"Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap;
he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. He Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!" (Psalm 33:1-12)
The first thing we say about God, in both the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds, is that God is almighty: “I believe in God the Father almighty.” Almighty is not so much an attribute as part of God’s name. After all, if your god is not almighty, you had better find one who is, or you are wasting your time. When I pray, I want to contact the God who can actually do something. But of course, there is a reason we say we believe in almighty God, since reason and every fiber of our being fights against this truth of God’s almighty power. We want God to be pretty mighty but to leave enough room in the universe for humans to have a space where we are perhaps not mighty but at least have enough power to affect our fate in the end. This dream seems to help us fend off the fear that God does everything by divine necessity and leaves nothing to our human wills. But then we are overcome by the fact that we can’t ever seem to be faithful to God. We are weak, and so we are forever at loose ends.
Almighty God refers to omnipotence or power. But when sinners think of power, they can only imagine power in terms of the order, structure, and beauty of the law. Does someone have the wherewithal not merely to think about something, but to act—not just to talk the talk, but walk the walk? In fact, thinking this way considers that spoken words are the least powerful thing on earth: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may never hurt me.” But unlike creatures, God’s power is actually in his word. One of the most difficult and frightening cases of God’s word-power is the scripture that says: “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (Exodus 9:12). Luther recognized that God not only hardened pharaoh’s heart, but God does everything in the universe by his eternal word.
To show how important this is to the preaching of the gospel, Luther turned to Psalm 33: “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (v. 9).
Even the powerful King David had to command someone to do something and then wait to see if would happen. Who knows? It depends upon the will of the servant. But David was finally made sure by the time of his thirty-third Psalm that God had only to speak to him—even once—and instantly everything was already done. It had happened to him that way through his preacher Nathan. God’s all-working, almighty power is done purely by speaking, and it travels at the speed of sound.
The whole of Psalm 33 is David giving thanks to God for this one thing: He speaks to me! God opened his mouth and gave me His word! O, wondrous day! So, David gives a yelp of joy (v. 1) in the form of a “new song” that is directly contrary to what David thought power was like before he got a preacher. For that reason, since David never liked singing alone, he wants you to sing with him with brash shouts and loud guitars (v. 3). God preached to David, and David could not help but rejoice. Who would not praise this sermon vociferously, once the silent, mysterious, and fearful God opens the heavens and actually says something to you? And what God says is not, “How is the weather?” or “What are you doing for me?” but rather “The word of the Lord is Yashar—Joshua/Jesus” and all his word/deeds are done “in faithfulness.” No wonder David was so happy. He thought he was going to get a full condemnation when God spoke, but he got Christ/mercy instead.
Then David put together the two things most important about God’s word. First, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made” (v. 6). In the beginning, before anything was made that ever was made—God spoke and it came to be. This is what we call the doctrine of creation concerning God’s almighty power. Then, second, when God finds a sinner (like David) and gives his promise of forgiveness to him, he instantly becomes a new creation! Justification of the ungodly is a new work done by God’s word alone.
So what about you? If God ever forgives you, it is not just allowing you to start over and try harder the second time, but it is a whole, new, complete justification that is given as a free gift and without any work of our own—outside the law. This is especially a work that is not done by any exercise of my free will. Creation and justification, these two doctrines, are what God does with his word. Furthermore, the second is so new that it cannot be corrupted, changed, or lost because, “when God speaks, so it happens, as he commands so it is” (v. 9). What the Lord promises, he faithfully delivers (v. 4). And no power in all the world (not mine, not Satan’s, not the nations’) can overcome it: “The Lord brings the counsels of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the people—the counsel of the Lord stands forever” (v. 11).
Faith eagerly anticipates what God is going to say again, since he has now chosen us (v. 12), and no person or power—height or depth—can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. What he promises he necessarily, faithfully, delivers. Go ahead and sing this new song with David.