Monthly Archives: February 2015

Psalm 104

holy-bible-background

Verses 1-35
Psalms 104:1-35
GENERAL, REMARKS. —Here we have one of the loftiest and longest sustained flights of the inspired muse. The psalm gives an interpretation to the many voices of nature, and sings sweetly both of creation and providence. The poem contains a complete cosmos sea and land, cloud and sunlight, plant and animal, light and darkness, life and death, are all proved to be expressive of the presence of the Lord. Traces of the six days of creation are very evident, and though the creation of man, which was the crowning work of the sixth day, is not mentioned, this is accounted for from the fact that man is himself the singer: some have ever, discerned marks of the divine rest upon the seventh day in Psalms 104:31. It is a poet’s version of Genesis. Nor is it alone the present condition of the earth which is here the subject of song; but a hint is given of those holier times when we shall see “a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness, “out of which the sinner shall be consumed, Psalms 104:35. The spirit of ardent praise to God runs through the whole, and with it a distinct realization of the divine Being as a personal existence, loved and trusted as well as adored.
We have no information as to the author, but the Septuagint assigns it to David, and we see no reason for ascribing it to any one else. His spirit, style, and manner of writing are very manifest therein, and if the psalm must be ascribed to another, it must be to a mind remarkably similar, and we could only suggest the wise son of David—Solomon, the poet preacher, to whose notes upon natural history in the Proverbs some of the verses bear a striking likeness. Whoever the human penman may have been, the exceeding glory and perfection of the Holy Spirit’s own divine authorship are plain to every spiritual mind.
DIVISION. —After ascribing blessedness to the Lord the devout psalmist sings of the light and the firmament, which were the work of the first and second days Psalms 104:1-6. By an easy transition he describes the separation of the waters from the dry land, the formation of rain, brooks and rivers, and the uprising of green herbs, which were the produce of the third day Psalms 104:7-18. Then the appointment of the sun and moon to be the guardians of day and night commands the poet’s admiration Psalms 104:19-23, and so he sings the work of the fourth day. Having already alluded to many varieties of living creatures, the psalmist proceeds from Psalms 104:24-30 to sing of the life with which the Lord was pleased to fill the air, the sea, and the land; these forms of existence were the peculiar produce of the fifth and sixth days. We may regard the closing verses Psalms 104:31-35 as a Sabbath meditation, hymn, and prayer. The whole lies before us as a panorama of the universe viewed by the eye of devotion. O for grace to render due praise unto the Lord while reading it.
EXPOSITION
Ver. 1. Bless the LORD, O my soul. This psalm begins and ends like the Hundred and Third, and it could not do better: when the model is perfect it deserves to exist in duplicate. True praise begins at home. It is idle to stir up others to praise if we are ungratefully silent ourselves. We should call upon our inmost hearts to awake and bestir themselves, for we are apt to be sluggish, and if we are so when called upon to bless God, we shall have great cause to be ashamed. When we magnify the Lord, let us do it heartily: our best is far beneath his worthiness, let us not dishonour him by rendering to him half hearted worship.
O LORD my God, thou art very great. This ascription has in it a remarkable blending of the boldness of faith, and the awe of holy fear: for the psalmist calls the infinite Jehovah “my God, “and at the same time, prostrate in amazement at the divine greatness, he cries out in utter astonishment, “Thou art very great.” God was great on Sinai, yet the opening words of his law were, “I am the Lord thy God; ” his greatness is no reason why faith should not put in her claim, and call him all her own. The declaration of Jehovah’s greatness here given would have been very much in place at the end of the psalm, for it is a natural inference and deduction from a survey of the universe: its position at the very commencement of the poem is an indication that the whole psalm was well considered and digested in the mind before it was actually put into words; only on this supposition can we account for the emotion preceding the contemplation. Observe also, that the wonder expressed does not refer to the creation and its greatness, but to Jehovah himself. It is not “the universe is very great!” but “THOU art very great.” Many stay at the creature, and so become idolatrous in spirit; to pass onward to the Creator himself is true wisdom.
Thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Thou thyself art not to be seen, but thy works, which may be called thy garments, are full of beauties and marvels which redound to thine honour. Garments both conceal and reveal a man, and so do the creatures of God. The Lord is seen in his works as worthy of honour for his skill, his goodness, and his power, and as claiming majesty, for he has fashioned all things in sovereignty, doing as he wills, and asking no man’s permit. He must be blind indeed who does not see that nature is the work of a king. These are solemn strokes of God’s severer mind, terrible touches of his sterner attributes, broad lines of inscrutable mystery, and deep shadings of overwhelming power, and these make creation’s picture a problem never to be solved, except by admitting that he who drew it giveth no account of his matters, but ruleth all things according to the good pleasure of his will. His majesty is, however, always so displayed as to reflect honour upon his whole character; he does as lie wills, but he wills only that which is thrice holy, like himself. The very robes of the unseen Spirit teach us this, and it is ours to recognize it with humble adoration.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Whole Psalm. —This psalm is an inspired “Oratorio of Creation.” —Christopher Wordsworth.
Whole Psalm. —The Psalm is delightful, sweet, and instructive as teaching us the soundest views of nature (la mas sans fisica), and the best method of pursuing the study of it, viz., by admiring with one eye the works of God, and with the other God himself, their Creator and Preserver. —Sanchez, quoted by Perowne.
Whole Psalm. —It might almost be said that this one psalm represents the image of the whole Cosmos. We are astonished to find in a lyrical poem of such a limited compass, the whole universe—the heavens and the earth—sketched with a few bold touches. The calm and toilsome labour of man, from the rising of the sun to the setting of the same, when his daily work is done, is here contrasted with the moving life of the elements of nature. This contrast and generalisation in the conception of the mutual action of natural phenomena, and this retrospection of an omnipresent invisible power, which can renew the earth or crumble it to dust, constitute a solemn rather than a glowing and gentle form of poetic creation. —A. Vonl Hurnboldt’s Cosmos.
Whole Psalm. —Its touches are indeed few, rapid—but how comprehensive and sublime! Is it God? —”He is clothed with light as with a garment, “and when he walks abroad, it is on the “wings of the wind.” The winds or lightnings? —They are his messengers or angels: “Stop us not, “they seem to say; “the King’s business requireth haste.” The waters? —The poet shows them in flood, covering the face of the earth, and then as they now lie, enclosed within their embankments, to break forth no more for ever. The springs? He traces them, by one inspired glance, as they run among the hills, as they give drink to the wild and lonely creatures of the wilderness, as they nourish the boughs, on which sing the birds, the grass, on which feed the cattle, the herb, the corn, the olive tree, the vine, which fill man’s mouth, cheer his heart, and make his face to shine. Then he skims with bold wing all lofty objects—the trees of the Lord on Lebanon, “full of sap, “—the fir trees, and the storks which are upon them—the high hills, with their wild goats—and the rocks with their conics. Then he soars up to the heavenly bodies—the sun and the moon. Then he spreads abroad his wings in the darkness of the night, which “hideth not from Him, “and hears the beasts of the forest creeping abroad to seek their prey, and the roar of the lions to God for meat, coming up upon the wings of midnight. Then as he sees the shades and the wild beasts fleeing together, in emulous haste, from the presence of the morning sun, and man, strong and calm in its light as in the smile of God, hieing to his labour, he exclaims, “O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all!” He casts, next, one look at the ocean—a look glancing at the ships which go there, at the leviathan which plays there; and then piercing down to the innumerable creatures, small and great, which are found below its unlifted veil of waters. He sees, then, all the beings, peopling alike earth and sea, waiting for life and food around the table of their Divine Master—nor waiting in vain—till, lo! he hides his face, and they are troubled, die, and disappear in chaos and night. A gleam, next, of the great resurrection of nature and of man comes across his eye. “Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created, and thou renewest the face of the earth.” But a greater truth still succeeds, and forms the climax of the psalm—(a truth Humboldt, with all his admiration of it, notices not, and which gives a Christian tone to the whole) —”The Lord shall rejoice in his works.” He contemplates a yet more perfect Cosmos. He is “to consume Sinners” and sin “out of” this fair universe: and then, when man is wholly worthy of his dwelling, shall God say of both it and him, with a yet deeper emphasis than when he said it at first, and smiling at the same time a yet warmer and softer smile, “It is very good.” And with an ascription of blessing to the Lord does the poet close this almost angelic descant upon the works of nature, the glory of God, and the prospects of man. It is not merely the unity of the Cosmos that he had displayed in it, but its progression, as connected with the parallel progress of man—its thorough dependence on one Infinite Mind—the “increasing purpose” which runs along it—and its final purification, when it shall blossom into “the bright consummate flower” of the new heavens and the new earth, “wherein dwelleth righteousness; “—this is the real burden and the peculiar glory of the 104th Psalm. —George Gilfillan, in “The Bards of the Bible”.
Whole Psalm. —It is a singular circumstance in the composition of this psalm, that each of the parts of the First Semichorus, after the first, begins with a participle. And these participles are accusatives, agreeing with hwhy, the object of the verb ygdb, at the beginning of the whole psalm. Bless the Jehovah—putting on —extending—laying—constituting—travelling—making— setting—sending—watering—making—making. Thus, this transitive verb, in the opening of the psalm, extending its government through the successive parts of the same semichorus, except the last, unites them all in one long period. —Samuel Horsley.
Whole Psalm. —As to the details, —the sections intervening between verses 2 and 31, —they may be read as a meditation upon creation and the first “ordering of the world, “as itself the counterpart and foreshadowing of the new and restored order in the great Sabbath or Millenary period, or, it may be, they are actually descriptive of this—beginning with the coming of the Lord in the clouds of heaven (verse 3 with Psalms 18:9-11), attended with “the angels of his power” (verse 4 with 2 Thessalonians 1:7 Gr.): followed by the “establishing” of the earth, no more to be “moved” or “agitated” by the convulsions and disturbances which sin has caused: after which Nature is exhibited in the perfection of her beauty—all things answering the end of their creation: all the orders of the animal world in harmony with each other, and all at peace with man; all provided for by the varied produce of the earth, no longer cursed, bug blessed, and again made fruitful by God, “on whom all wait…who openeth his hand and fills them with good”; and all his goodness meeting with its due acknowledgment from his creatures, who join in chorus to praise him, and say—”O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. Hallelujah.” —William De Burgh.
Ver. 1. —”Bless the Lord, O my soul.” A good man’s work lieth most within doors, he is more taken up with his own soul, than with all the world besides; neither can he ever be alone so long as he hath God and his own heart to converse with. —John Trapp.
Ver. 1. —With what reverence and holy awe doth the psalmist begin his meditation with that acknowledgment! “O Lord, my God, thou art very great; “and it is the joy of the saints that he who is their God is a great God: the grandeur of the prince is the pride and pleasure of all his good subjects. —Matthew Henry.
Ver. 1. —Thou art clothed with honour and majesty. That is, as Jerome says, Thou art arrayed and adorned with magnificence and splendour; Thou art acknowledged to be glorious and illustrious by thy works, as a man by his garment. Whence it is clear that the greatness celebrated here is not the intrinsic but the exterior or revealed greatness of God. —Lorinus.
Ver. 1. —Each created, redeemed, regenerated soul is bound to praise the Lord, the Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier; for that God the Son, who in the beginning made the worlds, and whose grace is ever carrying on his work to its perfect end by the operation of the Holy Ghost, has been revealed before us in his exceeding glory. He, as the eternal High priest, hath put on the Urim and Thummim of majesty and honour, and hath clothed himself with light, as a priest clothes himself with his holy vestments: his brightness on the mount of transfiguration was but a passing glimpse of what he is now, ever hath been, and ever shall be. He is the true Light, therefore his angels are the angels of light, his children the children of light, this doctrine the doctrine of light. The universe is his tabernacle; the heavens visible and invisible are the curtains which shroud his holy place. He hath laid the beams and foundations of his holy of holies very high, even above the waters which are above the firmament. The clouds and the winds of the lower heaven are his chariot, upon which he stood when he ascended from Olivet, upon which he will sit when he cometh again. —”Plain Commentary”.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 1. (first clause) —An exhortation to one’s own heart.
1. To remember the Lord as the first cause of all good. Bless not man, or fate, but the Lord.
2. To do this in a loving, grateful, hearty, praising manner. Bless the Lord.
3. To do it truly and intensely. O my soul.
4. To do it now—for various reasons and in all possible ways.
Ver. 1 (second clause). —He is all this essentially, and in nature, providence, grace, and judgment.
Psalms 104:2*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 2. Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: wrapping the light about him as a monarch puts on his robe. The conception is sublime: but it makes us feel how altogether inconceivable the personal glory of the Lord must be; if light itself is but his garment and veil, what must be the blazing splendour of his own essential being! We are lost in astonishment, and dare not pry into the mystery lest we be blinded by its insufferable glory.
Who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain —within which he might dwell. Light was created on the first day and the firmament upon the second, so that they fitly follow each other in this verse. Oriental princes put on their glorious apparel and then sit in state within curtains, and the Lord is spoken of under that image: but how far above all comprehension the figure must be lifted, since the robe is essential light, to which suns and moons owe their brightness, and the curtain is the azure sky studded with stars for gems. This is a substantial argument for the truth with which the psalmist commenced his song, “O Lord my God, thou art very great.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 2. —Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment. In comparing the light with which he represents God as arrayed to a garment, he intimates, that although God is invisible, yet his glory is conspicuous enough. In respect of his essence, God undoubtedly dwells in light that is inaccessible; but as he irradiates the whole world by his splendour, this is the garment in which he, who is hidden in himself, appears in a manner visible to us. The knowledge of this truth is of the greatest importance. If men attempt to reach the infinite height to which God is exalted, although they fly above the clouds, they must fail in the midst of their course. Those who seek to see him in his naked majesty are certainly very foolish. That we may enjoy the sight of him, he must come forth to view with his clothing; that is to say, we must cast our eyes upon the very beautiful fabric of the world in which he wishes to be seen by us, and not be too curious and rash in searching into his secret essence. Now, since God presents himself to us clothed with light, those who are seeking pretexts for their living without the knowledge of him, cannot allege in excuse of their slothfulness, that he is hidden in profound darkness. When it is said that the heavens are a curtain, it is not meant that under them God hides himself, but that by them his majesty and glory are displayed, being, as it were, his royal pavilion. —John Calvin.
Ver. 2. —With light. The first creation of God in the works of the days was the light of sense; the last was the light of reason; and his Sabbath work ever since is the illumination of the spirit. —Francis Bacon.
Ver. 2. —Who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain. It is usual in the East, in the summer season, and upon all occasions when a large company is to be received, to have the court of the house sheltered from the heat of the weather by all umbrella or veil, which being expanded upon ropes from one side of the parapet wall to another may be folded or unfolded at pleasure. The Psalmist seems to allude to some covering of this kind in that beautiful expression of stretching out the heavens like a curtain. —Kitto’s Pictorial Bible.
Ver. 2. —Like a curtain. With the same case, by his mere word, with which a man spreads out a tent curtain, Psalms 104:2, Isaiah 40:22 is parallel, “that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.” Ver. 3 continues the description of the work of the second day. There lie at bottom, in the first clause, the words of Genesis 1:7 “God made the vaulted sky and divided between the waters which are under the vault and the waters which are above the vault.” The waters above are the materials with which, or out of which, the structure is reared. To construct out of the movable waters a firm palace, the cloudy heaven, “firm as a molten glass” (Job 37:18), is a magnificent work of divine omnipotence. —E.V. Hengstenberg.
Ver. 2. —Like a curtain. Because the Hebrews conceived of heaven as a temple and palace of God, that sacred azure was at once the floor of his, the roof of our, abode. Yet I think the dwellers in tents ever loved best the figure of the heavenly tent. They represent God as daily spreading it out, and fastening it at the extremity of the horizon to the pillars of heaven, the mountains: it is to them a tent of safety, of rest, of a fatherly hospitality in which God lives with his creatures. —Herder, quoted by Perowne.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 2 (first clause). —The clearest revelation of God is still a concealment; even light is but a covering to him. God is clothed with light as we see him in his omniscience, his holiness, his revelation, his glory, in heaven and his grace on earth.
Psalms 104:3*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 3. Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the water’s. His lofty halls are framed with the waters which are above the firmament. The upper rooms of God’s great house, the secret stories far above our ken, the palatial chambers wherein he resides, are based upon the floods which form the upper ocean. To the unsubstantial he lends stability; he needs no joists and rafters, for his palace is sustained by his own power. We are not to interpret literally where the language is poetical, it would be simple absurdity to do so.
Who maketh the clouds his chariot. When he comes forth from his secret pavilion it is thus he makes his royal progress. “It is chariot of wrath deep thunder clouds form, “and his chariot of mercy drops plenty as it traverses the celestial road.
Who walketh or rather goes upon the wings of the wind. With the clouds for a car, and the winds for winged steeds, the Great King hastens on his movements whether for mercy or for judgment. Thus we have the idea of a king still further elaborated—his lofty palace, his chariot, and his coursers are before us; but what a palace must we imagine, whose beams are of crystal, and whose base is consolidated vapour! What a stately car is that which is fashioned out of the flying clouds, whose gorgeous colours Solomon in all his glory could not rival; and what a Godlike progress is that in which spirit wings and breath of winds bear up the moving throne. “O Lord, my God, thou art very great!”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 3. —The metaphorical representation of God, as laying the beams of his chambers in the waters, seems somewhat difficult to understand; but it was the design of the prophet, from a thing incomprehensible to us, to ravish us with the greater admiration. Unless beams be substantial and strong, they will not be able to sustain even the weight of an ordinary house. When, therefore, God makes the waters the foundation of his heavenly palace, who can fail to be astonished at a miracle so wonderful? When we take into account our slowness of apprehension, such hyperbolical expressions are by no means superfluous; for it is with difficulty that they awaken and enable us to attain even a slight knowledge of God. —John Calvin.
Ver. 3. —Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters; or, “who layeth his upper chambers above the waters.” His upper chamber (people in the East used to retire to the upper chamber when they wished for solitude) is reared up in bright other on the slender foundation of rainy clouds. —A.F. Tholuck.
Ver. 3. —Who layeth the beams, etc. “He floodeth his chambers with waters, “i.e., the clouds make the flooring of his heavens. —Zachary Mudge.
Ver. 3. —Who walketh upon the wings of the wind; see Psalms 18:10; which is expressive of his swiftness in coming to helped assist his people in time of need; who helps, and that right early; and may very well be applied both to the first and second coming of Christ, who came leaping Upon the mountains, and skipping upon the hills, when he first came; and, when he comes a second time will be as a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of spices, So 2:8 8:14 The Targum is, “upon the swift clouds, like the wings of an eagle”; hence, perhaps, it is the heathens have a notion that Jupiter is being carried in a chariot through the air when it thunders and lightens. —John Gill.
Ver. 3. —Who walketh upon the wings of the wind. In these words there is an unequalled elegance; not, he fleeth —he runneth, but—he walketh;and that on the very wings of the wind;on the most impetuous element raised into the utmost rage, and sweeping along with incredible rapidity. We cannot have a more sublime idea of the deity; serenely walking on an element of inconceivable swiftness, and, as it seems to us, uncontrollable impetuosity! —James Hervey, 1713-14—1758.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 3 (last clause). —
1. God is leisurely in his haste: “he walketh, “etc.
2. God is swift even in his slackness: “he walketh on the wings of the wind.”
3. The practical conclusions are that there is time enough for the divine purposes but none for our trifling; and that we should both wait with patience for the victory of his cause and hasten it by holy activity.
Psalms 104:4*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 4. Who maketh his angels spirits; or wields, for the word means either. Angels are pure spirits, though they are permitted to assume a visible form when God desires us to see them. God is a spirit, and he is waited upon by spirits in his royal courts. Angels are like winds for mystery, force, and invisibility, and no doubt the winds themselves are often the angels or messengers of God. God who makes his angels to be as winds, can also make winds to be his angels, and they are constantly so in the economy of nature.
His ministers a flaming fire. Here, too, we may choose which we will of two meanings: God’s ministers or servants he makes to be as swift, potent, and terrible as fire, and on the other hand he makes fire, that devouring element, to be his minister flaming forth upon his errands. That the passage refers to angels is clear from Hebrews 1:7; and it was most proper to mention them here in connection with light and the heavens, and immediately after the robes and paltree of the Great King. Should not the retinue of the Lord of Hosts be mentioned as well as his chariot? It would have been a flaw in the description of the universe had the angels not been alluded to, and this is the most appropriate place for their introduction. When we think of the extraordinary powers entrusted to angelic beings, and the mysterious glory of the seraphim and the four living creatures, we are led to reflect upon the glory of the Master whom they serve, and again we cry out with the psalmist, “O Lord, my God, thou art very great.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 4. —Who maketh his angels spirits. Some render it, Who maketh his angels as the winds, to which they may be compared for their invisibility, they being not to be seen, no more than the wind, unless when they assume an external form; and for their penetration through bodies in a very surprising manner; see Acts 7:6-10; and for their great force and power, being mighty angels, and said to excel in strength, Psalms 103:20; and for their swiftness in obeying the divine commands; so the Targum, “He maketh his messengers, or angels, swift as the wind.” —John Gill.
Ver. 4. —Who maketh his angels spirits. The words, “creating his angels spirits, “may either mean “creating them spiritual beings, not material beings, “or “creating them winds” —i.e. like the winds, invisible, rapid in their movements, and capable of producing great effects. The last mode of interpretation seems pointed out by the parallelism—”and his ministers” —or, “servants” —who are plainly the same as his angels, —”a flame of fire, “i.e., like the lightning. The statement here made about the angels seems to be this: “They are created beings, who in their qualities bear a resemblance to the winds and the lightning.”
The argument deduced by Paul, in Hebrews 2:7, from this statement for the inferiority of the angels is direct and powerful: —He is the Son; they are the creatures of God. “Only begotten” is the description of his mode of existence; made is the description of theirs. All their powers are communicated power; and however high they may stand in the scale of creation, it is in that scale they stand, which places them infinitely below him, who is so the Son of God as to be “God over all, blessed for ever.” —John Brown, in “An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews.”
Ver. 4. —A flaming fire. Fire is expressive of irresistible power, immaculate holiness, and ardent emotion. It is remarkable that the seraphim, one class at least of these ministers, have their name from a root signifying to burn; and the altar, from which one of them took the live coal, Isaiah 6:6, is the symbol of the highest form of holy love. —James G. Murphy, in “A Commentary on the Book of Psalms, “1875.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 4. —
1. The Nature of Angels Spirits.
2. The Lord of Angels. “Who maketh, “etc. What must Iris own spirituality be who maketh spirits?
3. The ministry of Angels.
(a) Their office: “ministers.”
(b) Their activity or zeal: “a flaming fire.”
(c) Their dependence: made ministers.
—G. Rogers.
Psalms 104:5*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 5. Who laid the foundations of the earth. Thus the commencement of creation is described, in almost the very words employed by the Lord himself in Job 38:4. “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened, and who laid the corner stone thereof?” And the words are found in the same connection too, for the Lord proceeds to say, “When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.”
That it should not be removed forever. The language is, of course, poetical, but the fact is none the less wonderful: the earth is so placed in space that it remains as stable as if it were a fixture. The several motions of our planet are carried on so noiselessly and evenly that, as far as we are concerned, all things are as permanent and peaceful as if the old notion of its resting upon pillars were literally true. With what delicacy has the great Artificer poised our globe! What power must there be in that hand which has caused so vast a body to know its orbit, and to move so smoothly in it! What engineer can save every part of his machinery from an occasional jar, jerk, or friction? yet to our great world in its complicated motions no such thing has ever occurred. “O Lord, my God, thou art very great.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 5.—Not be removed for ever. The stability of the earth is of God, as much as the being and existence of it. There have been many earthquakes or movings of the earth in several parts of it, but the whole body of the earth was never removed so much as one hair’s breadth out of its place, since the foundations thereof were laid. Archimedes, the great mathematician, said, “If you will give me a place to set my engine on, I will remove the earth.” It was a great brag; but the Lord hath laid it too fast for man’s removing. Himself can make it quake and shake, he can move it when he pleaseth; but he never hath nor will remove it. He hath laid the foundations of the earth that it shall not be removed, nor can it be at all moved, but at his pleasure; and when it moves at any time, it is to mind the sons of men that they by their sins have moved him to displeasure. —Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 5. —The philosophical mode of stating this truth may be seen in Amédée Guillemin’s work entitled “THE HEAVENS.” “How is it that though we are carried along with a vast rapidity by the motion of the earth, we do not ourselves perceive our movement? It is because the entire bulk of the earth, atmosphere, and clouds, participate in the movement. This constant velocity, with which all bodies situated on the surface of the earth are animated, would be the cause of the most terrible and general catastrophe that could be imagined, if, by any possibility, the rotation of the earth were abruptly to cease. Such an event would be the precursor of a most sweeping destruction of all organized beings. But the constancy of the laws of nature permits us to contemplate such a catastrophe without fear. It is demonstrated that the position of the poles of rotation on the surface of the earth is invariable. It has also been asked whether the velocity of the earth’s rotation has changed, or, which comes to the same thing, if the length of the sidereal day and that of the solar day deduced from it have varied within the historical period? Laplace has replied to this question, and his demonstration shows that it has not varied the one hundredth of a second during the last two thousand years.”
Ver. 5. —
God of the earth and sea, Thou hast laid earth’s foundations:
Because thy hand sustains,
It ever firm remaineth.
Once didst thou open its deep, hidden fountains,
And soon the rising waters stood above the mountains.
At thy rebuke they fled at the voice of thy thunder,
The flood thy mandate heeded,
And hastily receded:
The waters keep the place Thou has assigned them,
And in the hills and vales a channel Thou dost find them.
A limit Thou hast set, which they may not pass over;
The deep within bound inclosing,
Strong barriers interposing,
That its proud waves no more bring desolation,
And sweep away from earth each human habitation.
John Barton, in “The Book of Psalms in English Verse: a New Testament Paraphrase, “1871.
Psalms 104:6*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 6. Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment. The new born earth was wrapped in aqueous swaddling bands. In the first ages, ere man appeared, the proud waters ruled the whole earth.
The waters stood above the mountains, no dry land was visible, vapour as from a steaming cauldron covered all. Geologists inform us of this as a discovery, but the Holy Spirit had revealed the fact long before. The passage before us shows us the Creator commencing his work, and laying the foundation for future order and beauty: to think of this reverently will fill us with adoration; to conceive of it grossly and carnally would be highly blasphemous.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 6—”Stood, “”fled, “”hasted away.” The words of the psalm put the original wondrous process graphically before the eye. The change of tense, too, from past to present, in verses 6, 7, 8, is expressive, and paints the scene in its progress. In ver. 6 “stood” should be STAND: in ver. 7 “fled” should be FLEE: and “hasted away” should be HASTE AWAY, as in the P.B.V. —”The Speaker’s Commentary.”
Psalms 104:7*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 7. At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away. When the waters and vapours covered all, the Lord had but to speak and they disappeared at once. As though they had been intelligent agents the waves hurried to their appointed deeps and left the land to itself; then the mountains lifted their heads, the high lands rose from the main, and at length continents and islands, slopes and plains were left to form the habitable earth. The voice of the Lord effected this great marvel. Is not his word equal to every emergency? potent enough to work the greatest miracle? By that same word shall the waterfloods of trouble be restrained, and the raging billows of sin be rebuked: the day cometh when at the thunder of Jehovah’s voice all the proud waters of evil shall utterly haste away. “O Lord, my God, thou art very great.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 7. —At thy rebuke they fled. The famous description of Virgil comes to mind, who introduces Neptune as sternly rebuking the winds for daring without his consent to embroil earth and heaven, and raise such huge mountain-waves: then swifter than the word is spoken, he calms the swollen seas, scatters the gathered clouds, and brings back the sun. —Lorinus.
Ver. 7. —At the voice of thy that rider they hasted away, ran off with great precipitance: just as a servant, when his master puts on a stern countenance, and speaks to him in a thundering, menacing manner, hastens away from him to do his will and work. This is an instance of the mighty power of Christ; and by the same power he removed the waters of the deluge, when they covered the earth, and the tops of the highest hills; and rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry land; and drove back the waters of Jordan for the Israelites to pass through; and who also rebuked the Sea of Galilee when his disciples were in distress; and with equal ease can be and does he remove the depth of sin and darkness from his people at conversion; rebukes Satan, and delivers out of his temptations, when he comes in like a flood; and commands off the waters of affliction when they threaten to overwhelm; who are his servants, and come when he bids them come, and go when he bids them go. —John Gill.
Ver. 7. —At the voice of thy thunder. It is very likely God employed the electric fluid as an agent in this separation. —Ingram Cobbin.
Ver. 7. —They hasted away.
God said,
Be gathered now, ye waters under heaven
Into one place and let dry land appear.
Immediately the mountains huge appear
Emergent, and their broad bare backs upheave
Into the clouds; their tops ascend the sky:
So high as heaved the tumid hills, so low
Down sunk a hollow bottom broad and deep,
Capacious bed of waters: Thither they
Hasted with glad precipitance, uprolled
As drops on dust conglobing from the dry:
Part rise in crystal wall, or ridge direct,
For haste: such flight the great command impressed
On the swift floods: As armies at the call
Of trumpet (for of armies thou hast heard)
Troop to their standard; so the watery throng,
Wave rolling after wave, where way they found,
If steep, with torrent rapture, if through plain,
Soft ebbing; nor withstood them rock or hill;
But they, or under ground, or circuit wide
With serpent error wandering, found their way,
And on the washy ooze deep channels wore;
Easy, ere God had bid the ground be dry,
All but within those banks, where rivers now
Stream, and perpetual draw their tumid train,
The dry land, Earth; and the great receptacle
Of congregated waters, he called Seas:
And saw that it was good. —John Milton.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 7. —The power of the divine word in nature shows its power in other spheres.
Psalms 104:8*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 8. The vanquished waters are henceforth obedient. They go up by the mountains, climbing in the form of clouds even to the summits of the Alps.
They go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them: they are as willing to descend in rain, and brooks, and torrents as they were eager to ascend in mists. The loyalty of the mighty waters to the laws of their God is most notable; the fierce flood, the boisterous rapid; the tremendous torrent, are only forms of that gentle dew which trembles on the tiny blade of grass, and in those ruder shapes they are equally obedient to the laws which their Maker has impressed upon them. Not so much as a solitary particle of spray ever breaks rank, or violates the command of the Lord of sea and land, neither do the awful cataracts and terrific floods revolt from his sway. It is very beautiful among the mountains to see the divine system of water supply—the rising of the fleecy vapours, the distillation of the pure fluid, the glee with which the newborn element leaps down the crags to reach the rivers, and the strong eagerness with which the rivers seek the ocean, their appointed place.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 8. —They go up by the mountains, etc. The Targum is, “They ascend out of the deep to the mountains”; that is, the waters, when they went off the earth at the divine orders, steered their course up the mountains, and then went down by the valleys to the place appointed for them; they went over hills and dales, nothing could stop them or retard their course till they came to their proper place; which is another instance of the almighty power of the Son of God. —John Gill.
Psalms 104:9*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 9. Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth. That bound has once been passed, but it shall never be so again. The deluge was caused by the suspension of the divine mandate which held the floods in check: they knew their old supremacy, and hastened to reassert it, but now the covenant promise for ever prevents a return of that carnival of waters, that revolt of the waves: ought we not rather to call it that impetuous rush of the indignant floods to avenge the injured honour of their King, whom men had offended? Jehovah’s word bounds the ocean, using only a narrow belt of sand to confine it to its own limits: that apparently feeble restraint answers every purpose, for the sea is obedient as a little child to the bidding of its Maker. Destruction lies asleep in the bed of the ocean, and though our sins might well arouse it, yet are its bands made strong by covenant mercy, so that it cannot break loose again upon the guilty sons of men.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 9. —Thou hast set a bound, etc. The Baltic Sea, in our own time, inundated large tracts of land, and did great damage to the Flemish people and other neighbouring nations. By an instance of this kind we are warned what would be the consequence, were the restraint imposed upon the sea, by the hand of God, removed. How is it that we have not thereby been swallowed up together, but because God has held in that outrageous element by his word? In short, although the natural tendency of the waters is to cover the earth, yet this will not happen, because God has established, by his word, a counteracting law, and as his truth is eternal, this law must remain stedfast. —John Calvin.
Ver. 9. —Thou hast set a bound, etc. In these words the psalmist gives us three things clearly concerning the waters. First, that once (he means it not of the deluge, but of the chaos), the waters did cover the whole earth, till God by a word of command sent them into their proper channels, that the dry land might appear. Secondly, that the waters have a natural propensity to return back and cover the earth again. Thirdly, that the only reason why they do not return back and cover the whole earth is, because God hath “set a bound, that they cannot pass.” They would be boundless and know no limits, did not God bound and limit them. Wisdom giveth us the like eulogium of the power of God in this, Proverbs 8:29 “He gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment.” What cannot he command, who sendeth his commandment to the sea and is obeyed? Some great princes, heated with rage and drunken with pride, have cast shackles into the sea, as threatening it with imprisonment and bondage if it would not be quiet; but the sea would not be bound by them; they have also awarded so many strokes to be given the sea as a punishment of its contumacy and rebellion against either their commands or their designs. How ridiculously ambitious have they been, who would needs pretend to such a dominion! Many princes have had great power at and upon the sea, but there was never any prince had any power over the sea; that’s a flower belonging to no crown but the crown of heaven. —Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 9. —Thou hast set a bound, etc. A few feet of increase in the ocean wave that pursues its tidal circuit round the globe, would desolate cities and provinces innumerable… But with what immutable and safe control God has marked its limits! You shall observe a shrub or a flower on a bank of verdure that covers a sea cliff, or hangs down in some hollow; nay, you shall mark a pebble on the beach, you shall lay a shred of gossamer upon it; and this vast, ungovernable, unwieldy, tempestuous element shall know how to draw a line of moisture by its beating spray at the very edge, or on the very point of your demarcation, and then draw off its forces, not having passed one inch or hand’s breadth across the appointed margin. And all this exact restraint and measurement in the motion of the sea, by that mysterious power shot beyond unfathomable depths of space, from orbs rolling in ether! a power itself how prodigious, how irresistible, yet how invisible, how gentle, how with minutest exactness measured and exerted. —George B. Cheever, in “Voices of Nature to her Foster Child, the soul of Man, “1852.
Ver. 9. —A bound that they may not pass over.
Now stretch your eye off shore, over waters made To cleanse the air, and bear the world’s great trade, To rise and wet the mountains near the sun, Then back into themselves in rivers run, Fulfilling mighty uses, far and wide, Through earth, in air, or here, as ocean tide.
Ho! how the giant heaves himself, and strains And flings to break his strong and viewless chains; Foams in his wrath; and at his prison doors, Hark! hear him! how he beats, and tugs, and roars, As if he would break forth again, and sweep Each living thing within his lowest deep.
—Richard Henry Dana (1787).
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 9. —
1. All things have their appointed bounds.
2. To pass those bounds without special permission by God is transgression. “Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass.”
3. Extraordinary cases should be followed by a return to ordinary duties. “That they turn not again, “etc. —G.R.
Psalms 104:10*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 10. He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills. This is a beautiful part of the Lord’s arrangement of the subject waters: they find vents through which they leap into liberty where their presence will be beneficial in the highest degree. Depressions exist in the sides of the mountains, and down these the water brooks are made to flow, often taking their rise at bubbling fountains which issue from the bowels of the earth. It is God who sends these springs even as a gardener makes the water courses, and turns the current with his foot. When the waters are confined in the abyss the Lord sets their bound, and when they sport at liberty he sends them forth.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 10. —He sendeth the springs into the valleys, etc. Having spoken of the salt waters, he treats afterwards of the sweet and potable, commending the wisdom and providence of God, that from the lower places of the earth and the hidden veins of the mountains, he should cause the fountains of water to gush forth. —Lorinus.
Ver. 10. —He sendeth the springs into the valleys. The more of humility the more of grace; if in valleys some hollows are deeper than others the waters collect in them. —Martin Luther.
Ver. 10. —He sendeth the springs into the valleys. Men cut places for rivers to run in, but none but God can cut a channel to bring spiritual streams into the soul. The psalmist speaks of the sending forth of springs as one great act of the providence of God. It is a secret mystery which those that have searched deepest into nature cannot resolve us in, how those springs are fed, how they are maintained and nourished, so as to run without ceasing in such great streams as many of them make. Philosophy cannot show the reason of it. The Psalmist doth it well: God sends them into the valleys, his providence and power keeps them continually running: he that would have his soul watered must go to God in prayer. —Ralph Robinson.
Ver. 10. —Which run among the hills. That is, the streams or springs run. In many a part of the world can be found a Sault, a dancing water, and a Minne-ha-ha, a laughing water. The mountain streams walk, and run, and leap, and praise the Lord. —William S. Plumer.
Ver. 10. —”HE.” “HE.” “HE.”
All things are here of Him;from the black pines,
Which are his shade on high, and the loud roar
Of torrents, where he listens, to the vines
Which slope his green path downward to the shore,
Where the bowed waters meet him, and adore,
Kissing his feet with murmurs. —Byron.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 10. —The thoughtfulness of God for those who, like the valleys, are lowly, hidden, and needy: the abiding character of his supplies: and the joyous results of his care.
Ver. 10. —God’s care for wild creatures, reflections from it.
1. Shall he not much more care for his people?
2. Will he not look after wild, wandering men?
3. Ought we not also to care for all that live?
Ver. 10. —From the fertility, life and music which mark the course of a stream, illustrate the beneficial influences of the Gospel. —C.A. Davis.
Psalms 104:11*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 11. They give drink to every beast of the field. Who else would water them if the Lord did not? They are his cattle, and therefore he leads them forth to watering. Not one of them is forgotten of him.
The wild asses quench their thirst. The good Lord gives them enough and to spare. They know their Master’s crib. Though bit or bridle of man they will not brook, and man denounces them as unteachable, they learn of the Lord, and know better far than man where flows the cooling crystal of which they must drink or die. They are only asses, and wild, yet our heavenly Father careth for them. Will he not also care for us? We see here, also, that nothing is made in vain; though no human lip is moistened by the brooklet in the lone valley, yet are there other creatures which need refreshment, and these slake their thirst at the stream. Is this nothing? Must everything exist for man, or else be wasted? What but our pride and selfishness could have suggested such a notion? It is not true that flowers which blush unseen by human eye are wasting their sweetness, for the bee finds them out, and other winged wanderers live on their luscious juices. Man is but one creature of the many whom the heavenly Father feedeth and watereth.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 11. —The wild asses quench their thirst. It is particularly remarked of the asses, that though they are dull and stupid creatures, yet by Providence they are taught the way to the waters, in the dry and sandy deserts, and that there is no better guide for the thirsty travellers to follow, than to observe the herds of them descending to the streams. —Thomas Fenton.
Ver. 11. —The wild asses quench their thirst. As evening approached we saw congregated, near a small stream, what appeared to be a large company of dismounted Arabs, their horses standing by them. As we were already near them, and could not have escaped the watchful eye of the Bedouins, we prepared for an encounter. We approached cautiously, and were surprised to see that the horses still remained without their riders; we drew still nearer, when they galloped off towards the desert. They were wild asses. —Henry Austin Layard.
Psalms 104:12*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 12. By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches. How refreshing are these words! What happy memories they arouse of splashing waterfalls and entangled boughs, where the merry din of the falling and rushing water forms a sort of solid background of music, and the sweet tuneful notes of the birds are the brighter and more flashing lights in the harmony. Pretty birdies, sing on! What better can ye do, and who can do it better? When we too drink of the river of God, and eat of the fruit of the tree of fife, it well becomes us to “sing among the branches.” Where ye dwell ye sing; and shall not we rejoice in the Lord, who has been our dwelling place in all generations. As ye fly from bough to bough, ye warble forth your notes, and so will we as we flit through time into eternity. It is not meet that birds of Paradise should be outdone by birds of earth.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 12. —By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation. Never shall I forget my first ride from Riha to Ain Sultan; our way lay right across the oasis evoked by the waters. It may be that the contrast with the arid desert of the previous day heightened the feelings of present enjoyment, but certainly they echoed the words of Josephus, —a “Divine region”. At one time I was reminded of Epping Forest, and then of a neglected orchard with an undergrowth of luxuriant vegetation. Large thorn bushes and forest shrubs dotted the plain on every side. In some places the ground was carpeted with flowers, and every bush seemed vocal with the cheerful twittering of birds. I use the word “twittering”, because I do not think that I ever heard a decided warble during the whole time I was in Syria. Coleridge speaks of the “merry nightingale”,
“That crowds, and hurries, and precipitates
With fast, quick warble, his delicious notes.”
The song of my little Syrian friends seemed to consist of a series of, cheerful chirps. Other travellers have been more fortunate. Bonar speaks of the note of the cuckoo; Dr. Robinson of the nightingale. Lord Lindsay tells us of the delight of an evening spent by the Jordan, “the river murmuring along, and the nightingale singing from the trees.” Canon Tristram, describing the scenery near Tell-el-Kady, says that “the bulbul and nightingale vied in rival scrag in the branches above, audible over the noise of the torrent below.” In the face of these statements it seems to me remarkable, considering the innumerable references to nature in the Bible, that the singing of birds is only mentioned three times. In the well known passage which so exquisitely depicts a Syrian spring, we read “the time of the singing of birds is come” (Song of Solomon 2:12). The Psalmist in speaking of the mighty power and wondrous Providence of God, mentions the springs in “the valleys, which run among the hills. They give drink to every beast of the field; the wild asses quench their thirst. By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation which sing among the branches.” Canon Tristram commenting on this passage, says, that it may refer especially to the “bulbul and the nightingale, both of which throng the trees that fringe the Jordan and abound in all the wooded valleys, filling the air in early spring with the rich cadence of their notes.” —James Wareing Bardsley, in “Illustrative Texts”, 1876.
Ver. 12. —By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, etc. To such birds may saints be compared; being, like them, weak, defenceless, and timorous; liable to be taken in snares, and sometimes wonderfully delivered; as well as given to wanderings and straying; and to fowls of the heaven, being heaven born souls, and partakers of the heavenly calling. These have their habitation by the fountain of Jacob, by the river of divine love, beside the still waters of the sanctuary, where they sing the songs of Zion, the songs of electing, redeeming, and calling grace. —John Gill.
Ver. 12. —The fowls…which sing among the branches. The music of birds was the first song of thanksgiving which was offered from the earth, before man was formed. —John Wesley.
Ver. 12. —The fowls of the heaven which sing among the branches. How do the blackbird and thrassel thrush, with their melodious voices, bid welcome to the cheerful spring, and in their fixed months warble forth such ditties as no art or instrument can reach to? … But the nightingale, another of my airy creatures, breathes such sweet loud music out of her little instrumental throat, that it makes mankind to think miracles are not ceased. He that at midnight, when the very labourer sleeps securely, should hear, as I have very often, the clear airs, the sweet descants, the natural rising and falling, the doubling and redoubling of her voice, might well be lifted above earth, and say, “Lord, what music hast thou provided for the saints in heaven, when you afford bad men such music on earth?” —Izaak Walton.
Ver. 12. —
While over their heads the hazels hing,
The little birdies blithely sing,
Or lightly flit on wanton wing
In the birks of Aberfeldy.
The braes ascend like lofty wa’s,
The foaming stream deep roaring fa’s,
Overhung with fragrant spreading shaws,
The birks of Aberfeldy. —Robert Burns, 1759-1796.
Psalms 104:13*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 13. He watereth the hills from his chambers. As the mountains are too high to be watered by rivers and brooks, the Lord himself refreshes them from those waters above the firmament which the poet had in a former verse described as the upper chambers of heaven. Clouds are detained among the mountain crags, and deluge the hill sides with fertilizing rain. Where man cannot reach the Lord can, whom none else can water with grace he can, and where all stores of refreshment fail he can supply all that is needed from his own halls.
The earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works. The result of the divine working is fulness everywhere, the soil is saturated with rain, the seed germinates, the beasts drink, and the birds sing— nothing is left without supplies. So, too, is it in the new creation, he giveth more grace, he fills his people with good, and makes them all confess, “of his fulness have all we received and grace for grace.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 13. —The earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works; that is, with the rain, which is thy work, causing it to be showered down when you please upon the earth; or, with the rain, which proceeds from the clouds; or, with the fruits, which thou causeth the earth by this means to bring forth. —Arthur Jackson.
Psalms 104:14*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 14. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man. Grass grows as well as herbs, for cattle must be fed as well as men. God appoints to the lowliest creature its portion and takes care that it has it: Divine power is as truly and as worthily put forth in the feeding of beasts as in the nurturing of man; watch but a blade of grass with a devout eye and you may see God at work within it. The herb is for man, and he must till the soil, or it will not be produced, yet it is God that causeth it to grow in the garden, even the same God who made the grass to grow in the unenclosed pastures of the wilderness. Man forgets this and talks of his produce, but in very truth without God he would plough and sow in vain. The Lord causeth each green blade to spring and each ear to ripen; do but watch with opened eye and you shall see the Lord walking through the cornfields.
That he may bring forth food out of the earth. Both grass for cattle and corn for man are food brought forth out of the earth and they are signs that it was God’s design that the very dust beneath our feet, which seems better adapted to bury us than to sustain us, should actually be transformed into the staff of life. The more we think of this the more wonderful it will appear. How great is that God who from among the sepulchres finds the support of life, and out of the ground which was cursed brings forth the blessings of corn and wine and oil.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 14. —He causeth the grass to grow. Surely it should humble men to know that all human power united cannot make anything, not even the grass to grow. —William S. Plumer.
Ver. 14. —For the cattle, etc. To make us thankful, let us consider, 1. That God not only provides for us, but for our servants; the cattle that are of use to man, are particularly taken care of; grass is made to grow in great abundance for them, when “the young lions, “that are not for the service of man, often “lack, and suffer hunger.” 2. That our food is nigh us, and ready to us: having our habitation on the earth, there we have our storehouse, and depend not on “the merchant ships that bring food from afar, “Pr 31:14. 3. That we have even from the products of the earth, not only for necessity, but for ornament and delight, so good a master do we serve. Doth nature call for something to support it, and repair its daily decays? Here is “bread which strengtheneth man’s heart, “and is therefore called the staff of life; let none that have that complain of want. Doth nature go further, and covet something pleasant? Here is “wine that maketh glad the heart”, refresheth the spirits, and exhilarates them, when it is soberly and moderately used; that we may not only go through our business, but go through it cheerfully; it is a pity that that should be abused to overcharge the heart, and disfit men for their duty, which was given to revive their heart, and quicken them in their duty. Is nature yet more humoursome, and doth it crave something for ornament too? Here is that also out of the earth: “oil to make the face to shine”, that the countenance may not only be cheerful, but beautiful, and we may be the more acceptable to one another. —Matthew Henry.
Ver. 14. —For the service of man. The common version of these words can only mean for his benefit or use, a sense not belonging to the Hebrew word, which, as well as its verbal root, is applied to man’s servitude or bondage as a tiller of the ground (Genesis 3:17-19), and has here the sense of husbandry or cultivation, as in Exodus 1:14, Leviticus 25:39, it has that of compulsory or servile labour, the infinitive in the last clause indicates the object for which labour is imposed on man. —J.A. Alexander.
Ver. 14. —That he may bring forth food out of the earth. The Israelites at the feast of the Passover and before the breaking of bread, were accustomed to say, “Praise be to the Lord our God, thou King of the world, who hath brought forth our bread from the earth”: and at each returning harvest we ought to be filled with gratitude, as often as we again receive the valuable gift of bread. It is the most indispensable and necessary means of nourishment, of which we never tire, whilst other food, the sweeter it is, the more easily it surfeits: everybody, the child and the old man, the beggar and the king, like bread. We remember the unfortunate man, who was cast on the desert isle, famishing with hunger, and who cried at the sight of a handful of gold, “Ah, it is only gold!” He would willingly have exchanged for a handful of bread, this to him, useless material, which in the mind of most men is above all price. O let us never sin against God, by lightly esteeming bread! Let us gratefully accept the sheaves we gather, and thankfully visit the barns which preserve them; that we may break bread to the hungry, and give to the thirsty from the supplies God has given us. Let us never sit down to table without asking God to bless the gifts we receive from his gracious hand, and never eat bread without thinking of Christ our Lord, who calls himself the living bread, who came down from heaven to give life unto the world. And above all, may we never go to the table of the Lord without enjoying, through the symbols of bread and wine, his body and blood, whereby we receive strength to nourish our spiritual life! Yes, Lord, thou satisfiest both body and soul, with bread from earth and bread from heaven. Praise be to thy holy name, our hearts and mouths shall be full of thy praises for time and eternity! —Frederick Arndt in “Lights of the Morning”, 1861.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 14. —In the Hayfield. (See “Spurgeon’s Sermons, “No. 757.) “He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle.”
1. Grass is in itself instructive.
(a) As a symbol of our mortality: “All flesh is grass.”
(b) As an emblem of the wicked.
(c) As a picture of the elect of God. Isa 35:7 44:4
Psalms 72:6; Psalms 72:16
(d) Grass is comparable to the food wherewith the Lord
supplies the necessities of his chosen ones.
Psalms 23:2 Song of Solomon 1:7
2. God is seen in the growing of the grass.
(a) As a worker: “He causeth, “etc. See God in common
things—in solitary things.
(b) See God as a caretaker: “He causeth the grass to
grow for the cattle.” God cares for the beasts—the
helpless—dumb and speechless things—providing
suitable food for them: “grass”. Let us, then, see
his hand in providence at all times.
3. God’s working in the grass for the cattle gives us illustrations concerning grace.
(a) God “cares for oxen” and satisfies their wants:
there must then be something somewhere to satisfy
the needs of the nobler creature man, and his
immortal soul.
(b) Though God provides the grass for the cattle, the
cattle must eat it themselves. The Lord Jesus Christ
is provided as the food of the soul. We must, by
faith, receive and feed upon Christ.
(c) Preventing grace may here be seen in a symbol:
before the cattle were made, in this world there was
grass. There were covenant supplies for God’s
people before they were in the world.
(d) Here is an illustration of free grace: the cattle
bring nothing to purchase the food. Why is this?
(1) Because they belong to him, Ps 1:10.
(2) Because he has entered into a covenant with them to
feed them, Genesis 9:9-10.
In the text there is a mighty blow to free will: “He causeth the grass to grow.” Grace does not grow in the heart without a divine cause. If God cares to make grass grow he will also make us grow in grace. Again; the grass does not grow without an object; it is “for the cattle”: but the cattle grow for man. What then, does man grow for? Observe, further, that the existence of the grass is necessary to complete the chain of nature. So the meanest child of God is necessary to the family.
Psalms 104:15*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 15. And wine that maketh glad the heart of man. By the aid of genial showers the earth produces not merely necessaries but luxuries, that which furnishes a feast as well as that which makes a meal. O that man were wise enough to know how to use this gladdening product of the vine; but, alas, he full often turns it to ill account, and debases himself therewith. Of this he must himself bear the blame; he deserves to be miserable who turns even blessings into curses.
And oil to make his face to shine. The easterns use oil more than we do, and probably are wiser in this respect than we are: they delight in anointing with perfumed oils, and regard the shining of the face as a choice emblem of joy. God is to be praised for all the products of the soil, not one of which could come to us were it not that he causeth it to grow.
And bread which strengtheneth man’s heart. Men have more courage after they are fed: many a depressed spirit has been comforted by a good substantial meal. We ought to bless God for strength of heart as well as force of limb, since if we possess them they are both the bounties of his kindness.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 15. —When thou wert taken out of the womb, what a stately palace did he bring thee into, the world, which thou foundest prepared and ready furnished with all things for thy maintenance, as Canaan was to the children of Israel; a stately house thou buildest not, trees thou plantedst not, a rich canopy spangled, spread as a curtain over thy head; he sets up a taper for thee to work by, the sun, till thou art weary (Psalms 104:23), and then it goes down without thy bidding, for it “knows its going down” (Psalms 104:19); then he draws a curtain over half the world, that men may go to rest: “Thou causest darkness, and it is night” (Psalms 104:20). As an house this world is, so curiously contrived that to every room of it, even to every poor village, springs do come as pipes to find thee water (Psalms 104:11). The pavement of which house you tread on and it brings forth thy food (Psalms 104:14), “Bread for strength, wine to cheer thy heart, oil to make thy face to shine” (Psalms 104:15). Which three are there synecdochically put for all things needful to strength, ornament, and delight. —Thomas Goodwin.
Ver. 15. —Wine that maketh glad the heart of man. The wine mentioned had the quality of fermented liquors; it gladdened the heart. Thus, if taken to excess, it would have led to intoxication. The Hebrew term is “yayin”, answering to the Greek oinos, and including every form which the juice of the grape might be made to assume as a beverage. It was this of which Noah partook when he became drunken (Genesis 9:21; Genesis 9:24). Melchizedek brought it forth to Abraham (Genesis 14:18). Lot’s daughters gave it to their father and made him drunk (Ge 14:35). From this the Nazarite was to separate himself (Numbers 6:3-20). This is the highly intoxicating drink so often mentioned by Isaiah (Isa 5:11-22 12:13 28:1-7); but just because of this, it might become to man one of those mercies in connection with the use of which he was to exercise constant self control. Taken to excess it was a curse; enjoyed as from God, it was something for which man was called to be thankful. —John Duns.
Ver. 15. —And oil to make his face to shine. Observe, after the mention of wine, he speaks of oil or ointment, because at the banquets among the Jews and other Eastern people, as afterwards among the Greeks and Romans, there was a frequent use of ointments. The reasons why ointment was poured upon the head were: To avoid intoxication: To improve the health: To contribute to pleasure and delight. Homer often refers to this custom, and there is an allusion to it by Solomon, Ecclesiastes 9:8, “Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment”. See also Psalms 23:5. —Le Blanc.
Ver. 15. —The ancients made much use of oil to beautify their persons. We read of “oil to make man’s face to shine”. Ruth anointed herself for decoration (Ruth 3:3), and the woman of Tekoah and the prophet Daniel omitted the use of oil for the contrary reason (2 Samuel 14:3, Daniel 10:3). The custom is also mentioned in Matthew 6:17 Lu 7:46. —Ambrose Serle in “Horae Solitariae”, 1815.
Ver. 15. —Bread which strengtheneth man’s heart. In hunger not only the strength is prostrated, but the natural courage is also abated. Hunger has no enterprise, emulation, nor courage. But when in such circumstances, a little bread is received into the stomach, even before concoction can have time to prepare it for nutriment, the strength is restored, and the spirits revived. This is a surprising effect, and it has not yet been satisfactorily accounted for. —Adam Clarke.
Ver. 15. —Bread which strengtheneth man’s heart. In Homer’s Odyssey we meet with the expression “Bread, the marrow of men.”
Ver. 15. —Man’s heart. It is not without reason that instead of the word Mdah, of Adam, which was used in Psalms 104:14, there is here employed the word vwba, an infirm and feeble man, because he mentions those nourishments of which there was no need before the fall, and which are specially suitable to nourish and exhilarate feeble man. —Venema.
Ver. 15. —If the transitory earth is so full of the good things of God, what will we have when we come to the land of the living? —Starke, in Lange’s Commentary.
Psalms 104:16*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 16. The watering of the hills not only produces the grass and the cultivated herbs, but also the nobler species of vegetation, which come not within the range of human culture: —
“Their veins with genial moisture fed,
Jehovah’s forests lift the head:
Nor other than his fostering hand
Thy cedars, Lebanon, demand.”
The trees of the Lord —the greatest, noblest, and most royal of trees; those too which are unowned of man, and untouched by his hand.
Are full of sap, or are full, well supplied, richly watered, so that they become, as the cedars, full of resin, flowing with life, and verdant all the year round.
The cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted. They grow where none ever thought of planting them, where for ages they were unobserved, and where at this moment they are too gigantic for man to prune them. What would our psalmist have said to some of the trees in the Yosemite valley? Truly these are worthy to be called the trees of the Lord, for towering stature and enormous girth. Thus is the care of God seen to be effectual and all sufficient. If trees uncared for by man are yet so full of sap, we may rest assured that the people of God who by faith live upon the Lord alone shall be equally well sustained. Planted by grace, and owing all to our heavenly Father’s care, we may defy the hurricane, and laugh at the fear of drought, for none that trust in him shall ever be left unwatered.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 16. —The trees of the Lord. The transition which the prophet makes from men to trees is as if he had said, It is not to be wondered at, if God so bountifully nourishes men who are created after his own image, since he does not grudge to extend his care even to trees. By “the trees of the Lord”, is meant those which are high and of surpassing beauty; for God’s blessing is more conspicuous in them. It seems scarcely possible for any juice of the earth to reach so great a height, and yet they renew their foliage every year. —John Calving.
Ver. 16. —The trees of the Lord may be so named from their size and stature—this name being used as a superlative in the Hebrew, or to denote aught which is great and extraordinary. —Thomas Chalmers.
Ver. 16. —The trees of the Lord, etc. The cedars are indeed the trees of the Lord. They are especially his planting. There is a sense in which, above all other trees, they belong to him, and shadow forth in a higher degree his glory. The peculiar expression of the text, however, must not be limited to one particular species of cedar… Encouraged by this Scripture usage, I shall use the word in a somewhat wider sense than the conventional one, to denote three remarkable examples which may be selected from the coniferae to show the power and wisdom of God as displayed in the trees of the forest. These are, the cedar of Lebanon, the cedar of the Himalayas, and the cedar of the Sierra Nevada. The epithet which the psalmist applies to one, may most appropriately be applied to all of them; and there are various reasons why the Lord may be said to have a special interest and property in each of them, to a few of which our attention may now be profitably directed.
1. They are “trees of the Lord” on account of the peculiarities of their structure. In common with all the pine tribe, they are exceptional in their organization. They reveal a new idea of the creative mind.
2. The cedars are “the trees of the Lord” on account of the antiquity of their type it was of this class of trees that the pre Adamite forests were principally composed.
3. The cedars are the “trees of the Lord, “on account of the majesty of their appearance. It is the tree, par excellence, of the Bible—the type of all forest vegetation.
—Condensed from Hugh Macmillan’s “Bible Teachings in Nature, “1868.
Ver. 16. —Full of sap. The cedar has a store of resin. It flows from wounds made in the bark, and from the scales of the cones, and is abundant in the seeds. Both the resin and the wood were much valued by the ancients. The Romans believed that the gum which exuded from the cedar had the power of rendering whatever was steeped in it incorruptible; and we are told that the books of Numa, the early king of Rome, which were found uninjured in his tomb, five hundred years after his death, had been steeped in oil of cedar. The Egyptians also used the oil in embalming their dead. —Mary and Elizabeth Kirby, in “Chapters on Trees”, 1873.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 16. —”The Cedars of Lebanon.” (See “Spurgeon’s Sermons, ”
No. 529.)
1. The absence of all human culture. These trees are peculiarly the Lord’s trees, because,
(a) They owe their planting entirely to him: “He hath
planted.”
(b) They are not dependent upon man for their watering.
(c) No mortal might protects them.
(d) As to their inspection—they preserve a sublime
indifference to human gaze.
(e) Their exultation is all for God.
(f) There is not a cedar upon Lebanon which is not
independent of man in its expectations.
2. The glorious display of divine care.
(a) In the abundance of their supply.
(b) They are always green.
(c) Observe the grandeur and size of these trees.
(d) Their fragrance.
(e) Their perpetuity.
(f) They are very venerable.
3. The fulness of living principle: “The trees of the Lord are full of sap.”
(a) This is vitally necessary.
(b) It is essentially mysterious.
(c) It is radically secret.
(d) It is permanently active.
(e) It is externally operative.
(f) It is abundantly to be desired.
Psalms 104:17*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 17. Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house. So far from being in need, these trees of God afford shelter to others, birds small and great make their nests in the branches. Thus what they receive from the great Lord they endeavour to return to his weaker creatures. How one thing fits into another in this fair creation, each link drawing on its fellow: the rains water the fir trees, and the fir trees become the happy home of birds; thus do the thunder clouds build the sparrow’s house, and the descending rain sustains the basis of the stork’s nest. Observe, also, how everything has its use—the boughs furnish a home for the birds; and every living thing has its accommodation—the stork finds a house in the pines. Her nest is called a house, because this bird exhibits domestic virtues and maternal love which make her young to be comparable to a family. No doubt this ancient writer had seen storks’ nests in fir trees; they appear usually to build on houses and ruins, but there is also evidence that where there are forests they are content with pine trees. Has the reader ever walked through a forest of great trees and felt the awe which strikes the heart in nature’s sublime cathedral? Then he will remember to have felt that each bird was holy, since it dwelt amid such sacred solitude. Those who cannot see or hear of God except in Gothic edifices, amid the swell of organs, and the voices of a surpliced choir, will not be able to enter into the feeling which makes the simple, unsophisticated soul hear “the voice of the Lord God walking among the trees.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 17. —Birds. The word rendered “birds” here is the word which in Psalms 84:3 is translated sparrow, and which is commonly used to denote small birds. Comp. Leviticus 14:4 (margin), and Le 14:5-7 14:49-53. It is used, however, to denote birds of any kind. See Genesis 7:14 Ps 8:8 6:1 148:10. —Albert Barnes.
Ver. 17. —The stork is instanced as one of the largest of nest building birds, as the cedars of Lebanon were introduced in Psalms 104:16 as being the largest of uncultivated trees. —A.C. Jennings and W.H. Zowe, in “The Psalms, with Introductions and Critical Notes”, 1875.
Ver. 17. —The stork, the fir trees are her hoarse. In many cases the stork breeds among old ruins, and under such circumstances it is fond of building its nest on the tops of pillars or towers, the summits of arches, and similar localities. When it takes up its abode among mankind, it generally selects the breeding places which have been built for it by those who know its taste, but it frequently chooses the top of a chimney, or some such locality. When it is obliged to build in spots where it can find neither rocks nor buildings, it builds on trees, and, like the heron, is sociable in its nesting, a whole community residing in a clump of trees. It is not very particular about the kind of tree, provided that it be tolerably tall, and strong enough to bear the weight of its enormous nest; and the reader will at once see that the fir trees are peculiarly fitted to be the houses for the stork.
The particular species of fir tree to which the Psalmist alludes is probably the Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), which comes next to the great cedars of Lebanon in point of size. It was this tree that furnished the timber and planks for Solomon’s temple and palace, a timber which was evidently held in the greatest estimation. This tree fulfils all the conditions which a stork would require in nest building. It is lofty, and its boughs are sufficiently horizontal to form a platform for the nest, and strong enough to sustain it. On account of its value and the reckless manner in which it has been cut down without new plantations being formed, the Aleppo pine has vanished from many parts of Palestine wherein it was formerly common, and would afford a dwelling place for the stork. There are, however, several other species of fir which are common in various parts of the country, each species flourishing in the soil best suited to it, so that the stork would never be at a loss to find a nesting place in a country which furnished so many trees suitable to its purposes. —J.G. Wood, in “Bible Animals”.
Ver. 17. —The stork, the fir trees are her house. Well wooded districts are for the most part the favourite resorts of the storks, as they constantly select trees both for breeding purposes and as resting places for the night; some few species, however, prove exceptions to this rule, and make their nests on roofs, chimneys, or other elevated situations in the immediate vicinity of men. —From “Cassell’s Book of Birds.” From the Text of Dr. Brehm. By T.R. Jones, F.R.S.
Ver. 17. —The fir trees. The doors of the temple were made of the fir tree; even of that tree which was a type of the humanity of Jesus Christ. Consider Hebrews 2:14. The fir tree is also the house of the stork, that unclean bird, even as Christ is a harbour and shelter for sinners. “As for the stork”, saith the text, “the fir trees are her house; “and Christ saith to the sinners that see their want of shelter, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest.” He is a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in time of trouble. He is, as the doors of fir of the temple, the inlet of God’s house, to God’s presence, and to a partaking of his glory. Thus God did of old, by similitudes teach his people his way. —John Bunyan, in “Solomon’s Temple Spiritualized.”
Ver. 17. —
The eagle and the stork
On cliffs and cedar-tops their eyries build. —John Milton.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 17, 18. —”Lessons from Nature.” (See “Spurgeon’s Sermons, ” No. 1,005.)
1. For each place God has prepared a suitable form of life: for “the fir trees, “”the stork”; for “the high hills” “the wild goat, “etc. So, for all parts of the spiritual universe God has provided suitable forms of divine life.
(a) Each age has its saints.
(b) In every rank they are to be found. The Christian
religion is equally well adapted for all conditions.
(c) In every church spiritual life is to be found.
(d) God’s people are to be found in every city.
2. Each creature has its appropriate place.
(a) Each man has by God a providential position
appointed to him.
(b) This is also true of our spiritual experience.
(c) The same holds good as to individuality of
character.
3. Every creature that God has made is provided with shelter.
4. For each creature the shelter is appropriate.
5. Each creature uses its shelter.
Psalms 104:18*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 18. The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conics. All places teem with life. We call our cities populous, but are not the forests and the high hills more densely peopled with life? We speak of uninhabitable places, but where are they? The chamois leaps from crag to crag, and the rabbit burrows beneath the soil. For one creature the loftiness of the hills, and for another the hollowness of the rocks, serves as a protection: —
“Far over the crags the wild goats roam,
The rocks supply the coney’s home.”
Thus all the earth is full of happy life, every place has its appropriate in habitant, nothing is empty and void and waste. See how goats, and storks, and conics, and sparrows, each contribute a verse to the psalm of nature; have we not also our canticles to sing unto the Lord? Little though we may be in the scale of importance, yet let us fill our sphere, and so honour the Lord who made us with a purpose.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 18. —The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats. There is scarcely any doubt that the Azel of the Old Testament is the Arabian Ibex or Beden (Capra Nubiana). This animal is very closely allied to the well known Ibex of the Alps, or Steinbock, but may be distinguished from it by one or two slight differences, such as the black beard and the slighter make of the horns, which moreover have three angles instead of four, as is the case with the Alpine Ibex …The colour of its coat resembles so nearly that of the rocks, that an inexperienced eye would see nothing but bare stones and sticks where a practised hunter would see numbers of Beden, conspicuous by their beautifully curved horns.
The agility of the Beden is extraordinary. Living in the highest and most craggy parts of the mountain ridge, it flings itself from spot to spot with a recklessness that startles one who has not been accustomed to the animal, and the wonderful certainty of its foot. It will, for example, dash at the face of a perpendicular precipice that looks as smooth as a brick wall, for the purpose of reaching a tiny ledge which is hardly perceptible, and which is some fifteen feet or so above the spot whence the animal sprang. Its eye, however, has marked certain little cracks and projections on the face of the rock, and as the animal makes its leap, it takes these little points of vantage in rapid succession, just touching them as it passes upwards, and by the slight stroke of its foot keeping up the original impulse of its leap. Similarly the Ibex comes sliding and leaping down precipitous sides of the mountains, sometimes halting with all the four feet drawn together, on a little projection scarcely larger than a penny, and sometimes springing boldly over a wild crevasse, and alighting with exact precision upon a projecting piece of rock, that seems scarcely large enough to sustain a rat comfortably. —J.G. Wood.
Ver. 18. —Conies. When we were exploring the rocks in the neighbourhood of the convent, I was delighted to point attention to a family or two of the Wubar, engaged in their gambols on the heights above us. Mr. Smith and I watched them narrowly, and were much amused with the liveliness of their motions, and the quickness of their retreat within the clefts of the rock when they apprehended danger. We were, we believe, the first European travellers who actually noticed this animal, now universally admitted to be the shaphan, or coney of Scripture, within the proper bounds of the Holy Land; and we were not a little gratified by its discovery… The preparer of the skin mistook it for a rabbit, though it is of a stronger build, and of a duskier colour, being of a dark brown. It is destitute of a tail, and has some bristles at its mouth, over its head, and down its back, along the course of which there are traces of light and dark shade. In its short ears, small, black, and naked feet, and pointed snout, it resembles the hedgehog. It does not, however, belong to the insectivora, but, though somewhat anomalous, it is allied to the paehydermata, among which it is now classed by naturalists. —John Wilson, in “The Lands of the Bible”, 1847.
Ver. 18. —Conies. People used to think the conies of Solomon the same as our rabbits, which are indeed “a feeble folk, “but which do not “make their houses in the rock.” Now that the coney is ascertained to be the Damon or Hyrax, —a shy defenceless creature, which lurks among the cliffs of the mountains, and darts into its den at the least approach of danger, the words of Agar acquire their full significance. —James Hamilton.
Psalms 104:19*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 19. The appointed rule of the great lights is now the theme for praise. The moon is mentioned first, because in the Jewish day the night leads the way.
He appointed the moon for seasons. By the waxing and waning of the moon the year is divided into months, and weeks, and by this means the exact dates of the holy days were arranged. Thus the lamp of night is made to be of service to man, and in fixing the period of religious assemblies (as it did among the Jews) it enters into connection with his noblest being. Never let us regard the moon’s motions as the inevitable result of inanimate impersonal law, but as the appointment of our God.
The sun knoweth his going down. In finely poetic imagery the sun is represented as knowing when to retire from sight, and sink below the horizon. He never loiters on his way, or pauses as if undecided when to descend; his appointed hour for going down, although it is constantly varying, he always keeps to a second. We need to be aroused in the morning, but he arises punctually, and though some require to watch the clock to know the hour of rest, he, without a timepiece to consult, hides himself in the western sky the instant the set time has come. For all this man should praise the Lord of the sun and moon, who has made these great lights to be our chronometers, and thus keeps our world in order, and suffers no confusion to distract us.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 19. —He appointed the moon for seasons. When it is said, that the moon was appointed to distinguish seasons, interpreters agree that this is to be understood of the ordinary and appointed feasts. The Hebrews having been accustomed to compute their months by the moon, this served for regulating their festival days and assemblies both sacred and political. The prophet, I have no doubt, by the figure synecdoche, puts a part for the whole, intimating that the moon not only distinguishes the days from the nights, but likewise marks out the festival days, measures years and months, and, in line, answers many useful purposes, in as much as the distinction of times is taken from her course. —John Calvin.
Ver. 19. —He appointed the moon for seasons. “He made the moon to serve in her season, for a declaration ofttimes, and a sign to the world. From the moon is the sign of feasts, a light that decreases in her perfection. The month is called after her name, increasing wonderfully in her changing, being an instrument of the armies above, shining in the firmament of heaven; the beauty of heaven, the glory of the stars, an ornament giving light in the highest places of the Lord.” —Ecclesiastes 10:7
Ver. 19. —The sun knoweth his going down. The second clause is not to be rendered in the common way, “The sun knoweth his going down, “but according to the usual idiom, He, i.e., God knoweth the going down of the sun. Not to mention the unwanted and harsh form of the phrase, by which the knowledge of his setting is attributed to the sun, there appears no reason why it should be here used, since it is destitute of force, {1} or why he should turn from God as a cause, to the moving sun, when both before and afterwards he speaks of God, saying, “He appointed the moon, “”Thou makest darkness”. Far more fitly, therefore, is he to be understood as speaking of God, as before and after, so in the middle, of the directing cause of the appearances of the moon, the setting of the sun, and the spread of darkness. God also is said more correctly to know the going down of the sun, than the sun himself, since to know has in effect the force of to cared for, as is often the case in other passages. —Venema.
{1} This excellent expounder cannot see the beauty of the poetic expression, and so proses in this fashion.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 19. —
1. The wisdom of God as displayed in the material heavens. In the changes of the moon and the variety of the seasons.
2. The goodness of God as there displayed in the adaptation of these changes to the wants and enjoyments of men.
3. The faithfulness of God as there displayed. Inspiring confidence in his creatures by their regularity.
“So like the sun may I fulfil
The appointed duties of the day;
With ready mind and active will
March on and keep my heavenly way.”
Psalms 104:20*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 20. Thou, makest darkness, and it is night. Drawing down the blinds for us, he prepares our bedchamber that we may sleep. Were there no darkness we should sigh for it, since we should find repose so much more difficult, if the weary day were never calmed into night. Let us see God’s hand in the veiling of the sun, and never fear either natural or providential darkness, since both are of the Lord’s own making.
Wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. Then is the lion’s day, his time to hunt his food. Why should not the wild beast have his hour as well as man? He has a service to perform, should he not also have his food? Darkness is fitter for beasts than man; and those men are most brutish who love darkness rather than light. When the darkness of ignorance broods over a nation, then all sorts of superstitions, cruelties, and vices abound; the gospel, like the sunrising, soon clears the world of the open ravages of these monsters, and they seek more congenial abodes. We see here the value of true light, for we may depend upon it where there is night there will also be wild beasts to kill and to devour.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 20. —Thou makest darkness. Some observe with Augustine that in Genesis it is said that light was made, but not that darkness was made, because darkness is nothing, it is mere non existence. But in this passage it is also said that night was made, and the Lord calls himself the Maker of light and the Creator of darkness. —Lorinus.
Ver. 20. —Thou makest darkness, etc. It would be interesting to consider the wonderful adaptation of the length of the day to the health of man, and to the rigour and perhaps existence of the animal and vegetable tribes. The rejoicing of life depends so much upon the grateful alternation of day and night. For a full consideration of this subject I must refer the reader to Dr. Whewell’s Bridgewater Treatise. The subjoined extracts may, however, aid reflection. The terrestrial day, and consequently, the length of the cycle of light and darkness, being what it is, we find various parts of the constitution both of animals and vegetables, which have a periodical character in their functions, corresponding to the diurnal succession of external conditions; and we find that the length of the period, as it exists in their constitution, coincides with the length of the natural day. The alternation of processes which takes place in plants by day and by night is less obvious, and less obviously essential to their well being, than the annum series of changes. But there are abundance of facts which serve to show that such an alternation is part of the vegetable economy…
“Animals also have a period in their functions and habits; as in the habits of waking, sleeping, etc., and their well being appears to depend on the coincidence of this period with the length of the natural day. We see that in the day, as it now is, all animals find seasons for taking food and repose, which agree perfectly with their health and comfort. Some animals feed during the day, as nearly all the ruminating animals and land birds; others feed only in the twilight, as bats and owls, and are called crepuscular; while many beasts of prey, aquatic birds, and others, take their food during the night. These animals, which are nocturnal feeders, are diurnal sleepers, while those which are crepuscular sleep partly in the night and partly in the day; but in all, the complete period of these functions is twenty-four hours. Man in like manner, in all nations and ages, takes his principal rest once in twenty-four hours; and the regularity of this practice seems most suitable to his health, though the duration of time allotted to repose is extremely different in different cases. So far as we can judge, this period is of a length beneficial to the human frame, independently of the effect of external agents. In the voyages recently made into high northern latitudes, where the sun did not rise for three months, the crews of the ships were made to adhere, with the utmost punctuality, to the hallit of retiring to rest at nine, and rising a quarter before six; and they enjoyed, under circumstances apparently the most trying, a state of salubrity quite remarkable. This shows, that according to the common constitution of such men, the cycle of twenty-four hours is very commodious, though not imposed on them by external circumstances.” —William Whewell (1795-1866).
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 20. —Darkness and the beasts that creep forth therein.
1. Ignorance of God, and unrestrained lusts. Romans 1:2 Sins discovered. Beasts there before, but not noticed, now terrify man.
3. Spiritual despondency, dismay, despair, etc.
4. Church lethargy. All sorts of heresies, etc., begin to creep forth.
5. Papal influence. Monks, friars, priests, etc., creep about in this dark age. —A.G. Brown.
Ver. 20. —
1. Night work is for wild beasts: “Thou makest darkness, ” etc.
2. Day work is for men: “Man goeth forth, “etc. Good men do their work by day; bad men by night: their work is in the dark. Ministers who creep into their studies by night, and “roar after their prey, “and “seek their meat from God”, are more like wild beasts than rational men.
—G.R.
Psalms 104:21*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 21. The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God. This is the poetic interpretation of a roar. To whom do the lions roar? Certainly not to their prey, for the terrible sound tends to alarm their victims, and drive them away. They after their own fashion express their desires for food, and the expression of desire is a kind of prayer. Out of this fact comes the devout thought of the wild beast’s appealing to its Maker for food. But neither with lions nor men will the seeking of prayer suffice, there must be practical seeking too, and the lions are well aware of it. What they have in their own language asked for they go forth to seek; being in this thing far wiser than many men who offer formal prayers not half so earnest as those of the young lions, and then neglect the means in the use of which the object of their petitions might be gained. The lions roar and seek; too many are liars before God, and roar but never seek.
How comforting is the thought that the Spirit translates the voice of a lion, and finds it to be a seeking of meat from God! May we not hope that our poor broken cries and groans, which in our sorrow we have called “the voice of our roaring” Ps 12:10, will be understood by him, and interpreted in our favour. Evidently he considers the meaning rather than the music of the utterance and puts the best construction upon it.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 21. —The young lions…seek their meat from God. God feeds not only sheep and lambs, but wolves and lions. It is a strange expression that young lions when they roar after their prey, should be said to seek their meat of God; implying that neither their own strength nor craft could feed them without help from God. The strongest creatures left to themselves cannot help themselves. As they who fear God are fed by a special providence of God, so all creatures are fed and nourished by a general providence. The lion, though he be strong and subtle, yet cannot get his own prey; we think a lion might shift for himself; no, it is the lord that provides for him; the young lions seek their meat of God. Surely, then, the mightiest of men cannot live upon themselves; as it is of God that we receive life and breath, so all things needful for the maintenance of this life. —Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 21. —The young lions roar. The roar of a lion, according to Burcheil, sometimes resembles the sound which is heard at the moment of an earthquake; and is produced by his laying his head on the ground, and uttering a half stifled growl, by which means the noise is conveyed along the earth. The instant it is heard by the animals reposing m the plains, they start up in alarm, fly in all directions, and even rush into the danger which they seek to avoid. —From Cassell’s Popular Natural History.
Ver. 21. —The roaring of the young lions, like the crying of the ravens, is interpreted, asking their meat of God. Both God put this construction upon the language of mere nature, even in venomous creatures, and shall he not much more interpret favourably the language of grace in his own people, though it be weak and broken groanings which cannot be uttered? —Matthew Henry.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 21. —Inarticulate prayers, or how faulty the expression may be and yet how real the prayer in the esteem of God.
Psalms 104:22*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 22. The sun ariseth. Every evening has its morning to make the day. Were it not that we have seen the sun rise so often we should think it the greatest of miracles, and the most amazing of blessings.
They gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens. Thus they are out of man’s way, and he seldom encounters them unless he desires to do so. The forest’s warriors retire to their quarters when the morning’s drum is heard, finding in the recesses of their dens a darkness suitable for their slumbers; there they lay them down and digest their food, for God has allotted even to them their portion of rest and enjoyment. There was one who in this respect was poorer than lions and foxes, for he had not where to lay his head: all were provided for except their incarnate Provider. Blessed Lord, thou hast stooped beneath the conditions of the brutes to lift up worse than brutish men!
It is very striking how the Lord controls the fiercest of animals far more readily than the shepherd manages his sheep. At nightfall they separate and go forth each one upon the merciful errand of ending the miseries of the sickly and decrepit among grass eating animals. The younger of these animals being swift of foot easily escape them and are benefited by the exercise, and for the most part only those are overtaken and killed to whom life would have been protracted agony. So far lions are messengers of mercy, and are as much sent of God as the sporting dog is sent by man on his errands. But these mighty hunters must not always be abroad, they must be sent back to their lairs when man comes upon the scene. Who shall gather these ferocious creatures and shut them in? Who shall chain them down and make them harmless? The sun suffices to do it. He is the true lion tamer. They gather themselves together as though they were so many sheep, and in their own retreats they keep themselves prisoners till returning darkness gives them another leave to range. By simply majestic means the divine purposes are accomplished. In like manner even the devils are subject unto our Lord Jesus, and by the simple spread of the light of the gospel these roaring demons are chased out of the world. No need for miracles or displays of physical power, the Sun of Righteousness arises, and the devil and the false gods, and superstitions and errors of men, all seek their hiding places in the dark places of the earth among the moles and the bats.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 22. —The sun ariseth…they lay them down in their dens. As wild beasts since the fall of man may seem to be born to do us hurt, and to rend and tear in pieces all whom they meet with, this savage cruelty must be kept under check by the providence of God. And in order to keep them shut up within their dens, the only means which he employs is to inspire them with terror, simply by the light of the sun. This instance of divine goodness, the prophet commends the more on account of its necessity; for were it otherwise, men would have no liberty to go forth to engage in the labours and business of life. —John Calvin.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 22. —From the effect of sunrise on the beasts of prey, exhibit the influence of Divine Grace on our evil passions. —C.A.D.
Psalms 104:23*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 23. Man goeth forth. It is his turn now, and the sunrise has made things ready for him. His warm couch he forsakes and the comforts of home, to find his daily food; this work is good for him, both keeping him out of mischief, and exercising his faculties.
Unto his work and to his labour until the evening. He goes not forth to sport but to work, not to loiter but to labour; at least, this is the lot of the best part of mankind. We are made for work and ought to work, and should never grumble that so it is appointed. The hours of labour, however, ought not to be too long. If labour lasts out the average daylight it is certainly all that any man ought to expect of another, and yet there are poor creatures so badly paid that in twelve hours they cannot earn bread enough to keep them from hunger. Shame on those who dare so impose upon helpless women and children. Night work should also be avoided as much as possible. There are twelve hours in which a man ought to work: the night is meant for rest and sleep.
Night, then as well as day has its voice of praise. It is more soft and hushed, but it is none the less true. The moon lights up a solemn silence of worship among the fir trees, through which the night wind softly breathes its “songs without words.” Every now and then a sound is heard, which, however simple by day, sounds among the shadows startling and weird like, as if the presence of the unknown had filled the heart with trembling, and made the influence of the Infinite to be realized. Imagination awakens herself; unbelief finds the silence and the solemnity uncongenial, faith looks up to the skies above her and sees heavenly things all the more clearly in the absence of the sunlight, and adoration bows itself before the Great Invisible! There are spirits that keep the night watches, and the spell of their presence has been felt by many a wanderer in the solitudes of nature: God also himself is abroad all night long, and the glory which concealeth is often felt to be even greater than that which reveals. Bless the Lord, O my soul.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 23. —Man goeth forth unto his work, etc. Man alone, among all creatures, in distinction from the involuntary instruments of the Almighty, has a real daily work. He has a definite part to play in life; and can recognize it. —Carl Bernhard Moll, in Lange’s Commentary.
Ver. 23. —When the light of truth and righteousness shineth, error and iniquity fly away before it, and the “roaring lion” himself departeth for a time. Then the Christian goeth forth to the work of his salvation, and to his labour of love, until the evening of old age warns him to prepare for his last repose, in faith of a joyful resurrection. —George Horne.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 23. —”Early Closing.” A sermon preached on behalf of the “Early Closing Association, “by James Hamilton, D.D., 1850. In the “Pulpit, “Vol. 57.
Psalms 104:24*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 24. O Lord, how manifold are thy works. They are not only many for number but manifold for variety. Mineral, vegetable, animal —what: a range of works is suggested by these three names! No two even of the same class are exactly alike, and the classes are more numerous than science can number. Works in the heavens above and in the earth beneath, and in the waters under the earth, works which abide the ages, works which come to perfection and pass away in a year, works which with all their beauty do not outlive a day, works within works, and works within these—who can number one of a thousand? God is the great worker, and ordainer of variety. It is ours to study his works, for they are great, and sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. The kingdom of grace contains as manifold and as great works as that of nature, but the chosen of the Lord alone discern them.
In wisdom hast thou made them all, or wrought them all. They are all his works, wrought by his own power, and they all display his wisdom. It was wise to make their—none could be spared; every link is essential to the chain of nature—wild beasts as much as men, poisons as truly as odoriferous herbs. They are wisely made—each one fits its place, fills it, and is happy in so doing. As a whole, the “all” of creation is a wise achievement, and however it may be chequered with mysteries, and clouded with terrors, it all works together for good, and as one complete harmonious piece of workmanship it answers the great Worker’s end.
The earth is full of thy riches. It is not a poor house, but a palace; not a hungry ruin, but a well filled store house. The Creator has not set his creatures down in a dwelling place where the table is bare, and the buttery empty, he has filled the earth with food; and not with bare necessaries only, but with riches—dainties, luxuries, beauties, treasures. In the bowels of the earth are hidden mines of wealth, and on her surface are teeming harvests of plenty. All these riches are the Lord’s; we ought to call them not “the wealth of nations, “but “thy riches” O Lord! Not in one clime alone are these riches of God to be found, but in all lands—even the Arctic ocean has its precious things which men endure much hardness to win, and the burning sun of the equator ripens a produce which flavours the food of all mankind. If his house below is so full of riches what must his house above be, where
“The very streets are paved with gold
Exceeding clear and fine”?
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 24. —O Lord, how manifold are thy works! etc. If the number of the creatures be so exceeding great, how great, nay, immense, must needs be the power and wisdom of him who formed them all! For (that I may borrow the words of a noble and excellent author) as it argues and manifests more skill by far in an artificer, to be able to frame both clocks and watches, and pumps and mills, and granadoes and rockets, than he could display in making but one of those sorts of engines; so the Almighty discovers more of his wisdom in forming such a vast multitude of different sorts of creatures, and all with admirable and irreprovable art, than if he had created but a few; for this declares the greatness and unbounded capacity of his understanding. Again, the same superiority of knowledge would be displayed by contriving engines of the same kind, or for the same purposes, after different fashions, as the moving of clocks by springs instead of weights: so the infinitely wise Creator hath shown in many instances that he is not confined to one only instrument for the working one effect, but can perform the same thing by divers means. So, though feathers seem necessary for flying, yet hath he enabled several creatures to fly without them, as two sorts of fishes, one sort of lizard, and the bat, not to mention the numerous tribes of flying insects. In like manner, though the air bladder in fishes seems necessary for swimming, yet some are so formed as to swim without it, viz., First, the cartilaginous kind, which by what artifice they poise themselves, ascend and descend at pleasure, and continue in what depth of water they list, is as yet unknown to us. Secondly, the cetaceous kind, or sea beasts, differing in nothing almost but the want of feet. The air which in respiration these receive into their lungs, may serve to render their bodies equiponderant to the water; and the construction or dilatation of it, by the help of the diaphragm and muscles of respiration, may probably assist them to ascend or descend in the water, by a light impulse thereof with their fins…
Again, the great use and convenience, the beauty and variety of so many springs and fountains, so many brooks and rivers, so many lakes and standing pools of water, and these so scattered and dispersed all the earth over, that no great part of it is destitute of them, without which it must, without a supply other ways, be desolate and void of inhabitants, afford abundant arguments of wisdom and counsel: that springs should break forth on the sides of mountains most remote from the sea: that there should way be made for rivers through straits and rocks, and subterraneous vaults, so that one would think that nature had cut a way on purpose to derive the water, which else would overflow and drown whole countries. —John Ray (1678-1705), in “The Wisdom, of God manifested in the Works of the Creation.”
Ver. 24. —How manifold are thy works! When we contemplate the wonderful works of Nature, and walking about at leisure, gaze upon this ample theatre of the world, considering the stately beauty, constant order, and sumptuous furniture thereof; the glorious splendour and uniform motion of the heavens; the pleasant fertility of the earth; the curious figure and fragrant sweetness of plants; the exquisite frame of animals; and all other amazing miracles of nature, wherein the glorious attributes of God, especially his transcendant goodness, are more conspicuously displayed: so that by them, not only large acknowledgments, but even gratulatory hymns, as it were, of praise have been extorted from the mouths of Aristotle, Pliny, Galen, and such like men, never suspected guilty of an excessive devotion; then should our hearts be affected with thankful sense, and our lips break forth in praise. —William Barrow, 1754-1836.
Ver. 24. —He does not undertake to answer his own question, “How manifold?” for he confesses God’s works to be greater than his own power of expression; whether these “works” belong to the creation of nature or to that of grace. And observe how the concurrent operation of the Blessed Trinity is set forth: “O Lord, how manifold are thy works, “teaches of the Father, the Source of all things: “in wisdom hast thou made them all, “tells of the Son, the Eternal Word, “Christ the power of God and the Wisdom of God, by whom were all things made, and without him was not anything made that was made, “(1 Corinthians 1:24, John 1:3); “the earth is full of thy riches, “is spoken of the Holy Ghost, who filleth the world. —Augustine, Hugo, and Uassiodorus, in Neale and Littledale.
Ver. 24. —In wisdom hast thou made them all. Not only one thing, as the heavens, Psalms 136:5; but everything is wisely contrived and made; there is a most glorious display of the wisdom of God in the most minute things his hands have made; he has made everything beautiful in its season. A skilful artificer, when he has finished his work and looks it over again, often finds some fault or another in it: but when the Lord had finished his works of creation, and looked over them, he saw that all was good; infinite wisdom itself could find no blemish in them: what weak, foolish, stupid creatures must they be that pretend to charge any of the works of God with folly, or want of wisdom? —John Gill.
Ver. 24. —The earth is full of thy riches, literally, thy possessions; these thou keepest not to thyself, but blessest thy creatures with. —A.R. Fausset.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 24. —
1. The language of wonder: “O Lord, how manifold, “etc. Their number, variety, cooperation, harmony.
2. Of admiration: “In wisdom, “etc. Everywhere the same wisdom displayed. God, says Dr. Chalmers, is as great in minutia as in magnitude.
3. Of gratitude: “The earth is full, “etc. —G.R.
Ver. 24. —
1. The works of the Lord are multitudinous and varied.
2. They are so constructed as to show the most consummate wisdom in their design, and in the end for which they are formed.
3. They are all God’s property, and should be used only in reference to the end for which they were created. All abuse and waste of God’s creatures are spoil and robbery on the property of the Creator. —Adam Clarke.
Psalms 104:25*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 25. So is this great and wide sea. He gives an instance of the immense number and variety of Jehovah’s works by pointing to the sea. “Look, “saith he, “at yonder ocean, stretching itself on both hands and embracing so many lands, it too swarms with animal life, and in its deeps lie treasures beyond all counting. The heathen made the sea a different province from the land, and gave the command thereof to Neptune, but we know of a surety that Jehovah rules the waves.”
Wherein, are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts; read moving things and animals small arid great, and you have the true sense. The number of minute forms of animal life is indeed beyond all reckoning: when a single phosphorescent wave may bear millions of infusoria, and around a fragment of rock armies of microscopic beings may gather, we renounce all idea of applying arithmetic to such a case. The sea in many regions appears to be all alive, as if every drop were a world. Nor are these tiny creatures the only tenants of the sea, for it contains gigantic mammals which exceed in bulk those which range the land, and a vast host of huge fishes which wander among the waves, and hide in the caverns of the sea as the tiger lurks in the jungle, or the lion roams the plain. Truly, O Lord, thou makest the sea to be as rich in the works of thy hands as the land itself.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 25. —Things innumerable. The waters teem with more life than the land. Beneath a surface less varied than that of the continents, the sea enfolds in its bosom an exuberance of life, of which no other region of the globe can afford the faintest idea. Its life extends from the poles to the equator, from east to west. Everywhere the sea is peopled; everywhere, down to its unfathomable depths, live and sport creatures suited to the locality. In every spot of its vast expanse the naturalist finds instruction, and the philosopher meditation, while the very varieties of life tend to impress upon our souls a feeling of gratitude to the Creator of the universe. Yes, the shores of the ocean and its depths, its plains and its mountains, its valleys and its precipices, even its debris, are enlivened and beautified by thousands of living beings. There are the solitary or sociable plants, upright or pendant, stretching in prairies, grouped in oases, or growing in immense forests. These plants give a cover to and feed millions of animals which creep, run, swim, fly, burrow in the soil, attach themselves to roots, lodge in the crevices, or build for themselves shelters, which seek or fly from one another, which pursue or fight each other, which caress each other with affection or devour each other without pity. Charles Darwin truly says that the terrestrial forests do not contain anything like the number of animals as those of the sea. The ocean, which is for man the element of death, is for myriads of animals a home of life and health. There is joy in its waves, there is happiness upon its shores, and heavenly blue everywhere. —Moquin Tandon, in “The World of the Sea”, Translated and enlarged by H. Martin Hart, 1869.
Ver. 25. —Both small and great beasts.
The sounds and seas, each creek and bay,
With fry innumerable swarm, and shoals
Of fish that with their fins and shining scales
Glide under the green wave, in shoals that oft
Bank the mid sea; part single, or with mate,
Graze the seaweed their pasture, and through groves
Of coral stray; or sporting with quick glance,
Show to the sun their waved coats drop it with gold;
Or, in their pearly shells at ease, attend
Moist nutriment; or under rocks their food
In jointed armour watch: on smooth the seal
And bended dolphins play: part huge of bulk
Wallowing unwieldy, enormous in their gait,
Tempest the ocean: there leviathan,
Hugest of living creatures, on the deep
Stretched like a promontory sleeps or swims,
And seems a moving land; and at his gills
Draws in, and at his trunk spouts out, a sea. —John Milton.
Psalms 104:26*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 26. There go the ships. So that ocean is not altogether deserted of mankind. It is the highway of nations, and unites, rather than divides, distant lands.
There is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein. Them huge whale turns the sea into his recreation ground, and disports himself as God designed that he should do. The thought of this amazing creature caused the psalmist to adore the mighty Creator who created him, formed him for his place and made him happy in it. Our ancient maps generally depict a ship and whale upon the sea, and so show that it is most natural, as well as poetical, to connect them both with the mention of the ocean.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 26. —Ships. The original of ships was doubtless Noah’s ark, so that they owe their first draught to God himself. —John Gill.
Ver. 26. —There go the ships. Far from separating from each other the nations of the earth (as the ancients, still inexperienced in navigation, supposed), the sea is the great highway of the human race, and unites all its various tribes into one common family by the beneficial bonds of commerce. Countless fleets are constantly furrowing its bosom, to enrich, by perpetual exchanges, all the countries of the globe with the products of every zone, to convey the fruits of the tropical world to the children of the chilly north, or to transport the manufactures of colder climes to the inhabitants of the equatorial regions. With the growth of commerce civilization also spreads athwart the wide cause way of the ocean from shore to shore; it first dawned on the borders of the sea, and its chief seats are still to be found along its confines. —G. Hartwig, in “The Harmonies of Nature, “1866.
Ver. 26. —Leviathan. There is ground for thinking (though this is denied by some) that in several passages the term leviathan is used generically, much as we employ dragon; and that it denotes a great sea monster. —E.P. Barrows, in “Biblical Geography and Antiquities.”
Ver. 26. —To play therein. Dreadful and tempestuous as the sea may appear, and uncontrollable in its billows and surges, it is only the field of sport, the playground, the bowling green, to those huge marine monsters. —Adam Clarke.
Ver. 26. Leviathan… made to play therein. With such wonderful strength is the tail of the whale endowed, that the largest of these animals, measuring some eighty feet in length, are able by its aid to leap clear out of the water, as if they were little fish leaping after flies. This movement is technically termed “breaching, “and the sound which is produced by the huge carcase as it falls upon the water is so powerful as to be heard for a distance of several miles. —J.G. Wood, in “The Illustrated Natural History, “1861.
Ver. 26. —Leviathan…made to play therein. Though these immense mammiferous fish have no legs, they swim with great swiftness, and they gambol in the mountains of water lashed up by the storms. —Moquin Tandon.
Ver. 26. —Leviathan…made to play. He is made to “play in the sea”; he hath nothing to do as man hath, that “goes forth to his work”; he hath nothing to fear as the beasts have, that lie down in their dens; and therefore he plays with the waters: it is pity any of the children of men, that have nobler powers, and were made for nobler purposes, should live as if they were sent into the world like the leviathan into the waters, to play therein, spending all their time in pastime. —Matthew Henry.
Ver. 26. —Therein. Fish, great and small, sport and play in the element, but as soon as they are brought out of it, they languish and die. Mark, O soul! what thy element is, if thou wouldest live joyful and blessed. —Starke, in Lange’s Commentary.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 26. —There go the ships. (See” Spurgeon’s Sermons, “No.
1,259.)
1. We see that the ships go.
(a) The ships are intended for going.
(b) The ships in going at last disappear from view.
(c) The ships as they go are going upon business.
(d) The ships sail upon a changeful sea.
2. How go the ships?
(a) They must go according to the wind.
(b) But still the mariner does not go by the wind
without exertion on his own part.
(c) They have to be guided and steered by the helm.
(d) He who manages the helm seeks direction from charts
and lights.
(e) They go according to their build.
3. Let us signal them.
(a) Who is your owner?
(b) What is your cargo?
(c) Where are you going?
Psalms 104:27*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 27. These wait all upon thee. They come around thee as fowls around the farmer’s door at the time for feeding, and look up with expectation. Men or marmots, eagles or emmets, whales or minnows, they alike rely upon thy care.
That thou mayest give them meat in due season; that is to say, when they need it and when it is ready for them. God has a time for all things, and does not feed his creatures by fits and starts; he gives them daily bread, and a quantity proportioned to their needs. This is all that any of us should expect; if even the brute creatures are content with a sufficiency we ought not to be more greedy than they.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 27. —There are five things to be observed in God’s sustaining all animals. His power, which alone suffices for all: “These wait all upon thee.” Wisdom, which selects a fitting time: “That thou mayest give them their meat in due season.” His majesty rising above all: “That thou givest them they gather, “like the crumbs falling from the table of their supreme Lord. His liberality, which retains nothing in his open hand that it does not give: “Thou openest thine hand.” His original goodness that flows down to all: “They are filled with good, “that is, with the good things that spring from thy goodness. —Le Blanc.
Ver. 27. —That thou mayest give them their meat in due season; or, in his time; every one in its own time which is natural to them, and they have been used to, at which time the Lord gives it to them, and they take it; it would be well if men would do so likewise, eat and drink in proper and due time, Ecclesiastes 10:17. Christ speaks a word in season to weary souls; his ministers give to every one his portion of meat in due season; and a word spoken in due season, how good and sweet is it? Isaiah 7:4 Lu 7:12, Proverbs 15:23. —John Gill.
Ver. 27. —
These, Lord, all wait on thee, that thou their food may it give them;
Thou to their wants attendest;
They gather what thou sendest;
Thine hand thou openest, all their need supplying,
Over lookest not the least, the greatest satisfying.
When thou dost hide thy face a sudden change comes over them
Their breath in myriads taken,
They die no more to awaken;
But myriads more thy Spirit soon createth,
And the whole face of nature quickly renovateth.
The glory of the Lord, changeless, endures for ever;
In all his works delighting,
Nor even the smallest slighting;
Yet, if he frown, earth shrinks with fear before him,
And, at his touch, the hills with kindling flames adore him, —John Burton.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 27. —Trace the analogy in the spiritual world. The saints waiting, Ps 5:27; their sustenance from the opened hand, Ps 5:28; their trouble under the hidden face; their death if the Spirit were gone, Ps 5:29; their revival when the Spirit returns, Ps 5:30.
Psalms 104:28*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 28. That thou givest them they gather. God gives it, but they must gather it, and they are glad that he does so, for otherwise their gathering would be in vain. We often forget that animals and birds in their free life have to work to obtain food even as we do; and yet it is true with them as with us that our heavenly Father feeds all. When we see the chickens picking up the corn which the housewife scatters from her lap we have an apt illustration of the manner in which the Lord supplies the needs of all living things—he gives and they gather.
Thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good. Here is divine liberality with its open hand filling needy creatures till they want no more: and here is divine omnipotence feeding a world by simply opening its hand. What should we do if that hand were closed? There would be no need to strike a blow, the mere closing of it would produce death by famine. Let us praise the open handed Lord, whose providence and grace satisfy our mouths with good things.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 28. —That thou givest them they gather. This sentence describes The Commissariat of Creation. The problem is the feeding of “the creeping things innumerable, both small and great beasts, “which swarm the sea; the armies of birds which fill the air, and the vast hordes of animals which people the dry land; and in this sentence we have the problem solved, “That thou givest them they gather.” The work is stupendous, but it is done with ease because the Worker is infinite: if he were not at the head of it the task would never be accomplished. Blessed be God for the great They of the text. It is every way our sweetest consolation that the personal God is still at work in the world: leviathan in the ocean, and the sparrow on the bough, may be alike glad of this; and we, the children of the great Father, much more.
The general principle of the text is, God gives to his creatures, and his creatures gather. That general principle we shall apply to our own case as men and women; for it is as true of us as it is of the fish of the sea, and the cattle on the hills: “That thou givest them they gather.”
1. We have only to gather, for God gives. In temporal things: God gives us day by day our daily bread, and our business is simply to gather it. As to spirituals, the principle is true, most emphatically, we have, in the matter of grace, only to gather what God gives. The natural man thinks that he has to earn divine favour; that he has to purchase the blessing of heaven; but he is in grave error: the soul has only to receive that which Jesus freely gives.
2. We can only gather what God gives; however eager we may be, there is the end of the matter. The diligent bird shall not be able to gather more than the Lord has given it; neither shall the most avaricious and covetous man. “It is vain for you to rise up early and to sit up late, to eat the bread of carefulness; for so he giveth his beloved sleep.”
3. We must gather what God gives, or else we shall get no good by his bountiful giving. God feeds the creeping things innumerable, but each creature collects the provender for itself. The huge leviathan receives his vast provision, but he must go ploughing through the boundless meadows and gather up the myriads of minute objects which supply his need. The fish must leap up to catch the fly, the swallow must hawk for its food, the young lions must hunt for their prey.
4. The fourth turn of the text gives us the sweet thought that, we may gather what he gives. We have divine permission to enjoy freely what the Lord bestows.
5. The last thing is, God will always give us something to gather. It is written, “The Lord will provide.” Thus is it also in spiritual things. If you are willing to gather, God will always give. —C.H.S.
Ver. 28. —Gather. The verb rendered “gather” means to pick up or collect from the ground. It is used in the history of the manna (Exodus 16:1; Exodus 16:5; Exodus 16:16), to which there is obvious allusion. The act of gathering from the ground seems to presuppose a previous throwing down from heaven. —J.A. Alexander.
Ver. 28. —Thou openest thine hand. The Greek expositors take the opening of the hand to indicate facility. I am of opinion that it refers also to abundance and liberality, as in Psalms 145:16 : —”Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.” Using this same formula, God commands us not to close the hand, but to open it to the poor. —Lorinus.
Psalms 104:29*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 29. Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled. So dependent are all living things upon God’s smile, that a frown fills them with terror, as though convulsed with anguish. This is so in the natural world, and certainly not less so in the spiritual: saints when the Lord hides his face are in terrible perplexity.
Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. The breath appears to be a trifling matter, and the air an impalpable substance of but small importance, yet, once withdrawn, the body loses all vitality, and crumbles back to the earth from which it was originally taken. All animals come under this law, and even the dwellers in the sea are not exempt from it. Thus dependent is all nature upon the will of the Eternal. Note here that death is caused by the act of God, “thou takest away their breath”; we are immortal till he bids us die, and so are even the little sparrows, who fall not to the ground without our Father.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 29. —They are troubled. They are confounded; they are overwhelmed with terror and amazement. The word “troubled” by no means conveys the sense of the original word—Nab, bahal—which means properly to tremble; to be in trepidation; to be filled with terror; to be amazed; to be confounded. It is that kind of consternation which one has when all support and protection are withdrawn, and when inevitable ruin stares one in the face. So when God turns away, all their support is gone, all their resources fail, and they must die. They are represented as conscious of this; or this is what would occur if they were conscious. —Albert Barnes.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 29 —
1. The commencement of life is from God: “Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, “etc.
2. The continuance of life is from God: “Thou renewest, ” etc.
3. The decline of life is from God: “Thou hidest thy face, ” etc.
4. The cessation of life is from God: “Thou takest away their breath, “etc.
5. The resurrection of life is from God: “Thou renewest, ” etc. —G.R.
Psalms 104:30*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 30. Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth. The loss of their breath destroys them, and by Jehovah’s breath a new race is created. The works of the Lord are majestically simple, and are performed with royal ease—a breath creates, and its withdrawal destroys. If we read the word spirit as we have it in our version, it is also instructive, for we see the Divine Spirit going forth to create life in nature even as we see him in the realms of grace. At the flood the world was stripped of almost all life, yet how soon the power of God refilled the desolate places! In winter the earth falls into a sleep which makes her appear worn and old, but how readily does the Lord awaken her with the voice of spring, and make her put on anew the beauty of her youth. Thou, Lord, doest all things, and let glory be unto thy name.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 30. —Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created. The Spirit of God creates every day: what is it that continueth things in their created being, but providence? That is a true axiom in divinity, Providence is creation continued. Now the Spirit of God who created at first, creates to this day: “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created.” The work of creation was finished in the first six days of the world, but the work of creation is renewed every day, and so continued to the end of the world. Successive providential creation as well as original creation is ascribed to the Spirit. “And thou renewest the face of the earth.” Thou makest a new world; and thus God makes a new world every year, sending forth his Spirit, or quickening power, in the rain and sun to renew the face of the earth. And as the Lord sends forth his power in providential mercies, so in providential judgments. —Joseph Caryl.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 30. —The season of Spring and its moral analogies. See John Foster’s “Lectures, “1844.
Psalms 104:31*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 31. The glory of the LORD shall endure forever. His works may pass away, but not his glory. Were it only for what he has already done, the Lord deserves to be praised without ceasing. His personal being and character ensure that he would be glorious even were all the creatures dead.
The LORD shall rejoice in his works. He did so at the first, when he rested on the seventh day, and saw that everything was very good; he does so still in a measure where beauty and purity in nature still survive the Fall, and he will do so yet more fully when the earth is renovated, and the trail of the serpent is cleansed from the globe. This verse is written in the most glowing manner. The poet finds his heart gladdened by beholding the works of the Lord, and he feels that the Creator himself must have felt unspeakable delight in exercising so much wisdom, goodness, and power.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 31. —The Lord shall rejoice in his works. Man alone amongst the creatures grieves God, and brought tears from the eyes of Christ, who rejoiced in Spirit, because the Father had deigned to reveal the mysteries to the little ones. It repented God that he had made men, because as a wise son maketh a glad father, so a foolish one is a vexation to him. —Lorinus.
Ver. 31 (last clause). —What the Psalmist adds, Let Jehovah rejoice in his works, is not superfluous, for he desires that the order which God has established from the beginning may be continued in the lawful use of his gifts. As we read in Genesis 6:6, that “it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth; “so when he sees that the good things which he bestows are polluted by our corruptions, he ceases to take delight in bestowing them. And certainly the confusion and disorder which take place, when the elements cease to perform their office, testify that God, displeased and wearied out, is provoked to discontinue, and put a stop to the regular course of his beneficence; although anger and impatience have strictly speaking no place in his mind. What is here taught is, that he bears the character of the best of fathers, who takes pleasure in tenderly cherishing his children, and in bountifully nourishing them. —John Calvin.
Psalms 104:32*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 32. He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth. The Lord who has graciously displayed his power in acts and works of goodness might, if he had seen fit, have overwhelmed us with the terrors of destruction, for even at a glance of his eye the solid earth rocks with fear.
He toucheth the hills, and they smoke. Sinai was altogether on a smoke when the Lord descended upon it. It was but a touch, but it sufficed to make the mountain dissolve in flame. Even our God is a consuming fire. Woe unto those who shall provoke him to frown upon them, they shall perish at the touch of his hand. If sinners were not altogether insensible a glance of the Lord’s eye would make them tremble, and the touches of his hand in affliction would set their hearts on fire with repentance. “Of reason all things show some sign, ” except man’s unfeeling heart.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 32. —He looketh on the earth and it trembleth. As man can soon give a cast with his eye, so soon can God shake the earth, that is, either the whole mass of the earth, or the inferior sort of men on the earth when he “looketh, “or casteth an angry eye “upon the earth it trembleth.” “He toucheth the hills, “(that is, the powers and principalities of the world), “and they smoke; “if he do but touch them they smoke, that is, the dreadful effects of the power and judgment of God are visible upon them. —Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 32. —No one save a photographer can sketch the desert around Sinai. Roberts’ views are noble, and to a certain extent true; but they do not represent these desert cliffs and ravines. No artist can rightly do it. Only the photographer can pourtray the million of minute details that go to make up the bleakness, the wildness, the awfulness, and the dismal loneliness of these unearthly wastes.
About noon I went out and walked upon the convent roof. The star light over the mountain peaks was splendid, while the gloom that hung round these enormous precipices and Impenetrable ravines was quite oppressive to the spirit. This is the scene of which David spoke. “He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke.” This is the mountain “that was touched, and that burned with fire” (Hebrews 7:18). Not the mount that “might be touched, “as our translators have rendered it, but the mount “that was touched, ” qhla fwmena, —the mount on which the finger of God rested.
We could imagine the black girdle of the thick darkness with which the mountain was surrounded, and the lightnings giving forth their quick fire through tiffs covering, making its blackness blacker. We could imagine, too, the supernatural blaze, kindled by no earthly hand, that shot up out of the midst of this, like a living column of fire, ascending, amid the sound of angelic trumpets and superangelic thunders, to the very heart of heaven. —Horatius Bonar, in “The Desert of Sinai”, 1858.
Ver. 32. —The philosopher labours to investigate the natural cause of earthquakes and volcanoes. Well, let him account as he will, still the immediate power of Jehovah is the true and ultimate cause. God works in these tremendous operations. “He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth; he toucheth the hills, and they smoke.” This is the philosophy of Scripture: this, then, shall be my philosophy. Never was a sentence uttered by uninspired man so sublime as this sentence. The thought is grand beyond conception; and the expression clothes the thought with suitable external majesty. God needs no means by which to give effect to his purpose by his power, yet, in general, he has established means through which he acts. In conformity with this Divine plan, he created by means, and he governs by means. But the means which he has employed in creation, and the means which he employs in providence, are effectual only by his almighty power. The sublimity of the expression in this passage arises from the infinite disproportion between the means and the end. An earthly sovereign looks with anger, and his courtiers tremble. God looks on the earth, and it trembles to its foundation. He touches the mountains, and the volcano smokes, vomiting forth torrents of lava. Hills are said to melt at the presence of the Lord. “Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob.” How chill and withering is the breath of that noxious philosophy, that would detach our minds from viewing God in his works of Providence! The Christian who lives in this atmosphere, or on the borders of it, will be unhealthy and unfruitful in true works of righteousness. This malaria destroys all spiritual life. —Alexander Carson.
Ver. 32. —He toucheth the hills, and they smoke. It’s therefore ill falling into his hands, who can do such terrible things with his looks and touches. —John Trapp.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 32. —
1. What there is in a Look of God. “He looketh, “etc.
(a) What in a look of anger.
(b) What in a look of love. He looked out of the fiery
pillar upon the Egyptians. “The Lord hath looked out
from his pillar of glory, “etc. He gave another look
from the same pillar to Israel.
2. What there is in a Touch of God: “He toucheth, “etc. A touch of his may raise a soul to heaven, or sink a soul to hell. —G.R.
Psalms 104:33*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 33. I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live, or, literally, in my lives. Here and hereafter the psalmist would continue to praise the Lord, for the theme is an endless one, and remains for ever fresh and new. The birds sang God’s praises before men were created, but redeemed men will sing his glories when the birds are no more. Jehovah, who ever lives and makes us to live shall be for ever exalted, and extolled in the songs of redeemed men.
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. A resolve both happy for himself and glorifying to the Lord. Note the sweet title— my God. We never sing so well as when we know that we have an interest in the good things of which we sing, and a relationship to the God whom we praise.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 33. —I will sing unto the Lord. The Psalmist, exulting in the glorious prospect of the renovation of all things, breaks out in triumphant anticipation of the great event, and says, “I will sing unto the Lord”, ywxb bechaiyai, “with my lives, “the life that I now have, and the life that I shall have hereafter.
“I will sing praise to my God, “ydweb beodi, “in my eternity; ” my going on, my endless progression. What astonishing ideas! But then, how shall this great work be brought about? and how shall the new earth be inhabited with righteous spirits only? The answer is Psalms 104:35, “Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more.” —Adam Clarke.
Ver. 33 —All having been admonished to glorify God, he discloses what he himself is about to do; with his voice he will declare his praises, “I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live:” with his hand he will write psalms, and set them to music, “I will sing psalms to my God while I have my being:” with his mind he will make sweet meditations, “My meditation of him shall be sweet:” with will and affection he will seek after God alone, “I will be glad in the Lord:” he predicts and desires the destruction of all sinners who think not of praising God, but dishonour him in their words and works, “Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more:” lastly, with his whole soul and all his powers he will bless God, “Bless thou the Lord, O my soul.” —Le Blanc.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 33. —
1. The singer—”I.”
2. The song—”praises.”
3. The audience—”The Lord, “”My God.”
4. The length of the song—”long as I live; while I have my being.” —A.G.B.
Ver. 33. —Two “I wills.”
1. Because he made me live.
2. Because he has made me to live in him.
3. Because he is Jehovah and “my God.”
4. Because I shall live for ever, in the best sense.
Psalms 104:34*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 34. My meditation of him shall be sweet. Sweet both to him and to me. I shall be delighted thus to survey his works and think of his person, and he will graciously accept my notes of praise. Meditation is the soul of religion. It is the tree of life in the midst of the garden of piety, and very refreshing is its fruit to the soul which feeds thereon. And as it is good towards man, so is it towards God. As the fat of the sacrifice was the Lord’s portion, so are our best meditations due to the Most High and are most acceptable to him. We ought, therefore, both for our own good and for the Lord’s honour to be much occupied with meditation, and that meditation should chiefly dwell upon the Lord himself: it should be “meditation of him.” For want of it much communion is lost and much happiness is missed.
I will be glad in the Lord. To the meditative mind every thought of God is full of joy. Each one of the divine attributes is a well spring of delight now that in Christ Jesus we are reconciled unto God.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 34—My meditation of him shall be sweet. A Christian needs to study nothing but Christ, there is enough in Christ to take up his study and contemplation all his days; and the more we study Christ, the more we may study him; there will be new wonders still appearing in him. —John Pox, 1680.
Ver. 34. —My meditation of him shall be sweet. The last words ever written by Henry Martyn, dying among Mohammedans in Persia, was: I sat in the orchard and thought with sweet comfort and peace of my God, in solitude my company, my Friend and Comforter.
Ver. 34. —My meditation of him shall be sweet. I must meditate on Christ. Let philosophers soar in their contemplations, and walk among the stars; what are the stars to Christ, the Sun of righteousness, the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person? God manifest in the flesh is a theme which angela rejoice to contemplate. —Samuel Lavington.
Ver. 34. —My meditation of him shall be sweet. First. Take this as an assertion. The meditation on God is sweet. And the sweetness of it should stir us up to the putting of it in practice. Secondly. Take it as a resolution—that he would make it for his own practice; that is, that he would comfort himself in such performances as these are; whilst others took pleasure in other things, he would please himself in communion with God, this should be his solace and delight upon all occasions. David promises himself a great deal of contentment in this exercise of divine meditation which he undertook with much delight: and so likewise do others of God’s servants of the same nature and disposition with him in the like undertakings. Thirdly. Take it as a prayer and petition. It “shall be, “that is, let it be, the future put for the imperative, as it frequently uses to be; and so the word “gnatam” is to be translated, not, of God, but to God. Let my meditation, or prayer, or converse, be sweet unto him. Place at “illi meditatio mea”, so some good authors interpret it. The English translation, “Let my words be acceptable, “and the other before that, “Oh, that my words might please him, “which comes to one and the same effect, all taking it in the notion of a prayer: this is that which the servants of God have still thought to be most necessary for them (as indeed it is); God’s acceptance of the performances which have been presented by them. —Condensed from Thomas Horton.
Ver. 34. (first clause) —All the ancients join in understanding it thus, “My meditation shall be sweet to him, “or, as the Jewish Arab, hdge with him, according to that of the Psalmist, Ps 14:14 “Let the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in thy sight.” Thus the Chaldee here, ywmrq, before him; the LXXII hdunyeih antw, “Let it be sweet to him”; the Syriac to him, and so the others also. And so Ke signifies to as well as on. —Henry Hammond.
Ver. 34—I will be glad in the Lord. Compare this with verse 31, and observe the mutual and reciprocal pleasure and delight between God who is praised and the soul that praises him. God, who rejoices in his works, takes the highest delight in man, the compendium of his other works, and in that work, than which none more excellent can be pursued by man, the work of praising God in which the blessed are employed. Thus in this very praise of God which is so pleasing to him, David professes to be evermore willing to take delight. My beloved is mine, sings the Spouse, and I am his. —Lorinus.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 34. —
1. David’s contemplation.
2. David’s exultation. —Thomas Horton.
Psalms 104:35*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 35. Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. They are the only blot upon creation.
“Every prospect pleases.
And only man is vile.”
In holy indignation the psalmist would fain rid the world of beings so base as not to love their gracious Creator, so blind as to rebel against their Benefactor. He does but ask for that which just men look forward to as the end of history: for the day is eminently to be desired when in all God’s kingdom there shall not remain a single traitor or rebel. The Christian way of putting it will be to ask that grace may turn sinners into saints, and win the wicked to the ways of truth.
Bless thou the LORD, O my soul. Here is the end of the matter— whatever sinners may do, do thou, my soul, stand to thy colours, and be true to thy calling. Their silence must not silence thee, but rather provoke thee to redoubled praise to make up for their failures. Nor canst thou alone accomplish the work; others must come to thy help. O ye saints,
Praise ye the LORD. Let your hearts cry HALLELUJAH, —for that is the word in the Hebrew. Heavenly word! Let it close the Psalm: for what more remains to be said or written? HALLELUJAH. Praise ye the Lord.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 35. —Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, etc. — It fell to my lot some years ago, to undertake a walk of some miles, on a summer morning, along a seashore of surpassing beauty. It was the Lord’s day, and the language of the Hundred and fourth Psalm rose spontaneously in my mind as one scene after another unfolded itself before the eye. About half way to my destination the road lay through a dirty hamlet, and my meditations were rudely interrupted by the brawling of some people, who looked as if they had been spending the night in a drunken debauch. Well, I thought, the Psalmist must have had some such unpleasant experience. He must have fallen in with people, located in some scene of natural beauty, who, instead of being a holy priesthood to give voice to nature in praise of her Creator, instead of being, in the pure and holy tenor of their lives the most heavenly note of the general song, filled it with a harsh discord. His prayer is the vehement expression of a desire that the earth may no longer be marred by the presence of wicked men, —that they may be utterly consumed, and may give place to men animated with the fear of God, just and holy men, men that shall be a crown of beauty on the head of this fair creation. If this be the right explanation of the Psalmist’s prayer, it is not only justifiable, but there is something wrong in our meditations on nature, if we are not disposed to join in it. —William Binnie.
Ver. 35. —Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth. This imprecation depends on the last clause of the 31st verse, “Let Jehovah, rejoice in his works.” As the wicked infect the world with their pollutions, the consequence is, that God has less delight in his own workmanship, and is even almost displeased with it. It is impossible, but that this uncleanness, which, being extended and diffused through every part of the world, vitiates and corrupts such a noble product of his hands, must be offensive to him. Since then the wicked, by their perverse abuse of God’s gifts, cause the world in a manner to degenerate and fall away from its first original, the prophet justly desires that they may be exterminated, until the race of them entirely fails. Let us, then, take care so to weigh the providence of God, as that being wholly devoted to obeying him, we may rightly and purely use the benefits which he sanctifies for our enjoying them. Further, let us be grieved, that such precious treasures are wickedly squandered away, and let us regard it as monstrous and detestable, that men not only forget their Maker, but also, as it were, purposely turn to a perverse and an unworthy end, whatever good things he has bestowed upon them. —John Calvin.
Ver. 35. —The sinners.
All true, all faultless, all in tune,
Creation’s wondrous choir,
Opened in mystic unison,
To last till time expire.
And still it lasts: by day and night,
With one consenting voice,
All hymn thy glory, Lord, aright,
All worship and rejoice.
Man only mars the sweet accord,
Overpowering with harsh din
The music of thy works and word,
Ill matched with grief and sin. —John Keble in “The Christian Year.”
Ver. 35. —Bless thou the Lord, O my soul. Rehearse the first words of the Psalm which are the same as these. They are here repeated as if to hint that the end of good men is like their beginning, and that he is not of the number who begins in the spirit and seeks to be made perfect in the flesh. A worthy beginning of the Psalm, says Cassiodorus, and a worthy end, ever to bless him who never at any time fails to be with the faithful. The soul which blesses shall be made fat… Reined in by this rein of divine praise, he shall never perish. —Lorinus.
Ver. 35. —This is the first place where HALLELUJAH (“Praise ye the Lord”) occurs in the Book of Psalms. It is produced by a retrospect of Creation, and by the contemplation of God’s goodness in the preservation of all the creatures of his hand, and also by a prospective view of that future Sabbath, when, by the removal of evil men from communion with the good, God will be enabled to look on his works, as he did on the first Sabbath, before the Tempter had marred them, and see “everything very good.” See Ge 1:31 2:2-3 —Christopher Wordsworth.
Ver. 35. —Praise ye the Lord. This is the first time that we meet with Hallelujah; and it comes in here upon occasion of the destruction of the wicked; and the last time we meet with it, it is upon the like occasion, when the New Testament Babylon is consumed, this is the burden of the song, —”Hallelujah, “Revelation 14:1; Revelation 14:3-4; Revelation 14:6. —Matthew Henry.

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Psalm 103

holy-bible-background

Verses 1-22
TITLE. A Psalm of David. —Doubtless by David; it is in his own style when at its best, and we should attribute it to his later years when he had a higher sense of the preciousness of pardon, because a keener sense of sin, than in his younger days. His clear sense of the frailty of life indicates his weaker years, as also does the very fainess of his praiseful gratitude. As in the lofty Alps some peaks rise above all others so among even the inspired Psalms there are heights of song which overtop the rest. This one hundred and third Psalm has ever seemed to us to be the Monte Rosa of the divine chain of mountains of praise, glowing with a ruddier light than any of the rest. It is as the apple tree among the trees of the wood, and its golden fruit has a flavour such as no fruit ever bears unless it has been ripened in the full suushine of mercy. It is man’s reply to the benedictions of his God, his Song on the Mount answering to his Redeemer’s Sermon on the Mount. Nebuchadnezzar adored his idol with flute, harp, sacbut, psaltery, dulcimer and all kinds of music; and David, in far nobler style awakens all the melodies of heaven and earth in honour of the one only living and true God. Our attempt at exposition is commenced under an impressive sense of the utter impossibility of doing justice to so sublime a composition; we call upon our soul and all that is within us to aid in the pleasurable task; but, alas, our soul is finite, and our all of mental faculty far too little for the enterprize. There is too much in the Psalm, for a thousand pens to write, it is one of those all-comprehending Scriptures which is a Bible in itself, and it might alone almost suffice for the hymn-book of the church.
DIVISION. First the Psalmist sings of personal mercies which he had himself received Psalms 103:1-5; then he magnifies the attributes of Jehovah as displayed in his dealings with his people, Psalms 103:6-19; and he closes by calling upon all the creatures in the universe to adore the Lord and join with himself in blessing Jehovah, the ever gracious.
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 1. Bless the Lord O my soul. Soul music is the very soul of music. The Psalmist strikes the best keymote when he begins with stirring up his inmost self to magnify the Lord. He soliloquizes, holds self-communion and exhorts himself, as though he felt that dulness would all too soon steal over his faculties, as, indeed, it will over us all, unless we are diligently on the watch. Jehovah is worthy to be praised by us in that highest style of adoration which is intended by the term bless —”All thy works praise thee, O God, but thy saints shall bless thee.” Our very life and essential self should be engrossed with this delightful service, and each one of us should arouse his own heart to the engagement. Let others forbear if they can: “Bless the Lord, O MY soul.” Let others murmur, but do thou bless. Let others bless themselves and their idols, but do thou bless the LORD. Let others use only their tongues, but as for me I will cry, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.”
And all that is within me, bless his holy name. Many are our faculties, emotions, and capacities, but God has given them all to us, and they ought all to join in chorus to his praise. Half-hearted, ill-conceived, unintelligent praises are not such as we should render to our loving Lord. If the law of justice demanded all our heart and soul and mind for the Creator, much more may the law of gratitude put in a comprehensive claim for the homage of our whole being to the God of grace. It is instructive to note how the Psalmist dwells upon the holy name of God, as if his holiness were dearest to him; or, perhaps, because the holiness or wholeness of God was to his mind the grandest motive for rendering to him the homage of his nature in its wholeness. Babes may praise the divine goodness, but fathers in grace magnify his holiness. By the name we understand the revealed character of God, and assuredly those songs which are suggested, not by our fallible reasoning and imperfect observation, but by unerring inspiration, should more than any others arouse all our consecrated powers.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Title. A Psalm of David, which he wrote when carried out of himself as far as heaven, saith Beza. John Trapp.
Whole Psalm. How often have saints in Scotland sung this Psalm in days when they celebrated the Lord’s Supper! It is thereby specially known in our land. It is connected also with a remarkable case in the days of John Knox. Elizabeth Adamson, a woman who attended on his preaching, “because he more fully opened the fountain of God’s mercies than others did, “was led to Christ and to rest, on hearing this Psalm, after enduring such agony of soul that she said, concerning racking pains of body, “A thousand years of this torment, and ten times more joined”, are not to be compared to a quarter of an hour of my soul’s trouble. She asked for this Psalm again before departing: “It was in receiving it that my troubled soul first tasted God’s mercy, which is now sweeter to me than if all the kingdoms of the earth were given me to possess.” Andrew A. Bonar.
Whole Psalm. The number of verses in this Psalm is that of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet; and the completeness of the whole is further testified by its return at the close to the words with which it started, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” J. F. Thrupp.
Whole Psalm. The Psalm, in regard to number, is an alphabetical one, harmonized in such a way as that the concluding turns back into the introductory verse, the whole being in this manner finished and rounded off. In like manner, the name Jehovah occurs eleven times. The Psalm is divided into two strophes, the first of ten and the second of twelve verses. The ten is divided by the five, and the twelve falls into three divisions, each of four verses. Jehovah occurs in the first strophe four, and in the second seven times.
The Psalm bears the character of quiet tenderness. It is a still clear brook of the praise of God. In accordance with this, we find that the verses are of equal length as to structure, and consist regularly of two members. It is only at the conclusion, where the tone rises, that the verses become longer: the vessel is too small for the feeling.
The testimony which the title bears on behalf of the composition of the Psalm by David, is confirmed by the fact that the Psalm in passages, the independence of which cannot be mistaken, bears a striking resemblance to the other Psalms of David, and by the connection with Psalms 102:1-28 David here teaches his posterity to render thanks, as in the previous Psalm he had taught them to pray: the deliverance from deep distress which formed there the subject of prayer, forms here the subject of thanks. E. W. Hengstenberg.
Whole Psalm. It is observable that no petition occurs throughout the entire compass of these twenty-two verses. Not a single word of supplication is in the whole Psalm addressed to the Most High. Prayer, fervent, heartfelt prayer, had doubtless been previously offered on the part of the Psalmist, and answered by his God. Innumerable blessings had been showered down from above in acknowledgment of David’s supplications; and, therefore, an overflowing gratitude now bursts forth from their joyful recipient. He touches every chord of his harp and of his heart together, and pours forth a spontaneous melody of sweetest sound and purest praise. John Stevenson, in “Gratitude: an Exposition of the Hundred and Third Psalm, “1856.
Ver. 1. Bless the LORD, O my soul. O how well they are fitted! for what work so fit for my soul as this? Who so fit for this work as my soul? My body, God knows, is gross and heavy, and very unfit for so sublime a work. No, my soul, it is thou must do it; and indeed what hast thou else to do? it is the very work for which thou were made, and O that thou wert as fit to do the work as the work is fit for thee to do! But, alas, thou art become in a manner earthy, at least hast lost a great part of thy abilities, and will never be able to go through with this great work thyself alone. If to bless the Lord were no more but to say, Lord, Lord, like to them that cried, “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord; “then my tongue alone would be sufficient for it, and I should not need to trouble any other about it; but to bless the Lord is an eminent work, and requires not only many but very able agents to perform it; and therefore, my soul, when thou goest about it, go not alone; but, take with thee “all that is within thee; “all the forces in my whole magazine, whether it be my heart, or my spirits; whether my will, or my affections; whether my understanding, or my memory; take them all with thee, and bless the Lord. Sir R. Baker.
Ver. 1. All that is within me. The literal translation of the form here used is my insides or inner parts, the strong and comprehensive meaning of the plural being further enhanced by the addition of all, as if to preclude exception and reserve, and comprehend within the scope of the address all the powers and affections. J. A. Alexander.
Ver. 1. All that is within me, etc. Let your conscience “bless the Lord, “by unvarying fidelity. Let your judgment bless Him, by decisions in accordance with his word. Let your imagination bless him, by pure and holy musings. Let your affections praise him, by loving whatsoever he loves. Let your desires bless him, by seeking only his glory. Let your memory bless him, by not forgetting any of his benefits. Let your thoughts bless him, by meditating on his excellencies. Let your hope praise him, by longing and looking for the glory that is to be revealed. Let your every sense bless him by its fealty, your every word by its truth, and your every act by its integrity. John Stevenson.
Ver. 1. Bless the LORD, O my soul. You have often heard, that when God is said to bless men, and they on the other hand are excited to bless him, the word is taken in two very different senses. God is the only fountain of being and happiness, from which all good ever flows; and hence he is said to bless his creatures when he bestows mercies and favours upon them, gives them any endowments of body and mind, delivers them from evils, and is the source of their present comforts and future hopes. But in this sense, you will see there is no possibility of any creature’s blessing God; for as his infinite and unblemished perfection renders him incapable of receiving any higher excellency, or improvement in happiness; so, could we put the supposition that this immense ocean of good might be increased, it is plain that we, who receive our very being and everything that we have or are from him, could in no case contribute thereto. To bless God, then, is, with an ardent affection humbly to acknowledge those divine excellencies, which render him the best and greatest of beings, the only object worthy of the highest adoration: it is to give him the praise of all those glorious attributes which adorn his nature, and are so conspicuously manifested in his works and ways. To bless God, is to embrace every proper opportunity of owning our veneration and esteem of his excellent greatness, and to declare to all about us, as loudly as we can, the goodness and grace of his conduct towards men, and our infinite obligations for all our enjoyments to him, in whom we live, move, and have our being. And a right blessing of God must take its rise from a heart that is full of esteem and gratitude, which puts life into the songs of praise.
And then, of all others, the most lively and acceptable method of blessing God, is a holy conversation and earnest endeavor to be purified from all iniquity; for blessing of God consists, as I told you, in adoring his excellencies, and expressing our esteem and veneration of them: but what can be so effectual a way of doing this, as the influence that the views of them have upon our lives? That person best exalts the glory of the divine power, who fears God above all, and trembles at the apprehensions of his wrath; and of his justice, who flees from sin, which exposes him to the inexorable severity thereof; and of his love, who is softened thereby into grateful returns of obedience; and then we celebrate his holiness, when we endcavour to imitate it in our lives, and abandon everything that is an abomination to the eyes of his purity. William Dunlop, 1692-1720.
Ver. 1. O my soul. God’s eye is chiefly upon the soul: bring a hundred dishes to table, he will carve of none but this; this is the savoury meat he loves. He who is best, will be served with the best; when we give him the soul in a duty, then we give him the flower and the cream; by a holy chemistry we still out the spirits. A soul inflamed in service is the cup of “spiced wine of the juice of the pomegranate” (Song of Solomon 8:2) which the spouse makes Christ to drink of. Thomas Watson.
Ver. 1. Bless his holy name. The name of God frequently signifies his nature and attributes, in Scripture. Now, holiness is the glory of this name; the purity of God is that which beautifies all his perfections, and renders them worthy to be praised. His eternity, and knowledge, and power, without justice, and goodness, and truth, might indeed frighten and confound us; but could not inflame our love, or engage us to hearty blessing. But when infinite mightiness, and unerring wisdom, and eternal dominion, are mixed with unchangeable love, and inviolable veracity and goodness, which exalts itself above all his works; when thus it becomes a holy name, then the divine perfections are rendered truly amiable, and suitable objects of our hope and confidence and loudest songs; so that you see how elegantly the Psalmist upon this occasion mentions the purity of God: “Bless his holy name.”
And besides this, there is indeed nothing that more exalts the glory of divine grace and of redeeming love towards a soul, than the consideration of God’s holiness;for if your Maker were not of purer eyes than man is, yea, if his hatred to sin, and love to righteousness, were not greater than that of the noblest angel, his pardoning of sin, and patience towards transgressors would not be such a wonderful condescension; but is his name infinitely holy so that “the heavens are not clean in his sight?” Is the smallest iniquity the abhorrence of his soul, and what he hates with a perfect hatred? Surely, then, his grace and love must be incomparably greater than our thoughts. William Dunlop.
Ver. 1-2. The well is seldom so full that water will at first pumping flow forth; neither is the heart commonly so spiritual, after our best care in our worldly converse (much less when we somewhat overdo therein) as to pour itself into God’s bosom freely, without something to raise and elevate it; yea, often, the springs of grace lie so low, that pumping only will not fetch the heart up to a praying frame, but arguments must be poured into the soul before the affections rise. Hence are those soliloquies and discourses which we find holy men use with their own hearts to bring them into a gracious temper, suitable for communion with God in ordinances. It seems by these verses] David either found or feared his heart would not be in so good a frame as he desired; consequently he redoubles his charge: he found his heart somewhat drowsy, which made him thus rouse himself. William Guruall.
Ver. 1-3. The Psalmist’s gratitude here has four attributes. The first is personal. Bless the Lord, my soul. He has the self-same application in the close of the Psalm, after he has called on others to do this work. Our religion must be social as well as personal: but while it must not end at home, it must begin at home; and relative religion, without personal, will always be found wanting in excitement, in energy, in extent, in continuance, and very commonly in success.
Secondly, It is fervent. And all that is within me, bless his holy name —all my thoughts, my feelings, my understanding, my will, my memory, my conscience, my affections, my passions.
“If there be passions in my soul,
(And passions, Lord, there be);
Let them be all at thy control,
My gracious Lord, for thee.”
Thirdly, it is rational, and demanded by the facts of his past life. Therefore “forget not all his benefits.” Nothing can properly affect or influence us when it is out of our recollection. “Out of sight out of mind; “and out of mind, out of motive. Whence arose the ingratitude of the Jews of old? Bad memories. “Of the rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten the God that formed thee.” “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” It should therefore be your concern, not only to recall your mercies, but to reckon them.
Lastly, it is specific:Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases. When all the words in a discourse are emphatic, nothing is emphatic, when we dwell on everything, we dwell on nothing effectively. We are more struck, in a landscape, with a selected point of vision for inspection, than by the general prospect. David was a poet, and understood poetry well; and poetry differs from philosophy. The one seeks to rise from particular facts and instances, to establish general principles and rules: the other is always for descending from generalization to particularization; and much of its beauty and force arises from individualities. William Jay, 1849.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 1. “The Saints blessing the Lord.” See “Spurgeon’s Sermons, ” No. 1,078.
Ver. 1.
1. We should bless the Most High himself. It is possible to fail to bless him, while we praise his gifts, his word, his works, his ways.
2. We should bless him individually: “My soul.” Not merely the family through the father, nor the people through the pastor; nor the congregation through the choir; but personally.
3. We should bless him spiritually: “soul.” Not only with organ, voice, offering, works, &c.
4. We should bless him unreservedly: “All that is within me.”
5. We should bless him resolutely. David preached self-communion, self-encouragement, and self-command. W. Jackson.
Ver. 1. Here is,
1. Self-converse: “Oh my soul.” Many talk freely enough to others, but never talk to themselves. They are strangers to themselves—not on speaking terms with themselves —take no interest in their own souls—are dull and melancholy when alone.
2. Self-exhortation: “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” Thy Creator, thy Benefactor, thy Redeemer.
3. Self-encouragement: “All that is within me” —every faculty of my mental, moral and spiritual being: with ten strings—every chord in motion. No need for one faculty of the soul to say to another, “know the Lord, for all shall know him from the least even unto the greatest.” G. R.
Ver. 1 (First clause, and Psalms 103:22, last clause). Personal worship the Alpha and Omega of religion. C. Davis.
Psalms 103:2*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 2. Bless the LORD, O my soul. He is in real earnest, and again calls upon himself to arise. Had he been very sleepy before? Or was he now doubly sensible of the importance, the imperative necessity of adoration? Certainly, he uses no vain repetitions, for the Holy Spirit guides his pen; and thus he shews us that we have need, again and again, to bestir ourselves when we are about to worship God, for it would be shameful to offer him anything less than the utmost our souls can render. These first verses are a tuning of the harp, a screwing up of the loosened strings that not a note may fail in the sacred harmony.
And forget not all his benefits. Not so much as one of the divine dealings should be forgotten, they are all really beneficial to us, all worthy of himself, and all subjects for praise. Memory is very treacherous about the best things; by a strange perversity, engendered by the fall, it treasures up the refuse of the past and permits priceless treasures to lie neglected, it is tenacious of grievances and holds benefits all too loosely. It needs spurring to its duty, though that duty ought to be its delight. Observe that he calls all that is within him to remember all the Lord’s benefits. For our task our energies should be suitably called out. God’s all cannot be praised with less than our all.
Reader, have we not cause enough at this time to bless him who blesses us? Come, let us read our diaries and see if there be not choice favours recorded there for which we have rendered no grateful return. Remember how the Persian king, when he conld not sleep, read the chronicles of the empire, and discovered that one who had saved his life had never been rewarded. How quickly did he do him honour! The Lord has saved us with a great salvation, shall we render no recompense? The name of ingrate is one of the most shameful that a man can wear; surely we cannot be content to run the risk of such a brand. Let us awake then, and with intense enthusiasm bless Jehovah.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 2. Bless the Lord, O my soul. David found some dulness and drowsiness; hence he so often puts the thorn to his breast; hence he so impetuously instigateth his soul, as one here phraseth it. John Trapp.
Ver. 2. Forget not. This touches the secret spring of so much ingratitude—forgetfulness, the want of re-collection, or gathering together again of all the varied threads of mercy. Compare De 6:12; De 8:11, 14. “Si oblivisceris, tacebis” (If thou forgettest, thou wilt be silent). J. J. S. Perowne.
Ver. 2. Forget not all his benefits. That is, forget not any of his benefits, as the form of speech in the original doth import. David Dickson.
Ver. 2. Benefits. The word rendered “benefits” —lwmg gemul, means properly an act, work, doing, whether good or evil, Psalms 137:8; and then, desert, or what a man deserves for his act; recompense. It is rendered deserving in Jude 9:16; benefit, as here, in 2 Chronicles 32:25; desert, Psalms 28:4; reward, Psalms 94:2, Isaiah 3:11, Obadiah 1:15; recompense, Proverbs 12:14 Isa 35:4 59:18 66:6 Jeremiah 51:6 La 3:64, Joel 3:4; Joel 3:7. The proper reference here is to the Divine dealings, to what God had done, as a reason for blessing his name. His dealings with the Psalmist had been such as to call for praise and gratitude. What those dealings particularly were he specifies in the following verses. Albert Barnes.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 2. Inquire into the causes of our frequent forgetfulness of the Lord’s mercies, show the evil of it, and advise remedies.
Psalms 103:3*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 3. Who forgiveth all thine iniquities. Here David begins his list of blessings received, which he rehearses as themes and arguments for praise. He selects a few of the choicest pearls from the casket of divine love, threads them on the string of memory, and hangs them about the neck of gratitude. Pardoned sin is, in our experience, one of the choicest boons of grace, one of the earliest gifts of mercy, — in fact, the needful preparation for enjoying all that follows it. Till iniquity is forgiven, healing, redemption, and satisfaction are unknown blessings. Forgiveness is first in the order of our spiritual experience, and in some respects first in value. The pardon granted is a present one—forgiveth;it is continual, for he still forgiveth;it is divine, for God gives it; it is far reaching, for it removes all our sins; it takes in omissions as well as commissions, for both these are in-equities;and it is most effectual, for it is as real as the healing, and the rest of the mercies with which it is placed.
Who healeth all thy diseases. When the cause is gone, namely, iniquity, the effect ceases. Sicknesses of body and soul came into the world by sin, and as sin is eradicated, diseases bodily, mental, and spiritual will vanish, till “the inhabitant shall no more say, I am sick.” Many-sided is the character of our heavenly Father, for, having forgiven as a judge, he then cures as a physician. He is all things to us, as our needs call for him, and our infirmities do but reveal him in new characters.
“In him is only good,
In me is only ill,
My ill but draws his goodness forth,
And me he loveth still.”
God gives efficacy to medicine for the body, and his grace sanctifies the soul. Spiritually we are daily under his care, and he visits us, as the surgeon does his patient; healing still (for that is the exact word) each malady as it arises. No disease of our soul baffles his skill, he goes on healing all, and he will do so till the last trace of taint has gone from our nature. The two alls of this verse are further reasons for all that is within us praising the Lord.
The two blessings of this verse the Psalmist was personally enjoying, he sang not of others but of himself, or rather of his Lord, who was daily forgiving and healing him. He must have known that it was so, or he could not have sung of it. He had no doubt about it, he felt in his soul that it was so, and, therefore, he bade his pardoned and restored soul bless the Lord with all its might.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 3. Who forgiveth all thine iniquities. Thine iniquities are more than can be numbered; and they are an intolerable burden, so that thy soul under them “can in no wise lift up herself.” He forgiveth them all. He relieveth thee of all. He taketh the dreadful burden from thy back, the galling yoke from thy neck, and makes thee free… Thine iniquities are in-equities. There is nothing just or right in thee. Thy very nature is an inequity bringing forth nothing but in-equities. Inequities towards thy God, in-equities towards thy neighbour, and in-equities towards thyself, make up the whole of thy life. Thou art a bad tree, and a bad tree cannot bring forth good fruit. John Pulsford, in. “Quiet Hours, “1857.
Ver. 3. All thine iniqities. In this lovely and well-known Psalm, we have great fulness of expression, in reference to the vital subject of redemption.
Who forgiveth all thine iniquities. It is not “some” or “many of thine iniquities.” This would never do. If so much as the very smallest iniquity, in thought, word, or act, were left unforgiven, we should be just as badly off, just as far from God, just as unfit for heaven, just as exposed to hell, as though the whole weight of our sins were yet upon us. Let the reader ponder this deeply. It does not say, “Who forgiveth thine iniquities previous to conversion.” There is no such notion as this in Scripture. When God forgives, he forgives like himself. The source, the channel, the power, and the standard of forgiveness are all divine. When God cancels a man’s sins, he does so according to the measure in which Christ bore those sins. Now, Christ not only bore some or many of the believer’s sins, he bore them “all, “and, therefore, God forgives “all.” God’s forgiveness stretches to the length of Christ’s atonement; and Christ’s atonement stretches to the length of every one of the believer’s sins, past, present, and future. “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:9. “Things New and Old, “1858.
Ver. 3. Who healeth all thy diseases. In one of the prisons of a certain country, was a man who had committed high treason: for this crime he was in due time tried, and, being found guilty, was condemned to die. But more than this; he was afflicted with an inward disease, which generally proves mortal. Now we may truly say, that this man is doubly dead; that his life is forfeited twice over: the laws of his country have pronounced him guilty of death, and therefore his life is forfeited once to the laws of his country, and, if he had not died in this way, he must die of his disease; he is, therefore, “twice dead.” Now suppose that the sovereign of that country had made up his mind to wish to save that prisoner’s life, could he save it? He could indeed take off the penalty of the law; he could give him a free pardon, and so restore the life, as sure as it is forfeited by the just sentence of the law; but, unless he could also send a physician, who could cure the man of his disease, he would die by that, and his pardon would only lengthen out for a few weeks or months a miserable existence. And if this disease were not only a mortal disease, but an infectious one, likely to spread itself by the breath of the patient, and a contagious one, likely to spread by the touch of the patient’s body or clothes, then it would be dangerous to others to come near that man; and unless he were cured, and thoroughly and entirely cured, the man, though pardoned, would still be a fit inmate only for the pest-house, and could not be received into the houses of the healthy. You have seen such a case as this, brethren; you are at this very moment, perhaps, sitting close by a person in this case yes, and perhaps you are in this very case yourself! Perhaps, do I say? I should say, you ARE in this very case, unless you are really and truly a Christian, a believer in Christ Jesus. W. Weldon Champneys, 1842.
Ver. 3. All thy diseases. The body experienceth the melancholy consequences of Adam’s offence, and is subject to many infirmities; but the soul is subject to as many. What is pride, but lunacy; what is anger, but a fever; what is avarice, but a dropsy; what is lust, but a leprosy; what is sloth, but a dead palsy? Perhaps there are spiritual maladies similar to all corporeal ones. George Horne.
Ver. 3. All thy diseases. O my soul, consider the multitude of infirmities, to which thou art subject; thou hast many suggestions of the flesh; and thou art apt to yield unto them, and strivest not against them by earnest prayer and holy meditations; this is an infirmity. In thy prayers to God, thy thoughts are often wandering, and thou thinkest of other matters, far unworthy of that great Majesty to whom thou prayest: or if not so, yet thou art quickly weary, thy spirits are drowsy in it, and thou hadst rather be doing of something else; this is an infirmity. And indeed thou hast infirmities in all thy senses. In thy seeing, thou canst see a mote in thy brother’s eye, and canst not see a beam in thine own eye. In thy smelling, thou thinkest suavis odor lucri ex re qualibet, that the savour of gain is sweet, from whence soever it rise. In thy hearing, thou art gladder to hear the profane and idle discourses, than such as be serious and holy; these are thy infirmities: and, O my soul, if I should cut thee up into as many parts as an anatomist, and examine the infirmities of every part, should I not have cause, just cause, to cry out with Saint Paul, O wretch that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of sin? Who shall heal me of all these infirmities? for whether we call them sins, and then God forgives them; or call them infirmities, and then he heals them; they are to us, all one benefit; in God, all one kindness; that as either of them is well worth remembering; so for both of them, we have just cause to bless him and to praise his name. Sir Richard Baker.
Ver. 3. All thy diseases. Our understandings are so bad that they understand not their own badness; our wills, which are the queens of our souls, become the vassals of sin; our memory, like jet, good only to draw straws and treasure up trifles of no moment; our consciences, through errors in our own understanding, sometimes accusing us when we are innocent, sometimes acquitting us when we are guilty; our affections all disaffected and out of order. Must not that needs be a monstrous face, wherein the blueness which should be in the veins is in the lips, the redness which should be in the cheeks, in the nose; the hair that should grow on the head, on the face? and must not our souls needs seem ugly in the sight of God, who have grief growing there where joy should, and joy where grief should? We love what we should hate and hate where we should love; we fear where no fear is, and fear not where we ought to fear; and all our affections either mistake their object, or exceed their due measure. Thomas Fuller.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 3.
1. Forgiveness is in God: “There is forgiveness with thee.” It is his nature to forgive as well as to punish sin.
2. It is from God. None can forgive sin but God. None can reveal forgiveness but God.
3. It is like God, full, free, and everlasting—”all thine iniquities.” G. R.
Ver. 3. Who healeth all thy diseases.
1. Why is sin called a disease? (a) As it destroys the moral beauty of the creature. (b) As it excites pain. (c) As it disables from duty. (d) As it leads to death.
2. The variety of sinful diseases to which we are subject. Mr 7:21-23; Galatians 5:19, &c.
3. The remedy by which God heals these diseases. (a) His pardoning mercy through the redemption of Christ. (b) The sanctifying influences of grace. (c) The means of grace. (d) The resurrection of the body. From “The Study, “1873.
Ver. 3 (last clause). —Our diseases by nature, our great Physician, the perfect soundness which he works in us, results of that soundness.
Ver. 3-5. Mercy’s Hexapla.
1. Three curses removed. (a) Guilt put away. (b) Corruption cured. (c) Destruction averted.
2. Three blessings, bestowed. (a) Favours that can gratify. (b) Pleasures that can satisfy. (c) Life that can never die.
Or
1. Pardon. (Psalms 103:3)
2. Purification. (Psalms 103:4)
3. Redemption.
4. Coronation. (Psalms 103:5)
5. Plenty bestowed.
6. Power renewed. W. Durban.
Psalms 103:4*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 4. Who redeemeth thy life from destruction. By purchase and by power the Lord redeems us from the spiritual death into which we had fallen, and from the eternal death which would have been its consequence. Had not the death penalty of sin been removed, our forgiveness and healing would have been incomplete portions of salvation, fragments only, and but of small value, but the removal of the guilt and power of sin is fitly attended by the reversal of the sentence of death which had been passed upon us. Glory be to our great Substitute, who delivered us from going down into the pit, by giving himself to be our ransom. Redemption will ever constitute one of the sweetest notes in the believer’s grateful song.
Who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies. Our Lord does nothing by halves, he will not stay his hand till he has gone to the uttermost with his people. Cleansing, healing, redemption, are not enough, he must needs make them kings and crown them, and the crown must be far more precious than if it were made of corruptible things, such as silver and gold; it is studded with gems of grace and lined with the velvet of lovingkindness; it is decked with the jewels of mercy, but made soft for the head to wear by a lining of tenderness. Who is like unto thee, O Lord! God himself crowns the princes of his family, for their best things come from him directly and distinctly; they do not earn the crown, for it is of mercy not of merit; they feel their own unworthiness of it, therefore he deals with tenderness;but lie is resolved to bless them, and, therefore, he is ever crowning them, always surrounding their brows with coronets of mercy and compassion. He always crowns the edifice which he commences, and where he gives pardon he gives acceptance too. “Since thou wast precious in my sight thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee.” Our sin deprived us of all our honours, a bill of attainder was issued against us as traitors; but he who removed the sentence of death by redeeming us from destruction, restores to us more than all our former honours by crowning us anew. Shall God crown us and shall not we crown him? Up, my soul, and cast thy crown at his feet, and in lowliest reverence worship him, who has so greatly exalted thee, as to lift thee from the dunghill and set thee among princes.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 4. Who redeemeth thy life from destruction. From his earliest days the Psalmist was the child of Providence. Many were the hairbreadth escapes and the wonderful deliverances, which he experienced. Dangers of various kinds presented themselves as his years advanced. The jaw of the lion, and the paw of the bear, at various times threatened to terminate his existence, and at others the ruthless hand of man. The same God who delivered him from the sword of Goliath, rescued his life from the javelin of Saul. The Almighty Friend who had covered his head in the day of battle, delivered him, at one moment, from the lords of the Philistines, saved him at another out of the hands of the men of Keilah; and again preserved to him his life and throne from the unnatural rebellion of his own son. Well, therefore, might the Psalmist stir up his soul, and all that was within him, to bless the Lord with most fervent gratitude, who, by so many signal deliverances, had “redeemed his life from destruction.” John Stevenson.
Ver. 4. Who redeemeth. Preservation from destruction, lawgh haggoel, properly, redemption of life by the kinsman;possibly looking forward, in the spirit of prophecy, to him who became partaker of our flesh and blood, that he might have the right to redeem our souls from death by dying in our stead. Adam Clarke.
Ver. 4. From the pit, including death, the grave, Hades. The Targum renders “from Gehenna.” J. J. S. Perowne.
Ver. 4. Tender mercies. I do not know that I can do better than tell you a little incident that took place in my native town of Stirling. Workmen were blasting the castle rock, near where it abuts upon a walk that lies open to the street. The train was laid and lit, and an explosion was momentarily expected. Suddenly trotting round the great wall of the cliff, came a little child going straight to where the match burned. The men shouted—(it was mercy) —and by their very terror in shouting, alarmed and bewildered the poor little thing. By this time the mother also had come round: in a moment saw the danger; opened wide her arms, and cried from her very heart, “Come to me, my darling, “—(that was tender mercy) —and instantly, with eager pattering feet, and little arms opened to her arms, and tear-filled eyes answering to her eyes—the little thing ran back and away, and stopped not until she was clasped in her mother’s bosom—wealth of sunny hair loosened on it, and lips coral red pressed to mother’s pallid lip of fear—as the motherly heart gave way to tears, in the thought of so imperilled an escape: for it was barely by a second, as the roar of the shattered rock told. Alexander B. Grosart, in “The Pastor and Helper of Joy, “1865.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 4 (first clause). The Redemption of David’s life from destruction.
1. His shepherd life.
2. His military life.
3. His persecuted life.
4. His regal life.
5. His spiritual life. W. J.
Ver. 4. What is redeemed, and from what? Who are redeemed, and by whom?
Psalms 103:5*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 5. Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things, or rather “filling with good thy soul.” No man is ever filled to satisfaction but a believer, and only God himself can satisfy even him. Many a worldling is satiated, but not one is satisfied. God satisfies the very soul of man, his noblest part, his ornament and glory; and of consequence he satisfies his mouth, however hungry and craving it might otherwise be. Soul-satisfaction loudly calls for soul-praise, and when the mouth is filled with good it is bound to speak good of him who filled it. Our good Lord bestows really good things, not vain toys and idle pleasures; and these he is always giving, so that from moment to moment he is satisfying our soul with good: shall we not be still praising him? If we never cease to bless him till he ceases to bless us, our employment will be eternal.
So that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Renewal of strength, amounting to a grant of a new lease of life, was granted to the Psalmist; he was so restored to his former self that he grew young again, and looked as vigorous as an eagle, whose eye can gaze upon the sun, and whose wing can mount above the storm. Our version refers to the annual moulting of the eagle, after which it looks fresh and young; but the original does not appear to allude to any such fact of natural history, but simply to describe the diseased one as so healed and strengthened, that he became as full of energy as the bird which is strongest of the feathered race, most fearless, most majestic, and most soaring. He who sat moping with the owl in the last Psalm, here flies on high with the eagle: the Lord works marvellous changes in us, and we learn by such experiences to bless his holy name. To grow from a sparrow to an eagle, and leave the wilderness of the pelican to mount among the stars is enough to make any man cry, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.”
Thus, is the endless chain of grace complete. Sins forgiven, its power subdued, and its penalty averted, then we are honoured, supplied, and our very nature renovated, till we are as new-born children in the household of God. O Lord we must bless thee, and we will; as thou dost withhold nothing from us so we would not keep back from thy praise one solitary power of our nature, but with all our heart, and soul, and strength praise thy holy name.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 5. Who satisfieth thy mouth. The word rendered “mouth, ” is Kyre, which is rendered ornaments in our version in all other passages—eleven in number—where it occurs, except here and in Psalms 32:9, where it is rendered “mouth; “and even there it ought properly be translated ornament, and here the sense seems to be thy ornament, tbat which is thy glory, thy spirit, Ps 16:9 62:8. It is true that the soul yvpg is here addressed (Psalms 103:1); but the spirit may be called the ornament or glory of the soul. Christopher Wordsworth.
Ver. 5. Satisfieth thy mouth. Kimchi understands the phrase as expressing David’s recovery from sickness. In sickness the soul abhorreth bread, and even dainty meat, Job 33:20. The physician, too, limits the diet of the patient, and prescribes things which are nauseous to the palate. The commentator, therefore, supposes that David here describes the blessing of health, by his mouth being filled with good things. Editorial Note to Calvin in loc.
Ver. 5. Satisfieth. God can so satisfy the soul, that each chink and cranny therein shall be filled with spiritual joy. Thomas Fuller.
Ver. 5. With good things. Mark, what does the Lord satisfy with? “good things.” Not rich things, not many things, not everything I ask for, but “good things.” All my need fully supplied, and everything “good.” Goodness is God expressed. All his blessings partake of his own nature. They are holy blessings, holy mercies. Everything that satisfies must have the nature of God in it. Nothing else will ever “satisfy.” The heart was made for God, and only God can meet it. Frederick Whitfield, 1874.
Ver. 5. Thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. It is an ancient fable that the eagle is able to renew his youth when very old, and poetical allusion is made to it in this Psalm; but this idea is doubtless founded in reality on the great longevity of the bird, and its power, in common with other birds, of moulting its plumage periodically, and so increasing its strength and activity. Hugh Mac Millan. {1}
{1} We might have filled much of our space with the fables from the rabbis and the fathers in reference to eagles; but they are too absurd, and ought never to be repeated. We hope, therefore, that the reader will excuse if not commend the omission.
Ver. 5. Thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. —The Scripture knows nothing of the idea that the eagle when old renews its youth. That there is nothing of this kind contained in Isaiah 40:31, which is commonly appealed to, but that it is rather the powerful flight of the eagle that is there referred to, “they mount up on wings like the eagle, they run and are not weary, “is evident from the parallel, fly, run, march. E.W. Hengstenberg.
Ver. 5. Thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Thy activity will renew itself like the eagle. That is to say, From day to day he will receive and increase his strength and rigour, so that he may thrive and flourish like the eagle. The comparison with the eagle is not drawn in point of renovation, but in point of vigour and activity continually renewing itself; as Isaiah 40:31, says, “They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles.” Venema.
Ver. 5. Thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. This renovation of his youth may be understood three ways. First, as to his natural state, or bodily strength. Secondly, as to his civil state, or worldly successes, as to his honour and kingly-renown. Thirdly, as to his spiritual state, or the heightening of his gifts, graces, and comforts. It is probable David had found a declension in all these, and at last, through the goodness of God and his blessing upon him, the renewing of them all from that oldness to a youthfulness again, like that of eagles. Joseph Garyl.
Ver. 5. Thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. However bold it may sound, we say not too much when we speak of an eternal youth, as the glorious privilege of the devout servant of the Lord, but of him alone. All that with reason charms and captivates in the appearance of youth, is seen in heightened measure where the spiritual life develops itself undisturbed in fellowship with God. Does the innocence of youth attract you? In the natural life it is but too frequently a misleading appearance; but in the life of the soul it returns to a certain extent when the heart is purified through the power of the Holy Ghost, and the life is renewed in conformity with that of Christ the Lord. Does the enjoyment of youth surpass in your estimation that of any other here below? Be it so; yet all too speedily it is driven away by the cares of later years, whilst enjoyment free from care even in the dark days may dwell in the heart whereon has descended the peace of God through faith. The strength of youth, seems it to you desirable? Ah! day by day stamps truth upon the words: “Youth shall faint and be weary; “but even when the natural strength has already long attained its zenith, the Christian often feels himself elevated through a power from on high, which lifts him above physical weakness; and what no strength of sinew or muscle could accomplish is attained through the power of implicit faith. Yea, even the beautiful developement which the period of youth shows you, ye would not seek in vain in that man who, leaning on God’s hand, forgetting the things that are behind, stretches forward from light to light, from strength to strength, from bliss to bliss. How, finally, can hope, that makes the youthful heart beat high with throbs of joy, be lacking to him? The fairest part of life the sensual man sees soon behind him, the spiritual man always in prospect; and like the eagle, this last can often from the low atmosphere round him soar to the pure, clear ether, whence already from afar the image, nay, the ineffable reality, shows him a more than earthly joy.
Eternal youth: it may, yet much more than for David, now be the portion of every Christian, but for these alone. Without faith and hope in the heart, even the bravest determination to remain young always, or at least as long as possible, must give away before the first great storm of life. Yet even when faith and hope are not strangers to us, whence is it that in our spiritual life there is frequently so little of the “eagle” spoken of here, and so much of the “sparrow alone upon the housetop, “referred to in Psalms 102:7 Can it be that we allow ourselves too little to be satisfied with the good things of which David had spoken immediately before; that is to say, that we live so little on the best things which God has to bestow, — his word, his Spirit, his grace? Only through these do we attain that lasting second birth, of which the eagle is the emblem, and an unfading youth of heart the inestimable fruit. Ye who are young in years, seek this undying youth above all the joys of early life! Recover it, ye middle-aged, in living fellowship with him who maketh all things new within! Preserve it, old friends of God and of his Christ, as your fairest crown here on earth, and the earnest of your bliss in heaven. And thou, Christian, who sittest down disconsolate, bethink thyself; the eagle lets his wings hang down, only thereafter to soar with stronger flight! J.J. Van Oosterzee, in “The Year of Salvation, “1874.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 5.
1. A singular condition—satisfaction.
2. A singular provision—good things.
3. A singular result—youth renewed.
Ver. 5. —”Rejuvenescence.” See Macmillan’s “Ministry of Nature, ” pp. 321-347.
Psalms 103:6*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 6. The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are of oppressed. Our own personal obligations must not absorb our song; we must also magnify the Lord for his goodness to others. He does not leave the poor and needy to perish at the hands of their enemies, but interposes on their behalf, for he is the executor of the poor and the executioner of the cruel. When his people were in Egypt he heard their groanings and brought them forth, but he overthrew Pharaoh in the Red Sea. Man’s injustice shall receive retribution at the hand of God. Mercy to his saints demands vengeance on their persecutors, and he will repay it. No blood of martyrs shall be shed in vain; no groans of confessors in prison shall be left without inquisition being made concerning them. All wrongs shall be righted, all the oppressed shall be avenged. Justice may at times leave the courts of man, but it abides upon the tribunal of God. For this every right-minded person will bless God. Were he careless of his creature’s good, did he neglect the administration of justice, did he suffer high-handed oppressors finally to escape, we should have greater reason for trembling than rejoicing; it is not so, however, for our God is a God of justice, and by him actions are weighed; he will mete out his portion to the proud and make the tyrant bite the dust, —yea, often he visits the haughty persecutor even in this life, so that “the Lord is known by the judgments which he executeth.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 6. The LORD executeth rghteousness, &c. Rising from personal blessings to general, the comprehensive fact, evermore to the glory of God, is his sympathy with the suffering and oppressed, and his ready and effective interposition in their ease. Who will not praise him that he careth so kindly and so gloriously for those who suffer cruel wrongs from wicked oppressors? Henry Cowles.
Psalms 103:7*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 7. He made known his ways unto Moses. Moses was made to see the manner in which the Lord deals with men; he saw this at each of the three periods of his life, in the court, in retirement, and at the head of the tribes of Israel. To him the Lord gave specially clear manifestations of his dispensations and modes of ruling among mankind, granting to him to see more of God than had before been seen by mortal man, while he cornmaned with him upon the mount.
His acts unto the children of Israel. They saw less than Moses, for they beheld the deeds of God without understanding his method therein, yet this was much, very much, and might have been more if they had not been so perverse; the stint was not in the revelation, but in the hardness of their hearts. It is a great act of sovereign grace and condescending love when the Lord reveals himself to any people, and they ought to appreciate the distinguished favour shown to them. We, as believers in Jesus, know the Lord’s ways of covenant grace, and we have by experience been made to see his acts of mercy towards us; how heartily ought we to praise our divine teacher, the Holy Spirit, who has made these things known to us, for had it not been for him we should have continued in darkness unto this day, “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us and not unto the world?” Why hast thou made us “of the election who have obtained it” while the rest are blinded?
Observe how prominent is the personality of God in all this gracious teaching—”He made known.” He did not leave Moses to discover truth for himself, but became his instructor. What should we ever know if he did not make it known? God alone can reveal himself. If Moses needed the Lord to make him know, how much more do we who are so much inferior to the great law-giver?
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 7. He made known his ways unto Moses. When Moses went up to Mount Sinai and tarried there with God the space of forty days, we may well think that God in that time, revealed many secrets to him; and particularly “made known his ways; “(Exodus 33:19); not only his ways in which he would have us to walk, but his ways in which he walks himself, and the course he holds in the government of worldly affairs; why he suffers the wicked to prosper, and why the godly to be oppressed. These “ways” of his he made known to Moses; to the children of Israel, only “his acts.” He showed them his wonderful favours to themselves in the wilderness, and that was his righteousness; but he showed them not his ways, and the course he held in them: they saw only the events of things, they saw not the reasons of them, as Moses did. Sir Richard Baker.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 7.
1. God would have men know him.
2. He is his own revealer.
3. There are degrees in the revelation.
4. We may pray for increased knowledge of him.
Psalms 103:8*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 8. The Lord is merciful and gracious. Those with whom he deals are sinners. However much he favours them they are guilty and need mercy at his hands, nor is he slow to compassionate their lost estate, or reluctant by his grace to lift them out of it. Mercy pardons sin, grace bestows favour: in both the Lord abounds. This is that way of his which he made known to Moses (Exodus 34:6), and in that way he will abide as long as the age of grace shall last, and men are yet in this life. He who “executeth righteousness and judgment, ” yet delighteth in mercy.
Slow to anger. He can be angry, and can deal out righteous indignation upon the guilty, but it is his strange work; he lingers long, with loving pauses, tarrying by the way to give space for repentance and opportunity for accepting his mercy. Thus deals he with the greatest sinners, and with his own children much more so: towards them his anger is shortlived and never reaches into eternity, and when it is shown in fatherly chastisements he does not afflict willingly, and soon pities their sorrows. From this we should learn to be ourselves slow to anger; if the Lord is longsuffering under our great provocations how much more ought we to endure the errors of our brethren!
And plenteous in mercy. Rich in it, quick in it, overflowing with it; and so had he need to be or we should soon be consumed. He is God, and not man, or our sins would soon drown his love; yet above the mountains of our sins the floods of his mercy rise.
“Plenteous grace with thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound,
Make and keep me pure within.”
All the world tastes of his sparing mercy, those who hear the gospel partake of his inviting mercy, the saints live by his saving mercy, are preserved by his upholding mercy, are cheered by his consoling mercy, and will enter heaven through his infinite and everlasting mercy. Let grace abounding be our hourly song in the house of our pilgrimage. Let those who feel that they live upon it glorify the plenteous fountain from which it so spontaneously flows.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 8 Merciful and gracious, slow to stager and plenteous in mercy. O my soul, bere are four properties spoken of to be in God, and are all so necessary, that we could not miss one of them. If he were not “merciful” we could hope for no pardon; and if he were no more but merciful we could hope for no more but pardon; but when besides his being merciful he is also “gracious, “this gives us a further hope, a hope of a donative; and then it will not be what we are worthy to receive, but what it is fit for him to give. If he were not “slow to anger” we could expect no patience; but when besides his slowness to anger he is also “full of compassion; “this makes us expect he will be the good Samaritan, and not only bind up our wounds, but take care also for our further curing. What though he chide and be angry for a time; it is but our being patient a while with him, as he a long time hath been patient with us. Sir R. Baker.
Ver. 8 Slow to anger. In Scripture we find that slowness to anger, and hastiness to be angry, are expressed by the different frame of the nostrils; as, namely, when the Lord is said to be “slow to anger, ” the Hebrew is, long of nostrils. Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 8. Plenteous in mercy. dmxykw, “great mighty in mercy, ” placing his chief glory in this attribute, and hereby teaching us how to estimate true greatness. George Horne.
Ver. 8. Plenteous in mercy. It is a thing marvellously satisfactory and pleasing to the heart of a man to be still taking from a great heap; and upon this ground are those proverbial sayings, There is no fishing like to fishing in the sea, no service like the service of a king: because in one there is the greatest plenty and abundance of that kind of pleasure that fishers look after; and for them that serve, and must live by their service, there is none like that of princes, because they have abundance of reward and of opportunity whereby to recompense the services of those that do wait and attend upon them… And upon the same ground it is that the Scriptures, in several places do not only assert and testify that God is “merciful” and “gracious, “but abundant in mercy and full of grace; and not simply that there is redemption in him, but plenteousness of redemption, Ps 86:5 130:7; Isaiah 55:7, “Let the wicked forsake his way, “etc.; “Let him return unto the Lord and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” The commodity which we stand in need of is mercy and the pardon of our sins, because we have been unholy and ungodly creatures; this commodity is abundantly in God. There it is treasured up as waters are in the store-house of the sea; there is no end of the treasures of his grace, mercy, pardon, and compassion. There is no man, being in want, but had rather go to a rich man’s door to be relieved, than to the door of a poor man, if he kuoweth the rich man to be as liberal and as bountifully disposed as the poor man can be. John Goodwin, on, “Being filled with the Spirit.”
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 8.
1. Mercy specified: “Merciful and gracious.”
2. Mercy qualified: “Slow to anger.” Mercy itself may be angered, and then how terrible is the anger.
3. Mercy amplified: “Plenteous in mercy.” “He will abundantly pardon; “and he only knows what abundant pardon means. G. R.
Psalms 103:9*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 9. He will not always chide. He will sometimes, for he cannot endure that his people should harbour sin in their hearts, but not for ever will he chasten them; as soon as they turn to him and forsake their evil ways he will end the quarrel. He might find constant cause for striving with us, for we have always something in us which is contrary to his holy mind, but he refrains himself lest our spirits should fail before him. It will be profitable for any one of us who may be at this time out of conscious fellowship with the Lord, to inquire at his hands the reason for his anger, saying, “Shew me wherefore thou contendest with me?” For he is easily entreated of, and soon ceaseth from his wrath. When his children turn from their sins he soon turns from his chidings.
Neither will he keep his anger for ever. He bears no grudges. The Lord would not have his people harbour resentments, and in his own course of action he sets them a grand example. When the Lord has chastened his child he has done with his anger: he is not punishing as a judge, else might his wrath burn on, but he is acting as a father, and, therefore, after a few blows he ends the matter, and presses his beloved one to his bosom as if nothing had happened; or if the offence lies too deep in the offender’s nature to be thus overcome, he continues to correct, but he never ceases to love, and he does not suffer his anger with his people to pass into the next world, but receives his erring child into his glory.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 9. He will not always chide. Certainly it is as unpleasing to God to chide, as it is to us to be chidden; and so little he likes of anger, that he rids his hands of it as fast as th can: he is not so slow in coming to it, but he is as quick in getting from it; for chiding is a bar to mercy, and anger an impediment to compassion; nothing is so distasteful to God as that any block should lie in the way of his mcrcy, or that the liberty of his compassion should have any cause of restraint: and then we may be sure he will not himself lay a block in the way with chiding, nor be a cause to restrain his compassion by keeping his anger. Sir R. Baker.
Ver. 9. (Second Clause). To keep anger for ever, corresponds with the French phrase, Je lui garde, Il me la garde, (*”I am watching him, as he has watched to do a bad turn to me”) which we use when the man, who cannot forgive the injuries he has received, cherishes secret revenge in his heart, and waits for an opportunity of retaliation. Now David denies that God, after the manner of men, keeps anger on account of injuries done to him, since he condescends to be reconciled. Calvin.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 9.
1. What God will do to his people. He will sometimes chide —contend with them. (a) Providentially, by outward trials. (b) Experimentally, by inward conflicts.
2. What he will not do to them. (a) Not chide continually in this life. (b) Not chide in the least hereafter. (c) “The days of their mourning shall be ended.” G. R.
Psalms 103:10*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 10. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. Else had Israel perished outright, and we also had long ago been consigned to the lowest hell. We ought to praise the Lord for what he has not done as well as for what he has wrought for us; even the negative side deserves our adoring gratitude. Up to this moment, at our very worst estate, we have never suffered as we deserved to suffer; our daily lot has not been apportioned upon the rule of what we merited, but on the far different measure of undeserved kindness. Shall we not bless the Lord? Every power of our being might have been rent with anguish, instead of which we are all in the enjoyment of comparative happiness, and many of us are exceedingly favoured with inward joy; let then every faculty, yea, all that is within us, bless his holy name.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 10. He hath not dealt with us after our sins. Might we not have expected, with such conduct, that God would have withdrawn from us the blessing of his providence, withheld from us the communication of his Spirit, permitted us to find the means of grace profitless, left our temptations to multiply, and suffered us to sink into a state of fixed backsliding? —and then, with our hearts at last sinking into too natural depression, might we not have seemed to hear him saying to us this day, “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee; know, therefore, and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of Hosts.” Baptist W. Noel, 1798-1873.
Ver. 10. He hath not dealt with us after our sins. Why is it that God hath not dealt with us after our sins? Is it not because he hath dealt with another after our sins? Another who look our sins upon him; of whom it is said, that “God chastened him in his fierce wrath”? and why did he chasten him, but for our sins? O gracious God, thou art too just to take revenge twice for the same faults; and therefore, having turned thy fierce wrath upon him, thou wilt not turn it upon us too; but having rewarded him according to our iniquities, thou wilt now reward us according to his merits. Sir R. Baker.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 10. Work out the terrible supposition, show the reasons why it has not yet been actually so; then suggest that it may yet become a terrible fact, and exhort the guilty to seek mercy.
Psalms 103:11*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 11. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. Boundless in extent towards his chosen is the mercy of the Lord; it is no more to be measured than the height of heaven or the heaven of heavens. “Like the height of the heavens” is the original language, which implies other points of comparison besides extent, and suggests sublimity, grandeur, and glory. As the lofty heavens canopy the earth, water it with dews and rains, enlighten it with sun, moon, and stars, and look down upon it with unceasing watchfulness, even so the Lord’s mercy from above covers all his chosen, enriches them, embraces them, and stands for ever as their dwellingplace. The idea of our version is a very noble one, for who shall tell how exceeding great is the height of heaven? Who can reach the first of the fixed stars, and who can measure the utmost bounds of the starry universe? Yet so great is his mercy! Oh, that great little word so! All this mercy is for “them that fear him; “there must be a humble, hearty reverence of his authority, or we cannot taste of his grace. Godly fear is one of the first products of the divine life in us, it is the beginning of wisdom, yet it fully ensures to its possessor all the benefits of divine mercy, and is, indeed, here and elsewhere, employed to set forth the whole of true religion. Many a true child of God is full of filial fear, and yet at the same time stands trembling as to his acceptance with God; this trembling is groundless, but it is infinitely to be preferred to that baseborn presumption, which incites men to boast of their adoption and consequent security, when all the while they are in the gall of bitterness. Those who are presuming upon the infinite extent of divine mercy, should here be led to consider that although it is wide as the horizon and high as the stars, yet it is only meant for them that fear the Lord, and as for obstinate rebels, they shall have justice without mercy measured out to them.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 11. Our mind cannot find a comparison too large for expressing the superabundant mercy of the Lord toward his people. David Dickson.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 11-13. The height, length and depth of divine love.
Psalms 103:12*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 12. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. O glorious verse, no word even upon the inspired page can excel it! Sin is removed from us by a miracle of love! What a load to move, and yet is it removed so far that the distance is incalculable. Fly as far as the wing of imagination can bear you, and if you journey through space eastward, you are further from the west at every beat of your wing. If sin be removed so far, then we may be sure that the scent, the trace, the very memory of it must be entirely gone. If this be the distance of its removal, there is no shade of fear of its ever being brought back again; even Satan himself could not achieve such a task. Our sins are gone, Jesus has borne them away. Far as the place of sunrise is removed from yonder west, where the sun sinks when his day’s journey is done, so far were our sins carried by our scapegoat nineteen centuries ago, and now if they be sought for, they shall not be found, yea, they shall not be, saith the Lord. Come, my soul, awaken thyself thoroughly and glorify the Lord for this richest of blessings. Hallelujah. The Lord alone could remove sin at all, and he has done it in a godlike fashion, making a final sweep of all our transgressions.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. l2. As far as the east is from the west. The expression taken from the distance of the east from west is pitched upon, saith Kimchi, because those two quarters of the world are of greatest extent, being all known and inhabited. From whence it is that geographies reckon that way their longitudes, as from north to south their latitudes. Henry Hammond.
Ver. 12. When sin is pardoned, it is never charged again; the guilt of it can no more return than east can become west, or west become east. Stephen Charnock.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 12. “Plenary Absolution.” See “Spurgeon’s Sermons, ” No. 1,108.
Ver. 12.
1. The union implied. Between man and his transgressions.
(a) Legally.
(b) Actually.
(c) Experimentally.
(d) Eternally, in themselves considered.
2. The separation effected.
(a) By whom? “He hath, “etc.
(b) How? By his own Son coming between the sinner and
his sins.
3. The Re-union prevented. “As far, “etc. When east and west meet, then, and not till then, will the reunion take place. As the two extremities of a straight line can never meet, and cannot be lengthened without receding further from each other, so it will ever be with a pardoned sinner and his sins. G. R.
Psalms 103:13*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 13. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. To those who truly reverence his holy name, the Lord is a father and acts as such. These he pities, for in the very best of men the Lord sees much to pity, and when they are at their best state they still need his compassion. This should check every propensity to pride, though at the same time it should yield us the richest comfort. Fathers feel for their children, especially when they are in pain, they would like to suffer in their stead, their sighs and groans cut them to the quick: thus sensitive towards us is our heavenly Father. We do not adore a god of stone, but the living God, who is tenderness itself. He is at this moment compassionating us, for the word is in the present tense; his pity never fails to flow, and we never cease to need it.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 13. Like as a father pitieth his children, etc. A chaplain to seamen, at an American port, visited a sailor who appeared to be near death. He spoke kindly to the man upon the state of his soul, and directed him to cast himself on Jesus. With an oath, the sick man bade him begone. The chaplain then told him that he must be faithful to him, for if he died impenitent he would be lost for ever. The man was sullen and silent, and pretentted to fall asleep. The visit was repeated more than once, with similar ill success. At length the chaplain, suspecting that the sailor was a Scotchman, repeated a verse of the old version of the Psalms:
“Such pity as a father hath
Unto his children dear.
Like pity shows the Lord to such
As worship him in fear.”
Tears started into the sailor’s eyes as he listened to these words. The chaplain asked him if he had not had a pious mother. The man broke into tears. Yes, his mother had, in years gone by, taught him these words, and had also prayed to God for him. Since then he had been a wanderer by sea and land; but the memory of her faith and love moved his heart. The appeals made to him were blessed by the Spirit of God. His life was spared, and proved the reality of his conversion.
Ver. 13. Like as a father. It is to be observed in this verse, what kind of mercy the prophet attributes to God. He says not, As man pities man, as the rich the poor man, as the strong the feeble, as the freeman the captive, but he makes mention of that pity which a father shows to his son, which is the greatest of all. The word Mxr itself supports this view, as it properly signifies viscarum commotis. An example of this we have in 1 Kings 3:23-27 in the case of the woman who could not bear the slaughter of her child… And afterwards in the case of the father of the prodigal. Lu 15:11-32. Musculus.
Ver. 13. As a father pitieth his children. The father pitieth his children that are weak in knowledge, and instructs them; pities them when they are froward, and bears with them; pities them when they are sick, and comforts them; when they are fallen, and helps them up again; when they have offended, and upon their submission, forgives them; when they are wronged, and rights them. Thus “the Lord pitieth them that fear him.” Matthew Henry.
Ver. 13. So the Lord pitieth, &c. So and ten thousand times more than so. For he is the “Father of all mercies, “and the Father of all the fatherhoods in heaven and earth. Ephesians 3:15. John Trapp.
Ver. 13. The Load pitieth. Though it be commonly said, “It is better to be envied, than pitied; “yet here it is not so: but it is a far happier thing to be pitied of God, than to be envied of men. Sir R. Baker.
Ver. 13. Them that fear him. The fear of God is that deference to God which leads you to subordinate your will to his; makes you intent on pleasing him; penitent in view of past wilfulness; happy in his present smile; transported by his love; hopeful of his glory. George Bowen.
Ver. 13. Them that fear him. It may be understood of those who have not yet “received the spirit of adoption, “but are yet “trembling at his word, “those he “pities.” Matthew Henry.
Ver. 13-14. The good father doth not turn off the child for being weak and sickly; but is so much the more indulgent as his necessity requires succour. If his stomach refuse meat, or cannot answer it with digestion, will he put him out of doors? No; when the Shunamite’s son complains of his head, she lays him in her bosom. A mother is good to all the fruit of her womb, most kind to the sick infant: when it lies with its eyes fixed on her, not able to declare its grief, or to call for what it desires, this doubles her compassion: “So the Lord doth pity us, remembering our frame, considering that we are but dust”; that our soul works by a lame instrument; and therefore he requires not that of an elemental composition, which he doth of angelical spirits. The son is commanded to write out such a copy fairly; he doth his best, far short of the original; yet the father doth not chide, but encourage him. Or he gives him a bow and arrows, bids him shoot to such a mark; he draws his utmost strength, lets go cheerfully: the arrow drops far short, yet the son is praised, the father pleased. Temptation assaults us, lust buffets us, secular business diverts us, manifold is our weakness, but not beyond our Father’s forgiveness: “He will spare us, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him, ” Malachi 3:17. Thomas Adams.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 13-14. “The Tender Pity of the Lord.” See “Spurgeon’s Sermons, “No. 941.
Ver 13-14.
1. Whom God pities; “them that fear him.”
2. How he pities “as a father pitieth his children.”
3. Why he pities; “for he knoweth our frame.” He hath reason to know out frame, for he framed us, and having himself made man of the dust, “he remembers that we are dust.” Matthew Henry.
Psalms 103:14*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 14. For he knoweth our frame. He knows how we are made, for he made us. Our make and build, our constitution and temperament, our prevailing infirmity and most besetting temptation he well perceives, for he searches our inmost nature.
He remembereth that we are dust. Made of dust, dust still, and ready to return to dust. We have sometimes heard of “the Iron Duke, ” and of iron constitutions, but the words are soon belied, for the Iron Duke is dissolved, and other men of like rigour are following to the grave, where “dust to dust” is an appropriate requiem. We too often forget that we are dust, and try our minds and bodies unduly by excessive mental and bodily exertion, we are also too little mindful of the infirmities of others, and impose upon them burdens grievous to be borne; but our heavenly Father never overloads us, and never fails to give us strength equal to our day, because he always takes our frailty into account when he is apportioning to us our lot. Blessed be his holy name for this gentleness towards his frail creatures.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 14. He knoweth our frame. “Our formation; “the manner in which we are constructed, and the materials of which we are made. Adam Clarke.
Ver. 14. He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. Not like some unskilled empiric, who hath but one receipt for all, strong or weak, young or old; but as a wise physician considers his patient, and then writes his bill. Men and devils are but God’s apothecaries, they make not our physic, but give what God prescribes. Balaam loved Balak’s fee well enough, but could not go a hair’s breadth beyond God’s commission. William Gumall.
Ver. 14. He remembereth that we are dust. As if the very matter out of which man was first made, though without sin, were a disadvantage to him, in the resisting of sin. It was a disadvantage before man had any sin in him, how much more is it now when most men have nothing at all in them but sin, and the best have very much. “That which is born of the flesh, “saith Christ, “is flesh.” Corrupt nature can produce none but corrupt acts. Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 14. We are dust.
O how in this Thy quire of souls I stand,
—Propt by Thy hand—
A heap of sand!
Which busie thoughts—like winds—would scatter quite,
And put to flight,
But for Thy might;
Thy hand alone doth tame
Those blasts, and knit my frame. Henry Vaughan.
Ver. 14, 16. We are dust. I never see one of those spiral pillars of dust which, like a mimic simoon, rush along the road upon a windy day, with- ont thinking, “There is an image of life.” Dust and a breath! Observe how the apparent “pillar” is but a condition, an active condition, of the particles of dust, and those particles continually changing. The form depends upon the incessant movement. The heavy sand floats on the impalpable air while it partakes its motion; let that cease and it fails, So the dull clods of the field, smitten by force, take wings and soar in life, partake for a time its rapid course, and then, the force exhausted, fall back into their former state. A whirl, a flux, maintained by forces without, and ceasing when they are withdrawn; that is our life. James Hinton, in “Thoughts on, Health and some of its Conditions, ” 1871.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 14.
1. Man’s Constitution.
2. God’s Consideration. W. D.
Psalms 103:15*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 15. As for man, his days are as grass. He lives on the grass, and lives like the grass. Corn is but educated grass, and man, who feeds on it, partakes of its nature. The grass lives, grows, flowers, falls beneath the scythe, dries up, and is removed from the field: read this sentence over again, and you will find it the history of man. If he lives out his little day, he is cut down at last, and it is far more likely that he will wither before he comes to maturity, or be plucked away on a sudden, long before he has fulfilled his time.
As a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. He has a beauty and a comeliness even as the meadows have when they are yellow with the king-cups, but, alas, how short-lived! No sooner come than gone, a flash of loveliness and no more! Man is not even like a flower in the conservatory or in the sheltered garden border, he grows best according to nature, as the field-flower does, and like the unprotected beautifier of the pasture, he runs a thousand risks of coming to a speedy end. A large congregation, in many-coloured attire, always reminds us of a meadow bright with many hues; and the comparison becomes sadly true when we reflect, that as the grass and its goodliness soon pass away, even so will those we gaze upon, and all their visible beauty. Thus, too, must it be with all that comes of the flesh, even its greatest excellencies and natural virtues, for “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, “and therefore is but as grass which withers if but a breath of wind assails it. Happy are they who, born from above, have in them an incorruptible seed which liveth and abideth for ever.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 15. As for man. The insignificance of man is especially brought out by the use of ENOSH here. Robert Baker Girdlestone.
Ver. 15. Man comes forth, says Job, like a flower, and is cut down; he is sent into the world the fairest and noblest part of God’s works, fashioned after the image of his Creator, with respect to reason and the great faculties of the mind; he cometh forth glorious as the flower of the field; as it surpasses the vegetable world in beauty, so does he the animal world in the glory and excellence of his nature. The one, if no untimely accident oppress it, soon arrives at the full period of its perfection, —is suffered to triumph for a few moments, and is plucked up by the roots in the very pride and gayest stage of its being; —or if it happens to escape the hands of violence, in a few days it necessarily sickens of itself and dies away. Man likewise, though his progress is slower, and his duration somewhat longer, yet the periods of his growth and declension are nearly the same, both in the nature and manner of them. If he escapes the dangers which threaten his tenderer years, he is soon got into the full maturity and strength of life; and if he is so fortunate as not to be hurried out of it then by accidents, by his own folly and intemperance—if he escapes these, he naturally decays of himself, —a period comes fast upon him, beyond which he was not made to last. Like flowers or fruits which may be plucked up by force before the time of their maturity, yet cannot be made to outgrow the period when they are to fade and drop of themselves; when that comes, the hand of nature then plucks them both off, and no art of the botanist can uphold the one, or skill of the physician preserve the other, beyond the periods to which their original frames and constitutions were made to extend. As God has appointed and determined the several growths and decays of the vegetable race, so he seems as evidently to have prescribed the same laws to man, as well as all living creatures, in the first rudiments of which there are contained the specific powers of their growth, duration and extinction; and when the evolutions of those animal powers are exhausted and run down, the creature expires and dies of itself, as ripe fruit falls from the tree, or a flower preserved beyond its bloom, drops and perishes upon the stalk. Lawrence Sterne, 1713-1768.
Ver. 15. The Psalmist saith of man, as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. It is not a flower of the garden, but of the “field.” This latter is more subject to decay than the former, because it lies more open to the nipping air and violent winds, and to the browsing mouth of the beast, and is more liable to be trampled upon: by all these ways it decayeth as well as by the scorching sun, and its own fading temper. John Edwards, in “Theologia Reformata.”
Ver. 15. As flower of the field.
What is life! like a flower, with the bane in its bosom,
Today full of promise—tomorrow it dies! —
And health—like the dew-drop that hangs in its blossom,
Survives but a night, and exhales to the skies!
How oft beneath the bud that is brightest and fairest,
The seeds of the canker in embryo lurk!
How oft at the root of the flower that is rarest—
Secure in its ambush the worm is at work? James Beattie, 1735-1803.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 15. Man’s earthly career. His rise, progress, glory, fall, and oblivion.
Ver. 15-18.
1. What man is when left to himself. “As for man, “etc. (a) What here? His days are as grass, his glory as the flower of grass. (b) What hereafter? swept away by a blighting wind, by a blast of divine anger—known no more on the earth, known only in perdition.
2. What the mercy of God does for him. (a) Makes a covenant of grace on his behalf flora everlasting. (b) Makes a covenant of peace with hint in this life. (c) Makes a covenant of promise to him for an eternity to come.
3. Who are the objects of this mercy? (a) Those who fear God. (b) Who walk in the footsteps of pious ancestors. (c) Who rely upon covenant mercy. (d) Who are faithful to their covenant engagements. G. R.
Psalms 103:16*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 16. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone. Only a little wind is needed, not even a scythe is demanded, a breath can do it, for the flower is so frail.
“If one sharp wind sweep over the field,
It withers in an hour.”
How small a portion of deleterious gas suffices to create a deadly fever, which no art of man can stay. No need of sword or bullet, a puff of foul air is deadlier far, and fails not to lay low the healthiest and most stalwart son of man.
And the place thereof shall know it no more. The flower blooms no more. It may have a successor, but as for itself its leaves are scattered, and its perfume will never again sweeten the evening air. Man also dies and is gone, gone from his old haunts, his dear home, and his daily labours, never to return. As far as this world is concerned, he is as though he never had been; the sun rises, the moon increases or wanes, summer and winter run their round, the rivers flow, and all things continue in their courses as though they missed him not, so little a figure does he make in the affairs of nature. Perhaps a friend will note that he is gone, and say,
“One morn. I missed him on the accustomed hill,
Along the heath, and near his favourite tree;
Another came, nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he.”
But when the “dirges due” are silent, beyond a mound of earth, and perhaps a crumbling stone, how small will be the memorial of our existence upon this busy scene! True there are more enduring memories, and an existence of another kind coeval with eternity, but these belong, not to our flesh, which is but grass, but to a higher life, in which we rise to close fellowship with the Eternal.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 16. The wind passeth over it, and it is gone, etc. A breath of air, a gentle wind (xwr) passes over him and he is gone. It would not be so strange if a tempest, a whirlwind, passing over should sweep him away. The Psalmist means much more than this. The gentlest touch, the whispering breeze, bears him off. He soon becomes a stranger, no more known in the little space he once filled, going out and coming in. Henry Cowles.
Ver. 16. The wind passeth over it, and it is gone. It is well known that a hot wind in the east destroys at once every green thing. Nor is this to be wondered at, if, as Dr. Russell says, the winds sometimes “bring with them a degree and kind of heat, which one would imagine came out of an oven, and which, when it blows hard, will affect metals within the houses, such as locks of room doors, nearly as much as if they had been exposed to the rays of the sun.” The blasting effect which seems to be here alluded to, of certain pestilential winds upon the animal frame, is by no means exaggerated by the comparison to the sudden fading of a flower. Maillet describes hundreds of persons in a caravan as stifled on the spot by the fire and dust, of which the deadly wind, that sometimes prevails in the eastern deserts, seems to be composed. And Sir John Chardin describes this wind “as making a great hissing noise, “and says that “it appears red and fiery, and kills those whom it strikes by a kind of stifling them, especially when it happens in the day time.” Richard Mant.
Ver. 16. The place thereof shall know him no more, &c. Man, once turned to dust, is blown about by every wind, from place to place; and what knows the place, when dust falls upon it; whether it be the dust of a prince, or of a peasant; whether of a man, or of a beast? And must not man then needs be very miserable, when time and place, the two best helps of life, do both forsake him? for what help can he have of time, when his days are but as grass? What help of place, when his place denies him, and will not know him? Sir R. Baker.
Psalms 103:17*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 17. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him. Blessed but! How vast the contrast between the fading flower and the everlasting God! How wonderful that his mercy should link our frailty with his eternity, and make us everlasting too! From old eternity the Lord viewed his people as objects of mercy, and as such chose them to become partakers of his grace; the doctrine of eternal election is most delightful to those who have light to see it and love wherewith to accept it. It is a theme for deepest thought and highest joy. The “to everlasting” is equally precious. Jehovah changes not, he has mercy without end as well as without beginning. Never will those who fear him find that either their sins or their needs have exhausted the great deep of his grace. The main question is, “Do we fear him?” If we are lifting up to heaven the eye of filial fear, the gaze of paternal love is never removed from us, and it never will be, world without end.
And his righteousness unto children’s children. Mercy to those with whom the Lord makes a covenant is guaranteed by righteousness;it is because he is just that he never revokes a promise, or fails to fulfil it. Our believing sons and their seed for ever will find the word of the Lord the same: to them will he display his grace and bless them even as he has blessed us. Let us sing, then, for posterity. The past commands our praise and the future invites it. For our descendants let us sing as well as pray. If Abraham rejoiced concerning his seed, so also may the godly, for “instead of the fathers shall be the children, “and as the last Psalm told us in its concluding verse, “the children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 17. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting. No human benevolence is perpetually the same; but by expelfence we see that those who are kind today, may be changed into tyrants tomorrow. Examples of this we have in the life of Nero, and many other rulers. Therefore lest we should suspect the goodness of God to bear any similar character, it is said with inconceivable consolation, that it shall never cease, but is prepared for ever for all those who fear and serve God. Musculus.
Ver. 17. From everlasting to everlasting. From everlasting, by predestination; to everlasting, by glorification: the one without beginning, the other without end. Bernard.
Psalms 103:18*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 18. Children of the righteous are not, however, promised the Lord’s mercy without stipulation, and this verse completes the statement of the last by adding: To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them. The parents must be obedient and the children too. We are here bidden to abide by the covenant, and those who run off to any other confidence than the finished work of Jesus are not among those who obey this precept; those with whom the covenant is really made stand firm to it, and having begun in the Spirit, they do not seek to be made perfect in the flesh. The truly godly keep the Lord’s commands carefully—they “remember”; they observe them practically—”to do them”: moreover they do not pick and choose, but remember “his commandments” as such, without exalting one above another as their own pleasure or convenience may dictate. May our offspring be a thoughtful, careful, observant race, eager to know the will of the Lord, and prompt to follow it fully, then will his mercy enrich and honour them from generation to generation.
This verse also suggests praise, for who would wish the Lord to smile on those who will not regard his ways? That were to encourage vice. From the manner in which some men unguardedly preach the covenant, one might infer that God would bless a certain set of men however they might live, and however they might neglect his laws. But the word teaches not so. The covenant is not legal, but it is holy. It is all of grace from first to last, yet it is no panderer to sin; on the contrary, one of its greatest promises is, “I will put my laws in their hearts and in their minds will I write them”; its general aim is the sanctifying of a people unto God, zealous for good works, and all its gifts and operations work in that direction. Faith keeps the covenant by looking alone to Jesus, while at the same time by earnest obedience it remembers the Lord’s commandments to do them.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 18. To do them. Commands are to be remembered in order to practice; a vain speculation is not the intent of the publication of them. Stephen Charnock.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 18. The covenant, in what respects we can keep it, in what frame of mind it must be kept, and what is the practical proof of so doing.
Psalms 103:19*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 19. The LORD has prepared his throne in the heavens. Here is a grand burst of song produced by a view of the boundless power, and glorious sovereignty of Jehovah. His throne is fixed, for that is the word; it is estabhshed, settled, immovable.
“He sits on no precarious throne,
Nor borrows leave to be.”
About his government there is no alarm, no disorder, no perturbation, no hurrying to and fro in expedients, no surprises to be met or unexpected catastrophes to be warded off; —all is prepared and fixed, and he himself has prepared and fixed it. He is no delegated sovereign for whom a throne is set up by another; he is an autocrat, and his dominion arises from himself and is sustained by his own innate power. This matchless sovereignty is the pledge of our security, the pillar upon which our confidence may safely lean.
And his kingdom ruleth over all. Over the whole universe he stretches his sceptre. He now reigns universally, he always has done so, and he always will. To us the world may seem rent with anarchy, but he brings order out of confusion. The warring elements are marching beneath his banner when they most wildly rush onward in furious tempest. Great and small, intelligent and material, willing and unwilling, fierce or gentle, —all, all are under his sway. His is the only universal monarchy, he is the blessed and only Potentate, King of kings and Lord of lords. A clear view of his ever active, and everywhere supreme providence, is one of the most delightful of spiritual gifts; he who has it cannot do otherwise than bless the Lord with all his soul.
Thus has the sweet singer hymned the varied attributes of the Lord as seen in nature, grace, and providence, and now he gathers up all his energies for one final outburst of adoration, in which he would have all unite, since all are subjects of the Great King.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 19. The Lord hath prepared his Throne. The word signifies establisthed as well as prepared, and might be so rendered. Due preparation is the natural way to the establishment of a thing; hasty resolves break and moulder. This notes,
1. The peculiarity of his authority. He prepares it, and none else for him. It is a dominion that originally resides in his nature, not derived from any by birth or commission; he alone prepared it. He is the sole cause of his own kingdom; his authority therefore is unbounded, as infinite as his nature. None can set laws to him, because none but himself prepared his throne for him. As he will not impair his own happiness, so he will not abridge himself of his own authority.
2. Readiness to exercise it upon due occasions. He hath prepared his throne, he is not at a loss, he needs not stay for a commission or instructions from any how to act. He hath all things ready for the assistance of his people, he hath rewards and punishments; his treasures trod axes, the great mark of authority lying by him, the one for the good, the other for the wicked. His mercy he keeps by him for thousands, Exodus 34:7; his arrows he hath prepared by him for rebels, Psalms 7:13.
3. Wise management of it. It is prepared: preparations imply prudence; the government of God is not a rash and heady authority. A prince upon his throne, a judge upon the bench, manages things with the greatest discretion, or should be supposed so to do.
4. Successfulness and duration of it. He hath prepared or established it. It is fixed, not tottering; it is an unmovable dominion; all the strugglings of men and devils cannot overturn it, nor so much as shake it. It is established above the reach of obstinate rebels; he cannot be deposed from it, he cannot be mated in it. His dominion, as himself abides for ever. And as his counsel, so his authority, shall stand; and “he will do all his pleasure, ” Isaiah 46:10. Stephen Charnock.
Ver. 19. His throne in the heavens, denotes:
1. The glory of his dominion. The heavens are the most stately and comely pieces of the creation; his majesty is there most visible, his glory most splendid, Psalms 19:1. In heaven his dominion is more acknowledged by the angels: his dominion is not disputed there by the angels that attend him, as it is on earth by the rebels that arm themselves against him.
2. The supremacy of his empire. The heavens are the loftiest part of the creation, and the only fit palace for him.
3. Peculiarity of this dominion. He rules in the heavens alone. His authority is not delegated to any creature, he rules the blessed spirits by himself; but he rules men that are on his footstool by others of the same kind, men of their own nature.
4. The vastness of his empire. The earth is but a spot to the heavens. What is England in a map to the whole earth, but a spot you may cover with your finger; much less must the whole earth be to the extended heavens. You cannot conceive the many millions of little particles that are in the earth; and if all put together be but one point: to that place where the throne of God is seated, how vast must his empire be! He rules there ovcr the angels, which excel in strength, those hosts of his which do his pleasure, in comparison of whom all the men in the world, and the power of the greatest potentates, is no more than the strength of an ant or fly. And since his throne is in the heavens, it will follow that all things under the heaven are part of his dominion; the inferior things of earth cannot but be subject to him; and it necessarily includes his influence on all things below, because the heavens arc the cause of all the motion in the world. See Hosea 2:21-22.
5. The easiness of managing this government. His throne being placed on high, he cannot but behold all things that are done below; the height of a place gives advantage to a clear eye to behold things below it. “The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, “Psalms 14:2. He looks not down from heaven as if his presence were confined there, but he looks down majestically, and by way of authority.
6. Duration of it. The heavens are incorruptible, his throne is placed there in an incorruptible state. The throne of God outlives the dissolution of the world. Condensed from Charnock.
Ver. 19. His kingdom ruleth over all. His Lordship is universal. First, over all time:other lords die, but he is eternal. Eternity is properly the duration of an uncreated Ens. It is improperly taken, either for things that have both beginning and end, as everlasting mountains; divers such phrases in Scripture; or for things that have a beginning but shall have no end; so are angels and men’s souls eternal; so, eternal life, eternal fire. But God calls himself, “I AM, “Exodus 3:14 : I am what I have been, I have been what I am, what I am and have been I shall be. This attribute is incommunicable: all other things had a non esse preceding their esse;and they have a mutation tending to nothing. “They that war against thee shall be as nothing, “Isaiah 41:12 : all come to nothing unless they be upheld by the manutency of God: but “Thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end, “Psalms 102:27. Thou turnest man to destruction, and again sayest, Return: “even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God, “Psalms 90:2; the sole umpire and measurer of beginning and ending.
Secondly, over all places, heaven, earth, hell, Psalms 135:6. Kings are limited, and cannot do many things they desire: they cannot command the sun to stand still, nor the wind to blow which way they would: in the lofty air, in the depths of the sea no king reigns. They fondly flatter the pope with his long arms that they reach to purgatory; (but indeed both power and place are alike imaginary;)it is Christ alone that hath the keys of all places.
Thirdly, over all creatures;binding the influences of Pleiades, and loosing the bands of Orion, Job 38:31; commanding the fire against the nature of it, to descend, 2 Kings 1:12; creating and ruling the stars, Amos 5:8; overruling the lions, Daniel 6:22, sending the meteors, Psalms 148:8, hedging in the sea, lapping it up like a child in swaddling-clothes, Job 38:8, dividing, diverting, filling it. In both fire and water, those two raging elements that have no mercy, he shows mercy; delivers us from both in both. He calls the fowls, and they come; the beasts, and they hear: the trees, and they spring to obey him. He hath a raven for Elijah, a gourd for Jonah, a dog for Lazarus. Makes the leviathan, the hugest living creature, preserve his prophet. That a terrible lion should be killed, as was by Samson; or not kill, as they forbore Daniel; or kill and not eat, as that prophet, 1 Kings 13:1-29 : here was the Lord. Over metals; he makes iron to swim, stones to cleave asunder. Over the devils; they must obey him though unwillingly. But they continually rebel against him, and break his will? They do indeed against his complacency, not against his permission. There is then no time, not the hour of death; no place, not the sorest torment; no creature, not the devil; but the Lord can deliver us from them. Therefore at all times, in all places, and against all creatures, let us trust in him for deliverance. Thomas Adams.
Ver. 19. His kingdom ruleth over all. When Melancthon was extremely solicitous about the affairs of the church in his days, Luther would have him admonished in these terms, Monendus est Philippus ut desinat esse rector mundi:Let not Philip make himself any longer governor of the world. David Clarkson.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 19. “A Discourse upon God’s Dominion.” See Charnock’s Works Nicol’s Edition, Vol. II., pp. 400-499.
Ver. 19.
1. The nature of the throne.
2. The extent of the dominion.
3. The character of the monarch.
4. The consequent joy of the subjects: “Bless the Lord.”
Psalms 103:20*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 20. Bess the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength. Finding his work of praise growing upon his hands, he calls upon “the firstborn sons of light” to speak the praises of the Lord, as well they may, for as Milton says, they best can tell. Dwelling nearer to that prepared throne than we as yet have leave to climb, they see in nearer vision the glory which we would adore. To them is given an exceeding might of intellect, and voice, and force which they delight to use in sacred services for him; let them now turn all their strength into that solemn song which we would send up to the third heaven. To him who gave angelic strength let all angelic strength be given. They are his angels, and therefore they are not loath to ring out his praises.
That do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. We are bidden to do these commandntents, and alas we fail; let those unfallen spirits, whose bliss it is never to have transgressed, give to the Lord the glory of their holiness. They hearken for yet more commands, obeying as much by reverent listening as by energetic action, and in this they teach us how the heavenly will should evermore be done; yet even for this surpassing excellence let them take no praise, but render all to him who has made and kept them what they are. O that we could hear them chant the high praises of God, as did the shepherds on that greatest of all birth nights—
“When such music sweet
Their hearts and ears did greet
As never was by mortal finger struck;
Divinely-warbled voice
Answering the stringed noise,
As well their souls in blissful rapture took:
The air, such pleasure loth to lose,
With thousand echoes still prolongs each heavenly close.”
Our glad heart anticipates the hour when we shall hear them “harping in loud and solemn guise, “and all to the sole praise of God.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 20. Bless the Lord, ye his angels, etc. The weight of offering praise unto God is too heavy for men to lift; and as for angels, it will take up all their strength and their best abilities to go about it. David Dickson.
Ver. 20. Angels, that excel it, strength, that do his commandments. The chief excellence of the angels, the main cause of their strength and power, and of their immense superiority to mankind, is that which is set forth in the following words of the text. After the Psalmist has described the angels as excelling in strength, he adds that they do God’s commandments, hearkening to the voice of his word. For this is the only living source of lasting strength and power. They who do the will of God faithfully and obediently, have God for them; and then what can be against them? Then work itself strengthens them, and is like a tide bearing them onward; because it is his work. They on the other hand who run counter to the will of God, have God against them; and then what can be for them? Can a man push back the sea? can he lay hold on the sun, and drag him out of his course? Then may he hope to be strong, when he is fighting against the will of God…
Hence we see the falsehood of that maxim, so common on the lips of those who plume themselves upon their mastery in the wisdom of this world—that Might is Right, —a maxim which exactly inverts the truth, and whereby the Prince of darkness is ever setting himself up against the Lord of heaven. The true principle, which is inverted and perverted in this falsehood, —the principle which ought to be written up in the councilchambers of princes and on the walls of senate-houses, —the principle which explains the secret of the strength of the angels, and indeed of all true strength, that is in accordance with the will of God, —may be stated in the selfsame words, if we only invert their order, Right is Might. Julius Charles Hare, 1849.
Ver. 20. His angels that do his commandments, etc. They hearken to the voice of his word, they look upon God as the great General, and if he give out the word, they give out their strength, and go about the work willingly. They are very attentive to his commands; if he says, Go smite Herod for his pride, Balaam for his covetousness, David for his vainglory, Sennacherib for his blasphemy, and Sodom for its uncleanness, presently they go. William Greenhill.
Ver. 20. Commandments. Davar (rkd), to speak, is rendered, “command” twenty times… direct personal communion between the Lord and his messengers seems to be implied. R. B. Girdlestone.
Ver. 20. Hearkenling into the voice of his word. Not only, mightily executing the word when heard; but, ever intently listening, ready to catch the intimation of his will. William Kay.
Ver. 20. Hearkening unto the voice of his word. Angels are vigilant creatures, and wait for opportunities, and when they come they will not lose them. They neither slumber nor sleep, but hearken constantly what the Lord will say, what opportunity there will be for action; so, in Ezekiel 1:11, they are described with their wings stretched upward, manifesting their watchfulness and readiness for service. When Christ was born, a multitude of them appeared and celebrated his nativity, Lu 2:13: when Christ was taken by Judas and his train, Peter drew his sword in his Master’s defence; but what saith Christ? “Put up thy sword, it is not a time now to fight, but to suffer: thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? It is not a time now to pray for help, I must die, and the Scripture must be fulfilled; but if I would, my Father would bid the angels to aid me, and they presently would come, whole legions of them, yea, all the angels in heaven.” Let us learn of angels to watch for opportunities, and take them. There are nicks of time wherein to do the work of Christ. William Greenhill.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 20. The angels’ service instructive to us.
1. Their personal strength is excellent. As servants of God we also should see to our own spiritual health and rigour.
2. They are practical in their obedience, not theorists.
3. They are attentive while at work, ready to learn more, and holding fellowship with God, who speaks personally to them.
4. They do all in the spirit of joyful praise, blessing the Lord.
Ver. 20-21.
1. The centre of praise: “Bless the Lord.” All praise centres in him.
2. The concert of praise. (a) Angels. (b) The hosts of the redeemed. (c) Ministers in particular. (d) The surrounding creation.
3. The climax of praise: “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” This has the highest claim upon me for gratitude and praise. Vast as the chorus may be, it will not be perfect without my note of praise. This is the culminating note: “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” G.R.
Psalms 103:21*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 21. Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts; to whatever race of creatures ye may belong, for ye are all his troops, and he is the Generallissimo of all your armies. The fowl of the air and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea, should all unite in praising their Creator, after the best of their ability.
Ye ministers of his that do his pleasure; in whatever way ye serve him, bless him as ye serve. The Psalmist would have every servant in the Lord’s palace unite with him, and all at once sing out the praises of the Lord. We have attached a new sense to the word “ministers” in these latter days, and so narrowed it down to those who serve in word and doctrine. Yet no true minister would wish to alter it, for we are above all men bound to be the Lord’s servants, and we would, beyond all other ministering intelligences or forces, desire to bless the glorious Lord.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 21. Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts… that do his pleasure. The sun, moon, stars, and planets do “his pleasure” (Psalms 19:1) unconsciously; the “angels” consciously and with instinctive love, “hearken unto the voice of his word” (Psalms 103:20). Both together constitute the Lord’s hosts. A. R. Fausset.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 21. Who are God’s ministers? What is their business? To do his pleasure. What is their delight? To bless the Lord.
Ver. 21-22. Henry Melvill has a notable sermon upon “The Peril of the Spiritual Guide.” The drift of it may be gathered from the extract which wc have placed as a note upon the passage.
Psalms 103:22*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 22. Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion. Here is a trinity of blessing for the thrice blessed God, and each one of the three blessings is an enlargement upon that which went before. This is the most comprehensive of all, for what can be a wider call than to all in all places? See how finite man can awaken unbounded praise! Man is but little, yet, placing his hands upon the keys of the great organ of the universe, he wakes it to thunders of adoration! Redeemed man is the voice of nature, the priest in the temple of creation, the precentor in the worship of the universe. O that all the Lord’s works on earth were delivered from the vanity to which they were made subject, and brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God: the time is hastening on and will most surely come; then will all the Lord’s works bless him indeed. The immutable promise is ripening, the sure mercy is on its way. Hasten, ye winged hours!
Bless the Lord, O my soul. He closes on his key-note. He cannot be content to call on others without taking his own part; nor because others sing more loudly and perfectly, will he be content to be set aside. O my soul, come home to thyself and to thy God, and let the little world within thee keep time and tune to the spheres which are ringing out Jehovah’s praise. O infinitely blessed Lord, favour us with this highest blessing of being for ever and ever wholly engrossed in blessing Thee.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 22. Bless the LORD, O my soul. That is to say, “Let thy vocation be that of the seraphim, O my soul, and enter on the life of heaven!” Why should I praise him? Can my praise be of any advantage to him? No; nor that of all the heavenly hosts. It is infinite condescension in him to bearken unto the praises of his most exalted creatures.
Let me bless the Lord, because no function will be more rich in blessings to my soul than this. The admiring contemplation of his excellence is in reality the appropriation thereof: the heart cannot delight in God, without becoming like God. Let me do it, because it is the peculiar privilege of man on this earth to bless the Lord. When he would find any to join him in this, he has to ascend the skies. Let me do it, because the earth is fully furnished with the materials of praise. The sands, the seas, the flowers, the insects; animals, birds, fields, mountains, rivers, trees, clouds, sun, moon, stars, —all wait for me to translate their attribues and distinctions into praise. But, above all, the new creation.
Let me do it, because of him, through him, and to him, are all the things that pertain to my existence, health, comfort, knowledge, dignity, safety, progress, power, and usefulness. A thousand of his ministers in earth, sea, and sky, are concerned in the production and preparation of every mouthful that I eat. The breath that I am commanded and enabled to modulate in praise, neither comes nor goes without a most surprising exhibition of the condescension, kindness, wisdom, power, and presence of him whom I am to praise. Is it not dastardly to be receiving benefits, without even mentioning the name, or describing the goodness of the giver? Let candidates for heaven bless the Lord. There is no place there for such as have not learned this art. How shall I praise him? Not with fine words. No poetic talent is here necessary: Any language that expresses heart-felt admiration will be accepted. Praise him so far as you know him; and he will make known to you more of his glory. George Bowen, 1873.
Ver. 22. The last specification is completely comprehensive; all his works in all places of his wide dominions —all that he has made, whether intelligent or not intelligent; “in all places” —above, beneath, around: in heaven, earth, or hell: let them all fall into this universal chorus of praise and blessing, extolling Jehovah, the One supremely great, supremely good! Nor will he exempt himself; for his personal responsibilities as to his own heart, are his highest. Therefore he closes as he began, “Bless the LORD, O my soul.” Henry Cowles.
Ver. 22. Bless the LORD, O my soul. Inasmuch as the poet thus comes back to his own soul, his Psalm also turns back into itself and assumes the form of a converging circle. Franz Delitzsch.
Ver. 22. Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul. We are very much struck by this sudden transition from “all God’s works, in all places of his dominion, “to himself, a solitary individual. Of course he had already included himself; himself had been summoned when he summoned all God’s works in all places of his dominion; but it seems as if a sudden fear had seized the Psalmist, the fear of by any possibility omitting himself; or, if not a fear, yet a consciousness that his very activity in summoning others to praise, might make him forgetful that he was bound to praise God himself, or sluggish in the duty, or ready to take for granted that he could not himself be neglecting what he was so strenuous in pressing on all orders of being. We have a great subject of discourse here. Solomon has said, “They made me keeper of the vineyards, but mine own vineyard have I not kept.” Alas! how possible, how easy, to take pains for others, and to be neglectful of one’s self: nay, to make the pains we take for others the reason by which we persuade ourselves that we cannot be neglecting ourselves. How important, then, that, if with the Psalmist we call on all God’s works in all places of his dominions to bless the Lord; how important, I say, that we add, like persons bent on self-examination, and fearful of self-deceit, “Bless the LORD, O my soul.” Henry Melvill.
Ver. 1-2, 22. Bless the Lord, O my soul… Bless the Lord, O my soul, with the Bless the Lord all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the Lord, O my soul, Psalms 103:22; these two form the thrice-repeated blessing from the Lord to the soul in the Mosaic formula, Numbers 6:24-26. A. R. Fausset.

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Psalm 102

holy-bible-background

Verses 1-28
SUBJECT. This is a patriot’s lament over his country’s distress. He arrays himself in the griefs of his nation as in a garment of sackcloth, and casts her dust and ashes upon his head as the ensigns and causes of his sorrow. He has his own private woes and personal enemies, he is moreover sore afflicted in body by sickness, but the miseries of his people cause him a far more bitter anguish, and this he pours out in an earnest, pathetic lamentation. Not, however, without hope does the patriot mourn; he has faith in God, and looks for the resurrection of the nation through the omnipotent favour of the Lord; this causes him to walk among the ruins of Jerusalem, and to say with hopeful spirit, “No, Zion, thou shalt never perish. Thy sun is not set for ever; brighter days are in store for thee.” It is in vain to enquire into the precise point of Israel’s history which thus stirred a patriot’s soul, for many a time was the land oppressed, and at any of her sad seasons this song and prayer would have been a most natural and appropriate utterance.
TITLE. A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord. This Psalm is a prayer far more in spirit than in words. The formal petitions are few, but a strong stream of supplication runs from beginning to end, and like an under-current, finds its way heavenward through the moanings of grief and confessions of faith which make up the major part of the Psalm. It is a prayer of the afflicted, or of “a sufferer, “and it bears the marks of its parent age; as it is recorded of Jabez that “his mother bore him with sorrow, “so may we say of this Psalm; yet as Rachel’s Benoni, or child of sorrow, was also her Benjamin, or son of her right hand, so is this Psalm as eminently expressive of consolation as of desolation. It is scarcely correct to call it a penitential Psalm, for the sorrow of it is rather of one suffering than sinning. It has its own bitterness, and it is not the same as that of the Fifty-first. The sufferer is afflicted more for others than for himself, more for Zion and the house of the Lord, than for his own house. When he is overwhelmed, or sorely troubled, and depressed. The best of men are not always able to stem the torrent of sorrow. Even when Jesus is on board, the vessel may fill with water and begin to sink. And poureth out his complaint before the LORD. When a cup is overwhelmed or turned bottom over, all that is in it is naturally poured out; great trouble removes the heart from all reserve and causes the soul to flow out without restraint; it is well when that which is in the soul is such as may be poured out in the presence of God, and this is only the case where the heart has been renewed by divine grace. The word rendered “complaint” has in it none of the idea of fault-finding or repining, but should rather be rendered “moaning, “—the expression of pain, not of rebellion. To help the memory we will call this Psalm THE PATRIOT’S PLAINT.
DIVISION. In the first part of the Psalm, Psalms 102:1-11, the moaning monopolizes every verse, the lamentation is unceasing, sorrow rules the hour. The second portion, from Psalms 102:12-28, has a vision of better things, a view of the gracious Lord, and his eternal existence, and care for his people, and therefore it is interspersed with sunlight as well as shaded by the cloud, and it ends up right gloriously with calm confidence for the future, and sweet restfulness in the Lord. The whole composition may be compared to a day which, opening with wind and rain, clears up at noon and is warm with the sun, continues fine, with intervening showers, and finally closes with a brilliant sunset.
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 1. Hear my prayer, O LORD. Or O JEHOVAH. Sincere supplicants are not content with praying for praying’s sake, they desire really to reach the ear and heart of the great God. It is a great relief in time of distress to acquaint others with our trouble, we are eased by their hearing our lamentation, but it is the sweetest solace of all to have God himself as a sympathizing listener to our plaint. That he is such is no dream or fiction, but an assured fact. It would be the direst of all our woes if we could be indisputably convinced that with God there is neither hearing nor answering; he who could argue us into so dreary a belief would do us no better service than if he had read us our death-warrants. Better die than be denied the mercy-seat. As well be atheists at once as believe in an unhearing, unfeeling God.
And let my cry come unto thee. When sorrow rises to such a height that words become too weak a medium of expression, and prayer is intensified into a cry, then the heart is even more urgent to have audience with the Lord. If our cries do not enter within the veil, and reach to the living God, we may as well cease from prayer at once, for it is idle to cry to the winds; but, blessed be God, the philosophy which suggests such a hideous idea is disproved by the facts of every day experience, since thousands of the saints can declare, “Verily, God hath heard us.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Title. A prayer, etc. The prayer following is longer than others. When Satan, the Law-Adversary, doth extend his pleas against us, it is meet that we should enlarge our counter pleas for our own souls; as the powers of darkness do lengthen aud multiply their wrestlings, so must we our counter wrestlings of prayer. Ephesians 6:12; Ephesians 6:18. Thomas Cobbet, 1667.
Title. When he… poureth out, etc. Here we have the manner of the church’s prayer suitable to her extremity illustrated by a simile taken from a vessel overcharged with new wine or strong liquor, that bursts for vent. Oh the heart-bursting cries she sends out all the day! Here is no lazy, slothful, lip labour, stinted forms of prayer, no empty sounds of verbal expressions, which can never procure her a comfortable answer from her God, or the least ease to her burdened soul; but poured-out prayers as Hannah, 1 Samuel 1:15, and Jeremy, La 2:12, pressed forth with vehemence of spirit and heart pangs of inward grief: thus the Lord deals with his church and people; ere he pour out cups of consolation they must pour out tears in great measure. Finiens Canus Vove.
Title. —
This is the mourner’s prayer when he is faint,
And to the Eternal Father breathes his plaint. John Keble.
Whole Psalm. The psalm has been attributed to Daniel, to Jeremiah, to Nehemiah, or to some of the other prophets who flourished during the time of the captivity. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews has applied Psalms 102:25-27 to our Lord, and the perpetuity of his kingdom. Adam Clarke.
Whole Psalm. I doubt whether, without apostolic teaching, any of us would have had the boldness to understand it; for in many respects it is the most remarkable of all the Psalms—the Psalm of “THE AFFLICTED ONE” —while his soul is overwhelmed within him in great affliction, and sorrow, and anxious fear. Adolph Saphir, in “Expository Lectures on the Epistle to the Hebrews.”
Ver. 1. Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come unto thee. When, at any time we see the beggars, or poor folks, that are pained and grieved with hunger and cold, lying in the streets of cities and towns, full of sores, we are somewhat moved inwardly with pity and mercy; but if we our own selves attend and give ear to their wailings, cryings, and lamentable noises that they make, we should be much more stirred to show our pity and mercy on them; for no man else can show the grief of the sick and sore persons, so well and in so pathetic a manner as he himself. Therefore, since the miserable crying and wailing of those that suffer bodily pain and misery can prevail so much upon the hearts of mortal creatures; I doubt not, Good Lord, but thou, who art all merciful, must needs be inclined to exercise thy mercy, if my sorrowful cry and petition may come unto thine ears, or into thy presence. John Fisher (1459-1535) in “A Treatise concerning the fruitful Sayings of David, “1714.
Ver. 1. My prayer. His own, and not another’s; not what was composed for him, but composed by him; which came out of his own heart, and out of unfeigned lips, and expressed under a feeling sense of his own wants and troubles; and though dictated and inwrought in his heart by the Spirit of God, yet, being put up by him in faith and fervency, it is called his own, and which he desires might be heard. John Gill.
Ver. 1. My cry. Lest my praying should not prevail, behold, O God, I raise it to a cry; and crying, I may say, is the greatest bell in all the ring of praying: for louder than crying I cannot pray. O, then, if not my prayer, at least let my cry come unto thee. If I be not heard when I cry, I shall cry for not being heard; and if heard when I cry, I shall cry to be heard yet more; and so whether heard or not heard, I shall cry still, and God grant I may cry still; so thou be pleased, O God, to “hear my prayer, “and to “let my cry come unto thee.” Sir R. Baker.
Ver. 1-2. This language is the language of godly sorrow, of faith, of tribulation, and of anxious hope: of faith, for the devout suppliant lifts up his heart and voice to heaven, “as seeing him who is invisible, “(Hebrews 11:27) and entreats him to hear his prayer and listen to his crying: of tribulation, for he describes himself as enduring affliction, and unwilling to lose the countenance of the Lord in his time of his trouble: of anxious hope, for he seems to expect, in the midst of his groaning, that his prayers, like those of Cornelius, will “go up for a memorial before God” who will hear him, “and that right soon.” Charles Oxenden, in “Sermons on the Seven Penitential Psalms, ” 1838.
Ver. 1-2. The Lord suffereth his babbling children to speak to him in their own form of speech, (albeit the terms which they use be not fitted for his spiritual, invisible, and incomprehensible majesty); such as are, “Hear me, “”hide not thy face, “”incline thine ear to me, “and such like other speeches. David Dickson.
Ver. 1-2. Note, David sent his prayer as a sacred ambassador to God. Now there are four things requisite to make an embassy prosperous. The ambassador must be regarded with favourable eye: he must be heard with a ready ear: he must speedily return when his demands are conceded. These four things David as a suppliant asks from God his King. Le Blanc.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Title.
1. Afflicted men may pray.
2. Afflicted men should pray even when overhelmed.
3. Afflicted men can pray—for what is wanted is a pouring out of their complaint, not an oratorical display.
4. Afflicted men are accepted in prayer—for this prayer is placed on record.
Ver. 1-2. Five steps to the mercy-seat. The Psalmist prays for,
1. Audience: “Hear my prayer.”
2. Access: “Let my cry come before thee.”
3. Unveiling: “Hide not thy face.”
4. An intent ear: “Incline thine ear.”
5. Answer. C. Davis.
Ver. 1, 17, 19-20. An interesting discourse may be founded upon these passages.
1. The Lord entreated to hear—Psalms 102:1.
2. The Promise given
that he will hear—Psalms 102:17.
3. The Record that the Lord has heard—Psalms 102:19-20.
Psalms 102:2*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 2. Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble. Do not seem as if thou didst not see me, or wouldst not own me. Smile now at any rate. Reserve thy frowns for other times when I can bear them better, if, indeed, I can ever bear them; but now in my heavy distress, favour me with looks of compassion.
Incline thine ear unto me. Bow thy greatness to my weakness. If because of sin thy face is turned away, at least let me have a side view of thee, lend me thine ear if I may not see thine eye. Turn thyself to me again if, my sin has turned thee away, give to thine ear an inclination to my prayers.
In the day when I call answer me speedily. Because the case is urgent, and my soul little able to wait. We may ask to have answers to prayer as soon as possible, but we may not complain of the Lord if he should think it more wise to delay. We have permission to request and to use importunity, but no right to dictate or to be petulant. If it be important that the deliverance should arrive at once, we are quite right in making an early time a point of our entreaty, for God is as willing to grant us a favour now as to-morrow, and he is not slack concerning his promise. It is a proverb concerning favours from human hands, that “he gives twice who gives quickly, “because a gift is enhanced in value by arriving in a time of urgent necessity; and we may be sure that our heavenly Patron will grant us the best gifts in the best manner, granting us grace to help in time of need. When answers come upon the heels of our prayers they are all the more striking, more consoling, and more encouraging.
In these two verses the psalmist has gathered up a variety of expressions all to the same effect; in them all he entreats an audience and answer of the Lord, and the whole may be regarded as a sort of preface to the prayer which follows.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 2. Incline thine ear unto me. The great exhaustion of the affiicted one is hinted at: so worn out is he, that he is hardly able to cry any more, but with a faint voice only feebly mutters, like a weak sick man, whose voice if we would catch, we must incline the ear. Martin Geier.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 2.
1. Prayer in trouble is most needed.
2. Prayer in trouble is most heeded.
3. Prayer in trouble is most speeded: “Answer me speedily.”
Or,
1. Prayer in trouble: “In the day, “etc.
2. The prayer of trouble: “Hide not thy face; “not remove the trial, but be with me in it. A fiery furnace is a paradise when God is with us there. G. R.
Ver. 2 (first elause). He deprecates the loss of the divine countenance when under trouble.
1. That would intensify it a thousandfold.
2. That would deprive him of strength to bear the trouble.
3. That would prevent his acting so as to glorify God in the trouble.
4. That might injure the result of the trouble.
Ver. 2 (last clause).
1. We often need to be answered speedily.
2. God can so answer.
3. God has so answered.
4. God has promised so to answer.
Psalms 102:3*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 3. For my days are consumed like smoke. My grief has made life unsubstantial to me, I seem to be but a puff of vapour which has nothing in it, and is soon dissipated. The metaphor is very admirably chosen, for, to the unhappy, life seems not merely to be frail, but to be surrounded by so much that is darkening, defiling, blinding, and depressing, that, sitting down in despair, they compare themselves to men wandering in a dense fog, and themselves so dried up thereby that they are little better than pillars of smoke. When our days have neither light of joy nor fire of energy in them, but become as a smoking flax which dies out ignobly in darkness, then have we cause enough to appeal to the Lord that he would not utterly quench us.
And my bones are burned as an hearth. He became as dry as the hearth on which a wood fire has burned out, or as spent ashes in which scarcely a trace of fire can be found. His soul was ready to be blown away as smoke, and his body seemed likely to remain as the bare hearth when the last comforting ember is quenched. How often has our piety appeared to us to be in this condition! We have had to question its reality, and fear that it never was anything more than a smoke; we have had the most convincing evidence of its weakness, for we could not derive even the smallest comfort from it, any more than a chilled traveller can derive from the cold hearth on which a fire had burned long ago. Soul-trouble experienced in our own heart will help us to interpret the language here employed; and church-troubles may help us also, if unhappily we have been called to endure them. The psalmist was moved to grief by a view of national calamities, and these so wrought upon his patriotic soul that he was wasted with anxiety, his spirits were dried up, and his very life was ready to expire. There is hope for any country which owns such a son; no nation can die while true hearts are ready to die for it.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 3. Consumed like smoke, would be better read, “pass away as in smoke, “as if they disappeared into smoke and ashes. Burned as an hearth, is not a felicitous translation, for a “hearth” should be incombustible. Better “burned as a faggot, “as any fuel. The sentiment, My days waste away to nothing, turn to no good account, are lost. Henry Cowles.
Ver. 3. My days are consumed like smoke; or, as Hebrew, literally, “in (into) smoke.” The very same expression which David in Psalms 37:20 had used of “the enemies of the Lord:” “They shall consume into smoke” (compare Psalms 68:2). Hereby the ideal sufferer virtually complains that the lot of the wicked befalls him, though being righteous (Psalms 101:1-8). A. R. Fausset.
Ver. 3. My days are consumed like smoke. As the smoke is a vapour proceeding from the fire, yet hath no heat in it: so my days are come from the torrid zone of youth into the region of cold and age; and as the smoke seems a thick substance for the present, but presently vanisheth into air; so my days made as great shew at first as if they would never have been spent; but now, alas, are wasted and leave me scarce a being. As the smoke is fuliginous and dark, and affords no pleasure to look upon it; so my days are all black and in mourning; no joy nor pleasure to be taken in them. And as the smoke ascends indeed, but by ascending wastes itself and comes to nothing: so my days are wasted in growing, are diminished in increasing; their plenty hath made a scarcity, and the more they have been the fewer they are. And how, indeed, can my days choose but be consumed as smoke, when
my bones are burned as an hearth? for as when the hearth is burned there can be made no more fire upon it; so, when my bones, which are as the hearth upon which my fire of life is made, come once to be burned; how can any more fire of life be made upon them? and when no fire can be made, what will remain but only smoke? Sir R. Baker.
Ver. 3. As an hearth. Or, as a trivet, or, gridiron;so the Targum: or, as a frying-pan: so the Arabic version. John Gill.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 3-11.
1. The causes of grief. (a) The brevity of life. Psalms 102:3. (b) Bodily pain. Psalms 102:3. (c) Dejection of spirit. Psalms 102:4-5. (d) Solitariness. Psalms 102:6-7. (e) Reproach. Psalms 102:8. (f) Humiliation. Psalms 102:9. (g) The hidings of God’s countenance. Psalms 102:10. (h) Wasting away. Psalms 102:11.
2. The eloquence of grief. (a) The brevit of life is as vanishing “smoke.” (b) Bodily pain is fire in the bones. (c) Dejection of spirit is “withered grass.” Who can eat when the heart is sad? (d) Solitariness is like “The pelican in the wilderness, the owl in the desert, and the sparrow upon the housetop.” (e) Reproach is being surrounded by madmen—”they that are mad.” (f) Humiliation is “eating ashes like bread, “and “drinking tears.” (g) The hidings of God’s countenance is lifting up in order to be cast down. (h) Wasting away is a shadow declining and grass withering. G. R.
Psalms 102:4*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 4. My heart is smitten, like a plant parched by the fierce heat of a tropical sun, and withered like grass, which dries up when once the scythe has laid it low. The psalmist’s heart was as a wilted, withered flower, a burned up mass of what once was verdure. His energy, beauty, freshness, and joy, were utterly gone, through the wasting influence of his anguish.
So that I forget to eat my bread, or “because I forget to eat my bread.” Grief often destroys the appetite, and the neglect of food tends further to injure the constitution and create a yet deeper sinking of spirit. As the smitten flower no longer drinks in the dew, or draws up nutriment from the soil, so a heart parched with intense grief often refuses consolation for itself and nourishment for the bodily frame, and descends at a doubly rapid rate into weakness, despondency, and dismay. The case here described is by no means rare, we have frequently met with individuals so disordered by sorrow that their memory has failed them even upon such pressing matters as their meals, and we must confess that we have passed through the same condition ourselves. One sharp pang has filled the soul, monopolized the mind, and driven everything else into the background, so that such common matters as eating and drinking have been utterly despised, and the appointed hours of refreshment have gone by unheeded, leaving no manifest faintness of body, but an increased weariness of heart.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 4. My heart is smitten and withered like grass. The metaphor here is taken from grass, cut down in the meadow. It is first “smitten” with the scythe, and then “withered” by the sun. Thus the Jews were smitten with the judgments of God; and they are now withered under the fire of the Chaldeans. Adam Clarke.
Ver. 4. I forget to eat my bread. I have heard of some that have forgotten their own names, but I never heard of any that forget to eat his meat; for there is a certain prompter called hunger that will make a man to remember his meat in spite of his teeth. And yet it is true, when the heart is blasted and withered like grass, such a forgetfulness of necessity will follow. Is it that the withering of the heart is the prime cause of sorrow; at least cause of the prime sorrow; and immoderate sorrow is the mother of stupidity, stupifying and benumbing the animal faculties, that neither the understanding nor the memory can execute their functions? Or is it, that sorrow is so intentire to that it sorrows for, that it cannot intent to think anything else? Or is it, that nature makes account, that to feed in sorrow were to feed sorrow, and therefore thinks best to forbear all eating? Or is it, that as sorrow draws moisture from the brain and fills the eyes with water; so it draws a like juice from other parts, which fills the stomach instead of meat? However it be, it shews a wonderful operation that is in sorrow; to make not only the stomach to refuse its meat, but to make the brain forget the stomach, between whom there is so natural a sympathy and so near a correspondence. But as the vigour of the heart breeds plenty of spirits, which convey to all the parts, gives everyone a natural appetite; so when the heart is blasted and withered like grass, and that there is no more any rigour in it, the spirits are presently at a stand, and then no marvel if the stomach lose its appetite, and forget to eat bread. Sir R. Baker.
Ver. 4. I forget to eat my bread. When grief hath thus dejected the spirits, the man has no appetite for that food which is to recruit and elevate them. Ahab, smitten with one kind of grief, David with another, and Daniel with a third, all forgot, or refused, to eat their bread. 1 Kings 21:4; 2 Samuel 12:16; Daniel 10:3. Such natural companions are mourning and fasting. Samuel Burder.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 4. Unbelieving sorrow makes us forget to use proper means for our support.
1. We forget the promises.
2. Forget the past and its expcriences.
3. Forget the Lord Jesus, our life.
4. Forget the everlasting love of God. This leads to weakness, faintness, etc., and is to be avoided.
Psalms 102:5*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 5. By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin. He became emaciated with sorrow. He had groaned himself down to a living skeleton, and so in his bodily appearance was the more like the smoke-dried, withered, burnt-up things to which he had previously compared himself. It will be a very long time before the distresses of the church of God make some Christians shrivel into anatomies, but this good man was so moved with sympathy for Zion’s ills that he was wasted down to skin and bone.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 5. My bones cleave to my skin. When the bones cleave to the skin, both are near cleaving to the dust. Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 5. That grief readily causes the body to pine away is very well known. It is related of Cardinal Wolsey, by an eye-witness, that when he heard that his master’s favour was turned from him, he was wrung with such an agony of grief, which continued a whole night, that in the morning his face was dwindled away into half its usual dimensions.
Psalms 102:6*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 6. I am like a pelican of the wilderness, a mournful and even hideous object, the very image of desolation.
I am like an owl of the desert; loving solitude, moping among ruins, hooting discordantly. The Psalmist likens himself to two birds which were commonly used as emblems of gloom and wretchedness; on other occasions he had been as the eagle, but the griefs of his people had pulled him down, the brightness was gone from his eye, and the beauty from his person; he seemed to himself to be as a melancholy bird sitting among the fallen palaces and prostrate temples of his native land. Should not we also lament when the ways of Zion mourn and her strength languishes? Were there more of this holy sorrow we should soon see the Lord returning to build up his church. It is ill for men to be playing the peacock with worldly pride when the ills of the times should make them as mournful as the pelican; and it is a terrible thing to see men flocking like vultures to devour the prey of a decaying church, when they ought rather to be lamenting among her ruins like the owl.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 6. I am like a pelican of the wilderness. The Kaath was a bird of solitude that was to be found in the “wilderness, “i.e., far from the habitations of man. This is one of the characteristics of the pelican, which loves not the neighbourhood of human beings, and is fond of resulting to broad, uncultivated lands, where it will not be disturbed. In them it makes its nest and hatches its young, and to them it retires after feeding, in order to digest in quiet the ample meal which it has made. Mr. Tristram well suggests that the metaphor of the Psalmist may allude to the habit common to the pelican and its kin, of sitting motionless for hours after it has gorged itself with food, its head sunk on its shoulders, and its bill resting on its breast. J.G. Wood.
Ver. 6. A pelican of the wilderness. Here only at Hulet have I seen the pelican of the wilderness, as David calls it. I once had one of them shot just below this place, and, as it was merely wounded in the wing, I had a good opportunity to study its character. It was certainly the most sombre, austere bird I ever saw. It gave one the blues merely to look at it. David could find no more expressive type of solitude and melancholy by which to illustrate his own sad state. It seemed as large as a half-grown donkey, and when fairly settled on its stout legs, it looked like one. The pelican is never seen but in these unfrequented solitudes. W.M. Thomson.
Ver. 6. Consider that thou needest not complain, like Elijah, that thou art left alone, seeing the best of God’s saints in all ages have smarted in the same kind—instance in David:indeed sometimes he boasts how he “lay in green pastures, and was led by still waters; “but after he bemoans that he “sinks in deep mire, where there was no standing.” What is become of those green pastures? parched up with the drought. Where are those still waters troubled with the tempest of affliction. The same David compares himself to an “owl, “and in the next Psalm resembles himself to an “eagle.” Do two fowls fly of more different kind? The one the scorn, the other the sovereign;the one the slowest, the other the swiftest;the one the most sharp-sighted, the other the most dim-eyed of all birds. Wonder not, then, to find in thyself sudden and strange alterations. It fared thus with all God’s servants in their agonies of temptation; and be confident thereof, though now run aground with grief, in due time thou shalt be all afloat with comfort. Thomas Fuller.
Ver. 6. Owl. Some kind of owl, it is thought, is intended by the Hebrew word cos, translated “little owl” in Leviticus 11:17; De 14:16, where it is mentioned amongst the unclean birds. It occurs also in Psalms 102:6. I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of ruined places (A. V., “desert”). The Hebrew word cos means a “cup” in some passages of Scripture, from a root meaning to “receive, “to “hide, “or “bring together”; hence the pelican, “the cup, “or “pouch-bird, “has been suggested as the bird intended. In this case the verse in the Psalm would be rendered thus: “I am become like a pelican in the wilderness, even as the pouch-bird in the desert places.” But the fact that both the pelican and the cos are enumerated in the list of birds to be avoided as food is against this theory, unless the word changed its meaning in the Psalmist’s time, which is improbable. The expression cos “of ruined places” looks very much as if some owl were denoted. The Arabic definitely applies a kindred expression as one of the names of an owl, viz., um elcharab, i.e. “mother of ruins.” The Septuagint gives nukkktikorax as the meaning of cos;and we know from Aristotle that the Greek word was a synonym of wtov, evidently, from his description of the bird, one of the cared owls. Dr. Tristram is disposed to refer the cos to the little Athene Persica, the most common of all the owls in Psalestine, the representative of the A noetua of Southern Europe. The Arabs call this bird “boomah, “from his note; he is described “as a grotesque and comical-looking little bird, familiar and yet cautious; never moving unnecessarily, but remaining glued to his perch, unless he has good reason for believing that he has been aetected, and twisting and turning his head instead of his eyes to watch what is going on.” He is to be found amongst rocks in the wadys or trees by the water-side, in olive yards, in the tombs and on the ruins, on the sandy mounds of Beersheba, and on “the spray-beaten fragments of Tyre, where his low wailing noto is sure to be heard at sunset, and himself seen bowing and keeping time to his own music.” W. Houghton, in “Cassell’s Biblical Educator, “1874,
Ver. 6. Owl of the desert.
Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower,
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient solitary reign. Thomas Gray (1716-1771).
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 6. This as a text, together with Psalms 103:5, makes an interesting contrast, and gives scope for much experimental teaching.
Psalms 102:7*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 7. I watch, and am like a sparrow alone upon the house top: I keep a solitary vigil as the lone sentry of my nation; my fellows are too selfish, too careless to care for the beloved land, and so like a bird which sits alone on the housetop, I keep up a sad watch over my country. The Psalmist compared himself to a bird, —a bird when it has lost its mate or its young, or is for some other reason made to mope alone in a solitary place. Probably he did not refer to the cheerful sparrow of our own land, but if he did, the illustration would not be out of place, for the sparrow is happy in company, and if it were alone, the sole one of its species in the neighbourhood, there can be little doubt that it would become very miserable, and sit and pine away. He who has felt himself to be so weak and inconsiderable as to have no more power over his times than a sparrow over a city, has also, when bowed down with despondency concerning the evils of the age, sat himself down in utter wretchedness to lament the ills which he could not heal. Christians of an earnest, watchful kind often find themselves among those who have no sympathy with them; even in the church they look in vain for kindred spirits; then do they persevere in their prayers and labours, but feel themselves to be as lonely as the poor bird which looks from the ridge of the roof, and meets with no friendly greeting from any of its kind.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 7. I watch. During the hours allotted to sleep “I wake, ” like a little bird which sits solitary on the house-top, while all beneath enjoy the sleep which he giveth to his beloved. Alfred Edersheim.
Ver. 7. A sparrow alone upon the house-top. When one of them has lost its mate—a matter of every-day occurrence—he will sit on the house-top alone, and lament by the hour his sad bereavement. W. M. Thomson.
Ver. 7. I am as a sparrow alone, etc. It is evident that the “sparrow alone and melancholy upon the house-tops” cannot be the lively, gregarious sparrow which assembles in such numbers on these favourite feeding-places the house-tops of the East. We must therefore look for some other bird, and naturalists are now agreed that we may accept the Blue Thrush (Petrocossyphus cyaneus) as the particular tzippor, or small bird, which sits alone on the house-tops. The colour of this bird is a dark blue, whence it derives its popular name. Its habits exactly correspond with the idea of solitude and melancholy. The Blue Thrushes never assemble in flocks, and it is very rare to see more than a pair together. It is fond of sitting on the tops of houses, uttering its note, which, however agreeable to itself, is monotonous and melancholy to human ear. J.G. Wood, in “Bible Animals.”
Ver. 7. A sparrow. Most readers are struck with the incongruity of the image, as it appears in our version, intended by the Psalmist to express a condition of distress and desolation. The sparrow is found, indeed, all over the East, in connection with houses, as it is with ourselves; but it is everywhere one of the most social of birds, cheerful to impertinence; and mischievously disposed, instead of being retiring in its habits, and melancholy in its demeanour. The word, in the original, is a general term for all the small birds, insectivorous and frugivirous, denominated clean, and that might be eaten according to the law, the thrushes, larks, wagtails, finches, as well as sparrows. It seems to be, indeed, a mere imitation of their common note, like the one which we have in the word “chirrup.” Most critics are, therefore, content with the rendering, “solitary bird, “or “solitary little bird.” But this is very unsatisfactory. It does not identify the species: and there is every probability that there must have been a particular bird which the Psalmist, writing at the close of the Babylonish captivity, had in his eye, corresponding to his representation of it, and illustrative of his isolated condition.
Such there is at the present day, of common occurrence in Southern Europe and Western Asia. Its history is very little known to the world, and its existence has hitherto escaped the notice of all biblical commentators. Remarkably enough, the bird is commonly, but erroneously, called a sparrow, for it is a real thrush in size, in shape, in habits, and in song. It differs singularly from the rest of the tribe, throughout all the East, by a marked preference for sitting solitary upon the habitation of man. It never associates with any other, and only at one season with its own mate; and even then it is often seen quite alone upon the house-top, where it warbles its sweet and plaintive strains, and continues its song, moving from roof to roof. America has its solitary thrush, of another species, and of somewhat different habits. The dark solitary cane and myrtle swamps of the southern states are there the favourite haunts of the recluse bird; and the more dense and gloomy these are the more certainly is it to be found flitting in them. —”The Biblical Treasury”.
Ver. 7. Alone. But little do men perceive what solitude is, and how far it extendeth; for a crowd is not company, and faces are but a gallery of pictures, and talk but a tinkling cymbal where there is no love. The Latin adage meeteth it a little: “magna civitas, magno solitudo; “because in a great town friends are scattered, so that there is not that fellowship, for the most part, which is in less neighbourhoods; but we may go further, and affirm most truly, that it is a mere and miserable solitude to want true friends, without which the world is but a wilderness; and even in this sense also of solitude, whosoever in the frame of his nature and affections is unfit for friendship, he taketh it of the beast, and not from humanity. Francis Bacon.
Ver. 7. Alone. See the reason why people in trouble love solitariness. They are full of sorrow; and sorrow, if it have taken deep root, is naturally reserved, and flies all conversation. Grief is a thing that is very silent and private. Those people that are very talkative and clamorous in their sorrows, are never very sorrowful. Some are apt to wonder, why melancholy people delight to be so much alone, and I will tell you the reason of it. 1. Because the disordered humours of their bodies alter their temper, their humours, and their inclinations, that they are no more the same that they used to be; their very distemper is averse to what is joyous and diverting; and they that wonder at them may as wisely wonder why they will be diseased, which they would not be if the knew how to help it; but the Disease of Melancholy is so obstinate, and so unknown to all but those who have it, that nothing but the power of God can totally overthrow it, and I know no other cure for it. 2. Another reason why they choose to be alone is, because people do not generally mind what they say, nor believe them, but rather deride them, which they do not use so cruelly to do with those that are in other distempers; and no man is to be blamed for avoiding society, when it does not afford the common credit to his words that is due to the rest of men. But, 3, Another, and the principal reason why people in trouble and sadness choose to be alone is, because they generally apprehend themselves singled out to be the marks of God’s peculiar displeasure, and they are often by their sharp afflictions a terror to themselves, and a wonder to others. It even breaks their hearts to see how low they are fallen, how oppressed, that were once as easy, as pleasant, as full of hope as others are, Job 6:21 : “Ye see my casting down, and are afraid.” Psalms 71:7. “I am as a wonder unto many.” And it is usually unpleasant to others to be with them. Psalms 88:18 : “Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.” And though it was not so with the friends of Job, to see a man whom they had once known happy, to be so miserable; one whom they had seen so very prosperous, to be so very poor, in such sorry, forlorn circumstances, did greatly affect them; he, poor man, was changed, they knew him not, Job 2:12-13, “And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.” As the prophet represents one under spiritual and great afflictions, “That he sitteth alone, and keepeth silence, ” La 3:28. Timothy Rogers (1660-1729), in “A Discourse on Trouble of Mind, and the Disease of Melancholy.”
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 7. The evils and benefits of solitude; when it may be sought, and when it becomes a folly. Or, the mournful watcher—alone, outside the pale of communion, insignificant, wishful for fellowship, set apart to watch.
Psalms 102:8*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 8. Mine enemies reproach me all the day. Their rage was unrelenting and unceasing, and vented itself in taunts and insults, the Psalmist’s patriotism and his griefs were both made the subjects of their sport. Pointing to the sad estate of his people they would ask him, “Where is your God?” and exult over him because their false gods were in the ascendant. Reproach cuts like a razor, and when it is continued from hour to hour, and repeated all the day and every day, it makes life itself undesirable.
And they that are mad against me are sworn against me. They were so furious that they bound themselves by oath to destroy him, and used his name as their usual execration, a word to curse by, the synonym of abhorrence and contempt. What with inward sorrows and outward persecutions he was in as ill a plight as may well be conceived.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 8. Mine enemies reproach me. It is true what Plutarch writes, that men are more touched with reproaches than with other injuries; affliction, too, gives a keener edge to calumny, for the afflicted are more fitting objects of pity than of mockery. Mollerus.
Ver. 8. Mine enemies reproach me, etc. If I be where they are they rail at me to my face; and if I be not amongst them they revile me behind my back; and they do it not by starts and fits, that might give me some breathing time; but they are spitting their poison all the day long; and not single and one by one, that might leave hope of resisting; but they make combinations, and enter leagues against me; and to make their leagues the stronger, and less subject to dissolving, they bind themselves by oath, and take the sacrament upon it. And now sum up all these miseries and afflictions; begin with my fasting; then take my groaning; then add my watching; then the shame of being wondered at in company; then the discomfort of sitting disconsolate alone; and, lastly, add to these the spite and malice of my enemies; and what marvel, then, if these miseries joined all together make me altogether miserable; what marvel if I be nothing but skin and bone, when no flesh that were wise would ever stay upon a body to endure such misery. Sir R. Baker.
Ver. 8 (last clause). Swearing by one, means, to make his name a by-word of execration, or an example of cursing. (Isaiah 65:15; Je 29:22 42:18). Carl Bernard Moll, in Lange’s Commentary.
Psalms 102:9*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 9. For I have eaten ashes like bread. He had so frequently cast ashes upon his head in token of mourning, that they had mixed with his ordinary food, and grated between his teeth when he ate his daily bread. One while he forgot to eat, and then the fit changed, and he ate with such a hunger that even ashes were devoured. Grief has strange moods and tenses.
And mingled my drink with weeping. His drink became as nauseous as his meat, for copious showers of tears had made it brackish. This is a telling description of all-saturating, all-embittering sadness, —and this was the portion of one of the best of men, and that for no fault of his own, but because of his love to the Lord’s people. If we, too, are called to mourn, let us not be amazed by the fiery trial as though some strange thing had happened unto us. Both in meat and drink we have sinned; it is not therefore wonderful if in both we are made to mourn.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 9. I have eaten ashes like bread. Though the bread indeed be strange, yet not so strange as this, —that having complained before of forgetting to eat his bread, he should now on a sudden fall to eating of ashes like bread. For had he not been better to have forgotten it still, unless it had been more worth remembering? For there is not in nature so unfit a thing to eat as ashes;it is worse than Nebuchadnezzar’s grass. Sir R. Baker.
Ver. 9. I have mingled my drink with weeping. If you think his bread to be bad, you will find his drink to be worse; for he mingles his drink with tears: and what are tears, but brinish and salt humours? and is brine a fit liquor to quench one’s thirst? May we not say here, the remedy is worse than the disease? for were it not better to endure any thirst, than to seek to quench it with such drink? Is it not a pitiful thing to have no drink to put in the stomach, but that which is drawn out of the eyes? and yet whose case is any better? No man certainly commits sin, but with a design of pleasure; but sin will not be so committed; for whosoever commit sin, let them be sure at some time or other to find a thousand times more trouble about it than ever they found pleasure in it. For all sin is a kind of surfeit, and there is no way to keep it from being mortal but by this strict diet of eating ashes like bread and mingling his drink with tears. O my soul, if these be works of repentance in David, where shall we find a penitent in the world besides himself? To talk of repentance is obvious in everyone’s mouth; but where is any that eats ashes like bread, and mingles his drink with tears? Sir R. Baker.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 9. The sorrows of the saints—their number, bitterness, sources, correctives, influences, and consolations.
Psalms 102:10*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 10. Because of thine indignation and thy wrath: for thou hast lifted me up and cast me down. A sense of the divine wrath which had been manifested in the overthrow of the chosen nation and their sad captivity led the Psalmist into the greatest distress. He felt like a sere leaf caught up by a hurricane and carried right away, or the spray of the sea which is dashed upwards that it may be scattered and dissolved. Our translation gives the idea of a vessel uplifted in order that it may be dashed to the earth with all the greater violence and the more completely broken in pieces; or to change the figure, it reminds us of a wrestler whom his opponent catches up that he may give him a more desperate fall. The first interpretation which we have given is, however, more fully in accordance with the original, and sets forth the utter helplessness which the writer felt, and the sense of overpowering terror which bore him along in a rush of tumultuous grief which he could not withstand.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 10. For thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down. Thou hast lifted me up of a great height, in that thou madest me like unto thine image, touching my reasonable soul, and hast given me power, by thy grace, to inherit the everlasting joys of heaven, both body and soul, if I did live here after thy commandments. What greater gift canst thou give me, Lord, than to have the fruition of thee that art all in all things? How canst thou lift me higher than to eternal beatitude? But then, alas, thou hast letten me fall down again, for thou hast joined my noble soul with an earthly, heavy, and a frail body; the weight and burden thereof draweth down my mind and heart from the consideration of thy goodness, and from well doing, unto all kinds of vices, and to the regarding of temporal things according to his nature. The earthly mansion keepeth down the understanding. Thus setting me up, as it were, above the wind, thou hast given me a very great fall (Job 30:22). I am in creation above all other kind of earthly creatures, and almost equal with angels; but being in this estate thou hast knit a knot thereto, that for breaking the least of thy commandments I shall suffer damnation. So that without thy continual mercy and help I am in worse case herein than any brute beast, whose life or soul dieth with the body. Sir Anthony Cope (1551).
Ver. 10. For thou hast lifted me up and cast me down. That is that I might fall with greater poise. Significatur gravissima collisio. Here the prophet accuseth not God of cruelty, but bewaileth his own misery. Miserum est fusisse felicem, it is no small unhappiness to have been happy. John Trapp.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 10.
1. The trial of trials—thine indignation and thy wrath.
2. The aggravation of that trial—former favour, “thou hast lifted me up, “etc.
3. The best behaviour under it: see Psalms 102:9; Psalms 102:12-13.
Ver. l0 (last cause). The prosperity of a church or an individual often followed by declension; worldly aggrandisement frequently succeeded by affliction; great joy in the Lord very generally succeeded by trial.
Psalms 102:11*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 11. My days are like a shadow that declineth. His days were but a shadow at best, but now they seem to be like a shadow which was passing away. A shadow is unsubstantial enough, how feeble a thing must a declining shadow be? No expression could more forcibly set forth his extreme feebleness.
And I am withered like grass. He was like grass, blasted by a parching wind, or cut down with a scythe, and then left to be dried up by the burning heat of the sun. There are times when through depression of spirit a man feels as if all life were gone from him, and existence had become merely a breathing death. Heart-break has a marvellously withering influence over our entire system; our flesh at its best is but as grass, and when it is wounded with sharp sorrows, its beauty fades, and it becomes a shrivelled, dried, uncomely thing.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 11 (first clause). My days (my term of life) are as the lengthened shade, the lengthening shade of evening, that shows the near approach of night. The comparison, though not strictly expressed, is beautifully suggestive of the thought intended. Thomas J. Conant.
Ver. 11 (last clause). The and I, in the Hebrew, stands in designed contrast to “But thou, “Psalms 102:12. A. R. Fausset.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 11-12. I and Thou, or the notable contrast.
1. I: my days are like a shadow, (a) Because it is unsubstantial; because it partakes of the nature of the darkness which is to absorb it; because the longer it becomes the briefer its continuance. (b) I am like grass cut down by the scythe; scorched by drought.
2. Thou. Lord. Ever enduring. Ever memorable. Ever the study of passing generations of men. C. D.
Psalms 102:12*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 12. Now the writer’s mind is turned away from his personal and relative troubles to the true source of all consolation, namely, the Lord himself, and his gracious purposes towards his own people.
But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever. I perish, but thou wilt not, my nation has become almost extinct, but thou art altogether unchanged. The original has the word “sit, “—”thou, Jehovah, to eternity shalt sit:” that is to say, thou reignest on, thy throne is still secure even when thy chosen city lies in ruins, and thy peculiar people are carried into captivity. The sovereignty of God in all things is an unfailing ground for consolation; he rules and reigns whatever happens, and therefore all is well.
Firm as his throne his promise stands,
And he can well secure,
What I have committed to his hands.
Till the decisive hour.
And thy remmeberance unto all generations. Men will forget me, but as for thee, O God, the constant tokens of thy presence will keep the race of man in mind of thee from age to age. What God is now he always will be, that which our forefathers told us of the Lord we find to be true at this present time, and what our experience enables us to record will be confirmed by our children and their children’s children. All things else are vanishing like smoke, and withering like grass, but over all the one eternal, immutable light shines on, and will shine on when all these shadows have declined into nothingness.
Psalms 102:13*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 13. Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion. He firmly believed and boldly prophesied that apparent inaction on God’s part would turn to effective working. Others might remain sluggish in the matter, but the Lord would most surely bestir himself. Zion had been chosen of old, highly favoured, gloriously inhabited, and wondrously preserved, and therefore by the memory of her past mercies it was certain that mercy would again be showed to her. God will not always leave his church in a low condition; he may for a while hide himself from her in chastisement, to make her see her nakedness and poverty apart from himself, but in love he must return to her, and stand up in her defence, to work her welfare.
For the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come. Divine decree has appointed a season for blessing the church, and when that period has arrived, blessed she shall be. There was an appointed time for the Jews in Babylon, and when the weeks were fulfilled, no bolts nor bars could longer imprison the ransomed of the Lord. When the time came for the walls to rise stone by stone, no Tobiah or Sanballat could stay the work, for the Lord himself had arisen, and who can restrain the hand of the Almighty? When God’s own time is come, neither Rome, nor the devil, nor persecutors, nor atheists, can prevent the kingdom of Christ from extending its bounds. It is God’s work to do it; —he must “arise”; he will do it, but he has his own appointed season; and meanwhile we must, with holy anxiety and believing expectation, wait upon him.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 13. Thou shalt arise, and have mercy, etc. Tu miserebere, “Thou shalt, “as the Shunamite to the prophet, catching hold on his feet, though Gehazi thrust her away, Vivit Dominus, “As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not let thee go; “and, as Jacob to the angel, when he had wrestled the whole night with him, Non dimittam, I will not let thee loose till I have a blessing from thee. From “A Sermon at Paules Crosse on behalfe of Paules Church, March 26, 1620. By the B. of London” John King.
Ver. 13. The set time. There is a certain set time for God’s great actions. He lets the powers of darkness have their hour, and God will take his hour. He hath a set time for the discovery of his mercy, and he will not stay a jot beyond it. What is this time? Psalms 102:9, etc. When they “eat ashes like bread, and mingle their drink with weeping; “when they are most humble, and when the servants of God have moral affection to the church; when their humble and ardent affections are strong, even to the ruin and rubbish of it; when they have a mighty desire and longing for the reparation of it, as the Jews in captivity had for the very dust of the temple: Psalms 102:14 : “For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof.” “For” there notes it to be a reason why the set time was judged by them to be come. That is God’s set time when the church is most believing, most humble, most affectionate to God’s interest in it, and most sincere. Without faith we are not fit to desire mercy, without humility we are not fit to receive it, without affection we are not fit to value it, without sincerity we are not fit to improve it. Times of extremity contribute to the growth and exercise of these qualifications. Stephen Charnock.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 13.
1. Zion often needs restoration. It needs “mercy.”
2. Its restoration is certain: “Thou shalt arise, “etc.
3. The seasons of its restoration are determined. There is a “time” to favour her; a “set” time.
4. Intimations of those coming seasons are often given “The time, the set time, is come.” G. R.
Ver. 13-14.
1. Visitation expected.
2. Predestination relied upon.
3. Evidence observed.
4. Enquiry suggested—Do we take pleasure in her stones? etc.
Ver. 13-14. The interest of the Lord’s people in the concerns of Zion one of the surest signs of her returning prosperity.
Psalms 102:14*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 14. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof. They delight in her so greatly that even her rubbish is dear to them. It was a good omen for Jerusalem when the captives began to feel a home-sickness, and began to sigh after her. We may expect the modern Jews to be restored to their own land when the love of their country begins to sway them, and casts out the love of gain. To the church of God no token can be more full of hope than to see the members thereof deeply interested in all that concerns her; no prosperity is likely to rest upon a church when carelessness about ordinances, enterprises, and services is manifest; but when even the least and lowest matter connected with the Lord’s work is carefully attended to, we may be sure that tne set time to favour Zion is come. The poorest church member, the most grievous backslider, the most ignorant convert, should be precious in our sight, because forming a part, although possibly a very feeble part, of the new Jerusalem. If we do not care about the prosperity of the church to which we belong, need we wonder if the blessing of the Lord is withheld?
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 14. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones. That is, they are still attached to her, and regard her with extreme affection, although in ruins. Jerusalem itself affords at this day a touching illustration of this passage. There is reason to believe that a considerable portion of the lower part of the walls which enclose the present mosque of Omar, which occupies the site of the ancient Jewish temple, are the same, or at least the southern, western, and eastern sides are the same as those of Solomon’s temple. At one part where the remains of this old wall are the most considerable and of the most massive character—where two courses of masonry, composed of massive blocks of stone, rising to the height of thirty feet—is what is called the Wailing Place of the Jews. “Here, “says Dr. Olin, “at the foot of the wall, is an open place paved with flags, where the Jews assemble every Friday, and in small numbers on other days, for the purpose of praying and bewailing the desolations of their holy places. Neither the Jews nor Christians are allowed to enter the Haram, which is consecrated to Mohammedan worship, and this part of the wall is the nearest approach they can make to what they regard as the precise spot within the forbidden enclosure upon which the ancient temple stood. They keep the pavement swept with great care, and take off their shoes, as on holy ground. Standing or kneeling with their faces towards the ancient wall, they gaze in silence upon its venerable stones, or pour forth their complaints in half-suppressed, though audible tones. This, to me, was always a most affecting sight, and I repeated my visit to this interesting spot to enjoy and sympathise with the melancholy yet pleasing spectacle. The poor people sometimes sobbed aloud, and still found tears to pour out for the desolations of their `beautiful house.’ `If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.'” Kitto’s Pictorial Bible.
Psalms 102:15*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 15. So the heathen shall fear the name of the LORD. Mercy within the church is soon perceived by those without. When a candle is lit in the house, it shines through the window. When Zion rejoices in her God, the heathen been to reverence his name, for they hear of the wonders of his power, and are impressed thereby.
And all the kings of the earth thy glory. The restoration of Jerusalem was a marvel among the princes who heard of it, and its ultimate resurrection in days yet to come will be one of the prodigies of history. A church quickened by divine power is so striking an object in current history that it cannot escape notice, rulers cannot ignore it, it affects the Legislature, and forces from the great ones of the earth a recognition of the divine working. Oh that we might see in our days such a revival of religion that our senators and princes might be compelled to pay homage to the Lord, and own his glorious grace. This cannot be till the saints are better edified, and more fully builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. Internal prosperity is the true source of the church’s external influence.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 15. The inward prosperity of the church essential to her power in the world.
Psalms 102:16*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 16 When the LORD shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory. As kings display their skill and power and wealth in the erection of their capitals, so would the Lord reveal the splendour of his attributes in the restoration of Zion, and so will he now glorify himself in the edification of his church. Never is the Lord more honourable in the eyes of his saints than when he prospers the church. To add converts to her, to train these for holy service, to instruct, illuminate, and sanctify the brotherhood, to bind all together in the bonds of Christian love, and to fill the whole body with the energy of the Holy Spirit—this is to build up Zion. Other builders do but puff her up, and their wood, hay, and stubble come to an end almost as rapidly as it was heaped together; but what the Lord builds is surely and well done, and redounds to his glory. Truly, when we see the church in a low state, and mark the folly, helplessness, and indifference of those who profess to be her builders; and, on the other hand, the energy, craft, and influence of those opposed to her, we are fully prepared to own that it will be a glorious work of omnipotent grace should she ever rise to her pristine grandeur and purity.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 16. When the LORD shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory. So sincere is God to his people, that he gives his own glory in hostage to them for their security; his own robes of glory are locked up in their prosperity and salvation: he will not, indeed he cannot, present himself in all his magnificence and royalty, till he hath made up his intended thoughts of mercy to his people; he is pleased to prorogue the time of his appearing in all his glory to the world till he hath actually accomplished their deliverance, that he and they may come forth together in their glory on the same day: “When the LORD shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.” The sun is ever glorious in the most cloudy day, but appears not so till it hath scattered the clouds that muffle it up from the sight of the lower world: God is glorious when the world sees him not: but his declarative glory then appears, when the glory of his mercy, truth and faithfulness break forth in his people’s salvation. Now, what shame must this cover thy face with, O Christian, if thou shouldst not sincerely aim at thy God’s glory, who loves thee, yea, all his children so dearly, as to ship his own glory and your happiness in one bottom, that he cannot now lose the one, and save the other! William Gumall.
Ver. 16. When the LORD shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory. There are two reasons why the Lord appears thus glorious in this work rather than in any other. First, because it is a work that infinitely pleaseth him. Men choose to appear in their clothes and behaviour suitable to the work that they are to be employed in: the woman of Tekoah must feign herself to be a mourner when she goes on a mournful message; and David, when he goes on a doleful journey, covers his face, and puts on mourning apparel; but when Solomon is to be crowned, he goes in all his royalty; and a bride adorns herself gloriously when she is to be married: verily so doth the Lord, when he goes about a work he takes no pleasure in, he puts on his mourning apparel, he covers himself with a cloud and the heavens with blackness; when he is to do a strange work of judgment, then he mourns, “How shall I give thee up Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.” Hosea 11:8. But the building of Zion doth infinitely please him, because Zion is as the apple of his eye to him; he bought Zion at a dear rate, with his own blood; he lays Zion in his bosom, he is ravished with Zion, Zion is his love, his dove, his fair one; he hath chosen Zion, and loves the gates of it, better than all the palaces of Jacob; and being so pleasing to him, no marvel if he put on all his glorious apparel when he is to adorn and build up Zion. And, secondly, it is because all the glory that he looks for to eternity must arise out of this one work of building Zion; this one work shall be the only monument of his glory to eternity: this goodly world, this heaven and earth, that you see and enjoy the use of, is set up only as a shop, as a workshop, to stand only for a week, for six or seven thousand years, (“a thousand years is with the Lord but as a day”); and when his work is done he will throw this piece of clay down again, and out of this he looks for no other glory than from a cabul, a land of dirt, or a shepherd’s cottage, or a gourd which springs up in a night and withers in a day; but this piece he sets up for a higher end, to be the eternal mansion of his holiness and honour; this is his metropolis, his temple, his house where his fire and furnace is, his court, his glorious high throne, and therefore his glory is much concerned in this work. When Nebuchadnezzar would have a city for the honour of his kingdom, and the glory of his majesty, he will make it a stately piece. Solomon made all his kingdom very rich and glorious, but he made his court, and especially his throne, another manner of thing, so stately that the like was not to be seen in any other kingdom; and therefore no wonder though he appear in his glory in building up of that, which we may boldly say must be one day made as glorious as his wisdom can contrive, and his power bring to pass. Stephen Marshall, in a Sermon preached to the Right Honourable the House of Peers, entitled “God’s Master-Piece, “1645.
Ver. 16-17. Shall build—shall appear—will regard—and will not despise. These futures, in the original, are all present; buildeth—appeareth—regardeth—and despiseth not. The Psalmist, in his confidence of the event, speaks of it as doing. Samuel Horsley.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 16. God is Zion’s purchaser, architect, builder, inhabitant, Lord.
1. Zion built up. Conversions frequent; confessions numerous; union firm; edification solid; missions extended.
2. God glorified. In its very foundation; by its ministry; by difficulties and enemies; by poor workers, and poor materials; and even by our failures.
3. Hope excited. Because we may expect the Lord to glorify himself.
4. Inquiry suggested. Am I concerned, as built, or building? not merely doctrinally, but experimentally?
Psalms 102:17*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 17. He will regard the prayer of the destitute. Only the poorest of the people were left to sigh and cry among the ruins of the beloved city; as for the rest, they were strangers in a strange land, and far away from the holy place, yet the prayers of the captives and the forlorn offscourings of the land would be heard of the Lord, who does not hear men because of the amount of money they possess, or the breadth of the acres which they call their own, but in mercy listens most readily to the cry of the greatest need.
And not despise their prayer. When great kings are building their palaces it is not reasonable to expect them to turn aside and listen to every beggar who pleads with them, yet when the Lord builds up Zion, and appears in his robes of glory, he makes a point of listening to every petition of the poor and needy. He will not treat their pleas with contempt; he will incline his ear to hear, his heart to consider, and his hand to help. What comfort is here for those who account themselves to be utterly destitute; their abject want is here met with a most condescending promise. It is worth while to be destitute to be thus assured of the divine regard.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 17. He will regard the prayer of the destitute, etc. The persons are here called “the destitute.” The Hebrew word which is here translated “destitute” doth properly signify myrica, a low shrub, humiles myrica, low shrubs that grow in wildernesses, some think they were juniper shrubs, some a kind of wild tamaris, but a base wild shrub that grew nowhere but in a desolate forlorn place; and sometimes the word in the text is used to signify the deserts of Arabia, the sandy desert place of Arabia, which was a miserable wilderness. Now when this word is applied to men, it always means such as were forsaken men, despised men; such men as are stripped of all that is comfortable to them: either they never had children, or else their children are taken away from them, and all comforts banished, and themselves left utterly forlorn, like the barren heath ih a desolate howling wilderness. These are the people of whom my text speaks, that the Lord will regard the prayer of “the destitute; “and this was now the state of the Church of God when they offered up this prayer, and yet by faith did foretell that God would grant such a glorious answer…
This is also a lesson of singular comfort to every afflicted soul, to assure them their prayers and supplications are tenderly regarded before God. I have often observed such poor forsaken ones, who in their own eyes are brought very low, that of all other people they are most desirous to beg and obtain the prayers of their friends, when they see any that hath gifts, and peace, and cheerfulness of spirit, and liberty, and abilities to perform duties, O how glad they are to get such a man’s prayers I “I beseech you, will you pray for me, will you please to remember me at the throne of grace, “whereas, in truth, if we could give a right judgment, all such woudd rather desire the poor, and the desolate, to be mediators for them; for, certainly, whomsoever God neglects, he will listen to the cry of those that are forsaken and destitute. And therefore, O thou afflicted and tossed with tempests, who thinkest thou art wholly rejected by the Lord, continue to pour out thy soul to him; thou hast a faithful promise from him to be rewarded: he will regard the prayer of the destitute. Stephen Marshall, in a Sermon entitled “The Strong Helper, “1645.
Ver. 17. He will regard the prayer of the destitute. It is worthy of observation that he ascribes the redemption and restoration of the people to the prayers of the faithful. That is truly a free gift, and dependent wholly upon the divine mercy, and yet God himself often attributes it to our prayers, to stir us up and render us the more active in the pursuit of prayer. Mollerus.
Ver. 17. The prayer of the destitute. A man that is destitute knows how to pray. He needs not any instructor. His miseries indoctrinate him wonderfully in the art of offering prayer. Let us know ourselves destitute, that we may know how to pray; destitute of strength, of wisdom, of due influence, of true happiness, of proper faith, of thorough consecration, of the knowledge of the Scriptures, of righteousness.
These words introduce and stand in immediate connection with a prophecy of glorious things to be witnessed in the latter times. We profess to be eager for the accomplishment of those marvellous things; but are we offering the prayer of the destitute? On the contrary, is not the Church at large too much like the church at Laodicea? Will not a just interpretation of many of its acts and ways bring forth the words, “I am rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing?” And do not its prayers meet with this reproachful answer, “Thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, and knowest it not. Thy temporal affluence implies not spiritual affluence. Thy spiritual condition is inversely as the worldly prosperity that has turned thy head. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire. Give all thy trashy gold—trashy while it is with thee—give it to my poor; and I will give thee true gold, namely, a sense of thy misery and meanness; a longing for grace, pubity, usefulness; a love of thy fellow-men; and my love shed abroad in thy heart.” George Bowen.
Ver. 17. Not despise their prayer. How many in every place (who have served the Lord in this great work) hath prayer helped at a dead lift? Prayer hath hitherto saved the kingdom. I remember a proud boast of our enemies, when we had lost Bristol and the Vies, they then sent abroad even into other kingdoms a triumphant paper, wherein they concluded all was now subdued to them, and among many other confident expressions, there was one to this purpose, Nil restat superare Regem, etc., which might be construed two ways; either thus, —There remains nothing for the King to conquer, but only the prayers of a few fanatic people;or thus, —There is nothing left to conquer the King, but the prayers of a few fanatic people: everything else was lost, all was now their own. And indeed we were then in a very low condition. Our strongholds taken, our armies melted away, our hearts generally failing us for fear, multitudes flying out of the kingdom, and many deserting the cause as desperate, making their peace at Oxford;nothing almost left us but preces et lachrymae; but blessed be God, prayer was not conquered;they have found it the hardest wall to climb, the strongest brigade to overthrow; it hath hitherto preserved us, it hath raised up unexpected helps, and brought many unhoped for successes and deliverances. Let us therefore, under God, set the crown upon the head of prayer. Ye nobles and worthies, be ye all content to have it so; it will wrong none of you in your deserved praise; God and man will give you your due. Many of you have done worthily, but prayer surpasses you all: and this is no new thing, prayer hath always had the pre-eminence in the building of Zion. God hath reserved several works for several men and several ages; but in all ages and among all men, prayer hath been the chiefest instrument, especially in the building up of Zion. Stephen Marshall.
Ver. 17. Not despise their prayer. He will, then, give ear to the suits of the poor, and not reject their supplications. But who will believe this? Is it likely that when God is in his glory, he will attend to such mean things as hearkening to the poor? Can it stand with the honour of his glory to stand reading petitions, and specially of men that come in forma pauperis? scarce credible indeed with men, who, raised in honour, keep a distance from the poor and count it a degree of falling to look downwards: but credible enough with God, who counts it his glory to regard the inglorious; and being the Most High, yet looks as low as to the lowest, and favours them most who are most despised. And this did Christ after his transfiguration, when he had appeared in his glory; he then shewed acts of greatest humility; he then washed the disciples’ feet; and made Peter as much wonder to see his humbleness, as he had done before to see his glory. Sir R. Baker.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 17.
1. The destitute pray.
2. They pray most.
4. They pray best.
4. They pray most effectually. Or the surest way to succeed in prayer is to pray as the destitute; show the reason of this.
Psalms 102:18*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 18. This shall be written for the generation to come. A note shall be made of it, for there will be destitute ones in future generations, —”the poor shall never cease out of the land, “—and it will make glad their eyes to read the story of the Lord’s mercy to the needy in former times. Registers of divine kindness ought to be made and preserved; we write dcwn in history the calamities of nations, —wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes are recorded; how much rather then should we set up memorials of the Lord’s lovingkindness! Those who have in their own souls endured spiritual destitution, and have been delivered out of it, cannot forget it; they are bound to tell others of it, and especially to instruct their children in the goodness of the Lord.
And the people which shall be created shall praise the LORD. The Psalmist here intends to say that the rebuilding of Jerusalem would be a fact in history for which the Lord would be praised from age to age. Revivals of religion not only cause great joy to those who are immediately concerned in them, but they give encouragement and delight to the people of God long after, and are indeed perpetual incentives to adoration throughout the church of God. This verse teaches us that we ought to have an eye to posterity, and especially should we endeavour to perpetuate the memory of God’s love to his church and to his poor people, so that young people as they grow up may know that the Lord God of their fathers is good and full of compassion. Sad as the Psalmist was when he wrote the dreary portions of this complaint, he was not so absorbed in his own sorrow, or so distracted by the national calamity, as to forget the claims of coming generations; this, indeed, is a clear proof that he was not without hope for his people, for he who is making arrangements for the good of a future generation has not yet despaired of his nation. The praise of God should be the great object of all that we do, and to secure him a revenue of glory both from the present and the future is the noblest aim of intelligent beings.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 18. Shall praise the LORD. The people whom God in mercy brings from a low and mean condition, are the people from whom God promises to receive praise and glory. Indeed, such is the selfishness of our corrupt nature, that if we are anything, or do anything, we are prone to forget God, and sacrifice to our own nets, and burn incense to our own yarn; inasmuch, that whenever God finds a people who shall either trust in him, or praise him, it must be “an afflicted and poor people, “(Zephaniah 3:11-13; Psalms 22:22-25), or a people brought from such an estate: free grace is even most valued by such a people. And if you look all the Scripture over, you will find that all the praises and songs of deliverance that have been made to God have proceeded from a people that have thus judged of themselves, as those that were brought to nothing; but God in mercy had brought them back again from the gates of death, and usually until they had such apprehensions of themselves they never gave unto God the glory due unto his name. Stephen Marshall.
Ver. 18. Expositors observe upon this text, that this redeemed Church takes no thought concerning themselves, about their own ease, pleasure, wealth, gain, or anything else which might accrue unto themselves by this deliverance, to make their own life easy or sweet; but their thoughts and studies are wholly laid out, how the present and succeeding generations should give all glory to God for it…
There are three special reasons why this should be the great work of the Lord’s saved and rescued people, and why indeed they can do no other than study thus to exalt him. I. One is, because they well know that the Lord hath reserved nothing to himself but only his glory; the benefits he gives to them; all the sweetness and honey that can be found in them he gives them leave to suck out; but his glory and his praise is his own, and that which he hath wholly reserved; of that he is jealous, lest it should either be denied, eclipsed, diminished, or any the least violation offered to it in any kind. All God’s people know this of him, and therefore they cannot but endeavour to preserve it for him.
II. Secondly, besides, they know, as God is jealous in that point, so it is all the work that he hath appointed them to do; he hath therefore separated them to himself out of all nations of the world, to be his peculiar ones for this very end, that they might give him all the glory and praise of his mercy. “I have( said God) created him, formed, and made him for my glory.” Isaiah 43:7. This is the law of his new creation, which is as powerful in them as the law of nature, or the first creation, is in the rest of his works. And therefore with a holy and spiritual naturalness (if I may so call it) the hearts of all the saints are carried to give God the glory, as really as the stones are carried to the centre, or the fire to fly upwards: this is fixed in their hearts, the work of grace hath moulded them to it, that they can do no other but endeavour to exalt God, it being the very end why their spiritual life and all their other privileges are conferred upon them.
III. Yea, thirdly, they know their own interests are much concerned in God’s glory, they never are losers by it: if in any work of God he want his praise, they will want their comfort; but if God be a gainer, they shall certainly be no losers. Whatever is poured upon the head of Christ—what ointment soever of praise or glory, it will in a due proportion fall down to the skirts of his garments; nor is there any other way to have any sweetness, comfort, praise, or glory to be derived unto themselves, but by giving all unto him to whom alone it belongeth, and then although he will never give away his glory—the glory of being the fountain, the first, supreme, original giver of all good; yet they shall have the glory of instruments, and of fellow workers with him, which is a glory and praise sufficient. Stephen Marshall.
Ver. 18 (first clause). Calvin translates thus, —This shall be registered for the generations to come; and observes, — “The Psalmist intimates, that this will be a memorable work of God, the praise of which shall be handed down to succeeding ages. Many things are worthy of praise, which are soon forgotten; but the prophet distinguishes between the salvation of the Church, for which he makes supplication, and common benefits. By the word register he means that the history of this would be worthy of having a place in the public records, that the remembrance of it might be transmitted to future generations.”
Ver. 18. This shall be written. Nothing is more tenacious than man’s, memory when he suffers an injury; nothing more lax if a benefit is conferred. For this reason God desires lest his gifts should fall out of mind, to have them committed to writing. Le Blanc.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 18.
1. A memorial.
2. A magnificat. W. Durban.
Verses 18-21.
1. Misery in extremis.
2. Divinity observant.
3. Deity actively assisting.
4. Glory consequently published.
Psalms 102:19*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 19-20. For he hath looked down from the heights of his sanctuary, or “leaned from the high place of his holiness, ”
from heaven did the LORD behold the earth, looking out like a watcher from his tower. What was the object of this leaning lrom the battlements of heaven? Why this intent gaze upon the race of men? The answer is full of astounding mercy; the Lord does not look upon mankind to note their grandees, and observe the doings of their nobles, but
to hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death. Now the groans of those in prison so far from being musical are very horrible to hear, yet God bends to hear them: those who are bound for death are usually ill company, yet Jehovah deigns to stoop from his greatness to relieve their extreme distress and break their chains. This he does by providential rescues, by restoring health to the dying, and by finding food for the famishing: and spiritually this deed of grace is accomplished by sovereign grace, which delivers us by pardon from the sentence of sin, and by the sweetness of the promise from the deadly despair which a sense of sin had created within us. Well may those of us praise the Lord who were once the children of death, but are now brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God. The Jews in captivity were in Haman’s time appointed to death, but their God found a way of escape for them, and they joyfully kept the feast of Purim in memorial thereof; let fill souls that have been set free from the crafty malice of the old dragon with even greater gratitude magnify the Lord of infinite compassion.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 19-22.
1. The notice which God takes of the world, Psalms 102:19. (a) The place from which he beholds it: “from heaven, ” not from an earthly point of view. (b) The character in which he beholds it; “from the height of his sanctuary, “from the mercy-seat.
2. What attracts his notice most in the world. The groaning of the prisoner and of those appointed to death.
3. The purpose for which he notices them. “To loose, ” etc.; “to declare, “etc. (a) For human comfort. (b) For his own glory.
4. When his notice is thus fixed upon the earth. “When, ” etc., Psalms 102:22. G. R.
Psalms 102:20*
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 2O. To hear the groaning of the prisoner. God takes notice not only of the prayers of his afflicted people, which are the language of grace; but even of their groans, which are the language of nature. Matthew Henry.
Ver. 20. Appointed unto death. Who, in their captivity, are experiencing so much affliction, that it is manifest their cruel enemies are desirous of destroying them utterly; or, at least, of bringing them into such a low and pitiable state, as to blot out their name from among the nations of the earth. William Keatinge Clay.
Psalms 102:21*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 21. To declare the name of the LORD in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem. Great mercy displayed to those greatly in need of it, is the plainest method of revealing the attributes of the Most High. Actions speak more loudly than words; deeds of grace are a revelation even more impressive than the most tender promises. Jerusalem restored, the church re-edified, desponding souls encouraged, and all other manifestations of Jehovah’s power to bless, are so many manifestoes and proclamations put up upon the walls of Zion to publish the character and glory of the great God. Every day’s experience should be to us a new gazette of love, a court circular from heaven, a daily despatch from the headquarters of grace. We are bound to inform our fellow Christians of all this, making them helpers in our praise, as they hear of the goodness which we have experienced. While God’s mercies speak so eloquently, we ought not to be dumb. To communicate to others what God has done for us personally and for the church at large is so evidently our duty, that we ought not to need urging to fulfil it. God has ever an eye to the glory of his grace in all that he does, and we ought not wilfully to defraud him of the revenue of his praise.
Psalms 102:22*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 22. When the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the Lord. The great work of restoring ruined Zion is to be spoken of in those golden ages when the heathen nations shall be converted unto God; even those glorious times will not be able to despise that grand event, which, like the passage of Israel through the Red Sea, will never be eclipsed and never cease to awaken the enthusiasm of the cliosen people. Happy will the day be when all nations shall unite in the sole worship of Jehovah, then shall the histories of the olden times be read with adoring wonder, and the hand of the Lord shall be seen as having ever rested upon the sacramental host of his elect: then shall shouts of exulting praise ascend to heaven in honour of him who loosed the captives, delivered the condemned, raised up the desolations of ages, and made out of stones and rubbish a temple for his worship.
Psalms 102:23*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 23. He weakened my strength in the way. Here the Psalmist comes down again to the mournful string, and pours forth his personal complaint. His sorrow had cast down his spirit, and even caused weakness in his bodily frame, so that he was like a pilgrim who limped along the road, and was ready to lie down and die.
He shortened my days. Though he had bright hopes for Jerusalem, he feared that he should have departed this life long before those visions had become realities; he felt that he was pining away and would be a shortlived man. Perhaps this may be our lot, and it will materially help us to be content with it, if we are persuaded that the grandest of all interests is safe, and the good old cause secure in the hands of the Lord.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 23. For the sick.
1. Submission—The Lord sent the trial—”He weakeneth, “etc.
2. Service—exonerated from some work, he now requires of me patience, earnestness, etc.
3. Preparation—for going home.
4. Prayer—for others to occupy my place.
5. Expectation—I shall soon be in heaven, now that my days are shortened.
Psalms 102:24*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 24. I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days. He betook himself to prayer. What better remedy is there for hcart-sickness and depression? We may lawfully ask for recovery from sickness and may hope to be heard. Good men should not dread death, but they are not forbidden to love life: for many reasons the man who has the best hope of heaven may nevertheless think it desirable to continue here a little longer, for the sake of his family, his work, the church of God, and even the glory of God itself. Some read the passage, “Take me not up, “let me not ascend like disappearing smoke, do not whirl me away like Elijah in a chariot of fire, for as yet I have only seen half my days, and that a sorrowful half; give me to live till the blustering morning shall have softened into a bright afternoon of happier existence.
Thy years are throughout all generations. Thou livest, Lord; let me live also. A fulness of existence is with thee, let me partake therein. Note the contrast between himself pining and ready to expire, and his God living on in the fulness of strength for ever and ever; this contrast is full of consolatory power to the man whose heart is stayed upon the Lord. Blessed be his name, he faileth not, and, therefore, our hope shall not fail us, neither will we despair for ourselves or for his church.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 24. 0 my God. The leaving out one word in a will may mar the estate and disappoint all a man’s hopes; the want of this one word, my (God) is the wicked man’s loss of heaven, and the dagger which will pierce his heart in hell to all eternity.
The degree of satisfaction in any good is according to the degree of our union to it, (hence our delight is greater in food than in clothes, and the saint’s joy is greater in God in the other world than in this, because the union is nearer;)but where there is no property there is no union, therefore no complacency. The pronoun my is as much worth to the soul as the boundless portion. All our comfort is locked up in that private cabinet. Wine in the glass doth not cheer the heart, but taken down Into the body. The property of the Psalmist’s in God was the mouth whereby he fed on those dainties which did so exceedingly delight him. No love potion was ever so effectual as this pronoun. When God saith to the soul, as Ahab to Benhadad “Behold, I am thine, and all that I have, “who can tell how the heart leaps for joy in, and expires almost in desires after him upon such news! Others, like strangers, may behold his honour and excellencies, but this saint only, like the wife, enjoyeth him. Luther saith, Much religion lieth in pronouns. All our consolation, indeed, consisteth in this pronoun. It is the cup which holdeth all our cordial waters. I will undertake as bad as the devil is, he shall give the whole world, were it in his power, more freely than ever he offered it to Christ for his worship, for leave from God to pronounce those two words. MY GOD. All the joys of the believer are hung upon this one string; break that asunder, and all is lost. I have sometimes thought how David rolls it as a lump of sugar under his tongue, as one loth to lose its sweetness too soon: “I will love thee, O LORD, my strength, my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower, “Psalms 18:1-2. This pronoun is the door at which the King of saints entereth into our hearts, with his whole train of delights and comforts. George Swinnock.
Ver. 24. Take me not away, is more exactly, Take me not up, with possible reference to the case of Elijah, “taken up.” Henry Cowles.
Ver. 24. Take me not away in the midst of my days. The word is, “Let me not ascend in the midst of my days, “that is, before I have measured the usual course of life. Thus, to ascend is the same as to be cut off;death cuts off the best from this world, and then they ascend to a better. The word ascend is conceived to have in it a double allusion; first, to corn which is taken up by the hand of the reaper, and then laid down on the stubble. Secondly, unto the light of a candle, which as the candle spends, or as that which is the food of the fire is spending, ascends, and at last goes out and vanisheth. Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 24. Thy years are throughout all generations. The Psalmist says of Christ, “Thy years are throughout all generations, ” Psalms 102:24; which Psalm the apostle quoteth of him, Hebrews 1:10. Let us trace his existence punctually through all times. Let us go from point to point, and see how in particulars the Scriptures accord with it. The first joint of time we will begin that chronology of his existence withal is that instant afore he was to come into the world.
First, We find him to have existed just afore he came into the world, the instance of his conception, Hebrews 10:5, in these words, “Wherefore when he comes into the world, says he, A body hast thou prepared me.” Hebrews 10:7, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.” Here is a person distinct from God the Father, a me, an I, distinct also from that human nature he was to assume, which he terms a “body prepared.”… Therefore besides and afore that human nature there was a divine person that existed, that was not of this world, but that came into it, “when he cometh into the world, he says, “etc., to become a part of it, and be manifested in it.
Secondly, We find him to have existed afore John the Baptist, though John was conceived and born some months afore him. I note these several joints of time because the Scripture notes them, and hath set a special mark upon them: John 1:15. “John bare witness of him, “and cried, saying, “This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.” This priority of existence is that which John doth specially give witness to. And it is priority in existence, for he allegeth it as a reason why he was preferred afore him; “for he was before me.”
Thirdly, We find him existing when all the prophets wrote and spake, 1 Peter 1:11. The Spirit of Christ is said to have been in all the prophets, even as Paul, who came after Christ, also speaks, “You seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, “2 Corinthians 13:3. And therefore he himself, whose Spirit it was, or whom he sent, must needs exist as a person sending him.
Fourthly, We find him existing in Moses’ time, both because it was he that was tempted in the wilderness, “Neither let us tempt Christ as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents, ” 1 Corinthians 10:9; and it was Christ that was the person said to be tempted by them, as well as now by us, as the word kai “as they also, “evidently shows. And it points to that angel that was sent with them, Exodus 23:20-21, in whom the name of God was, and who as God had the power of pardoning sins, Exodus 23:21. See also Acts 7:35, Hebrews 12:26.
Fifthly, We find him existing in and afore Abraham’s time: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am, “John 8:58.
Sixthly, We find him existing in the days of Noah, 1 Peter 3:19. He says of Christ, that he was “put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the Spirit.” He evidently distinguisheth of two natures, his divine and human, even as Romans 1:3-4 and elsewhere; and then declares how by that divine nature, which he terms “Spirit, “in which he was existent in Noah’s times, he went and preached to those of the old world, whose souls are now in prison in hell. These words, “in Spirit, “are not put to signify the subject of vivification; for such neither his soul nor Godhead could be said to be, for that is not quickened which was not dead; but for the principal and cause of his vivification, which his soul was not, but his Godhead was. And besides by his Spirit is not meant his soul, for that then must be supposed to have preached to souls in hell (where these are affirmed to be). Now, there is no preaching where there is no capacity of faith. But his meaning is, that those persons that lived in Noah’s time, and were preached unto, their souls and spirits were now, when this was written, spirits in prison, that is, in hell. And therefore he also adds this word “sometimes”: who were sometimes disobedient in Noah’s days. These words give us to understand that this preaching was performed by Noah ministerially, yet by Christ in Noah; who according to his divine person was extant, and went with him, as with Moses, and the church in the wilderness, and preached unto them.
Seventhly, He was extant at the beginning of the world, “In the beginning was the Word.” In which words, there being no predicate or attribute affirmed of this word, the sentence or affirmation is terminated or ended merely with his existence: “he was, “and he was then, “in the beginning.” He says not that he was made in the beginning, but that “he was in the beginning.” And it is in the beginning absolutely, without any limitation. And therefore Moses’s beginning, Genesis 1:1, is meant, as also the words after show, “All was made by him that was made; “and, Genesis 1:10, the world he came into was made by him. And as from the beginning is usually taken from the first times or infancy of the world; so then, when God began to create, then was our Christ. And this here is set in opposition (John 1:14) unto the time of his being made flesh, lest that should have been thought his beginning. And unto this accords that of Hebrews 1:10, where, speaking of Christ, out of Psalms 102:24, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundations of the earth; so as to be sure he existed then. But further, in Psalms 102:24, it runs thus, Thy years are throughout all generations. We have run, you see, through all generations since the creation, and have found his years throughout them all. And yet lest that should be taken only of the generations of this world, he adds (as Rivet expounds it), Before thou laidst the foundation of the earth.
Eighthly, So then we come to this, that he hath been before the creation, yea, from everlasting.
But, Ninthly, If you would have his eternity yet more express, see Hebrews 7:3, where mentioning Melchisedec, Christ’s type, he renders him to have been his type in this—”Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.” Where his meaning is to declare that, look what Melchisedec was typice, or umbraiter, in a shadow, that our Christ was really and substantially.
Lastly, Add to this that in Micah 5:2, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting; “where he evidently speaks of two births Christ had, under the metaphor of going forth: one as man at Bethlehem in the fulness of time, the other as Son of God from everlasting. As Son of God, his goings forth (that is, his birth) are from everlasting. And it is termed, “goings forth, “in the plural; because it is actus continuus, and hath been every moment continued from everlasting. As the sun begets light and beams every moment, so God doth his Son. So then we have two everlastings attributed to Christ’s person; one to come, Hebrews 1:10, and another past, here in Micah 5:2. And so as of God himself it is said, Psalms 90:2, “From everlasting to everlasting thou art God, “so also of Christ. Condensed from T. Goodwin’s Treatise on “The Knowledge of God the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ.”
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 24.
1. The prayer. “Take me not away, “etc. (a) Not in the midst of life, is the prayer of some. (b) Not in the midst of worldly prosperity is the prayer of many, for the sake of those dependent upon them. (c) Not in the midst of spiritual growth, is the prayer of not a few: “Oh spare me, that I may recover strength, “etc. (d) Not in the midst of Christian work and usefulness, is the prayer of others.
2. The plea. “Thy years, “etc.; years are plentiful with thee, therefore to give me longer days will be an easy gift—and thine own are throughout all generations. G. R.
Psalms 102:25*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 25. Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth. Creation is no new work with God, and therefore to “create Jerusalem a praise in the earth” will not be difficult to him. Long ere the holy city was laid in ruins the Lord made a world out of nothing, and it will be no labour to him to raise the walls from their heaps and replace the stones in their courses. We can neither continue our own existence nor give being to others; but the Lord not only is, but he is the Maker of all things that are; hence, when our affairs are at the very lowest ebb we are not at all despairing, because the Almighty and Eternal Lord can yet restore us.
And the heavens are the work of thine hands. Thou canst therefore not merely lay the foundations of Zion, but complete its roof, even as thou hast arched in the world with its ceiling of blue; the loftiest stories of thine earthly palace shall be piled on high without difficulty when thou dost undertake the building thereof, since thou art architect of the stars, and the spheres in which they move. When a great labour is to be performed it is eminently reassuring to contemplate the power of him who has undertaken to accomplish it; and when our own strength is exhausted it is supremely cheering to see the unfailing energy which is still engaged on our behalf.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 25. Earth. Heavens. He names here the most stable parts of the world, and the most beautiful parts of the creation, those that are freest from corruptibility and change, to illustrate thereby the immutability of God, that though the heavens and earth have a prerogative of fixedness above other parts of the world, and the creatures that reside below, the heavens remain the same as they were created, and the centre of the earth retains its fixedness, and are as beautiful and fresh in their age as they were in their youth many years ago, notwithstanding the change of the elements, fire and water being often turned into air, so that there may remain but little of that air which was first created, by reason of the continual transmutation; yet this firmness of the earth and heavens is not to be regarded in comparison of the unmoveableness and fixedness of the being of God. As their beauty comes short of the glory of his being, so doth their firmness come short of his stability. Stephen Charnock.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 25-27.
1. The unchangeableness of God amidst past changes: “of old, “etc. (a) He was the same before as after he had laid the foundations of the earth. (b) He was the same after as before.
2. The unchangeableness of God amidst future changes. “They shall perish, “etc. (a) The same before they perish as after. (b) After as before.
3. The unchangeableness of God in the past and the future. “Thou art the same, “etc. G. R.
Psalms 102:26*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 26. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure. The power which made them shall dissolve them, even as the city of thy love was destroyed at thy command; yet neither the ruined city nor the ruined earth can make a change in thee, reverse thy purpose, or diminish thy glory. Thou standest when all things fall.
Yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed. Time impairs all things, the fashion becomes obsolete and passes away. The visible creation, which is like the garment of the invisible God, is waxing old and wearing out, and our great King is not so poor that he must always wear the same robes; he will ere long fold up the worlds and put them aside as worn out vestures, and he will array himself in new attire, making a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. How readily will all this be done. “Thou shalt change them and they shall be changed; “as in the creation so in the restoration, omnipotence shall work its way without hindrance.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 26. The shall perish. The greater the cirruption, the vaster the destruction. Some think that the fiery deluge shall ascend no higher than did the watery. It may be the earth shall be burned, that is the worst guest at the table, the common sewer of all other creatures, but shall the heavens pass away? It may be the airy heaven; but shall the starry heaven where God hath printed such figures of his glory? Yes, caelum, elementurn, terra, when ignis ubique ferox ruptis regnabit habenis. The former deluge is called the world’s winter, the next the world’s summer. The one was with a cold and moist element, the other shall be with an element hot and dry. But what then shall become of the saints? They shall be delivered out of all; walking like those three servants in the midst of that great furnace, the burning world, and not be scorched, because there is one among them to deliver them, “the Son of God, “Daniel 3:25, their Redeemer. But shall all quite perish? No, there is rather a mutation than an abolition of their substance. Thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed, not abolished. The concupiscence shall pass, not the essence; the form, not the nature. In the altering of an old garment, we destroy it not, but trim it, refresh it, and make it seem new. They pass, they do not perish; the dross is purged, the metal stays. The corrupt quality shall be renewed, and all things restored to that original beauty wherein they were created. “The end of all things is at hand, “1 Peter 4:7 : an end of us, an end of our days, an end of our ways, and end of our thoughts. If a man could say as Job’s messenger, I alone am escaped, it were somewhat; or might find an ark with Noah. But there is no ark to defend them from that heat, but only the bosom of Jesus Christ. Thomas Adams.
Ver. 26. Like a garment. The whole creation is as a garment, wherein the Lord shows his power clothed unto men; whence in particular he is said to clothe himself with light as with a garment. And in it is the hiding of his power. Hid it is, as a man is hid with a garment; not that he should not be seen at all, but that he should not be seen perfectly and as he is. It shows the man, and he is known by it; but also it hides him, that he is not perfectly or fully seen. So are the works of creation unto God, he so far makes them his garment or clothing as in them to give out some instances of his power and wisdom; but he is also hid in them, in that by them no creature can come to the full and perfect knowledge of him. Now, when this work shall cease, and God shall unclothe or unveil all his glory to his saints, and they shall know him perfectly, see him as he is, so far as a created nature is capable of that comprehension, then will he lay them aside and fold them up, at least as to that use, as easily as a man lays aside a garment that he will wear or use no more. This lies in the metaphor. John Owen.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 26-27.
1. How far God may change—only in his garments, or outward manifestations of creation and providence.
2. Wherein he cannot change—his nature, attributes, covenant, love, etc.
3. The comfortable truths which may be safely inferred, or which gather support from this fact.
Ver. 26-27.
1. The material universe of God. (a) No more to him than a garment to the wearer. (b) Ever waxing old, but he the same. (c) Soon to be changed and left to perish, but of his years no end.
2. Our relation to each (a) Let us never love the dress more than the wearer. (b) Nor trust more in the changeful than in the abiding. (c) Nor live for that which will die out.
Psalms 102:27*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 27. But thou art the same, or, “thou art he.” As a man remains the same when he has changed his clothing, so is the Lord evermore the unchanging One, though his works in creation may be changed, and the operations of his providence may vary. When heaven and earth shall flee away from the dread presence of the great Judge, he will be unaltered by the terrible confusion, and the world in conflagration will effect no change in him; even so, the Psalmist remembered that when Israel was vanquished, her capital destroyed, and her temple levelled with the ground, her God remained the same self-existent, all-sufficient being, and would restore his people, even as he will restore the heavens and the earth, bestowing at the same time a new glory never known before. The doctrine of the immutability of God should be more considered than it is, for the neglect of it tinges the theology of many religious teachers, and makes them utter many things of which they would have seen the absurdity long ago if they had remembered the divine declaration, “I am God, I change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”
And thy years shall have no end. God lives on, no decay can happen to him, or destruction overtake him. What a joy is this! We may lose our dearest earthly friends, but not our heavenly Friend. Men’s days are often suddenly cut short, and at the longest they are but few, but the years of the right hand of the Most High cannot be counted, for they have neither first nor last, beginning nor end. O my soul, rejoice thou in the Lord always, since he is always the same.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 27. Thou art the same. The essence of God, with all the perfections of his nature, are pronounced the same, without any variation from eternity to eternity. So that the text doth not only assert the eternal duration of God, but his immutability in that duration; his eternity is signified in that expression, “thou shalt endure; “his immutability in this, “thou art the same.” To endure, argues indeed this immutability as well as eternity; for what endures is not changed, and what is changed doth not endure. “But thou art the same, “awx xta, doth more fully signify it. He could not be the same if he could be changed into any other thing than what he is. The Psalmist therefore puts, not thou hast been or shall be, but thou art the same, without any alteration; thou art the same, that is, the same God, the same in essence and nature, the same in will and purpose, thou dost change all other things as thou pleaseth; but thou art immutable in every respect, and receivest no shadow of change, thought never so light and small. The Psalmist here alludes to the name Jehovah, I am, and doth not only ascribe immutability to God, but exclude everything else from partaking in that perfection. Stephen Charnock.
Psalms 102:28*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 28. The children of thy servants shall continue. The Psalmist had early in the psalm looked forward to a future generation, and here he speaks with confidence that such a race would arise and be preserved and blessed of God. Some read it as a prayer, “let the sons of thy servants abide.” Any way, it is full of good cheer to us; we may plead for the Lord’s favour to our seed, and we may expect that the cause of God and truth will revive in future generations. Let us hope that those who are to succeed us will not be so stubborn, unbelieving and erring as we have been. If the church has been minished and brought low by the lukewarmness of the present race, let us entreat the Lord to raise up a better order of men, whose zeal and obedience shall win and hold a long prosperity. May our own dear ones be among the better generation who shall continue in the Lord’s ways, obedient to the end.
And their seed shall be established before thee. God does not neglect the children of his servants. It is the rule that Abraham’s Isaac should be the Lord’s, that Isaac’s Jacob should be beloved of the Most High, and that Jacob’s Joseph should find favour in the sight of God. Grace is not hereditary, yet God loves to be served by the same family time out of mind, even as many great landowners feel a pleasure in having the same families as tenants upon their estates from generation to generation. Here is Zion’s hope, her sons will build her up, her offspring will restore her former glories. We may, therefore, not only for our own sakes, but also out of love to the church of God, daily pray that our sons and daughters may be saved, and kept by divine grace even unto the end, —established before the Lord.
We have thus passed through the cloud, and in the next psalm we shall bask in the sunshine. Such is the chequered experience of the believer. Paul in the seventh of Romans cries and groans, and then in the eighth rejoices and leaps for joy; and so, from the moaning of the hundred and second psalm, we now advance to the songs and dancing of the hundred and third, blessing the Lord that, “though weeping may endure for a night, joy cometh in the morning.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 28. The children of thy servants shall continue. In what sense is “children” taken? Either the children of their flesh, or of their faith. Some say the children of the same faith with the godly teachers and servants of the Lord, begotten by them to God, as noting the perpetuity of the church, who shall in every age bring forth children to God. It is the comfort of God’s people to see a young brood growing up to continue his remembrance in the world, that when they die religion shall not die with them, nor the succession of the church be interrupted. This sense is not altogether incongruous; but rather I think the children of their body are here intended; it being a blessing often promised: see Psalms 103:17. “The mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children.” “Shall continue; “”shall be established.” In what sense is it spoken? Some think only pro more faederis, according to the fashion of that covenant which the people of God were then under, when eternity was but more darkly revealed and shadowed out, either by long life, or the continuance of their name in their posterity, which was a kind of literal immortality. Clearly such a kind of regard is had, as appeareth by that which you find in Psalms 37:28. “The LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever.” How? since they die as others do: mark the antithesis, and that will explain it. “They are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.” They are preserved in their posterity. Children are but the parents multiplied, and the parent continued, it is nodosa aeternitas;when the father’s life is run out to the last, there is a knot tied, and the line is still continued by the child. I confess, temporal blessings, such as long life, and the promise of a happy posterity, are more visible in the eye of that dispensation of the covenant; but yet God still taketh care for the children of his people, and many promises run that way that belong to the gospel-administration, and still God’s service is the surest way to establish a family, as sin is the ready way to root it out. And if it doth not always fall out accordingly, yet for the most part it doth; and we are no competent judges of God’s dispensations in this kind, because we see Providence by pieces, and have not the skill to set them together; but at the day of judgment, when the whole contexture of God’s dealings is laid before us we shall clearly understand how the children of his servants continue, and their seed is established. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 28. O the folly of the world, that seeks to make perpetuities to their houses by devises in the law, which may perhaps reach to continue their estates, but can it reach to continue their seed? It may entail lands to their heirs, but can it entail heirs to their lands? No, God knows! This is a perpetuity of only God’s making, a privilege of only God’s servants: for The children of his servants shall continue, and theiv seed shall be established before him; but that any others shall continue is no part of David’s warrant. Sir R. Baker.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 28. The true apostolical succession.
1. There always will be saints.
2. They will frequently be the seed of the saints after the flesh.
3. They will always be the spiritual seed of the godly, for God converts one by means of another.
4. We should order our efforts with an eye to the church’s future.

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Psalm 101

holy-bible-background

Verses 1-8
TITLE. —A Psalm of David. This is just such a psalm as the man after God’s own heart would compose when he was about to become king in Israel. It is David all over, straight forward, resolute, devout; there is no trace of policy or vacillation, the Lord has appointed him to be king, and he knows it, therefore he purposes in all things to behave as becomes a monarch who me the Lord himself has chosen. If we call this THE PSALM or PIOUS RESOLUTIONS, we shall perhaps remember it all the more readily. After songs of praise a psalm of practice not only makes variety, but comes in most fittingly. We never praise the Lord better than when we do those things which are pleasing in his sight.
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 1. I will sing of mercy and judgment. He would extol both the love and the severity, the sweets and the bitters, which the Lord had mingled in Iris experience; he would admire the justice and the goodness of the Lord. Such a song would fitly lead up to godly resolutions as to his own conduct, for that which we admire in our superiors we naturally endeavour to imitate. Mercy and judgment would temper the administration of David, because he had adoringly perceived them in the dispensations of his God. Everything in God’s dealings with us may fittingly become the theme of song, and we have not viewed it aright until we feel we can sing about it. We ought as much to bless the Lord for the judgment with which he chastens our sin, as for the mercy with which he forgives it; there is as much love in the blows of his hand as in the kisses of his mouth. Upon a retrospect of their lives instructed saints scarcely know which to be most grateful for—the comforts which have, or the afflictions which nave purged them.
Unto thee, O LORD, will I sing. Jehovah shall have all our praise. The secondary agents of either the mercy or the judgment must hold a very subordinate place in oue memory, and the Lord alone must be hymned by our heart. Our soul’s sole worship must be the lauding of the Lord. The psalmist forsakes the minor key, which was soon to rule him in the one hundred and second psalm, and resolves that, come what may, he will sing, and sing to the Lord too, whatever others might do.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Whole Psalm. The contents of this psalm show that it was written at some remarkable period of David’s life. Three different times have been fixed upon as respectively giving occasion for the solemn resolutions which are announced in it. The first is supposed to be when David, immediately after the death of Saul, succeeded to the government of a part of the kingdom; the second, when the whole kingdom was united under the dominion of David; and the third, when he removed the ark from the house of Obededom to Zion, and placed it in the vicinity of his own abode. It is certainly of little importance which of these periods we select, but the second verse of the psalm has some appearance of relating to the last mentioned. The psalmist here says,
When wilt thou come to me? which seems to intimate that when he was to have the symbols of God’s presence so near to him, he experienced a solemn sentiment respecting the holiness that was now more than ever incumbent upon him—a sentiment which induced him to form the sacred purposes and resolutions which he has specified. These purposes relate to the character of the persons whom he would select for his household, and those whom he would employ in carrying on his government, which appeared to be more firmly established by the divine condescension that was manifested to him, in having the earthly residence of God placed so near to himself. It was quite in agreement with David’s character to form purposes of more fervent and steadfast obedience, in proportion to the advantages and favours which the divine goodness bestowed upon him. —William Walford.
Whole Psalm. This psalm has been appropriately called “The House-holder’s Psalm”; and assuredly if every master of a family would regulate his household by these rules of the conscientious psalmist, there would be a far greater amount, not merely of domestic happiness and comfort, but of fulfilment of the serious and responsible duties which devolve on the respective members of a household. David in some measure may be supposed to speak of the regulation of a royal court and household; and of course with such we in our humbler sphere can have but little in common; yet though there may not be the same duties and the same requirements, yet the same principles should actuate all alike, and the same virtues that adorn the lowlier station may shed a radiance even on the highest. —Barton Bouchier.
Whole Psalm. This is the psalm which the old expositors used to designate “The Mirror for Magistrates”; and an excellent mirror it is. It would mightily accelerate the coming of the time when every nation shall be Christ’s possession, and every capital a “City of the Lord”, if all magistrates could be persuaded to dress themselves by it every time they go forth to perform the functions of their godlike office. When Sir George Villiers became the favourite and prime minister of King James, Lord Bacon, in a beautiful Letter of Advice, counselled him to take this psalm for his rule in the promotion of courtiers. “In those the choice had need be of holiest and faithful servants, as well as of comely outsides who can bow the knee and kiss the hand. King David (Psalms 101:6-7) propounded a rule to himself for the choice of his courtiers. He was a wise and a good king; and a wise and a good king shall do well to follow such a good example; and if he find any to be faulty, which perhaps cannot suddenly be discovered, let him take on him this resolution as King David did, `There shall no deceitful person dwell in my house.'”It would have been well both for the Philosopher and the Favourite if they had been careful to walk by this rule. —William Binnie.
Whole Psalm. Eyring, in his “Life of Ernest the Pious” (Duke of Saxe Gotha), relates that he sent an unfaithful minister a copy of Psalms 101:1-8, and that it became a proverb in the country when an official had done anything wrong: He will certainly soon receive the prince’s psalm to read. —F. Delitzseh.
Whole Psalm., Psalms 101:1-8 was one beloved by the noblest of Russian princes, Vladimir Monomachos; and by the gentlest of English reformers, Nicholas Ridley. But it was its first leap into life that has carried it so far into the future. It is full of a stern exclusiveness, of a noble intolerance, not against theological error, not against uncourtly manners, not against political insubordination, but against the proud heart, the high look, the secret slanderer, the deceitful worker, the teller of lies. These are the outlaws from king David’s court; these are the rebels and heretics whom he would not suffer to dwell in his house or tarry in his sight. —Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, in “Lectures on the History the Jewish Church”, 1870.
Whole Psalm. Such a hymn of praise as the grand doxology of Psalms 99:1-9 could not die away without an echo. Accordingly Psalms 100:1-5 may be regarded as forming the chorus of the church, and this as taking up and applying that part of the doxology which celebrated the present manifestation of the “King in his beauty.” —Alfred Edersheim.
Whole Psalm. Mr. Fox reports that Bishop Ridley often read and expounded this psalm to his household, hiring them with money to get it by heart. —Thomas Lye, in “The Morning Exercises.”
Ver. 1. I will sing. If thou bestowest mercies upon me; or if thou bringest any judgment upon me; before thee, O Lord, will I sing my hymn for all. —Chaldee Paraphrase.
Ver. 1. I will sing. The manner of expression imports a cordial resolution; heart and will are engaged in it; there is twice I will in the text. The manner of expression imports a humble resolution; I cannot sing of merit; but I will sing of mercy, and through mercy I will sing of mercy. To sing of mercy must be a humble song, for mercy towards a miserable sinner is a melting word; and to sing of judgment must be a humble song, for judgment in every sense is an awful word. The manner of the expression imports a skilful harper, a dexterous musician, even in a spiritual sense; he knew what should be the subject of the song, and he says, “I will sing of mercy and judgment”; and he knew what should be the object of the song, or to whom it should be sung, and therefore says, “To thee, O Lord, I will sing”; he knew who should be the singer, and therefore says, “I will” do it; he knew what should be the manner; and therefore says, “I will sing of mercy and judgment; to thee, O Lord, will I sing.” It is before the Lord he resolves to sing, as he did before the ark, which was a type of Christ; and so is it s song to the praise of God in Christ. The manner of the expression imports a firm, fixed, and constant resolution; so the redoubling of it seems to import; “I will sing, I will sing.” He had a mind this exercise of singing should not go down, but be his continual trade, “I will sing, I will sing”; I will sing on earth and I will sing in heaven; I will sing in time and I will sing in eternity. And, indeed, all on whom the spirit of praise and gratitude is poured out resolve never to give over singing… David had heard once, yea, twice, that mercy as well as power belongs to the Lord; and therefore not only once, but twice in a breath he resolves to sing unto the Lord. The word hath a great deal of elegancy and emphasis in it; I will sing of mercy, I will sing of judgment; O, I will sing, O Lord, I will sing; and I will sing unto thee. —Ralph Erskine.
Ver. 1. This song of the sweet singer of Israel is peculiar to earth; they do not sing of judgment in heaven, for there is no sin there; they do not sing of mercy in hell, for there is no propitiation for sin there. Time was when the song was not heard even on earth; for in Paradise man walked in innocence, and walking in innocence he walked in the light of his Father’s face. —Hugh Stowell, 1856.
Ver. 1. I will sing of mercy and judgment. It comes all to this, as if the psalmist should say, “I will sing of merciful judgements”; for judgment is mercy, as it is the matter of the song: or, to take them separately, “I will sing of mercy in mercies, and, I will sing of mercy in judgment”; and so I will sing of my blinks and of my showers; I will sing both of my cloudy and my clear day; both of my ups and downs. —Ralph Erskine.
Ver. 1. Mercy and judgment. As the pedge of the ship S.Paul sailed in was Castor and Pollux, twin brothers, so the badge of this Psalm is Mercy and Judgment, inseparable companions; of whom it may be said, as our prophet sometimes spake of Saul and Jonathan, “They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their deaths they were not divided.” These are the two brightest stars in the firmament of majesty; the two fairest flowers, and choicest jewels in the imperial crown; like the carnation and the lily, the ruby and the sapphire, or the carbuncle and the diamond, yielding a mutual and interchangeable lustre each to other. They resemble not unfitly the two supporters of the king’s arms, or the two seraphim stretching out their golden wings over the propitiatory, or the white and red rose in the same escutcheon.
We read that Solomon set up two goodly pillars in the porch of the temple, the one called Jachin, the other Boaz, which signify stability and strength; such pillars of the state are mercy and judgment. The throne of the King is borne up by them, as Solomen’s was with lions of ivory on each side. Therefore I as in one place it is said that “the throne is established by justice” (Proverbs 16:12); so in another that it is “upheld by mercy” (Proverbs 20:28); justice being as the bones and sinews in the body politic, and mercy as the veins and arteries. They are the two hands of action, the two eyes of virtue, and the two wings of honour. And as the eyes, if they be rightly set, do both look one way; so do mercy and judgment, however in the apprehension of the vulgar they seem to look contrary ways. And as the treble and the bass accord best music; so do they in managing the commonwealth. Wherefore David promiseth to make them both sound tunable in his song without jar or discord: “I will sing of mercy and judgment.” …
As mercy is here set in the first place; so shall the sentence of mercy and absolution be first pronounced at the last day. And it is a laudable custom of princes, at their first entrance to their kingdoms, to shew mercy, by hearing the mourning of the prisoner, and delivering the children of death, by loosing the bands of wickedness, by taking off the heavy burdens, by letting the oppressed go free, and by breaking every yoke of former extortions. Thus, our prophet himself, as soon as the crown was settled on his head, made inquiry if there remained yet alive any of the house of Saul, on whom he might shew mercy (2 Samuel 9:1). O how fair a thing is this mercy in the time of anguish and trouble! It is like a cloud of rain that cometh in the time of drought. But this mercy, here spoken of in the first part of our prophet’s song, stretcheth further; unfolding itself in clemency, in courtesy, and in compassion. In clemency, by pardoning malefactors; in compassion, by relieving the afflicted; in courtesy, towards all. —George Hakewill, or Hakewell, 1579-1649.
Ver. 1. Mercy and judgment. What is the history of every poor sinner, plucked as a brand from the fire and brought to heaven in peace at last, but a history of “mercy and judgment”? Judgment first awakes to terror and to fear; mercy meets the poor, trembling, returning prodigal, and falls on his neck, and kisses, and forgives. Then, through all his chequered course, God hems up his way with judgment, that he may not wander, and yet brightens his path with mercy, that he may not faint. Is there a child of God that can look into the varied record of his heart or of his outward history, and not see goodness and severity, severity and goodness, tracking him all his journey through? Has he ever had a cup so bitter that he could say, “There is no mercy here”? Has he ever had a lot so bright that he could say, “There is no chastisement or correction here”? Has he ever had any bad tidings, and there have been no good tidings set over against them to relieve them? Has he ever had a sky so dark that he could see in it no star, or a cloud so unchequered that he could trace no rainbow of promise there? …
What a beautifully woven web of judgment and mercy does every man’s secret history, in his way through the wilderness of life to the land of promise, present! and how good, and how wholesome, and how kindly, and how gracious is this blessed intermingling of both! How do we need the judgment, to keep us humble and watchful and pure! and how do we need the mercy to keep us hopeful, and to nerve our efforts, and to stir our hearts, and to sustain us in patience, amid life’s battle and struggle, and disappointment and vexation! Oh, how good it is for us, that we should thus, therefore, have the rod and staff together—the rod to chasten, and the staff to solace and sustain! How good it is for us, that we should have to “sing of mercy and judgment!” And yet, what is judgment itself, but mercy with a sterner aspect? And what are the chidings of judgment, but the sterner tones of the voice of a Father’s love? For even judgment is one of the “all things” that “work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose.” —Hugh Stowell.
Ver. 1. Mercy and judgment. God intermixeth mercy with affliction: he steeps his sword of justice in the oil of mercy; there was no night so dark, but Israel had a pillar of fire in it; there is no condition so dismal, but we may see a pillar of fire to give light. If the body be in pain, conscience is in peace, —there is mercy: affliction is for the prevention of sin, —there is mercy. In the ark there was a rod and a pot of manna, the emblem of a Christian’s condition, mercy interlined with judgment. —Thomas Watson.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Whole Psalm. —This is a psalm of wills and shalls. There are nine wills and five shalls. Resolutions should be made,
1. With deliberation; not, therefore, upon trifling matters.
2. With reservation. “If the Lord will, “etc.
3. With dependence upon divine strength for their fulfilment.
—G.R.
Ver. 1. —
1. The sweet work that is resolved upon is to “sing.”
2. The sweet singer that thus resolves, namely, David, “l will sing.”
3. The sweet subject of the song, “mercy and judgment.”
4. The sweet object of this praise, and the manner in which he would sing it—”Unto three, 0 Lord, will I sing.”
—Ralph Ershikine.
Ver. 1. —What there is in mercy that affords ground of singing.
1. The freeness and undeservedhess of mercy.
2. The unexpectedness of mercy. When I was expecting a frown I got a smile; when I was expecting nothing but wrath, I got a glance of love; instead of a stroke of vengeance, I got a view of glory.
3. The seasonablehess of mercy is a ground of singing— grace to help in time of need.
4. The greatness and riches of mercy make the recipiants there of sing.
5. The sweetness of mercy makes them sing.
6. The sureness and firmness of mercy make them sing— “The sure mercies of David.”
—From Ralph Erskine’s Sermon, entitled “The Militant’s Song”.
Ver. 1. —
1. The different conditions of the righteous man in this life. Not all mercy, nor all judgment, but mercy and judgment.
2. His one duty and privilege in reference to them: “I will sing, “etc.
(a) Because they are both from God.
(b) Because they are both from love.
(c) Because they are both for present good.
(d) Because they are both preparative for the heavenly
rest.
—G.R.
Ver. 1. —The blending of song with holy living. The bell of praise and the pomegranate of holy fruitfulness should both adorn the Lord’s priests.
Psalms 101:2*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 2. I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. To be holy is to be wise; a perfect way is a wise way. David’s resolve was excellent, but his practice did not fully tally with it. Alas! he was not always wise or perfect, but it was well that it was in his heart. A king had need be both sage and pure, and, if he be not so in intent, when he comes to the throne, his after conduct will be a sad example to his people. He who does not even resolve to do well is likely to do very ill. Householders, employers, and especially ministers, should pray for both wisdom and holiness, for they will need them both.
O when wilt thou come unto me? —an ejaculation, but not an interruption. He feels the need not merely of divine help, but also of the divine presence, that so he may be instructed, and sanctified, and made fit for the discharge of his high vocation. David longed for a more special and effectual visitation from the Lord before he began his reign. If God be with us we shall neither err in judgment nor transgress in character; his presence brings us both wisdom and holiness; away from God we are away from safety. Good men are so sensible of infirmity that they cry for help from God, so full of prayer that they cry at all seasons, so intense in their desires that they cry with sighs and groanings which cannot be uttered, saying, “O when wilt thou come unto me?”
I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. Piety must begin at home. Our first duties are those within our own abode. We must have a perfect heart at home, or we cannot keep a perfect way abroad. Notice that these words are a part of a song, and that there is no music like the harmony of a gracious life, no psalm so sweet as the daily practice of holiness. Reader, how fares it with your family? Do you sing in the choir and sin in the chamber Are you a saint abroad and a devil at home? For shame! What we are at home, that we are indeed. He cannot be a good king whose palace is the haunt of vice, nor he a true saint whose habitation is a scene of strife, nor he a faithful minister whose household dreads his appearance at the fireside.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 2. I will behave myself wisely. The first thing he vows touching himself, is wise behaviour; prudence, not sapience; not wise contemplation, but wise action. It is not wise thoughts, or wise speaking, or wise writing, or wise gesture and countenance, will serve the turn, but wise behaviour: the former are graceful, but the other needful. For as the apostle saith of godliness, “Having a show of godliness, but denying the power thereof”; so certainly there are those who in point of wisdom and sufficiency that do little or nothing thoroughly, but magno conatu nugas, they make much ado about small matters; using all the perspectives of shifting they can devise to make an empty superficies seem a body that hath depth and bulk. —George Hakewill.
Ver. 2. I will walk. Walking is a word often used in Holy Scripture, and especially by our prophet in this book of the Psalms; yet more often figuratively than properly. It shall not be amiss, then, out of the property and nature of it, to consider the duties included and implied in it. The natural acts of it, then, are three; motion, progress, and moderations. As it includes motion, so is it opposed to lying, or standing, or sitting; as it includes progress in motion, so is it opposed to jumping or capering up and down in the same place; as it includes moderation, in a progressive motion, so is it opposed to violent running. —George Hakewill.
Ver. 2. I will walk within my house. Much, though not all of the power of godliness, lies within doors. It is in vain to talk of holiness if we can bring no letters testimonial from our holy walking with our relations. Oh, it is sad when they that have reason to know us best, by their daily converse with us, do speak least for our godliness! Few so impudent as to come naked into the streets: if men have anything to cover their haughtiness they will put it on when they come abroad. But witat art thou within doors? What care and conscience to discharge thy duty to thy near relations? He is a bad husband that hath money to spend among company abroad, but none to lay in provisions to keep his family at home. And can he be a good Christian that spends all his religion abroad, and leaves none for his nearest relations at home? That is, a great zealot among strangers, and little or nothing of God comes from him in his family? Yea, it were well if some that gain the reputation of Christians abroad, did not fall short of others that pretend not to profession in those moral duties which they should perform to their relations. There are some who are great strangers to profession, who yet are loving and kind in their way to their wives. What kind of professors then are they who are dogged and currish to the wife of their bosom? Who by their tyrannical lording it over them embitter their spirit, and make them cover the Lord’s altar with tears and weeping? There are wives to be found that are not clamorous, peevish, and froward to their husbands, who yet are far from a true work of grace in their hearts; do they then walk as becomes holiness who trouble the whole house with their violent passions? There are servants who from the authority of a natural conscience, are kept from railing and reviling language, when reproved by their masters, and shall not grace keep pace with nature? Holy David knew very well how near this part of a saint’s duty lies to the very heart of godliness; and therefore, when he makes his solemn vow to walk holily before God, he instanceth this, as one stage wherein he might eminently discover the graciousness of his spirit; “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.” —William Gurnall.
Ver. 2. Within my house. It is easier for most men to walk with a perfect heart in the church, or even in the world, than in their own families.
How many are as meek as lambs among others, when at home they are wasps or tigers. —Adam Clarke.
Ver. 2. Within my house with a perfect heart. Even in our best directed establishments, as well as in private families, cultivation is still in a great measure confined to intellect alone; and the direct exercise and training of the moral and religious sentiments and affections are rarely thought of as essential to their full and vigorous development. Moral precepts are, no doubt, offered in abundance; but these address thelnselves chiefly to the intellect. We must not be satisfied with merely exclaiming, “Be kind, just, and affectionate”, when perhaps at the very moment we are counteracting the effect of the advice by our own opposite conduct. “She told me not to lie”, said Guy Rivers in speaking of his mother, “and she set me the example herself by frequently deceiving my father, and teaching me to disobey and deceive him.” Conduct like this is more common in real life than is supposed, although generally less flagrant in degree. Parents and teachers indeed too often forget that the sentiments feel and do not reason, and that, consequently, even a stupid child may, by the instinctive operation of its moral nature at once detect and revolt at the immorality of practices, the true character of which its reason is unable to penetrate or expose. It is one of the most effectual methods of cultivating and exciting the moral sentiments in children, to set before them the manifestations of these in our habitual conduct…
What kind of moral duties does the parent encourage, who, recommending kindness, openness, and justice, tricks the child into the confession of a fault, and then basely punishes it, having previously promised forgiveness? And how is openness best encouraged —by practising it in conduct, or by neglecting it in practice, and prescribing in words. Is it to be cultivated by thrusting suspicions in the face of honest intentions? And how is justice to be cultivated by a guardian who speaks about it, recommends it, and in practice charges each of four pupils the whole fare of a hackney-coach? Or what kind of moral education is that which says, “Do as I bid you, and I will give you sweet-meats or money, or I will tell your mama how good you were”, holding out the lowest and most selfish propensities as the motives to moral conduct? Did space permit, I might indeed pursue the whole round of moral and religious duties, and ask similar questions at each. But it is needless. These examples will suffice; and I give them, not as applicable generally either to parents or teachers, but simply as individual instances from among both, which have come within the sphere of my own knowledge, and which bear directly upon the principle under discussion. —Andrew Combe, in “The Principles of Physiology”, 1836.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 2. —
1. The end desired: “To behave wisely, “etc.; consistency of conduct.
2. The means employed: “When wilt thou come, “etc.; only when God is with us we walk in a perfect way.
3. The test proposed: “Within my house, “where I am most myself and am best known.
—G.R.
Ver. 2. —The wisdom of holiness.
1. In selecting our sphere of duty.
2. In timing, :arranging, and balancing duties.
3. In managing others according to their tempers.
4. In avoiding disputes with adversaries.
5. In administering rebuke, giving alms, rendering advice, etc.; the blending of the serpent with the dove.
Ver. 2. —O when wilt thou come unto me? A devout ejaculation.
1. Revealing the psalmist’s need of the divine presence in order to holiness.
2. His intense longing.
3. His full expectation.
4. His the rough appreciation of the condescending visit.
Ver. 2 (last clause) —Home piety. Its duty, excellence, influence, sphere, and reward. Note also the change of heart and firmness of purpose necessary to it.
Psalms 101:3*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 3. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes. I will neither delight in it, aim at it or endure it. If I have wickedness brought before me by others I will turn away from it, I will not gaze upon it with pleasure. The psalmist is very sweeping in his resolve, he declines the least, the most reputable, the most customary form of evil—no wicked thing; not only shall it not dwell in his heart, but not even before his eyes, for what fascinates the eye is very apt to gain admission into the heart, even as Eve’s apple first pleased her sight and then prevailed over her mind and hand.
I hate the work of them that turn aside. He was warmly against it; he did not view it with indifference, but with utter scorn and abhorrence. Hatred of sin is a good sentinel for the door of virtue. There are persons in courts who walk in a very crooked way, leaving the high road of integrity; and these, by short cuts, and twists, and turns, are often supposed to accomplish work for their masters which simple honest hearts are not competent to undertake; but David would not employ such, he would pay no secret service money, he loathed the practices of men who deviate from righteousness. He was of the same mind as the dying statesman who said, “Corruption wins not more than honesty.” It is greatly to be deplored that in after years he did not keep himself clear in this matter in every case, though, in the main he did; but what would he have been if he had not commenced with this resolve, but had followed the usual crooked Policy of Oriental princes? How much do we all need divine keeping! We are no more perfect than David, nay, we fall far short of him in many things; and, like him, we shall find need to write a psalm of penitence very soon after our psalm of good resolution.
It shall not cleave to me. I will disown their ways, I will not imitate their policy: like dirt it may fall upon me, but I will wash it off, and never rest till I am rid of it. Sin, like pitch, is very apt to stick. In the course of our family history crooked things will turn up, for we are all imperfect, and some of those around us are far from being what they should be; it must, therefore, be one great object of our care to disentangle ourselves, to keep clear of transgression, and of all that comes of it: this cannot be done unless the Lord both comes to us, and abides with us evermore.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 3. Wicked thing. The original hath it, if we will render it word for word, “I will set no word of Belial before mine eyes.” But word is figuratively there put for thing; as likewise Psalms 41:8; and so is it rendered both by Montanus in the margin, and in the text by Junius; howbeit, in his comment upon this psalm, he precisely follows the original, applying it against sycophants and flatterers, the mice and moths of court. —George Hakewill.
Ver. 3. I hate the work of them that turn aside. Mr. Schultens hath shown in his commentary on Proverbs 7:25 that hjv hath a much stronger and more significant meaning than that of mere turning aside; and that it is used of an unruly horse, that champs upon the bit through his fiery impatience; and when applied to a bad man, denotes one impatient of all restraint, of unbridled passions, and that is headstrong and ungovernable in the gratification of them, trampling on all the obligations of religion and virtue. Such as these are the deserved objects of the hatred of all good men, whose criminal deviations and presumptuous crimes they detest; none of which shall cleave to them; they will not harbour the love of, or inclination to them, nor habitually commit them, or encourage the practice of them. Persons of this character are too frequently about the courts of princes, but it is their honour and interest, as far as ever they can, to discountenance them. —Samuel Chandler.
Ver. 3. It shall not cleave to me. A bird may light upon a man’s house; but he may choose whether she shall nestle or breed there, or no: and the devil or his instruments may represent a wicked object to a man’s sight; but he may choose whether he will entertain or embrace it or no. For a man to set wicked things before his eyes is nothing else but to sin of set purpose, to set himself to sin, or to sell himself to sin, as Ahab did, 1 Kings 21:1-29. —George Hakewill.
Ver. 3. It shall not cleave to me. A wicked plan or purpose is thus represented as having a tendency to fasten itself on a man, or to “stick to him” —as pitch, or wax, or a burr does. —Albert Barnes.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 3. —
1. The sight of wickedness is to be avoided: “I will set no wicked thing, “etc.
2. When seen it is to be loathed: “I Hate, “etc.
3. When felt it is to be repudiated. It may touch me, but “it shall not cleave to me.”
Psalms 101:4*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 4. A froward heart shall depart from me. He refers both to himself and to those round about him; he would neither be crooked in heart himself, nor employ persons of evil character in his house; if he found such in his court he would chase them away. He who begins with his own heart begins at the fountain head, and is not likely to tolerate evil compamons. We cannot turn out of our family all whose hearts are evil, but we can keep them out of our confidence, and let them see that we do not approve of their ways.
I will not know a wicked person. He shall not be my intimate, my bosom friend. I must know him as a man or I could not discern his character, but if I know him to be wicked, I will not know him any further, and with his evil I will have no communion. “To know” in Scripture means more than mere perception, it includes fellowship, and in that sense it is here used. Princes must disown those who disown righteousness; if they know the wicked they will soon be known as wicked themselves.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 4. A froward heart. The original sense of vqe is torsit, contorsit, to twist together, and denotes, when applied to men, persons of a perverse, subtle disposition, that can twist and twine themselves into all manner of shapes, and who have no truth and honour to be depended on. —Samuel Chandler.
Ver. 4. A froward heart. By which I understand “from-wardness” —giving way to sudden impulses of anger, or quick conception, and casting it forth in words or deeds of impetuous violence. —Thomas Chalmers.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 4. —The need of extreme care in the choice of our intimates.
Psalms 101:5*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 5. Whose privily slandereth his neighbor, him will I cut off. He had known so bitterly the miseries caused by slanderers that he intended to deal severely with such vipers when he came into power, not to revenge his own ills, but to prevent others from suffering as he had done. To give one’s neighbour a stab in the dark is one of the most atrocious of crimes, and cannot be too heartily reprobated, yet such as are guilty of it often find patronage in high places, and are considered to be men of penetration, trusty ones who have a keen eye, and take care to keep their lords well posted up. King David would lop the goodly tree of his state of all such superfluous boughs,
Him that hath an high look and a proud heart him will not I suffer. Proud, domineering, supercilious gentlemen, who look down upon the poor as though they were so many worms crawling in the earth beneath their feet, the psalmist could not bear. The sight of them made him suffer, and therefore he would not suffer them. Great men often affect aristocratic airs and haughty manners, David therefore resolved that none should be great in his palace but those who had more grace and more sense than to indulge in such abominable vanity, Proud men are generally hard, and therefore very unfit for office; persons of high looks provoke enmity and discontent, and the fewer of such eople about a court the better for the stability of a throne. If all slanderers were now cut off, and all the proud banished, it is to be feared that the next census would declare a very sensible diminution of the population.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 5. Privily slandereth —literally, he that tongueth his neighbour secretly. Will I not suffer, is properly, “him I cannot”, i.e., cannot live with, cannot bear about me, as the same verb is used in Isaiah 1:13. —Henry Cowles.
Ver. 5. Him that hath an high look. Pride will sit and show itself in the eyes as soon as anywhere. A man is seen what he is in oculis, in poculis, in loculis (in his eyes, his cups, and his resorts) say the Rabbins. See Proverbs 6:17. —John Trapp.
Ver. 5. Proud heart. From bxr latus or dilatatus est, is the noun bxr, here, broad, or wide, or large; and being applied to the heart or soul, it notes largeness of desires. —Henry Hammond.
Ver. 5. Detraction, ambition, and avarice are three weeds which spring and flourish in the rich soil of a court. The psalmist declareth his resolution to undertake the difficult task of eradicating them for the benefit of his people, that Israelites might not be harassed by informers, or repressed by insolent and rapacious ministers. Shall we imagine these vices less odious in the eyes of that King whose character was composed of humilty and charity; or will Christ admit those tempers into the court of heaven, which David determined to exclude from his court upon earth? —George Horne.
Ver. 5-10. Perfect, as prophetic of Christ, is the delineation of his associates and disciples. The perverse; the evil-doers; the slanderers, and the proud found no fellowship with him. There were no common principles; no bond of union between them. There was “a gulph” interposed, as in the parable, which they could not pass; and what they saw of Christ, they beheld only from a distance. Nor even now, as then, can “the deceitful” dwell in Christ’s “house” —his holy temple; nor the man of “lies be established” by his love and favour. They must renounce their vices before they can be admitted to his covenant; or, however they may claim communion with Him, he in return can have no sympathy with them. —William Hill Tucker.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 5. —The detestable nature of slander, hurting three persons at once—the speaker, hearer, and person slandered.
Psalms 101:6*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 6. Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me. He would seek them out, engage their services, take care of them, and promote them to honour: this is a noble occupation for a king, and one which will repay him infinitely better than listening to the soft nothings of flatterers. It would be greatly for the profit of us all if we chose our servants rather by their piety than by their cleverness; he who gets a faithful servant gets a treasure, and he ought to do anything sooner than part with him. Those who are not faithful to God will not be likely to be faithful to men; if we are faithful ourselves, we shall not care to have those about us who cannot speak the truth or fulfil their promises; we shall not be satisfied until all the members of our family are upright in character.
He that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me. What I wish myself to be, that I desire my servant to be. Employers are to a great degree responsible for their servants, and it is customary to blame a master if he retains in his service persons of notorious character; therefore, lest we become partakers of other men’s sins, we shall do well to decline the services of bad characters. A good master does well to choose a good servant; he may take a prodigal into his house for the sinner’s good, but if he consults his own he will look in another quarter. Wicked nurses have great influence for evil over the minds of little children, and ungodly servants often injure the morals of the older members of the family, and therefore great care should be exercised that godly servants should be employed as far as possible. Even irreligious men have the sense to perceive the value of Christian servants, and surely their own Christian brethren ought not to have a lower appreciation of them.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 6. Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful. There is an eye of search, and an eye of favour: the one is for the seeking and finding them out, that they may serve; the other for countenancing of their persons, and rewarding of their service. —George Hakewill.
Ver. 6. Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, etc. Christ’s eyes are upon faithful persons, or faithful ministers of the word, who preach the Gospel faithfully, administer the ordinances truly, are faithful to the souls of men in watching over them, reproving and exhorting them; his eyes are upon them to keep and preserve them, and to honour and reward them with a crown of life that fadeth not away. His eyes are also on faithful members of churches, such who truly believe in him, who hold fast the faithful word, and keep close to his worship and ordinances; his eyes are upon them, to show fayour to them, to bestow blessings upon them, and to protect and defend them, and to preserve them from perishing: “That they may dwell with me; “or, sit with me; at his table, or at the council board, or in judgment, and assist him in the allairs of government; so such as are faithful shall dwell with Christ both here and hereafter; they dwell in him and with him by faith, and have communion with him; they dwell in his house below, and shall dwell with him above for evermore. —John Gill.
Ver. 6. —He that walketh it, a perfect way, he shall serve me. Art thou a godly master? When thou takest a servant into thy House, choose for God as well as thyself. Remember there is a work for God to be done by thy servant as well as by thyself: and shall he be fit for thy turn that is not for God’s? Thou desirest the work should prosper thy servant takes in hand, dost thou not? And what ground hast thou, from the promise, to hope that the work should prosper in his hand that sins all the while he is doing of it? “The ploughing of the wicked is sin, “Proverbs 21:4. A godly servant is a greater blessing than we think on. He can work, and set God on work also, for his master’s good: Genesis 24:12, “O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master.” And sure he did his master as much service by his prayer as by his prudence in that journey. If you were but to plant an orchard, you would get the best fruit trees, and not cumber your ground with crabs. There is more loss in a graceless servant in the house than a fruitless tree in the orchard. Holy David observed, while he was at Saul’s court, the mischief of having wicked and ungodly servants, for with such was that unhappy king compassed, that David compares his court to the profane and barbarous heathens, among whom there was scarce more wickedness to be found: Psalms 120:6. “Woe is me, that I sojourn in besech, that I dwell in the tents of, Kedar; “that is, among those who were as prodigiously wicked as any there. And no doubt but this made this gracious man in his banishment, before he came to the crown, having seen the evil of a disordered house, to resolve what he would do when God should make him the head of such a royal family. “He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight”. He instanceth those hills, not as if he would’spend all his zeal against these, but because he had observed them principally to abound in Saul’s court, by which he had suffered so much, as you may perceive by Psalms 120:1-7. —William Guruall.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 6. —The duty of believers who are wealthy to encourage and employ persons of pious character.
Psalms 101:7*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 7. He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house. He had power to choose his courtiers, and he meant to exercise it. Deceit among most orientals is reckoned to be a virtue, and is only censured when it is not sufficiently cunning, and therefore comes to be found out; it was therefore all the more remarkable that David should have so determinedly set his face against it. He could not tell what a deceitful man might be doing, what plots he might be contriving, what mischief he might be brewing, and therefore he resolved that he would at any rate keep him out of his house, that his palace might not become a den of villainy. Cheats in the market are bad enough, but deceivers at our own table we cannot bear.
He that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight. He would not have a liar within sight or hearing; lie loathed the mention of him. Grace makes men truthful, and creates in them an utter horror of everything approaching to falsehood. If David would not have a liar in his sight, much less will the Lord; neither he that loves nor he who makes a lie shall be admitted into heaven. Liars are obnoxious enough on earth; the saints shall not be worried with them in another world.
Psalms 101:8*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 8. I will early destroy all the wicked of the land. At the very outset of his government he would promptly deal out justice to the worthless, he would leave them no rest, but make them leave their wickedness or feel the lash of the law. The righteous magistrate “beareth not the sword in vain.” To favour sin is to discourage virtue; undue leniency to the bad is unkindness to the good. When our Lord comes in judgment, this verse will be fulfilled on a large scale; till then he sinks the judge in the Saviour, and bids men leave their sins and find pardon. Under the gospel we also are bidden to suffer long, and to be kind, even to the unthankful and the evil; but the office of the magistrate is of another kind, and he must have a sterner eye to justice than would be proper in private persons. Is he not to be a terror to evil doers?
That I may cut off all the wicked doers from the city of the Lord. Jerusalem was to be a holy city, and the psalmist meant to be doubly careful in purging it from ungodly men. Judgment must begin at the house of God. Jesus reserves his scourge of small cords for sinners inside the temple. How pure ought the church to be, and how diligently should all those who hold office therein labour to keep out and chase out men of unclean lives. Honourable offices involve serious responsibilities; to trifle with them will bring our own souls into guilt, and injure beyond calculation the souls of others. Lord, come to us, that we, in our several positions in life, may walk before thee with perfect hearts.
Ver. 8. —That I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the LORD. As the kingdom of David was only a faint image of the kingdom of Christ, we ought to set Christ before our view; who, although he may bear with many hypocrites, yet as he will be the judge of the world, will at length call them all to on account, and separate the sheep from the goats. And if it seems to us that he tarries too long, we should think of that morning which will suddenly dawn, that all filthiness being purged away, true purity may shine forth. —John Calvin.
Ver. 8. —Early. From some incidental notices of Scripture (2 Samuel 15:2, Psalms 101:8, Jeremiah 21:12), it has been inferred that judges ordinarily held their sessions in the morning. In a climate like that of Palestine, such a custom would be natural and convenient. It is doubtful, however, whether this passage expresses anything more than the promptness and zeal which a righteous judge exercises in the discharge of his duty. —E.P. Barrows, in “Biblical Geography and Antiquities”.
Ver. 8. —The holy vow “to destroy all the wicked of the lands”: and to “cut off all wicked doers from the city of the Lord, “must begin at our own hearts as his sanctuary, the temple of the Holy Ghost. —Alfred Edersheim.

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Psalm 100

holy-bible-background

Verses 1-5
TITLE. A Psalm of Praise; or rather of thanksgiving. This is the only psalm bearing this precise inscription. It is all ablaze with grateful adoration, and has for this reason been a great favourite with the people of God ever since it was written. “Let us sing the Old Hundredth” is one of the every-day expressions of the Christian church, and will be so while men, exist whose hearts are loyal to the Great King. Nothing can be more sublime this side heaven than the singing of this noble psalm by a vast congregation. Watts’ paraphrase, beginning “Before Jehovah’s awful throne, “and the Scotch “All people that on earth do dwell, “are both noble versions; and event Tare and Brady rise beyond themselves when they sing—
“With one consent let all the earth
To God their cheerful voices raise.”
In this divine lyric we sing with gladness the creating power and goodness of the Lord, even as before with trembling we adored his holiness.
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 1. Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. This is a repetition of Psalms 98:4. The original word signifies a glad shout, such as loyal subjects give when their king appears among them. Our happy God should be worshipped by a happy people; a cheerful spirit is in keeping with his nature, his acts, and the gratitude which we should cherish for his mercies. In every land Jehovah’s goodness is seen, therefore in every land should be be praised. Nearer will the world be in its proper condition till with one unanimous shout it adores the only God. O ye nations, how long will ye blindly reject him? Your golden age will never arrive till ye with all your hearts revere him.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Title. This is the only Psalm in the whole collection entitled “A Psalm of Praise.” It is supposed to have received this appellation because peculiarly adapted, if not designed to be sung, when the sacrifices of thanksgiving were offered. See Leviticus 7:12. The Greeks think it was written by David, who here invites all the world to join with the Israelites in the service of God, whose divine sovereignty he here recognises. Samuel Burder.
Whole Psalm. If we are right in regarding Psalms 93:1-5; Psalms 94:1-23; Psalms 95:1-11; Psalms 96:1-13; Psalms 97:1-12; Psalms 98:1-9; Psalms 99:1-9 as forming one continuous series, one great prophetic oratorio, whose title is “Jehovah is King, “and through which there runs the same great idea, this Psalm may be regarded as the doxology which closes the strain. We find lingering in it notes of the same great harmony. It breathes the same gladness; it is filled with the same hope, that all nations shall bow down before Jehovah, and confess that he is God. J.J.S. Perowne.
Whole Psalm. This Psalm contains a promise of Christianity, as winter at its close contains the promise of spring. The trees are ready to bud, the flowers are just hidden by the light soil, the clouds are heavy with rain, the sun shines in his strength; only a genial wind from the south is wanted to give a new life to all things. “The Speaker’s Commentary, “1873.
Whole Psalm. Luther would have immortalized his name had he done no more than written the majestic air and harmony to which we are accustomed to sing this Psalm, and which, when the mind is in a truly worshipping frame, seems to bring heaven down to earth, and to raise earth to heaven, giving us anticipations of the pure and sublime delights of that noble and general assembly in which saints and angels shall for ever celebrate the praises of God. Ingram Cobbin.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Whole Psalm. This is a bunch of the grapes of Eshcol. It is a taste of what is still the promised land. The Jewish church came to its perfection in the reign of Solomon, but a greater than Solomon is here. The perfection of the New Testament church is here anticipated. This psalm teaches,
1. That there will be a joyful state of the whole world (Psalms 100:1). (a) To whom the address is given—to “all lands, “and all in those lands. (b) The subject of the address—”Make a joyful noise.” What a doleful noise it has made! (c) By whom the address is given, by him who secures what he commands.
2. That this joyful state of the whole world will arise from the enjoyment of the Divine Being (Psalms 100:2). (a) Men have long tried to be happy without God. (b) They will find at last that their happiness is in God. The conversion of an individual in this respect is a type of the conversion of the world.
3. That this enjoyment of God will arise from a new relation to him (Psalms 100:3). (a) Of knowledge on our part: he will be known as the Triune God, as a covenant God, as the God of salvation—as God. (b) Of rightful claim on his part; (1.) by right of creation—”He hath made us; ” (2.) By light of redemption—”Ye were not a people, but are now the people of God, “&c.; “I have redeemed thee: thou art mine”; (3.) by right of preservation—”We are the sheep, “&c.
4. That this new relation to God will endear to us the ordinances of his house (Psalms 100:4). (a) Of what the service will consist—”thanksgiving” and praise. (b) To whom it will be rendered. Enter into his gates — his courts—be thankful unto him —bless his name. That this service will be perpetual; begin on earth, continued in heaven. This fact is founded—
5. That this service will be perpetual; begun on earth, continued in heaven. This face is founded— (a) Upon essential goodness. “For the Lord is good.” (b) Upon everlasting mercy. “His mercy, “etc. (c) Upon immutable truth. “His truth, “etc. G. R.
Psalms 100:2*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 2. Serve the LORD with gladness. “Glad homage pay with awful mirth.” He is our Lord, and therefore he is to be served; he is our gracious Lord, and therefore to be served with joy. The invitation to worship here given is not a melancholy one, as though adoration were a funeral solemnity, but a cheery gladsome exhortation, as though we were bidden to a marriage feast.
Come before his presence with singing. We ought in worship to realise the presence of God, and by an effort of the mind to approach him. This is an act which must to every rightly instructed heart be one of great solemnity, but at the same time it must not be performed in the servility of fear, and therefore we come before him, not with weepings and wailings, but with Psalms and hymns. Singing, as it is a joyful, and at the same time a devout, exercise, should be a constant form of approach to God. The measured, harmonious, hearty utterance of praise by a congregation of really devout persons is not merely decorous but delightful, and is a fit anticipation of the worship of heaven, where praise has absorbed prayer, and become the sole mode of adoration. How a certain society of brethren can find it in their hearts to forbid singing in public worship is a riddle which we cannot solve. We feel inclined to say with Dr. Watts
“Let those refuse to sing
Who never knew our God;
But favourites of the heavenly king
Must speak his praise abroad.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 2. The first half of this verse is from Psalms 2:11, only that instead of “with fear, “there, where the psalmist has to do with fierce rebels, there is substituted here “gladness” or joy. F.W. Hengstenberg.
Ver. 2. Serve the LORD with gladness. It is a sign the oil of grace hath been poured into the heart “when the oil of gladness” shines on the countenance. Cheerfulness credits religion. Thomas Watson.
Ver. 2. Serve the LORD. It is our privilege to serve the Lord in all things. It is ours to please the Lord in loosing the latchet of a shoe; and to enjoy the expression of his favour therein. The servant of God is not serving at the same time another master; he has not been hired for occasional service; he abides in the service of his God, and cannot be about anything but his Master’s business; he eats, he drinks, he sleeps, he walks, he discourses, he findeth recreation, all by the way of serving God. Serve the Lord with gladness. Can you bear to be waited upon by a servant who goes moping and dejected to his every task? You would rather have no servant at all, than one who evidently finds your service cheerless and irksome. George Bowen.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 2. Serve the LORD with gladness.
1. For he is the best of beings.
2. For his commandments are not grievous.
3. For he is your Saviour, as well as Creator; your friend, as well as Lord.
4. The angels, so much greater than yourself, know no reason why they should not serve him with gladness.
5. In serving him you serve yoreself.
6. You make religion attractive.
7. You get fitness for heaven. George Bowen.
Ver. 2 (first clause) —A true heart,
1. Is humble—serves.
2. Is pious—”serve the Lord.”
3. Is active—serves.
4. Is consequently joyful—”with gladness.”
Ver. 2. (first clause). “Serving the Lord with gladness.” See “Spurgeon’s Sermons, “No. 769.
Psalms 100:3*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 3. Know ye that the Lord, he is God. Our worship must be intelligent. We ought to know whom we worship and why. “Man, know thyself, “is a wise aphorism, yet to know our God is truer wisdom; and it is very questionable whether a man can know himself until he knows his God. Jehovah is God in the fullest, most absolute, and most exclusive sense, he is God alone; to know him in that character and prove our knowledge by obedience, trust, submission, zeal, and love is an attainment which only grace can bestow. Only those who practically recognise his Godhead are at all likely to offer acceptable praise.
It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves. Shall not the creature reverence its maker? Some men live as if they made themselves; they call themselves “self-made men, “and they adore their supposed creators; but Christians recognise the origin of their being and their well-being, and take no honour to themselves either for being, or for being what they are. Neither in our first or second creation dare we put so much as a finger upon the glory, for it is the sole right and property of the Almighty. To disclaim honour for ourselves is as necessary a part of true reverence as to ascribe glory to the Lord. “Non nobis, dominc!” will for ever remain the true believer’s confession. Of late philosophy has laboured hard to prove that all things have been developed from atoms, or have, in other words, made themselves: if this theory shall ever find believers, there will certainly remain no reason for accusing the superstitious of credulity, for the amount of credence necessary to accept this dogma of scepticism is a thousandfold greater than that which is required even by an absurd belief in winking Madonnas, and smiling Bambinos. For our part, we find it far more easy to believe that the Lord made us than that we were developed by a long chain of natural selections from floating atoms which fashioned themselves.
We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. It is our honour to have been chosen from all the world besides to be his own people, and our privilege to be therefore guided by his wisdom, tended by his care, and fed by his bounty. Sheep gather around their shepherd and look up to him; in the same manner let us gather around the great Shepherd of mankind. The avowal of our relation to God is in itself praise; when we recount his goodness we are rendering to him the best adoration; our songs require none of the inventions of fictions, the bare facts are enough; the simple narration of the mercies of the Lord is more astonishing than the productions of imagination. That we are the sheep of his pasture is a plain truth, and at the same time the very essence of poetry.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 3. Know ye that the LORD he is God, &c. From the reasons of this exhortation, learn, that such is our natural atheism, that we have need again and again to be instructed, that the Lord is God; of whom, and through whom, and for whom are all things. David Dickson.
Ver. 3. It is he that made us… we are his. Now, the ground of God’s property in all things is his creating of all… Accordingly, you may observe in many scriptures, where the Lord’s propriety is asserted, this, as the ground of it, is annexed: Psalms 89:11-12, the heavens, the earth, the whole world, and all therein is thine. Why so? “Thou hast founded them.” And so are all the regions and quarters of the world, northern and southern, western and eastern; for Tabor was on the west and Hermon on the east; all are thine, for thou hast created them. So sea and land, Psalms 95:5. As all things measured by time, so time itself, the measure of all, Psalms 74:16-17. “Thou hast made the light, “i.e. the moon for the night and the sun for the day. He lays claim to all the climes of the earth, and all the seasons of the year on this account; he made them. This will be more evident and unquestionable, if we take notice of these particulars:
1. He made all for himself. He was not employed by any to make it for another, for in that case sometimes the maker is not the owner; but the Lord did employ himself in that great work, and for himself did he undertake and finish it. Proverbs 16:4, Colossians 1:15-16.
2. He made all things of nothing, either without any matter at all, or without any but what himself had before made of nothing. A potter when he makes an earthenware vessel, if the clay be not his own which he makes it of, he is not the full owner of the vessel, though he formed it: “the form is his, the matter is another’s; “but since the Lord made all of nothing, or of such matter as himself had made, all is wholly his, matter and form, all entirely.
3. He made all without the help or concurrence of any other. There was none that assisted him, or did in the least co-operate with him in the work of creation… Those that assist and concur with another in the making of a thing may claim a share in it; but here lies no such claim in this case, where the Lord alone did all, alone made all. All is his only.
4. He upholds all things in the same manner as he created, continues the being of all things in the same way as he gave it. He does it of himself, without other support, without any assistant. All would fall into nothing in a moment, if he did not every moment bear them up. So that all things on this account have still their being from him every moment, and their well-being too, and all the means which conduce to it; and therefore all are his own. David Clarkson.
Ver. 3. It is he that hath made us. The emperor Henry, while out hunting on the Lord’s day called Quinquagesima, his companions being scattered, came unattended to the entrance of a certain wood; and seeing a church hard by, he made for it, and feigning himself to be a soldier, simply requested a mass of the priest. Now that priest was a man of notable piety, but so deformed in person that he seemed a monster rather than a man. When he had attentively considered him, the emperor began to wonder exceedingly why God, from whom all beauty proceeds, should permit so deformed a man to administer his sacraments. But prescntly, when mass commenced, and they came to the passage, Know ye that the Lord he is God, which was chanted by a boy, the priest rebuked the boy for singing negligently, and said with a loud voice, It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves. Struck by these words, and believing the priest to be a prophet, the emperor raised him, much against his will, to the archbishopric of Cologne, which see he adorned by his devotion and excellent virtues. From “Roger of Wendover’s (1237) Flowers of History.”
Ver. 3. It is he that hath made us… we are his. Many a one has drawn balsatalc consolation from these words; as for instance Melancthon when disconsolately sorrowful over the body of his son in Dresden on the 12th July, 1559. But in “He made us and we are his, “there is also a rich mine of comfort and of admonition, for the Creator is also the Owner, his heart clings to his creature, and the creature owes itself entirely to him, without whom it would not have had a being, and would not continue in being. F. Delitzsch.
Ver. 3. He that made us, i.e. made us what we are, a people to himself; as in Psalms 95:5, 1 Samuel 12:6, and De 32:6. It was not we that made ourselves his (compare Ezekiel 29:3). “He (and not we ourselves) made us His people, and the flock whom he feeds.” Andrew A. Bonar.
Ver. 3. Not we is added, because any share, on the part of the church, in effecting the salvation bestowed upon her, would weaken the testimony which this bears to the exclusive Godhead of the Lord. F. W. Hengstenberg.
Ver. 3, 5. Know ye what God is in himself, and what he is to you. Knowledge is the mother of devotion, and of all obedience; blind sacrifices will never please a seeing God. “Know” it, i.e. consider and apply it, and then you will be more close and constant, more inward and serious, in the worship of him. Let us know, then, these seven things concerning the Lord Jehovah, with whom we have to do in all the acts of religious worship.
1. That the Lord he is God, the only living and true God; that he is a being infinitely perfect, self-existent, and self-sufficient, and the fountain of all being.
2. That he is our Creator: It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves. We do not, we could not make ourselves; it is God’s prerogative to be his own cause; our being is derived and depending.
3. That therefore he is our rightful owner. The Masorites, by altering one letter in the Hebrew, read it, “He made us, and his we are, “or, “to him we belong.” Put both the readings together, and we learn, that because God “made us, and not we ourselves, “therefore we are not our own but his.
4. That he is our sovereign Ruler. We are his people, or subjects, and he is our prince, our rector or governor, that gives laws to us as moral agents, and will call us to an account for what we do.
5. That he is our bountiful Benefactor;we are not only his sheep whom he is entitled to, but the sheep of his pasture, whom he takes care of.
6. That he is a God of infinite mercy and good (Psalms 100:5); The Lord is good, and therefore doth good; his mercy his everlasting.
7. That he is a God of inviolable truth and faithfulness; His truth endureth to all generations, and no word of his shall fall to the ground as antiquated or revoked. Matthew Henry.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 3. Know ye that the LORD he is God. That you may be true amid superstition, hopeful in contrition, persistent in supplication, unwearied in exertion, calm in affliction, firm in temptation, bold in persecution, and happy in dissolution. W. J.
Ver. 3. We are his people. We have been twice born, as all his people are. We love the society of his people. We are looking unto Jesus like his people. We are separated from the world as his people. We experience the trials of his people. We prefer the employment of his people. We enjoy the privileges of his people. W. J.
Psalms 100:4*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 4. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving. To the occurrence of the word thanksgiving in this place the Psalm probably owes its title. In all our public service the rendering of thanks must abound; it is like the incense of the temple, which filled the whole house with smoke. Expiatory sacrifices are ended, but those of gratitude will never be out of date. So long as we are receivers of mercy we must be givers of thanks. Mercy permits us to enter his gates; let us praise that mercy. What better subjcct for our thoughts in God’s own house than the Lord of the house.
And into his courts with praise. Into whatever court of the Lord you may enter, let your admission be the subject of praise: thanks be to God, the innermost court is now open to believers, and we enter into that which is within the veil; it is incumbent upon us that we acknowledge the high privilege by our songs.
Be thankful unto him. Let the praise be in your heart as well as on your tongue, and let it all be for him to whom it all belongs.
And bless his name. He blessed you, bless him in return; bless his name, his character, his person. Whatever he does, be sure that you bless him for it; bless him when he takes away as well as when he gives; bless him as long as you live, under all circumstances; bless him in all his attributes, from whatever point of view you consider him.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 4. Enter into his gates; for to the most guilty are the gates of his church open. Francis Hill Tucker.
Ver. 4. With thanksgiving. On the word hrwt the word used in Leviticus 7:12 for sacrifices of thanksgivings], Rabbi Menachen remarks: All sacrifices will be abolished; but the sacrifice of thanksgiving will remain. George Phillips.
Ver. 4. The former part of this Psalm may have been chanted by the precentor when the peace-offering was brought to the altar; and this last verse may have been the response, sung by the whole company of singers, at the moment when fire was applied to the offering. Daniel Cresswell.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 4. A Discourse of Thankfulness which is due to God for his benefits and blessings.
A Sermon by Thomas Goodwin. Works, vol. 9 pp. 499-514. Nichol’s edition.
Ver. 4.
1. The privileges of access.
2. The duty of thankfulness.
3. The reasons for enjoying both.
Psalms 100:5*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 5. For the Lord is good. This sums up his character and contains a mass of reasons for praise. He is good, gracious, kind, bountiful, loving; yea, God is love. He who does not praise the good is not good himself. The kind of praise inculcated in the Psalm, viz., that of joy and gladness, is most fitly urged upon us by an argument from the goodness of God.
His mercy is everlasting. God is not mere justice, stern and cold; he has bowels of compassion, and wills not the sinner’s death. Towards his own people mercy is still more conspicuously displayed; it has been theirs from all eternity, and shall be theirs world without end. Everlasting mercy is a glorious theme for sacred song.
And his truth endureth to all generations. No fickle being is he, promising and forgetting. He has entered into covenant with his people, and he will never revoke it, nor alter the thing that has gone out of his lips. As our fathers found him faithful, so will our sons, and their seed for ever. A changeable God would be a terror to the righteous, they would have no sure anchorage, and amid a changing world they would be driven to and fro in perpetual fear of shipwreck. It were well if the truth of divine faithfulness were more fully remembered by some theologians; it would overturn their belief in the final fall of believers, and teach them a more consolatory system. Our heart leaps for joy as we bow before One who has never broken his word or changed his purpose.
“As well might he his being quit
As break his promise or forget.”
Resting on his sure word, we feel that joy which is here commanded, and in the strength of it we come into his presence even now, and speak good of his name.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 5. His mercy is everlasting. The everlasting unchangeable mercy of God, is the first motive of our turning to him, and of our continuing stedfast in his covenant, and it shall be the subject of unceasing praise in eternity. As the Lord is good, and his mercy everlasting, so the full perfection of these attributes in a perfect state will call forth praise unwearied from hearts that ever faint. W. Wilson.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 5.
1. The inexhaustible fount—the goodness of God.
2. The ever-flowing stream—the mercy of God.
3. The fathomless oceansthe truth of God. “O the depths!” W. Durban.

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Psalm 99

holy-bible-background

Verses 1-9
This may be called THE SANCTUS, or, THE HOLY, HOLY, HOLY PSALM, for the word “holy” is the conclusion and the refrain of its three main divisions. Its subject is the holiness of the divine government, the sanctity of the mediatorial reign. It seems to us to declare the holiness of Jehovah himself in Psalms 99:1-3; it mentions the equity of the king whom the Lord had appointed, as an illustration of the Lord’s love of holiness, or more probably it describes the Lord as himself the king, in Psalms 99:4-5, and it then sets forth the severely righteous character of God’s dealings with those favoured persons whom in former times he had selected to approach him on behalf of the people, Psalms 99:6-9. It is a hymn fitted for the cherubim who surround the throne, who are mentioned in Psalms 99:1; it is a Psalm most fitting for saints who dwell in Zion, the holy city, and especially worthy to be reverently sung by all who, like David the king, Moses the lawgiver, Aaron the priest, or Samuel the seer, are honoured to lead the church of God, and plead for her with her Lord.
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 1. The Lord reigneth. One of the most joyous utterances which ever leaped from mortal lip. The overthrow of the reign of evil and the setting up of Jehovah’s kingdom of goodness, justice, and truth, is worthy to be hymned again and again, as we have it here for the third time in the psalms.
Let the people tremble. Let the chosen people feel a solemn yet joyful awe, which shall thrill their whole manhood. Saints quiver with devout emotion, and sinners quiver with terror when the rule of Jehovah is fully perceived and felt. It is not a light or trifling matter, it is a truth which, above all others, should stir the depths of our nature.
He sitteth between the cherubims. In grandeur of sublime glory, yet in nearness of mediatorial condescension, Jehovah revealed himself above the mercyseat, whereon stood the likeness of those flaming ones who gaze upon his glory, and for ever cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts.” The Lord reigning on that throne of grace which is sprinkled with atoning blood, and veiled with the covering wings of mediatorial love, is above all other revelations wonderful, and fitted to excite emotion among all mankind, hence it is added,
Let the earth be moved. Not merely “the people, “but the whole earth should feel a movement of adoring awe when it is known that on the mercyseat God sits as universal monarch. The pomp of heaven surrounds him, and is symbolised by the outstretched wings of waiting cherubs; let not the earth be less moved to adoration, rather let all her tribes bow before his infinite majesty, yea, let the solid earth itself with reverent tremor acknowledge his presence.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Whole Psalm. This psalm has three parts, in which the Lord is celebrated as He who is to come, as He who is, and as he who was. John Albert Bengel, 1687-1752.
Whole Psalm. In each of the three strophes Jehovah is acknowledged in his peculiar covenant relation to his people. In the first he is “great in Zion”(Psalms 99:2); in the second, he has “executed righteousness in Jacob”(Psalms 99:4); and he is “Jehovah our God” (Psalms 99:5); in the third, the great examples of this covenant relationship are cited from Israel’s ancient history; and again God is twice claimed as “Jehovah our God” (Psalms 99:8-9). J.J.S. Perowne.
Whole Psalm. There are three psalms which begin with the words, “The Lord (JEHOVAH) reigneth.” (Psalms 93:1-5; Psalms 97:1-12; Psalms 99:1-9.) This is the third and last of these Psalms; and it is remarkable that in this Psalm the words He is holy are repeated three times (Psalms 99:3; Psalms 99:5; Psalms 99:9). Thus this Psalm is one of the links in the chain which connects the first revelation of God in Genesis with the full manifestation of the doctrine of the blessed Trinity, which is revealed in the commission of the risen Saviour to his apostles: “Go ye, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, “and which prepares the faithful to join in the heavenly Hallelujah of the church glorified, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” The other links in this chain in the Old Testament are, the Aaronic benediction, in Numbers 6:24-27; and the Seraphic Trisagion, in Isaiah 6:1-3. Christopher Wordsworth.
Whole Psalm. Many of the preceding Psalms, in extolling the Dominion and Supremacy of the Messiah, have spoken of him solely as the object of triumph and rejoicing. He has been represented in all the bounteousness of his mercy, and the excess of his lovingkindness; and the ideas of might and majesty, with which he has been accompanied, seem chiefly to have been regarded as the means by which these gracious designs will be carried into a sure effect. There is always a great danger in such a feeling, lest our reciprocal covenant should be too much forgotten; and we should rest on our privileges to the exclusion of our practice. This was a constant error to the Jews. “We have Abraham to our Father, “was continually on their lips; as if the given promise to their nation had been inalienable for ever. Subsequent ages have shown the existence of the same false principle amongst the Gentiles. It is a part of the weakness of human nature; and hence was the prophet inspired to warn the world of the evil, and draw their minds to a just sense of the awfulness of the Redeemer’s majesty. In this view, joined as it is throughout with assertions of his readiness at all times to listen to the believer and to grant his supplication, the Psalm is at once of great power and of an exceeding consolation. William Hill Tucker.
Ver. 1. Let the people tremble… let the earth be moved. That fear which proceeds from simple reverence as well as that which arises from apprehension of evil, produces bodily shaking. Thus this exhortation may concern believing as well as unbelieving nations. Amyraldus.
Ver. 1. Let the people tremble. He bids a defiance, as it were, to all his enemies, orgizesywsan, irascantur, commoveantur, fremant populi;let the people be angry, fret, and be unquiet, as Psalms 2:1. Let the earth, that is, the tyrants of the earth, be moved at it; yet let them know that all their endeavours are but vain. William Nicholson.
Ver. 1. Let the people tremble. Jarchi refers this to the war of Gog and Magog. John Gill.
Ver. 1. Let the people tremble. Albeit the church be compassed about with enemies, as the lily among the thorns, yet because her Lord reigneth in the midst of her, she hath reason not only to comfort herself in him, but also hath ground of defying her enemies, and boasting against them: “The LORD reigneth; let the people tremble.” The Lord’s people do not worship an unknown God, they know who he is, and where to find him; to wit, in his ordinances, on the throne of grace, reconciling himself to the world in Christ: He sitteth between the cherubims. David Dickson.
Ver. 1. The cherubims. These were figures, or representations of angels, inclining their faces one towards the other, and touching one another with their wings. Exodus 25:18. The use of these was to cover or overshadow the mercyseat with their wings, Exodus 25:20, and from this seat God used to speak unto Moses, Exodus 25:22; Numbers 7:8-9. Which may be applied unto Christ, whose mediation was signified by the mercyseat;whence it is said, that he is a propitiation or covering mercyseat, Romans 3:25 1Jo 2:2 4:10, because by his obedience all our unrighteousness is covered. Thomas Wilson(-1621), in “A Complete Christian Dictionary, “1678.
Ver. 1. He sitteth between the cherubims. Our friend Mr. Charles Stanford, in his delicious work, “Symbols of Christ, “has beautifully brought out the connection between Matthew 23:37 and Matthew 23:38. The house was left desolate because Christ, who was set forth by the symbol of shelter, was rejected by them, and was not permitted to cover them with his wings. It was customary for the Jews to say of a proselyte, “He has taken refuge under the wings of the Shekinah.” We now see that to take shelter under the wings of the Shekinah is to hide beneath the wings of Christ. Beneath that living shield which beats back the destroying stroke, and is broad enough to canopy a fugitive world, we take shelter, and there the promise is fulfilled, “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust.”
Ver. 1. He sitteth between the cherubims. The cherubim is the seat of God, as the scripture sheweth us, a certain exalted heavenly throne, which we see not; but the word of God knoweth it, knoweth it as his own seat: and the word of God and the Spirit of God hath itself revealed to the servants of God where God sitteth. Not that God doth sit, as doth man, but thou, if thou dost wish that God sit in thee, if thou wilt be good, shalt be the seat of God; for thus is it written, “The soul of the righteous is the seat of wisdom” Septuagint translation]. For a throne is in our language called a seat. For some, conversant with the Hebrew tongue, have interpreted cherubim in the Latin language (for it is a Hebrew term) by the words fulness of knowledge. Therefore, because God surpasses all knowledge, he is said to sit above the fulness of knowledge. Let there be therefore in thee fulness of knowledge, and even thou shalt be the throne of God. Augustine.
Ver. 1. Let the earth be moved. Those that submit to him shall be established, and not “moved, “Psalms 96:10; but they that oppose him will be moved. Heaven and earth shall be shaken, and all nations; but the kingdom of Christ cannot be moved. The “things which cannot be shaken shall remain, “Hebrews 12:27. Matthew Henry.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 1.
1. The doctrine of divine sovereignty enunciated.
2. The apprehension of divine sovereignty demanded. It ought to be spiritually apprehended. God wants to be King in the hearts of men. All mortals must tremble before the Immortal; especially the wicked.
3. The accessories of divine sovereignty hinted at. Sovereignty never forsakes the mercyseat. Angels are represented on the mercyseat, the ministers of sovereignty,
4. The effect of divine sovereignty described. Men should be “moved” to
fear and obey the King before whom angels bow. Men
should be moved to seek the mercy which angels study. William Durban.
Ver. 1. He sitteth between the cherubims, etc.
1. Statement made; where God dwells, on the mercyseat. To hear prayer, and confession, and to grant salvation.
2. Effect produced—”Earth moved; “to admiration, to prayer, to sorrowful contrition, to draw near, etc. E. G. Gange.
Psalms 99:2*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 2. The Lord is great in Zion. Of old the temple’s sacred hill was the centre of the worship of the great King, and the place where his grandeur was most clearly beheld: his church is now his favoured palace, where his greatness is displayed, acknowledged, and adored. He there unveils his attributes and commands the lowliest homage; the ignorant forget him, the wicked despise him, the atheistical oppose him, but among his own chosen he is great beyond comparison. He is great in the esteem of the gracious, great in his acts of mercy, and really great in himself: great in mercy, power, wisdom, justice, and glory.
And he is high above all the people; towering above their highest thoughts and loftiest conceptions. The highest are not high to him, yet, blessed be his name, the lowliest are not despised by him. In such a God we rejoice, his greatness and loftiness are exceedingly delightful in our esteem; the more he is honoured and exalted in the hearts of men, the more exultant are his people. If Israel delighted in Saul because he was head and shoulders above the people, how much more should we exult in our God and King, Who is as high above us as the heavens are above the earth.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 2. He is high above all the people. The metaphor is taken from such great objects as trees, animals, palaces, towers, which are the more valued, and are regarded as possessing the greater strength, the higher they rise above others. So De 1:28 2:10,21 9:2, Concerning the Canaanites and the giants. Martin Geier.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 2.
1. God is great in Zion in Himself, all his perfections are here, which cannot be said of creation, or of his Law, or of the heaven of angels.
2. Great in his works of saving sinners, which he cannot do elsewhere.
3. Great in his glory as displayed in redemption through his Son.
4. Great in his love to his redeemed. G. R.
Ver. 2. The Lord is great in Zion.
1. In the condescension he displays—Zion is his “habitation, “his “rest.”
2. In the glory he manifests—power and glory are in the sanctuary, Psalms 68:2.
3. In the assemblage he draws. “Every one in Zion appeareth before God, “Psalms 84:7.
4. In the blessings he imparts.
5. In the authority he exerts. W. Jackson.
Psalms 99:3*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 3. Let them praise thy great and terrible name: let all the dwellers in Zion and all the nations upon the earth praise the Lord, or “acknowledge thankfully” the goodness of his divine nature, albeit that there is so much in it which must inspire their awe. Under the most terrible aspect the Lord is still to be praised. Many profess to admire the milder beams of the sun of righteousness, but burn with rebellion against its more flaming radiance: so it ought not to be: we are bound to praise a terrible, God and worship him who casts the wicked down to hell. Did not Israel praise him “who overthrew Pharaoh and his hosts in tile Red Sea, for his mercy endureth for ever.” The terrible Avenger is to be praised, as well as the loving Redeemer. Against this the sympathy of man’s evil heart with sin rebels; it cries out for an effeminate God in whom pity has strangled justice. The well-instructed servants of Jehovah praise him in all the aspects of his character, whether terrible or tender. Grace streaming from the mercy-seat can alone work in us this admirable frame of mind.
For it is holy, or He is holy. In him is no flaw or fault, excess or deficiency, error or iniquity. He is wholly excellent, and is therefore called holy. In his words, thoughts, acts, and revelations as well as in himself, he is perfection itself. O come let us worship and bow down before him.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 3. Let them praise thy great and terrible name, etc. Although the enemies of the Church of God are in a tumult, and the whole earth is moved, do you nevertheless with joyful spirit entrust your salvation to him, and acknowledge and diligently celebrate his power displayed in the defence of his people and the overthrow of his foes. Mollerus.
Ver. 3. Thy great and terrible name; for it is holy. The FATHER’S name is “great, “for he is the source, the Creator, the Lord of all; the SON’S name is “terrible, “for he is to be our judge; the name of the HOLY GHOST is “holy, “for he it is who bestows hallowing and sanctification. The Hebrew commentators see here the mystic Tetragrammaton hwhy, whose true pronunciation was kept a profound secret by the Rabbins, owing to a feeling of awful reverence; while the Greeks are precise in bidding us take it of that name, which is “terrible” to God’s enemies, “holy” to his friends, and “great” to both, the name of JESUS. Hugo Cardinalis, Genebrardus, and Balthazar Corderius, in Neale’s Commentary.
Ver. 3. Let them praise thy terrible name. What force the experience of a burdened conscience attaches to the expression, “Thy great and terrible name; for it is holy!” The misery of sin consists not merely in its consequences, but in its very nature, which is to separate between God and our souls, and to shut us out from God, and God from us. Yet the Spirit of God indicates, in the covenant of grace, a threefold practical influence of his holiness upon us, of which the issue is the opposite of despair. The various steps are marked as praise, exaltation, and worship (Psalms 99:3; Psalms 99:5; Psalms 99:9). Of these the last seems by far the most difficult to realise. For it is in the nature of conscious sin to prevent even our approaches to God, to keep us from all comfortable fellowship with God, and to fill us with a heavy sense of our infinite and almost hopeless distance from him. Yet we will “praise thy great and terrible name; for it is holy.” Great it is; most glorious and high; far above all human conceptions. Viewed in this light, even the fact otherwise so consoling, “The Lord reigneth, “leads only to the inference, “Let the people tremble; “and “He sitteth between the cherubim” (or manifesteth himself as the covenant God) to the conclusion, “Let the earth be moved, “or stagger. But his name is not only great and terrible in its manifestations, “it is holy, “and therefore we “praise” it. His greatness is all arrayed on the side of goodness, his power on that of righteousness and truth. Alfred Edersheim, in “The Golden Diary of Heart Converse with Jesus in the Book of Psalms, “1873.
Ver. 3. Thy terrible name… holy. In acts of man’s vindictive justice, there is something of impurity, perturbation, passion, some mixture of cruelty; but none of these fall upon God in the several acts of wrath. When God appears to Ezekiel in the resemblance of fire, to signify his anger against the house of Judah for their idolatry, “from his loins downward there was the appearance of fire, but from the loins upward the appearance of brightness, as the colour of amber.” Ezekiel 8:2. His heart is clean in his most terrible acts of vengeance; it is a pure flame wherewith he scorcheth and burns his enemies. He is holy in the most fiery appearance. Stephen Charnock.
Ver. 3. It is holy. No attribute is sounded out so loftily, with such solenmity, and so frequently by angels that stand before his throne, as this. Where do you find any other attribute trebled in the praises of it as this? Isaiah 6:3 : “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory; “and Revelation 4:8 : “The four living creatures rest not day and night saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, “&c. His power of sovereignty as Lord of hosts is but once mentioned, but with a ternal repetition of his holiness. Do you hear in any evangelical song any other perfection of the divine nature thrice repeated? Where do we read of the crying out, Eternal, eternal, eternal; or Faithful, faithful, faithful, Lord God of hosts! Whatsoever other attribute is left out, this God would have to fill the mouths of angels and blessed spirits for ever in heaven… As it seems to challenge an excellence above all his other perfections, so it is the glory of all the rest; as it is the glory of the Godhead, so it is the glory of every perfection in the Godhead; as his power is the strength of them, so his holiness is the beauty of them; as all would be weak without almightiness to back them, so all would be uncomely without holiness to adorn them: should this be sullied all the rest would lose their honour and their comfortable efficacy; as at the same instant that the sun should lose its light, it would lose its heat, its strength, its generative and quickening virtue. As sincerity is the lustre of every grace in a Christian, so is purity the splendour of every attribute in the Godhead. His justice is a holy justice, his wisdom a holy wisdom, his arm of power a “holy arm, ” Psalms 98:1; his truth or promise a “holy promise, “Psalms 105:42. Holy and true go hand and hand, Revelation 6:10. “His name, ” which signifies all his attributes in conjunction, “is holy.” Stephen Charnock.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 3. The terrors of the Lord, connected with holiness, and worthy of praise.
Psalms 99:4*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 4. The king’s strength also loveth judgment. God is the king, the mercy-seat is his throne, and the sceptre which he sways is holy like himself. His power never exerts itself tyrannically; he is a sovereign, and he is absolute in his government, but his might delights in right, his force is used for just purposes only. Men in these days are continually arranging the Lord’s government, and setting up to judge whether he does right or not; but saintly men in the olden time were of another mind, they were sure that what the Lord did was just, and instead of calling him to account they humbly submitted themselves to his will, rejoicing in the firm persuasion that with his whole omnipotence God was pledged to promote righteousness, and work justice among all his creatures.
Thou dost establish equity. Not a court of equity merely, but equity itself thou dost set up, and that not for a time or upon an occasion, but as an established institution, stable as thy throne. Not even for the sake of mercy does the Lord remove or injure the equity of his moral government: both in providence and in grace he is careful to conserve the immaculate purity of his justice. Most kingdoms have an establishment of some kind, and generally it is inequitable; here we have an establishment which is equity itself. The Lord our God demolishes every system of injustice, and right alone is made to stand.
Thou executest judgment and righteousness in Jacob. Justice is not merely established, but executed in God’s kingdom; the laws are carried out, the executive is as righteous as the legislative. Herein let all the oppressed, yea, and all who love that which is right, find large occasion for praise. Other nations under their despots were the victims and the perpetrators of grievous wrong, but when the tribes were faithful to the Lord they enjoyed an upright government within their own borders, and acted with integrity towards their neighbours. That kingcraft which delights in cunning, favouritism, and brute force is as opposite to the divine Kingship as darkness to light. The palace of Jehovah is no robber’s fortress nor despot’s castle, built on dungeons, with stones carved by slaves, and cemented with the blood of toiling serfs. The annals of most human governments have been written in the tears of the downtrodden, and the curses of the oppressed: the chronicles of the Lord’s kingdom are of another sort, truth shines in each line, goodness in every syllable, and justice in every letter. Glory be to the name of the King, whose gentle glory beams from between the cherubic wings.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 4. The king’s strength. They will remember his strength with joy, because he loveth judgment, and there is no reason, therefore, to be afraid of him in consequence of his great strength, so long as they continue to walk in the good way. George Phillips.
Ver. 4-5. Our King loveth righteousness:he will execute perfect justice, tempered with perfect mercy. He will judge every man according to his works, summing up and completing the unnoticed righteousness of his providence by an open manifestation to the universe of his holiness and equity. “We believe that he will come to be our judge, “therefore let us magnify and exalt him with our lips and hearts; and let us fall down and worship the man Christ Jesus, who took our nature, even his manhood, from the earth, which is his footstool, into the eternity of the Godhead, in which he is equal to the Father. As heaven, which is the throne of God, and earth, which is his footstool, form one universe, so is God and man one Christ, the everlasting Lord, “holy and true, “in whom we sinners may appeal from the throne of eternal justice to the footstool of eternal mercy. “Plain Commentary.”
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 4.
1. Trace the process of the working of right principles through three stages—Love, Establishment, Execution.
2. Illustrate from God’s character and action.
3. Apply to national, and to daily, life. C. D.
Psalms 99:5*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 5. Exalt ye the LORD our God. If no others adore him, let his own people render to him the most ardent worship. Infinite condescension makes him stoop to be called our God, and truth and faithfulness bind him to maintain that covenant relationship; and surely we, to whom by grace he so lovingly gives himself, should exalt him with all our hearts. He shines upon us from under the veiling wings of cherubim, and above the seat of mercy, therefore let us come
and worship at his footstool. When he reveals himself in Christ Jesus, as our reconciled God, who allows us to approach even to his throne, it becomes us to unite earnestness and humility, joy and adoration, and, while we exalt him, prostrate ourselves in the dust before him. Do we need to be thus excited to worship? How much ought we to blush for such backwardness! It ought to be our daily delight to magnify so good and great a God.
For he is holy. A second time the note rings out, and as the ark, which was the divine footstool, has just been mentioned, the voice seems to sound forth from the cherubim where the Lord sitteth, who continually do cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy. Lord God of Sabaoth!” Holiness is the harmony of all the virtues. The Lord has not one glorious attribute alone, or in excess, but all glories are in him as a whole; this is the crown of his honour and the honour of his crown. His power is not his choicest jewel, nor his sovereignty, but his holiness. In this all comprehensive moral excellence he would have his creatures take delight, and when they do so their delight is evidence that their hearts have been renewed, and they themselves have been made partakers of his holiness. The gods of the heathen were, according to their own votaries, lustful, cruel, and brutish; their only claim to reverence lay in their supposed potency over human destinies: who would not far rather adore Jehovah, whose character is unsullied purity, unswerving justice, unbending truth, unbounded love, in a word, perfect holiness?
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 5 (second elause). Mark the peculiar expression, Worship at his footstool. What humility and subjection does it imply! It is the worship of one whose heart has been subdued by divine grace. W. Wilson.
Ver. 5. Bishop Horsley thus renders this verse:
“Exalt ye Jehovah our God,
And make prostration before his foostool;
It is holy.”
Thus he connects “hory” with Jehovah’s footstool, mentioned in the preceding clause. There appears to me great propriety and beauty in this construction, which divides the poem into three members. Of these the first terminates with ascribing “holiness” to the name of Jehovah: the second, with ascribing the same property to his abode:and then, at the conclusion of the hymn, “holiness, ” essential holiness, is ascribed to Jehovah himself. Our Bible marginal translation recognizes this construction of the 5th verse. Richard Mant.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 5. Exalt the Lord your God.
1. Why? For what he is to you. For what he has done for you. For what he has told you.
2. How? In your affection. In your meditation. In your supplication. In your conversation. In your profession. In your consecration. In your co-operation. In your expectation. W. J.
Ver. 5.
1. The loyal enthusiasln of worship, it exalts the Lord.
2. The humble diffidence of worship, not aspiring to his exaltation it kneels at his footstool.
3. The good reason for worship. —”He is holy.” C. D.
Psalms 99:6*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 6. Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among them that call upon his name. Though not ordained to the typical priesthood, Moses was a true priest, even as Melchizedek had been before him. God has ever had a priesthood beside and above that of the law. The three holy men here mentioned all stood in his courts, and saw his holiness, each one after his own order. Moses saw the Lord in flaming fire revealing each perfect law, Aaron full often watched the sacred fire devour the sin-offering, and Samuel witnessed the judgment of the Lord on Eli’s house, because of the error of his way. These each one stood in the gap when the wrath of God broke forth, because his holiness had been insulted; and acting as intercessors, they screened the nation from the great and terrible God, who otherwise would in a dreadful manner have executed judgment in Jacob. Let these men, or such as these, lead us in our worship, and let us approach the Lord at the mercy-seat as they did, for he is as accessible to us as to them. They made it their life’s business to call upon him in prayer, and by so doing brought down innumerable blessings upon themselves and others. Does not the Lord call us also to come up into the mount with Moses, and to enter the most holy place with Aaron? Do we not hear him call us by our name as he did Samuel? And do we not answer, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth”?
They called upon the Lord, and he answered them. Not in vain were their prayers; but being a holy God he was true to his promises, and hearkened to them from off the mercy-seat. Here is reason for praise, for answers to the petitions of some are proofs of God’s readiness to hear others. These three men asked large things, they pleaded for a whole nation, and they stayed great plagues and turned away fiery wrath; who would not exercise himself in adoring so great and merciful a God? If he were unholy he would be false to his word and refuse his people’s cries; this, then, is recorded for our joy and for his glory, that holy men of old were not suffered to pray in vain.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 6. Moses and Aaron among his priests, or chief officers; as in 1 Chronicles 18:17. Moses was, if not a priest, yet a continual intercessor for the people, and a type of Christ the great Mediator of his church. Aben-Ezra called him Cohen haccohanim, the priest of priests; and Philo, writing his life, concludeth, This was the life and death of Moses the king, the lawgiver, the prophet, and the chief priest. John Trapp.
Ver. 6. Moses twice performed acts essentially priestly (Exodus 24:4-8 and Exodus 40:22, compared with Leviticus 8:1-36), at the ratification of the covenant, and at the consecration of the priests. For this reason he could the more readily be placed here among the priestly mediators. C. B. Moll.
Ver. 6. Priests. The word cohen is not confined as a title to the priests of the Levitical order, it is applied to Melchizedek and others. Moses is included among God’s priests in accordance with the true idea of a priest, as being the official exponent of the divine love and mercy—one who represented God though acting in the interests of man. Robert JBaker Girdlestone, in “Synonyms of the Old Testament.”
Ver. 6. His priests. At the foundation of this there is another spiritual idiom, that, namely, according to which all are called priests who possess what constitutes the essence of the ordinary priestly office (although not the externals), inward connection with God, free access to the throne of grace, and the gift and power of intercessory prayer. This figurative idiom occurs even in the law itself, compare Exodus 19:6, where it is said to all Israel, “Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” F.W. Hengstenberg.
Ver 6. Priests. The word cohen, Priest, is from cahan, to plead a cause, as an intercessor, mediator, or advocate; hence the strict propriety of its use here in reference to Moses. C. H. S.
Ver. 6. They that call upon his name. The Hebrew word which we translate to call upon God, notes a sort of men whose chief business or trade was to call upon or invocate the name of God, and in this instance it implies that it was the special calling of these men to call upon God. Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 6-9. This third strophe is in reality a prophetical picture of the future holy worship of God, in which Moses, Aaron, and Samuel appear as the living representatives of the redeemed church, like the four and twenty elders in the more fully developed Apocalyptic scene of St. John. Revelation 5:1-14. Joseph Francis Thrupp.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 6-7.
1. Prayer offered. Moses the prophet, Aaron the priest, Samuel the ruler, “They called, “&c.
2. Prayer answered. “He answered them, “”he spake, “&c.
3. Prayer vindicated. They kept the other testimonies, &c. G. R.
Psalms 99:7*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 7. He spake unto them in the cloudy pillar. We have had mention of the ark and the shekinah, and now of the fiery cloudy pillar, which was another visible token of the presence of God in the midst of Israel. Responses came to Moses and Aaron out of that glorious overshadowing cloud, and though Samuel saw it not, yet to him also came the mystic voice which was wont to thunder forth from that divine canopy. Men have had converse with God, let men therefore speak to God in return. He has told us things to come, let us in return confess the sins which are past; he has revealed his mind to us, let us then pour out our hearts before him.
They kept his testimonies. When others turned aside they were faithful; in their hearts they laid up his word, and in their lives they obeyed it. When he spake to them they observed his will, and therefore when they spake to him he yielded to their desires. This keeping of the divine testimonies is a virtue all too rare in these our days; men run after their own views and opinions, and make light of the truth of God; hence it is that they fail in prayer, and scoffers have even dared to say that prayer avails not at all. May the good Lord bring back his people to reverence his word, and then will he also have respect unto the voice of their cry.
And the ordinance that he gave them. His practical precept they observed as well as his doctrinal instruction. Ordinances are not to be trifled with, or testimonies will also be despised; and the converse is also true, a light estimate of inspired dogma is sure to end in neglect of moral virtues. To Moses, Aaron, and Samuel special and personal charges were committed, and they were all true to their trust, for they stood in awe of the Lord, their God, and worshipped him with their whole souls. They were very different men, and had each one a work to do peculiar to himself, yet because each was a man of prayer they were all preserved in their integrity, fulfilled their office, and blessed their generation. Lord, teach us like Moses to hold up our hands in prayer and conquer Amalek, like Aaron to wave the censer between the living and the dead till the plague is stayed, and like Samuel to say to a guilty people, “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; “if thou wilt make us mighty with thee in prayer, we shall also be kept faithful before thee in the service which thou hast laid upon us.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 7. They kept his testimonies. For this reason they were so promptly heard, even as the Lord himself says, “If a man love me he will keep my words, “and again, “If ye abide in me and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you.” And the ordinance that he gave them. They not only observed the precepts which bind men in general, but the peculiar obligation of governing, directing, and teaching the people committed to them. Bellarmine.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 7 (first clause). The revelation of the cloud, or what God foreshadowed to Israel in the cloudy pillar.
1. That God was willing to commune with man.
2. That sinful man could not see God and live.
3. That God should become incarnate, veiled in flesh as in the cloud.
4. That he should be their shelter, protector, guide.
5. That God manifest in the flesh should lead them to the Promised Land—Heaven. C. D.
Psalms 99:8*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 8. Thou answeredst them, 0 LORD our God. A sweet title and a cheering fact. Our covenant God in a very special manner heard his three servants when they pleaded for the people.
Thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions. He forgave the sinners, but he slew their sins. Some apply this verse to Moses, Aaron, and Samuel, and remind us that each of these fell into a fault and received chastisement. Of Samuel they assert that, for having set up his sons as his successors, he was compelled to submit to the anointing of Saul as king, which was a great grief to him: this is to our mind a very doubtful statement, and leads us to abandon the interpretation altogether. We believe that the passage refers to the nation which was spared through the intercession of these three holy men, but yet was severely chastened for its transgressions. In answer to the cry of Moses the tribes lived on, but the then existing generation could not enter Canaan: Aaron’s golden calf was broken, though the fire of the Lord did not consume the people; and Israel smarted under the harsh government of Saul, though at Samuel’s request its murmurings against the theocratic rule of their fathers’ God was not visited with pestilence or famine. So to forgive sin as at the same time to express abhorrence of it, is the peculiar glory of God, and is best seen in the atonement of our Lord Jesus. Reader, are you a believer? Then your sin is forgiven you; but so surely as you are a child of God the rod of paternal discipline will be laid upon you if your walk be not close with God. “You only have I known of all the nations of the earth, therefore I will punish you for your iniquities.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 8. The construction of the verse seems to be this: “O Lord our God, thou didst hear or answer them, “that is, the aforementioned typical mediators, Moses, Aaron, and Samuel: “thou becamest a forbearing God for them, “or, at their intercession; and that “even when punishing, “or, when thou hadst begun to punish “the wicked deeds of them, “that is, not of Moses, Aaron, and Samuel, but of the people, who had transgressed, and for whom they interceded. This was the case when Moses interceded for the idolaters, Ex 22:32, Aaron for the schismatics, Numbers 16:47, and Samuel for the whole nation, 1 Samuel 7:9. George Horne.
Ver. 8. Thou answeredst them… forgavest them. Oh, the blessed assurance that nothing can disturb our standing in the covenant. Answer and forgiveness are certain, though vengeance is taken of our inventions. How every word and expression here seems to go right to our hearts! The very designation of our sins and punishments is so true. Yet, withal, we are not shut out from God. We are able to speak to, and to hear him; we receive what we need, and much more; and, above all, we have the sweet, abiding sense of forgiveness, notwithstanding “our inventions.” When we smart under chastisements or disappointments, we know that it is the fire which burns up the hay, wood, and stubble—a Father’s dealings in compassion and mercy. We willingly, we gladly take these chastisements, which now are to us fresh pledges of our safety. For safe, eternally safe, remains the foundation, and unclosed the way of access. O surely with all our heart do we accord: “Exalt Jehovah our God, and worship at his holy hill; for Jehovah our God is holy.” Alfred Ederaheim.
Ver. 8. The words of this verse have in them three remarkable particulars.
I. The behaviour of the men it speaks of, which is partly good, and partly evil. The former verse saith, “They kept God’s testimonies, and the ordinance that he gave them; “this insinuates (what was also expressed, Psalms 99:6) that they used to call upon God; all this was very good. But withal they did sometimes some things amiss, they had some inventions, by-paths, and steps awry, which, as they needed pardon, so they occasionally incensed him so much against them that he would not let them escape altogether, without taking some vengeance for such untowardness.
II. God’s graciousness in a double respect: 1, in answering them, granting their suits and supplications ordinarily. 2. In forgiving them, pardoning their failings and faults evermore; never dealing with them altogether according to their sins, but in the midst of any offence of theirs, or judgment of his, remembering mercy.
III. His holy justice, notwithstanding, taking vengeance on their inventions; chastening them for some faults sometimes, and not letting them always go unpunished, how faithful soever they were generally, or how gracious soever he was eternally. Herbert Palmer (1601-1647), in a Sermon entitled “The Glass of God’s Providence.” 1644.
Ver. 8. Thou wast a God that forgavest them, literally “for them; “on account of their intercessions. God did not destroy those for whom his devoted servants pleaded, in the day of threatened vengeance. Their sins, indeed, he visited with the rod of divine chastisement; but thcir forfeited lives he spared in answer to prayer. John Morison.
Ver. 8. Thou… forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions. Because he loves the person, and hates only the sin; therefore he preserves the one, destroys only the other. This is all the fruit, to take away his sin. The covenant that is made with us in Christ is not a covenant made with works, but with persons; and therefore, though the works be often hateful, yet he goes on to love the persons; and that he may continue to love them, destroys out of them what he hates, but cutteth not them off. A member that is leprous or ulcerous, a man loves it as it is “his own flesh, “Ephesians 5:29, though he loathes the corruption and putrefaction that is in it; and therefore he doth not presently cut it off, but purgeth it daily, lays plasters to it to eat the corruption out: whereas a wart or even a wen that grows to a man’s body, a man gets it cut off, for he doth not reckon it as his flesh. Thomas Goodwin.
Ver. 8. Thou tookest veageance of their inventions. It is not a light punishment, but a “vengeance, “”he takes on their inventions; “to manifest that he hates sin as sin, and not because the worst persons commit it. Perhaps, had a profane man touched the ark, the hand of God had not so suddenly reached him. But when Uzzah, a man zealous for him, as may be supposed by his care for the support of the tottering ark, would step out of his place, he strikes him down for his disobedient action, by the side of the ark, which he would indirectly (as not being a Levite) sustain, 2 Samuel 6:7. Nor did our Saviour so sharply reprove the Pharisees, and turn so short from them as he did from Peter, when he gave a carnal advice, and contrary to that wherein was to be the greatest manifestation of God’s holiness, viz, the death of Christ, Matthew 16:23. He calls him Satan, a name sharper than the title of the devil’s children, wherewith he marked the Pharisees, and given (besides him) to none but Judas, who made a profession of love to him, and was outwardly ranked in the number of his disciples. A gardener hates a weed the more for being in the bed with the most precious flowers. Stephen Charnock.
Ver. 8. Thou tookest vengeance. Sometimes the sins of a people may be such, that God will not pardon them as to temporal punishments; nay, not the godly themselves. Even they may have been partakers with others in their sins, or may have so provoked God themselves, and sinned in such a way as to cause his name to be blasphemed; so that he is concerned in honour to bring some exemplary punishment upon them. So it was with David (2 Samuel 12:10-14.): though he pardoned him as to the guilt of eternal death, saved his soul, and spared his life, which was forfeited to divine justice for the murder of Uriah; yet the prophet announced that sharp afflictions must come on him, the sword must never “depart front his house, “and the child begotten in adultery must die, and his wives must be given to his neighbours. So, in Psalms 99:8, it seems to be spoken of Moses himself, and other godly among the Israelites who died in the wilderness, and were not permitted to come into the land of promise, that “God forgave them, “yet “took vengeance of their inventions, ” John Collins (1687) in the Morning Exercises.
Ver. 8. Vengeance of their inventions. It is remarkable, that in the preceding verses mention is made of Moses, and Aaron, and Samuel in a way which seems to imply that they were upon the psalmist’s mind when he uttered the declaration of the text. These three persons, all eminent for their piety, were also conspicuous for having suffered the Divine displeasure on account of their failings. Moses angered the Lord at the waters of strife, and he is not suffered to enter the promised land; Aaron provoked the Divine anger by making the golden calf, and would have been destroyed, had not Moses by fervent intercession turned away the anger of the Lord lest he should destroy him; so Samuel placed his sons over Israel, who walked not in his ways, and therefore God gave Israel a king, whose crimes caused the prophet to go down with sorrow to the grave. Stephen Bridge, 1852.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 8. Mercy and judgment, or the sea of glass mingled with fire. C. D.
Ver. 8. Observe,
1. That God’s vengeance for sin does not prevent his forgiveness of sin; and,
2. That God’s forgiveness of sin does not prevent his taking vengeance. Stephen Bridge
Psalms 99:9*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 9. Exalt the LORD our God. A second time the delightful title of Jehovah our God is used, and it is quickly followed by a third. The Psalm is Trinitarian in its whole structure. In each of his sacred persons the Lord is the God of his people; the Father is ours, the Son is ours, and the Holy Spirit is ours: let us exalt him with all our ransomed powers.
And worship at his holy hill. Where he appoints his temple let us resort. No spot of ground is now fenced about as peculiarly holy, or to be regarded as more sacred than another; yet his visible church is his chosen hill, and there would we be found, numbered with his people, and unite with them in worship.
For the LORD our God is holy. Again this devout description is repeated, and made the climax of the song. Oh for hearts made pure within, so that we may rightly perceive and worthily praise the infinite perfection of the Triune Lord.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 9. The Lord our God. A very sweet topic will be found in the consideration of the questions, “In what respect is Jehovah ours? and in what relations does he stand to his people?”
WORK ON THE NINETY-NINTH PSALM.
In “The Golden Diary of Heart Converse with Jesus in the Book of Psalms. By the Rev. Dr. EDERSHEIM, Tarquay. Arranged for every Sunday in the year. Re-issue. 1873” there are expositions of Psalms 99:1-9; Psalms 101:1-8; Psalms 102:1-28.

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Psalm 98

holy-bible-background

Verses 1-9
TITLE AND SUBJECT. —This sacred ode, which bears simply the title of “A Psalm, “follows fitly upon the last, and is evidently an integral part of the series of royal psalms. If Psalms 97:1-12 described the publication of the gospel, and so the setting up of the kingdom of heaven, the present Psalm is a sort of Coronation Hymn, officially proclaiming the conquering Messiah as Monarch over the nations, with blast of trumpets, clapping of hands, and celebration of triumphs. It is a singularly bold and lively song. The critics have fully established the fact that similar expressions occur in Isaiah, but we see no force in the inference that therefore it was written by him; on this principle half the books in the English language might be attributed to Shakespeare. The fact is that these associated Psalms make up a mosaic, in which each one of them has an appropriate place, and is necessary to the completeness of the whole, and therefore we believe them, to be each and all the work of one and the same mind. Paul, if we understand him aright, ascribes Psalms 95:1-11 to David, and as we believe that the same writer must have written the whole group, we ascribe this also to the son of Jesse. Whoever that may be, the song is worthy to rank among the most devout and soul stirring of sacred lyrics.
DIVISION. We have here three stanzas of three verses each. In the first, Psalms 98:1-3, the subject of praise is announced, in the second, Psalms 98:4-6, the manner of that praise is prescribed; and in the third, Psalms 98:7-9, the universal extent of it is proclaimed.
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 1. O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvellous things. We had a new song before (Psalms 96:1-13) because the Lord was coming, but now we have another new song because he has come, and seen and conquered. Jesus, our King, has lived a marvellous life, died a marvellous death, risen by a marvellous resurrection, and ascended marvellously into heaven. By his divine power he has sent forth the Holy Spirit doing marvels, and by that sacred energy his disciples have also wrought marvellous things and astonished all the earth. Idols have fallen, superstitions have withered, systems of error have fled, and empires of cruelty have perished. For all this he deserves the highest praise. His acts have proved his Deity, Jesus is Jehovah, and therefore we sing unto him as the LORD.
His right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory; not by the aid of others, but by his own unweaponed hand his marvellous conquests have been achieved. Sin, death, and hell fell beneath his solitary prowess, and the idols and the errors of mankind have been overthrown and smitten by his hand alone. The victories of Jesus among men are all the more wonderful because they are accomplished by means to all appearance most inadequate; they are due not to physical but to moral power—the energy of goodness, justice, truth; in a word, to the power of his holy arm. His holy influence has been the sole cause of success. Jesus never stoops to use policy, or brute force; his unsullied perfections secure to him a real and lasting victory over all the powers of evil, and that victory will lie gained as dexterously and easily as when a warrior strikes his adversary with his right hand and stretches him prone upon the earth. Glory be unto the Conqueror, let new songs be chanted to his praise. Stirred by contemplating his triumphs, our pen could not forbear to praise him in the following hymn: —
Forth to the battle rides our King;
He climbs his conquering ear;
He tits his arrows to the string,
And smites his foes afar.
Convictions pierce the stoutest hearts,
They bleed, they faint, they die;
Slain by Immanuel’s well aligned darts,
In helpless heaps they lie.
Behold, he bares his two edged sword,
And deals almighty blows,
His all revealing, killing word
Mixed with joint and marrow goes.
Anon arrayed in robes of grace
He rides the trampled plain,
With pity beaming from his face,
And mercy in his train.
Mighty to save he now appears,
Mighty to raise the dead,
Mighty to stanch the bleeding wound,
And lift the fallen head.
Victor alike in love and arms,
Myriads before him bend:
Such are the Conqueror’s matchless charms.
Each foe becomes his friend.
They crown him on the battle field
Of all the nations King;
With trumpets and with cornets loud
They make the welkin ring.
The salvation which Jesus has accomplished is wrought out with wonderful wisdom, hence it is ascribed to his right hand; it meets the requirements of justice, hence we read of his holy arm; it is his own unaided work, hence all the glory is ascribed to him; and it is marvellous beyond degree, hence it deserves a new song.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Title. —The inscription of the psalm in Hebrew is only the single word rwmzm Mizmor, “Psalm” (whence probably the title “orphan Mizmor” in the Talmudic treatise Avodah Zara). J.J.S. Perowne.
Title. Hengstenberg remarks, “This is the only psalm which is entitled simply `a psalm.’ This common name of all the psalms cannot be employed here in its general sense, but must have a peculiar meaning.” He considers that it indicates that this is the lyric accompaniment of the more decidedly prophetical psalm which precedes it, —in fact, the psalm of that prophecy. He also notes that in the original we have in Psalms 98:5-6 words akin to the title brought into great prominence, and perhaps this may have suggested it.
Title. —It is at least interesting to notice that a song Of Zion which so exults in the king’s arrival should be called preeminently rwmzm, Mizrnor; as if the Psalm of Psalms were that which celebrates Israel, and the earth at large, blessed in Messiah’s Advent. Andrew A. Bonar.
Whole Psalm. A noble, spirit stirring psalm. It may have been written on the occasion of a great national triumph at the time; but may, perhaps, afterwards be taken up at the period of the great millennial restoration of all things. The victory here celebrated may be in prophetic vision, and that at Armageddon. Then will salvation and righteousness be openly manifested in the sight of the hostile nations. Israel will be exalted; and the blessed conjunction of mercy and truth will gladden and assure the hearts of all who at that time are Israelites indeed. Godliness will form the reigning characteristic of the whole earth. Thomas Chalmers.
Whole Psalm. The subject of the Psalm is the praise of Jehovah. It consists of three strophes of three verses each. The first strophe shows why, the second how Jehovah is to be praised; and the third who are to praise him. Frederick Fysh.
Whole Psalm. This psalm is an evident prophecy of Christ’s coming to save the world; and what is here foretold by David is, in the Blessed Virgin’s Song chanted forth as being accomplished. David is the Voice, and Mary is the Echo.
1. DAVID. “O sing unto the Lord a new song.” (The Voice.) MARY. “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” (The Echo.)
2. DAVID. “He hath done marvellous things.” (The Voice.) MARY. “He that is mighty hath done great things.” (The Echo.)
3. DAVID. “With his own right hand and holy arm hath he gotten himself the victory.” (The Voice.) MARY. “He hath showed strength with his arm, and scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.” (The Echo.)
4. DAVID. “The Lord hath made known his salvation; his righteousness hath he openly showed, “&c. (The Voice.) MARY. “His mercy is on them that fear him, from generation to generation.” (The Echo.)
5. DAVID. “He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel.” (The Voice.) MARY. “He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy.” (The Echo.)
These parallels are very striking; and it seems as if Mary had this psalm in her eye when she composed her song of triumph. And this is a farther argument that the whole psalm, whether it record the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, or the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, is yet to be ultimately understood of the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ, and the proclamation of his gospel through all the nations of the earth: and taken in this view, no language can be too strong, nor poetic imagery too high, to point out the unsearchable riches of Christ. Adam Clarke.
Ver. 1. 0 sing unto the LORD a new song. This is man’s end, to seek God in this life, to see God in the next; to be a subjection the kingdom of grace, and a saint in the kingdom of glory. Whatsoever in this world befalleth us, we must sing: be thankful for weal, for woe: songs ought always to be in our mouth, and sometimes a new song: for so David here, “sing a new song:” that is, let us put off the old man, and become new men, new creatures in Christ: for the old man sings old songs: only the new man sings a new song; he speaketh with a new tongue, and walks in new ways, and therefore doth new things, and sings new songs; his language is not of Babylon or Egypt, but of Canaan; his communication doth edify men, his song glorify God. Or a new song, that is, a fresh song, nova res, novum canticum, new for a new benefit. Ephesians 5:20 : “Give thanks always for all things.” It is very gross to think God only in gross, and not in parcel. Hast thou been sick and now made whole? praise God with the leper, Lu 17:11-19: sing a new song for this new salve. Dost thou hunger and thirst after righteousness, whereas heretofore thou couldest not endure the words of exhortation and doctrine? sing a new song for this new grace. Doth Almighty God give thee a true sense of thy sin, whereas heretofore thou didst draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with cart ropes, and wast given over to work all uncleanness with greediness? 0 sing, sing, sing, a new song for this new mercy.
Or new, that is, no common or ordinary song; but as God’s mercy toward us is exceeding marvellous and extraordinary, so our thanks ought to be most exquisite, and more than ordinary: not new in regard of the matter, for we may not pray to God or praise God otherwise than he hath prescribed in his word, which is the old way, but new in respect of the manner and making, that as occasion is offered, we may bear our wits after the best fashion to be thankful.
Or, because this Psalm is prophetical, a new song, that is, the song of the glorious angels at Christ’s birth, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men, “(Lu 2:14); a song which the world never heard before: that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head is an old song, the first that ever was sung; but this was no plain song, till Christ did manifest himself in the flesh. In the Old Testament there were many old songs, but in the New Testament, a new song. That “unto us is born a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord, “is in many respects a new song;for whereas Christ was but shadowed in the Law, he is showed in the Gospel; and new, because sung of new men, of all men. For the sound of the Gospel is gone through all the earth, unto the ends of the world (Romans 10:18); whereas in old time God’s old songs were sung in Jewry: “His name is great in Israel. In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion, “Psalms 76:1-2. John Boys.
Ver. 1. A new song. O ye who are new in Christ, though formerly old in the Old Adam, sing ye to the Lord. Psalter of Peter Lombard, 1474.
Ver. 1. He hath done marvellous things. He has opened his greatness and goodness in the work of redemption. What marvels has not Christ done? 1, He was conceived by the Holy Ghost. 2. Born of a virgin. 3. Healed all manner of diseases. 4. Fed thousands with a few loaves and fishes. 5. Raised the dead. 6. And what was more marvellous, died himself. 7. Rose again by his own power. 8. Ascended to heaven. 9. Sent down the Holy Ghost. 10. And made his apostles and their testimony the instruments of enlightening, and ultimately converting, the world. Adam Clarke.
Ver. 1. His right hand. Since the Psalmist says, that Christ hath gotten him the victory by his right hand and his arm, it is not only a demonstration of his divine and infinite power, but also excludes all other means, as the merits of saints and their meretricious works. Martin Luther.
Ver. 1. Holy arm. The creation was the work of God’s fingers: “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, “Psalms 8:3; redemption a work of his arm; “His holy arm hath gotten him the victory”; yea, it was a work of his heart, even that bled to death to accomplish it. Thomas Adams.
Ver. 1. A clergyman in the county of Tyrone had, for some weeks, observed a little ragged boy come every Sunday, and place himself in the centre of the aisle, directly opposite the pulpit, where he seemed exceedingly attentive to the services. He was desirous of knowing who the child was, and for this purpose hastened out, after the sermon, several times, but never could see him, as he vanished the moment service was over, and no one knew whence he came or anything about him. At length the boy was missed from his usual situation in the church for some weeks. At this time a man called on the minister, and told him a person very ill was desirous of seeing him; but added, “I am really ashamed to ask you to go so far; but it is a child of mine, and he refuses to have any one but you; he is altogether an extraordinary boy, and talks a great deal about things that I do not understand.” The clergyman promised to go, and went, though the rain poured down in torrents, and he had six miles of rugged mountain country to pass. On arriving where he was directed, he saw a most wretched cabin indeed, and the man he had seen in the morning was waiting at the door. He was shown in, and found the inside of the hovel as miserable as the outside. In a corner, on a little straw, he beheld a person stretched out, whom he recognised as the little boy who had so regularly attended his church. As he approached the wretched bed the child raised himself up, and, stretching forth his arms, said, “His own right hand and his holy arm hath gotten him the victory, “and immediately he expired. K. Arvine.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 1. A new song. The duty, beauty, and benefit of maintaining freshness in piety, service, and worship.
Ver. 1. He hath done marvellous things.
1. He hath created a marvellous universe.
2. He has established a marvellous government.
3. He hath bestowed a marvellous gift.
4. He hath provided a marvellous redemption.
5. He hath inspired a marvellous book.
6. He hath opened a marvellous fulness.
7. He hath effected a marvellous transformation. W. Jackson.
Ver. 1. The victory. The victories of God in judgment, and in mercy: especially the triumphs of Christ on the cross, and by his Spirit in the heart, and in and by the church at large.
Psalms 98:2*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 2. The LORD hath made known his salvation, —by the coming of Jesus and by the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, by whose power the gospel was preached among the Gentiles. The Lord is to be praised not only for effecting human salvation, but also for making it known, for man would never have discovered it for himself; nay, not so much as one single soul would ever have found out for himself the way of mercy through a Mediator; in every case it is a divine revelation to the mind and heart. In God’s own light his light is seen. He must reveal his Son in us, or we shall be unable to discern him.
His righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen. This word “righteousness” is the favourite word of the apostle of the Gentiles; he loves to dwell on the Lord’s method of making man righteous, and vindicating divine justice by the atoning blood. What songs ought we to render who belong to a once heathen race, for that blessed gospel which is the power of God unto salvation, “for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.” This is no close secret; it is clearly taught in Scripture, and has been plainly preached among the nations. What was hidden in the types is “openly shewed” in the gospel.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 2. The LORD hath made known his salvation. By the appearance of his Son in the flesh, and the wonders which he did. His righteousness hath he openly shewed, etc., in the gospel, to all men; that righteousness which is called the “righteousness of God, ” and which is enjoyed by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference. Romans 3:22. B. Boothroyd.
Ver. 2. The LORD hath made known, etc. The word uydx denotes not only a publication and promulgation, but also a clear and certain demonstration which produces conviction and causes the matter to be laid up in the mind and memory and preserved: for the proper signification of the root ydy is to lay up what is to be preserved. The word hlg is added, which properly means to uncover, to be uncovered, hence he revealed or uncovered, that it might be both naked and clear, for the purpose of more fully illustrating the character of the manifestation of the Gospel, opposed to what is obscure, involved in shadows and types, and veiled in legal ceremonies. Of which the apostle treats expressly in 2 Corinthians 3:7-18. Lastly, when it is added, that in the sight of the nations this uncovering is done, it signifies that this salvation pertains to them also, that it comes to them without distinction, since the Gospel is nakedly and clearly announced. From which it also clearly appears, that the matter reason of the new song are found in such a singular event, since God who formerly permitted the nations to walk in their own ways, now under Messiah calls all without distraction to salvation through faith and newness of life. Venema.
Ver. 2. Made known: He says not, He shewed, but He made known. Adam knew him, and predicted concerning him, “A man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh.” Abel knew him, who offered the lamb; Seth knew him, and called upon him; Noah knew him, and saved all the race in the ark; Abraham knew him, and offered up his son to him. But because the world had forgotten him and worshipped idols, the Lord made his Jesus known, when he sent the Word in flesh to the Jews, and revealed his righteousness to the nations, when he justified them through faith. Wherefore did he reveal him to the nations? Because of his mercy. Wherefore old he make him known to the Jews? Because of his truth, that is, his promise. Honorius, the Continuator of Gerhohus.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 2. The Lord hath made known his salvation.
1. The contents of which it is composed.
2. The reasons for which it has been provided.
3. The price at which it has been procured.
4. The terms on which it shall be imparted.
5. The way in which it must be propagated.
6. The manner in which its neglect will be punished. W. J.
Ver. 2. (first clause).
1. What is salvation?
2. Why it is called the Lord’s: “Salvation is of the Lord.”
3. How he has made it known.
4. For what purpose.
5. With what results. E.G. Gange.
Ver. 2. The great privilege of knowing the gospel.
1. In what it consists. (a) Revelation by the Bible. (b) Declaration by the minister. (c) Illumination by the Spirit. (d) Illustration in daily providence.
2. To what it has led. (a) We have believed it. (b) We have so far understood it as to growingly rejoice in it. (c) We are able to tell it to others. (d) We abhor those who mystify it.
Ver. 2. Salvation’s glory.
1. It is divine—”his salvation.”
2. It is consistent with justice—”his righteousness.”
3. It is plain and simple—”openly showed.”
4. It is meant for all sorts of men—”heathen.”
Psalms 98:3*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 3. He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel. To them Jesus came in the flesh, and to them was the gospel first preached; and though they counted themselves unworthy of eternal life, yet the covenant was not broken, for the true Israel were called into fellowship and still remain so. The mercy which endureth for ever, and the fidelity which cannot forget a promise, secure to the chosen seed the salvation long ago guaranteed by the covenant of grace.
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Not to Abraham’s seed alone after the flesh, but to the elect among all nations, has grace been given; therefore, let the whole church of God sing unto him a new song. It was no small blessing, or little miracle, that throughout all lands the gospel should be published in so short a time, with such singular success and such abiding results. Pentecost deserves a new song as well as the Passion and the Resurrection; let out hearts exult as we remember it. Our God, our own for ever blessed God, has been honoured by those who once bowed down before dumb idols; his salvation has not only been heard of but seen among all people, it has been experienced as well as explained; his Son is the actual Redeemer of a multitude out of all nations.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 3. He hath remembered his mercy and his truth. The psalmist very properly observes, that God in redeeming the world “remembered his truth, “which he had given to Israel his people—language, too, which implies that he was influenced by no other motive than that of faithfully performing what he had himself promised. The more clearly to show that the promise was not grounded at all on the merit or righteousness of man, he mentions the “mercy” of God first, and afterwards his “faithfulness” which stood connected with it. The cause, in short, was not to be found out of God himself, (to use a common expression,)but in his mere good pleasure, which had been testified long before to Abraham and his posterity. The word “remembered” is used in accommodation to man’s apprehension; for what has been long suspended seems to have been forgotten. Upwards of two thousand years elapsed from the time of giving the promise to the appearance of Christ, and as the people of God were subjected to many afflictions and calamities, we need not wonder that they should have sighed, and given way to ominous fears regarding the fulfilment of this redemption. John Calvin.
Ver. 3. He hath remembered his mercy and his truth. His mercy moved him to make his promise, and his truth hath engaged him to perform it; and he hath been mindful of both, by scattering the blessed influences of his light and bounty over the face of the whole earth, and causing all nations to set and partake of the salvation of God. Matthew Hole(-1730).
Ver. 3. All the ends of the earth have seen, etc. O unhappy Judea. The ends of the earth have seen, the salvation of God, every land is moved to joy, the whole globe is glad, the floods clap their hands, the hills rejoice; yet the evil hearts of the Jews believe not, but are smitten with the penalty of unbelief in the darkness of their blindness. Gregory, in Lorinus.
Ver. 3. Have seen. There is a degree of point in the expression have seen; it implies actual faith, united with knowledge, that moves the will to love and to desire; for they cannot be said to have seen God’s salvation, who, content with nominal faith never bestow a thought on the Saviour. Bellarmine.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 3. (first clause). The Lord’s memory of his covenant. Times in which he seems to forget it; ways in which even in those times he proves his faithfulness; great deeds of grace by which at other times he shows his memory of his promises; and reasons why he must ever be mindful of his covenant.
Ver. 3. (last clause). All the ends of the earth.
1. Literally. Missionaries have visited every land.
2. Spiritually. Men ready to despair, to perish.
3. Prophetically. Dwell on the grand promises concerning the future, and the triumphs of the church. E.G.G.
Ver. 3. All the ends of the earth have seen, &c.
1. The greatest foreigners have seen it; many have “come from the east and the west; “Greeks, Peter’s hearers, the Eunuch, Greenlanders, South Sea Islanders, Negroes, Red Indians, &c., &c.
2. The ripest saints have seen it; they are at the light end of the earth, stepping out of the wilderness into Canaan, &c.
3. The vilest sinners have seen it; those who have wandered so far that they could get no farther without stepping into hell. The dying thief. The woman who was a sinner. Those whom Whitefield called “the devil’s castaways.” W. J.
Psalms 98:4*
EXPOSITION.
In these three verses we are taught how to praise the Lord.
Ver. 4. Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth. Every tongue must applaud, and that with the rigour which joy of heart alone can arouse to action. As men shout when they welcome a king, so must we. Loud hosannas, full of happiness, must be lifted up. If ever men shout for joy it should be when the Lord comes among them in the proclamation of his gospel reign. John Wesley said to his people, “Sing lustily, and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.”
Make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise; or Burst forth, and sing, and play. Let every form of exultation be used, every kind of music pressed into the service till the accumulated praise causes the skies to echo the joyful tumult. There is no fear of our being too hearty in magnifying the God of our salvation, only we must take care the song comes from the heart, otherwise the music is nothing but a noise in his ears, whether it be caused by human throats, or organ pipes, or far resounding trumpets. Loud let our hearts ring out the honours of our conquering Saviour; with all our might let us extol the Lord who has vanquished all our enemies, and led our captivity captive: He will do this best who is most in love with Jesus:
“I have found the pearl of greatest price,
My heart doth sing for joy;
And sing I must, a Christ I have.
Oh, what a Christ have I!”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 4. Make a joyful noise. Bless God for a Christ. The Argives when delivered by the Romans from the tyranny of the Macedonians and Spartans, Quae guadia, quae vociferationes fuerunt! quid florum in Consulem profuderunt! what great joys expressed they! what loud outcries made they! The very birds that flew over them fell to the ground, astonied at their noises. The crier at the Nemean games was forced to pronounce the word Liberty, iterumque, iterumque, again, and again. John Trapp.
Ver. 4-6. Wherewith is God to be praised? In a literal sense with all kind of music: vocal, sing unto the Lord: chordal, Praise him upon the harp: pneumatical, with trumpets, etc. In an allegorical exposition (as Euthymius interprets it) we must praise God in our actions, and praise him in our contemplation; praise him in our words, praise him in our works; praise him in our life, praise him at our death; being not only temples (as Paul), but (as Clemens Alexaudrinus calls us) timbrels also of the Holy Ghost. John Boys.
Ver. 5. With the harp, with the harp. The repetition made use of is emphatic, and implies that the most ardent attempts men might make to celebrate the great work of the world’s redemption would fall short of the riches of the grace of God. John Calvin.
Ver. 5. The voice of a psalm. The sound of the Zimrah, hrmz, here, as in Psalms 81:2, is certainly the name of some musical instrument. But what the particular instrument might be, which went by that name, is quite uncertain. Samuel Horsley.
Ver. 5. The voice of a Psalm. With psalms Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah celebrated their victories. Psalms made glad the heart of the exiles who returned from Babylon. Psalms gave courage and strength to the Maccabees
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 4. The right use of noise.
1. “Make a noise.” Awake, O sleeper. Speak, O dumb.
2. “Make a joyful noise.” The shout of deliverance, of gratitude, of gladness.
3. “Make a loud noise, all the earth.” Nature with her ten thousand voices. The church with myriad saints.
4. “Make a joyful noise unto God.” Praise him alone. Praise him for ever. E.G.G.
Psalms 98:5*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 5. Sing unto the LORD with the harp. Skill in music should not be desecrated to the world’s evil mirth, it should aid the private devotions of the saint, and then, like George Herbert, he will sing,
“My God, my God,
My music shall find thee,
And every string
Shall have his attribute to sing.”
Martin Luther was thus wont to praise the Lord, whom he loved so well. God’s praises should be performed in the best possible manner, but their sweetness mainly lies in spiritual qualities. The concords of faith and repentance, the harmonies of obedience and love are true music in the ear of the Most High, and better please him than “heaving bellows taught to blow, “though managed by the noblest master of human minstrelsy.
With the harp. A very sweet instrument of music, and capable of great expression. The repetition of the word is highly poetical, and shows that the daintiest expressions of poetry are none too rich for the praise of God. His worship should be plain, but not uncouth, if we can compass elegancies of expression there are occasions upon which they will be most appropriate; God, who accepts the unlettered ditty of a ploughman, does not reject the smooth verse of a Cowper, or the sublime strains of a Milton. All repetitions are not vain repetitions, in sacred song there should be graceful repeats, they render the sense emphatic, and help to fire the soul; even preachers do not amiss when they dwell on a word and sound it out again and again, till dull ears feel its emphasis.
And the voice of a Psalm, or with a musical voice, as distinguished from common speech. Our voice has in it many modulations; there is the voice of conversation, the voice of complaint, the voice of pleading, the voice of command, and there ought to be with each of us the voice of a Psalm. Man’s voice is at its best when it sings the best words in the best spirit to the best of Beings. Love and war must not monopolise the lyric muse; the love of God and the conquests of Immanuel should win to themselves man’s sweetest strains. Do we sing enough unto the Lord? May not the birds of the air rebuke our sullen and ungrateful silence?
in their brave struggles to achieve their country’s independence, and were the repeated expression of their thanksgivings. The Lord of Psalmists and the Son of David, by the words of a Psalm proved himself to be higher than David; and sang Psalms with his apostles on the night before he suffered, when he instituted the holy supper of his love. With Psalms Paul and Silas praised God in the prison at midnight when their feet were made fast in the stocks, and sang so loud that the prisoners heard them. And after his own example the apostle exhorts the Christians at Ephesus and Colossae to teach and admonish one another with Psalms anti hymns and spiritual songs. Jerome tells us that in his day the Psalms were to be heard in the fields and vineyards of Palestine, and that they fell sweetly on the ear, mingling with the songs of birds, and the scent of flowers in spring. The ploughman as he guided his plough chanted the hallelujah, and the reaper, the vine dresser, and the shepherd sang the songs of David. “These, “he says, “are our love songs, these the instruments of our agriculture.” Sidonins Apollinaris makes his boatmen, as they urge their heavily laden barge up stream, sing Psalms, till the river banks echo again with the hallelujah, and beautifully applies the custom, in a figure, to the voyage of the Christian life. J.J.S. Perowne.
Ver. 5. The voice of a Psalm. In D’Israeli’s “Curiosities of Literature” there is a very curious piece upon Psalm singing, in which he mentions the spread of the singing of Psalms in France, which was first started among the Romanists by the version of Clement Marot, the favoured bard of Francis the First. In Marot’s dedication occur the following lines:
“Thrice happy they, who may behold,
And listen in that age of gold!
As by the plough the labourer strays,
And carman ‘mid the public ways,
And tradesman in his shop shall swell
Their voice in Psalm or canticle,
Singing to solace toil; again
From woods shall come a sweeter strain!
Shepherd and shepherdess shall vie
In many a tender Psalmody;
And the Creator’s name prolong,
As rock and stream return their song!
Begin then, ladies fair! begin
The age renew’d that knows no sin!
And with light heart, that wants no wing,
Sing! from this holy songbook, sing!”
The singing of these Psalms became so popular that D’lsraeli suggests that “it first conveyed to the sullen fancy of the austere Calvin the project” of introducing the singing of Psalms into his Genevan discipline. “This infectious frenzy of Psalm singing, “as Warton almost blasphemously describes it, rapidly propagated itself through Germany as well as France, and passed over to England. D’Israeli says, with a sneer, that in the time of the Commonwealth, “Psalms were now sung at Lord Mayor’s dinners and city feasts; soldiers sang them on their march and at parade; and few houses which had windows fronting the streets, but had their evening Psalms.” We can only add, would to God it were so again. C.H.S.
Ver. 5-6. These were, literally, the instruments most in use among the Jews, and a spiritual signification has been attached to each instrument. They seem to me to represent the cardinal virtues, the harp implying prudence; the psaltery, justice; the trumpet, fortitude; and the cornet, temperance. Bellarmine.
Ver. 5-6. It is evident that the Psalmist here expresses the vehement and ardent affection which the faithful ought to have in praising God, when he enjoins musical instruments to be employed for this purpose. He would have nothing omitted by believers which tends to animate the minds and feelings of men in singing God’s praises. The name of God, no doubt, can, properly speaking, be celebrated only by the articulate voice; but it is not without reason that David adds to this those aids by which believers were wont to stimulate themselves the more to this exercise; especially considering that he was speaking to God’s ancient people. There is a distinction, however, to be observed here, that we may not indiscriminately consider as applicable to ourselves everything which was formerly enjoined upon the Jews. I have no doubt that playing upon cymbals, touching the harp and the viol, and all that kind of music which is so frequently mentioned in the Psalms, was a part of the education; that is to say, the puerile instruction of the law: I speak of the stated service of the temple. For even now, if believers choose to cheer themselves with musical instruments, they should, I think, make it their object not to dissever their cheerfulness from the praises of God. But when they frequent their sacred assemblies, musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The Papists, therefore, have foolishly borrowed this, as well as many other things from the Jews. Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise; but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostle is far more pleasing to him. Paul allows us to bless God in the public assembly of the saints only in a known tongue, 1 Corinthians 14:16. The voice of man, although not understood by the generality, assuredly excels all inanimate instruments of music; and yet we see what Paul determines concerning speaking in an unknown tongue. What shall we then say of chanting, which fills the ears with nothing but an empty sound? Does any one object that music is very useful for awakening the minds of men and moving their hearts?, I own it; but we should always take care that no corruption creep in, which might both defile the pure worship of God and involve men in superstition. Moreover, since the Holy Spirit expressly warns us of this danger by the mouth of Paul, to proceed beyond what we are there warranted by him, is not only, I must say, unadvised zeal, but wicked and perverse obstinacy. John Calvin.
Ver. 5-6. The song and the stringed instruments belonged to the Levites, and the trumpets to the priests alone. Kitto says the trumpets did not join in the concert, but were sounded during certain regulated pauses in the vocal and instrumental music. The harps and voices made the sweetness, while the trumpets and horns added the strength; melody and energy should combine in the worship of God. C.H.S.
Psalms 98:6*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 6. With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise. God’s worship should be heartily loud. The far resounding trump and horn well symbolise the power which should be put forth in praise.
Before the LORD, the King. On coronation days, and when beloved monarchs ride abroad, the people shout and the trumpets sound till the walls ring again. Shall men be more enthusiastic for their earthly princes than for the divine King? Is there no loyalty left among the subjects of the blessed and only Potentate? King Jehovah is his name; and there is none like it, have we no joyful noise for him? Let but the reigning power of Jesus be felt in the soul and we shall cast aside that chill mutter, drowned by the pealing organ, which is now so commonly the substitute for earnest congregational singing.
Say, if your hearts are tuned to sing,
Is there a subject greater?
Harmony all its strains may bring,
But Jesus’ name is sweeter.
Who of his love doth once partake,
He evermore rejoices;
Melody in our hearts we make,
Melody with our voices.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 6. Trumpets. tlruux, Chatsotseroth:here only in the Psalter. These were the straight trumpets (such as are seen on the Arch of Titus) used by the priests for giving signals. Numbers 10:2-10; 1 Chronicles 15:24; 1 Chronicles 15:28, etc. The shofar, rmwv (cornet), was the ordinary curved trumpet, cornet, or horn. William Kay.
Ver. 6. Trumpets. The word here used is uniformly rendered trumpets in the Scriptures, Nu 10:2,8-10 31:6; et al. The trumpet was mainly employed for convening a public assembly for worship, or for assembling the hosts for battle. The original word, xruux chatsotserah, is supposed to have been designed to imitate “the broken pulse like sound of the trumpet, like the Latin, taratantara.” So the German trarara, and the Arabic, hadadera. The word here used was given to the long, straight trumpet. Albert Barnes.
Ver. 6. Trumpets. The trumpet served the same purpose, in a religious and civil sense, as bells among Christians, and the voice among Mohammedans. Indeed, it is understood that Mohammed directed the voice to be employed, in order to mark a distinction between his own sect and the Jews with their trumpets and the Christians with their bells. Kitto’s Pictorial Bible.
Ver. 6. With trumpets. Origen calls the writings of the evangelists and the apostles trumpets, at whose blast all the structures of idolatry and the dogmas of the philosophers were utterly overthrown. He teaches likewise that by the sound of the trumpets is prefigured the trumpet of the universal judgment, at which the world shall fall in ruin, and whose sound shall be joy to the just, and lamentation to the unjust. Lorinus.
Ver. 6. Before the Lord, the King. Since it is distinctly added before Jehovah the King, and the words, with trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise, are used, there seems to be a reference to that public rejoicing commonly manifested at the coronation of kings, or the celebration of undertakings for the public safety. This idea is not foreign to the present passage, since Jehovah is represented as King and Saviour of the people. Venema.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 6. Joy a needful ingredient of praise. The Lord as King, an essential idea in adoration. Expression in various ways incumbent upon us, when praising joyfully such a King.
Psalms 98:7*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 7. Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. Even its thunders will not be too grand for such a theme. Handel, in some of his sublime choruses, would have been glad of its aid to express his lofty conceptions, and assuredly the inspired psalmist did well to call in such infinite uproar. The sea is his, let it praise its Maker. Within and upon its bosom it bears a wealth of goodness, why should it be denied a place in the orchestra of nature? Its deep bass will excellently suit the mystery of the divine glory.
The world, and they that dwell therein. The land should be in harmony with the ocean. Its mountains and plains, cities and villages, should prolong the voice of jubilee which welcomes the Lord of all. Nothing can be more sublime than this verse; the muses of Parnassus cannot rival the muse of Zion, the Castallan fount never sparkled like that “fount of every blessing” to which sacred bands are wont to ascribe their inspiration. Yet no song is equal to the majesty of the theme when Jehovah, the King, is to be extolled.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 7-8. Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Let the floods clap their hands.
And thou, majestic main!
A secret world of wonders in thyself,
Sound his stupendous praise, whose greater voice
Or bids you roar, or bids your roarings fall. James Thomson.
Ver. 7-8. These appeals to nature in her great departments—of the sea in its mighty amplitude, and the earth with its floods and hills—form, not a warrant, but a call on Christian ministers to recognise God more in their prayers and sermons as the God of Creation, instead of restricting themselves so exclusively to the peculiar doctrines of Christianity. Do the one, and not leave the other undone. Thomas Chalmers.
Ver. 7-8. The setting forth the praise of Christ for the redemption of sinners, may not only furnish work to all reasonable creatures; but also if every drop of water in the sea, and in every river and flood, every fish in the sea, every fowl of the air, every living creature on the earth, and whatsoever else is in the world: if they all had reason and ability to express themselves; yea, and if all the hills were able by motion and gesticulation to communicate their joy one to another; there is work for them all to set out the praise of Christ. David Dickson.
Ver. 7-9. Matthew Henry on these verses quotes from Virgil’s 4th Eclogue the verses (of which we subjoin Dryden’s translation) in which the poet, he says, “either ignorantly or basely applies to Asinius Pollio the ancient prophecies which at that time were expected to be fulfilled; “adding that Ludovicus Vives thinks that these and many other things which Virgil says of this long looked for child “are applicable to Christ.”
O of celestial seed! O foster son of Jove!
See, lab’ring Nature calls thee to sustain
The nodding frame of heaven, and earth, and main!
See to their base restored, earth, seas, and air;
And joyful ages, from behind, in crowding ranks appear.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 7-8. Nature at worship. The congregation is
1. Vast. Sea, earth, rivers, hills.
2. Varied. Diverse in character, word, aspect, each from each other, constant and alike in this alone, that all, always worship God.
3. Happy. In this like the worshippers in heaven, and for the same reason—sin is absent. E.G.G.
Psalms 98:8*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 8. Let the floods clap their hands. The rolling rivers, the tidal estuaries, the roaring cataracts, are here summoned to pay their homage, and to clap their hands, as men do when they greet their sovereigns with acclamation.
Let the hills be joyful together, or in concert with the floods. Silent as are the mighty mountains, let them forget themselves, and burst forth into a sublime uproariousness of mirth, such as the poet described when he wrote those vivid lines—
“Far along,
From peak to peak, the rattling crags among,
Leaps the live thunder! Not from one lone cloud,
But every mountain now hath found a tongue,
And Jura answers, through her misty shroud,
Back to the joyous Alps, who call to her aloud.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 8. Let the floods clap their hands. The clapping of the hands being a token of delight and approbation, and the striking or dashing of the water in a river being, for the noise of it, a resemblance of that, the rivers are here said to clap their hands. Henry Hammond.
Ver. 8. Though the language be figurative, so far as it gives a voice to the inanimate creation in its various departments, yet, like all the figurative language of Scripture, it expresses a truth—that which the Apostle has stated without a metaphor in the express revelation that the “creation shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” And this because the reason of that bondage will no more exist. It is the consequence of sin: but when the world shall be subjected to the righteous rule of its coming King (as predicted in the last verse of this psalm), then earth and all creation shall own its present Lord, and join its tribute of praise to that of Israel and the nations, and the redeemed and glorified chinch. William De Burgh.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 8. The song of the sea, and the hallelujah of the hills.
Psalms 98:9*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 9. Before the Lord; for he cometh to judge the earth. Stiller music such as made the stars twinkle with their soft kind eyes suited his first coming at Bethlehem, but his second advent calls for trumpets, for he is a judge; and for all earth’s acclamations, for he has put on his royal splendour. The rule of Christ is the joy of nature. All things bless his throne, yea, and the very coming of it. As the dawn sets the earth weeping for joy at the rising of the sun, till the dewdrops stand in her eyes, so should the approach of Jesus’ universal reign make all creation glad.
With righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity. This is the joy of it. No tyrant and no weakling is he, to oppress the good or to indulge the vain, his law is good, his action right, his government the embodiment of justice. If ever there was a thing to rejoice in upon this poor, travailing earth, it is the coming of such a deliverer, the ascension to the universal throne of such a governor. All hail, Jesus! all hail! Our soul faints with delight at the sound of thins approaching chariots, and can only cry, “Come quickly. Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!”
Keble’s version of the last four verses is so truly beautiful that we cannot deny our readers the luxury of perusing it: —
“Ring out, with horn and trumpet ring,
In shouts before the Lord the King:
Let ocean with his fulness swing
In restless unison:”
“Earth’s round and all the dwellers there,
The mighty floods the burden bear,
And clap the hand: in choral air,
Join every mountain lone.”
“Tell out before the Lord, that he
Is come, the Judge of earth to be,
To judge the world in equity,
Do right to realm and throne.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 9. The Psalter is much occupied in celebrating the benign fruits which Christ’s reign is to yield in all the earth. It will be a reign of HOLINESS. This is its proper and distinctive nature. Under it, the ends of the earth will fear God, and rejoice in his salvation. It will be a reign of JUSTICE. Under it, the wars and oppressions and cruelties, the unequal laws and iniquitous institutions that have so long vexed and cursed the world, shall find a place no more. This happy reformation is usually foretold in the form of a proclamation that the Lord is coming “to judge the earth.” It is important, therefore, to keep in mind the true sense and intention of that oft repeated proclamation. It does not refer, as an unwary reader might suppose, to the Judgment of the Great Day. There is no terror in it. The Psalms that have it for their principal burden are jubilant in the highest degree. The design of the proclamation is to announce Christ in the character of a Peaceful Prince coming to administer equal laws with an impartial hand, and so to cause wrong and contention to cease in the earth. This is Christ’s manner of judging the earth. What he has already done in this direction enables us to form a clear conception of what he will yet set himself to do. When he designs to accomplish great and salutary reforms in the political and social institutions of a people, he begins by dislodging bad principles from men’s minds and planting Scriptural principles in their stead; by purging evil passions from men’s hearts, and baptising them with the Spirit of truth and justice, godliness and lovingkindness. A sure foundation having been thus laid for a better order of things, he will by some storm of controversy or of revolution sweep away the institutions in which injustice has entrenched itself, and will thus make it possible for righteousness to have free course. Oh what a store of comfort for the down trodden, the enslaved, the needy, is laid up in the announcement that the Lord is coming to be the avenger of all such! Well may all the creatures be invited to clap their hands for joy at the thought that he has taken this work in hand; that he sitteth upon the floods; and that the storms that agitate the nations are the chariot in which he rides to take possession of the earth, and make it an abode of righteousness and peace. William Binnie.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 9. The last judgment as a theme for thankfulness.
Ver. 9. Before the Lord. Where we are, where our joy should be, where all our actions should be felt to be, where we shall be— “before the Lord.” Enquire—What are we before the Lord? What shall we be when he cometh?
WORK UPON THE NINETY-EIGHTH PSALM.
In “The Works of John Boys, “1626, folio, pp. 34-6, there is a short exposition of this psalm.

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