All the People
Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared,
a great king over all the earth. (Psalm 47:1)
More than poetry, this psalm is a prophecy with far-reaching implications:
The princes of the peoples (Gentiles) gather
as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
He is highly exalted! (47:8,9).
Today all nations can gather under Israel's covenant as the people of God," (47:1), the fulfillment of the promise that Abraham would become "the father of many nations" (Genesis 12:3). The psalm anticipates what Paul described as the inclusion of the Gentiles as Abraham’s sons and daughters through the work Christ (Romans 4:11; Galatians 3:7–9).
In all this, it's significant to me that the princes (leaders) of the nations (Gentiles) become men and women of faith (They gather as the "people of the God of Abraham.") Furthermore, they are "shields" protecting their people from evil. Plato was on track when he declared that leaders in his republic would be philosopher-kings whose primary role was to exemplify and teach virtue. Once again character matters! (1Timothy 4:12).
Here’s a gratuitous thought: The poet advises us to, "Sing praises with a psalm!" (47:7). The last word, "psalm," is the Hebrew word maskil that occurs in introductions to several psalms (32, 42, etc.). It comes from a root that means wisdom or understanding. Thus, when I worship in song I should think about and gain wisdom from the words of the song as I sing them, and not drone on with my mind engaged elsewhere. Paul may have been thinking of this verse when he wrote, "I will sing with my mind" (1 Corinthians 14:15).
This verse also addresses one of my peeves—certain repetitious, theologically thin and watery praise songs. There's nothing to think about when you sing them.