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Psalm 68:31-35

31. Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out [or, shall hasten to stretch out] her hands unto God. 32. Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth: sing praises to the Lord. Selah. 33. To him that rideth upon the heaven of heavens, which were of old, [literally the heavens of ancientness;] lo! he shall send forth in his voice a mighty voice. 34. Give strength unto God over Israel; his excellency and his strength are in the clouds. 35. O God! thou art terrible out of thy holy places: the God of Israel himself shall give strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God!

 

31. Princes shall come out of Egypt. He resumes the strain of thanksgiving, and confirms what he had previously asserted, that kings would come and pay tribute unto God. The examples which he brings forward are those of the Egyptians and Ethiopians. This sufficiently proves that the prediction must be extended to Christ, by whom the Egyptians and Ethiopians were brought under the sway of God. The word תריף, tarits, translated, shall soon stretch out, might have been rendered, shall cause to run. 6161     “The Hebrew is very emphatic: — ‘Cush will cause her hands to run out to God.’ She will with great alacrity and delight surrender her power and influence unto God.” — Dr Adam Clarke. But it seemed necessary to soften the harshness of the figure. It is doubtful whether the allusion be to the promptness with which they should yield subjection, or whether he means that they would stretch out their hands to entreat pardon, this being an attitude common to suppliants. According to either interpretation, it is their submission which is intended, and it is enough to know that David asserts that Ethiopia and Egypt would come under the power of God, and not they only, but the most distant parts of the world.

In the next verse he goes farther than before, and calls upon the kingdoms of the earth to praise God, language which implies that those who had once been distinguished by their hostility to him would be ranked amongst his willing worshippers. There must be the knowledge of God, as I have remarked elsewhere, before men can celebrate the praises of his name; and we have a proof of the calling of the Gentiles, in the fact that Moses and the prophets invite them to offer sacrifices of praise. That it might not seem a strange and incredible thing to speak of the extension of the worship of God from one land, within which it had been hitherto confined, to the whole world, David insists upon God’s rightful dominion over all parts of the earth. He rideth upon the heaven of heavens; that is, as we have observed at the beginning of the psalm, he has supreme power over all creatures, and governs the universe at his will. This truth is one which, even in its general application, is well fitted to beget a reverential consideration of the majesty of God; but we must not overlook the more particular reason for which it is here introduced. Mention having been made of the Gentiles, who lay as yet without the pale of the Church, he proves them to be embraced in the government of God by virtue of his sovereignty as Creator, and intimates that there was nothing wonderful in the fact, that he who sits upon the heavens should comprehend the whole inhabitants of the earth under his sway. By the heavens of ancient times, it is meant to intimate that the whole human family were under his power from the very beginning. We have a signal proof of the glorious power of God in the fact, that, notwithstanding the immensity of the fabric of the heavens, the rapidity of their motion, and the conflicting revolutions which take place in them, the most perfect subordination and harmony are preserved; and that this fair and beautiful order has been uninterruptedly maintained for ages. It is apparent then how the ancientness of the heavens may commend to us the singular excellency of the handiwork of God. Having touched upon the work of creation, he particularises thunder, for this is what he intends by a mighty voice, as in Psalm 29:4. There are two constructions which we may put upon the words used, either that by his voice of command he calls forth the thunders which shake heaven and earth with the loudness of their sound, or that he sends forth his mighty voice in the thunder. I have already shown, at some length, in commenting upon the other passage just quoted, that there is a propriety in God’s being represented as thundering; for the phenomenon is one which, more than any other, impresses an awe upon the spirits of men. And the words are introduced with the exclamation lo! or behold! the better to arrest our wandering thoughts, or rather to reprehend our security.

34. Give strength unto God over Israel The expression is in allusion to the sentence which went before, and in which God was said to send forth a strong or mighty voice. Not that, properly speaking, we can give anything to Him, but, disposed as we are to withhold that honor which is his due, David subjoins to what he had said of his thundering with a mighty voice, an injunction that we should, on our part, be ready to sound forth his praises. To guard the Gentile nations against those false ideas upon religion in which they were accustomed to indulge, he brings them back to the doctrine of the Law, in which God had specially revealed himself, and intimates that, if they would not lose themselves in error, they must advance by necessary steps from the creation and government of the world, to that doctrine in which God had condescended to make a familiar revelation of himself to men. So much is included when God is spoken of here as the God of Israel But he does not satisfy himself with enjoining them to celebrate the power of God with praises of the voice. He exhorts them to the exercise of faith, for in reality we cannot better ascribe strength unto God, than by reposing in his protection as all-sufficient. Thus, after having said that his strength is in the clouds; 6262     “This refers to the phenomena of thunder and lightning; for all nations have observed that the electric fluid is an irresistible agent — destroying life, tearing towers and castles to pieces, rending the strongest oaks, and cleaving the most solid rocks; and the most enlightened nations have justly considered it as an especial manifestation of the power and Sovereignty of God.” — Greenfield. he adds, that he is terrible out of his holy places, by which is meant, that he exerts a power in his temple which is sufficient to confound his enemies. Some understand heaven and earth to be the holy places intended, but this does not agree with the context, for it is immediately added, that the God of Israel would give strength unto his people. It is evident, therefore, that the Psalmist speaks of God’s protection of his Church. The plural number is used in speaking of the sanctuary, here as in other places, because the tabernacle was divided into three parts. He points, in short, to the ark of the covenant, as that which the believing people of God should recognize as a symbol of confidence, remembering the promise, “I will dwell in the midst of you,” and thus resting with security under the wings of the Divine protection, and confidently calling upon his name. Any right which Israel might have in distinction from others to trust in the guardianship of God, rested entirely upon that covenant of free grace by which they had been chosen to be God’s peculiar heritage. Let it be remembered, however, that God continues to exert in behalf of his Church still these terrible displays of his power of which the Psalmist speaks.


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