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Let Us Sing Songs of Praise

1Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
3For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
4In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
5The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

6Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
7For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
8do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”
11Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest.”


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1. Come, let us rejoice before Jehovah. This psalm is suited for the Sabbath, when we know that the religious assemblies were more particularly convened for the worship of God. It is not individuals among the godly whom he exhorts to celebrate the divine praises in private; he enjoins these to be offered up in the public meeting. By this he showed that the outward worship of God principally consisted in the sacrifice of praise, and not in dead ceremonies. He enjoins haste upon them; by which they might testify their alacrity in this service. For the Hebrew word קדם, kadam, in the second verse, which I have rendered, let us come before, etc., means to make haste. He calls upon them to speed into the presence of God; and such an admonition was needed, considering how naturally backward we are when called by God to the exercise of thanksgiving. This indirect charge of indolence in the exercise, the Psalmist saw it necessary to prefer against God’s ancient people; and we should be made aware that there is just as much need of a stimulus in our own case, filled as our hearts are with similar ingratitude. In calling them to come before God’s face, he uses language which was also well fitted to increase the ardor of the worshippers; nothing being more agreeable than to offer in God’s own presence such a sacrifice as he declares that he will accept. He virtually thus says, in order to prevent their supposing the service vain, that God was present to witness it. I have shown elsewhere in what sense God was present in the sanctuary.

3. For Jehovah is a great God. By these words the Psalmist reminds us what abundant grounds we have for praising God, and how far we are from needing to employ the lying panegyric with which rhetoricians flatter earthly princes. First, he extols the greatness of God, drawing a tacit contrast between him and such false gods as men have invented for themselves. We know that there has always been a host of gods in the world, as Paul says,

“There are many on the earth who are called gods,”
(1 Corinthians 8:5.)

We are to notice the opposition stated between the God of Israel and all others which man has formed in the exercise of an unlicensed imagination. Should any object, that “an idol is nothing in the world,” (1 Corinthians 8:4,) it is enough to reply, that the Psalmist aims at denouncing the vain delusions of men who have framed gods after their own foolish device. I admit, however, that under this term he may have comprehended the angels, asserting God to be possessed of such excellence as exalted him far above all heavenly glory, and whatever might be considered Divine, as well as above the feigned deities of earth. 4545     “Deum ita excellere, ut longe emineat supra omnem coelestem gloriam et quicquid divinum est, non minus quam supra omne terrenum figmentum.” — Lat. Angels are not indeed gods, but the name admits of an improper application to them on account of their being next to God, and still more, on account of their being accounted no less than gods by men who inordinately and superstitiously extol them. If the heavenly angels themselves must yield before the majesty of the one God, it were the height of indignity to compare him with gods who are the mere fictions of the brain. In proof of his greatness, he bids us look to his formation of the world, which he declares to be the work of God’s hands, and subject to his power. This is one general ground why God is to be praised, that he has clearly shown forth his glory in the creation of the world, and will have us daily recognize him in the government of it. When it is said, that the depths of the earth are in his hand, the meaning is, that it is ruled by his providence, and subject to his power. Some read, the bounds of the earth, but the word means abysses or depths, as opposed to the heights of the mountains. The Hebrew word properly signifies searching.

6. Come ye, let us worship Now that the Psalmist exhorts God’s chosen people to gratitude, for that pre-eminency among the nations which he had conferred upon them in the exercise of his free favor, his language grows more vehement. God supplies us with ample grounds of praise when he invests us with spiritual distinction, and advances us to a pre-eminency above the rest of mankind which rests upon no merits of our own. In three successive terms he expresses the one duty incumbent upon the children of Abraham, that of an entire devotement of themselves to God. The worship of God, which the Psalmist here speaks of, is assuredly a matter of such importance as to demand our whole strength; but we are to notice, that he particularly condescends upon one point, the paternal favor of God, evidenced in his exclusive adoption of the posterity of Abraham unto the hope of eternal life. We are also to observe, that mention is made not only of inward gratitude, but the necessity of an outward profession of godliness. The three words which are used imply that, to discharge their duty properly, the Lord’s people must present themselves a sacrifice to him publicly, with kneeling, and other marks of devotion. The face of the Lord is an expression to be understood in the sense I referred to above, — that the people should prostrate themselves before the Ark of the Covenant, for the reference is to the mode of worship under the Law. This remark, however, must be taken with one reservation, that the worshippers were to lift their eyes to heaven, and serve God in a spiritual manner. 4747     “Il faut neantmoins tousjours adjoustor ceste exception, que les fideles eslevans les yeux au ciel, adorent Dieu spirituellement.” — Fr.

7 Because he is our God While it is true that all men were created to praise God, there are reasons why the Church is specially said to have been formed for that end, (Isaiah 61:3.) The Psalmist was entitled to require this service more particularly from the hands of his chosen people. This is the reason why he impresses upon the children of Abraham the invaluable privilege which God had conferred upon them in taking them under his protection. God may indeed be said in a sense to have done so much for all mankind. But when asserted to be the Shepherd of the Church, more is meant than that he favors her with the common nourishment, support, and government which he extends promiscuously to the whole human family; he is so called because he separates her from the rest of the world, and cherishes her with a peculiar and fatherly regard. His people are here spoken of accordingly as the people of his pastures, whom he watches over with peculiar care, and loads with blessings of every kind. The passage might have run more clearly had the Psalmist called them the flock of his pastures, and the people of his hand; 4848     Hammond, after making a similar remark, adds — “But it is more reasonable to take the explanation from the different significations of רעה, [the word which Calvin renders pasture,] as for feeding, so for governing, equally applicable to men and cattle; from whence it is but analogy, that מרעה, which signifies a pasture, where cattle are fed, should also signify dominion or kingdom, or any kind of πολιτεία, wherein a people are governed And then the other part, the sheep of his hand, will be a fit, though figurative, expression; the shepherd that feeds, and rules, and leads the sheep, doing it by his hand, which manageth the rod and staff, Psalm 23:4. The Jewish Arab reads, ‘the people of his feeding, or flock, and the sheep of his guidance.’” or, had he added merely — and his flock 4949     The text reads, “Si tantum nomen Legis posuisset.” This is evidently a mistake of the printer for Gregis. The French version reads — “Le Troupeau.” — the figure might have been brought out more consistently and plainly. But his object was less elegancy of expression than pressing upon the people a sense of the inestimable favor conferred upon them in their adoption, by virtue of which they were called to live under the faithful guardianship of God, and to the enjoyment of every species of blessings. They are called the flock of his hand, not so much because formed by his hand as because governed by it, or, to use a French expression, le Troupeau de sa conduite. 5050     The flock under his conduct or guidance. The point which some have given to the expression, as if it intimated how intent God was upon feeding his people, doing it himself, and not employing hired shepherds, may scarcely perhaps be borne out by the words in their genuine meaning; but it cannot be doubted that the Psalmist would express the very gracious and familiar kind of guidance which was enjoyed by this one nation at that time. Not that God dispensed with human agency, intrusting the care of the people as he did to priests, prophets, and judges, and latterly to kings. No more is meant than that in discharging the office of shepherd to this people, he exercised a superintendence over them different from that common providence which extends to the rest of the world.

To-day, if you will hear his voice 5151     The ancient Jewish writers frequently apply these words to the Messiah: and they have argued from them, that if all Israel would repent but one day the Messiah would come; because it is said, “To-day, if ye will hear his voice.” According to the Hebrew expositors, this is a conditional clause standing connected with the preceding sentence; by which interpretation the Psalmist must be considered as warning the people that they would only retain possession of their privilege and distinction so long as they continued to obey God. 5252     Hammond observes, that the particle אם, im, here rendered if, is in other places often used in an optative signification, as in Exodus 32:32, “If thou wilt” for “O that thou wouldst forgive them;” and that therefore the rendering here may be, “O that to-day ye would hear his voice;” — a reading, he adds, which “may be thought needful to the making the sense complete in this verse, which otherwise is thought to hang (though not so fitly) on the 8th verse, and not to be finished without it.” He then goes on to say, “But it may be considered also, whether this verse be not more complete in itself by rendering אם, if, thus: ‘Let us worship and bow down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and sheep of his hand, if ye will hear his voice to-day,’ i e., speedily, — if ye will speedily perform obedience to him, — setting the words in form of a conditional promise, thereby to enforce the performance of the condition on our part. The condition to the performance of which they are exhorted, (verse 6,) is paying God the worship and lowly obedience due to him; and the promise secured to them in this performance, that he will be their God, and they the people of his pasture, etc., i e., that God will take the same care of them that a shepherd does of his sheep; preserve them from all enemies, Midianites, Philistines, Canaanites, etc.” The Greek version joins it with the verse that follows — to-day, if ye will hear his voice harden not your hearts, and it reads well in this connection. Should we adopt the distribution of the Hebrew expositors, the Psalmist seems to say that the posterity of Abraham were the flock of God’s hand, inasmuch as he had placed his Law in the midst of them, which was, as it were, his crook, and had thus showed himself to be their shepherd. The Hebrew particle אם, im, which has been rendered if, would in that case be rather expositive than conditional, and might be rendered when, 5353     “Non erit proprie conditionalis, sed expositiva; vel pro temporis adverbio sumetur.” — Lat. — “Ne sera pas proprement conditionnelle, mais expositive; ou bien elle sera prinse pour Quand.” — Fr. the words denoting it to be the great distinction between the Jews and the surrounding nations, that God had directed his voice to the former, as it is frequently noticed he had not done to the latter, (Psalm 147:20; Deuteronomy 4:6, 7.) Moses had declared this to constitute the ground of their superiority to other people, saying, “What nation is there under heaven which hath its gods so nigh unto it?” The inspired writers borrow frequently from Moses, as is well known, and the Psalmist, by the expression to-day, intimates how emphatically the Jews, in hearing God’s voice, were his people, for the proof was not far off, it consisted in something which was present and before their eyes. He bids them recognize God as their shepherd, inasmuch as they heard his voice; and it was an instance of his singular grace that he had addressed them in such a condescending and familiar manner. Some take the adverb to be one of exhortation, and read, I would that they would hear my voice, but this does violence to the words. The passage runs well taken in the other meaning we have assigned to it. Since they had a constant opportunity of hearing the voice of God — since he gave them not only one proof of the care he had over them as shepherd, or yearly proof of it, but a continual exemplification of it, there could be no doubt that the Jews were chosen to be his flock.




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