Very interesting perspective I thought I would share. Very good insight into the love and mercy of God.
Leaves From An Interpreter’s Notebook; by Rev. John Gardner, D. D. published 1920
In times of national calamity, when monarchs suffer eclipse and mighty empires are disintegrated, it is a great thing for some man to arise who has beheld visions of God, an Isaiah whose eyes have been opened to behold the Lord, high and lifted up, or an Ezekiel who has scanned the livid clouds and discovered at the heart of them the august and majestic presence of Him who reigneth forever and ever. Such a seer penned this psalm.
It ranks with the nineteenth psalm for majesty of conception and fervency of utterance. It enshrines the faith which made Israel invulnerable. Men might destroy their cities, blind their kings, rob their nobles of freedom, yet somehow or other the consciousness of heritage and of destiny never departed from them.
Maclaren says of the series of psalms reaching from the 93rd to the 100th: “Probably the historical fact underlying this new conviction of and triumph in the kingdom of Jehovah is the return from exile, but the tone of prophetic anticipation in these exuberant hymns of confident joy can scarcely fail of recognition. The psalmists sang of an ideal state, to which their most glorious experiences but remotely approximated. They saw not yet all things put under Him, but they were sure that He is king, and they were as sure, though with the certitude of faith fixed on His word and not with that of sight, that His universal dominion would one day be universally recognized and rejoiced in.”
Israel’s faith in the majesty of God made them see an authority presiding over every wild and lawless thing in nature. The surging sea, the thunderstorm, tempest and fire are all beneath His control. His majesty and strength are seen in the continuity of natural law, and in the fact that each year is crowned with fruitfulness. In the midst of the chance and change of the seasons there is consciousness of the fact that the universe is built on pillars that are strong. Let the waves of passion beat on the shore as furiously as they will, there is a limit to their striving, and soon they will be turned into submission.
Whatever the outward seeming might be, Israel turned to the thought of God’s house as the most comforting place in all the world. The awful majesty that subdues raging tempests reveals itself as the refuge and strength of His people, and therefore are they enjoined to approach that house with holiness.
Our Father, we thank Thee that the floods shall not overwhelm us, but that when we pass through deep waters Thou wilt be our comfort and stay. We pray that we may ever worship Thee in the beauty of holiness, that we may approach Thee with reverent awe. Keep back Thy servants from presumptuous sins, and let them not have dominion over us! For Christ’s sake. Amen.
There are times when belief in the divine omnipotence is the most comforting of all our views of God, when we must know that the world is held in hand by One who is mighty. There are other times when it is imperative that we should know God as the judge of all the earth, who ‘will do righteously. When the faithful ones in Israel were coming to grips with Antiochus Epiphanes they needed to stand together, yet their rulers, including the high priests, became the allies of their foes and actually undertook to punish all who were faithful It was a time when men needed the martyr spirit. And it was a time when they needed to know that the foundations of God’s throne were justice and judgment. This psalm was composed for such a period.
Do not brand a man as hard and narrow and vindictive because he beseeches God to smite and burn the lies that vex our groaning earth. Be ashamed of yourself if looking upon the injustices and wickednesses which torture myriads of human hearts, you have imagined a cosmos which take such things for granted. Sainthood is the mother of compassion. The holy Chr-st trembles with compassion for those who are as sheep having no shepherd.
The psalmist looks on the arrogant rulers of Israel who give themselves airs, and exercise tyranny over the poor and defenseless. The widow and the fatherless, the stranger within the gate cannot protect themselves. A king is supposed to be a kinsman, a strong champion of the defenseless. These over-lords are brutally callous, and strike where they ought to soothe and heal. No one could so act unless he were a believer in a little god. Thank God, there have always been men of moral courage, who, though devoid of material resources, have yet been able to champion the people s cause and to declare the word of the Lord to the rulers of Sodom. As Maclaren says: “Ahab had his Elijah, and Herod his John the Baptist. The succession has been continued through the ages.”
Does oppression yield no benefit? Is not discipline educative? God trains men in a hard school. It is only through the fiery furnace that the eyes of tyrants gain a vision of the Son of God, and it is only in that furnace that men discover the greater Man who is their Comforter and their Saviour.
Do not undervalue that discovery. The way to heaven is narrow and blood-stained, but it is blessed to have heaven within the range, of your aspiring. And do not forget that heaven implies hell. It is a blessed thing to know not merely that by the cross you gain the crown, but also that eternal wrath is kindled against all iniquity and those who devise it. We have a great champion, and can rest on Him as our vindicator. Eternal justice is the foundation on which the heavenly order is to be reared.
O God, who art just in all Thy ways, we worship Thee! We thank Thee that the cause of the weak and the fatherless is Thine, and that Thou wilt do justly to the afflicted and destitute, and wilt rescue those who are weak and needy. We beseech Thee to arise in our time and to justify the confidence of those who put their trust in Thee. Deliver those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, protect all those who call upon Thee! Help us to become like Thee in justice and in compassion! For Christ’s sake. Amen.
So much of what we call poetry is nothing more than musical speech. We like the sound of our own voices, and use phrases that are rhythmical, even though meaningless. This is true of many of our sacred songs. What, for example, is the meaning of the line, “With eyes majestic after death,” or “Beautiful isle of somewhere”? An oriental poet never writes like that; his phrases are full of meaning. This is best seen in the psalms. We have here a little poem of rejoicing in Jehovah as the creator and ruler of His people, and every phrase counts.
Our worship lacks spontaneity. We follow a routine, we sing by proxy, we seldom ejaculate a fervent hallelujah to Jehovah. The Hebrew puts us to shame, for his sense of God was so acute that the fleecy cloud, the murmuring breeze, the wild tempest, the foam-flecked sea, made him to rejoice and to shout aloud to God. Whenever he looked on the world as revealing
the majesty of God he was constrained to rejoicing, and when he surveyed the page of history or called to mind the Lord’s dealings with himself as with his fathers he was filled with reverent awe.
Do not be too much afraid of anthropomorphism. There is great comfort in believing in the pitying eye of God, in nestling in the everlasting arms, in trusting in the hand of the Almighty. It is blessed to know that we are the sheep of His hand. Maclaren says: “The repeated reference to the hand of Jehovah is striking. In it are held the deeps. It is a plastic hand, forming the land as a potter fashioning his clay. It is a shepherd’s hand, protecting and feeding his flock. ‘The sheep of His hand’ suggests not merely the creative but the sustaining and protecting power of God. It is hallowed forever by our Lord’s words, which may be an echo of it: ‘No man is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.'”
It is possible for us to fail in worship through our too eager exuberancy of speech. The silence of a modern congregation might be a good thing if it were devoted to attentive and reverent listening for the voice of God, but alas! It is not a silence at all. The congregation has hired people to make a noise, and it oftentimes is so loud that men and women come and go from God’s house without hearing a syllable of what the heavenly Father has been speaking to their hearts. This is the danger feared by the psalmist. It is possible for our natures to cease to react, for us to become truth-hardened. The Israelites had witnessed many wondrous deliverances and gracious interventions, and experienced marvelous guidance at the hands of God; yet they had grown insensitive, and had taken things for granted. Led by the cloud and pillar of fire they spoke of each day as common, they became ingrates, their hearts were estranged. So odious did they become that Jehovah hid Himself from them, and let them try their own ways until they found them bitter.
O Lord, forgive our presumptuous sins! Forgive us in that we have taken Thy guidance and protection for granted, and have not had regard for Thy will and Thy glory in the wondrous circumstances which Thou hast arranged for us! Perfect that which is lacking in our faith, wc beseech Thee! Help us to overcome the world, help us to conform ourselves to Thee in all things! For Christ’s sake. Amen.
The nation that recognizes no responsibility beyond its own security and prosperity, that has no vision beyond its own frontiers, that does not know other peoples save for what it can get out of them, that has no sense of kinship with the world and of a common destiny with the rest of humanity, fails in all that makes for greatness. In the period following the exile Israel found her soul through her sense of mission to the peoples of the world. Instead of expecting all the nations to come to her she recognizes a duty to go to them. Instead of asserting superiority she invites them to amity, and asks them to use her altar fires. In her new temple the Gentile courts were spacious.
Alas! she lost the vision and cluttered up the Gentile courts with booths and weights and measures, turning what was holy into a market place, so that the first act of the Son of man when He reached the Temple after embarking on His mission was to hurl the money-changing tables out of the way, and clear a space for the Gentiles to approach.
The new song is one of gladness in the vision of Jehovah’s authority and sway as being over all. The gods of the Gentiles are nothing, and do nothing for their worshipers, they are impotent and worthless, but Jehovah is surrounded by majesty and splendor, strength and beauty. These are ministers waiting upon Him, these are the atmosphere surrounding His throne.
It may be long before all that the psalmist dreams of will be realized, but the Golden Age will come. Others weave legends of a golden age in the long ago; the man of faith says it is coming in the first or in the third watch.
The language of this psalm is borrowed from several other psalms. It shows men of faith agreeing that Jehovah cannot be limited, and that all men have their heritage in Him. These other people share in the priesthood of believers, and are invited to bring their offering and come into His courts.
See to it that your communion table is always open to reverent and obedient penitent hearts. Do not erect barriers and gates, but let men have free access to the heart of God.
In conclusion the psalmist sees all nature sharing the blessed life. It is the thought of Isaiah and of Paul. As Maclaren says: “A poet invests nature with the hues of his own emotions, but this summons of the psalmist is more than poetry. How the transformation is to be effected is not revealed, but the consuming fires will refine, and at last man will have a dwelling place where environment will correspond to character, where the external will image the inward state, where a new force of the material will be the ally of the spiritual, and perfected manhood will walk in a new heaven and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
Our Father, we would sing and make melody unto Thee because Thou art the judge of all the earth, and guidest the world with righteousness and compassion. We thank Thee for the assurance that one day we shall see all things made new, that nature will have reached perfectness, and the sons of men will know themselves as children of God. Hasten the coming of that day, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.
Kent says: “This psalm is connected with Psalms 93 and 99 by the same impressive introductory formula, ‘Jehovah reigneth.’ Each of these psalms presents a vivid, majestic picture of Jehovah enthroned on high, ruling the universe with the principles of justice and righteousness. Few psalms express more nobly the spirit of worship. Nowhere in human literature is theology taught more impressively and effectively.”
On the other hand, Maclaren connects it with Psalm 96, saying it presents Jehovah as king but from a fresh point of view, representing His rule under the form of a theophany, [Theophany: Manifestation of God that is tangible to the human senses. In its most restrictive sense, it is a visible appearance of God in the Old Testament period] which may possibly be regarded as the fuller description of the coming of Jehovah with which Psalm 96 closes.
The first lesson to be learned is from the quotations with which the psalm abounds. This man builds on the past in the sense that he believes that what God was He is. It is a mistake to imagine that the Lord does not speak directly to men today. He always speaks to those who will listen. Because men could not hear or understand the words that Christ wanted to say has He refrained and does He mean to refrain from saying them? We must learn to say: “I will hear what God the Lord will say unto me: speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.”
The word does not need to be original in order to be new. It needs to be the word for this time. We do not outgrow the Bible. We shall find our knowledge of God coming as a revelation when we reopen our Bibles and relearn their contents.
Has God withdrawn His theophany because for the time there are mists and clouds hiding it? The psalmist waits for the mists to clear, and is expectant of a partial or complete revelation whenever the clouds break. If we felt the awe of the cloud we should be comforted by the bright light in the cloud. The psalmist is conscious that righteousness is the foundation of His throne, and that glory lies within the mantle of the cloud and shall one day burst on the sight of all. Behind the mystery he is ever sure of the holiness, righteousness, consuming fire, delivering power. Whenever God breaks through the cloud all nations shall know that almightiness expresses itself in loving-kindness. Every false thing which has frightened men will be revealed in its impotence.
In the hour when Jehovah is unveiled gladness will come into hearts which for a brief period were fearful and perplexed. We shall know in that day that when we revolt from evil we are beloved of God. No more wondrous fact exists than that while we were sinners Christ died for us. Yet our personal acquaintance with that love demands that because of it we recoil from and repudiate sin. What comfort there is in the words, “Light shineth forth for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart”
Dear Lord, we thank Thee that in the day when men imagined that the Son of God had been destroyed He was asserting His authority in heaven and in earth, and sending His gospel unto all nations. We adore Thee that in the world’s darkest hour the Spirit of God caused men to see visions and dream dreams, and we pray that we may go forth to do our work as those who have beheld Thy glory and know Thee as rejoicing in righteousness. For Thy name’s sake. Amen.
Some think that originally this psalm was connected with Psalm 96. It is evident that its author was acquainted with the second part of Isaiah. The psalmist announces the facts concerning God’s deliverances, and responds to them with praise. He thinks the providences of God are self-evident, and must challenge the ends of the earth to adoring wonder and praise. God acts in accordance with His nature. He creates and destroys according to eternal principles. He continues the order of nature, the course of the sun through the heavens, the distillation of moisture, the changing seasons, whether men are good or bad. He so loved the world and commended His love toward the world that while we were yet sinners He gave His only begotten Son, and the attitude of the world to Him does not alter the fact. One day the ends of the earth will recognize the fact, and joy will flood the souls of men. God’s deeds are not dependent on our recognition of them.
More precious than sacrifices and burnt offerings is intelligent, soulful praise. God will never come to His triumph until all men spontaneously respond to the challenge of His loving-kindness and His righteous acts. One day the nations of the earth will share a common emotion and sing a new song in unison. In that day the divine sovereignty will be recognized by the travailing earth, which will have found her redemption and know that her mission is complete. Righteousness and equity are the foundations of the divine government of the world, and when the nations I have learned their lesson and bent themselves beneath the judgments of their Lord, then the universe will break forth into melody, and creation will enter into its rest.
Our Father, we thank Thee that Thou knowest those who are Thine, who grieve over everything that is hostile to Thy will, who are distressed at the abominations which are in the earth. Those who bear the cross shall share the crown. Help us to be faithful, grant unto us grace to endure! May we learn to fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ on behalf of the faithful! In His name. Amen.
There is no sovereignty like that of holiness. Israel rejoiced in her divine king because His character was the guarantee of His triumph. Holiness combined with infinite power and knowledge seems to make God remote. What can mortals do but stand in awe of Him? And yet, if He is holy He must be just, and His sovereignty is the pledge of righteousness as triumphant in the earth. It is a great discovery to know that the universe is built on moral principles, and that the Judge of all the earth will execute justice and righteousness.
We know the vanity of trusting in the integrity and power of earthly potentates. Emperors and presidents, they alike fall short. Their judgments are partial; they are not impelled by love. Because Jehovah is holy, men may worship Him. This is the secret of Israel’s story. The fathers of the race made discovery of the character of God, and worship became the foundation of society.
Maclaren says: “From venerable examples the psalmist draws instruction as to the nature of the worship befitting the holiness of Jehovah. He goes deeper than all sacrifices, or than silent awe. There is a commerce of desire and bestowal between the holy Jehovah and us. But these answers come on certain conditions, which are plain consequences of His holiness, namely, that His worshipers should keep His testimonies, by which He has witnessed both to His own character and to their duty.”
The psalmist has learned that the very heart of holiness is love, and that it is the character of love to forgive. Yet love and forgiveness have moral qualities. Love does not condone, forgiveness is not blind compassion. There must be suffering where there is disease, and sin is disease. Penalties are inevitable to transgression, and Israel learned by bitter experience that God visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations. Only, when Israel is forgiven, it knows that love and goodness are at the heart of suffering, and penalty becomes a means of refinement and ennoblement.
Most gracious and most holy Father, who seekest worshipers who approach Thee in spirit and in truth, we beseech Thee to search us and prove us and see if there be any wicked way in us. Where we are found lacking, show us Thy compassion! Cleanse us from iniquity, and release us from the dominion and power of sin! Help us to love Thee with all our being! For Christ’s sake. Amen.
There is an imperative in holiness which is felt by all men. Whether holiness displays itself as justice, purity or love it challenges the soul to reverent awe. Its authority is absolute. Worship is man’s response to the challenge of holiness. Because Jehovah is God the whole earth is commanded to pay Him homage.
Israel’s history is a witness to the character of God. All the earth can read the record. He has proved Himself a jealous God and a consuming fire, He has displayed His glory in loving-kindness and tender mercy. He has shown Himself a God of deliverances, a present help in trouble. This is the secret of Israel’s joy in worship. Her temple stands open to all the earth.
Maclarcn says: “The depths of sorrow, both of that which springs from outward calamities and of that more heart-breaking sort which wells up from dark fountains in the soul, have been sounded in many a psalm. But the Psalter would not reflect all the moods of the devout soul unless it had some strains of unmingled joy.”
Not only does Jehovah show forth His majesty in Israel’s story but also in all nature. His character is consistent. From everlasting to everlasting He is God, and His nature is definable in terms of goodness. Kindness is the key to the heart of God. We do well to sing:
“There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
Like the wideness of the sea;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.”
How can the beholders of loving-kindness withhold the homage of their hearts? No wonder the psalmist anticipates the day when Israel’s hosannas will be mingled with the praise of all the earth.
Our Father, we pray for grace to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. When we seek Thy face we would entreat Thee in His name; as we confront the circumstances of life and look upon the restless sea of human life we would be possessed of His spirit; when entering the garden of sorrow and facing the challenge of faith zee would learn from Him the secret of self-abnegation; when conscious of the approach of the last enemy we would be of good cheer because He has overcome the world. Help us so to live, we beseech Thee! Amen.
Commentators have taken widely different views of the authorship of this psalm. Some have called it an ideal description of a Jewish king. Perowne thinks that it may have been written by David in the early part of his reign, when his heart was so true to his God, and Maclaren takes the same view. Kent, on the other hand, avers: “This psalm is an important historical document. In 1 Maccabees 14. [Maccabees also spelled Machabees, four books, none of which is in the Hebrew Bible but all of which appear in some manuscripts of the Septuagint.] 14 it is recorded of Simon, the Maccabean ruler, that “he strengthened all the distressed of his people, he was full of zeal for the law, and every lawless and wicked person he banished.’ There is every reason to believe that this psalm voices the ideals of Simon.” Whoever was the author, the psalm presents us with a mirror for rulers which has significance for all time.
First, a king should be a man of such integrity, moral courage, honor and justice that men can trust him. He is ideally a divine vicegerent, and therefore should build his life on the character of God, who is just and merciful. Every man should have a standard to which he conforms his motives and acts, and a king should take God for his pattern. This king builds his life on piety. In the next place, he recognizes his personal responsibility and the need for singleness of aim. Further, he realizes the influence of environment on judgments; a man is responsible for his friends and advisers. “Walk with wise men and thou shalt be wise, but the companion of fools shall smart for it.” Because of his responsibility this king beseeches God to dwell within him and to enable him to walk in a perfect way. No man is safe until he has made certain moral repudiations.
Second, a king should have a pure court The corruption in kings’ palaces has become a byword. The courtesan, the deceiver, the seeker for place and power, the slanderer, have wrought mischief in all countries and in all ages. This man will permit none but honorable men to occupy places of distinction. Maclaren says: “The vices against which he will implacably war are not gross crimes such as ordinarily bring down the sword of public justice. This monarch has regard to more subtle evils,—slander, superciliousness, inflated vanity. His eyes are quick to mark ‘the faithful in the land. He looks for those whose faithfulness to God guarantees their fidelity to men and their general reliableness. In that court dignity and office will go not to talent, or to crafty acts of senility, or to birth, but to moral and religious qualities.”
Third, this ruler will try to make his personal ideals the standards for civil and political life throughout the country. “Fast as evil springs under shelter of darkness, it shall be destroyed with the returning light. The allusion is, doubtless, to the oriental custom of holding courts of law in the early morning. Day by day will he exercise his work of righteous judgment, purging out all ungodliness from the Holy City.” We do well to have these verses in mind when choosing our rulers, remembering that as are the rulers so are the governed. Godly men have a great responsibility for the well-being of the state.
O Lord, our heavenly Father, the high and mighty Ruler of the universe, who dost from Thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth, most heartily we beseech Thee with Thy favor to behold and bless all who are in authority, and so replenish them with the grace of Thy Holy Spirit that they may always incline to Thy will, and walk in Thy ways! Endue them plentcously with heavenly gifts, grant them in health and prosperity long to live, and finally, after this life, to attain everlasting joy and felicity, through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.
These are the words of a personal sufferer. It may be that they have been taken up by a community of suffering saints, for somehow each man’s experience is the key to our common humanity. Originally, however, the words were not for liturgical use, but the expression of an individual’s anguish.
The psalmist was already acquainted with the outpourings of other singers of the songs of Zion. The wise man will fortify himself with the words of God, that he may draw upon them in days of trouble. This man is not a copyist; the words of Scripture are so much a part of himself that he uses them spontaneously to express his own emotion. His condition is pitiable. His life is passing as smoke, fever is burning in him, he is like one suffering from sunstroke, he is emaciated with suffering and pain. His anguish is mental as well as physical, and drives him in upon himself. He is as solitary as a pelican, which is described as the most somber of birds; he is like an owl in a ruined fortress, or a sparrow that has lost its mate and laments on the house top for hours. His enemies say that God has made a public spectacle of him.
That which adds wormwood and gall to his cup is the thought that he suffers because God is angry with him. Sin is the root of his misery. So terrible is God that He has thrust forth His hand and taken this poor man into His grip, and hurled him aloft and away as an utterly worthless and contemptible thing. The figure is so violent that one shrinks from the thought that any man could employ it of himself, and inclines to the idea that it must have been employed to describe the experience of Israel. If, however, it leads to a new and deeper experience of God as One whose every act is inspired by love and grace, and creates a belief that judgment is redemptive, then it can be read as a gospel. And that is what we find in the words which follow, and which are a song of Zion’s deliverance.
We thank Thee, O God, for that discipline whereby Thou dost separate that
in us which is excellent, which reveals us as Thy offspring, from that which is worthless. Thou dost test us and purify us, Thou dost sift us and sanctify us. Thou canst not be satisfied if we fail of the best. Give us grace to know Thy purpose in the midst of discipline, that so we may be submissive and patient, ever believing in Thy wisdom and love! For Christ’s sake. Amen.
It is a great moment in a man’s life when facing his individual grief, or the calamities of the nation, he is constrained to say of God the omnipotent, “But Thou I” Perowne says: “This is the great consolatory thought by which he rises above his sorrow. He, the individual, may perish, but Zion’s hopes rest on her eternal King.”
And yet this might seem, as Calvin remarks, a far-fetched consolation. What is it to us that God changeth not, that He sitteth king forever, if meanwhile our condition is so frail and feeble that we cannot continue for a moment? His unchangeable peace and blessedness do but make our life seem the more complete mockery. But the psalmist recalls God’s promises to Zion, especially that great covenant promise: “I will dwell in the midst of you.” Resting on this, he feels sure that God’s children, however miserable their state, shall have their share in that heavenly glory wherein God dwelleth. Because God changes not His promise and covenant change not, and therefore we may ever lift our eyes to His throne in heaven, from which He will surely stretch forth His hand to us.
How can men face life unless their faith is rooted in a personal God whose name and nature they know? It seems as though each man ought not to risk life’s adventure until he has made the great discovery. Jacob’s life was vacillating until he had wrestled with his problem. To believe in a personal God is to believe in a set time for the revelation of His power and delivering mercy. He is interested in our ideals, and it is His purpose to make them actualities.
Because of what shall happen to us the whole world will learn to worship Jehovah. Maclaren says: “The psalmist’s confidence teaches us never to despair of the future of God’s church, however low its present state, but to look down the ages in calm certainty that however externals may change the succession of God’s children will never fail, nor the voice of their praise ever fall silent.”
There is more in this psalmist’s song than he himself imagines. When we turn to the Epistle to the Hebrews we find his language quoted as a fore-gleam of the coming Messiah in whom creation and redemption met and blended, in whom Jehovah’s actions were completed. Words uttered by one whose eyes had been washed by tears found their interpretation in Jesus, in whom God was manifest.
Our God, we praise Thee for the new day with which Thou hast blessed us. Once we were separate from Christ, now we are reconciled; once we had no lot in Thy kingdom, now we are enfranchised; once we were in a silent universe, now we hear and recognize Thy voice; once we had no hope, now our souls have found a sure anchorage; once we had no God, now we know Thee as our Father. Help us to live in the happiness of love! For Christ’s sake. Amen.
“This psalm is a meditation as well as a prayer of adoration. Its appreciation of Jehovah’s character and attitude toward men, its childlike, filial trust, and its faith in His universal kingdom and rule, all connect it closely with the teachings of Jesus.” It is built on those words found in Exodus 34.6: “Jehovah, tenderly compassionate and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.”
There is not one sad note in the whole of this psalm. From beginning to end it pulsates with joy. The psalmist is enraptured with God. He would not merely sing of the divine faithfulness, nor bow in reverent awe before the ineffable Presence, but he would challenge every faculty, his reason, his emotions, his will, his moral nature, everything that is high and good, to ascribe adoration unto Jehovah.
Our first betrayal is in our recollectedness. We take providence for granted. We accept the benefactions of God as matters of course. The psalmist will guard his soul against the sin of ingratitude. Therefore he recounts the wondrous mercies of which he has been recipient.
There is the blessing of forgiveness. When standing in the white light of love the soul becomes conscious of its blemishes and pollutions. If we may yet call upon God and know ourselves as the objects of His regard, it is because of His pardoning love.
There is the blessing of healing, not only of a body that is diseased but of a sick soul also. Augustine says: “Even when sin is forgiven thou still carriest about with thee an infirm body. Death is not yet swallowed up in victory, this corruptible hath not yet put on incorruption, still the soul herself is shaken by passions and temptations. But thy sicknesses shall all be healed, doubt it not! They are great, thou wilt say, but the Physician is greater. God made thy body, God made thy soul. He knoweth how to re-create that which He created, He knoweth how to re-form that which He formed. Only be thou still under the hands of the Physician.”
Not only does God rescue a man from the grave, He makes his life a beatification. The glory of God is His loving-kindness and tender mercy, and with these He crowns His beloved, He grants to him the secret of perennial youth. Maclaren says: “How should a man thus dealt with grow old? The body may, but not the soul. Rather it will drop powers that can decay, and for each thus lost will gain a stronger moulting and not be stripped of its wings, though it changes their feathers.”
Our Father, we would learn to keep silence before Thee. Our lives are like the surging sea, tossed by care and need. We pray for the grace of silence, that so we may hear what Thou hast to say to us. For Christ’s sake. Amen.
What is the foundation of the psalmist’s confidence? It is the product of experience, but it is founded upon the declared character of God. Because the Lord reigneth in the exercise of righteousness, because He is declared to be the champion of the weak, because all history bears testimony to the character of His government of the race, because He has revealed His nature and His will through Moses to the children of the covenant, therefore the psalmist challenges every attribute of his being to adoration. “He is not spinning a filmy idea of a God out of his own consciousness, but he has learned all that he knows of Him from His historical self-revelation.”
Beware of those ideas which are merely the objectivisation of your best self and which vain men would label God, and of that talking to your best ideas which is foolishly misnamed prayer. Make sure that you bend your knees to God, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and that He hears prayer.
The background of faith is the actuality of God’s reign in the earth, the belief that He intervenes. He is not silent, He has not created a vast machine and left it to work. He is in a world of free beings where wills may be set in defiance of His will and for the perpetuation of wickedness, and He has determined that justice shall triumph. Man’s safety and peace lie in the discovery of God’s ways of acting. Moses described the secret of a good man’s life when he offered the prayer: “If I have found grace in Thy sight, shew me now Thy way, that I may know Thee!” To that prayer there came a gracious answer: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” The psalmist builds on that word as the revelation of God, and great peace floods his soul.
If the Almighty were in eternal opposition to us, if there were no further revelation than that His face is against them that do evil, we should become fatalists rather than the children of eager anticipation. Isaiah tells us: “For not forever will I contend, and not perpetually will I be angry; for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.” God does not cherish a grudge against us. The champion of the oppressed, He is also full of wise understanding and tender solicitude. This is the foundation of the gospel, this is why men repent of sin; the goodness of Jehovah leads them to repentance. .
O God, we would rest in Thy love, we would surrender ourselves to Thy control. Help us to sit at Thy feet as Thy dear children, reveal unto us Thy way, grant us the spirit of self-forgetfulness in Thy service, help us to be sincere and to respond to the promptings of Thy Spirit! For Christ’s sake. Amen.
God is not a harsh and vindictive judge. He has no pleasure in punishment. The Scriptures are full of the sorrows of God; He bears our sins and carries our griefs. His punishments are for our correction, and every one of them is potential with blessing.
Psalm 36 testifies: “Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds”; and Psalm 57: “Thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and Thy truth unto the clouds.” So here the psalmist exults in the fact that as high as the heavens are above the earth, so mighty is His loving-kindness upon them that fear Him. The idea is that God’s love is immeasurable. We have no instrument by which we can gauge its magnitude and strength. As Maclaren says: “Traverse heaven to the zenith, and from sunrise to sunset, to find distances distant enough to express the towering height of God’s mercy and the completeness of His removal from us of our sins.”
The fact of God’s love is demonstrated by its relationship to our sins. The Bible is the only book in the world that frankly faces the sin of man in its relation to God; it is the only book that adequately describes sin; it is the only book that believes in its forgiveness. We start with the first sin and its penalty, we end with the invitation to take the water of life freely; between we have been shown the anguish of hell, where the fire is unquenched and the worm does not die, and we are told of the greater anguish of One who bore our sins and died that we might be forgiven. The Old Testament tells us that God will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea, that He will cast them behind His back, that “as far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” The New Testament tells us how and why He has done it, how the grace of God hath appeared bringing salvation to all men. Let us adore the Lord who can abundantly pardon!
Our Father, be with us as we go forth into life! Grant that we may not become so absorbed in our work that we forget our responsibility for the development of Christlike characters! May our souls become our chief concern, and their nurture our main business! Let the love df Christ become the constraining force in all our judgments! For His sake. Amen.
Psalm 103.13, 14
The last thought which men have entertained of God is that of father. The history of religion outside of Christianity is not the record of children meeting their heavenly Father. Fear hangs like a pall over the lives of the non-Christian world. It is difficult to persuade men who are not acquainted with the story of Christ that God is like a father. Someone has said: “Men said, God was like Hercules in the invincible strength with which He crushed the evils of the world and made an end of them. Later still Plato advanced the suggestion that God was like a ‘geometer,’ a thinker and fashioner, full of ideas and ideals. In this most wonderful and most gracious lyric, the 103rd Psalm, the seer surpasses all the great historical religions and pictures God to us as a pitiful, compassionate, sin-forgiving and soul-healing father, and thus supplies the basis for the most true, most worthy, and most inspiring conception of God.”
We need to begin our thought about life with the pity of God. It is the core of religion. Eight times over in the gospels we are told of Him who was the revealer of God: “Seeing the multitude He was moved with compassion.” Providence is the record of forbearance, adaptation, pity. The incarnation is the doctrine of the Son of God’s identification with lost humanity.
“He remembereth that we are dust.” Dust is synonymous with frailty. God knows us and our frailty, and pities us. He knows our frame, and remembers the duality of our nature, our ignorance, the incidents of our career, the force of circumstance, the tyranny of habit, the fetters of ignorance.
God’s pity is on them that fear Him. Fear is different from dread, fear is not to be identified with terror. Fear is the opposite of recklessness; it means reverence, recognizing the solemn responsibility of life. Ruskin says: “Among the children of God, while there is always that fearful and bowed apprehension of His majesty and that sacred dread of all offense to Him which is called the fear of God, yet of real and essential fear there is not any, but clinging of confidence to Him as their rock, fortress and deliverer.”
Our Father, we rejoice in the constancy of Thy presence. We thank Thee that even our transgressions do not hide us from Thee. Thine eye seest us in our sin as in our righteousness, and when our hearts cry out against us Thou art greater than our hearts, and declarest to us Thy message of love, Thy willingness to pardon. Accept our adoration, we beseech Thee! In Christ’s name. Amen.
A being fragile as a potter’s vase needs to be handled gently. A life like a prairie flower, which expresses itself for a moment in beauty and fragrance and then wilts and withers, is pathetic in its weakness and appeals to the great Artificer. Sometimes the thought of human life as possessed of the frailty of a flower brings comfort to a man who watches those who do iniquitous deeds. It is a comfort to know that the mighty arm of oppression will lose its force. Sometimes it is tragic, as when we see a generation of struggling, aspiring, loving, hating men and woman passing away and leaving no trace behind. In those hours a man needs to make discovery of God the unchangeable, in order that he may remain a child of hope and realize the comfort of His presence.
Again we find comfort in the loving-kindness of God toward them that fear Him. As Perowne says: “As if to remind us that there is a love within a love,—a love which they only know who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, who fear Him and walk in His ways,—as well as a love which maketh the sun to shine, and sendeth rain upon the just and the unjust. In the next verse there is the same limitation, To such as keep His covenant, and to those who not only know but do His will. The blessings of the covenant are no inalienable right. Children’s children can only inherit its blessings by cleaving to it.”
From thought of self the psalmist listens to the universe, and learns that all nature is vocal. The challenge to his soul is met by the chorus of created things, mighty warriors of the air and sky, winds and lightnings and every force that expresses itself and fulfills the will of Him who sends it forth. Everything is articulate with praise. How then shall he who is the interpreter of nature remain silent? He will add his voice to the chorus, and sing his hymn of praise with every element of being.
Our Father in heaven, we pray that the light of life may shine within us, that in the hour when the Bridegroom comcth we may be found with our lamps trimmed and burning, our loins girt, our feet shod, our souls prepared. Teach us to wait for the coming of our Lord! Amen.
The psalmist starts out with the idea of nature as the ever-changing vesture of God, and in this psalm we have an interpretation of the goings forth of the Eternal, and the response of nature to His presence.
The universe is not adrift in space, it is ordered and controlled by Him who made it and who directs its way. It is not capable of continuance without His wise control and supervision. God has not made the universe a finished thing. He only rested from His labor of creation when man appeared. Since then He has been active, renewing the face of the earth, leading all creation to its goal. Of each new generation it is true He giveth life and breath and all things.
Some have conjectured that the psalmist may have been in Egypt and become acquainted with certain Egyptian songs of creation, but anyone who has compared the sacred odes of other nations with those of Israel knows that there is a sublimity and purity and moral consciousness about these latter which make them unique. “The psalm is a gallery of vivid nature-pictures, touched with wonderful grace and sureness of hand.” It has been called the Psalm of the Cosmos.
Look then upon the activity of God. He takes to Himself a vesture of light. The vesture hides Him, yet expresses Him. Calvin says: “In comparing the light to a robe he signifies that though God is invisible yet His glory is manifest. If we speak of His essential being, it is true that He dwelleth in light inaccessible; but inasmuch as He irradiates the whole world with His glory, this is a robe wherein He in some measure appears to us as visible, who in Himself had been hidden.” How sublime are the divine actions! The speeding face of the sky is like the shaping out of a tent in which one would sojourn for a moment
Listen to the voice of the wind; how aloof, how solemn, how kind! Newman says: “But how do the wind and water, earth and fire move? Now here Scripture interposes, and seems to tell us that all this wonderful harmony is the work of angels. Those events which we ascribe to chance (as the weather), or to nature (as the seasons), are duties done to that God who maketh His angels to be winds, and His minister a flame of fire. Thus whenever we look abroad we are reminded of those most gracious and holy beings, the servants of the Holiest, who deign to minister to the heirs of salvation. Every breath of air and ray of light and heat, every beautiful prospect is (as it were) the skirt of their garments, the waving of the robes of those whose faces see God in heaven.”
“Father, we thank Thee for the world about us, and above, and beneath. We bless Thee for the austere loveliness of the wintry heavens, for those fixed or wandering fires which lend their splendor to the night, for the fringe of beauty wherewith Thou borderest the morning and the evening sky, and for this daily sun sending his roseate flush of light across the white and wintry world. Amen”
Psalm 104. 5-18
The psalmist’s view of creation is that beneath the heaving mass of waters God was forming the earth in all its beauty of hill and valley, watercourse and broadspreading prairie. In the moment of unveiling He rebuked the sea, and it was gathered within its bounds. No one has expounded the theme more eloquently than John Milton:
“Ye mists and exhalations that now arise From hill or streaming lake, dusky or gray Till the sun paint your fleecy skirts with gold, In honor to the world’s great Author rise. Whether to deck with clouds the uncolored sky, Or wet the thirsty earth with falling showers, Rising or falling, still advance His praise. His praise, ye winds that from four quarters blow, Breathe soft or loud. And wave your tops, ye pines, With every plant in sign of worship wave.”
The psalmist sees tokens of beneficence on every hand. Particularly does he lay emphasis on the watercourses, the rains and dews which are essentially gifts of God, and the generators of life to herb and beast and man. “The mountains are mentioned not only because on them the clouds rest, from them the streams descend, but because Palestine was a land of mountains and of valleys, ‘of the rain of heaven it drinketh water.'” The fruit of the earth combined with human industry provides a banqueting table as is described in verse 15. Jehovah is not sparing in His gifts, He bestows His blessings with a lavish hand.
Our God, who hast given to this age its solemn task, we pray that Thou wouldst enable it to make it nobler and stronger than the age that has passed. Grant that it may be guided and instructed by prophetic souls who shall establish what is right, and expose and condemn everything that is evil! Let it know the blessedness of pardoned sin, the privilege of sacrificial service! We ask it for Christ’s sake. Amen.
Maclaren says: “With verse 19 the psalmist thinks of moon and sun only in relation to the alternation of day and night as affecting creatural life on earth. The moon is named first because the Hebrew day began with the evening. It is the measurer, by whose phases seasons (or, according to some, festivals) are reckoned. The sun is a punctual servant, knowing the hour to set and duly keeping it. ‘Thou appointest darkness, and it is night.’ God wills, and
His will effects material changes. He says to His servant night, ‘Come,’ and she comes.” Do not lose the poetry of life. Beware lest science blind the eyes of your heart, and the universe become to you a vast nothingness.
Very fine is the psalmist’s delineation of the business of the night. The hours in which wild beasts can issue from their lairs and pursue their hunting, are the hours in which man the worker may find rest and refreshment for the challenging moments of dawn. Man needs food, but unlike the beasts he cannot live by hunting. If he is to be a man he must live by digging and delving. The world lies around him rich in possibilities, his business is to create out of it a harvest field, a mine, a city of habitation. He creates a family, a society, a church. His manhood, all that is implied in the term humanity, is the product of work. Man finds the key to life in the words of Jesus Christ: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” Man makes discovery of himself in his labor.
“Not God Himself can make man’s best Without best man to help Him. ‘Tis God gives skill, But not without man’s hands: He could not make Antonio Stradivari’s violins Without Antonio.”
Not only is there a poetry of night and of work, but also of the sea. Perowne says: “Then he remembers that there is one vast field of creative wonders of which as yet he has said nothing. The sea, too, has its life,—a life in its depths, of things small and great, a life of coral insect as well as of the whale, and also a life on its surface, where go the ships carrying the thoughts and the passions, the skill and the enterprise of human hearts.”
Happy indeed must God be in the music of the spheres, happy in beholding a world divinely fair, happy in witnessing the effort, the aspiration, the prayers of men. Happy should man be that he has such a God as creator and friend. Ashamed he ought to be in that his sin has marred the harmony of creation. No wonder that at last the human soul reaches an ecstasy, and cries for the first time, Hallelujah!
With gladsome minds we praise Thee, O God, for Thy kindness, Thy mercy and Thy faithfulness. We magnify Thee for the majesty of Thy strength, the infinitude of Thy resources. Thy bounty is on every, hand, Thy providence is over all Thy works. Help us to live before Thee in reverence, gratitude and obedient service! For Christ’s sake. Amen.
Verses 1-15 are to be found in 1 Chronicles 16. The principle underlying the psalm is that we know what God is like by learning what God has done. The Bible is a statement of facts. God made the heavens and the earth and man. God called Abraham, God moulded Jacob, God overruled the malicious schemes of Jacob’s sons toward their brother Joseph, and turned a young man’s misery into a gospel for the human race. God was in Egypt, and in His own time called His sons out of Egypt. The whole of Israel’s story was a revelation of God to the nations.
If we were to think more on the lessons of history our lives would be more praiseful, and we should have greater confidence in the divine providence. Our praise is so empty because we have been shallow in our thinking. If we knew God as our ally life would assume a new significance.
Someone has spoken of the names ascribed to Israel as indicating their obligations as “secretaries of God’s praise.” God’s relation to Israel was of His own volition, the covenant which He made was because of His love, and the long record of His doings demonstrated His faithfulness.
Do not entertain vague ideas; become positive in your knowledge and belief that God is in your life and is guiding it in mercy. If the divine covenant implies obligations on His part, it also involves obligations on the part of His chosen. The covenant was renewed to each generation. God holds relationship to you as definitely as to your father and mother. Calamities do not imply change on God’s part; they involve suffering, but they also develop knowledge, strength, power; they lead to new discoveries of riches of mind and heart. The psalmist knows the whole dread story of Israel’s suffering in Egypt, but he knows that it was the pathway to glory. The tender mercy of God is over all His works.
We thank Thee, O God, that we have learned to trust Thy wisdom, and know that Thy will is good, when it holds us back as when it speeds us on our way. Thou dost sail life’s sea with us, and we shall not be destroyed, but shall reach the haven of our desire! Give unto us a deeper repose of soul, we beseech Thee! For Christ’s sake. Amen.
This psalm deals with the same theme as the last, but from a different point of view. History vindicates God as true and righteous altogether; history is a long record of humanity’s failure to do and be according to its covenant. No man can study history without being inspired to a belief that at the heart of things there is invincible, everlasting justice. On the other hand, the historian knows the tragedies that arise from faults of temper. Kent says that in this psalm “the general theory of Israel’s history is that of the author of the book of Judges; it was a repeated cycle of rebellion, affliction at the hands of heartless foes, and divine deliverance.” It extols the goodness of Jehovah, and invokes His favor. It tells of His care over an ungrateful people during the exodus and in the wilderness and at Horeb as well as on the borders of Canaan. It continues the story at Baalpeor, Meribah, in Canaan, under the Assyrians and in exile. The soul cannot but exult in God, it cannot but be ashamed of Israel’s failure.
Israel occupies so unique a place in history because her patriots were ready to point out her failures, and she accepted the reproach and made it a litany. America suffers because she has been fed on Decatur’s words: “My country, may she always be in the right; but my country, right or wrong!” She needs to learn to accept rebuke, to humble herself before God.
This psalmist exults in God; the remembrance of the divine love brings happiness, and challenges to prayer. But the other side of things must be faced. The fathers have sinned, and their children have condoned their iniquity. The story of each generation is of faithlessness, ingratitude, obstinacy. Again and again there has been open rebellion against God, deliberate repudiation of morality, assault upon righteous leaders and holy institutions. They have bartered away their God, and got nothing but misery in exchange. When they became apostate they sank to the lowest depths. The gods they chose instead of Jehovah were bestial, and the service they rendered them was infamous. No wonder God was angry.
Yet the story does not end there. Jehovah’s love and compassion persisted, His patience and longsuffering continued through long generations. Prayer is answered, and God’s favor is restored to His penitent people again. No wonder that the psalm closes with Hallelujah!
O Love divine, infinite in tenderness and condescension, we trust Thee in the midst of our sorrows and distresses, for Thy nearness comforts us. When we go into dark shadows Thou art by our side; -when journeying through desert places Thou art as the shadow of a rock; when lonely and disconsolate the wind whispers Thy name and assures us of Thy presence. Blessed be Thy name! Teach us to rejoice in Thee! Through Christ. Amen.
Kent says: “This psalm contains a strong liturgical element. The horizon is not limited to Palestine, but includes the distant lands of the dispersion. In imagination the reader beholds caravans making long journeys through the parched, trackless desert far away from inhabited cities. He shares their joy as at last they are guided to the populous, well-watered city which is the goal of their pilgrimage. He sees captives dragged into distant exile living the life of slaves, in bonds and afflicted by the lash of the taskmaster. Again the vision changes, and he shares the trials and the perils of sailors helplessly tossed by the storm. If not written in one of the lands of the dispersion this psalm is certainly from one who had traveled widely, and observed closely, and himself participated in the life that lay beyond the bounds of Palestine.”
The problem which every good man must face is this: in, times of suffering and calamity is it worth while praying to God? Is providence active? Does God will to interfere in response to the pleading of His children? The psalmist believes that God does interfere, that when trouble drives man to God He shows Himself ready and waiting to be gracious. To emphasize his belief the psalmist pictures life under a variety of figures, each graphically portraying human extremity and the divine intervention.
First, he shows us life under the figure of a caravanserai in the desert. There is nothing but a trackless waste, no oasis, no hillock from which to take your bearings, no water, no shade. Distress has laid its cruel hand upon their spirits. No knowledge of desert life and ways is of value. Their souls are submerged in despair, they are lost, they walk in a circle and ever come back on their tracks. In desperation they cry to God, and beseech Him to guide them in a straight line until they reach an inhabited place.
O God, who givest us all things richly to enjoy, we would not forget Thee in our joy at Thy gifts; we would not derive from Thee life and every good, and yet live as though there were no God. We pray that each day we may enjoy a larger revelation of Thy presence and Thy blessing. Help us to live for Thee, and to become each day more worthy to live with Thee! For Christ’s sake. Amen.
Psalm 107. 10-16
The man who wrote these words knew the prophecies of Isaiah. Compare Isaiah 42.7 and 49.9: “To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners’ from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house”—”That Thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves.”
Israel had literally known the bondage that is the penalty of sin. The pity, the shame, the horror of it was in the soul of the prophets and psalmists. What does it mean? Is the lesson merely the fearful looking-for of judgment and fiery indignation that shall destroy God’s adversaries? No; there is a gospel of doom.
Punishment follows transgression. Sin blinds the soul’s vision and fetters the soul’s freedom, not because God delights in seeing the wicked suffer but yearns to protect the wicked from destruction. He is behind the fetters, as the social instinct is behind law in every civilized community. So He is near when man (or nation) comes to himself, when the heart sobs out its confession and pleads for the privilege of doing something in return for which it may eat spiritual food and dwell in the Father’s house.
Yes, sin drives us into exile, sin enslaves, sin generates the feelings, appetites and outlook of slaves, sin fetters, sin lays on us the lash of a harsh taskmaster. Maclaren says: “Is not godless life ever bondage? And is not rebellion against God the sure cause of falling under a harsher dominion? And does He not listen to the cry of a soul that feels the slavery of subjection to self and sin? And is not true enlargement found in His free service? And does He not give power to break the strongest chains of habit?” Yes, it is God who makes it hard for man to sin; it is God who snaps fetters and bids the enslaved man go forth into a large, free, righteous world.
O God, we thank Thee that Thou hast made our cars to hear Thy voice, and hast brought seeing to our eyes, and understanding to our hearts; that through Thy grace our nature is at last alive, and we begin to discover the strength of manhood. Thy love is forever wooing us. Thou callest us to possess the land of promise, and there to build a temple and a home. Help us to be wholly Thine! For Christ’s sake. Amen.
Sin is not merely as confusing as a trackless desert in which the lost man wanders aimlessly, returning on his steps, without refreshment or shelter or hope, exposed to illusions and desperate; or the fettering of mind and soul driving us into exile, beclouding the vision; it also is like sickness that is the result of folly. This is the foolishness of sinning, that even when men begin to reap the harvest of suffering and disease they persist in their wickedness.
The penalties of wrongdoing are not merely physical, dire as the pains of transgression may be. Who does not know the sickness that follows loss of temper, the strain of nerve that is the result of avarice, the corruption that follows lust? The facts have been reported by text-books, by newspapers, by reports of doctors and magistrates. Yet these are not so awful as the sickness of soul that brings perversity, fear and all the horrors of death and judgment.
Yet these miseries drive us to God, and He answers through His word. He speaks healing words to the penitent soul, He makes known a gospel in the person of His Son, who bears our sins and carries our sorrows. Who can refrain from exulting gladness who knows that it is the Lord who healeth him?
Dear Lord, the desire of every human heart, we praise Thee for the healing of Thy presence, for the constraints of love which draw us to Thy heart. Men may not know that that which they crave is Thy presence, but Thou interpretest their tears and their sighing, and comest to them with healing in Thy wings. Help us to make Thee known! Hasten the day when Thy messengers shall have reached every clime and every people with the word of truth! For Thy name’s sake. Amen.
A fourth picture of human misery finding its cure in God is found in a voyage on a storm-tossed sea. Perowne says: “It is painted as a landsman would paint it, but yet only as one who had himself been exposed to the danger could paint the storm, —the waves running mountains high on which the tiny craft seemed a plaything, the helplessness of human skill, the gladness of the calm, the sure refuge in the haven.” He goes on to quote Addison in the Spectator, who preferred this description of a ship in a storm before any other he had ever met with, and for the same reason for which “Longinus recommends one in Homer, because the poet has not amused himself with little fancies upon the occasion, as authors of an inferior genius whom he mentions had done, but because he has gathered together those circumstances which are the most apt to terrify the imagination, and which really happened in the raging of a tempest. How much more comfortable as well as rational is this system of the psalmist than the pagan scheme in Virgil and other poets, where one deity is represented as raising a storm, and another as laying it! Were we only to consider the sublime in this piece of poetry, what can be nobler than the idea it gives us of the Supreme Being thus raising a tumult among the elements and recovering them out of their confusion, thus troubling and becalming nature?”
There are souls who embark upon the perilous sea of life intent only on their business and their pleasure, who regard the awful majesty of God, yet without reverence. The tempests take them by surprise. Passion and desire sweep through them. The consequences of their wilfulness come back upon them in the furies. At first they brace themselves to the task of mastering circumstances, but ultimately their knowledge, skill, and cunning, their powers of endurance fail, and they fall back beaten and desperate. Then it is that they recognize their need of God, and in response to the cry of anguish He hushes the tempest into a zephyr, and leads them back to safety and to the challenge of the sanctuary.
True repentance leads a man into fellowship with God’s people. He who knows the blessedness of rescue from the furies feels the constraint of confession. He must tell what God has done for his soul.
Our Master, we thank Thee that our lives are known to Thee from their first dawning to their close. Our sufferings and griefs are understood by Thee, for Thou hast traversed our way. When we are tempted it is not beyond the intensity of testing which Thou didst bear. We rejoice in Thy presence, and in the sympathy and love Thou dost manifest to us. Help us to overcome, we beseech Thee! Amen.
Psalm 107. 33-43
Perowne says: “The character of the psalm changes at this point. We have no longer distinct pictures as before; the beautiful double refrain is dropped, the language is harsher and more abrupt. Instead of fresh examples of deliverance from peril and thanksgiving for God’s mercies we have now instances of God’s providential government of the world exhibited in two series of contrasts. The first of these is contained in verses 33-38, and expresses a double change,—the fruitful, well-watered land smitten, like the rich plain of Sodom, with desolation and changed into a salt marsh; and anon the wilderness crowned with cities, like Tadmor, and made fertile to produce corn and wine. The second is contained in verses 39-41, and expresses somewhat obscurely the changes in the fortunes of man (as the last series did those of countries), viz., how the poor and the humble are raised, and the rich and the proud overthrown.”
Many a man through sin finds his life turned into bitterness, the fertility in which he rejoiced becoming nothing more than a salt marsh. Sin is delusive. It promises adventure and achievement, it gives bitterness and barrenness. Sin is a withering blight on life. On the other hand, many a life that seemed ruined and dead, nothing but a salt marsh, has been made verdant, beautiful, life-giving, the habitation of all manner of beautiful and mighty thoughts and achievements. The miracle of the twice-born is the most romantic story the world has ever heard.
Sometimes wickedness asserts itself as tyranny. It attacks the innocent, and seizes the fair smiling land in which honest hearted men have built their homes, and to which they have devoted their strength. Yet God has a way of putting tyrants to confusion, and driving them forth into the desert where they have no wisdom with which to extricate themselves. Never imagine a war as ended where wanton invasion has not been put to shame. God’s actions startle wickedness into silence, while making good men exclaim: “It is the Lord’s doings, and marvelous in our eyes.”
Let us close with a prayer of Isaac Ogden Rankin.
O Thou who hast brought hope into our mortal life by the assurance of our Lord’s rising again as the first fruits of His brethren, help us to be more worthy of our immortality! Give us courage for all experiences, and suffer us not to be so tamely subject to the vexations of these passing days! Spirit of God, by whom we live, keep us ever in a joy above complainings! Let us not murmur when the way is hard, but rather with all gratitude remember that it is the way and Thou our guide! Help us to draw from deeper wells, that we may taste refreshment of the living water! Make all our days Thy care, and be Thou in all our confidence an inward peace! Richly hast Thou endowed us; give us grateful and expectant hearts to find Thee everywhere! O Thou, our rest, let no disturbing or unrestful word find outlet through the door of our lips, but make us always bringers of good cheer, to the glory of Christ! Amen.
Some man of God wishing to express himself toward God drew upon the treasures of song, and put together Psalms 57, 7-11 and 60, 5-12. His people had met with a great victory, and he desired to sing a hymn of thanksgiving.
When he would challenge his glory to sing and play unto God he refers to his soul, to all his rational powers. God waits to be praised by the human reason. Not until a man has surrendered his intellectual powers in adoration of the majesty and goodness of God has he made the full surrender which will guarantee to him the blessedness of communion. This man would testify to the nation that Jehovah is a glorious God, whose loving-kindness and truth reach through the universe. This idea recurs in Scripture: “Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, and Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.”
Matthew Henry thinks that this psalm teaches us how to pray as well as to praise. He emphasizes: (1) we must be public-spirited in prayer, and bear upon our hearts, at the throne of grace, the concerns of the church of God; (2) we must in prayer act faith upon the power and promise of God; what He has promised He will perform, for it is the word both of His truth and of His power; (3) we must in prayer take the comfort of what God has secured to us and settled upon us, though we are not yet put in the possession of it; (4) we must take encouragement from the beginning of mercy, to pray and hope for the perfecting of it; (5) we must not be discouraged in prayer, nor beaten off from our hold of God, though providence has in some instances frowned upon us; (6) we must seek help from God, renouncing all confidence in the creature; (7) we must depend entirely upon the favor and grace of God, both for strength and success in our work and warfare.
Our Lord and God, help us to praise Thee for the love Thou hast bestowed, and the pardoning grace Thou hast imparted. Thou didst seek us when we were far astray, Thou didst rescue us from the paths of death. When we were hopeless Thou didst change life into a song of triumph. Grant that our devotion to Thee may show our gratitude for all Thy benefits toward us! Amen.
This is one of the imprecatory psalms. It is burdened with impassioned pleadings for vengeance. The psalmist cannot restrain his satisfaction at the various horrors which are to come upon his enemies. Driver says: “The psalmist here cries to God for help; he complains that certain malignant foes—we cannot say definitely who they are,—have, without any provocation on his part, brought against him false and malicious charges: ‘They have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my good will.’ Then he singles out, as it seems, the ringleader, and utters upon him a series of anathemas, imprecating upon him and his family misfortunes and trouble in every department of life. ‘Set Thou a wicked man over him, and let an accuser stand at his right hand.’ Let him, i.e., when arraigned in a court of justice have no chance of acquittal, let him have not only an august judge but a malicious accuser to bring about his ruin. When sentence is given upon him let him be condemned, and let his prayer be turned into sin, i.e., may his prayer to God for mercy have the very opposite effect, and draw down upon him the divine wrath!”
We will, not pursue the analysis of the psalm. The language is terrible. How did it-get into the Bible? We find similar language in Jeremiah. We find passages that make us recoil even in Isaiah. What have we to say?
First, these men had a keen sense of the conflict between good and evil. Israel was the champion of God, the nations of the earth were leagued against her. She was jealous for God. She could see nothing but chaos and ruin if God’s cause failed. God could not triumph in this terrible war unless His enemies were defeated. An enemy is not defeated without bloodshed and all the other horrors of the battlefield. The psalmist had not our knowledge, but as far as he knew the case was desperate, and he was fighting a hard and critical battle. This does not excuse, but it explains the temper of the times. Do we realize the crisis? Are we aware that good and evil are in a death grip? Do we feel the issue that is at stake? Is our supineness [indifference] nobler than vehement hate of wickedness?
Second, we must remember that men of a given age are to be judged by the standards of their age and not of another. The men of the Bible were of like passions with ourselves, and said and did many things which we revolt from and repudiate. They must be judged in the light of their times and civilization.
Third, these feelings are not Christian. They would have been intolerable to one who fully knew the spirit of Jesus. Yet they have recurred again and again among the followers of Jesus. The fact is, we are all liable to sin. It is true today: “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” We ought to be charitable; we often are far from it. We need to cry: “From envy, hatred and malice and all uncharitableness, good Lord deliver us!”
Our Father, grant that we may never be false to those glories which Thou hast placed in our hearts and souls! May our lives be blameless, may every faculty be active and at work, may we ever be learning from our Master how to behave so as to please Thee! For His sake. Amen.
Perowne says: “This psalm claims emphatically to be the fruit and record of a divine revelation. The words of the poet, though shaped in the poet’s heart, come to him from the very sanctuary of the Most High. It is an oracle, an utterance of Jehovah, which he has heard and which he is to declare to others. It is an oracle which concerns a king who reigns in Zion; it is addressed to one to whom the poet does homage, calling him Lord; it assures him of the high favor of Jehovah, who lifts him to a share in His own regal dignity, giving him the victory over all his enemies.”
We have then an oracle, a whispered utterance, a revelation heard in the quietness of a man’s soul. How august was the office of a prophet, a man who heard God and uttered what had been whispered in quietness. The message is to a king who is going forth on a holy crusade, who shall bring his foes to the ground. Zion is to be the center of a mighty empire, all enemies shall be submissive and passive beneath his sway. It was a wonderful day when the king led his brave warriors into the battlefield; those soldiers were young and fresh and full of vigor, they had all the freshness of the dew. This king is also a priest, and his campaign is a holy crusade.
What does it mean?
Driver says: “In the Israelite monarchy was foreshadowed the sovereignty to be exercised in the future by David’s Son. Elevated, extended, and spiritualized, the aims and objects of the monarchy of David are the aims and objects of the kingdom of Christ. Like other prophecies, the prophecy of this psalm starts from the present and looks out into the future. We see an earthly monarch engaged in a struggle of flesh and blood and fighting bloody battles with his enemies. We see again traits which pass beyond the literal reality, and lend themselves to an ideal picture. It is in virtue of such traits as these that the psalm is Messianic, prefiguring One in whom they are truly realized.”
O God, the heavens and the earth are filled with the glory of Thy presence! Thy smile gives beauty to the flower. We praise Thee in the midst of Thy creation. Especially do we adore Thee as we realize Thy grace in the removal of the stain and defilement of our sin. We pray that our lives may be spent in Thy service, and that our fidelity may prove our love. For Christ’s sake. Amen.
This is an alphabetical psalm, following the order of the Hebrew alphabet and consisting of twenty-two lines. It celebrates the acts, the glory and righteousness of Jehovah in the assembly of the upright.
The assembly is a more intimate circle than the congregation. They are concerned with God. True worship begins with God. So often we come to God’s house thinking of ourselves, our needs, our work; we are not prepared to meet with Him. “The psalmist begins by declaring that with his whole heart he will give thanks to God: and because to keep his thankfulness and his ascription of praise would be to rob God of half His honor, therefore will he give utterance to his feelings, and give utterance to them in the fitting place, in the congregation of the upright.” Let us not forget that confession of our allegiance to God is essential.
Men are apathetic and forgetful of God. They do not trace His glory, do not recall His graciousness and tender compassion. He has never failed them. History is a witness to providence. Experience is a Bible, telling of a love that is persistent and a forbearance that is infinite. A good man will take pains to instruct others in the fidelity of God to His covenant and the reality of His guidance. He sends redemption to His people in that He rescues them from foes and from those weaknesses of character which restrain them from seeking the land of promise. We need to know and to remember the statutes of the Most High, and that He demands from His children conformity to those ways which He has laid down for their guidance.
Teach us Thy way, O Lord, and help us to walk in it! Grant unto us a reverent knowledge of Thy will; help us to obey every law which Thou hast written in our bodies and souls, and in the lives of men, and all that is enshrined in human history; help us to grow wiser and better! May our religion show itself in our industry, in our doing what should be done, and bearing what must be borne! Help us to live and work for the coming of Thy kingdom! For Christ’s sake. Amen.
Source: Record of Christian Work, Volume 39; By Alexander McConnell, William Revell Moody, Arthur Percy Fitt