World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
God the Creator and Provider
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
O Lord my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
wrapped in light as with a garment.
You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
you set the beams of your chambers on the waters,
you make the clouds your chariot,
you ride on the wings of the wind,
you make the winds your messengers,
fire and flame your ministers.
You set the earth on its foundations,
so that it shall never be shaken.
You cover it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
At your rebuke they flee;
at the sound of your thunder they take to flight.
They rose up to the mountains, ran down to the valleys
to the place that you appointed for them.
You set a boundary that they may not pass,
so that they might not again cover the earth.
You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills,
giving drink to every wild animal;
the wild asses quench their thirst.
By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation;
they sing among the branches.
From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth,
and wine to gladden the human heart,
oil to make the face shine,
and bread to strengthen the human heart.
The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
In them the birds build their nests;
the stork has its home in the fir trees.
The high mountains are for the wild goats;
the rocks are a refuge for the coneys.
You have made the moon to mark the seasons;
the sun knows its time for setting.
You make darkness, and it is night,
when all the animals of the forest come creeping out.
The young lions roar for their prey,
seeking their food from God.
When the sun rises, they withdraw
and lie down in their dens.
People go out to their work
and to their labor until the evening.
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
creeping things innumerable are there,
living things both small and great.
There go the ships,
and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.
These all look to you
to give them their food in due season;
when you give to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground.
May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works—
who looks on the earth and it trembles,
who touches the mountains and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the Lord.
Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
and let the wicked be no more.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord!
God’s Faithfulness to Israel
O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wonderful works.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually.
Remember the wonderful works he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered,
O offspring of his servant Abraham,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones.
He is the Lord our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
He is mindful of his covenant forever,
of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
as your portion for an inheritance.”
When they were few in number,
of little account, and strangers in it,
wandering from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another people,
he allowed no one to oppress them;
he rebuked kings on their account,
saying, “Do not touch my anointed ones;
do my prophets no harm.”
When he summoned famine against the land,
and broke every staff of bread,
he had sent a man ahead of them,
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
His feet were hurt with fetters,
his neck was put in a collar of iron;
until what he had said came to pass,
the word of the Lord kept testing him.
The king sent and released him;
the ruler of the peoples set him free.
He made him lord of his house,
and ruler of all his possessions,
to instruct his officials at his pleasure,
and to teach his elders wisdom.
Then Israel came to Egypt;
Jacob lived as an alien in the land of Ham.
And the Lord made his people very fruitful,
and made them stronger than their foes,
whose hearts he then turned to hate his people,
to deal craftily with his servants.
He sent his servant Moses,
and Aaron whom he had chosen.
They performed his signs among them,
and miracles in the land of Ham.
He sent darkness, and made the land dark;
they rebelled against his words.
He turned their waters into blood,
and caused their fish to die.
Their land swarmed with frogs,
even in the chambers of their kings.
He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
and gnats throughout their country.
He gave them hail for rain,
and lightning that flashed through their land.
He struck their vines and fig trees,
and shattered the trees of their country.
He spoke, and the locusts came,
and young locusts without number;
they devoured all the vegetation in their land,
and ate up the fruit of their ground.
He struck down all the firstborn in their land,
the first issue of all their strength.
Then he brought Israel out with silver and gold,
and there was no one among their tribes who stumbled.
Egypt was glad when they departed,
for dread of them had fallen upon it.
He spread a cloud for a covering,
and fire to give light by night.
They asked, and he brought quails,
and gave them food from heaven in abundance.
He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
it flowed through the desert like a river.
For he remembered his holy promise,
and Abraham, his servant.
So he brought his people out with joy,
his chosen ones with singing.
He gave them the lands of the nations,
and they took possession of the wealth of the peoples,
that they might keep his statutes
and observe his laws.
Praise the Lord!
The Divine Majesty.
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. 2 Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain: 3 Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind: 4 Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire: 5 Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever. 6 Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains. 7 At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away. 8 They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them. 9 Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth.
When we are addressing ourselves to any religious service we must stir up ourselves to take hold on God in it (Isa. lxiv. 7); so David does here. "Come, my soul, where art thou? What art thou thinking of? Here is work to be done, good work, angels' work; set about it in good earnest; let all the powers and faculties be engaged and employed in it: Bless the Lord, O my soul!" In these verses,
I. The psalmist looks up to the divine glory shining in the upper world, of which, though it is one of the things not seen, faith is the evidence. With what reverence and holy awe does he begin his meditation with that acknowledgment: O Lord my God! thou art very great! It is the joy of the saints that he who is their God is a great God. The grandeur of the prince is the pride and pleasure of all his good subjects. The majesty of God is here set forth by various instances, alluding to the figure which great princes in their public appearances covet to make. Their equipage, compared with his (even of the eastern kings, who most affected pomp), is but as the light of a glow-worm compared with that of the sun, when he goes forth in his strength. Princes appear great, 1. In their robes; and what are God's robes? Thou art clothed with honour and majesty, v. 1. God is seen in his works, and these proclaim him infinitely wise and good, and all that is great. Thou coverest thyself with light as with a garment, v. 2. God is light (1 John i. 5), the Father of lights (Jam. i. 17); he dwells in light (1 Tim. vi. 16); he clothes himself with it. The residence of his glory is in the highest heaven, that light which was created the first day, Gen. i. 3. Of all visible beings light comes nearest to the nature of a spirit, and therefore with that God is pleased to cover himself, that is, to reveal himself under that similitude, as men are seen in the clothes with which they cover themselves; and so only, for his face cannot be seen. 2. In their palaces or pavilions, when they take the field; and what is God's palace and his pavilion? He stretches out the heavens like a curtain, v. 2. So he did at first, when he made the firmament, which in the Hebrew has its name from its being expanded, or stretched out, Gen. i. 7. He made it to divide the waters as a curtain divides between two apartments. So he does still: he now stretches out the heavens like a curtain, keeps them upon the stretch, and they continue to this day according to his ordinance. The regions of the air are stretched out about the earth, like a curtain about a bed, to keep it warm, and drawn between us and the upper world, to break its dazzling light; for, though God covers himself with light, yet, in compassion to us, he makes darkness his pavilion. Thick clouds are a covering to him. The vastness of this pavilion may lead us to consider how great, how very great, he is that fills heaven and earth. He has his chambers, his upper rooms (so the word signifies), the beams whereof he lays in the waters, the waters that are above the firmament (v. 3), as he has founded the earth upon the seas and floods, the waters beneath the firmament. Though air and water are fluid bodies, yet, by the divine power, they are kept as tight and as firm in the place assigned them as a chamber is with beams and rafters. How great a God is he whose presence-chamber is thus reared, thus fixed! 3. In their coaches of state, with their stately horses, which add much to the magnificence of their entries; but God makes the clouds his chariots, in which he rides strongly, swiftly, and far above out of the reach of opposition, when at any time he will act by uncommon providences in the government of this world. He descended in a cloud, as in a chariot, to Mount Sinai, to give the law, and to Mount Tabor, to proclaim the gospel (Matt. xvii. 5), and he walks (a gentle pace indeed, yet stately) upon the wings of the wind. See Ps. xviii. 10, 11. He commands the winds, directs them as he pleases, and serves his own purposes by them. 4. In their retinue or train of attendants; and here also God is very great, for (v. 4) he makes his angels spirits. This is quoted by the apostle (Heb. i. 7) to prove the pre-eminence of Christ above the angels. The angels are here said to be his angels and his ministers, for they are under his dominion and at his disposal; they are winds, and a flame of fire, that is, they appeared in wind and fire (so some), or they are as swift as winds, and pure as flames; or he makes them spirits, so the apostle quotes it. They are spiritual beings; and, whatever vehicles they may have proper to their nature, it is certain they have not bodies as we have. Being spirits, they are so much the further removed from the encumbrances of the human nature and so much the nearer allied to the glories of the divine nature. And they are bright, and quick, and ascending, as fire, as a flame of fire. In Ezekiel's vision they ran and returned like a flash of lightning, Ezek. i. 14. Thence they are called seraphim—burners. Whatever they are, they are what God made them, what he still makes them; they derive their being from him, having the being he gave them, are held in being by him, and he makes what use he pleases of them.
II. He looks down, and looks about, to the power of God shining in this lower world. He is not so taken up with the glories of his court as to neglect even the remotest of his territories; no, not the sea and dry land.
1. He has founded the earth, v. 5. Though he has hung it upon nothing (Job xxvi. 2), ponderibus librata suis—balanced by its own weight, yet it is as immovable as if it had been laid upon the surest foundations. He has built the earth upon her basis, so that though it has received a dangerous shock by the sin of man, and the malice of hell strikes at it, yet it shall not be removed for ever, that is, not till the end of time, when it must give way to the new earth. Dr. Hammond's paraphrase of this is worth noting: "God has fixed so strange a place for the earth, that, being a heavy body, one would think it should fall every minute; and yet, which way soever we would imagine it to stir, it must, contrary to the nature of such a body, fall upwards, and so can have no possible ruin but by tumbling into heaven."
2. He has set bounds to the sea; for that also is his. (1.) He brought it within bounds in the creation. At first the earth, which, being the more ponderous body, would subside of course, was covered with the deep (v. 6): The waters were above the mountains; and so it was unfit to be, as it was designed, a habitation for man; and therefore, on the third day, God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered to one place, and let the dry land appear, Gen. i. 9. This command of God is here called his rebuke, as if he gave it because he was displeased that the earth was thus covered with water and not fit for man to dwell on. Power went along with this word, and therefore it is also called here the voice of his thunder, which is a mighty voice and produces strange effects, v. 7. At thy rebuke, as if they were made sensible that they were out of their place, they fled; they hasted away (they called, and not in vain, to the rocks and mountains to cover them), as it is said on another occasion (Ps. lxxii. 16), The waters saw thee, O God! the waters saw thee; they were afraid. Even those fluid bodies received the impression of God's terror. But was the Lord displeased against the rivers? No; it was for the salvation of his people, Hab. iii. 8, 13. So here; God rebuked the waters for man's sake, to prepare room for him; for men must not be made as the fishes of the sea (Hab. i. 14); they must have air to breathe in. Immediately therefore, with all speed, the waters retired, v. 8. They go over hill and dale (as we say), go up by the mountains and down by the valleys; they will neither stop at the former nor lodge in the latter, but make the best of their way to the place which thou hast founded for them, and there they make their bed. Let the obsequiousness even of the unstable waters teach us obedience to the word and will of God; for shall man alone of all the creatures be obstinate? Let their retiring to and resting in the place assigned them teach us to acquiesce in the disposals of that wise providence which appoints us the bounds of our habitation. (2.) He keeps it within bounds, v. 9. The waters are forbidden to pass over the limits set them; they may not, and therefore they do not, turn again to cover the earth. Once they did, in Noah's flood, because God bade them, but never since, because he forbids them, having promised not to drown the world again. God himself glorifies in this instance of his power (Job xxxviii. 8, &c.) and uses it as an argument with us to fear him, Jer. v. 22. This, if duly considered, would keep the world in awe of the Lord and his goodness, That the waters of the sea would soon cover the earth if God did not restrain them.
The Divine Bounty.
10 He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills. 11 They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst. 12 By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches. 13 He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works. 14 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; 15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart. 16 The trees of the Lord are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted; 17 Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house. 18 The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies.
Having given glory to God as the powerful protector of this earth, in saving it from being deluged, here he comes to acknowledge him as its bountiful benefactor, who provides conveniences for all the creatures.
I. He provides fresh water for their drink: He sends the springs into the valleys, v. 10. There is water enough indeed in the sea, that is, enough to drown us, but not one drop to refresh us, be we ever so thirsty—it is all so salt; and therefore God has graciously provided water fit to drink. Naturalists dispute about the origin of fountains; but, whatever are their second causes, here is their first cause; it is God that sends the springs into the brooks, which walk by easy steps between the hills, and receive increase from the rain-water that descends from them. These give drink, not only to man, and those creatures that are immediately useful to him, but to every beast of the field (v. 11); for where God has given life he provides a livelihood and takes care of all the creatures. Even the wild asses, though untameable and therefore of no use to man, are welcome to quench their thirst; and we have no reason to grudge it them, for we are better provided for, though born like the wild ass's colt. We have reason to thank God for the plenty of fair water with which he has provided the habitable part of his earth, which otherwise would not be habitable. That ought to be reckoned a great mercy the want of which would be a great affliction; and the more common it is the greater mercy it is. Usus communis aquarum—water is common for all.
II. He provides food convenient for them, both for man and beast: The heavens drop fatness; they hear the earth, but God hears them, Hos. ii. 21. He waters the hills from his chambers (v. 13), from those chambers spoken of (v. 3), the beams of which he lays in the waters, those store-chambers, the clouds that distil fruitful showers. The hills that are not watered by the rivers, as Egypt was by the Nile, are watered by the rain from heaven, which is called the river of God (Ps. lxv. 9), as Canaan was, Deut. xi. 11, 12. Thus the earth is satisfied with the fruit of his works, either with the rain it drinks in (the earth knows when it has enough; it is a pity that any man should not) or with the products it brings forth. It is a satisfaction to the earth to bear the fruit of God's works for the benefit of man, for thus it answers the end of its creation. The food which God brings forth out of the earth (v. 14) is the fruit of his works, which the earth is satisfied with. Observe how various and how valuable its products are.
1. For the cattle there is grass, and the beasts of prey, that live not on grass, feed on those that do; for man there is herb, a better sort of grass (and a dinner of herbs and roots is not to be despised); nay, he is furnished with wine, and oil, and bread, v. 15. We may observe here, concerning our food, that which will help to make us both humble and thankful. (1.) To make us humble let us consider that we have a necessary dependence upon God for all the supports of this life (we live upon alms; we are at his finding, for our own hands are not sufficient for us),—that our food comes all out of the earth, to remind us whence we ourselves were taken and whither we must return,—and that therefore we must not think to live by bread alone, for that will feed the body only, but must look into the word of God for the meat that endures to eternal life. Let us also consider that we are in this respect fellow-commoners with the beasts; the same earth, the same spot of ground, that brings grass for the cattle, brings corn for man. (2.) To make us thankful let us consider, [1.] That God not only provides for us, but for our servants. The cattle that are of use to man are particularly taken care of; grass is made to grow in great abundance for them, when the young lions, that are not for the service of man, often lack and suffer hunger. [2.] That our food is nigh us, and ready to us. Having our habitation on the earth, there we have our storehouse, and depend not on the merchant-ships that bring food from afar, Prov. xxxi. 14. [3.] That we have even from the products of the earth, not only for necessity, but for ornament and delight, so good a Master do we serve. First, Does nature call for something to support it, and repair its daily decays? Here is bread, which strengthens man's heart, and is therefore called the staff of life; let none who have that complain of want. Secondly, Does nature go further, and covet something pleasant? Here is wine, that makes glad the heart, refreshes the spirits, and exhilarates them, when it is soberly and moderately used, that we may not only go through our business, but go through it cheerfully. It is a pity that that should be abused to overcharge the heart, and unfit men for their duty, which was given to revive their heart and quicken them in their duty. Thirdly, Is nature yet more humoursome, and does it crave something for ornament too? Here is that also out of the earth—oil to make the face to shine, that the countenance may not only be cheerful but beautiful, and we may be the more acceptable to one another.
2. Nay, the divine providence not only furnishes animals with their proper food, but vegetables also with theirs (v. 16): The trees of the Lord are full of sap, not only men's trees, which they take care of and have an eye to, in their orchards, and parks, and other enclosures, but God's trees, which grow in the wildernesses, and are taken care of only by his providence; they are full of sap and want no nourishment. Even the cedars of Lebanon, an open forest, though they are high and bulky, and require a great deal of sap to feed them, have enough from the earth; they are trees which he has planted, and which therefore he will protect and provide for. We may apply this to the trees of righteousness, which are the planting of the Lord, planted in his vineyard; these are full of sap, for what God plants he will water, and those that are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God, Ps. xcii. 13.
III. He takes care that they shall have suitable habitations to dwell in. To men God has given discretion to build for themselves and for the cattle that are serviceable to them; but there are some creatures which God more immediately provides a settlement for. 1. The birds. Some birds, by instinct, make their nests in the bushes near rivers (v. 12): By the springs that run among the hills some of the fowls of heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches. They sing, according to their capacity, to the honour of their Creator and benefactor, and their singing may shame our silence. Our heavenly Father feeds them (Matt. vi. 26), and therefore they are easy and cheerful, and take no thought for the morrow. The birds being made to fly above the earth (as we find, Gen. i. 20), they make their nests on high, in the tops of trees (v. 17); it should seem as if nature had an eye to this in planting the cedars of Lebanon, that they might be receptacles for the birds. Those that fly heavenward shall not want resting-places. The stork is particularly mentioned; the fir-trees, which are very high, are her house, her castle. 2. The smaller sort of beasts (v. 18): The wild goats, having neither strength nor swiftness to secure themselves, are guided by instinct to the high hills, which are a refuge to them; and the rabbits, which are also helpless animals, find shelter in the rocks, where they can set the beasts of prey at defiance. Does God provide thus for the inferior creatures; and will he not himself be a refuge and dwelling-place to his own people?
The Divine Bounty.
19 He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down. 20 Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. 21 The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God. 22 The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens. 23 Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening. 24 O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. 25 So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. 26 There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein. 27 These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. 28 That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good. 29 Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. 30 Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.
We are here taught to praise and magnify God,
I. For the constant revolutions and succession of day and night, and the dominion of sun and moon over them. The heathen were so affected with the light and influence of the sun and moon, and their serviceableness to the earth, that they worshipped them as deities; and therefore the scripture takes all occasions to show that the gods they worshipped are the creatures and servants of the true God (v. 19): He appointed the moon for seasons, for the measuring of the months, the directing of the seasons for the business of the husbandman, and the governing of the tides. The full and change, the increase and decrease, of the moon, exactly observe the appointment of the Creator; so does the sun, for he keeps as punctually to the time and place of his going down as if he were an intellectual being and knew what he did. God herein consults the comfort of man. 1. The shadows of the evening befriend the repose of the night (v. 20): Thou makes darkness and it is night, which, though black, contributes to the beauty of nature, and is as a foil to the light of the day; and under the protection of the night all the beasts of the forest creep forth to feed, which they are afraid to do in the day, God having put the fear and dread of man upon every beast of the earth (Gen. ix. 2), which contributes as much to man's safety as to his honour. See how nearly allied those are to the disposition of the wild beasts who wait for the twilight (Job xxiv. 15) and have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness; and compare to this the danger of ignorance and melancholy, which are both as darkness to the soul; when, in either of those ways, it is night, then all the beasts of the forest creep forth. Satan's temptations then assault us and have advantage against us. Then the young lions roar after their prey; and, as naturalists tell us, their roaring terrifies the timorous beasts so that they have not strength nor spirit to escape from them, which otherwise they might do, and so they become an easy prey to them. They are said to seek their meat from God, because it is not prepared for them by the care and forecast of man, but more immediately by the providence of God. The roaring of the young lions, like the crying of the young ravens, is interpreted asking their meat of God. Does God put this construction upon the language of mere nature, even in venomous creatures? and shall he not much more interpret favourably the language of grace in his own people, though it be weak and broken, groanings which cannot be uttered? 2. The light of the morning befriends the business of the day (v. 22, 23): The sun arises (for, as he knows his going down, so, thanks be to God, he knows his rising again), and then the wild beasts betake themselves to their rest; even they have some society among them, for they gather themselves together and lay down in their dens, which is a great mercy to the children of men, that while they are abroad, as becomes honest travellers, between sun and sun, care is taken that they shall not be set upon by wild beasts, for they are then drawn out of the field, and the sluggard shall have no ground to excuse himself from the business of the day with this, That there is a lion in the way. Therefore then man goes forth to his work and to his labour. The beasts of prey creep forth with fear; man goes forth with boldness, as one that has dominion. The beasts creep forth to spoil and do mischief; man goes forth to work and do good. There is the work of every day, which is to be done in its day, which man must apply to every morning (for the lights are set up for us to work by, not to play by) and which he must stick to till evening; it will be time enough to rest when the night comes, in which no man can work.
II. For the replenishing of the ocean (v. 25, 26): As the earth is full of God's riches, well stocked with animals, and those well provided for, so that it is seldom that any creature dies merely for want of food, so is this great and wide sea which seems a useless part of the globe, at least not to answer the room it takes up; yet God has appointed it its place and made it serviceable to man both for navigation (there go the ships, in which goods are conveyed, to countries vastly distant, speedily and much more cheaply than by land-carriage) and also to be his storehouse for fish. God made not the sea in vain, any more than the earth; he made it to be inherited, for there are things swimming innumerable, both small and great animals, which serve for man's dainty food. The whale is particularly mentioned in the history of the creation (Gen. i. 21) and is here called the leviathan, as Job xli. 1. He is made to play in the sea; he has nothing to do, as man has, who goes forth to his work; he has nothing to fear, as the beasts have, that lie down in their dens; and therefore he plays with the waters. It is a pity that any of the children of men, who have nobler powers and were made for nobler purposes, should live as if they were sent into the world, like leviathan into the waters, to play therein, spending all their time in pastime. The leviathan is said to play in the waters, because he is so well armed against all assaults that he sets them at defiance and laughs at the shaking of a spear, Job xli. 29.
III. For the seasonable and plentiful provision which is made for all the creatures, v. 27, 28. 1. God is a bountiful benefactor to them: He gives them their meat; he opens his hand and they are filled with good. He supports the armies both of heaven and earth. Even the meanest creatures are not below his cognizance. He is open-handed in the gifts of his bounty, and is a great and good housekeeper that provides for so large a family. 2. They are patient expectants from him: They all wait upon him. They seek their food, according to the natural instinct God has put into them and in the proper season for it, and affect not any other food, or at any other time, than nature has ordained. They do their part for the obtaining of it: what God gives them they gather, and expect not that Providence should put it into their mouths; and what they gather they are satisfied with—they are filled with good. They desire no more than what God sees fit for them, which may shame our murmurings, and discontent, and dissatisfaction with our lot.
IV. For the absolute power and sovereign dominion which he has over all the creatures, by which every species is still continued, though the individuals of each are daily dying and dropping off. See here, 1. All the creatures perishing (v. 29): Thou hidest thy face, withdrawest thy supporting power, thy supplying bounty, and they are troubled immediately. Every creature has as necessary a dependence upon God's favours as every saint is sensible he has and therefore says with David (Ps. xxx. 7), Thou didst hide thy face and I was troubled. God's displeasure against this lower world for the sin of man is the cause of all the vanity and burden which the whole creation groans under. Thou takest away their breath, which is in thy hand, and then, and not till then, they die and return to their dust, to their first principles. The spirit of the beast, which goes downward, is at God's command, as well as the spirit of a man, which goes upward. The death of cattle was one of the plagues of Egypt, and is particularly taken notice of in the drowning of the world. 2. All preserved notwithstanding, in a succession (v. 30): Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created. The same spirit (that is, the same divine will and power) by which they were all created at first still preserves the several sorts of creatures in their being, and place, and usefulness; so that, though one generation of them passes away, another comes, and from time to time they are created; new ones rise up instead of the old ones, and this is a continual creation. Thus the face of the earth is renewed from day to day by the light of the sun (which beautifies it anew every morning), from year to year by the products of it, which enrich it anew every spring and put quite another face upon it from what it had all winter. The world is as full of creatures as if none died, for the place of those that die is filled up. This (the Jews say) is to be applied to the resurrection, which every spring is an emblem of, when a new world rises out of the ashes of the old one.
In the midst of this discourse the psalmist breaks out into wonder at the works of God (v. 24): O Lord! how manifold are thy works! They are numerous, they are various, of many kinds, and many of every kind; and yet in wisdom hast thou made them all. When men undertake many works, and of different kinds, commonly some of them are neglected and not done with due care; but God's works, though many and of very different kinds, are all made in wisdom and with the greatest exactness; there is not the least flaw nor defect in them. The works of art, the more closely they are looked upon with the help of microscopes, the more rough they appear; the works of nature through these glasses appear more fine and exact. They are all made in wisdom, for they are all made to answer the end they were designed to serve, the good of the universe, in order to the glory of the universal Monarch.
The Divine Bounty.
31 The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever: the Lord shall rejoice in his works. 32 He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke. 33 I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. 34 My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord. 35 Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless thou the Lord, O my soul. Praise ye the Lord.
The psalmist concludes this meditation with speaking,
I. Praise to God, which is chiefly intended in the psalm.
1. He is to be praised, (1.) As a great God, and a God of matchless perfection: The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever, v. 31. It shall endure to the end of time in his works of creation and providence; it shall endure to eternity in the felicity and adorations of saints and angels. Man's glory is fading; God's glory is everlasting. Creatures change, but with the Creator there is no variableness. (2.) As a gracious God: The Lord shall rejoice in his works. He continues that complacency in the products of his own wisdom and goodness which he had when he saw every thing that he had made, and behold it was very good, and rested the seventh day. We often do that which, upon the review, we cannot rejoice in, but are displeased at, and wish undone again, blaming our own management. But God always rejoices in his works, because they are all done in wisdom. We regret our bounty and beneficence, but God never does; he rejoices in the works of his grace: his gifts and callings are without repentance. (3.) As a God of almighty power (v. 32): He looks on the earth, and it trembles, as unable to bear his frowns—trembles, as Sinai did, at the presence of the Lord. He touches the hills, and they smoke. The volcanoes, or burning mountains, such as Ætna, are emblems of the power of God's wrath fastening upon proud unhumbled sinners. If an angry look and a touch have such effects, what will the weight of his heavy hand do and the operations of his outstretched arm? Who knows the power of his anger? Who then dares set it at defiance? God rejoices in his works because they are all so observant of him; and he will in like manner take pleasure in those that fear him and that tremble at his word.
2. The psalmist will himself be much in praising him (v. 33): "I will sing unto the Lord, unto my God, will praise him as Jehovah, the Creator, and as my God, a God in covenant with me, and this not now only, but as long as I live, and while I have my being." Because we have our being from God, and depend upon him for the support and continuance of it, as long as we live and have our being we must continue to praise God; and when we have no life, no being, on earth, we hope to have a better life and better being in a better world and there to be doing this work in a better manner and in better company.
II. Joy to himself (v. 34): My meditation of him shall be sweet; it shall be fixed and close; it shall be affecting and influencing; and therefore it shall be sweet. Thoughts of God will then be most pleasing, when they are most powerful. Note, Divine meditation is a very sweet duty to all that are sanctified: "I will be glad in the Lord; it shall be a pleasure to me to praise him; I will be glad of all opportunities to set forth his glory; and I will rejoice in the Lord always and in him only." All my joys shall centre in him, and in him they shall be full.
III. Terror to the wicked (v. 35): Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth; and let the wicked be no more. 1. Those that oppose the God of power, and fight against him, will certainly be consumed; none can prosper that harden themselves against the Almighty. 2. Those that rebel against the light of such convincing evidence of God's being, and refuse to serve him whom all the creatures serve, will justly be consumed. Those that make that earth to groan under the burden of their impieties which God thus fills with his riches deserve to be consumed out of it, and that it should spue them out. 3. Those that heartily desire to praise God themselves cannot but have a holy indignation at those that blaspheme and dishonour him, and a holy satisfaction in the prospect of their destruction and the honour that God will get to himself upon them. Even this ought to be the matter of their praise: "While sinners are consumed out of the earth, let my soul bless the Lord that I am not cast away with the workers of iniquity, but distinguished from them by the special grace of God. When the wicked are no more I hope to be praising God world without end; and therefore, Praise you the Lord; let all about me join with me in praising God. Hallelujah; sing praise to Jehovah." This is the first time that we meet with Hallelujah; and it comes in here upon occasion of the destruction of the wicked; and the last time we meet with it is upon a similar occasion. When the New-Testament Babylon is consumed, this is the burden of the song, Hallelujah, Rev. xix. 1, 3, 4, 6.
An Invitation to Praise.
1 O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people. 2 Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: talk ye of all his wondrous works. 3 Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord. 4 Seek the Lord, and his strength: seek his face evermore. 5 Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth; 6 O ye seed of Abraham his servant, ye children of Jacob his chosen. 7 He is the Lord our God: his judgments are in all the earth.
Our devotion is here warmly excited; and we are stirred up, that we may stir up ourselves to praise God. Observe,
I. The duties to which we are here called, and they are many, but the tendency of them all is to give unto God the glory due unto his name. 1. We must give thanks to him, as one who has always been our bountiful benefactor and requires only that we give him thanks for his favours—poor returns for rich receivings. 2. Call upon his name, as one whom you depend upon for further favours. Praying for further mercies is accepted as an acknowledgment of former mercies. Because he has inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him. 3. Make known his deeds (v. 1), that others may join with you in praising him. Talk of all his wondrous works (v. 2), as we talk of things that we are full of, and much affected with, and desire to fill others with. God's wondrous works ought to be the subject of our familiar discourses with our families and friends, and we should talk of them as we sit in the house and as we go by the way (Deut. vi. 7), not merely for entertainment, but for the exciting of devotion and the encouraging of our own and others' faith and hope in God. Even sacred things may be the matter of common talk, provided it be with due reverence. 4. Sing psalms to God's honour, as those that rejoice in him, and desire to testify that joy for the encouragement of others and to transmit it to posterity, as memorable things anciently were handed down by songs, when writing was scarce. 5. Glory in his holy name; let those that are disposed to glory not boast of their own accomplishments and achievements, but of their acquaintance with God and their relation to him, Jer. ix. 23, 24. Praise you his holy name, so some; but it comes all to one, for in glorying in him we give glory to him. 6. Seek him; place your happiness in him, and then pursue that happiness in all the ways that he has appointed. Seek the Lord and his strength, that is, the ark of his strength; seek him in the sanctuary, in the way wherein he has appointed us to seek him. Seek his strength, that is, his grace, the strength of his Spirit to work in you that which is good, which we cannot do but by strength derived from him, for which he will be enquired of. Seek the Lord and be strengthened; so divers ancient versions read it. Those that would be strengthened in the inward man must fetch in strength from God by faith and prayer. Seek his strength, and then seek his face; for by his strength, we hope to prevail with him for his favour, as Jacob did, Hos. xii. 3. "Seek his face evermore; seek to have his favour to eternity, and therefore continue seeking it to the end of the time of your probation. Seek it while you live in this world, and you shall have it while you live in the other world, and even there shall be for ever seeking it in an infinite progression, and yet be for ever satisfied in it." 7. Let the hearts of those rejoice that do seek him (v. 3); for they have chosen well, are well fixed, and well employed, and they may be sure that their labour will not be in vain, for he will not only be found, but he will be found the rewarder of those that diligently seek him. If those have reason to rejoice that seek the Lord, much more those that have found him.
II. Some arguments to quicken us to these duties. 1. "Consider both what he has said and what he has done to engage us for ever to him. You will see yourselves under all possible obligations to give thanks to him, and call upon his name, if you remember the wonders which should make deep and durable impressions upon you,—the wonders of his providence which he has wrought for you and those who are gone before you, the marvellous works that he has done, which will be had in everlasting remembrance with the thoughtful and with the grateful,—the wonders of his law, which he has written to you, and entrusted you with, the judgments of his mouth, as well as the judgments of his hand," v. 5. 2. "Consider the relation you stand in to him (v. 6): You are the seed of Abraham his servant; you are born in his house, and being thereby entitled to the privilege of his servants, protection and provision, you are also bound to do the duty of servants, to attend your Master, consult his honour, obey his commands, and do what you can to advance his interests. You are the children of Jacob his chosen, and are chosen and beloved for the fathers' sake, and therefore ought to tread in the steps of those whose honours you inherit. You are the children of godly parents; do no degenerate. You are God's church upon earth, and, if you do not praise him, who should?" 3. Consider your interest in him: He is the Lord our God, v. 7. We depend upon him, are devoted to him, and from him our expectation is. Should not a people seek unto their God (Isa. viii. 19) and praise their God? Dan. v. 4. He is Jehovah our God. He that is our God is self-existent and self-sufficient, has an irresistible power and incontestable sovereignty: His judgments are in all the earth; he governs the whole world in wisdom, and gives law to all nations, even to those that know him not. The earth is full of the proofs of his power.
The Divine Promise to the Patriarchs; Providences Concerning the Patriarchs.
8 He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations. 9 Which covenant he made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac; 10 And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant: 11 Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance: 12 When they were but a few men in number; yea, very few, and strangers in it. 13 When they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people; 14 He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes; 15 Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm. 16 Moreover he called for a famine upon the land: he brake the whole staff of bread. 17 He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: 18 Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: 19 Until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him. 20 The king sent and loosed him; even the ruler of the people, and let him go free. 21 He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance: 22 To bind his princes at his pleasure; and teach his senators wisdom. 23 Israel also came into Egypt; and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. 24 And he increased his people greatly; and made them stronger than their enemies.
We are here taught, in praising God, to look a great way back, and to give him the glory of what he did for his church in former ages, especially when it was in the founding and forming, which those in its latter ages enjoy the benefit of and therefore should give thanks for. Doubtless we may fetch as proper matter for praise from the histories of the gospels, and the acts of the apostles, which relate the birth of the Christian church, as the psalmist here does from the histories of Genesis and Exodus, which relate the birth of the Jewish church; and our histories greatly outshine theirs. Two things are here made the subject of praise:—
I. God's promise to the patriarchs, that great promise that he would give to their seed the land of Canaan for an inheritance, which was a type of the promise of eternal life made in Christ to all believers. In all the marvellous works which God did for Israel he remembered his covenant (v. 8) and he will remember it for ever; it is the word which he commanded to a thousand generations. See here the power of the promise; it is the word which he commanded and which will take effect. See the perpetuity of the promise; it is commanded to a thousand generations, and the entail of it shall not be cut off. In the parallel place it is expressed as our duty (1 Chron. xvi. 15), Be you mindful always of his covenant. God will not forget it and therefore we must not. The promise is here called a covenant, because there was something required on man's part as the condition of the promise. Observe, 1. The persons with whom this covenant was made—with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, grandfather, father, and son, all eminent believers, Heb. xi. 8, 9. 2. The ratifications of the covenant; it was made sure by all that is sacred. Is that sure which is sworn to? It is his oath to Isaac and to Abraham. See to whom God swore by himself, Heb. vi. 13, 14. Is that sure which has passed into a law? He confirmed the same for a law, a law never to be repealed. Is that sure which is reduced to a mutual contract and stipulation? This is confirmed for an everlasting covenant, inviolable. 3. The covenant itself: Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, v. 11. The patriarchs had a right to it, not by providence, but by promise; and their seed should be put in possession of it, not by the common ways of settling nations, but by miracles; God will give it to them himself, as it were with his own hand; it shall be given to them as their lot which God assigns them and measures out to them, as the lot of their inheritance, a sure title, by virtue of their birth; it shall come to them by descent, not by purchase, by the favour of God, and not any merit of their own. Heaven is the inheritance we have obtained, Eph. i. 11. And this is the promise which God has promised us (as Canaan was the promise he promised them), even eternal life, 1 John ii. 25; Tit. i. 2.
II. His providences concerning the patriarchs while they were waiting for the accomplishment of this promise, which represent to us the care God takes of his people in this world, while they are yet on this side the heavenly Canaan; for these things happened unto them for examples and encouragements to all the heirs of promise, that life by faith as they did.
1. They were wonderfully protected and sheltered, and (as the Jewish masters express it) gathered under the wings of the divine Majesty. This is accounted for, v. 12-15. Here we may observe,
(1.) How they were exposed to injuries from men. To the three renowned patriarchs, Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, God's promises were very rich; again and again he told them he would be their God; but his performances in this world were so little proportionable that, if he had not prepared for them a city in the other world, he would have been ashamed to be called their God (see Heb. xi. 16), because he was always generous; and yet even in this world he was not wanting to them, but that he might appear, to do uncommon things for them, he exercised them with uncommon trials. [1.] They were few, very few. Abraham was called alone (Isa. li. 2); he had but two sons, and one of them he cast out; Isaac had but two, and one of them was forced for many years to flee from his country; Jacob had more, but some of them, instead of being a defence to him, exposed him, when (as he himself pleads, Gen. xxxiv. 30) he was but few in number, and therefore might easily be destroyed by the natives, he and his house. God's chosen are but a little flock, few, very few, and yet upheld. [2.] They were strangers, and therefore were the most likely to be abused and to meet with strange usage, and the less able to help themselves. Their religion made them to be looked upon as strangers (1 Pet. iv. 4) and to be hooted at as speckled birds, Jer. xii. 9. Though the whole land was theirs by promise, yet they were so far from producing and pleading their grant that they confessed themselves strangers in it, Heb. xi. 13. [3.] They were unsettled (v. 13): They went from one nation to another, from one part of that land to another (for it was then in the holding and occupation of divers nations, Gen. xii. 8; xiii. 3, 18); nay, from one kingdom to another people, from Canaan to Egypt, from Egypt to the land of the Philistines, which could not but weaken and expose them; yet they were forced to it by famine. Note, Though frequent removals are neither desirable nor commendable, yet sometimes there is a just and necessary occasion for them, and they may be the lot of some of the best men.
(2.) How they were guarded by the special providence of God, the wisdom and power of which were the more magnified by their being so many ways exposed, v. 14, 15. They were not able to help themselves and yet, [1.] No men were suffered to wrong them, but even those that hated them, and would gladly have done them a mischief, had their hands tied, and could not do what they would. This may refer to Gen. xxxv. 5, where we find that the terror of God (an unaccountable restraint) was upon the cities that were round about them, so that, though provoked, they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob. [2.] Even crowned heads, that did offer to wrong them, were not only checked and chidden for it, but controlled and baffled: He reproved kings for their sakes in dreams and visions, saying, "Touch not my anointed; it is at your peril if you do, nay, it shall not be in your power to do it; do my prophets no harm." Pharaoh king of Egypt was plagued (Gen. xii. 17) and Abimelech king of Gerar was sharply rebuked (Gen. xx. 6) for doing wrong to Abraham. Note, First, Even kings themselves are liable to God's rebukes if they do wrong. Secondly, God's prophets are his anointed, for they have the unction of the Spirit, that oil of gladness, 1 John ii. 27. Thirdly, Those that offer to touch God's prophets, with design to harm them, may expect to hear of it one way or other. God is jealous for his prophets; whoso touches them touches the apple of his eye. Fourthly, Even those that touch the prophets, nay that kill the prophets (as many did), cannot do them any harm, any real harm. Lastly, God's anointed prophets are dearer to him than anointed kings themselves. Jeroboam's hand was withered when it was stretched out against a prophet.
2. They were wonderfully provided for and supplied. And here also, (1.) They were reduced to great extremity. Even in Canaan, the land of promise, he called for a famine, v. 16. Note, All judgments are at God's call, and no place is exempt from their visitation and jurisdiction when God sends them forth with commission. To try the faith of the patriarchs, God broke the whole staff of bread, even in that good land, that they might plainly see God designed them a better country than that was. (2.) God graciously took care for their relief. It was in obedience to his precept, and in dependence upon his promise, that they were now sojourners in Canaan, and therefore he could not in honour suffer any evil to befal them or any good thing to be wanting to them. As he restrained one Pharaoh from doing them wrong, so he raised up another to do them a kindness, by preferring and entrusting Joseph, of whose story we have here an abstract. He was to be the shepherd and stone of Israel and to save that holy seed alive, Gen. xlix. 24; l. 20. In order to this, [1.] He was humbled, greatly humbled (v. 17, 18): God sent a man before them, even Joseph. Many years before the famine began, he was sent before them, to nourish them in the famine; so vast are the foresights and forecasts of Providence, and so long its reaches. But in what character did he go to Egypt who was to provide for the reception of the church there? He went not in quality of an ambassador, no, nor so much as a factor or commissary; but he was sold thither for a servant, a slave for term of life, without any prospect of being ever set at liberty. This was low enough, and, one would think, set him far enough from any probability of being great. And yet he was brought lower; he was made a prisoner (v. 18): His feet they hurt with fetters. Being unjustly charged with a crime no less heinous than a rape upon his mistress, the iron entered into his soul, that is, was very painful to him; and the false accusation which was the cause of his imprisonment did in a special manner grieve him, and went to his heart; yet all this was the way to his preferment. [2.] He was exalted, highly exalted. He continued a prisoner, neither tried nor bailed, until the time appointed of God for his release (v. 19), when his word came, that is, his interpretations of the dreams came to pass, and the report thereof came to Pharaoh's ears by the chief butler. And then the word of the Lord cleared him; that is, the power God gave him to foretel things to come rolled away the reproach his mistress had loaded him with; for it could not be thought that God would give such a power to so bad a man as he was represented to be. God's word tried him, tried his faith and patience, and then it came in power to give command for his release. There is a time set when God's word will come for the comfort of all that trust in it, Hab. ii. 3. At the end it shall speak, and not lie. God gave the word, and then the king sent and loosed him; for the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord. Pharaoh, finding him to be a favourite of Heaven, First, Discharged him from his imprisonment (v. 20): He let him go free. God has often, by wonderful turns of providence, pleaded the cause of oppressed innocency. Secondly, He advanced him to the highest posts of honour, v. 21, 22. He made him lord high chamberlain of his household (he made him lord of his house); nay, he put him into the office of lord-treasurer, the ruler of all his substance. He made him prime-minister of state, lord-president of his council, to command his princes at his pleasure and teach them wisdom, and general of his forces. According to thy word shall all my people be ruled, Gen. xli. 40, 43, 44. He made him lord chief justice, to judge even his senators and punish those that were disobedient. In all this Joseph was designed to be, 1. A father to the church that then was, to save the house of Israel from perishing by the famine. He was made great, that he might do good, especially in the household of faith. 2. A figure of Christ that was to come, who, because he humbled himself and took upon him the form of a servant, was highly exalted, and has all judgment committed to him. Joseph being thus sent before, and put into a capacity of maintaining all his father's house, Israel also came into Egypt (v. 23), where he and all his were very honourably and comfortably provided for many years. Thus the New-Testament church has a place provided for her even in the wilderness, where she is nourished for a time, times, and half a time, Rev. xii. 14. Verily she shall be fed.
3. They were wonderfully multiplied, according to the promise made to Abraham that his seed should be as the sand of the sea for multitude, v. 24. In Egypt he increased his people greatly; they multiplied like fishes, so that in a little time they became stronger than their enemies and formidable to them. Pharaoh took notice of it. Exod. i. 9, The children of Israel are more and mightier than we. When God pleases a little one shall become a thousand; and God's promises, though they work slowly, work surely.
Israel's Deliverance Out of Egypt.
25 He turned their heart to hate his people, to deal subtilly with his servants. 26 He sent Moses his servant; and Aaron whom he had chosen. 27 They showed his signs among them, and wonders in the land of Ham. 28 He sent darkness, and made it dark; and they rebelled not against his word. 29 He turned their waters into blood, and slew their fish. 30 Their land brought forth frogs in abundance, in the chambers of their kings. 31 He spake, and there came divers sorts of flies, and lice in all their coasts. 32 He gave them hail for rain, and flaming fire in their land. 33 He smote their vines also and their fig trees; and brake the trees of their coasts. 34 He spake, and the locusts came, and caterpillars, and that without number, 35 And did eat up all the herbs in their land, and devoured the fruit of their ground. 36 He smote also all the firstborn in their land, the chief of all their strength. 37 He brought them forth also with silver and gold: and there was not one feeble person among their tribes. 38 Egypt was glad when they departed: for the fear of them fell upon them. 39 He spread a cloud for a covering; and fire to give light in the night. 40 The people asked, and he brought quails, and satisfied them with the bread of heaven. 41 He opened the rock, and the waters gushed out; they ran in the dry places like a river. 42 For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham his servant. 43 And he brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness: 44 And gave them the lands of the heathen: and they inherited the labour of the people; 45 That they might observe his statutes, and keep his laws. Praise ye the Lord.
After the history of the patriarchs follows here the history of the people of Israel, when they grew into a nation.
I. Their affliction in Egypt (v. 25): He turned the heart of the Egyptians, who had protected them, to hate them and deal subtilely with them. God's goodness to his people exasperated the Egyptians against them; and, though their old antipathy to the Hebrews (which we read of Gen. xliii. 32; xlvi. 34) was laid asleep for a while, yet now it revived with more violence than ever: formerly they hated them because they despised them, now because they feared them. They dealt subtilely with them, set all their politics on work to find out ways and means to weaken them, and waste them, and prevent their growth; they made their burdens heavy and their lives bitter, and slew their male children as soon as they were born. Malice is crafty to destroy: Satan has the serpent's subtlety, with his venom. It was God that turned the hearts of the Egyptians against them; for every creature is that to us that he makes it to be, a friend or an enemy. Though God is not the author of the sins of men, yet he serves his own purposes by them.
II. Their deliverance out of Egypt, that work of wonder, which, that it might never be forgotten, is put into the preface to the ten commandments. Observe,
1. The instruments employed in that deliverance (v. 26): He sent Moses his servant on this errand and joined Aaron in commission with him. Moses was designed to be their lawgiver and chief magistrate, Aaron to be their chief priest; and therefore, that they might respect them the more and submit to them the more cheerfully, God made use of them as their deliverers.
2. The means of accomplishing that deliverance; these were the plagues of Egypt. Moses and Aaron observed their orders, in summoning them just as God appointed them, and they rebelled not against his word (v. 28) as Jonah did, who, when he was sent to denounce God's judgments against Nineveh, went to Tarshish. Moses and Aaron were not moved, either with a foolish fear of Pharaoh's wrath or a foolish pity of Egypt's misery, to relax or retard any of the plagues which God ordered them to inflict on the Egyptians, but stretched forth their hand to inflict them as God appointed. Those that are instructed to execute judgment will find their remissness construed as a rebellion against God's word. The plagues of Egypt are here called God's signs, and his wonders (v. 27); they were not only proofs of his power, but tokens of his wrath, and to be looked upon with admiration and holy awe. They showed the words of his signs (so it is in the original), for every plague had an exposition going along with it; they were not, as the common works of creation and providence, silent signs, but speaking ones, and they spoke aloud. They are all or most of them here specified, though not in the order in which they were inflicted. (1.) The plague of darkness, v. 28. This was one of the last, though here mentioned first. God sent darkness, and, coming with commission, it came with efficacy; his command made it dark. And then they (that is, the people of Israel) rebelled not against God's word, namely, a command which some think was given them to circumcise all among them that had not been circumcised, in doing which the three days' darkness would be a protection to them. The old translation follows the LXX., and reads it, They were not obedient to his word, which may be applied to Pharaoh and the Egyptians, who, notwithstanding the terror of this plague, would not let the people go; but there is no ground for it in the Hebrew. (2.) The turning of the river Nilus (which they idolized) into blood, and all their other waters, which slew their fish (v. 29), and so they were deprived, not only of their drink, but of the daintiest of their meat, Num. xi. 5. (3.) The frogs, shoals of which their land brought forth, which poured in upon them, not only in such numbers, but with such fury, that they could not keep them out of the chambers of their kings and great men, whose hearts had been full of vermin, more nauseous and more noxious-contempt of, and enmity to, both God and his Israel. (4.) Flies of divers sorts swarmed in their air, and lice in their clothes, v. 31; Exod. viii. 17, 24. Note, God can make use of the meanest, and weakest, and most despicable animals, for the punishing and humbling of proud oppressors, to whom the impotency of the instrument cannot but be a great mortification, as well as an undeniable conviction of the divine omnipotence. (5.) Hail-stones shattered their trees, even the strongest timber-trees in their coasts, and killed their vines, and their other fruit-trees, v. 32, 33. Instead of rain to cherish their trees, he gave them hail to crush them, and with it thunder and lightning, to such a degree that the fire ran along upon the ground, as if it had been a stream of kindled brimstone, Exod. ix. 23. (6.) Locusts and caterpillars destroyed all the herbs which were made for the service of man and ate the bread out of their mouths, v. 34, 35. See what variety of judgments God has, wherewith to plague proud oppressors, that will not let his people go. God did not bring the same plague twice, but, when there was occasion for another, it was still a new one; for he has many arrows in his quiver. Locusts and caterpillars are God's armies; and, how weak soever they are singly, he can raise such numbers of them as to make them formidable, Joel i. 4, 6. (7.) Having mentioned all the plagues but those of the murrain and boils, he concludes with that which gave the conquering stroke, and that was the death of the first-born, v. 36. In the dead of the night the joys and hopes of their families, the chief of their strength and flower of their land, were all struck dead by the destroying angel. They would not release God's first-born, and therefore God seized theirs by way of reprisal, and thereby forced them to dismiss his too, when it was too late to retrieve their own; for when God judges he will overcome, and those will certainly sit down losers at last that contend with him.
3. The mercies that accompanied this deliverance. In their bondage, (1.) They had been impoverished, and yet they came out rich and wealthy. God not only brought them forth, but he brought them forth with silver and gold, v. 37. God empowered them to ask and collect the contributions of their neighbours (which were indeed but part of payment for the service they had done them) and inclined the Egyptians to furnish them with what they asked. Their wealth was his, and therefore he might, their hearts were in his hand, and therefore he could, give it to the Israelites. (2.) Their lives had been made bitter to them, and their bodies and spirits broken by their bondage; and yet, when God brought them forth, there was not one feeble person, none sick, none so much as sickly, among their tribes. They went out that very night that the plague swept away all the first-born of Egypt, and yet they went out all in good health, and brought not with them any of the diseases of Egypt. Surely never was the like, that among so many thousands there was not one sick! So false was the representation which the enemies of the Jews, in after-ages, gave of this matter, that they were all sick of a leprosy, or some loathsome disease, and that therefore the Egyptians thrust them out of their land. (3.) They had been trampled upon and insulted over; and yet they were brought out with honour (v. 38): Egypt was glad when they departed; for God had so wonderfully owned them, and pleaded their cause, that the fear of Israel fell upon them, and they owned themselves baffled and overcome. God can and will make his church a burdensome stone to all that heave at it and seek to displace it, so that those shall think themselves happy that get out of its way, Zech. xii. 3. When God judges, he will overcome. (4.) They had spent their days in sorrow and in sighing, by reason of their bondage; but now he brought them forth with joy and gladness, v. 43. When Egypt's cry for grief was loud, their first-born being all slain, Israel's shouts for joy were as loud, both when they looked back upon the land of slavery out of which they were rescued and when they looked forward to the pleasant land to which they were hastening. God now put a new song into their mouth.
4. The special care God took of them in the wilderness. (1.) For their shelter. Besides the canopy of heaven, he provided them another heavenly canopy: He spread a cloud for a covering (v. 39), which was to them not only a screen and umbrella, but a cloth of state. A cloud was often God's pavilion (Ps. xviii. 11) and now it was Israel's; for they also were his hidden ones. (2.) For their guidance and refreshment in the dark. He appointed a pillar of fire to give light in the night, that they might never be at a loss. Note, God graciously provides against all the grievances of his people, and furnishes them with convenient succours for every condition, for day and night, till they come to heaven, where it will be all day to eternity. (3.) He fed them both with necessaries and dainties. Sometimes he furnished their tables with wild fowl (v. 40): The people asked, and he brought quails; and, when they were not thus feasted, yet they were abundantly satisfied with the bread of heaven. Those are curious and covetous indeed who will not be so satisfied. Man did eat angels' food, and that constantly and on free-cost. And, as every bit they ate had miracle in it, so had every drop they drank: He opened the rock, and the waters gushed out, v. 41. Common providence fetches waters from heaven, and bread out of the earth; but for Israel the divine power brings bread from the clouds and water from the rocks: so far is the God of nature from being tied to the laws and courses of nature. The water did not only gush out once, but it ran like a river, plentifully and constantly, and attended their camp in all their removes; hence they are said to have the rock follow them (1 Cor. x. 4), and, which increased the miracle, this river of God (so it might be truly called) ran in dry places, and yet was not drunk in and lost, as one would have expected it to be, by the sands of the desert of Arabia. To this that promise alludes, I will give rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen, Isa. xliii. 19, 20.
5. Their entrance, at length, into Canaan (v. 44): He gave them the lands of the heathen, put them in possession of that which they had long been put in hopes of; and what the Canaanites had taken pains for God's Israel had the enjoyment of: They inherited the labour of the people; and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just. The Egyptians had long inherited their labours, and now they inherited the labours of the Canaanites. Thus sometimes one enemy of the church is made to pay another's scores.
6. The reasons why God did all this for them. (1.) Because he would himself perform the promises of the word, v. 42. They were unworthy and unthankful, yet he did those great things in their favour because he remembered the word of his holiness (that is, his covenant) with Abraham his servant, and he would not suffer one iota or tittle of that to fall to the ground. See Deut. vii. 8. (2.) Because he would have them to perform the precepts of the word, to bind them to which was the greatest kindness he could put upon them. He put them in possession of Canaan, not that they might live in plenty and pleasure, in ease and honour, and might make a figure among the nations, but that they might observe his statutes and keep his laws,—that, being formed into a people, they might be under God's immediate government, and revealed religion might be the basis of their national constitution,—that, having a good land given them, they might out of the profits of it bring sacrifices to God's altar,—and that, God having thus done them good, they might the more cheerfully receive his law, concluding that also designed for their good, and might be sensible of their obligations in gratitude to live in obedience to him. We are therefore made, maintained, and redeemed, that we may live in obedience to the will of God; and the hallelujah with which the psalm concludes may be taken both as a thankful acknowledgment of God's favours and as a cheerful concurrence with this great intention of them. Has God done so much for us, and yet does he expect so little from us? Praise you the Lord.