A better understanding of the New Covenant opens up old Bible passages in new ways. A case in point is Psalm 147.
Psalm 147:1 – 4
Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.
A thought came to mind (- usually where thoughts come to!): Is this just about physical stars? Some writers (surprisingly, Matthew Henry even) seem to limit the meaning to physical stars.
But, to misquote Paul, does God care only for physical stars? Or does He not say this for our sakes?
As you look through other commentaries:
Adam Clarke writes:
He telleth the number of the stars – He whose knowledge is so exact as to tell every star in heaven, can be under no difficulty to find out and collect all the scattered exiles of Israel.
John Gill adds:
he calleth them all by their names; …This may be applied to the saints, who are like to stars for the light they r eceive from Christ the sun of righteousness, and are a number which no man can number; but Christ knows them all distinctly and exactly, and can call them by name, and holds them in his right hand, and will preserve them; and they shall shine for ever like stars, yea, like the sun in the kingdom of his Father; so Arama interprets this of the righteous, who are compared to stars; see Dan_12:4.
(o) Vid. Augustin de Civ. Dei, l. 16. c. 23. [This is Augustine’s “City of God”]
Clarke reminds us to stay aware of audience relevance. This Psalm was primarily written for the exiled Jews, that God had not forgotten them. He knows their names. And anyone who has plowed through some of those more (dare I say it?) tedious name-after-name passages found in the Bible knows that our God cares for individuals. I don’t think that any other holy book pays such attention to individuals.
But the blessings of this Psalm is not used up or exhausted by its ancient fulfillment in post-exilic times. It is ongoing. “The Lord builds up Jerusalem” has a twofold meaning. The physical Jerusalem was rebuilt, just as promised. But we today are still seeing the Almighty’s eternal building project, the Heavenly Jerusalem, “the city whose builder and maker is God”.
I think we need to read the Psalms with this viewpoint. Much of the Bible is not just history of what God did for the ancient Jews. It is ongoing assurance of what He is doing for us now, the Israel of God.
Through all the destruction and chaos in this present world.
This City – Our City – is still being built. Great news!