III & David E. Garland (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007) 11:99.
16 It is of interest to note that the NET rendering of the Greek adjective describing God’s grace as “varied” is in keeping with the earlier conclusions of William Barclay, More New Testament Words (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1958), 138-40. Barclay demonstrated that this adjective in secular Greek could describe many-colored objects or creatures, or manufactured articles “in various colours, cunningly made” (138). Barclay goes on to observe further that no human situation in which the believer finds himself nor any possible problem is such that it is too difficult for the variegated grace of God to handle.
17 The Apostle Paul reminds believers that regardless of their economic situation in life, they are heirs of God’s spiritual riches. Indeed, God has extended to man his riches as reflected in the second, third, and fourth “g’s” noted in connection with Psalm 145, for it is the riches of God’s goodness that leads men to repentance (Rom. 2:3-4), the riches of his grace that brings them to repentance through Christ’s sacrifice (Eph. 1:7) and the riches of his glory, which brings to believing man his hope of eternal reward (Col. 3:1-4) as well as his present help (Phil. 4:19).
18 E. F. Harrison, “Glory,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982) 2: 482.
19 Kate B. Wilkinson, “May the Mind of Christ my Savior,” in Hymns for the Living Church (Carol Stream, IL: Hope Publishing Co., 1974), 349.