1. It is good to give thanks unto Jehovah, to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High! 2. To show forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness in the night, 3. Upon the psaltery, and upon the hand instrument, with the song upon the harp. 4. For thou, Jehovah, hast made me glad in thy works; I will triumph in the works of thy hands.
1. It is good to give thanks unto Jehovah. There is no reason to doubt that the Jews were in the habit of singing this psalm, as the inscription bears, upon the Sabbath-day, and it is apparent, from different passages, that other psalms were applied to this use. As the words may be read literally in the Hebrew, it is good for giving thanks unto the Lord, some interpreters, founding upon the letter
In the fourth verse, he more immediately addresses the Levites, who were appointed to the office of singers, and calls upon them to employ their instruments of music -- not as if this were in itself necessary, only it was useful as an elementary aid to the people of God in these ancient times.3 We are not to conceive that God enjoined the harp as feeling a delight like ourselves in mere melody of sounds; but the Jews, who were yet under age, were astricted to the use of such childish elements. The intention of them was to stimulate the worshippers, and stir them up more actively to the celebration of the praise of God with the heart. We are to remember that the worship of God was never understood to consist in such outward services, which were only necessary to help forward a people, as yet weak and rude in knowledge, in the spiritual worship of God. A difference is to be observed in this respect between his people under the Old and under the New Testament; for now that Christ has appeared, and the Church has reached full age, it were only to bury the light of the Gospel, should we introduce the shadows of a departed dispensation. From this, it appears that the Papists, as I shall have occasion to show elsewhere, in employing instrumental music, cannot be said so much to imitate the practice of God's ancient people, as to ape it in a senseless and absurd manner, exhibiting a silly delight in that worship of the Old Testament which was figurative, and terminated with the Gospel.4
4. Because thou, Jehovah, hast made me glad. The Psalmist repeats the truth that the Sabbath was not prescribed as a day of idleness, but a season when we should collect our whole energies for meditation upon the works of God. He intimates, at the same time, that those are best qualified for celebrating the praises of God who recognize and feel his fatherly goodness, and can undertake this service with willing and joyful minds. His language implies that the goodness and faithfulness of God, which he had already mentioned, are apparent in his works upon a due examination of them. What produces joy in our hearts is the exhibition which God gives of himself as a Father, and of his deep and watchful anxiety for our welfare; as, on the other hand, the cause of our brutish indifference is our inability to savor or relish the end designed in the works of God.5 As the universe proclaims throughout that God is faithful and good, it becomes us to be diligently observant of these tokens, and to be excited by a holy joy to the celebration of his praise.
1 "Car selon que nos pensees sont volages, si elles sont distraittes ca et la, elles s'alienent facilement de Dieu."
2 "Que si nous commencons au matin de louer Dieu, il faut continuer ses louanges jusques a la derniere partie de la nuit; pource que sa bonte et fidelite meritent cela." -- Fr.
3 "Mais pource que c'estoit un rudiment fort utile au peuple ancien." -- Fr.
4 But although Calvin held the use of instrumental music in public worship to be inconsistent with the genius of the Christian dispensation, he regarded the celebration of the praises of God with the melody of the human voice as an institution of great solemnity and usefulness. He knew that psalm-singing is sanctioned by the apostles, and that music has a powerful influence in exciting the mind to ardor of devotion; and to him belongs the merit of having, with the advice of Luther, formed the plan of establishing, as a principal branch of public worship in the Reformed Churches, the singing of psalms, translated into the vernacular language, and adapted to plain and easy melodies, which all the people might learn, and in which they all might join. Immediately upon the publication of Clement Marot's version of David's Psalms into French rhymes at Paris, he introduced it into his congregation at Geneva, set to plain and popular music; and it soon came into universal use throughout the numerous congregations of the Reformed Church of France. At length Marot's Psalms formed an appendix to the Catechism at Geneva, and became a characteristic mark or badge of the Calvinistic worship and profession. Marot's translation, which did not aim at any innovation in the public worship, and which he dedicated to his master Francis I., and the ladies of France, received at first the sanction of the Sorbonne, as containing nothing contrary to sound doctrine. But Calvin knew the character of the book better than the doctors of the Sorbonne, and having, by his influence, obtained its introduction into the worship of the Protestant Church of France, it contributed so much, in consequence of its extraordinary popularity, to the advancement of the Reformed cause in that country, that it was interdicted under the most severe penalties; and, in the language of the Romish Church, psalm-singing and heresy became synonymous terms. -- Warton's History of English Poetry, volume 3, pages 164, 165.
5 "Comme aussi la cause de nostre paresse brutale est, que nous avons perdu tout goust quand il est question dee savourer la fin des oeuvres de Dieu."