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Psalm 135:5-7

5. For I know that Jehovah is great, and our God above all gods. 6. Whatsoever doth please him, Jehovah does in heaven and in earth, in the sea, and in all deep places. 7. Causing the clouds to ascend from the end of the earth, he maketh lightnings for the rain, bringing forth the wind out of his secret places. 159159     The heathen who in ancient times worshipped the elements, imagined them to possess the power of giving or withholding rain at pleasure, Referring to this superstitious imagination the Prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 14:22) reclaims that power as peculiar to God who made and governs the world. “Are there among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Art thou not he, O Jehovah, our God? Therefore we will wait upon thee; for thou hast made all these things.” Among the Greeks and Romans Jupiter was armed with the thunder and the lightning; and AEolus ruled over the winds. Here the Psalmist teaches us to restore the celestial artillery to its rightful owner. The description probably refers to the regular rainy season of autumn which comes on towards the end of September; and Dr. Russell’s account of the weather at Aleppo in that month may be quoted as illustrating the particulars of the verse. “Seldom a night passes,” says he, “without much lightning in the north-west quarter, but not attended with thunder; and, when this lightning appears in the west or south-west points, which is often followed with thunder, it is a sure sign of the approaching rain. A squall of wind, and clouds of dust, are the usual forerunners of these rains.” Thus God may be said to “make lightnings for the rain,” inasmuch as the lightnings in the west and south-west points are, in the East, the sure prognostics of rain; and the squalls of wind which bring on these refreshing showers may be said to be brought for that purpose from “God’s secret places.” From Dr. Russell’s representing “clouds of draft,” as “the usual forerunners of these rains,” Harmer concludes that נשאים, nesiim, which, in our English Bible is rendered” vapours,” must mean, as they elsewhere translate the word, “clouds.”

 

5. For I know that Jehovah is great We have here a general description of the power of God, to show the Israelites that the God they worshipped was the same who made the world, and rules over all according to his will, neither is there any other besides him. He would not exclude others when he speaks of having known himself the greatness of God, but is rather to be considered as taking occasion from his own experience to stir up men generally to attend to this subject, and awake to the recognition of what lies abundantly open to observation. The immensity of God is what none can comprehend; still his glory, so far as was seen fit, has been sufficiently manifested to leave all the world without excuse for ignorance. How can one who has enjoyed a sight of the heavens and of the earth shut his eyes so as to overlook the Author of them without sin of the deepest dye? It is with the view, then, of stirring us up more effectually, — that the Psalmist makes reference to himself in inviting us to the knowledge of God’s glory; or rather he reprehends our carelessness in not being alive enough to the consideration of it. The second part of the verse makes the truth of the observation which I have already stated still more apparent, — that the Psalmist’s design was to retain the Israelites in the service and fear of the one true God, by a declaration to the effect that the God who covenanted with their Fathers was the same who created heaven and earth, No sooner had he made mention of Jehovah than he adds his being the God of Israel. It follows as a necessary consequence, that all who depart from this God prefer a god who has no claim to the title, and that Jews and Turks, for example, in our own day, are guilty of mere trifling when they pretend to worship God the Creator of the world. Where persons have diverged from the law and from the gospel, any show of piety they may have amounts to a renunciation of the true God. The Psalmist had, therefore, in his eye when he clothed God with a specific title,, to limit the Israelites to that.God who was set forth in the doctrine of the Law. If by אלהים, Elohim, we understand the false gods of the Gentiles — the title is given them only by concession, for it could not be properly assigned to what are mere lying’ vanities; and the meaning is, that God’s greatness altogether eclipses any pretended deity. But the expression would seem to include the angels, as has been already observed, in whom there is some reflection of divinity, as being heavenly principalities and powers, but who are exalted by God, and assigned such a subordinate place as may not interfere with his glory. 160160     “Tellement qu’il les embrasse et range en leur ordre, afin que sa grandeur ne soit nullement obscurcie par eux.” — Fr.

6. Whatsoever doth please him, etc. This is that immeasurable greatness of the divine being, of which he had just spoken. He not only founded heaven and earth at first, but governs all things according to his power. To own that God made the world, but maintain that he sits idle in heaven, and takes no concern in the management of it, is to cast an impious aspersion upon his power; and yet the idea, absurd as it is, obtains wide currency amongst men. They would not say, perhaps, in so many words, that they believed that God slept in heaven, but in imagining, as they do, that he resigns the reins to chance or fortune, they leave him the mere shadow of a power, such as is not manifested in effects; whereas Scripture teaches us that it is a real practical power, by which he governs the whole world as he does according to his will. The Psalmist expressly asserts every part of the world to be under the divine care, and that nothing takes place by Chance, or without determination. According to a very common opinion, all the power necessary to be assigned to God in the matter, is that of a universal providence, which I do not profess to understand. The distinction here made between the heavens, earth, and waters, denotes a particular governments. The term חפר, chaphets, is emphatical. The Holy Spirit declares that he does whatsoever pleases him. That confused sort of divine government which many talk of, amounts to no more than a certain maintenance of order in the world, without due counsel. No account whatever is made of his will in this way, for will implies counsel and method. Consequently there is a special providence exerted in the government of the various parts of the world, there is no such thing as chance, and what appears most fortuitous, is in reality ordered by his secret wisdom. We are not called to inquire why he wills events which contradict our sense of what his administration should be, but if we would not unsettle the very foundations of religion, we must hold by this as a firm principle, that nothing happens without, the divine will and decree. 161161     “Neantmoins si nous ne voulons arracher tons les rudimens de la vraye religion, ceci doit demeurer ferme,” etc. — Fr. His will may be mysterious, but it is to be regarded with reverence, as the fountain of all justice and rectitude, unquestionably entitled as it is to our supreme consideration. For farther information upon this subject the reader may consult Psalm 115.

7. Causing the clouds to ascend The Psalmist touches upon one or two particulars, in illustration of the point that nothing takes place of itself, but by the hand and counsel of God. Our understandings cannot comprehend a thousandth part of God’s works, and it is only a few examples which he brings forward to be considered in proof of the doctrine of a divine providence which he had just announced. He speaks of the clouds ascending from the ends of the earth; for the vapours which rise out of the earth form clouds, when they accumulate more densely together. Now who would think that the vapours which we see ascending upwards would shortly darken the sky, and impend above our heads? It strikingly proves the power of God, that these thin vapours, which steam up from the ground:, should form a body over-spreading the whole atmosphere. The Psalmist mentions it as another circumstance calling for our wonder, that lightnings are mixed with rain, things quite opposite in their nature one from another. Did not custom make us familiar with the spectacle, we would pronounce this mixture, of fire and water to be a phenomenon altogether incredible. 162162     “Si ce meslange du fen et de l’eau n’estoit cognu par usage, qui ne diroit que c’est une merveille,” etc. Fr. The same may be said of the phenomena of the winds. Natural causes can be assigned for them, and philosophers have pointed them out; but the winds, with their various currents, are a wonderful work of God. He does not merely assert the power of God, be it observed, in the sense in which philosophers themselves grant it, but he maintains that not a drop of rain falls from heaven without a divine commission or dispensation to that effect. All readily allow that God is the author of rain, thunder, and wind, in so far as he originally established this order of things in nature; but the Psalmist goes farther than this, holding that when it rains, this is not effected by a blind instinct of nature, but is the consequence of the decree of God, who is pleased at one time to darken the sky with clouds, and at another to brighten it again with sunshine.


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