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Psalm 149

Praise for God’s Goodness to Israel


Praise the L ord!

Sing to the L ord a new song,

his praise in the assembly of the faithful.


Let Israel be glad in its Maker;

let the children of Zion rejoice in their King.


Let them praise his name with dancing,

making melody to him with tambourine and lyre.


For the L ord takes pleasure in his people;

he adorns the humble with victory.


Let the faithful exult in glory;

let them sing for joy on their couches.


Let the high praises of God be in their throats

and two-edged swords in their hands,


to execute vengeance on the nations

and punishment on the peoples,


to bind their kings with fetters

and their nobles with chains of iron,


to execute on them the judgment decreed.

This is glory for all his faithful ones.

Praise the L ord!

9. To perform the judgment, etc. He qualifies what he had said in the previous verses, in which he might have appeared to arm the Lord’s people for deeds of warlike cruelty. At first sight it might appear strange, that they who were called the merciful ones of God, should be sent out with drawn swords to commit slaughter, and pour out human blood; for what evidence was here of mercy? But when God himself is the author of the vengeance taken, it is just judgment, not cruelty. When mention is made of the judgment written, the Psalmist reminds the Jews that they were called to liberty by command of God — to that liberty which had been unjustly wrested from them by’ foreigners and tyrants, and that they could not be blamed for executing judgment written. Any exposition of the passage is faulty which does not proceed upon this as being the Psalmist’s design, that he would have the Jews to consider the divine mandate, not to proceed under the influence of private resentment, and to throw a rein over passion; saying upon the matter, that God’s children may not execute vengeance but when called to it, there being an end of all moderation when men yield themselves up to the impulse of their own spirits. Another question might arise here by way of objection. Christ is said to have come without crying or lifting up his voice, that he might not break the bruised reed, (Matthew 12:20,) and he inculcates the same character upon his followers. The answer is obvious, that Christ is also armed with an iron scepter, by which to bruise the rebellious, and is elsewhere described as stained with blood, as slaying his enemies on every side, and not being wearied with the slaughter of them. (Isaiah 63:2.) Nor is it surprising, considering the obstinacy which universally prevails in the world, that the mercy which is treated with such indignity should be converted into severity. Now the doctrine laid down in the passage admits of being rightly applied to our practice, in this way, that what is here said of the two-edged sword, applies more especially to the Jews, and not properly to us, who have not a power of this kind permitted; except, indeed, that rulers and magistrates are vested by God with the sword to punish all manner of violence; but this is something peculiar to their office. 305305     “Qui est ici dit du glaive trainchant des deux cotes, appartient specialment aux Juifs, et ne peut pas estre approprie an nous,” etc. — Fr. As to the Church collective, the sword now put into our hand is of another kind, that of the word and spirit, that we may slay for a sacrifice to God those who formerly were enemies, or again deliver them over to everlasting destruction unless they repent. (Ephesians 6:17.) For what Isaiah predicted of Christ extends to all who are his members,

“He shall smite the wicked with the word of his mouth,
and shall slay them with the breath of his lips.”
(Isaiah 11:4.)

If believers quietly confine themselves within these limits of their calling, they will find that the promise of vengeance upon their enemies has not been given in vain. For when God calls us, as I have said above, to judgment written, he puts a restraint both upon our spirits and actions, so as that we must not attempt what he has not commanded. When it is said, in the close of the verse, that this honor is to all the merciful ones of God, he not only exhorts to the practice of piety, but gives us a support for our encouragement, lest we should think that we might be losers by exercising mercy and patience, as most men give vent to fury and rage, under the idea that the only way to defend their life is by showing the savageness of wolves. Although God’s people, therefore, have nothing of the strength of the giant, and will not move a finger without divine permission, ‘and have a calm spirit, the Psalmist declares, that they have an honorable and splendid issue out of all their troubles.

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