Psalm 33:1–22

1 Shout for joy in YHWH, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright. (Praise is lovely to the upright)
2 Give thanks to YHWH with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
3 Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully (make beautiful music) on the strings, with loud shouts.
4 For the word of the Lord is upright, (cf. v.6-9)
and all his work is done in faithfulness. (cf. v.10-12)
5 He loves righteousness and justice; (cf. v.13-17)
the earth is full of the steadfast love (hesed) of the Lord. (cf. v.18-22)
6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
and by the breath (ruah/spirit/breath) of his mouth all their host.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap;
he puts the deeps in storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
9 For he spoke, and it came to be; (“he said” and “there was”)
he commanded, and it stood firm (was established).
10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage (his own special possession, his inheritance)!
13 The Lord looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man (sons of Adam);
14 from where he sits enthroned
he looks out (he gazes) on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.
16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.
18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.
20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.

v.1-3 A call to praise

Interpretive Questions:

  • Initial observations?

  • Since there is no title to 33, is there any relationship between this and the previous psalm?

  • What is the psalmist calling for in v.1-3?

  • How do we obey the command to “sing a new song?”

  • Why does making beautiful music matter?


  • This psalm does not contain a preface, which is a good hint to consider the psalm before and see how they may relate to one another. When we look at Psalm 32, we see David’s penitential psalm, extolling the blessings of YHWH’s forgiveness:

    • Blessed is the forgiven one

    • The overwhelming weight of sin, which is released upon confessing to God and being forgiven

    • Therefore, let all the faithful pray to him and find shelter in his protection

    • YHWH promises to teach and guide those who trust in him

      • His eye is upon them

      • His steadfast love surrounds them

    • It ends with a call to “Be glad in YHWH, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy (lit. call forth songs of joy) all you upright in heart!”

  • So as we come to Psalm 33, we see the call to praise is picked up and continued. Some have even suggested that this is the song of rejoiced called forth by Psalm 32.

  • Rejoice in YHWH and make beautiful music to him with instruments, singing new songs, and shouting praise.

    • The language is glorious, victorious, celebration. The shouts are the kind of thing you’d hear from an army going into battle or after the victory is won.

    • Some Christians traditions forgo musical instruments during worship, but psalms like these seem to preclude the idea that use of instruments would actually be wrong.

  • “Sing a new song…” – the works of God continue throughout history, both in the unfolding plan of salvation in the biblical account, and the ongoing providence of God by his Spirit and in the Church since then. Genuine praise flows from the heart in response to experiencing the steadfast love of the Lord, his mercy and his faithfulness. This calls forth new songs of worship from the heart for new examples of God’s faithfulness. This is good and right in his eyes. Sometimes this is an old song sung with new meaning, as we appropriate the words of the hymn to our new experiences, but sometimes we just need new words to convey our praise.

  • “Make beautiful music…” – The phrase play skillfully on the strings may be better translated “make beautiful music”. Hand in hand with our new song is a call for artistic beauty in our worship.

v.4-12 For His Word

Interpretive Questions

  • What do verses 4-9 say about his word?

  • What does YHWH love according to these verses?

  • What does it mean to say the earth is full of the YHWH’s steadfast love (v.5)

  • What do you make of the language in v.6-9?

  • What comfort do you find in knowing that God’s word created the heavens?

  • In what way does the fact of creation ground the call for the whole earth to fear him? How does this inform our efforts to engage unbelievers?

  • In a world of unbelieving ideologies, and rulers of nations ever bent on building new towers of Babel, what do vv.10-11 teach us about how history really works? How can this bring us comfort and counter our tendency towards pessimism and despair?

  • What does it mean today for a nation to have YHWH as their God?


  • YHWH’s word is:

    • Upright

    • Faithful/True/Trustworthy

    • Effectual (his work parallels his word)

    • Powerful/Creative

    • Authoritative

    • Awesome
  • He loves “righteousness and justice” (think right principles and right action)

  • “his steadfast love” – this is the Hebrew word Hesed, which carries with it the idea of kindness and loyalty. With reference to YHWH, it has the sense of his faithfulness to his covenant promises, both forgiving sin and judging it according to his mercy and character. (Ex. 34:6-7)

    • “The point is not that everyone experiences it equally but that the created order that all enjoy, the norms of right and wrong written on all hearts, these saturate the experience of all who enjoy God’s good creation.”1
  • “By the word of YHWH…” – v6-9 reflect back on the creation account in Genesis 1. God created all things by his powerful word. In the NT (John 1), we see that this word was in the beginning with God, that all things were made through him, and that this word became flesh. Jesus is the Word through whom the Father made the world.

  • “by the breath of his mouth…” – His breath here, the same word as Spirit, calls to mind Genesis 1:2 and the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters. Altogether in this passage, we have YHWH, his Word, and his Spirit active in Creation.

  • The language of v.7 is evocative – obviously first and foremost is the gathering of the waters in the creation account, but the meaning ripples out throughout the Bible. Taming the wild sea is uniquely God’s domain. You can think of the flood, the gathering of the waters of the Exodus and the crossing of the Jordan, and even the NT account of Jesus calming the storm and sea in Galilee.

  • V8. The fact of creation itself is sufficient to require the whole earth be in fear and awe of him. All are his creatures. Independence fades away when you realize your very existence depends on him. In verse 9, it literally says “he said, and it was” which calls to mind the constant refrain of Gen.1 “And God said, … And there was”. He speaks and it comes to pass. As Romans 4 says, the God who calls things that are not and they become. His authority extends to existence itself.

  • v.10-11 As in Psalm 2, the nations rage and the peoples plot but ultimately it is in vain. Their plans are foiled, but his stand forever; their purposes are thwarted, his stand for all generations. In a time when it seems like the intent of all nations is contrary to God’s revealed will, we can rest assured that they will come to nothing.

  • “Blessed is the nation…” – this primarily has in view Israel, who God chose as his special possession (Deut. 7:6). She lives out this blessing, if she rightly applies her calling. They have received YHWHs counsel and know his plans for the future. But it applies in general to the Church across the world (described in similar terms 1 Pet. 2:9), and in principle to any nation that is willing to acknowledge and submit to YHWHs rule. Their plans will not be frustrated because the Lord has plans for them, and his saving care is upon them.

v.13-19 For his Sovereign care

Interpretive Questions:

  • What do vv.13-15 reveal about the scope of God’s care for humanity? What does the language used evoke?

  • Despite this intimate knowledge, by and large humanity does not look to him for their rescue. What do vv16-17 say people tend to trust in? How do they fail?

  • Where do you tend to put your hope? What lesson should these verses provide for our civic life?

  • What comfort do verses 18-19 bring us?

  • How does the parallelism in v18 gives insight into the words “those who fear him?”


  • The previous verses alone might give the impression that YHWH is a simply the national deity of Israel, and they are distinctly a people chosen for his special possession, but his purposes with them are yet very global. YHWH is not a territorial deity but is the creator of all, and takes careful notice of the lives and deeds of all humanity.

    • He “gazes”, indicating special attention.

    • It’s the “sons of Adam” he looks at – emphasizing their connection to the first couple

    • He “forms the hearts of all” – there is an intimacy that is unmatched in the relationship between every human and the Creator God, even when they refuse to acknowledge it. He knows them better than they know themselves.

  • Leaders, warriors, and weapons cannot rescue. Not sometimes, not partially; if deliverance comes, it is because YHWH has delivered, whether we acknowledge it or not.

    • A strong military may make you feel safe in a land surrounded by enemies, but every military in history has fallen. Israel was in a particularly precarious location and the temptation was constant to seek salvation by some stronger power.

    • Isa. 31:1 - Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD.

    • What are we drawn to today? Money (personal wealth, economic prosperity), Leaders (presidents, politicians, judges), Knowledge/Science? Basic goodness of humanity?

  • In contrast to the inability of fleshly strength to deliver, YHWHs eye is upon them – he gives special attention to them with the purpose of delivering them from death and keeping them alive in famine.

    • In the parallelism, fear him = hope in his steadfast love.

v.20-22 For his steadfast love

Interpretive Questions:

  • What does it mean to wait on the Lord? Why do we need this encouragement?

  • How does the word “our” affect our reading of 20-21?


  • In contrast to the unstable plans of men, and the insecurity of their strength, YHWH is a sure help and protector and worth waiting on. May we constantly seek the Lord for patience to wait for his timing and to not force our own way and time.

    • Examples of failing

      • Abraham and Hagar

      • Israel and Saul (and Saul on multiple occasions)

      • Jewish rebellions against Rome

      • People of Judea and Jesus

    • Examples of waiting

      • Israel at the Red Sea

      • Israel at Jericho

      • David when fleeing (both Saul and Absalom)

  • The collective heart and soul is striking here – the whole assembly sings as one body – “our soul waits” and “our heart is glad.”

Final Observations

  • This psalm is ultimate a praise to YHWH for his faithful care and a call for the righteous to hope in him. It arises out of a heart that has experienced God’s gracious forgiveness for sin and rebellion.
  1. Hamilton, J. M., Jr. (2021). Psalms (T. D. Alexander, T. R. Schreiner, & A. J. Köstenberger, Eds.; Vol. 1, p. 370). Lexham Academic.