Psalm 33: Let the Godly Sing for Joy

“If the purest form of a hymn is praise to God for what He is and does, this is a fine example.” (Derek Kidner)

This psalm was written to those addressed as “righteous ones” and “the upright” (v. 1). These people know God personally and are seeking to please Him by living obedient lives. But even these people need to be exhorted to “sing for joy in the Lord” (v. 1), to “give thanks to the Lord” and “sing praises to Him” (v. 2). Perhaps we need this exhortation as well.

The absence of a title has led to the speculation that this psalm was a continuation of Psalm 32, much like Psalms 9 and 10.  Though not attributed to David in the Hebrew Psalter, Psalm 33 does contain ideas that belong to the Davidic psalms, like the “victory cry” of 33:3 (NIV: “shout for joy”), the foiled plans of the nations (33:10), the blessing on the nation whose God is the Lord (33:12), and the folly of the king’s trust in his military resources (33:16–17; cf. 20:7).

This psalm begins with three verses calling God’s people to praise him. It ends with three verses expressing their trust and confidence in him.  We live in a world cursed by sin and filled with problems. As a result, some people are prone to focus on their troubles rather than their blessings. As we witness the tragedies of this world and endure the trials of life, we can quickly lose sight of the fact that “the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” (v. 5).

The opening call to worship contains six imperatives in which the righteous are called upon to “sing joyfully,” “praise,” “make music,” “sing,” “play,” and “shout” their praise to God.  They were also to do it with instruments, as if the human voice by itself is not enough.  This is the first time in the Psalms that musical instruments are mentioned. Yes, musical instruments were used in Old Testament times.  However, when one enters the New Testament and reads of the establishment of the Lord’s church and her worship, it is obvious that no musical instruments were ever used.  Most reference works ascribe the introduction of the instrument into worship to Pope Vitalian I (657-672 AD) into the Catholic church. There is no divine authority for the use of musical instruments in the worship of the Lord’s church.

This beautiful psalm divides into the following reasons why one should praise God:

1. The Lord deserves to be praised (vv. 1-3).

2. The Lord’s Word is trustworthy (vv. 4-5).

3. The Lord is the Creator (vv. 6-9).

4. The Lord’s plans stand firm—forever (vv. 10-12).

5. The Lord sees everyone (every moment of everyday) (vv. 13-15).

6. The Lord delivers all who fear Him (vv. 16-22).

I call your attention to verses 18-19 where the psalmist wrote: “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.”  Please observe that the Lord is not looking for faults in His people to punish them, but looking for ways to help them be faithful. 

One final question may be asked: how can the substance of this psalm become our experience? The key lies in verse 22: meditation must turn to prayer and praise.  The Lord rules over the universe, and his plans will stand firm, ruling and overruling our human plans and plots. We do not need to fear, because God is ultimately in control!