Commentary on Psalms (42 - 89)
© by Francis Foulkes
& Cyril Okorocha


"1. Clap your hands, all you peoples;
shout to God with loud shouts of joy.
2. For the LORD, the Most High, is awesome,
a great king over all the earth.
3. He subdued peoples under us,
and nations under our feet.
4. He chose our heritage for us,
the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah.

5. God has gone up with a shout,
the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
6. Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
7. For God is the king of all the earth,
sing praises with a psalm.

8. God is king over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne.
9. 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."

This is one of a number of Psalms (like 93 and 95-99) that celebrate the fact that God is King and Lord over all. It may have been written at a time when people realised that fact especially because God had given them victory over enemies who threatened them. They could see that he ruled over all, and "subdued peoples under" them as they looked to him for help. The Bible sometimes speaks of God 'coming down' to help his people (as in Isaiah 31:4), and so verse 5 rejoiced in the fact that he had done his victorious work, and then it could be said, "God has gone up with a shout" (compare Psalm 68:18). Another way of understanding the Psalm is to link it with David's taking to Jerusalem the ark of the covenant, the symbol of God's presence (as 2 Samuel 6:17-19 records). That might be spoken of as God going up into Jerusalem with a shout, and that event might have been remembered year by year in a drama when God was, as it were, enthroned afresh in Jerusalem. As a king was crowned and enthroned (2 Kings 9:13 and 11:12), so it was realised that above all God was on the throne, not just over Israel but "over all the earth" (verse 2), King of all kings and over all peoples.

To us this psalm gives the important message, that we should learn to praise God for his goodness and attribute to him all the victories and successes and achievements that come our way. There is great blessing also in making special records of God's unique visitations or blessings on our lives, remembering them from time to time in special anniversaries or annual thanksgiving services.

Call to praise God

Verse 1 and then verse 6 bring the call to God's people to praise him and to do so with great joy, with clapping (which might have included jubilation and dancing), with loud shouts of acclamation, and with music and singing. Our praise and thanksgiving, however, should not just be emotion, but with the mind as well (see 1 Corinthians 14:15 and Romans 12:1-2). With our minds in particular we remember what Jesus has done for us, and so appreciate that we have every reason to praise God and to do so at all times (see Psalm 34:1). Both verses 2 and 7 begin with the little word "for", as they give the psalmist's reasons for praising God. His people had seen that the Lord rules over all. God had given Israel victory over their enemies. He had blessed them with a beautiful land, "the proud possession of his people, whom he loves" (as verse 4 is in the Good News Bible). A land of plenty, and freedom with peace and justice to enjoy it, are great blessings from the hand of God for any people. To be able to say in the words of Psalm 16:6, "the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage", is cause for any of us to give praise to God.

The kingdom, present and future

This is God's world, God's universe, that we live in, and we know God is King and Lord over all. But when we pray, as Jesus taught us, "your kingdom come", we are asking that God will truly rule in our lives and in the lives of others where we are and throughout the world. Verse 9 speaks of the rulers of other nations than Israel coming together as "the people of the God of Abraham" (that is, as Israel), and so acknowledging the one God as their King and as Lord over all. That was a hope expressed quite often in the prophets, as Isaiah 2:3 puts it, "Many peoples shall come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths'." There was a wonderful fulfilment of this in the New Testament, and so it is in the life of the Christian Church today, as people of all nations are drawn to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour (think especially of Acts 2). We are also praying and looking forward to that day when we will be able to rejoice and say, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever" (Revelation 11:15).

Our worship

This Psalm teaches us two things about what the worship of God's people should be. It should be worship with joy, because we know the love of God and how he has so richly blessed us with his gifts. It should also be worship with reverence. Verse 2 speaks of the Most High as "awesome", and we should always remember that he is Creator of all, Lord of all, Judge of all.

Meditation: Consider how Hebrews 4:12-16 shows that we should have great reverence before God and yet come to him with "boldness".

For further thought and study

a. How does the teaching of Jesus about the kingdom of God show (1) that there is joy and blessing when God is allowed to rule in people's lives; (2) that we should also have an attitude of reverence, and recognise the call of the Lord to obedience and loyalty? See, for example, Matthew 13:44-46 and Luke 15:11-24, but also Matthew 13:18-23 and Luke 9:57-62.

b. To what extent does the worship of your personal life and the worship of your church congregation express both joy and reverence?


  1. When verse 7 says "sing praises with a psalm", the word that it uses for "psalm" is the word 'Maskil' that we have discussed in Note 1 on Psalms 42-43, as it stands in the heading to those psalms. Because it probably means 'wise' or 'understanding', some older translations rendered verse 7 as "sing praises with understanding", and with this we may link the words of the apostle Paul referred to above about praising God "with the mind" (1 Corinthians 14:15).
  2. When verse 9 speaks of "the shields of the earth", it probably does not mean 'shields' literally, but the leaders of the nations. The New English Bible has, "the mighty ones of the earth". The leaders were intended to protect their people as a shield protected the soldier in those days (compare Psalm 84:9). This makes us ask how much of a "shield" the leaders of today's world are, and this should encourage us to pray for our own nation and its leaders.