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a Bible passage
The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the thoughts of his heart to all generations.
An Exhortation to Praise God.
1 Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. 2 Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. 3 Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise. 4 For the word of the Lord is right; and all his works are done in truth. 5 He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. 6 By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. 7 He gathereth the waters of the sea together as a heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. 9 For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. 10 The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect. 11 The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.
Four things the psalmist expresses in these verses:
I. The great desire he had that God might be praised. He did not think he did it so well himself, but that he wished others also might be employed in this work; the more the better, in this concert: it is the more like heaven. 1. Holy joy is the heart and soul of praise, and that is here pressed upon all good people (v. 1): Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous; so the foregoing psalm concluded and so this begins; for all our religious exercises should both begin and end with a holy complacency and triumph in God as the best of being and best of friends. 2. Thankful praise is the breath and language of holy joy; and that also is here required of us (v. 2): "Praise the Lord; speak well of him, and give him the glory due to his name." 3. Religious songs are the proper expressions of thankful praise; those are here required (v. 3): "Sing unto him a new song, the best you have, not that which by frequent use is worn, thread-bare, but that which, being new, is most likely to move the affections, a new song for new mercies and upon every new occasion, for those compassions which are new every morning." Music was then used, by the appointment of David, with the temple-songs, that they might be the better sung; and this also is here called for (v. 2): Sing unto him with the psaltery. Here is, (1.) A good rule for this duty: "Do it skilfully, and with a loud noise; let it have the best both of head and heart; let it be done intelligently and with a clear head, affectionately and with a warm heart." (2.) A good reason for this duty: For praise is comely for the upright. It is well pleasing to God (the garments of praise add much to the comeliness which God puts upon his people) and it is an excellent ornament to our profession. It becomes the upright, whom God has put so much honour upon, to give honour to him. The upright praise God in a comely manner, for they praise him with their hearts, that is praising him with their glory; whereas the praises of hypocrites are awkward and uncomely, like a parable in the mouth of fools, Prov. xxvi. 7.
II. The high thoughts he had of God, and of his infinite perfections, v. 4, 5. God makes himself known to us, 1. In his word, here put for all divine revelation, all that which God at sundry times and in divers manners spoke to the children of men, and that is all right, there is nothing amiss in it; his commands exactly agree with the rules of equity and the eternal reasons of good and evil. His promises are all wise and good and inviolably sure, and there is no iniquity in his threatenings, but even those are designed for our good, by deterring us from evil. God's word is right, and therefore all our deviations from it are wrong, and we are then in the right when we agree with it. 2. In his works, and those are all done in truth, all according to his counsels, which are called the scriptures of truth, Dan. x. 21. The copy in all God's works agrees exactly with the great original, the plan laid in the Eternal Mind, and varies not in the least jot. God has made it to appear in his works, (1.) That he is a God of inflexible justice: He loveth righteousness and judgment. There is nothing but righteousness in the sentence he passes and judgment in the execution of it. He never did nor can do wrong to any of his creatures, but is always ready to give redress to those that are wronged, and does it with delight. He takes pleasure in those that are righteous. He is himself the righteous Lord, and therefore loveth righteousness. (2.) That he is a God of inexhaustible bounty: The earth is full of his goodness, that is, of the proofs and instances of it. The benign influences which the earth receives from above, and the fruits it is thereby enabled to produce, the provision that is made both for man and beast, and the common blessings with which all the nations of the earth are blessed, plainly declare that the earth is full of his goodness—the darkest, the coldest, the hottest, and the most dry and desert part of it not excepted. What a pity is it that this earth, which is so full of God's goodness, should be so empty of his praises, and that of the multitudes that live upon his bounty there are so few that live to his glory!
III. The conviction he was under of the almighty power of God, evidenced in the creation of the world. We "believe in God," and therefore we praise him as "the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth," so we are here taught to praise him. Observe,
1. How God made the world, and brought all things into being. (1.) How easily: All things were made by the word of the Lord and by the breath of his mouth. Christ is the Word, the Spirit is the breath, so that God the Father made the world, as he rules it and redeems it, by his Son and Spirit. He spoke, and he commanded (v. 9), and that was enough; there needed no more. With men saying and doing are two things, but it is not so with God. By the Word and Spirit of God as the world was made, so was man, that little world. God said, Let us make man, and he breathed into him the breath of life. By the Word and Spirit the church is built, that new world, and grace wrought in the soul, that new man, that new creation. What cannot that power do which with a word made a world! (2.) How effectually it was done: And it stood fast. What God does he does to purpose; he does it and it stands fast. Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever, Eccl. iii. 14. It is by virtue of that command to stand fast that things continue to this day according to God's ordinance, Ps. cxix. 91.
2. What he made. He made all things, but notice is here taken, (1.) of the heavens, and the host of them, v. 6. The visible heavens, and the sun, moon, and stars, their hosts—(2.) Of the waters, and the treasures of them, v. 7. The earth was at first covered with the water, and, being heavier, must of course subside and sink under it; but, to show from the very first that the God of nature is not tied to the ordinary method of nature, and the usual operations of his powers, with a word's speaking he gathered the waters together on a heap, that the dry land might appear, yet left them not to continue on a heap, but laid up the depth in store-houses, not only in the flats where the seas make their beds, and in which they are locked up by the sand on the shore as in storehouses, but in secret subterraneous caverns, where they are hidden from the eyes of all living, but were reserved as in a store-house for that day when those fountains of the great deep were to be broken up; and they are still laid up there in store, for which use the great Master of the house knows best.
3. What use is to be made of this (v. 8): Let all the earth fear the Lord, and stand in awe of him; that is, let all the children of men worship him and give glory to him, Ps. xc. 5, 6. The everlasting gospel gives this as the reason why we must worship God, because he made the heaven, and the earth, and the sea, Rev. xiv. 6, 7. Let us all fear him, that is, dread his wrath and displeasure, and be afraid of having him our enemy and of standing it out against him. Let us not dare to offend him who having this power no doubt has all power in his hand. It is dangerous being at war with him who has the host of heaven for his armies and the depths of the sea for his magazines, and therefore it is wisdom to desire conditions of peace, see Jer. v. 22.
IV. The satisfaction he had of God's sovereignty and dominion, v. 10, 11. He over-rules all the counsels of men, and makes them, contrary to their intention, serviceable to his counsels. Come and see with an eye of faith God in the throne, 1. Frustrating the devices of his enemies: He bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought, so that what they imagine against him and his kingdom proves a vain thing (Ps. ii. 1); the counsel of Ahithophel is turned into foolishness; Haman's plot is baffled. Though the design be laid ever so deep, and the hopes raised upon it ever so high, yet, if God says it shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass; it is all to no purpose. 2. Fulfilling his own decrees: The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever. It is immutable in itself, for he is in one mind, and who can turn him? The execution of it may be opposed, but cannot in the least be obstructed by any created power. Through all the revolutions of time God never changed his measures, but in every event, even that which to us is most surprising, the eternal counsel of God is fulfilled, nor can any thing prevent its being accomplished in its time. With what pleasure to ourselves may we in singing this give praise to God! How easy may this thought make us at all times, that God governs the world, that he did it in infinite wisdom before we were born, and will do it when we are silent in the dust!