Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. (Psalm 145:3)
You could sooner count the grains of sand on every seashore, or reach the edge of the farthest galaxy, or tread every square foot of the ocean’s floor, or touch the leaves of every tree on every mountain than you could search out the greatness of our God. His greatness is expansive, abundant, eternal, magnificent — in a word, unsearchable.
King David, finding himself enveloped in such greatness, sought to capture the unsearchable in the most fitting way a finite creature can. For a Hebrew man like him, that meant writing an acrostic psalm of praise, a song that celebrates God’s greatness from aleph to tav (or from A to Z). Psalm 145 is an alphabet of God’s unsearchable greatness, focusing especially on three facets of this infinite jewel: his mercy, his power, and his generosity.
Great in Mercy
For many today, the mercy of God is simply assumed. The poet Heinrich Heine once said, “Of course God will forgive me; that’s his job” — and millions today think similarly of God’s mercy. Having been catechized in the societal religion of self-affirmation, many live as if the mercy of God is simply a given.
Not so for David. For him and his people, the greatness of God’s mercy was a doctrine too wonderful to believe — except that God himself had spoken it. And so, again and again, the Old Testament writers returned to that moment when God, on the fiery slopes of Sinai, spoke mercy over a people sinking in sin:
The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Psalm 145:8; see Exodus 34:6)
And then, riffing on that familiar and precious refrain, David sings,
The Lord is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made. (Psalm 145:9)
Wherever we find the work of God’s hands, we find also the presence of God’s mercy. He is merciful, and his mercy rests over all that he has made — forgiving the repentant, summoning the stubborn, drawing the hardhearted — for the greatness of his mercy is unsearchable.
Great in Power
When God shows us mercy, however, he also folds us into a kingdom where he shows us so much more. Mercy is the passport welcoming us into God’s country, where we not only thank him for his mercy, but praise him for his power.
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. (Psalm 145:11–12)
The power of God is a frightening prospect apart from the mercy of God. But those forgiven by God are now free to sing with one of David’s sons, “You rule over the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you” (2 Chronicles 20:6). Egypt couldn’t withstand him. The peoples of Canaan couldn’t withstand him. The Philistines and the Edomites and the Moabites couldn’t withstand him.
And from where we stand now, we know that many more enemies have tried, but none could withstand him: not a whip and nails, not a cross and crown of thorns, not Pilate and Herod, not death or the devil. And so, safe behind the shield of his mercy, we praise our all-conquering Christ — for the greatness of his power is unsearchable.
Great in Generosity
Mercy and power — within these high, unbreakable walls, the people of God enjoy yet another dimension of God’s greatness: his abounding and specific generosity.
From one angle, God’s generosity, like his mercy, rests over all that he has made:
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing. (Psalm 145:15–16)
The generosity of God rains over all and every, including those who give credit to false gods for the bounty (Matthew 5:44–45; Acts 14:16–17). But from another angle, the generosity of God rests especially on the heads of his people:
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them. (Psalm 145:19)
Those who fear God know layers of God’s generosity that the unbelieving cannot. They not only eat the bread he provides, drink the water he gives, and sleep on the beds he made, but they also watch him fulfill, again and again, their desire to have more of him. Even with bellies full and bodies healthy, they know God’s best gift is more of God. So they praise him — for the greatness of his generosity is unsearchable.
Unsearchable Greatness, Unending Praise
As the acrostic arrives at the end of the alphabet, David calls us to embody the only fitting response to God’s unsearchable greatness:
My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever. (Psalm 145:21)
Forever and ever, we will sing of God’s mercy, exalt God’s power, and recount God’s generosity — and we will never reach their end. For unsearchable greatness furnishes more than enough reasons for unending praise.