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A HYMN OF SALVATION
‘Praise ye the Lord.’
This psalm begins with the two well-known formulas—‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Sing unto the Lord a new song.’ It designates itself as intended to be sung in the ‘congregation of saints.’ That is to say, it belongs to the inner circle; it is a record of experience; it is a song of salvation. And very eloquently does it tell what salvation is.
I. Salvation is creation ( Psalms 149:2).—‘Let Israel rejoice in Him that made him; let the children of Zion be joyful in their King’—thus the inspired singer begins. He calls Jehovah ‘Him that made Israel.’ This ‘making’ does not refer to the original creation, which Israel shared with all other creatures of God: it refers to the special Divine choice by which Israel was separated from the rest of the nations and made Jehovah’s peculiar people. As thus the chosen race had a Divine origin, so it had a peculiar providential history—God became its ‘King’ in a special sense.
All this has its counterpart in the experience of God’s people in every age. They are in a special sense God’s creation—‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.’ Not only have we to thank God like the rest of the world for the gift of natural life, but we have to thank Him for the higher gift of spiritual life. And as He has begun this peculiar life by an original creative act, so He continues it by a special providence. ‘All things work together for good to them that love God.’
II. Salvation is beauty ( Psalms 149:4).—The words exquisitely rendered in Psalms 149:4, ‘He will beautify the meek with salvation,’ may, perhaps, more literally be, ‘He will beautify the oppressed with victory.’ They describe a change in the fortunes of the chosen people due to God’s loving-kindness. They had been oppressed in the Exile, and in their condition there was no form nor comeliness. But the Restoration reversed all that—it gave ‘beauty for ashes.’ Israel became eminent and dignified among the nations; such was the result of the forth-putting of God’s arm on their behalf.
We apply these words to ourselves. ‘The meek’—such are they whom God saves. It is when we have been humbled under a sense of sin and unworthiness that salvation comes nigh. Yet salvation is not mere deliverance from sin and its consequences. No, it is beauty—beauty of character. This is what God always aims at; and this is the kind of religion by which He is honoured. Still, observe, it is ‘salvation’; the beauty of holiness is not a mere development of natural character.
III. Salvation is a hidden joy ( Psalms 149:5).—This is expressed by saying that the saints are to ‘sing aloud upon their beds.’ The Scripture attaches much importance to the way in which the minds of men are occupied in the watches of the night. The psalms abound with references to what people are doing as they lie awake. It is a part of the day when man is sequestered from his fellows; the influence of society is removed, and he rebounds to his native shape. Find out what any man is thinking of as he lies awake, and you find out what he really is, whether saint or sinner. Then the sinner rolls his favourite sin like a sweet morsel under his tongue, and then the saint thinks of his God. Never is a saint more different from a sinner than on his bed. This is seen especially when the bed of rest becomes a bed of sickness. What in these circumstances can the sinner do? He can only complain and curse his stars; but the saint is made a better man by his affliction, as gold is purified in the fire.
IV. Salvation is an open testimony ( Psalms 149:6-1 Samuel :).—From the quiet and silent joy of the saint upon his bed, the psalm suddenly turns to describe the active work of the saints in promoting the Kingdom of God. The blood-thirsty ending of such a psalm has caused astonishment, and instances are quoted of religious fanatics who have made use of these words to incite to wars of persecution; but there is really no difficulty. There have been times in the history of the world when fighting with literal swords has been the best way of promoting the kingdom of righteousness; and there will be such times again.
‘We read these verses, no doubt, incorporating them with Christian thought by what Delitzsch calls “a spiritual transmutation.” Only this was intended for faith, and not invented by modern refinement. Probably 1 Corinthians 6:2-Leviticus :, is the “spiritual transmutation” of Psalms 149:9.’
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Psalms 149". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30