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PSALM XCIII.

1 Jehovah is King, with majesty has He clothed Himself,

Jehovah has clothed Himself, has girded Himself with strength,

Yea, the world is set fast [that] it cannot be moved.

2 Fast is set Thy throne from of yore,

From eternity art Thou.

3 The streams, Jehovah, have lifted up,

The streams have lifted up their voice,

The streams lift up their tumult.

4 Above the voices of many waters,

Mighty [waters], ocean breakers,

Mightier is Jehovah on high.

5 Thy testimonies are utterly to be trusted:

Holiness fits Thy house,

Jehovah, for length of days.

This is the first of a group of psalms celebrating Jehovah as King. It is followed by one which somewhat interrupts the unity of subject in the group, but may be brought into connection with them by being regarded as hymning Jehovah's kingly and judicial providence, as manifested in the subjugation of rebels against His throne. The remaining members of the group (Psalms xcv.-c.) rise to a height of lyric exultation in meditating on the reign of Jehovah. Psalms xciii. and xciv. are followed by two (xcv: vi.) beginning with ringing calls for new songs to hail the new manifestation of Himself, by which Jehovah has, as it were, inaugurated a new stage in His visible reign on earth. Psalm xcvii. again breaks out into the joyful proclamation34 "Jehovah is King," which is followed, as if by a chorus, with a repeated summons for a new song (Psalm xcviii.). Once more the proclamation "Jehovah is King" is sounded out in Psalm xcix., and then the group is closed by Psalm c., with its call to all lands to crowd round Jehovah's throne with "tumult of acclaim." Probably the historical fact underlying this new conviction of, and triumph in, the Kingdom of Jehovah is the return from exile. But the tone of prophetic anticipation in these exuberant hymns of confident joy can scarcely fail of recognition. The psalmists sang of an ideal state to which their most glorious experiences but remotely approximated. They saw "not yet all things put under Him," but they were sure that He is King, and they were as sure, though with the certitude of faith fixed on His word and not with that of sight, that His universal dominion would one day be universally recognised and rejoiced in.

This short psalm but strikes the keynote for the group. It is overture to the oratorio, prelude of the symphony. Jehovah's reign, the stability of His throne, the consequent fixity of the natural order, His supremacy over all noisy rage of opposition and lawlessness, either in Nature or among men, are set forth with magnificent energy and brevity. But the King of the world is not a mere Nature-compelling Jove. He has spoken to men, and the stability of the natural order but faintly shadows the firmness of His "testimonies," which are worthy of absolute reliance, and which make the souls that do rely on them stable as the firm earth, and steadfast with a steadfastness derived from Jehovah's throne. He not only reigns over, but dwells among, men, and His power keeps His dwelling-place inviolate, and lasting as His reign.

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Ver. 1 describes an act rather than a state. "Jehovah has become King" by some specific manifestation of His sovereignty. Not as though He had not been King before, as ver. 2 immediately goes on to point out, but that He has shown the world, by a recent deed, the eternal truth that He reigns. His coronation has been by His own hands. No others have arrayed Him in His royal robes. The psalmist dwells with emphatic reiteration on the thought that Jehovah has clothed Himself with majesty and girded Himself with strength. All the stability of Nature is a consequence of His self-created and self-manifested power. That Strength holds a reeling world steady. The psalmist knew nothing about the fixity of natural law, but his thought goes down below that fixity, and finds its reason in the constant forth-putting of Divine power. Ver. 2 goes far back as well as deep down or high up, when it travels into the dim, unbounded past, and sees there, amidst its mists, one shining, solid substance, Jehovah's throne, which stood firm before every "then." The word rendered from of yore is literally "from then," as if to express the priority of that throne to every period of defined time. And even that grand thought can be capped by a grander climax: "From eternity art Thou." Therefore the world stands firm.

But there are things in the firm world that are not firm. There are "streams" or perhaps "floods," which seem to own no control, in their hoarse dash and devastating rush. The sea is ever the symbol of rebellious opposition and of ungoverned force. Here both the natural and symbolic meanings are present. And the picture is superbly painted. The sound of the blows of the breakers against the rocks, or as they clash with each other, is vividly repeated in the word36 rendered "tumult," which means rather a blow or collision, and here seems to express the thud of the waves against an obstacle.

Ver. 4 is difficult to construe. The word rendered "mighty" is, according to the accentuation, attached to "breakers," but stands in an unusual position if it is to be so taken. It seems better to disregard the accents, and to take "mighty" as a second adjective belonging to "waters." These will then be described as both multitudinous and proud in their strength, while "ocean breakers" will stand in apposition to waters. Jehovah's might is compared with these. It would be but a poor measure of it to say that it was more than they; but the comparison means that He subdues the floods, and proves His power by taming and calming them. Evidently we are to see shining through the nature-picture Jehovah's triumphant subjugation of rebellious men, which is one manifestation of His kingly power. That dominion is not such as to make opposition impossible. Antagonism of the wildest sort neither casts doubt on its reality nor impinges a hair's-breadth on its sovereignty. All such futile rebellion will be subdued. The shriek of the storm, the dash of the breakers, will be hushed when He says "Peace," and the highest toss of their spray does not wet, much less shake, His stable throne. Such was the psalmist's faith as he looked out over a revolted world. Such may well be ours, who "hear a deeper voice across the storm."

That sweet closing verse comes by its very abruptness with singular impressiveness. We pass from wild commotion into calm. Jehovah speaks, and His words are witnesses both of what He is and of what men should and may be. Power is not an object for37 trust to fasten on, unless it is gracious, and gives men account of its motives and ends. Words are not objects for trust to fasten on, unless they have power for fulfilment behind them. But if the King, who sets fast earth and bridles seas, speaks to us, we may utterly confide in His word, and, if we do, we shall share in His stable being, in so far as man is capable of resemblance to the changeless God. Trust in firm promises is the secret of firmness. Jehovah has not only given Israel His word, but His house, and His kingly power preserves His dwelling-place from wrong.

"Holiness" in ver. 5 expresses an attribute of Jehovah's house, not a quality of the worshippers therein. It cannot but be preserved from assault, since He dwells there. A king who cannot keep his own palace safe from invaders can have little power. If this psalm is, as it evidently is, post-exilic, how could the singer, remembering the destruction of the Temple, speak thus? Because he had learned the lesson of that destruction, that the earthly house in which Jehovah dwelt among men had ceased to be His, by reason of the sins of its frequenters. Therefore, it was "burned with fire." The profaned house is no longer Jehovah's, but, as Jesus said with strong emphasis on the first word, "Your house is left unto you desolate." The Kingship of Jehovah is proclaimed eloquently and tragically by the desolated shrine.

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