Off the ash heap

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Bible passage Psalm 113

Psalm 113

 1 Praise the LORD.
       Praise, O servants of the LORD,
       praise the name of the LORD.

 2 Let the name of the LORD be praised,
       both now and forevermore.

 3 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
       the name of the LORD is to be praised.

 4 The LORD is exalted over all the nations,
       his glory above the heavens.

 5 Who is like the LORD our God,
       the One who sits enthroned on high,

 6 who stoops down to look
       on the heavens and the earth?

 7 He raises the poor from the dust
       and lifts the needy from the ash heap;

 8 he seats them with princes,
       with the princes of their people.

 9 He settles the barren woman in her home
       as a happy mother of children.
       Praise the LORD.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Explore the Bible

An involved God
Our psalm today has three parts: verses 1 to 3 are a call to the entire globe across all history to worship the Lord. Verses 4 to 6 begin with a reminder of just how exalted and holy and worthy of worship this Lord is, and then tell us the shocking, crazy truth that this Lord stoops to see his creation. He’s concerned with it, he’s involved with it, he’s in touch with what’s going on down there.

And then in verse 7, we find out just how involved he is, and who his greatest concern lies with.

Gospel love forshadowed
The ash heap was located at the outskirts of towns in the Ancient Near East. The ashes would be warmed by the sun during the day and retain some heat during the night. It was where the outcasts, the diseased, and the destitute would gather to keep warm. Our God, exalted over all nations (v 4), more glorious than the heavens (v 4), enthroned on high (v 5), nonetheless has time for the ash heap people.

Down the years, he’d stoop low enough to become one of these pitiful people, lifting all who would be saved up with him out of the ashes, and seating them with him – Prince of the universe.


Praise the Lord: ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him’ (John 3:14,15).

Jo Swinney

Deeper Bible study

We praise you, Lord, for you are awesome in your holiness and power – and yet closer than the very air we breathe.

This hymn of praise vividly captures one of the great paradoxes of God’s character – he is at the same time totally other than, beautifully transcendent, and yet also totally near to us, wonderfully immanent. The psalm is a call to all people everywhere, from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, to praise the great name of the Lord, both now and for evermore (vs 1–3). Furthermore, it expounds on whyGod is worthy to be praised.

The psalmist describes God’s transcendence. He is exalted over all nations and peoples. His glory reaches above the heavens. He is enthroned on high and is so great he has to stoop down to look on the heavens and the earth. Truly, nobody is like the Lord our God, exalted in his holy splendour, far beyond human comprehension (vs 4–6).

However, he is also so very close, so wonderfully immanent, particularly to the poor and the downtrodden. This same glorious God raises the poor from the dust and graciously lifts the needy from the ashes of their broken and burnt lives. He seats them with royalty, reversing their status and fortunes. He even causes the barren woman to be a happy mother of children, so great is his nearness and love for the lowly (vs 7–9).

This is the God we serve, one who is utterly holy and yet at the very same time utterly close. We see this mystery in the incarnation, in the way the eternal God became man and drew near to all humanity (Philippians 2:5–11). His heart remains close to the broken and the lowly, to give them beauty for ashes, joy for mourning and praise instead of despair (Isaiah 61:3).

Daniel McGinnis

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

2 Chronicles 18–20

Ephesians 3

Exalted and earthy

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  • Song: And after all (Unashamed)
  • Composer: Paul Oakley
  • Artist: Paul Oakley
  • Copyright: Copyright © 2001 Thankyou Music
  • Buy this album here

You’re the God of this city
Performed by: Simon Brading
Written by: Boyd/Bleakley/Comfort/Kernaghan/McCann/Jordan
Copyright © 2006 Bluetree Publishing

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