Psalm 1461NIV New International Version Translations
1 Praise the LORD. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people. 2Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. 3Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp. 4For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory. 5Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds. 6 May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, 7 to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, 8to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, 9 to carry out the sentence written against them—this is the glory of all his faithful people. Praise the LORD.
We do not know who wrote this psalm or when it was written. Perhaps it was before a war, or after a war which God’s people, the Jews, won. Some think that Psalm 149 is not only about a war that the Jews fought, or even a Christian war. It also makes us look at when Jesus will come back to the earth. This is called “eschatology”. It is the study of what happens at the end of the world. That is when God will have vengeance on his enemies. God has often used some people to punish others. But at the end of time, this is what the Bible tells us. God will use his people to give him help!
Some translations of Psalm 149 also use the word “saints”. They use it in verses 1, 5 and 9 where we have “his people”. The Hebrew word for “his people” or “saints” is “chesidim”. It really means “people that have accepted God’s kind love”.
Verse 1: The word “hallelujah” means “praise the LORD”. “Praise” means “tell someone that they are very great”. “LORD” is a special name for God. It is his covenant name. A covenant is when two people (or groups of people) agree. Here, God agrees to love and give help to his people. They agree to love and obey God. “His people” is “chesidim” in Hebrew. It is the people that have accepted God’s kind love. Some translate it “saints”, some translate it “God’s people”.
Verse 3: The harp and the tambourine make music.
Verse 5: We are not sure what the word “beds” means here. It may be something that people knelt on when they prayed.
Verse 6: Here, the sword has two sharp edges. This separates the sword from common uses. It was to defend one’s self.
Verse 8: The chains of iron were something to tie people up with so people could not get away.
Verse 9: God decided many centuries ago what to do to his enemies. At the end of time, it will happen.
Items for Discussion
- How do you feel about the notion that God permits war and even uses war to punish His enemies?
- Since there has never been a time without war, do you think it is realistic to believe there can be peace?
- What type of peace do you think God can bring about for His world?
- Do you believe that God will separate people, His people and others that He will punish or destroy?
- Does this Psalm support those who believe that we have a benevolent God and that all will be saved? Why or Why not?
- Who are the saints?
20 Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. 24“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. 27“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Luke wrote two books of the New Testament (NT). Luke’s Gospel tells the story of the life and work of Jesus. Luke’s second book, Acts, continues the story after Jesus went back to heaven. The two books amount to a quarter of the NT. This is even more than Paul wrote. Luke was a doctor (Colossians 4:14). He was often Paul’s companion in his travels. The book of Acts contains passages in which the author includes himself as a companion of Paul (‘we’ in Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16). Luke shared Paul’s work (Philemon, verse 24). He was a loyal friend. In prison, Paul says, ‘only Luke is with me’ (2 Timothy 4:11). Luke was a Gentile. He came from Antioch, which was an important town in Syria.
In this chapter we have Christ’s exposition of the moral law, which he came not to destroy, but to fulfill, and to fill up, by his gospel. Here is a proof of the lawfulness of works of necessity and mercy on the Sabbath day, the former in vindication of his disciples’ plucking the ears of corn, the latter in vindication of himself healing the withered hand on that day, ver. 1-11. His retirement for secret prayer, ver. 12. His calling his twelve apostles, ver. 13-16. His curing the multitudes of those under various diseases who made their application to him, ver. 17-19. And our verses for this lesson, the sermon that he preached to his disciples and the multitude, instructing them in their duty both to God and man, ver. 20-49.
Verse 20 Poor people have so little in this world. But they can know God’s secret. God’s kingdom belongs to them! Jesus said that the kingdom is theirs. It is theirs, not only in the future, but here and now. They can know God’s rule in their lives. He will guide them. He will care for them.
Verse 21 God will bless those who are hungry now. They will have plenty to eat. God will supply everything that they need. God will bless those who are sad now. They will be able to laugh again. They see that many people and organizations in the world are wicked and unjust. They will be full of joy when they see that goodness overcomes evil.
Verse 22 Jesus spoke about the future when he warned his disciples. But his words were already coming true. The Pharisees hated Jesus and were plotting to kill him. They shut a blind man out of the synagogue. Jesus had healed him so that he could see (John 9:20-34).
Verse 23 ‘Their ancestors’ means the ancestors of people like the Pharisees. They had hated and insulted the prophets. People will hate and insult the disciples. This is the evidence that they are being loyal to Jesus.
In verses 21-23, all these blessings are very different from the way in which the world thinks of happiness.
Next come 4 ‘woes’ which are the opposite of the 4 blessings. ‘Woe to you!’ is an expression of regret, meaning ‘How miserable for you!’ It is also a warning that God’s judgment is to come.
Verse 24 Rich people have a comfortable life. These people think only about what they own. They do not think about what follows this life. They may enjoy their present life, but they have nothing else to come (1 Timothy 6:7).
Verse 25 Some people only think about what they own and enjoy in this world. But they will never find true satisfaction. When this life ends, they are going to cry (Isaiah 65:13-14).
Verse 26 People will be miserable if they just live to be popular with other people. In Old Testament days many people praised the false prophets. These false prophets pretended that their messages came from God. But their messages were not true. They had invented them. There will still be false prophets in the future (2 Peter 2:1).
Verse 27 The Jews knew God’s commandment to love their neighbors (Leviticus 18:18). Their teachers had added the words ‘and hate your enemy’. But those words are not in the Bible. Instead, Jesus said that they must love their enemies. He was not asking them to like their enemies. This love was not like the natural emotion that they had towards their own family. Christian love means that you act for the benefit of the other person. It may be difficult, but God will help us. It is not a matter of the emotions, but we should do what God wants.
Verse 28 If someone hits you, you probably want to hit them back, perhaps twice as hard. This is a natural way to behave. The people who follow Jesus should behave in a different way. They must not do something evil to the person who does something evil to them.
Verses 29-30 Jesus did not mean that all Christians must give everything away and become very poor. But Christians must act with love. They must be generous to other people and not be selfish about their possessions.
Verse 31 Jesus gave this rule for the whole of life. There were many examples of the negative attitude, ‘Do not do to other people what you do not like’ (Tobit 4:15). But Jesus said that those who follow him must be active and do good things. ‘Do to other people what you would want them to do to you’.
Items for Discussion
- Who are the saints?
- How does this image of Christ’s chosen fit with how the world might define a “saint?”
- Is Jesus too hard on those who seem to have it easy?
- What do you see that a saint must do to receive God’s blessings?
- Is there anything that the wealthy and well off can do to receive God’s blessings?
- Are their differences between the definition of saints in our Psalm and Jesus’ definition? If so, what are they?
- How should those who have treat those who do not have?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations