Summary: The imperative to praise the LORD: the command to commend.
THE LAST SNOWS OF SPRING
There are two different Hebrew words which are both translated “Praise” in Psalm 147:12. The second is the more familiar verb for ‘to praise’ which is echoed within the ‘Hallelujah’ (‘Praise the LORD’) of Psalm 147:1 and Psalm 147:20. The first verb carries the idea of ‘to commend’ (Psalm 63:4; Psalm 106:47; Ecclesiastes 4:2; Ecclesiastes 8:15), but is here probably used as a synonym for the second.
The imperative to praise the LORD (the command to commend) is given to Jerusalem, and Zion is exhorted to praise her God (Psalm 147:12). Jerusalem is, after all, that which gives visible expression to the presence of God in the midst of His ancient people Israel (Psalm 48:1-3). If “glorious things” are spoken of Zion (Psalm 87:1-3), it is because of His providential care of everything from the bars of the gates to the contents of the wheat granary; from the children on the streets to the “peace” of the surrounding territory (Psalm 147:13-14).
This seems to be particularly addressed to a time of relative peace and prosperity, if there ever was such a time. Yet what if that time has come and gone, noticed only by a few, when the Prince of Peace Himself rode into that City, “meek and sitting on a donkey” (Matthew 21:5). Then Zion’s children (Psalm 147:13) voiced their praises, only to receive a rebuke from the religious leaders (Matthew 21:15-16).
The idea of God’s benevolence toward Israel (Psalm 147:13-14; Psalm 147:20) is coupled with statements of His rule over Creation (Psalm 147:16-17) and the power of His Word (Psalm 147:15; Psalm 147:18-19). In fact, the two are inseparable: He blesses Jerusalem to be a blessing to the nations (Isaiah 2:1-3); and the Word which brought forth the Creation in the beginning (Genesis 1:3; John 1:1-3) is the same Word which God shares with Jacob (Psalm 147:19). “Word” takes on all its Biblical meanings: including the creative Word (Psalm 147:15), the Word of Providence (Psalm 147:18), the Word as Torah (Psalm 147:19), and the revelation of Jesus as the Word (Psalm 147:19).
The reference to the weather casts the LORD in distinction to the so-called ‘gods’ of the heathen. The God of Israel sends forth His commandment and gives snow and frost, and casts forth ice and cold (Psalm 147:15-17). Then He breathes out His Word (Psalm 147:18) and melts them, causing the wind to blow and the water to flow.
The thrust of this Psalm is gathered up in its final two verses (Psalm 147:19-20). If these things have been revealed to Jacob, then perhaps part of Israel’s responsibility was to share the Word with the nations. Yet far from embracing Jesus as their Messiah, the guardians of the faith had Him thrust out of the City and crucified.
The Word “came unto His own (neuter: speaking of land, Temple, etc), and His own (masculine: His people, His chosen nation) received Him not” (John 1:11). Yet that is not the end of the story, for a believing remnant did receive Him, and believed in His name (John 1:12). They now proclaim the Word of redemption to the ends of the earth.
One day Jesus will return and gather His own to Himself, and no doubt the City of Jerusalem will have some significance in that event. The command remains: “Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem” (Psalm 147:12). “Praise ye the LORD” (Psalm 147:20).