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The Eternal Dwelling of God in Zion
A Song of Ascents.
O Lord, remember in David’s favor
all the hardships he endured;
how he swore to the Lord
and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob,
“I will not enter my house
or get into my bed;
I will not give sleep to my eyes
or slumber to my eyelids,
until I find a place for the Lord,
a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”
We heard of it in Ephrathah;
we found it in the fields of Jaar.
“Let us go to his dwelling place;
let us worship at his footstool.”
Rise up, O Lord, and go to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.
Let your priests be clothed with righteousness,
and let your faithful shout for joy.
For your servant David’s sake
do not turn away the face of your anointed one.
The Lord swore to David a sure oath
from which he will not turn back:
“One of the sons of your body
I will set on your throne.
If your sons keep my covenant
and my decrees that I shall teach them,
their sons also, forevermore,
shall sit on your throne.”
For the Lord has chosen Zion;
he has desired it for his habitation:
“This is my resting place forever;
here I will reside, for I have desired it.
I will abundantly bless its provisions;
I will satisfy its poor with bread.
Its priests I will clothe with salvation,
and its faithful will shout for joy.
There I will cause a horn to sprout up for David;
I have prepared a lamp for my anointed one.
His enemies I will clothe with disgrace,
but on him, his crown will gleam.”
1. O Jehovah! remember David. Interpreters are not agreed respecting the penman of this Psalm, though there is little doubt that it was either David or Solomon. At the solemn dedication of the Temple, when Solomon prayed, several verses are mentioned in the sacred history as having been quoted by him, from which we may infer that the Psalm was sufficiently well known to the people, or that Solomon applied a few words of it for an occasion in reference to which he had written the whole Psalm. The name of David is prominently mentioned, because it was to him that the continuance of the kingdom and Temple was promised, and though dead, this could not affect the truthfulness of God’s word. The Church could very properly pray in the manner which is here done, that God would perform what he had promised to his servant David, not as a private individual, but in favor of all his people. It was therefore a preposterous idea of the Papists to argue from this passage that we may be benefitted by the intercession of the dead. Just as if the faithful were here to be understood as calling up an advocate from the tomb to plead their cause with God, when it is abundantly evident from the context that they look entirely to the covenant which God had made with David, knowing well that though given to one man, it was with the understanding that it should be communicated to all. There is a propriety why mention should be made of his affliction or humiliation. Some render the word meekness, but there is no reason for this whatsoever. In 2 Chronicles 6:42, it is true we read of חסדים; that is, mercies, which I consider to be there understood in the passive sense, as meaning the benefits which had been conferred upon David; but I am clearly of opinion that here the reference is to the anxious cares, the numerous difficulties and struggles which David had to undergo, so long as he was kept by God in suspense. Remember, as if it had been said, the great anxieties, the heavy troubles, which David endured before he came to the kingdom, and how fervently and earnestly he desired to build the Temple, though he was not allowed to do it during his whole life. The dangers, labors, and troubles which he underwent, must clearly have confirmed the faith of God’s people in the truth of the divine oracle, inasmuch as they showed how firmly and certainly he was himself convinced of the truth of what God had spoken. Some insert the copulative reading, remember David and affliction; but of this I do not approve. The particle את eth, rather denotes that special respect in which they would have David remembered, viz., as regarded his afflictions, or that he might come forth before the view of God with his afflictions, and obtain his desire according to them.
2. Who sware to Jehovah. One affliction of David is particularly mentioned, That he was filled with perplexity on account of the situation of the Ark. Moses had commanded the people ages before to worship God in the place which he had chosen. (Deuteronomy 12:5.) David knew that the full time had now arrived when the particular place should be made apparent, and yet was in some hesitation — a state of things which was necessarily attended with much anxiety, especially to one who was so ardently attached to the worship of God, and so vehemently desirous to have the fixed presence of God with the nation, for its defense and government. It is said that he swore to see to the building of the Temple, and to postpone every other consideration to the accomplishment of this object. 130130 This oath is not mentioned in any of the historical books of the Old Testament. There is, however, allusion in them to his vow on the subject, although he was forbidden by God to perform it. See 2 Samuel 7:2, 3; and 1 Chronicles 22:7-10. The objurgation may seem to assume a somewhat too harsh and severe form, when he declares his resolution to refuse sleep, his food, and the common supports of life, until a place should have been set apart for the Temple. To have acted in this way would have been to show an inconsiderate zeal, for it did not become him to prescribe the time to God, nor was it possible for him to endure any number of fasting days or sleepless nights. Then when are we to consider that this vow was taken? I am aware indeed that some Hebrew writers judge it to have been at that period when he fell down trembling at the sight of the angel; but, without denying that the plot of ground was pointed out to him immediately after that circumstance, it is altogether a forced and unsupported conjecture to say, that what had so long been in the thoughts of David was conceived at that exact time. Nor is there anything which should prevent us from supposing that his language is here to be understood as hyperbolical, and that this was not a vow in the strict form of it, but to be understood in a qualified sense that he would never enter his house, nor ascend his couch, without feeling a concern upon this subject. He felt persuaded that the settlement of the sanctuary was intimately connected with the state of the kingdom; and we need not be surprised that so long as he was kept in uncertainty regarding the place of the Temple, he should scarcely have felt assured of his very crown, and have been incapable of sharing the ordinary comforts of life with any satisfaction. Still, where Scripture has been silent we can say nothing certain; and I may throw out these things as what seems to me the most probable interpretation. And I think the sense of the passage may very well bear to be that which I have mentioned, That until informed of the place of the Ark’s destined residence, David was full of concern and anxiety, dwelling in his house, or when he lay upon his bed. As to the vow itself, this and other passages afford no ground for supposing, with the Papists, that God approves of whatever vows they may utter, without regard to the nature of them. To vow unto God that which he has himself declared to be agreeable to him, is a commendable practice; but it is too much presumption on our part to say that we will rush upon such vows as suit our carnal inclination. The great thing is that we consider what is agreeable to his will, otherwise we may be found depriving him of that wherein indeed his principal right lies, for with him “to obey is better than sacrifice.” (1 Samuel 15:22.)
6. Lo! we heard of it at Ephratha. This verse is obscure, and we need not wonder at the difficulty which interpreters have felt in ascertaining its meaning. First, the relative pronoun 131131 That is, the objective affix ה, which appears at each of the verbs in this verse, and which is translated it. By some it is thought that the antecedent is ארון, aron, ark, which, although it is generally masculine, is yet sometimes feminine, as in 1 Samuel 4:17; 2 Chronicles 8:11. Such is the opinion of Dr. Lightfoot, who explains the verse thus: “We heard of it (the ark) in Ephratah, (that is, Shiloh,) a city of Ephraim; we found it in the fields of the wood, that is in Kirjath-jearim. 1 Samuel 7:1,” etc. (Lightfoot’s Chorogr. Cent., c. 45.) Others consider the הto refer to habitations, in the preceding verse; and though that noun is in the plural, it is, as noticed in a preceding note, put by enallage for the singular. Rosenmuller thinks this opinion which is the one adopted by Calvin the more probable and no doubt at first sight the most obvious meaning is, that the pronoun it refers to the spot which David had discovered as a suitable place on which to erect the house of God. Walford, indeed, objects that “this cannot be intended, because the site of the Temple was neither at Ephratah, nor in the fields of the wood, or of Jaar;” and he gives at some length an ingenious explanation of this difficult passage, extracted chiefly from the German writer Tilingius. This objection, it will be perceived, is removed by one of the expositions suggested by Calvin, which supposes that the allusion is first to a report of Ephratha being the place where the Temple was to be built; and next to the certain information which the people of Israel afterwards obtained that Jerusalem was the spot which God himself had selected. Whether this however is the correct explanation of the verse, it is not so easy to determine. being of the feminine gender has no antecedent, and we are forced to suppose that it must refer to the word habitation in the foregoing sentence, although there it reads habitations, in the plural number. But the principal difficulty lies in the word Ephratha, because the Ark of the Covenant was never placed there. If the reference be to past time, Shiloh should have been the place mentioned; but as it is plain the Psalmist speaks of its new residence, the question returns, why Ephratha and not Zion is specified? Some would get rid of the difficulty by resorting to a frivolous conceit, That the place had two names, and that the plat of ground which was shown to David (2 Samuel 24:18; 1 Chronicles 21:18) was called Ephratha, because it was fertile, on which account Jerome styles it καρποφοριαν, and yet is not very consistent with himself, for in another place, when he gets into his allegories, he most absurdly interprets it to mean frenzy. I have no doubt whatever that the word comes from פרהparah, which means to bear fruit; just as Bethlehem, which is situated in the same quarter, was called for its fruitfulness “the house of bread.” But any conjecture founded upon the mere name of the place is necessarily unsatisfactory, and we must seek some more probable explanation. I might begin by mentioning one which is not without force. A rumor had spread that the Ark of the Covenant was to be deposited in Ephratha, which was the place of David’s nativity 132132 Bethlehem, the place of David’s nativity, is called Ephratha in Genesis 35:19. , and we may suppose at least that his native soil would seem to many the most appropriate locality for the Ark and Sanctuary. We can easily understand how such an opinion should get abroad. In that case the hearing referred to by the Psalmist alludes to the report which had been circulated. Should this be taken as the meaning, the verb would be in the pluperfect tense, we HAD heard that it was in Ephratha, but we found it in the woods, that is, in a place by no means so attractive or well cultivated. Jerusalem might be said to be woody, because we know that it was surrounded by mountains, and that it was by no means in a part of the country which was noted for fruitfulness. There is another meaning which I would submit to the judgment of the reader. Let us suppose that the faithful here say that they had heard of its being in Ephratha, because God had spoken still greater things of Ephratha than of Zion. It is true that the memorable prediction (Micah 5:2) had not yet been given, yet it may have been that God had already issued some very great and signal prophecy regarding Bethlehem. We have heard, as if they had said, of Bethlehem, but it is only as yet a dim expectation which we have in reference to that place, and in the meantime we must worship God in this place of the woods, looking forward to the fulfillment of the promise regarding Ephratha. This interpretation, however, is far fetched, nor would I venture to adopt it, or at least recommend it to others as the right one. The simpler way seems to be to understand the word Ephratha as applying to David personally, and not so much to the place of that name, the declaration of the Psalmist being to this effect that now when God had chosen a king from Ephratha, the place would necessarily at the same time be marked out for the Ark of the Covenant. It is said, have heard, for the fixing of the place of the Sanctuary depended upon the will of God; nor until this was declared could men determine it according to their own fancy. The fact that now upon David’s mounting the throne this illustrious oracle concerning the permanent settlement of the Temple was to take effect, afforded good ground of thanksgiving. We have proof here that the people of God did not deposit the Ark at random in any place, but had express directions from God himself as to the place where he would be worshipped all proper worship proceeding from faith, while faith cometh by hearing. (Romans 10:17.) Mount Zion had no peculiar excellencies almost to recommend it; but having once heard that it was the object of God’s choice, they show that they consider it wrong to call the matter in question.
7. We will go into his habitations. Here he dictates to all the Lord’s people a common form of mutual exhortation to the duty of going up to the place which had been pointed out by the Angel. The clearer the intimation God may have given of his will, the more alacrity should we show in obeying it. Accordingly, the Psalmist intimates that now when the people had ascertained beyond all doubt the place of God’s choice, they should admit of no procrastination, and show all the more alacrity as God was calling them more closely, and with a more privileged familiarity, to himself, now that he had selected a certain place of rest amongst them. He thus passes a virtual condemnation upon the lukewarmness of those whose zeal does not increase in proportion to the measure of revelation which they enjoy. Habitations are spoken of in the plural number, and this it may be (though we may doubt whether the Psalmist had such minute distinctions in his eye) because there was in the temple an inner sanctuary, a middle apartment, and then the court. It is of more importance to attend to the epithet which follows, where the Psalmist calls the Ark of the Covenant God’s footstool, to intimate that the sanctuary could never contain the immensity of God’s essence, as men were apt absurdly to imagine. The mere outward temple with all its majesty being no more than his footstool, his people were called upon to look upwards to the heavens and fix their contemplations with due reverence upon God himself. We know that they were prohibited from forming any low and carnal view of him. Elsewhere, it is true, we find it called “God’s face,” (Psalm 28:8,) to confirm the faith of the people in looking to this divine symbol which was set before them. Both ideas are brought out very distinctly in the passage before us, that, on the one hand, it is mere superstition to suppose God confined to the temple, and that, on the other hand, the external symbols are not without their use in the Church that, in short, we should improve these as helps to our faith, but not rest in them. While God dwells in heaven, and is above all heavens, we must avail ourselves of helps in rising to the knowledge of him; and in giving us symbols of his presence, he sets, as it were, his feet upon the earth, and suffers us to touch them. It is thus that the Holy Spirit condescends for our profit, and in accommodation to our infirmity, raising our thoughts to heavenly and divine things by these worldly elements. In reference to this passage, we are called to notice the amazing ignorance of the Second Council of Nice, in which these worthy weak Fathers 133133 “Boni paterculi.” — Lat. of ours wrested it into a proof of idolatry, as if David or Solomon commanded the people to erect statues to God and worship them. Now, that the Mosiac ceremonies are abolished we worship at the footstool of God, when we yield a reverential submission to his word, and rise from the sacraments to a true spiritual service of him. Knowing that God has not descended from heaven directly or in his absolute character, but that his feet, are withdrawn from us, being placed on a footstool, we should be careful to rise to him by the intermediate steps. Christ is he not only on whom the feet of God rest, but in whom the whole fullness of God’s essence and glory resides, and in him, therefore, we should seek the Father. With this view he descended, that we might rise heavenward.
8. Arise, O Jehovah? 134134 Arise, O Jehovah! were the words which Moses used (Numbers 10:35) whenever in the journey through the wilderness the Ark moved forward; and this and the two following verses form a part of the prayer which Solomon offered at the dedication of the Temple, (2 Chronicles 6:41, 42,) which might be considered as the restingplace of God and of the Ark. The Ark is here called “the Ark of thy strength” that is, the symbol of thy power and majesty. This phrase is found only in this place and in the passage above cited. Such language as this, inviting the great God who fills heaven and earth to come into a new place of residence, might seem strange and harsh, but the external symbols of religion which God had appointed are spoken of in these exalted terms to put honor upon them, and the better to ensure to them the regard of God’s people. Should God institute no medium of intercourse, and call us to a direct communication with heaven, the great distance at which we stand from him would strike us with dismay, and paralyze invocation. Although, therefore, he does not thereby change place himself, he is felt by us to draw sensibly nearer. It was thus that he descended amongst his ancient people by the Ark of the Covenant, which he designed to be a visible emblem of his power and grace being present amongst them. Accordingly, the second clause of the verse is of an exegetical character, informing the Church that God was to be understood as having come in the sense of making a conspicuous display of his power in connection with the Ark. Hence it is called the Ark of his strength, not a mere dead idle shadow to look upon, but what certainly declared God’s nearness to his Church. By the rest spoken of we are to understand Mount Zion, because, as we shall see afterwards, God was ever afterwards to be worshiped only in that place.
9. Let thy priests, etc. He now prays in general for the prosperity of the Church, as what stood intimately connected with the previous statement, the promotion of our best interests being the great end for which God dwells amongst us. Some construe the words into a wish that the worship of God might be maintained in its purity, and think that the Psalmist prays that the priests might be clothed with holiness in allusion to their sacred garments. Upon a closer view of the words and the whole context, I am rather inclined to be of another opinion, and to consider this a prayer that the righteousness of God might be displayed amongst the people, being as an ornament upon the priests, and communicating joy to all the people. Thus I take righteousness to mean the fruit or effects of righteousness, and this the righteousness of God, not of men. The priests are of course mentioned first, as holding a higher place in the appointed order of the Church; while they have their due place assigned to them, it is still the Church collectively to which the prayer refers as though the Psalmist requested that the glory of this righteousness should be reflected from the priests upon the people generally. God is said to clothe us with his righteousness when he appears as our Savior and help, defends us by his power, and shows in his government of us that we are the objects of his care. The rejoicing which is spoken of must have reference to a life of happiness. And these two things being joined together may convince us that by righteousness nothing else is meant than God’s guardianship and government. Consistently with this we find it said afterwards “Thy priests shall be clothed with salvation;” and I may add, that Solomon, in the solemn prayer already referred to, (2 Chronicles 6:41,) makes no mention of righteousness, but of salvation. I have repeatedly given the reason why the saints of God are called חסידיםchasidim, or merciful ones, because mercy or beneficence is that grace which assimilates us most to God.
10. For thy servant David’s sake, etc. Some would connect the first part of the verse with the preceding, without adducing reasons against this, it must at once strike the reader that this verse must be taken together. Before entering upon an explanation of the Psalmist’s meaning I may just say that it would be to put a forced sense upon the words were we to understand by turning away the face of thy Christ depriving us of a view of the Redeemer. We may infer with certainty from Solomon’s prayer, that they are a request that God would show favor to the king. The same expression is employed by Bathsheba in the request which she made to her son Solomon, “Turn not away thy face,” meaning that he would not cast her out of his sight. (1 Kings 2:20.) It is an expression tantamount to shewing displeasure; and we might say a word or two in reference to it because the other idea of referring the words to our Redeemer is plausible, and might mislead persons of little discernment. Nothing more, then, is here asked than that God would not despise and reject the prayers which David had preferred in the name of all the people. The favor is asked for David’s sake, only because God had made a covenant with him. So far as that privilege was concerned, he did not stand exactly upon the footing of any other ordinary man. The prayer, in short, is to the effect that God in remembrance of his promise would show favor to the posterity of David, for though this prayer for the Church must be considered as dictated to each of the kings, the foundation was in the person of David. The Church was thus taught figuratively that Christ, as Mediator, would make intercession for all his people. As yet he had not appeared in the flesh, nor entered by the sacrifice of himself into the Holiest of all, and in the meantime the people had a figurative Mediator to embolden them in their supplications.
11. Jehovah sware unto David. 135135 Compare Psalm 89:48. The sacred histories make no mention of such an oath, but a promise to the same effect is recorded in 2 Samuel 7:12; 2 Kings 8:25. Here he brings out the idea still more clearly, that the only thing he had respect to in David was the free promise which God had made to him. He takes notice of the fact, as confirmatory to his faith, that God had ratified the promise by oath. As to the particular words used, he speaks of God having sworn in truth, that is, not fallaciously, but in good faith, so that no doubt could be entertained of his departing from his word. The thing promised was a successor to David of his own seed; for though he did not want children, he had already almost despaired of the regular succession, from the fatal confusions which prevailed in his family, and the discord which internally rent his household, and might eventually ruin it. Solomon was particularly marked out, but the promise extended to a continuous line of successors. This arrangement affected the welfare of the whole Church, and not of David only, and the people of Godare encouraged by the assurance, that the kingdom which he had established amongst them was possessed of a sacred and enduring stability. Both king and people needed to be reminded of this divine foundation upon which it rested. We see how insolently the sovereigns of this world often deport themselves filled with pride, though in words they may acknowledge that they reign by the grace of God. How often, besides, do they violently usurp the throne; how rarely do they come to it in a regular manner. A distinction is therefore drawn between the kingdoms of this world and that which David held by the sacred tenure of God’s own oracle.
12. If thy sons keep my covenant. More distinct notice is now taken of the descending line, by which the perpetuity of the succession, as I have already shown, is pointed out. Sons of princes commonly succeed them in this world by right of inheritance, but there was this undoubted peculiarity of privilege in the case of David’s kingdom, that God expressly declared that he would always have a descendant from his body upon the throne, not for one age merely, but for ever. For though that kingdom was for a time destroyed, it was restored again, and had its everlasting establishment in Christ. Here the question occurs Did the continuance of the kingdom rest upon good conduct, or human merit? for the terms of this agreement would seem to suggest that God’s covenant would not be made good, unless men faithfully performed their part, and that thus the effect of the grace promised was suspended upon obedience. We must remember, in the first place, that the covenant was perfectly gratuitous, so far as related to God’s promise of sending a Savior and Redeemer, because this stood connected with the original adoption of those to whom the promise was made, which was itself free. Indeed the treachery and rebellion of the nation did not prevent God from sending forth his Son, and this was a public proof that he was not influenced by the consideration of their good conduct. Hence Paul says, (Romans 3:3,)
“What if some did not believe
is therefore the truth of God of none effect?”
intimating that God had not withdrawn his favor from the Jews, having chosen them freely of his grace. We know, too, that notwithstanding their efforts, as if it had been of set purpose, to destroy the promises, God met their malicious opposition with displays of his marvellous love, made his truth and faithfulness to emerge in a most triumphant manner, and showed that he stood firm to his own purpose, independently of any merit of theirs. This may serve to show in what sense the covenant was not conditional; but as there were other things which were accessories to the covenant, 136136 “Sed quia secum trahebat alias accessiones.” Lat. a condition was appended, to the effect that God would bless them if they obeyed his commandments. The Jews, for declining from this obedience, were removed into exile. God seemed at that time “to make void or profane his covenant,” as we have seen elsewhere. The dispersion was a kind of breaking of the covenant, but only in part and to appearance. This will be brought out more clearly by reference to what we learn, from sacred history, to have occurred shortly after David’s death. By the defection of the ten tribes the kingdom suffered a severe blow, only a small portion of it being left. Afterwards it was reduced by fresh disasters, till at length it was torn up by the root. And although their return from the captivity gave some hope of restoration, there was no one bearing the name of king, and any dignity that attached to Zerubbabel was but obscure, till kings sprung up who were spurious, and not of the right line. In this case would we not have said that the covenant of God was abolished? and yet, as the Redeemer came forth from the very source predicted, it is plain that it stood firm and stable. In this sense it is said by Ezekiel of the crown, (Ezekiel 21:26,)
“Remove the diadem; reversed, reversed, reversed shall it be,
till he come whose it is;”
where the Prophet might seem to cancel what God had written with his own hand, and nullify his promise, for the safety of the people stood intimately connected with the throne, according to the expression we find in the Lamentations,
“The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the Lord,
was taken in their pits.” (Lamentations 4:20)
The Prophet, we say, might seem to strike directly against the covenant made by God, when he speaks of the crown being taken away, and yet what he adds in the subsequent part of the sentence, proves that covenant, in so far as it was gratuitous, to have been everlasting and inviolable, since he holds out the promise of the Redeemer, notwithstanding the conduct of the Jews, which was such as to exclude them temporarily from the divine, favor. God, on the one hand, took vengeance upon the people for their ingratitude, so as to show that the terms of the covenant did not run conditionally to no purpose; while on the other, at the coming of Christ there was a free performance of what had been freely promised, the crown being set upon Christ’s head. The obedience which God demands is particularly stated to be the obedience of his covenant, to teach us that we must not serve him by human inventions, but confine ourselves within the prescription of his word.
13. Seeing that Jehovah has chosen Zion. By coupling the kingdom with the priesthood and sanctuary service, he declares it still more emphatically to have been of divine and not human appointment. The connection is not to be overlooked, on another account. The true strength and stability of that kingdom were in Christ, and Christ’s kingdom is inseparable from his priesthood. This may explain why mention is made of Zion being chosen. God decreed nothing in relation to the kingdom, but what had a certain connection with the sanctuary, the more perfectly to prefigure the Mediator who was to come, and who was both priest and king, after the order of Melchizedek. The kingdom and tabernacle were, therefore, closely allied. Notice is taken of the reason upon which the choice proceeded that mount Zion was not chosen for any excellency belonging to it, as we have seen, (Psalm 68:16,) but because such was the will of God. His good pleasure is specified in contrast with any merit in the place itself. This is another proof of what we have already stated that the covenant made by God with David proceeded from his mere goodness.
14. This is my rest for ever. The same truth is here put into the mouth of God, to give it additional weight; and it is declared not to have been in vain that the Temple had been erected, since God would show effectually and by practical testimonies the delight which he had in the worship of his own appointment. God’s resting, or talking up his habitation, are expressions which denote his being present with men in the manifestation of his power. Thus he dwelt in Zion, in the sense that there his people worshipped him according to the prescription of his law, and found besides the benefit of the service in his favorable answer to their requests. It was eventually seen, in a very striking manner, that this was the promise of an infallible God, whet, after the Temple had been overthrown, the altar cast down, and the whole frame of legal service interrupted, the glory of the Lord afterwards returned to it once more, and remained there up to the advent of Christ. We all know in what a wicked and shameful manner the Jews abused the divine promise which is here made, under the impression that it necessarily laid God under an obligation to favor them, taking occasion from if, in the pride of their hearts, to despise, and even cruelly persecute the Prophets. Luther on this account calls it “the bloody promise;” for, like all hypocrites who make God’s holy name a covert for iniquity, they did not hesitate, when charged with the, worst, crimes, to insist that it was beyond the power of the Prophets to take from them privileges which God had bestowed. With them to assert that the Temple could be stripped of its glory, was equivalent to charging God with falsehood, and impeaching his faithfulness. Under the influence of this spirit of vain confidence they proceeded such inconceivable lengths in shedding innocent blood. Were the Devil of Rome armed with pretensions as splendid, what bounds would be set to its audacity? As it is, we see how fiercely, and with what bloody pride it arrogates the name of the Church, while outraging all religion, in open contempt of God and flagrant violation of humanity. But what of that? the hierarchy would otherwise fall, and this must stand, if Christ would not desert his spouse the Church! The refutation of such a plea is not far to seek. The Church is limited to no one place: now that the glory of the Lord shines through all the earth, his rest is where Christ and his members are. It is necessary that we rightly understand what the Psalmist says of the everlasting continuance of the Temple. The advent of Christ was “the time of reformation,” and the figures of the former Testament, instead of being then proved or rendered vain, were substantiated, and received their fulfillment in him. If it be still objected that mount Zion is here spoken of as the everlasting residence of God, it is sufficient to answer that the whole world became an enlarged mount Zion upon the advent of Christ.
15. Blessing I will bless, etc. God’s dwelling in the midst of the people was what constituted the great source of their blessedness; and now some of the proofs are mentioned which he would give of his fatherly regard, such as preparing and administering their ordinary food, relieving their wants, clothing their priests with salvation, and filling all his people with joy and gladness. This it was necessary should be added, for unless we have ocular demonstration of the divine goodness, we are not spiritual enough to rise upwards to the apprehension of it. We have a twofold demonstration of it in the matter of our daily food; first in the earth’s being enriched so as to furnish us with corn, and wine, and oil; and again in the earth’s produce being multiplied, through a secret power, so as to provide us with sufficient nourishment. There is here a promise that God would exert a special care over his own people to supply them with food, and that though they might not have a great abundance, yet the poor would be satisfied. We must not omit mentioning the remarkable and ludicrous mistake which the Papists have made upon this passage, and which shows the judicial stupidity they lie under to be such, that there is nothing so absurd they will not swallow. By confounding two letters into one, for victus they read vidus, and then conjectured that this must be a mutilation for viduas blessing I will bless her widows! Thus they made “widows” out of “food” an extraordinary blunder, which we would scarcely credit, were it not a fact that they sing the word out in their temples to this present day. 139139 “צידה, her provision. The word ציד signifies food which is taken in hunting, and then it is used to express food of any kind — provision generally. The Septuagint has θήραν, which denotes provision that has been hunted, and so obtained; but another reading of the Greek version τὴν χήραν αὐτὢς, which has been followed by the Vulgate, Arabic, and Ethiopic; the rendering of the Vulgate being viduam ejus This corrupt reading is noticed by Jerome.” Phillips. But God, who blesses the food of his own people, has infatuated their minds, and left them to confound everything in their absurd reveries and triflings. The inspired penman goes on to repeat what he had already said of other blessings, only the term salvation is used instead of righteousness, but in the same sense I already mentioned. Some understand it to have reference to purity of doctrine and holiness of life; but this seems a forced interpretation, and he means simply that they would be safe and happy under the divine protection.
17. There will I make, etc. He reverts to the state of the kingdom, which God had promised to take under his care and protection. It is necessary that we should attend to the peculiar force of the words employed I will make the horn of David to bud Now there can be no doubt as to the meaning of the term horn, which in Hebrew is very commonly used to signify force or power; but we are to mark that by the horn budding there is an allusion to the humble original of the kingdom, and the singular restorations which it underwent. David was taken from the menial drudgery of the sheepfold, and from the lowly cottage where he dwelt, the youngest son of his father, who was no more than an ordinary shepherd, and was advanced to the throne, and rose by a series of unlooked for successes. Under Jeroboam the kingdom was at an early period so effectually cut down again, that it was only by budding forth from time to time that it maintained itself in a moderate degree of advancement. Afterwards it underwent various shocks, which must have issued in its destruction, had it not still budded anew. And when the people were dispersed in the captivity, what must have become of them, had not God made the broken and trampled horn of David, again to bud? Isaiah accordingly seems to have had this in his eye when he compared Christ to a rod which should spring not from tree in full growth, but from a trunk or stem. (Isaiah 11:1.) To the prophecy now before us Zechariah perhaps refers when he says, “Behold the man whose name is the Branch,” (Zechariah 6:12,) intimating that in this way only could the power and dignity of the kingdom be restored after the dismemberment and ravages to which it had been exposed. In 2 Samuel 23:5, David makes use of the word employed in the verse before us, but in somewhat a different sense, referring to the continual advancement of the kingdom unto further measures of prosperity. Here the inspired penman rather refers to the singular manner in which God would cause the horn of David to revive again, when at any time it might seem broken and withered. The figure of the lamp is much to the same effect, and occurs in many other places of Scripture, being a prophecy very generally in the mouths of the people. The meaning is, that the kingdom, though it underwent occasional obscurations, would never be wholly extinguished under the calamities which overtook it, being as the lamp of God constantly burning, and pointing out safety to the Lord’s people, though not shining to a great distance. At that time all the illumination enjoyed was but the feeble lamp which shone in Jerusalem; now Christ, the sun of righteousness, sheds a full radiance all over the world.
18. His enemies will I clothe with shame. The priests were said above “to be clothed with righteousness and salvation,” now the enemies of David are represented as “clothed with shame.” It is not enough that all go well within. God must keep us from the various harms and evils which come upon us from without, and hence we have this second promise added, which is one wherein we recognize often the goodness of God even more than in the blessings which he may shower upon us in the day of prosperity. The greater that fear which seizes upon us when exposed to aggression from enemies, the more are we sensibly awakened to take hold of divine help. The passage teaches us that the Church and people of God will never enjoy such peace on earth as altogether to escape being assaulted by the variety of enemies which Satan stirs up for their destruction. It is enough to have it declared, upon divine authority, that their attempts shall be unsuccessful, and that they will retire eventually with ignominy and disgrace. The, clause which follows has been variously interpreted. The verb which we have translated to flourish, in the Hiphil conjugation means sometimes to see, so that some have explained the words In that place shall the crown of David be seen, when the horn shall have been made to bud. Some derive the word from ציף, tsits, a plate, as if it had been said that the crown of the king would be resplendent with plates of gold. But I consider that the crown is here said to flourish, just as formerly the allusion was to budding or germinating. Isaiah, on the other hand, speaks (Isaiah 28:5) of the crown of drunkenness of Ephraim as being a fading flower. Thus we have it here declared that however frail to appearance the crown of David might be in his posterity, it would be invigorated by some secret virtue, and flourish for ever.