“All the peoples must strike their hand!

Cry aloud with a voice of jubilation!”

(Psalm 47:2 {verse 1 in English Translations})

 

And the psalm of celebration begins! First of all, notice to whom this command is being uttered. It is not just to the people around the throne of God nor is it just uttered to the people of Israel. It is uttered to “all the peoples”! People from every race and language and nation are being called by the psalmists to give God praise and to exalt before him. Throughout the Old Testament there is this reoccurring promise that God will bring peoples from the nations into Israel and into Jerusalem — a promise of the Gospel going to the gentiles — and passages like this anticipate that great and glorious time when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

That being said, with a call to rejoicing comes an implicit warning — it is Yahweh that is to be feared (see the following verses) and those people who do not submit and come worship him will find themselves subdued under the feet of God and his people. Indeed, there will be a day when every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, but of those God has not called to himself in faith — those that continue to reject the Gospel — they will find themselves kneeling and confessing to their great consternation and humiliation as an utterly defeated foe.

One curious element is the phrase that is typically translated as “clap your hands” in our English Bibles. In Hebrew there are four different verbs used to describe the clapping of one’s hands and these verbs carry with them a variety of connotations. What I found most interesting is that the verb used here is better translated as “strike” or “give a blow” and the word for hand is actually singular, thus producing the translation above: “strike your hand.” Interestingly, in most of the instances where what we would describe as “clapping” are found, the term for hand is found in the singular, yet we translate it into the plural. There seems little explanation for this choice of terms apart from the visual idea of clapping where one hand is held still (as one would hold a small drum) and the other is in motion. Thus, when we envision the clapping being called for, it should not be seen as the thunderous applause that we often call for in our western culture, but a more rhythmic clapping that would produce more or less a drum beat (the stationary hand being the drum). The design, of course, being to draw people into the worship and praise of our God.

I could raise the question about one’s boldness of witness — is your witness one that boldly calls all of the peoples to Christ? Or do you do the very American thing and say that one’s religious preferences are one’s own business? The Bible knows nothing of this latter model. Yet, the question I would rather leave you with is that of the contagiousness of your worship. Does your worship draw others around you into worship? That doesn’t mean we need loud rhythmic clapping and dancing in the aisles, a humble and heart-felt worship that is gentle and quiet can have an even more powerful effect on others than the loud boisterous style. But do the people around you get drawn into the worship of God because of the way you worship in life? When in church, does your worship draw other believers into worship in a positive way — sometimes that guy who has had a bad week really needs the spirit of other believers around him to help draw him into that spirit of worship. Beloved, examine your witness, but also examine your worship. Is it contagious — the worship of these sons of Korah is.

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