How on earth did they think they would get away with it? If you have ever watched a game of international cricket on TV you will be aware of the amazing number of cameras filming the events on the field. There is not a lot that happens on the field that is not followed very closely by one or more of those cameras. So, what were they thinking when in South Africa recently some of the leaders of the Australian cricket team foolishly decided to break the rules by “ball tampering” on the field? Haven’t they ever watched one of their own games on TV?
As I read Psalm 33:12-22 I thought of this situation, particularly when I read verses 13-15 and 18. It says:
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people he chose for his inheritance.
13 From heaven the Lord looks down
and sees all mankind;
14 from his dwelling place he watches
all who live on earth—
15 he who forms the hearts of all,
who considers everything they do.
16 No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its great strength it cannot save.
18 But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.
I note here that the psalmist speaks not only of God seeing all mankind (13-15), but looking out for particular people, those who fear him (18).
A good example of both of these is found in 2 Kings 18-19 where we have the story of King Hezekiah of Judah and a crisis he and his nation were facing. The dominant power of the time is Assyria whose armies had conquered a number of surrounding nations, including Israel (Judah’s northern neighbour). In 18:13 we read that Sennacherib king of Assyria [then] attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. The reason given was because Hezekiah, had rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him (18:7), i.e. by not paying taxes demanded by this foreign king. Hezekiah initially tries diplomacy (gold and silver) with Sennacherib but it fails to satisfy him.
The next thing we read is that Hezekiah and his people are walled up in the city of Jerusalem surrounded by the Assyrian army. Then up to the gates comes the Assyrian supreme commander (18:17) who makes a big speech about how hopeless Hezekiah and his people’s situation is and that they are wasting their time resisting the might of Assyria. He says sarcastically, on what are you basing this confidence of yours? You say you have the counsel and the might for war—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? (18:19-20). He even begins to blaspheme the Lord, comparing Him to all the other man-made gods who have succumbed to the Assyrian might. even suggesting that, The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it! (18:25).
In the midst of all this Hezekiah calls out to the Lord in prayer and asks others to do the same, including Isaiah, the prophet of God. Isaiah then receives the word that the Lord has spoken against Sennacherib, King of Assyria (19:20) and it includes the following:
“‘But I know where you are
and when you come and go
and how you rage against me.
28 Because you rage against me
and because your insolence has reached my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose
and my bit in your mouth,
and I will make you return
by the way you came.’ [19:27-28]
Which, we can read in both the Bible and other ancient historical books, is exactly what happened!
So, here in this story we see the Lord looking down and seeing all mankind; and from his dwelling place…watching all who live on earth, which included the insolent King of Assyria!
Then we also see that the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, which in this case was the praying King Hezekiah and his people.
But all this looking down and seeing is not just some passive thing but rather it is followed up by the Lord’s action plan which for Sennacherib and his armies meant defeat, and for Hezekiah and his people, deliverance.
David sums it up in his next psalm when he says:
15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth. (Psalm 34:15-16)
I guess, for many people, the thought of the Divine Being, the Creator of all things, looking down on us, will not be a comfortable truth. But then, that is not all there is to this. He not only sees, he watches with a purpose, checking out our “hearts” and motivations, considering everything we do! Not like some big umpire in the sky checking out if we are “ball tampering” or not, but rather, seeking out for those who “fear him”, being attentive to their cries, seeking those he can bless as they discover “hope in his unfailing love”.
In fact, the psalmist sums it up when he says, Blessed is the nation [the people] whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance.
In the context of this psalm that nation is Israel. As Wilcock puts it, “In the previous section, the unfailing love of which the earth is full (v. 5) could be seen in God’s providence in creation and the dependability of nature. In this section, it can be seen in his choosing out of the nations one nation which will align itself with his purposes instead of theirs.”
Longman adds, “Today, God’s people are not a nation state, but rather the church. And we must keep in mind that God’s choice of Israel was not just to bless them, but to bring a blessing to all the nations through Israel (Gen. 12:1-3).” (# 30)
And this is what has happened, as Wilcock adds, “Blessed is that nation … and blessed are the millions who through it, and through its greatest Son [Jesus], have found the forgiveness of sins and an eternal inheritance.” (# 5)
The writers of the NT affirm this truth. Paul says that God has chosen and
called [people], not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles [that’s you and me]. As he says in Hosea:
“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;
and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,”
“In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’” (Romans 9:24-26)
What an amazing truth it is that we don’t have to do this thing called life alone. Our great and merciful God is with us. He sees all things, knows all things and is all-powerful to work out his perfect and good plan in our lives. Are you a child of God? Can you confidently call God, Father? Have you believed in Jesus, of whom the Apostle John wrote:
…to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)
And so, the psalmist concludes this beautiful poem with the affirmation that:
20 We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
And a short prayer to the Father:
22 May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you. Amen