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Psalm 96:10-13

10. Say among the heathen, Jehovah reigneth; also the world shall be established, it shall not be moved: he shall judge the peoples 8989     “The peoples. The Hebrew word is plural, and it is rendered plurally by all the ancient versions. It is not one people only, but all the nations upon earth, that God will judge.” — Street. in righteousness, [literally, in righteousnesses.] 11. Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea thunder, and the fullness thereof. 12. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein; likewise let all the trees of the wood rejoice. 9090     The Hebrew verb רננו, rannenu, here rendered rejoice, “expresses,” says Mant, “the vibratory motion either of a dancer’s feet, or of a singer’s lips. Hence it signifies, to wave to and fro’ as trees.” In support of this sense of the word he refers to Bishop Horsley’s note on Psalm 98:8, and Parkhurst’s Lexicon on רנן, 1:2. Accordingly, he translates the verse —
   “Be glad, ye fields, and fruits, the fields that spread;
Wave high, ye woods, in worship wave the head;”

   which, he observes, will remind the reader of Adam and Eve’s morning hymn: —

   “— and wave your tops, ye pines,
With every plant, in sign of worship wave.”
Paradise Lost, v.
13. Before Jehovah; for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth. 9191     This psalm has been admired for its grandeur and magnificence. The three last verses in particular have been frequently quoted as a specimen of sublimity in sentiment and language, which cannot be surpassed. “Nothing can excel in this respect,” remarks Bishop Lowth, “that noble exultation of universal nature in the 96th Psalm, which has been so often commended, where the whole animate and inanimate creation unite in the praises of their Maker. Poetry here seems to assume the highest tone of triumph and exultation, and to revel, if I may so express myself, in all the extravagance of joy.” — Lectures on Sacred Poetry, volume 1, page 378.

 

10. Say among the heathen, Jehovah reigneth His language again implies that it is only where God rules and presides that he can be worshipped. The Gentiles could not possibly profess the worship of God, so long as his throne was only in the small corner of Judea, and they were not acknowledging his government. Accordingly, the Psalmist speaks of his extending his kingdom to all parts of the world, with the view of gathering unto himself in one, those who had formerly been divided and scattered. The expression, Say among the heathen, signifies that God would enlarge the boundaries of his kingdom by his word and doctrine. What is said of the world being established, is particularly worthy of our observation. So far as the order of nature is concerned, we know that it has been Divinely established, and fixed from the beginning; that the same sun, moon, and stars, continue to shine in heaven; that the wicked and the unbelieving are sustained with food, and breathe the vital air, just as do the righteous. Still we are to remember that so long as un-godliness has possession of the minds of men, the world, plunged as it is in darkness, must be considered as thrown into a state of confusion, and of horrible disorder and misrule; for there can be no stability apart from God. The world is very properly here said therefore to be established, that it should not shake, when men are brought back into a state of subjection to God. We learn this truth from the passage, That though all the creatures should be discharging their various offices, no order can be said to prevail in the world, until God erect his throne and reign amongst men. What more monstrous disorder can be conceived of, than exists where the Creator himself is not acknowledged? Wicked and unbelieving men may be satisfied with their own condition, but it is necessarily most insecure, most unstable; and destitute as they are of any foundation in God, their life may be said to hang by a thread. 9292     “Semper tamen fluctuari necesse est, et vitam eoram pendere de filo, quia in Deo fundatus non est eorum status.” — Lat. We are to recollect what we have seen taught, (Psalm 46:5) “God is in the midst of the holy city, she shall not be moved.” Very possibly there may be an indirect allusion to the imperfect and uncompleted state of things under the Law, and a contrast may have been intended between the perfect condition of things which should obtain under Christ, and the prelude to it under the former period. Next he predicts that the kingdom to be introduced should be distinguished by righteousness, according to what we have seen, (Psalm 45:6) “A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom.” The term judging, in the Hebrew, includes government of any kind. If God’s method of governing men be to form and regulate their lives to righteousness, we may infer, that however easily men may be satisfied with themselves, all is necessarily wrong with them, till they have been made subject to Christ. And this righteousness of which the Psalmist speaks has not reference merely to the outward actions. It comprehends a new heart, commencing as it does in the regeneration of the Spirit, by which we are formed again into the likeness of God.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad. With the view of giving us a more exalted conception of the display of God’s goodness in condescending to take all men under his government, the Psalmist calls upon the irrational things themselves, the trees, the earth, the seas, and the heavens, to join in the general joy. Nor are we to understand that by the heavens he means the angels, and by the earth men; 9393     “Neque enim metonymice de angelis vel hominibus loquitur.” — Lat. “Il ne faut pas penser que ce soit yci la figure nommee Metonymie, et que par les Cieux il entende les Anges, par la Terre les hommes.” — Fr. for he calls even upon the dumb fishes of the deep to shout for joy. The language must therefore be hyperbolical, designed to express the desirableness and the blessedness of being brought unto the faith of God. At the same time, it denotes to us that God does not reign with terror, or as a tyrant, but that his power is exercised sweetly, and so as to diffuse joy amongst his subjects. The wicked may tremble when his kingdom is introduced, but the erection of it is only the cause of their fear indirectly. 9494     “C’est une chose accidentale.” — Fr. We might notice also, that the hyperbole here employed does not want a certain foundation of a more literal kind. As all elements in the creation groan and travail together with us, according to Paul’s declaration, (Romans 8:22) they may reasonably rejoice in the restoration of all things according to their earnest desire. The words teach us how infatuated that joy is, which is wantonly indulged in by men who are without God. From the close of the psalm, we learn that it is impossible to experience the slightest measure of true joy, as long as we have not seen the face of God, Rejoice before the Lord, because he cometh And if the very sea and land mourn so long as God is absent, may we not ask what shall become of us, who are properly the subjects of God’s dreadful curse? The Psalmist, to remove all doubt regarding an event which might seem incredible, repeats his assertion of it, and states, at the same time, in what that rectitude consists, which he had formerly mentioned, when he adds, that God shall govern the world with righteousness and truth. This shows us that it is only by the light of God’s righteousness and truth that the wickedness and hypocrisy of men can be removed and dispelled.


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