Praise the Lord!
Because it is good to sing praise to our God!
Because it is a pleasure to make beautiful praise!
The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem, gathering up Israel’s exiles.
God heals the brokenhearted
and bandages their wounds.
God counts the stars by number,
giving each one a name.
Our Lord is great and so strong!
God’s knowledge can’t be grasped!
The Lord helps the poor,
but throws the wicked down on the dirt!
Sing to the Lord with thanks;
sing praises to our God with a lyre!
God covers the skies with clouds;
God makes rain for the earth;
God makes the mountains sprout green grass.
God gives food to the animals—
even to the baby ravens when they cry out.
God doesn’t prize the strength of a horse;
God doesn’t treasure the legs of a runner.
No. The Lord treasures the people
who honor him,
the people who wait for his faithful love.
Worship the Lord, Jerusalem!
Praise your God, Zion!
Psalm 147:1-12 (CEB)
One word that stuck out to me as I read this Psalm this week was the word “gathering” in verse 2. My mind was flooded with the image of God bringing his people back from all corners of the Earth to worship him together in love and peace. For the Jews reading this Psalm, there is much encouragement in this image. The Assyrian conquest of Northern Israel in 722 BCE and the Babylonian sacking of Jerusalem including the destruction of the temple in 587 BCE scattered the Jewish people all over the known world at the time. The Jews would eventually return and rebuild, but the Roman sacking of Jerusalem in response to their rebellion in 70 AD would further scatter the Jews throughout the world.
The Jewish people are very familiar with the scattering and gathering of their community. In fact, it’s built into much of their day to day language. Jews will refer to their fellow brothers and sisters scattered across the world as being in the diaspora which comes from the Greek word to scatter (διασπείρω or diaspeiro). When our Jewish friends gather together, they often meet in a synagogue which comes from the Greek word to gather (συνάγω or synago).
These images of scattering and gathering are very prevalent in the Bible. Jesus seems to echo this Psalm a bit when he says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You who kill the prophets and stone those who were sent to you. How often I wanted to gather (synago) your people together (synago), just as a hen gathers (synago) her chicks under her wings. But you didn’t want that” (Matthew 23:37 CEB).
Jesus really wants to gather his people together.
As Christians, we typically live this scattering and gathering on a weekly basis. We gather together on whatever day we’ve chosen for worship (typically Sundays) similar to the image in this Psalm. But, when we leave we are also scattered to the various places where we live, work and interact with people throughout our world. We usually think of this scattering as bad, we would rather be gathered up together like God wants in the Psalm. Many of our Jewish friends would prefer there not be a diaspora and wish that they could all gather and worship together. Many Christians would also prefer to gather together under the protective wings of Jesus than to interact with a sinful and broken world.
But, the scattering is just as important as the gathering.
If we are not scattered, we cannot interact with the world and invite others to gather with us.
If we are not scattered, we can never grow like a seed scattered on the ground.
If we are not scattered, we can never experience the diverse beauty in the world.
If we are not scattered, we never have the opportunity to gather back together, bringing with us stories of growth, of the beauty we’ve seen, of the friends we’ve made, or the paths we’ve walked.
Maybe God scatters so he can gather.
Maybe God plants so he can harvest.
Maybe God casts a wide net so he can catch a multitude of fish.
Maybe, God scatters so he can rebuild Jerusalem, gather up Israel’s exiles, heal the brokenhearted and bandage their wounds.
Maybe, the scattering is just as important as the gathering.