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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Psalms 92

Verses 1-15

Psalms 92:0

Is called by Dante ( Purg . XXVIII 80), Il Salmo Delectasti, because, in the Vulgate, the 4th verse begins with the words, 'Thou hast made me glad'. A beautiful female form, representing the higher life, is introduced as saying, 'She is so happy because she can sing like the Psalm Delectasti, "Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through Thy work"'. Casaubon was one of the most learned men of his age, and truly devout. He was so humble and reticent, that some doubted his religious spirit; but there is an incident he records in his diary which reveals it, and which shows the hold the book of Psalms had on the hearts of Christians of that time. He and his wife, residing in Paris, wished to go to the Protestant Church of Charenton. There was only a frail old boat to take them up the Seine, but they ventured it rather than lose the service. 'On embarking,' he says, 'my wife, as her custom was, began to sing the Psalms. We had finished Psalm XCI. and had reached Psalms 92:12 , when the boat sank. With difficulty we saved our lives, but the Psalm-book, which had been a wedding gift to my wife twenty-two years before, was lost. We reached in time for the second service; and on looking into the book of a young man near me to see what was being sung, I found it was Psalms 86:13 , "for great is Thy mercy towards me: and Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest grave". I thought immediately of the word of St. Ambrose, that "those who listen to, or read, the Psalms aright may find as if. they had been indited expressly for themselves".'

References. XCII. 2. Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 227. Ibid. Sermons, vol. xix. No. 1138. XCII. 6. W. L. Alexander, Sermons, p. 191. XCII. 10. M. O. Evans, Christian World Pulpit, 1891, p. 322. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix. No. 1122.

The Palm-tree

Psalms 92:12

There is a singular Rabbinical tradition that the 92nd Psalm was composed and sung by Adam in Paradise to celebrate God's power in creation. 'For Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through Thy work: I will triumph in the works of Thy hands' (v. 4). More in accordance with its actual history is the fact that this Psalm was sung in the temple services every Sabbath morning at the time of the offering of the first lamb, when the wine was poured out as a drink-offering unto the Lord. It is still used in the Sabbatical services of the synagogue: and so this 92nd Psalm has been interwoven with the religious history of the Jewish race for nearly three thousand years.

The great thought of the Psalmist is to express his joy in the clear conviction of God's righteous government of the world, manifested in the final overthrow of the wicked and the triumph of the righteous.

I have singled out the palm-tree as the subject of my sermon because I believe there is not in the Word of God a more striking type of the Christian life. I believe, with Basil, that Nature, as the handmaid of Revelation, is the 'school and lecture-room of souls'. To the sanctified imagination, creation is instinct with Divine teaching. In spring, the seed sown some falling among thorns and some by the wayside, some on the rocky ground and some in the good soil has its lessons of warning and instruction. In the summer, the new-mown grass speaks to us of the brevity of life. 'All flesh is as grass.' The golden sheaves of autumn remind us of the harvest at the end of the world; whilst the purity of winter's snow tells us that, although our sins may be as scarlet, yet that we may, through pardoning grace and justifying righteousness, be as white as snow.

The tall, stately palm, with its dark, pillar-like shaft, and its capital of feathery fronds, is one of the most graceful objects in nature. I am not surprised that Linnaeus should call this tree 'the prince of the vegetable world,' or that Humboldt should speak of the palm as 'the loftiest and stateliest of all vegetable forms'. Whilst this tree is associated, speaking generally, with that part of the world which was the cradle of the human race, it is especially connected with the land of Palestine. The word Phoenicia is doubtless derived from the Greek word for palm. So much was the palm the representative tree of Palestine that Vespasian, when striking a coin to commemorate the capture of Jerusalem by Titus, depicts Judaea as a woman sitting dejected and desolate beneath a palm-tree, guarded by a Roman soldier. The Middle Ages continued this connexion of thought by giving the name of Palmer to the pilgrim who had returned from the Holy Sepulchre, because of the custom of bringing home the sacred branch. The palm was to Syria what the oak is to England, the spruce to Norway, the pine to Canada, and the chestnut to Spain the representative tree.

I. It often flourishes in the desert, and always indicates moisture. We are told by travellers that on the northern borders of the Great Desert, under the Atlas Mountains, groves of palms are the great feature of the arid region. The heat is so intense that even the natives can scarcely endure the scorching blast when the wind blows from the south; and yet here, as we have observed, the palm flourishes. What is the explanation? Beneath the sand is moisture. The palm-tree rises from the sterile surface, but its tap-root drinks in the water from beneath. These palms of the desert seem to be striking emblems of many Christian lives. All men are equally dependent upon the aid of the Holy Spirit, but how different are the influences which surround the children of God! Some are planted, not as the palms in the Plain of Jericho, nor as willows by the water-courses, but rather as palms in the sterile desert. When we think of a man like Lot in Sodom, or of Joseph in Egypt, of Obadiah in the court of Ahab, of Daniel in Babylon, of saints in Caesar's household, we ask, How could they live a life of holiness in such a moral desert? They were in the world and not of it! How can this thing be? Faith's penetrating root reached the fountain of living water. Their life was 'hid with Christ in God'.

II. The palm-tree grows as long as it lives. Physically we are like the Exogens, the oak and the elm, etc. We grow to maturity, and then imperceptibly we begin to decay. It is a law of our nature, but God never intended that it should be thus with our inner life, with the growth of grace in the soul. If we are truly children of God, we shall be like the palm. We shall grow till we die. 'The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree.' We shall 'go from strength to strength' until every one appeareth before God in Zion.

III. The palm-tree gives a grateful shade. The Christian ought to extend a genial, a sanctified, and a heavenly influence. If we think of a palm-grove as a picture of Christianity, we observe what beneficent institutions have grown beneath its shadow.

IV. The main feature of the palm is its upward growth its tall, straight shaft. The idols of the Gentiles are compared to it. 'They are upright as the palm-tree' (Jeremiah 10:5 ). The affections of a righteous man are set on things above, and not on things below. They are ever moving heavenward, where Christ is. He is ever desiring more intimate communion with Jesus, ever breathing after heavenly joys, ever seeking a greater conformity to his Master, till he comes, 'in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ'.

V. The palm has ever been the emblem of joy and victory. Palm branches were used by the Greeks and Romans to celebrate their triumphs. So the saint on earth is victorious over sin and Satan and the world. He is more than conqueror 'through Him that hath loved him,' and ere long he will join the 'palmiferous company,' that 'great multitude which no man can number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues,' standing 'before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands'.

J. W. Bardsley, Many Mansions, p. 80.

Three Typical Forms of Growth

Psalms 92:12

There are three typical ideas illustrated in the realm of plant life.

I. The palm is what is known as an Endogen, or inside grower, that is, the oldest and hardest wood is at the circumference, the newest and softest at the centre. Man's life is very much moulded and determined by his surroundings and by the intricate network of influences that hedge him in. Anyone, when once awakened to the sense of spiritual realities, and seeking to work out his own righteousness, appreciates the value of all outward helps, and accordingly makes diligent use of them. But the result is unsatisfactory. The deep places of the heart too often remain untouched.

II. The cedar is an Exogen, that is, it grows from the centre to the circumference, like most of our finest trees, adding a new ring of growth to the outside every successive year, so that you can tell its age by the number of concentric rings which the horizontal section of its stem exhibits. This is the method of growth more especially illustrated in the evangelic or Protestant form of Christianity. Normal Christianity begins with the heart. A leading peculiarity of the cedar and other plants which are marked by a growth from the centre to the circumference, is that they send out branches, and, being expansive, often cover an extensive area. Religious character is a growing thing, year by year, necessarily expanding and progressive, reaching forward to further and happier results, never satisfied with past attainments, but striving unceasingly after fuller unfolding and perfecting of character.

III. There is a third typical form, as may be instanced in the tree fern. This typical form is called by the botanist an Acrogen or top-grower, the growth of every successive year being a fresh layer of new wood on the summit of the former year's growth, suggesting the fact that your life must be upward as well as inward and outward, nearer to God, more heavenly. This growth Godward and heavenward will best insure the growth both of your inner being and that of the more outward aspects of Christian life.

J. Miller, Sermons Literary and Scientific, p. 172.

The Blessing of Righteousness

Psalms 92:12

You will at once see by looking at this text that it is an exceedingly precious promise The condition of the promise is that of righteousness. I. The righteous man is the man who is in right relation with God, who has been made right, who has been properly adjusted to the law and the plan of Divine government for his life. Man in Adam lost his righteousness, and hence the work of God from that sad day until this good hour has been to bring man back into proper relationship and fellowship with God, and in order that that might be done it was necessary there should be atonement. The whole race of mankind has been redeemed and made righteous in the atoning death of Jesus Christ. But even this is conditional. It is here provided in the atonement of Jesus Christ, but no man ever shares that which is provided in this marvellous atonement until he comes, submitting by an act of his faith, and appropriates the merits of this atonement. To share the blessings of this promise there must be adjustment made between the soul and God. The soul must look up and receive by faith the atoning merit of the grace of Jesus Christ.

II. Now David is taking a simple everyday illustration, and with it he is attempting to teach the most profound and the most blessed truth. First of all, it is said of the palm-tree that it is the only tree that has its growth from the heart out. The righteous is a man whose growth shall be from within out. It is at the heart that the Spirit of God aims His first work, and from the heart to the head and to the feet and to the hands goes the Spirit of God, ramifying every avenue of our being in the likeness of Christ.

III. Then, again, let me say that the righteous shall grow like the palm-tree in that the palm-tree will not mix with any other tree. You cannot graft a palm-tree, you cannot graft anything to a palm-tree; the moment you begin a grafting process with the palm-tree it dies. The righteous man shall be a man that can live in any community and not find himself taken up with the conduct of the community in which he lives, provided that community is unrighteous.

IV. It is said by travellers in Eastern countries that as they pass through the desert regions the sight of the palm-tree, which tells of water near by, is greeted with great joy. So it is with the righteous man who is in right relationship with God, spiritually and bodily that man is a sign of joy. He is a great comfort to this sorrowing world. Wherever a, righteous man is found, a man in right relationship with God and right relationship with his fellow-men, he has got a reputation, and his reputation is like an oasis in the great desert world of need; and so it is with the Church.

Len. G. Broughton, The Homiletic Review, 1908, vol. LVI. p. 466.

References. XCII. 13. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iv. p. 24. XCII. 13-15. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii. No. 1365. XCII. International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 283. XCIII. 5. A. Watson, Sermons for Sundays, Festivals, and Feasts (2nd Series), vol. iii. p. 9. XCIII. International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 296. XC1V. 9. J. Keble, Sermons for Septuagesima to Ash Wednesday, p. 65.

The Primal Consciousness

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Psalms 92". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/psalms-92.html. 1910.