Participating in God’s work (Psalm 113)

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project

Psalm 113 informs us “from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised” (Ps. 113:2). Is it suggesting we should be in the temple (or in church) all day in order to praise the Lord? Or is it suggesting that in everything we do, including our daily work, we do it in praise to the Lord? From verses 7 through 9, we clearly see it is the latter. “He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes.” Although the psalm doesn’t tell us how God accomplishes this, we know—as did the Psalmist—that it generally means through work. The opportunity for well-paying work brings the poor out of poverty, and generally God creates such opportunities through his people’s work—those in business who create economic opportunity, those in government who ensure justice, those in education who instill the skills needed for good jobs. With its emphasis on lifting the poor and needy, Psalm 113 is calling for a whole life of practical praise to God. 

Although the psalm could have named myriad kinds of work to illustrate its point, it selects only one—the work of bearing and rearing children “He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children” (Ps. 113:9). Perhaps this is because childlessness in ancient Israel virtually doomed a woman (and her husband) to poverty in old age. Or perhaps it is for some other reason. Regardless, it reminds of us of two important matters today. Most obviously, when mothers (and fathers) conceive, feed, clean, protect, play with, teach, coach, forgive, train, and love children, it takes work! Yet many mothers feel that no one—even the church—recognizes that what they do is as valuable as the work that others do because they get paid. Secondly, God’s relief for adults who lack children and for children who lack adults usually comes about through the work of other people. Medical professionals may be able to restore fertility. Adoption professionals and child welfare workers bring would-be parents together with children who need parents, and remain with families to provide training and supervision as needed. All families depend on the support of a wide community of other people, including the people of God. For more on the work of families, see "The work of marriage, raising children, and caring for parents (Psalm 127, 128, 139)".