World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
He calls to the heavens above
and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
4. He shall call to the heavens from above It is plain from this verse for what purpose God, as he had already announced, would call upon the earth. This was to witness the settlement of his controversy with his own people the Jews, against whom judgment was to be pronounced, not in the
ordinary manner as by his prophets, but with great solemnity before the whole world. The prophet warns the hypocritical that they must prepare to be driven from their hiding-place, that their cause would be decided in the presence of men and angels, and that they would he dragged without excuse before that dreadful assembly. It may be asked, why the prophet represents the true fearers of the Lord as cited to his bar, when it is evident that the remonstrance which follows in the psalm is
addressed to the hypocritical and degenerate portion of the Jews? To this I answer, that God here speaks of the whole Church, for though a great part of the race of Abraham had declined from the piety of their ancestors, yet he has a respect to the Jewish Church, as being his own institution. He speaks of them as his meek ones, to remind them of what they ought to be in consistency
with their calling, and not as if they were all without exception patterns of godliness. The form of the address conveys a rebuke to those amongst them whose real character was far from corresponding with their profession. Others have suggested a more refined interpretation, as if the meaning were, Separate the small number of my sincere worshippers from the promiscuous multitude by whom my name is profaned, lest they too should afterwards be seduced to a vain religion of outward form. I do not
deny that this agrees with the scope of the prophet. But I see no reason why a church, however universally corrupted, provided it contain a few godly members, should not be denominated, in honor of this remnant, the holy people of God. Interpreters have differed upon the last clause of the verse: Those who strike a covenant with me over sacrifices, Some think over is put for besides, or beyond, and that God commends his true servants for this, that they acknowledged something more to be required in his covenant than an observance of outward ceremonies, and were not chargeable with resting in the carnal figures of the Law.
In Luther’s German translation of the Bible this verse is rendered,
“Gather me mine holy ones,
That regard the covenant more than offering.” Others think that the spiritual and true worship of God is here directly opposed to sacrifices; as if it had been said, Those who, instead of sacrifices, keep my covenant in the right and appointed manner, by yielding to me the sincere homage of their heart. But in my opinion, the prophet is here to be viewed as pointing out with commendation the true and genuine use of the legal worship; for it was of the utmost consequence that it should be known what was the real end for which God appointed sacrifices under the Law. The prophet here declares that sacrifices were of no value whatever except as seals of God’s covenant, an interpretative handwriting of submission to it, or in general as means employed for ratifying it. There is an allusion to the custom then universally prevalent of interposing sacrifices, that covenants might be made more solemn, and be more religiously observed. 245245 The manner in which covenants were anciently ratified by sacrifices was this: The victim was cut into two parts, and each half was placed upon an altar. The contracting parties then passed between the pieces, which was a kind of imprecation upon the party who should violate the covenant, being as much as to say, May he or they be cut asunder like that dissected victim. In this manner, the covenant which God made with Abraham and his family was ratified, Genesis 15:9, 17, 18. This awful ceremony was also observed by God’s ancient people at the renovation of the covenant, as appears from Jeremiah 34:18. See also a covenant between God and his people with sacrifices in Exodus 24:4-8. This explains the phrase here used, which is literally, “Those who have cut a covenant with me by sacrifice,” the verb being from כרת, carath, he cut The same mode of ratifying covenants prevailed among some of the heathen nations, as appears from the allusions made to it by Homer and Virgil, Iliad, lib. 19, 50, 260; Æneid, lib. 12, 50, 292. In like manner, the design with which sacrifices were instituted by God was to bind his people more closely to himself, and to ratify and confirm his covenant. The passage is well worthy of our particular notice, as defining those who are to be considered the true members of the Church. They are such, on the one hand, as are characterised by the spirit of meekness, practising righteousness in their intercourse with the world; and such, on the other, as close in the exercise of a genuine faith with the covenant of adoption which God has proposed to them. This forms the true worship of God, as he has himself delivered it to us from heaven; and those who decline from it, whatever pretensions they may make to be considered a church of God, are excommunicated from it by the Holy Spirit. As to sacrifices or other ceremonies, they are of no value, except in so far as they seal to us the pure truth of God. All such rites, consequently, as have no foundation in the word of God, are unauthorised, and that worship which has not a distinct reference to the word is but a corruption of things sacred.