Ascribed to the Sons of Korah, the psalm begins with praise imperatives (Psalm 47:1, ESV):
Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
You and I may not think that reverent worship includes clapping and shouting, but this psalm commands exuberant joy in our songs of praise. It certainly says something about barely singing with your face buried in the hymnbook.
The psalm gives a reason for this celebratory singing:
For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared,
a great king over all the earth (verse 2, ESV).
This verse ties together exuberance and reverence. We must worship God with joyful praise because he is the Most High God, to be viewed with awe and respect. He reigns over all people and all creatures in every event in every part of this world.
The next two verses remind those familiar with the Old Testament of how God brought his people out of Egypt’s slavery, conquered the nations in Canaan, and settled his chosen ones in a country of their own (3 & 4, ESV):
He subdued peoples under us,
and nations under our feet.
He chose our heritage for us,
the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah
In verse five, we see a reference to the ancient practice of announcing a king’s arrival with a trumpet fanfare:
God has gone up with a shout,
the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
The phrase “God has gone up” may also seem to refer to Christ’s ascension, but the rest of the verse conveys the image of honoring a king. Still I like being reminded of Christ’s ascension since that is the reason Christ now reigns at God’s right hand (Hebrews 10:12).
Because God reigns as the true King over all the earth, we should sing joyful praises (6 & 7, ESV):
Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm!
Clearly psalms are intended as passionate songs of praise. They ought to be part of our joyful worship.
This brief and celebratory psalm concludes with a reiteration of God’s reign over all princes and people (8 & 9, ESV):
God reigns over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne.
The princes of the peoples gather
as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
he is highly exalted!
Why put hope in earthly rulers or or armed forces or governmental programs? All princes, presidents, and prime ministers should gather together as God’s people. All shields of power and protection ultimately belong to God. He is the Most High King exalted over all!