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Psalm 48:8-10

8. As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of Jehovah of hosts, [or armies,] in the city of our God: God will establish it for ever. Selah. 9. O God! we have waited for thy mercy in the midst of thy temple. 10. As is thy name, O God! so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of righteousness.

 

8. As we have heard, so have we seen. There are two senses in which this passage may be understood, either of which is suitable. The first is, that the sacred writer, speaking in the name of true believers, declares that the same power which God in the days of old had displayed in delivering their fathers, he now exercised towards their posterity. They had heard from the mouth of their fathers, and had learned from sacred history, how God in his great mercy and fatherly goodness had succoured his Church; but now they affirm that they can bear testimony to this not only from their having heard it spoken about, but also from having seen it, 196196     “Mais maintenant ils disent qu’ils en sont testmoins non pas par avoir ouy dere seulement, mais par avoir veu.” — Fr. inasmuch as they had actually experienced the same mercy exercised by God towards themselves. The amount of what is stated then is, that the faithful not only had a record of the goodness and power of God in histories, but that they also felt by actual experience, yea, even saw with their eyes, what they knew before by hearsay, and the report of their fathers; and that therefore God continues unchangeably the same, confirming as he does, age after age, the examples of his grace exhibited in ancient times, by renewed and ever-recurring experiences. The other sense is somewhat more refined; and yet it is very suitable, namely, That God actually performed what he had promised to his people; as if the faithful had said, that what they had before only heard of was now exhibited before their eyes. As long as we have only the bare promises of God, his grace and salvation are as yet hidden in hope; but when these promises are actually performed, his grace and salvation are clearly manifested. If this interpretation is admitted, it contains the rich doctrine, that God does not disappoint the hope which he produces in our minds by means of his word, and that it is not His way to be more liberal in promising than faithful in performing what he has promised. When it is said, in the city, the letter ב, beth, is taken for מ, mem, or ל, lamed; that is to say, for of, or as to, or with respect to the city. The prophet does not mean to say that in Jerusalem the faithful were informed that God would succor his servants, although this was no doubt true, but that God from the beginning had been the gracious and faithful guardian of his own city, and would continue always to be so. Mention is expressly made of the city of God, because he has not promised to extend the same protecting care to all indiscriminately, but only to his chosen and peculiar people. The name Jehovah of armies is employed to express the power of God; but immediately after the faithful add, that he is their God, for the purpose of pointing to their adoption, that thus they may be emboldened to trust in him, and thus to betake themselves freely and familiarly to him. In the second Council of Nice, the good fathers who sat there wrested this passage to prove that it is not enough to teach divine truth in churches, unless there are at the same time pictures and images for confirming it. This was a piece of silliness very shameful, and unworthy of being mentioned, were it not that it is profitable for us to understand that those who purposed to infect the Church of God with such a corruption, were horribly stricken with a spirit of giddiness and stupidity.

The concluding clause of the verse distinguishes Jerusalem from all the other cities of the world, which are subject to vicissitudes, and flourish only for a time. As Jerusalem was founded by God, it continued steadfast and unmoved amidst the varied commotions and revolutions which took place in the world; and it is not to be wondered at, if he continued through successive ages to maintain the city of which he made choice, and in which it was his will that his name should be called upon for ever. It may, however, be objected, that this city was once destroyed, and the people carried into captivity. But this does not militate against the statement here made; for, before that event happened, the restoration of the city was foretold by Jeremiah 27:22; and, therefore, when it took place, God truly, and in a special manner, showed how steadfast his work was. And now, since Christ by his coming has renewed the world, whatever was spoken of that city in old time belongs to the spiritual Jerusalem, which is dispersed through all the countries of the world. Whenever, therefore, our minds are agitated and perplexed, we should call to remembrance the truth, that, whatever dangers and apprehensions may threaten us, the safety of the Church which God has established, although it may be sorely shaken, can never, however powerfully assaulted, be so weakened as to fall and be involved in ruin. The verb, which is in the future tense, will establish, may be resolved into the past tense, has established; but this will make no difference as to the sense.

9 O God! we have waited for thy mercy This verse teaches us that the faithful were preserved by the power of God; for, when all things were in a state of the greatest confusion, they continued tranquil and patient until God at length, having pity upon them, brought them help. The Hebrew word, דמם, damam, which we have rendered to wait, properly signifies to be silent, and is here used to denote tranquillity of mind. From this we conclude, that the people of God were so harassed with dangers, that, had they listened to the judgment of carnal sense and reason, they would have been overwhelmed with terror; even as we know that men are in a state of continual uneasiness, and are driven hither and thither by contrary waves, until faith tranquillise their minds, and settle them in true patience. The amount of what the Psalmist says is, that the faithful, although severely afflicted, were not driven from their purpose, and prevented from relying upon the aid of God; but that, on the contrary, by their patience and hope, they opened the gate of his grace. It served to magnify and illustrate the greatness of the grace of God, that their expectations of assistance from him were not disappointed. From this we may also deduce the profitable warning, that if the aid of God is withdrawn from us, it is because we distrust his promises, and, by our impatience, prevent his grace, which is laid up for those who wait in patience, from flowing upon us. But what is meant by the expression, In the midst of the temple? Is it that the people of God maintained their faith only in that place, and that each of them ceased to hope as soon as he returned to his own dwelling? No; on the contrary, it is certain that they carried home with them the hope which they had entertained in the temple, that they might continue steadfastly to abide by it. But God having promised that this place, in which he would be called upon, would be the seat and dwelling-place of his power and grace, his people here affirm, that, relying upon this heavenly promise, they were persuaded beyond all doubt that God would show himself merciful and gracious towards them, since they had a real and sure pledge of his presence. We must not conceive, merely because our own fancy suggests it, that God will be our deliverer. We are to believe that he will be so only in so far as he freely and willingly offers himself to us in this character. Now, if this symbol or pledge of the presence of God, which was only a shadow, ought to have had such influence upon the minds of true believers under the former dispensation, as to make them hope for life in the midst of death, surely when Christ has now descended amongst us, to unite us much more closely to his Father, we have sufficient ground for continuing in a state of undisturbed tranquillity, although the world should be embroiled in confusion and turned upside down. Only it must be our endeavor that the service of God may flourish pure and entire amongst us, and that thus the glory of his temple may shine forth in the midst of us.

10. As is thy name, O God! so is thy praise Some connect this verse with the preceding sentence, as if it had been said, Lord, it is not in vain that thou hast enjoined upon us the duty of celebrating thy name; for thou furnishest at the same time matter of praise. Thus the sense will be, that the name of God is magnified and extolled with effect, or that along with his promises his power is at the same time manifested. Others give this exposition, which is somewhat more refined, That the works of God correspond with his name; for in Hebrew he is called, אל, El, 197197     “C’est a dire, Fort.” — Fr. marg. “That is to say, Strong.” from his power, and he shows in very deed that this name is not applied to him in vain, but that the praise which is ascribed to him by it is right and what is due to him. The former exposition, as it is less forced, so it comes nearer to the words and mind of the sacred writer, namely, that God bore testimony by his works that it was not in vain that he was acknowledged and worshipped by the Jews as the true and only God. Yet when I come to consider the words which follow immediately after, Unto the ends of the earth, I think that the prophet meant something else, — that he intended to show, that wherever the fame of the name of God may be spread, men will know that he is worthy of the highest praise. The words contain a tacit contrast. At that time, the names of idols, it is well known, were very common, and had sway through the whole world; and yet, whatever fame these counterfeit gods had acquired, we know that praise in no respect belonged to them, since no sign of divinity whatever could be discovered about them. But here the prophet, on the contrary, declares, Lord, in whatever part of the world thy name is heard, it will always be accompanied with solid and rightful praise, or it will ever carry along with it matter of praise, since the whole world will understand how thou hast dealt with thy chosen people. What is added immediately after is to the same purpose, Thy right hand is full of righteousness, teaching us, that God, in succouring his own people, clearly manifests his righteousness, as if he stretched forth his arm to us that we might touch his righteousness with the finger; and that he shows not only one specimen or two of his righteousness, but in every thing and every where exhibits to us a complete proof of it. We ought to bear in mind what we have stated elsewhere, that the righteousness of God is to be understood of his faithfulness which he observes in maintaining and defending his own people. From this there accrues to us the inestimable comfort, that the work in which God especially desires to be acknowledged as righteous consists in providing what belongs to our welfare and to our maintenance in safety. 198198     “Que l’oeuvre en laquelle Dieu vent singulierement estre recognu juste, c’est in procurant les choses qui appartienent a nostre salut, et a nous maintenir en sauvete.” — Fr. We now see that the meaning of the inspired poet is, That the names of false gods prevailed, and were renowned among men, although they had done nothing to furnish matter of true praise; but that it was altogether different with respect to the God of Israel: for wherever the report of him was carried, all would understand that he was the deliverer of his people, and that he did not disappoint their hope and desires, nor forsake them in danger.


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