Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared,
a great king over all the earth.
He subdued peoples under us,
and nations under our feet.
He chose our heritage for us,
the pride of Jacob whom he loves.
God has gone up with a shout,
the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
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!
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!
– Psalm 47
Psalm 47 is a celebration of God’s kingship. He alone is ruler over all the earth. He is the “God of Abraham” who promised a heritage whereby all of the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). He providentially subdues peoples and lifts up princes. The shields of the earth belong to God. As mighty Nebuchadnezzar learned the hard way, “the Most High rules the kingdoms of men and gives it to whom he will” (Daniel 4:32). Our King is to be highly exalted!
And so the psalm encourages, “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth.” The “to be feared” line struck me today. We humans don’t generally associate a being “to be feared” with clapping and loud songs of joy. An entity worthy of our fear seems more naturally to be linked with complaining than clapping, sulking than singing, and jitters than joy.
But therein lies one of the special aspects of the saint’s relationship with the Creator. When God is respectfully held in reverential awe, there is no need to fear anyone or anything else. Peoples are subdued at his command. Nations crumble according to his plan. The strongest shields of the earth belong to him. He reigns over the nations. “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed” to his heirs (Romans 8:18). “For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Even death has been subjected to his sovereignty, to the point that it can be described as “precious” (Psalm 116:15).
Therefore, his Son says, “Have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:26-28).
For the people of God, such a thought is worthy of clapping, shouts, and loud songs of joy! Our Father reigns. Our elder brother is risen and holds the keys of Death and Hades (Revelation 1:18). Whom shall we fear?