The Psalm for the celebration of the Ascension of our LORD is Psalm 47. This Psalm is chosen specifically for Ascension Day because of verse 5 (in the Hebrew it is verse 6): “God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.” Since we are told in Scripture the LORD will return in the same manner in which He ascended—with the sound of trumpet, from the clouds, etc.—we have clearer view of the “why” it was chosen. This Psalm is in the same section as many Psalms which speak of assurance and hope. Psalm 46 is the “Reformation Psalm”—a mighty fortress! Psalm 48 pictures the beautiful image of Mount Zion—the heavenly one—and Psalm 49 asks the question, “Why should I fear in times of trouble?” (verse 5). Psalm 47 is also a Psalm of great encouragement.

There is an interesting movement which takes place in these verses. We begin with God reigning over all peoples and things, but with obvious favor toward the people of Israel. However, by the end of the Psalm we hear of all the princes of the people gathering... just as the people of the God of Abraham gather at His throne. It is similar to the Holy Mountain of Isaiah 25 unto which all peoples come. In a very real way the Psalmist has redefined who the true Israel is. Israel is all the people who believe in the LORD and gather at His throne. It is no longer a national distinction, it is one of faith. This means the blessings of the Covenant will not be restricted: ALL WHO BELIEVE!

Also, of interest is verse 4 (Hebrew verse 5) and the phrase, “...the pride of Jacob whom He loves.” This seems to be a reference to Genesis 25:19ff and the story of Jacob and Esau as God is extending of the Messianic line through Jacob rather than Esau (see also Malachi 1:2-3; Romans 9:10-13). Please remember, the verse numbering is different from Hebrew to English. The Hebrew text considers the Psalm title as verse 1 in this instance.

Israel is all the people who believe in the LORD and gather at His throne. It is no longer a national distinction, it is one of faith.

47:1 (English: Title) לַמְנַצֵּחַ (lam-natz-Tze-ach) root: נצח (naw-tsakh) Piel, participle (used as a noun): “choir master; music director” The actual meaning is far from certain.
מִזְמוֹר (miz-Mor) “psalm; melody”

47:2 (English 1) כָּל־הָעַמִּים (kal Ha-am-mim) “all peoples; you peoples” Used in a vocative sense.
תִּקְעוּ (tik-u) root: תקע (taw-kah) Qal: “to strike together; clap”
הָרִיעוּ (ha-Ri-u) root: רוע (roo-ah) Hiphil: “to shout; hail”
רִנָּה (tin-Nah) “cry of rejoicing; shout of jubilation; a ringing cry”

47:3 (English 2) עֶלְיוֹן (el-Yon) “Highest; Most High” This is a title for God who is above, reigns above all things.

47:4 (English 3) יַדְבֵּר (yad-Ber) root: דבר (daw-bar) Hiphil: “to subdue”
וּלְאֻמִּים (u-le-um-Mim) from: לְאֹם (leh-ome) “nation; people; peoples” With עַמִּים (am-Mim) occurring in the verse first this should be translated as “and nations.”

47:5 (English 4) גְּאוֹן (ge-on) “pride (of Jacob)”
סֶלָה (Se-lah) “selah” Some have thought this to be a musical notation, and others an indication that the voice should rise to a higher pitch or to pause, etc.

47:6 (English 5) בִּתְרוּעָה (bit-ru-Ah) from: תְּרוּעָה (ter-oo-aw) “shout of joy; jubilation; blast of war” “with a shout”
שׁוֹפָר (sho-Far) “horn; trumpet” This is the “Shofar” which is a ram’s horn. This instrument was used as a call to battle and then later as a call to Temple worship. There is good evidence this is also the “trumpet” that will be heard on the last day. Thus, we can see the connection of our text with the Ascension and the waited-for judgment day.

47:7 (English 6) זַמְּרוּ (zam-me-Ru) root: זמר (zaw-mar) Piel, imperative: “to sing praises” Note it is used 4 times in this verse and once again in verse 8.

47:8 (English 7) מַשְֹכִּיל (mas-Kil) “psalm; wisdom song performed to music; skillful song” The exact meaning is unclear.

47:9 (English 8) מָלַךְ אֱלֹהִים (ma-Lach E-lo-Him) “God reigns” Besides here, this phrase is only used in Isaiah 52:7.

47:10 (English 9) נְדִיבֵי (ne-Di-Vei) “prince; nobleman”
מָגִנֵּי (ma-gin-nei) “shield; buckler; one in power”
נַעֲלָה (na-a-Lah) root: עלה (aw-law) Niphal: “to be exalted” This word occurs only here and in Psalm 97:9.

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Psalm 47.

Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Psalm 47.