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Psalm 95

A Call to Worship and Obedience

1

O come, let us sing to the Lord;

let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

2

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;

let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

3

For the Lord is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

4

In his hand are the depths of the earth;

the heights of the mountains are his also.

5

The sea is his, for he made it,

and the dry land, which his hands have formed.

 

6

O come, let us worship and bow down,

let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

7

For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture,

and the sheep of his hand.

 

O that today you would listen to his voice!

8

Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,

as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

9

when your ancestors tested me,

and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.

10

For forty years I loathed that generation

and said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray,

and they do not regard my ways.”

11

Therefore in my anger I swore,

“They shall not enter my rest.”

Psalm 96

Praise to God Who Comes in Judgment

1

O sing to the Lord a new song;

sing to the Lord, all the earth.

2

Sing to the Lord, bless his name;

tell of his salvation from day to day.

3

Declare his glory among the nations,

his marvelous works among all the peoples.

4

For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;

he is to be revered above all gods.

5

For all the gods of the peoples are idols,

but the Lord made the heavens.

6

Honor and majesty are before him;

strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

 

7

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,

ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

8

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;

bring an offering, and come into his courts.

9

Worship the Lord in holy splendor;

tremble before him, all the earth.

 

10

Say among the nations, “The Lord is king!

The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.

He will judge the peoples with equity.”

11

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;

let the sea roar, and all that fills it;

12

let the field exult, and everything in it.

Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy

13

before the Lord; for he is coming,

for he is coming to judge the earth.

He will judge the world with righteousness,

and the peoples with his truth.


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1. Come, let us rejoice before Jehovah. This psalm is suited for the Sabbath, when we know that the religious assemblies were more particularly convened for the worship of God. It is not individuals among the godly whom he exhorts to celebrate the divine praises in private; he enjoins these to be offered up in the public meeting. By this he showed that the outward worship of God principally consisted in the sacrifice of praise, and not in dead ceremonies. He enjoins haste upon them; by which they might testify their alacrity in this service. For the Hebrew word קדם, kadam, in the second verse, which I have rendered, let us come before, etc., means to make haste. He calls upon them to speed into the presence of God; and such an admonition was needed, considering how naturally backward we are when called by God to the exercise of thanksgiving. This indirect charge of indolence in the exercise, the Psalmist saw it necessary to prefer against God’s ancient people; and we should be made aware that there is just as much need of a stimulus in our own case, filled as our hearts are with similar ingratitude. In calling them to come before God’s face, he uses language which was also well fitted to increase the ardor of the worshippers; nothing being more agreeable than to offer in God’s own presence such a sacrifice as he declares that he will accept. He virtually thus says, in order to prevent their supposing the service vain, that God was present to witness it. I have shown elsewhere in what sense God was present in the sanctuary.

3. For Jehovah is a great God. By these words the Psalmist reminds us what abundant grounds we have for praising God, and how far we are from needing to employ the lying panegyric with which rhetoricians flatter earthly princes. First, he extols the greatness of God, drawing a tacit contrast between him and such false gods as men have invented for themselves. We know that there has always been a host of gods in the world, as Paul says,

“There are many on the earth who are called gods,”
(1 Corinthians 8:5.)

We are to notice the opposition stated between the God of Israel and all others which man has formed in the exercise of an unlicensed imagination. Should any object, that “an idol is nothing in the world,” (1 Corinthians 8:4,) it is enough to reply, that the Psalmist aims at denouncing the vain delusions of men who have framed gods after their own foolish device. I admit, however, that under this term he may have comprehended the angels, asserting God to be possessed of such excellence as exalted him far above all heavenly glory, and whatever might be considered Divine, as well as above the feigned deities of earth. 4545     “Deum ita excellere, ut longe emineat supra omnem coelestem gloriam et quicquid divinum est, non minus quam supra omne terrenum figmentum.” — Lat. Angels are not indeed gods, but the name admits of an improper application to them on account of their being next to God, and still more, on account of their being accounted no less than gods by men who inordinately and superstitiously extol them. If the heavenly angels themselves must yield before the majesty of the one God, it were the height of indignity to compare him with gods who are the mere fictions of the brain. In proof of his greatness, he bids us look to his formation of the world, which he declares to be the work of God’s hands, and subject to his power. This is one general ground why God is to be praised, that he has clearly shown forth his glory in the creation of the world, and will have us daily recognize him in the government of it. When it is said, that the depths of the earth are in his hand, the meaning is, that it is ruled by his providence, and subject to his power. Some read, the bounds of the earth, but the word means abysses or depths, as opposed to the heights of the mountains. The Hebrew word properly signifies searching.

6. Come ye, let us worship Now that the Psalmist exhorts God’s chosen people to gratitude, for that pre-eminency among the nations which he had conferred upon them in the exercise of his free favor, his language grows more vehement. God supplies us with ample grounds of praise when he invests us with spiritual distinction, and advances us to a pre-eminency above the rest of mankind which rests upon no merits of our own. In three successive terms he expresses the one duty incumbent upon the children of Abraham, that of an entire devotement of themselves to God. The worship of God, which the Psalmist here speaks of, is assuredly a matter of such importance as to demand our whole strength; but we are to notice, that he particularly condescends upon one point, the paternal favor of God, evidenced in his exclusive adoption of the posterity of Abraham unto the hope of eternal life. We are also to observe, that mention is made not only of inward gratitude, but the necessity of an outward profession of godliness. The three words which are used imply that, to discharge their duty properly, the Lord’s people must present themselves a sacrifice to him publicly, with kneeling, and other marks of devotion. The face of the Lord is an expression to be understood in the sense I referred to above, — that the people should prostrate themselves before the Ark of the Covenant, for the reference is to the mode of worship under the Law. This remark, however, must be taken with one reservation, that the worshippers were to lift their eyes to heaven, and serve God in a spiritual manner. 4747     “Il faut neantmoins tousjours adjoustor ceste exception, que les fideles eslevans les yeux au ciel, adorent Dieu spirituellement.” — Fr.

7 Because he is our God While it is true that all men were created to praise God, there are reasons why the Church is specially said to have been formed for that end, (Isaiah 61:3.) The Psalmist was entitled to require this service more particularly from the hands of his chosen people. This is the reason why he impresses upon the children of Abraham the invaluable privilege which God had conferred upon them in taking them under his protection. God may indeed be said in a sense to have done so much for all mankind. But when asserted to be the Shepherd of the Church, more is meant than that he favors her with the common nourishment, support, and government which he extends promiscuously to the whole human family; he is so called because he separates her from the rest of the world, and cherishes her with a peculiar and fatherly regard. His people are here spoken of accordingly as the people of his pastures, whom he watches over with peculiar care, and loads with blessings of every kind. The passage might have run more clearly had the Psalmist called them the flock of his pastures, and the people of his hand; 4848     Hammond, after making a similar remark, adds — “But it is more reasonable to take the explanation from the different significations of רעה, [the word which Calvin renders pasture,] as for feeding, so for governing, equally applicable to men and cattle; from whence it is but analogy, that מרעה, which signifies a pasture, where cattle are fed, should also signify dominion or kingdom, or any kind of πολιτεία, wherein a people are governed And then the other part, the sheep of his hand, will be a fit, though figurative, expression; the shepherd that feeds, and rules, and leads the sheep, doing it by his hand, which manageth the rod and staff, Psalm 23:4. The Jewish Arab reads, ‘the people of his feeding, or flock, and the sheep of his guidance.’” or, had he added merely — and his flock 4949     The text reads, “Si tantum nomen Legis posuisset.” This is evidently a mistake of the printer for Gregis. The French version reads — “Le Troupeau.” — the figure might have been brought out more consistently and plainly. But his object was less elegancy of expression than pressing upon the people a sense of the inestimable favor conferred upon them in their adoption, by virtue of which they were called to live under the faithful guardianship of God, and to the enjoyment of every species of blessings. They are called the flock of his hand, not so much because formed by his hand as because governed by it, or, to use a French expression, le Troupeau de sa conduite. 5050     The flock under his conduct or guidance. The point which some have given to the expression, as if it intimated how intent God was upon feeding his people, doing it himself, and not employing hired shepherds, may scarcely perhaps be borne out by the words in their genuine meaning; but it cannot be doubted that the Psalmist would express the very gracious and familiar kind of guidance which was enjoyed by this one nation at that time. Not that God dispensed with human agency, intrusting the care of the people as he did to priests, prophets, and judges, and latterly to kings. No more is meant than that in discharging the office of shepherd to this people, he exercised a superintendence over them different from that common providence which extends to the rest of the world.

To-day, if you will hear his voice 5151     The ancient Jewish writers frequently apply these words to the Messiah: and they have argued from them, that if all Israel would repent but one day the Messiah would come; because it is said, “To-day, if ye will hear his voice.” According to the Hebrew expositors, this is a conditional clause standing connected with the preceding sentence; by which interpretation the Psalmist must be considered as warning the people that they would only retain possession of their privilege and distinction so long as they continued to obey God. 5252     Hammond observes, that the particle אם, im, here rendered if, is in other places often used in an optative signification, as in Exodus 32:32, “If thou wilt” for “O that thou wouldst forgive them;” and that therefore the rendering here may be, “O that to-day ye would hear his voice;” — a reading, he adds, which “may be thought needful to the making the sense complete in this verse, which otherwise is thought to hang (though not so fitly) on the 8th verse, and not to be finished without it.” He then goes on to say, “But it may be considered also, whether this verse be not more complete in itself by rendering אם, if, thus: ‘Let us worship and bow down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and sheep of his hand, if ye will hear his voice to-day,’ i e., speedily, — if ye will speedily perform obedience to him, — setting the words in form of a conditional promise, thereby to enforce the performance of the condition on our part. The condition to the performance of which they are exhorted, (verse 6,) is paying God the worship and lowly obedience due to him; and the promise secured to them in this performance, that he will be their God, and they the people of his pasture, etc., i e., that God will take the same care of them that a shepherd does of his sheep; preserve them from all enemies, Midianites, Philistines, Canaanites, etc.” The Greek version joins it with the verse that follows — to-day, if ye will hear his voice harden not your hearts, and it reads well in this connection. Should we adopt the distribution of the Hebrew expositors, the Psalmist seems to say that the posterity of Abraham were the flock of God’s hand, inasmuch as he had placed his Law in the midst of them, which was, as it were, his crook, and had thus showed himself to be their shepherd. The Hebrew particle אם, im, which has been rendered if, would in that case be rather expositive than conditional, and might be rendered when, 5353     “Non erit proprie conditionalis, sed expositiva; vel pro temporis adverbio sumetur.” — Lat. — “Ne sera pas proprement conditionnelle, mais expositive; ou bien elle sera prinse pour Quand.” — Fr. the words denoting it to be the great distinction between the Jews and the surrounding nations, that God had directed his voice to the former, as it is frequently noticed he had not done to the latter, (Psalm 147:20; Deuteronomy 4:6, 7.) Moses had declared this to constitute the ground of their superiority to other people, saying, “What nation is there under heaven which hath its gods so nigh unto it?” The inspired writers borrow frequently from Moses, as is well known, and the Psalmist, by the expression to-day, intimates how emphatically the Jews, in hearing God’s voice, were his people, for the proof was not far off, it consisted in something which was present and before their eyes. He bids them recognize God as their shepherd, inasmuch as they heard his voice; and it was an instance of his singular grace that he had addressed them in such a condescending and familiar manner. Some take the adverb to be one of exhortation, and read, I would that they would hear my voice, but this does violence to the words. The passage runs well taken in the other meaning we have assigned to it. Since they had a constant opportunity of hearing the voice of God — since he gave them not only one proof of the care he had over them as shepherd, or yearly proof of it, but a continual exemplification of it, there could be no doubt that the Jews were chosen to be his flock.

8. Harden not your heart, as in Meribah The Psalmist, having extolled and commended the kindness of God their Shepherd, takes occasion, as they were stiffnecked and disobedient, to remind them of their duty, as his flock, which was to yield a pliable and meek submission; and the more to impress their minds, he upbraids them with the obstinacy of their fathers. The term מריבה, Meribah, may be used appellatively to mean strife or contention; but as the Psalmist evidently refers to the history contained in Exodus 17:2-7, 5858     This remarkable part of Jewish history is alluded to in other places, and for various purposes. Sometimes to reproach the Israelites on account of their sins, as in Deuteronomy 9:22, “And at Massah ye provoked the Lord to wrath;” sometimes to warn them against falling into the like sins, as in Deuteronomy 6:16, “Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God as ye tempted him in Massah;” and, at other times, as an instance of the faithfulness of the Levites who clave to God in these circumstances of trial, Deuteronomy 33:8, “And of Levi he said, Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one, whom thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah.” I have preferred understanding it of the place — and so of מסה, Massah. 5959     In our English Bible it is, “in the provocation — in the day of temptation.” But the most eminent critics agree with Calvin in thinking that it is better to retain the terms Meribah and Massah than to translate them. The places called by these names were so designated from the Israelites provoking and tempting God at them; and the retaining of the proper names gives more effect and liveliness to the allusion. See Psalm 81:7, volume 3, page 316, n. 2. In the second clause, however, the place where the temptation happened may be thought sufficiently described under the term wilderness, and should any read, according to the day of temptation (instead of Massah) in the wilderness, there can be no objection. Some would have it, that Massah and Meribah were two distinct places, but I see no ground to think so; and, in a matter of so little importance, we should not be too nice or curious. He enlarges in several expressions upon the hardness of heart evinced by the people, and, to produce the greater effect, introduces God himself as speaking. 6060     Mant and Walford suppose that it is at the second part of verse 7, “To-day, if ye will hear his voice,” where God is introduced as speaking. “By an almost imperceptible transition,” remarks the former critic, “the person is here [last clause of verse 7th] changed; Jehovah becomes the speaker; and with a corresponding change of topic, the Ode, which had commenced with a spiritual exhortation to exult in the blessings of the Gospel, concludes with a solemn, affectionate, and impressive admonition of the danger of disobedience to it; leaving the warning upon the mind with an abruptness peculiarly well calculated to excite attention and to produce the desired effect.” Dimock conjectures, that, as God is introduced as speaking in the last clause of the 7th verse, we should read with Mudge, בקולי, for בקלו, (or, as 37 MSS. and two others at first, בקולו,) “Oh that you may hear my voice this day: that you may not harden your hearts,” etc. By hardness of heart, he no doubt means, any kind of contempt shown to the word of God, though there are many different kinds of it. We find that when proclaimed, it is heard by some in a cold and slighting manner; that some fastidiously put it away from them after they had received it; that others proudly reject it; while again there are men who openly vent their rage against it with despite and blasphemy. 6161     “Ab aliis frigide audiri, et contemptim; ab aliis fastidiose respui; ab aliis superbe rejici; ab aliis etiam furiose non sine probro et blasphemia proscindi.” — Lat. The Psalmist, in the one term which he has employed, comprehends all these defaulters, the careless — the fastidious — such as deride the word, and such as are actuated in their opposition to it by frenzy and passion. Before the heart can be judged soft and pliable to the hearing of God’s word, it is necessary that we receive it with reverence, and with a disposition to obey it. If it carry no authority and weight with it, we show that we regard him as no more than a mere man like ourselves; and here lies the hardness of our hearts, whatever may be the cause of it, whether simply carelessness, or pride, or rebellion. He has intentionally singled out the odious term here employed, to let us know what an execrable thing contempt of God’s word is; as, in the Law, adultery is used to denote all kinds of fornication and uncleanness, and murder all kinds of violence, and injury, hatreds, and enmities. Accordingly, the man who simply treats the word of God with neglect, and fails to obey it, is said here to have a hard and stony heart, although he may not be an open despiser. The attempt is ridiculous which the Papists have made to found upon this passage their favorite doctrine of the liberty of the will. We are to notice, in the first place, that all men’s hearts are naturally hard and stony; for Scripture does not speak of this as a disease peculiar to a few, but characteristic in general of all mankind, (Ezekiel 36:26.) It is an inbred pravity; still it is voluntary; we are not insensible in the same manner that stones are, 6262     “Combien qu’une telle perversite nous soit naturelle, toutesfois pource qu’elle est volontaire, et que nous ne sommes pas insensibles comme les pierres.” — Fr. and the man who will not suffer himself to be ruled by God’s word, makes that heart, which was hard before, harder still, and is convinced as to his own sense and feeling of obstinacy. The consequence by no means follows from this, that softness of heart — a heart flexible indifferently in either direction, is at our command. 6363     “Il ne s’ensuit pas neantmoins qu’il soit en nostre puissance d’amollir nostre coeur, ou de le flechir en l’une et l’autre part.” — Fr. The will of man, through natural corruption, is wholly bent to evil; or, to speak more properly, is carried headlong into the commission of it. And yet every man, who disobeys God therein, hardens himself; for the blame of his wrong doing rests with none but himself.

9 When your fathers tempted me, they proved me The Psalmist insinuates, as I have already remarked, that the Jews had been from the first of a perverse and almost intractable spirit. And there were two reasons which made it highly useful to remind the children of the guilt chargeable upon their fathers. We know how apt men are to follow the example of their predecessors; custom begets a sanction; what is ancient becomes venerable, and such is the blinding influence of home example, that whatever may have been done by our forefathers passes for a virtue without examination. We have an instance in Popedom, of the audacity with which the authority of the fathers is opposed to God’s word. The Jews were of all others most liable to be deceived upon this side, ever accustomed as they were to boast of their fathers. The Psalmist accordingly would detach them from the fathers, by taking notice of the monstrous ingratitude with which they had been chargeable. A second reason, and one to which I have already adverted, is, that he would show them the necessity in which they stood of being warned upon the present subject. Had their fathers not manifested a rebellions spirit, they might have retorted by asking the question, Upon what ground he warned them against hardness of heart, their nation having hitherto maintained a character for docility and tractableness? The fact being otherwise — their fathers having from the first been perverse and stubborn, the Psalmist had a plain reason for insisting upon the correction of this particular vice.

There are two ways of interpreting the words which follow. As tempting God is nothing else than yielding to a diseased and unwarrantable craving after proof of his power, 6464     “When the Scriptures speak of men as tempting God, the meaning is, that men do that which puts the divine patience, forbearance, goodness, etc., to a trial; i.e., makes it difficult, as it were, to preserve a strict regard to these.” — Stuart on Hebrews 3:8. we may consider the verse as connected throughout, and read, They tempted me and proved me, although they had already seen my work God very justly complains, that they should insist upon new proof, after his power had been already amply testified by undeniable evidences. There is another meaning, however, that may be given to the term proved, — according to which, the meaning of the passage would run as follows: — Your fathers tempted me in asking where God was, notwithstanding all the benefits I had done them; and they proved me, that is, they had actual experience of what I am, inasmuch as I did not cease to give them open proofs of my presence, and consequently they saw my work. Whatever sense we adopt, the Psalmist’s design is plainly to show how inexcusable the Jews were in desiring a discovery of God’s power, just as if it had been hidden, and had not been taught them by the most incontestable proofs. 6565     “D’autant qu’ils ont desire que la vertu de Dieu, laquelle leur estoit declaree par tant d’experiences, leur fust manifestee, comme s’ils ne l’eussent jamais cognue.” — Fr. Granting that they had received no foregoing demonstration of it, they would have evinced an unbecoming spirit in demanding of God why he had failed to provide them with meat and drink; but to doubt his presence after he had brought them from Egypt with an outstretched hand, and evidenced his nearness to them by most convincing testimonies, — to doubt his presence in the same manner as if it had never been revealed, was a degree of perverse forgetfulness which aggravated their guilt. Upon the whole, I consider the following to be the sense of the passage — Your fathers tempted me, although they had abundantly proved — perceived by clear and undeniable evidences, that I was their God — nay, although my works had been clearly set before them. The lesson is one which is equally applicable to ourselves; for the more abundant testimonies we may have had of the power and loving-kindness of the Lord, the greater will our sin be, if we insist upon receiving additional proofs of them. How many do we find in our own day demanding miracles, while others murmur against God because he does not indulge their wishes? Some may ask why the Psalmist singles out the particular case of Meribah, when there were many other instances which he might have adduced. They never ceased to provoke God from the moment of their passing the Red Sea; and in bringing this one charge only against them, he might seem by his silence on other points to justify their conduct. But the figure synecdoche is common in Scripture, and it would be natural enough to suppose that one case is selected for many. At the same time, another reason for the specification may have been, that, as plainly appears from Moses, the ingratitude and rebellion of the people reached its greatest height on this occasion, when they murmured for water. I am aware that interpreters differ upon this. Such, however, was the fact. They then crowned their former impiety; nor was it until this outcry was made, as the consummating act of all their preceding wickedness, that they gave open proof of their obstinacy being incurable. 6666     “Solus ille strepitus, quasi omnium actionum catastrophe, palam ostenderit insanabilem esse eorum pervicaciam.” — Lat.

10. Forty years I strove with this generation 6767     “The men of that age, or, as we say in English, the generation then upon the stage.” — Stuart on Hebrews 3:10. The Psalmist brings it forward as an aggravation of their perverse obstinacy, that God strove with them for so long a time without effect. Occasionally it will happen that there is a violent manifestation of perversity which soon subsides; but God complains that he had constant grounds of contention with his people, throughout the whole forty years. And this proves to us the incurable waywardness of that people. The word generation is used with the same view. The word דור, dor, signifies an age, or the allotted term of human life; and it is here applied to the men of an age, as if the Psalmist had said, that the Israelites whom God had delivered were incorrigible, during the whole period of their lives. The verb אקוט, akut, which I have rendered I strove, is, by some, translated contemned, and in the Septuagint it reads, προσωχθισα, 6868     “προσωχθιζα I was indignant, was offended at The word is Helenistic. The Greeks use ὀχθέω and ὀχθίζω According to etymology, it consists of πρός, to, against, upon, and ὀχθη, bank, shore It is applied primarily to a ship infringing upon the shore, or, as we say, running aground. It answers to the Hebrew מאס קוט קו, etc.” — Stuart on Hebrews 3:10 I was incensed, or enraged; but Hebrew interpreters retain the genuine meaning, That God strove with them in a continual course of contention. This was a remarkable proof of their extreme obstinacy; and God is introduced in the verse as formally pronouncing judgment upon them, to intimate, that after having shown their ungodliness in so many different ways, there could be no doubt regarding their infatuation. Erring in heart, is an expression intended not to extenuate their conduct, but to stamp it with folly and madness, as if he had said, that he had to do with beasts, rather than men endued with sense and intelligence. The reason is subjoined, that they would not attend to the many works of God brought under their eyes, and more than all, to his word; for the Hebrew term דרך, derech, which I have rendered ways, comprehends his law and repeated admonitions, as well as his miracles done before them. It argued amazing infatuation that when God had condescended to dwell in such a familiar manner amongst them, and had made such illustrious displays of himself, both in word and works, they should have shut their eyes and overlooked all that had been done. This is the reason why the Psalmist, considering that they wandered in error under so much light as they enjoyed, speaks of their stupidity as amounting to madness.

11. Wherefore I have sworn in my wrath I see no objection to the relative אשר, asher, being understood in its proper sense and reading — To whom I have sworn. The Greek version, taking it for a mark of similitude, reads, As I have sworn But I think that it may be properly considered as expressing an inference or conclusion; not as if they were then at last deprived of the promised inheritance when they tempted God, but the Psalmist, having spoken, in the name of God, of that obstinacy which they displayed, takes occasion to draw the inference that there was good reason for their being prohibited, with an oath, from entering the land. Proportionally as they multiplied their provocations, it became the more evident that, being incorrigible, they had been justly cut off from God’s rest. 6969     “Satis superque innotuit, quia corrigi nullo modo poterant, non temere fuisse abdicatos a requie Dei.” — Lat. The meaning would be more clear by reading in the pluperfect tense — I had sworn; for God had already shut them out from the promised inheritance, having foreseen their misconduct; before he thus strove with them. I have elsewhere adverted to the explanation which is to be given of the elliptical form in which the oath runs. 7070     See Commentary, Psalm 27:13, and 89:35. “The Hebrews used אם, in the latter clause of an oath, which ran thus: God do so to me, if (אם) I do thus, etc. See the full form in 1 Samuel 3:17; 2 Samuel 3:35; 2 Kings 6:31. The former part of this oath was sometimes omitted, and אם had then the force of a strong negative; see 2 Samuel 11:11; 1 Samuel 14:45, alibi; vide Ges. Heb. Lex. under אם, number 6. So in Psalm 95:11, אם יבאון, contains a strong negative, which the LXX., and Paul after them, (Hebrews 3:11,) have rendered εἰ εἰσελεύσονται, they shall not enter.” — Stuart on Hebrews 3:11. “The expression,” says Dr Owen, “is imperfect, and relates to the oath of God, wherein he sware by himself. As if he had said, ‘Let me not live, or not be God, if they enter,’ which is the greatest and highest asseveration that they should not enter. And the concealment of the engagement is not, as some suppose, from a παθος, causing an abruptness of speech, but from the reverence of the person spoken of. The expression is perfectly and absolutely negative. So Mark 8:12, with Matthew 16:4; 1 Samuel 14:44; 1 Kings 20:10.” — Commentary on Hebrews 3:11. The land of Canaan is called God’s rest in reference to the promise. Abraham and his posterity had been wanderers in it until the full time came for entering upon the possession of it. Egypt had been a temporary asylum, and, as it were, a place of exile. In preparing to plant the Jews, agreeably to his promise, in their rightful patrimony of Canaan, God might very properly call it his rest. The word must be taken, however, in the active sense; this being the great benefit which God bestowed, that the Jews were to dwell there, as in their native soil, and in a quiet habitation. We might stop a moment here to compare what the Apostle states in the third and fourth chapters of his Epistle to the Hebrews, with the passage now before us. That the Apostle follows the Greek version, need occasion no surprise. 7171     See volume 1, page 103, note. Neither is he to be considered as undertaking professedly to treat this passage. He only insists upon the adverb To-day, and upon the word Rest And first, he states that the expression to-day, is not to be confined to the time when the Law was given, but properly applies to the Gospel, when God began to speak more openly. The fuller and more perfect declaration of doctrine demanded the greater share of attention. God has not ceased to speak: he has revealed his Son, and is daily inviting us to come unto him; and, undoubtedly, it is our incumbent duty, under such an opportunity, to obey his voice. The Apostle next reasons from the rest, to an extent which we are not to suppose that the words of the Psalmist themselves warrant. 7272     “Subtilius disputat quam ferant Prophetae verba.” — Lat. He takes it up as a first position, that since there was an implied promise in the punishment here denounced, there must have been some better rest promised to the people of God than the land of Canaan. For, when the Jews had entered the land, God held out to his people the prospect of another rest, which is defined by the Apostle to consist in that renouncing of ourselves, whereby we rest from our own works while God worketh in us. From this, he takes occasion to compare the old Sabbath, or rest, under the Law, which was figurative, with the newness of spiritual life. 7373     “Vetus et legale Sabbathum quod umbratile tantum erat, cum spirituali vitae novitate.” — Lat. When his said that he swore in his wrath, this intimates that he was in a manner freed to inflict this punishment, that the provocation was of no common or slight kind, but that their awful obstinacy inflamed his anger, and drew from him this oath.

1 Sing unto Jehovah a new song This commencement shows that, as I have already observed, the Psalmist is exhorting the whole world, and not the Israelites merely, to the exercise of devotion. Nor could this be done, unless the gospel were universally diffused as the means of conveying the knowledge of God. The saying of Paul must necessarily hold true,

“How shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed?” (Romans 10:14.)

The same Apostle proves the calling of the Gentiles, by adducing in testimony of it, “Praise the Lord, ye Gentiles, with his people” — from which it follows, that fellowship in the faith stands connected with the joint celebration of praise, (Romans 15:11.) Besides, the Psalmist requires a new song, 7575     We meet with a psalm very similar to this, in 1 Chronicles 16, delivered by David to Asaph, to be sung on occasion of the removing of the ark from the house of Obed-edom to Zion. But the ode, as it stands in 1 Chronicles 16, is considerably longer, extending from the 8th verse to the 36th [1Ch 16:8-36]; and this is only the part of it from the 23rd to the 33rd verse [1Ch 16:23-33]. It has been supposed that this part was extracted from the psalm above mentioned, and, with a few inconsiderable alterations, adapted to the solemnity of the dedication of the second temple. This opinion is founded upon the inscription of the psalm in the Septuagint, Vulgate, Æthiopic, and Arabic versions, which is, “A song of David when the house was built after the captivity.” Consequently, strictly speaking, this is not a new song. But it may be called new, from its having been adapted to a new purpose — from its having been intended to celebrate new mercies conferred upon the Jews, and to lead the mind forward to the glorious era of the coming of the Messiah, and the establishment of his kingdom, which probably was the matter of more general expectation among the chosen people, at the period when the temple was rebuilt, than when the ark was brought to Mount Zion from the house of Obed-edom. It may be observed, that the first verse is not in the original poem, as recorded in the book of Chronicles, but appears to have been added for the new occasion to which this shorter psalm was adapted. not one which was common, and had formerly been raised. He must therefore refer to some unusual and extraordinary display of the Divine goodness. Thus, when Isaiah speaks of the restoration of the Church, which was wonderful and incredible, he says, “Sing unto the Lord a new song,” (Isaiah 42:10.) The Psalmist intimates accordingly, that the time was come when God would erect his kingdom in the world in a manner altogether unlooked for. He intimates still more clearly as he proceeds, that all nations would share in the favor of God. He calls upon them everywhere to show forth his salvation, and, in desiring that they should celebrate it from day to day, would denote that it was not of a fading or evanescent nature, but such as should endure for ever.

3 Declare his glory among the heathen Additional terms are adduced to commend the salvation spoken of. It is called his glory and his wonders; which is equivalent to saying that it was glorious and admirable. By such titles the Psalmist would distinguish it from any deliverances which had formerly been granted, as indeed there can be but one opinion, that when God appeared as Redeemer of all the world, he gave a display of his mercy and of his favor, such as he never vouchsafed before. This salvation it was impossible, as I have said, that the Gentile nations could have celebrated, had they been left without it. The words teach us that we can never be said to have rightly apprehended the redemption wrought out by Christ, unless our minds have been raised to the discovery of something incomparably wonderful about it.

4. For Jehovah is great, and greatly to be praised. He particularly describes that God, whom he would have men to celebrate, and this because the Gentile nations were prone to merge into error upon this subject. That the whole world might abjure its superstitions, and unite in the true religion, he points out the one only God who is worthy of universal praise. This is a point of the greatest importance. Unless men are restrained by a due respect to it, they can only dishonor him the more that they attempt to worship him. We must observe this order if we would not profane the name of God, and rank ourselves amongst unbelieving men, who set forth gods of their own invention. By gods in the verse may be meant, as I observed already, (Psalm 95:3,) either angels or idols. I would still be of opinion that the term comprehends whatever is, or is accounted deity. As God, so to speak, sends rays of himself through all the world by his angels, these reflect some sparks of his Divinity. 7878     “Quia Deus per angelos irradiat totum mundum, in illis refulgent Deitatis scintillae.” — Lat. “Pource que Dieu jette comme ses rayons sur tout le monde par les anges, des estincelles de Divinite reluisent en iceux.” — Fr. Men, again, in framing idols, fashion gods to themselves which have no existence. The Psalmist would convince them of its being a gross error to ascribe undue honor either to the angels or to idols, thus detracting from the glory of the one true God. He convicts the heathen nations of manifest infatuation, upon the ground that their gods are vanity and nought, for such is the meaning of the Hebrew word אלילים, elilim, 7979     אליל, elil, signifies a thing of nought; as if from אל, not, the ל being doubled to denote extreme nothingness. Thus a false vision or prophecy, on which no dependence can be placed, is called אליל, elil, “a thing of nought,” Jeremiah 14:14, and a shepherd that leaves the flock, and instead of visiting, healing and feeding them, devours and tears them in pieces, is called in Zechariah 11:15, 16, “a pastor, האליל, haelil, of no value.” In this sense the word is used of the false gods of the heathen. Instead of being אלהים, elohim, gods, they are אלילים, elilim, mere nothings Accordingly, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 8:4, speaks of an idol as being “nothing in the world.” which is here applied to idols in contempt. The Psalmist’s great point is to show, that as the Godhead is really and truly to be found in none but the one Maker of the world, those religions are vain and contemptible which corrupt the pure worship of him. Some may ask, Are angels then to be accounted nothing and vanity, merely because many have been deceived in thinking them gods? I would reply, that we do injury to the angels when we give them that honor which is due to God only; and, while we are not on this account to hold that they are nothing in themselves, yet whatever imaginary glory has been attached to them must go for nothing. 8080     “Sed quicquid imaginarium illis affingitur, nihilum esse.” — Lat. But the Psalmist has in his eye the gross delusions of the heathen, who impiously fashioned gods to themselves.

Before refuting their absurd notions, he very properly remarks of God that he is great, and greatly to be praised — insinuating that his glory as the infinite One far excels any which they dreamt of as attaching to their idols. We cannot but notice the confidence with which the Psalmist asserts the glory of the true God, in opposition to the universal opinion which men might entertain. The people of God were at that time called to maintain a conflict of no inconsiderable or common description with the hosts and prodigious mass of superstitions which then filled the whole world. The true God might be said to be confined within the obscure corner of Judea. Jupiter was the god every where received — and adored throughout the whole of Asia, Europe, and Africa. Every country had its own gods peculiar to itself, but these were not unknown in other parts, and it was the true God only who was robbed of that glory which belonged to him. All the world had conspired to believe a lie. Yet the Psalmist, sensible that the vain delusions of men could derogate nothing from the glory of the one God, 8181     “Quia eorum vanitas nihil derogat unis Dei gloriae.” — Ib. looks down with indifference upon the opinion and universal suffrage of mankind. The inference is plain, that we must not conclude that to be necessarily the true religion which meets with the approbation of the multitude; for the judgment formed by the Psalmist must have fallen to the ground at once, if religion were a thing to be determined by the suffrages of men, and his worship depended upon their caprice. Be it then that ever so many agree in error, we shall insist after the Holy Ghost that they cannot take from God’s glory; for man is vanity himself, and all that comes of him is to be mistrusted. 8282     “Car tout ainsi qu’ils sont vanite aussi tout ce qui procede d’eux est vain et plein de deception.” — Fr. Having asserted the greatness of God, he proves it by reference to the formation of the world, which reflects his perfections. 8383     “The argument of God’s superiority over all other beings, drawn from his creation of the world, is sublimely expressed in the following lines ascribed by Justin Martyr (de Monarchid. page 159, ed. Oxon. 1703) to Pythagoras, —
   Εἴ τις ἐρεῖ, Θεός εἰμι πάρεξ ἑνὸς, οὗτος ὀφείλει
Κόσμον ἴσον τούτῳ στήσας εἰπεῖν ἐμὸς οὗτος.

   “One God our hearts confess: whoe’er beside
Aspires with Him our homage to divide,
A world as beauteous let him first design,
And say, its fabric finished, ‘This is mine.’”
Merrick’s Annotations.
God must necessarily exist of himself, and be self-sufficient, which shows the vanity of all gods who made not the world. The heavens are mentioned — a part for the whole — as the power of God is principally apparent in them, when we consider their beauty and adornment.

6 Strength and honor are before him I translate the Hebrew word הוד, hod, by strength, and think those interpreters who render it glory have not duly considered the context. It is evident that the next member of the verse is a repetition, and there it reads, Power and Glory are in his sanctuary. The Psalmist means that we cannot be said to know God if we have not discovered that there is in him an incomparable glory and majesty. He first takes notice of his power and strength, as that in which his glory consists. There, as God is invisible, he directs the thoughts of his people to the sanctuary, which we have already seen to be the symbol of his presence. Such is the weakness of our minds that we rise with difficulty to the contemplation of his glory in the heavens. The Psalmist reminds us that we have no reason to say that his glory is obscure, since there were emblems of his presence in the temple, the sacrifices, and the ark of the covenant. Let us endeavor, when we make mention of God, to conceive of this glory which shines before him — otherwise, if we do not apprehend his power, it is rather a dead than a living God whom we worship. 8484     “Car ceux qui separent de luy sa puissance, imaginent plustost une essence morte, qu’une Divinite vive.” — Fr.

7 Give to Jehovah, etc. Since praise waited for God in Zion, (Psalm 65:1,) and that was the place devoted to the celebration of his worship, and the posterity of Abraham were alone invested with the privilege of priesthood, we cannot doubt that the Psalmist refers here to that great change which was to take place in the Church upon the advent of Christ. An opposition or distinction is intended between God’s ancient people and the Gentile tribes, which were to be afterwards adopted into the same fellowship. To declare his glory and strength, is the same with declaring the glory of his strength And to show that man can boast nothing of his own, and in refusing to celebrate God, impiously despoils him of his just honors, he subjoins, Give unto the Lord the glory of his name; an expression which denotes that God borrows nothing from without, but comprehends all that is worthy of praise in himself. He calls upon the Gentile nations in so many words to render unto God the same worship which the Jews did; not that we must worship God now according to the outward ritual which was prescribed under the Law, but he signifies that there would be one rule and form of religion in which all nations should accord. Now, unless the middle wall of partition had been broken down, the Gentiles could not have entered along with God’s children into the courts of the sanctuary. So that we have here a clear prediction of the calling of the Gentiles, who needed to have their uncleanness taken away before they could be brought into the holy assembly. The mincha, or oblation, was only one kind of sacrifice, but it is here taken to denote the whole worship of God, because it was a part of divine service more ordinarily practiced. We see from this, and other passages, that the inspired penmen describe the inward worship of God under symbols common in the age when they lived. God would not have meat-offerings presented to him after Christ had come; but the words which the Psalmist employs intimate that the doors of the temple, once shut, were now to be opened for the admission of the Gentiles. The Apostle, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, (Hebrews 13:15) tells us what are those sacrifices with which God will now be worshipped. Hence the absurdity of the Papists, who would adduce such passages in support of the mass and their other fooleries. We may very properly learn from the words, however, that we ought not to come empty-handed into the presence of God, enjoined as we are to present ourselves and all that we have as a reasonable service unto Him, (Romans 12:1; 1 Peter 2:5.)

9 Worship before Jehovah The Psalmist prosecutes the same train of sentiment. In requiring oblations of his people, God was not to be considered as standing in need of the services of the creature, but as giving them an opportunity of professing their faith. The true reason, therefore, is here mentioned why the oblation was enjoined, That his people might prostrate themselves before him, and acknowledge that they and all belonging to them were his. Mention is made of the beauty of the temple, referring to the fact that the Gentiles should be raised to a new honor, in being associated into one body with God’s chosen people. 8888     “Pour monstrer que les Gentils devoyent estre receus a un honneur nouveau, qu’ils feront un mesme corps avec le peuple eleu.” — Fr. At the time when this psalm was written, it was generally deemed scarcely credible that the heathen nations would be admitted into the temple in company with the holy seed of Abraham. This should make us think all the more highly of our calling as Gentiles, which seemed then so incredible and impracticable a thing. We may be convinced that God only could have opened for us the door of salvation. The beauty of the temple is an expression intended to beget a reverential view of the temple, that men may approach it with humble fear, instead of rushing without consideration into God’s presence. The clause which follows in the verse is inserted for the same purpose — tremble before his face, intimating that we should prostrate ourselves as suppliants before him when we consider his awful majesty. Not that he would deter worshippers from drawing near to God. They should esteem it their greatest pleasure and enjoyment to seek his face. But he would have us humbled to the right and serious worship of God. I may add, that the beauty or glory of the sanctuary did not consist in silver and gold, in the preciousness of the material of which it was made, nor in polished stones, nor in any splendor and decoration of this kind, but in the representation of the heavenly pattern which was shown to Moses on the mount, (Exodus 25:9.)

10. Say among the heathen, Jehovah reigneth His language again implies that it is only where God rules and presides that he can be worshipped. The Gentiles could not possibly profess the worship of God, so long as his throne was only in the small corner of Judea, and they were not acknowledging his government. Accordingly, the Psalmist speaks of his extending his kingdom to all parts of the world, with the view of gathering unto himself in one, those who had formerly been divided and scattered. The expression, Say among the heathen, signifies that God would enlarge the boundaries of his kingdom by his word and doctrine. What is said of the world being established, is particularly worthy of our observation. So far as the order of nature is concerned, we know that it has been Divinely established, and fixed from the beginning; that the same sun, moon, and stars, continue to shine in heaven; that the wicked and the unbelieving are sustained with food, and breathe the vital air, just as do the righteous. Still we are to remember that so long as un-godliness has possession of the minds of men, the world, plunged as it is in darkness, must be considered as thrown into a state of confusion, and of horrible disorder and misrule; for there can be no stability apart from God. The world is very properly here said therefore to be established, that it should not shake, when men are brought back into a state of subjection to God. We learn this truth from the passage, That though all the creatures should be discharging their various offices, no order can be said to prevail in the world, until God erect his throne and reign amongst men. What more monstrous disorder can be conceived of, than exists where the Creator himself is not acknowledged? Wicked and unbelieving men may be satisfied with their own condition, but it is necessarily most insecure, most unstable; and destitute as they are of any foundation in God, their life may be said to hang by a thread. 9292     “Semper tamen fluctuari necesse est, et vitam eoram pendere de filo, quia in Deo fundatus non est eorum status.” — Lat. We are to recollect what we have seen taught, (Psalm 46:5) “God is in the midst of the holy city, she shall not be moved.” Very possibly there may be an indirect allusion to the imperfect and uncompleted state of things under the Law, and a contrast may have been intended between the perfect condition of things which should obtain under Christ, and the prelude to it under the former period. Next he predicts that the kingdom to be introduced should be distinguished by righteousness, according to what we have seen, (Psalm 45:6) “A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom.” The term judging, in the Hebrew, includes government of any kind. If God’s method of governing men be to form and regulate their lives to righteousness, we may infer, that however easily men may be satisfied with themselves, all is necessarily wrong with them, till they have been made subject to Christ. And this righteousness of which the Psalmist speaks has not reference merely to the outward actions. It comprehends a new heart, commencing as it does in the regeneration of the Spirit, by which we are formed again into the likeness of God.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad. With the view of giving us a more exalted conception of the display of God’s goodness in condescending to take all men under his government, the Psalmist calls upon the irrational things themselves, the trees, the earth, the seas, and the heavens, to join in the general joy. Nor are we to understand that by the heavens he means the angels, and by the earth men; 9393     “Neque enim metonymice de angelis vel hominibus loquitur.” — Lat. “Il ne faut pas penser que ce soit yci la figure nommee Metonymie, et que par les Cieux il entende les Anges, par la Terre les hommes.” — Fr. for he calls even upon the dumb fishes of the deep to shout for joy. The language must therefore be hyperbolical, designed to express the desirableness and the blessedness of being brought unto the faith of God. At the same time, it denotes to us that God does not reign with terror, or as a tyrant, but that his power is exercised sweetly, and so as to diffuse joy amongst his subjects. The wicked may tremble when his kingdom is introduced, but the erection of it is only the cause of their fear indirectly. 9494     “C’est une chose accidentale.” — Fr. We might notice also, that the hyperbole here employed does not want a certain foundation of a more literal kind. As all elements in the creation groan and travail together with us, according to Paul’s declaration, (Romans 8:22) they may reasonably rejoice in the restoration of all things according to their earnest desire. The words teach us how infatuated that joy is, which is wantonly indulged in by men who are without God. From the close of the psalm, we learn that it is impossible to experience the slightest measure of true joy, as long as we have not seen the face of God, Rejoice before the Lord, because he cometh And if the very sea and land mourn so long as God is absent, may we not ask what shall become of us, who are properly the subjects of God’s dreadful curse? The Psalmist, to remove all doubt regarding an event which might seem incredible, repeats his assertion of it, and states, at the same time, in what that rectitude consists, which he had formerly mentioned, when he adds, that God shall govern the world with righteousness and truth. This shows us that it is only by the light of God’s righteousness and truth that the wickedness and hypocrisy of men can be removed and dispelled.




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