What is the meaning of God inhabiting the praises of his people in Psalm 22:3?

What is the meaning of God inhabiting the praises of his people in Psalm 22:3?

Psalm 22:3: Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel ("his people" replaces "Israel" in the KJV).

Psalm 22 is a Messianic Psalm. The cross and the death of Jesus are portrayed throughout this psalm. This is illustrated in the table below:

Psalm 22
NT Text
Psa 22:1
Forsaken by God
Matt 27:46
Psa 22:7-8
Derided by Enemies
Luke 23:35
Psa 22:16
Hands & Feet Pierced
John 20:27
Psa 22:18
Lots Cast for Clothing
Matt. 27:35

At the beginning of Psalm 22, Jesus is seen as rejected as he suffers torment on the cross (Psa. 22:1-2; Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34). Then in the midst of intense suffering, he makes a supreme declaration of his trust in God: "Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel" (Psa. 22:3).

Jesus, the savior of God’s elect, was predestined to suffer on behalf of his people (Isa. 53:4-6, 10; Acts 2:22-24; 4:27-28; 2 Cor. 5:21). During these horrible circumstances, Jesus reminds himself (and us) of God’s sovereign position and authority. (For a brief description of what transpired upon the cross please see, "Why do Christians celebrate Easter?" below.)

Jesus’ trust in his Father was absolute. No matter how Jesus felt physically and what he was going through emotionally (cf. 1 Pet. 2:23), he knew that God, his Father, was in absolute control of his greatest hour of need. And like Israel's fathers, the Messiah would be delivered (Psa. 22:4-5). God, his Father, did not abandon him but was instead unfolding his sovereign salvation plan for his elect as he had promised (1 Pet. 1:20-21, 10-12).

In Psalm 22:3 the psalmist says God is enthroned on the praises of Israel. It’s as if God’s throne is suspended above the praises of his people. Elsewhere, the Psalms urge, "Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds!" (Psa. 9:11; cf. Psa. 29:10; 102:12). These phrases speak of the majesty of God’s presence riding on the praises of his people.

Normally when we think about God’s throne we tend to think of a huge chair covered with precious metals and jewels. While there is a time and place to consider God’s majesty in such a manner (Hab. 2:20), I believe that here the meaning goes much deeper. First, as already alluded to, Jesus is saying that the praises of God’s people are appropriate. Even in extreme distress, Jesus is saying that God is holy and worthy of all praise from his people.

Second, God’s ultimate dwelling place is literally with his people. Revelation 21:3 states, "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God" (cf. Rev. 21:22). Jesus referred to his body as the temple (John 2:19-21). God’s presence is in his body, his church (1 Cor. 3:16-17; Eph. 5:23), which is like "living stones" being built into a "spiritual house" that offers "spiritual sacrifices" to holy God (1 Pet. 2:5). As the living temple of God (1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16), the writer of Hebrews says to the church, "Through [Christ] then let us continually offer up the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name" (Heb. 13:15). And as the apostle Peter tells us, "you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into this marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

So here in Psalm 22, David, through the Holy Spirit, gives a magnificent word picture for us today. On the one hand, he is saying, "Father, Father, here is your redeemed church (my body)," while on the other hand, he’s saying to us, "Hear! Hear! Your God is high and lifted up and inhabiting the praises of his people." God is both immanent and transcendent.

"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!" (Rom. 11:33).

God still inhabits the praises of his people.

Related Topics

Why do Christians celebrate Easter?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).