"This it the last of the Alphabetical Psalms," says Perowne, "of which there are eight in all, if we reckon the ninth and tenth Psalms as forming one. Like four other of the Alphabetical Psalms this bears the name of David, although there can in this case be no doubt that the inscription is not to be trusted. As in several other instances, so here, the acrostic arrangement is not strictly observed. The letter nun ( נ) is omitted." In the Septuagint, a verse which begins with נ is supplied between Psa . But this is unquestionably an interpolation, and is borrowed from Psa 145:17, with the exception of the first word, which is taken from the nun-strophe of the Alphabetical Psalms 111.
While Perowne, in the passage quoted above, pronounces so positively against the trust-worthiness of the superscription, Hengstenberg is equally firm in asserting "the originality of the superscription," which, he holds, does not admit of doubt. Barnes, David Dickson, M. Henry, and others, accept the Davidic authorship.
"This is the only Psalm which is called a Tehillah, i.e., ‘Praise' or ‘Hymn,' the plural of which word, Tehillim, is the general name for the whole Psalter." The word is admirably descriptive of the contents of the Psalm, which is laudatory throughout.
"The Ancient Church employed this Psalm at the mid-day meal, and Psa at the Passover. The Talmud assures us (Berachoth, 4 b.) that every one who repeals this Psalm three times daily may be satisfied that he is a child of the future world. The Gemarra adduces in support of this the curious reason, that it is not only written in Alphabetical order, like Psalms 119. and others, and not only praises the Divine care over all creatures, like Psa 136:25, but combines both these important characteristics in itself."
This Psalm "admits of no analysis, being made up of variations on a single theme, the righteousness and goodness of God to men in general, to His own people in particular, and more especially to those that suffer."
THE PRAISE OF THE DIVINE GREATNESS
Here are two main lines of thought for us to pursue—
I. The reasons of the Divine praise. The grand reason of praise in this section of the Psalm seems to be the greatness of God. "Great is Jehovah, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable." Jehovah is great in Himself; His being is underived, independent, eternal, infinitely perfect. "God's greatness—His infinity—is in itself a just ground of praise, for we should rejoice that there is One Infinite Eternal Being; and as all that greatness is employed in the cause of truth, of law, of good order, of justice, of kindness, of mercy, it should call forth continued praise in all parts of His dominions."—Barnes.
1. He is great in His deeds. "Thy mighty acts; … Thy wondrous works; … The might of Thy terrible acts." "We must see God," says Matthew Henry, "acting and working in all the affairs of this lower world. Various instruments are used, but in all events God is the supreme director; it is He that performs all things. Much of His power is seen in the operations of Providence (they are ‘mighty acts,' such as cannot be paralleled by the strength of any creature), and much of His justice—they are ‘terrible acts,' awful to saints, dreadful to sinners. These we should take all occasions to speak of, observing the finger of God, His hand, His arm, in all, that we may marvel."
2. He is great in His majesty. "I will speak of the glorious honour of Thy majesty." "By this accumulation of words," says Geier, "the incomparable glory and majesty of God are set forth." The Psalmist is "striving after a suitable mode of expression for his exuberant feeling." Or, as Barnes puts it: "This accumulation of epithets shows that the heart of the Psalmist was full of the subject, and that he laboured to find language to express his emotions. It is beauty; it is glory; it is majesty;—it is all that is great, sublime, wonderful—all combined—all concentrated in one Being."
3. He is great in His goodness. "They shall abundantly utter the memory of Thy great goodness." "Great goodness," says Moll, "is not referred to in the sense of abundant mercy (most), but in the sense of the universal excellence of His attributes, His goodness in every relation." Hengstenberg: "The essential goodness."
4. He is great in righteousness. "They shall sing of Thy righteousness." The goodness of God is not that weak, molluscous quality which is sometimes called goodness in man: it is a strong thing, a righteous thing. He ever manifests the strictest regard for justice and truth. How great is God! supremely, infinitely great!
II. The characteristics of the Divine praise.
1. It is constant. "Every day will I bless Thee." Hengstenberg translates: "Continually will I praise Thee." The translation of the A. V. is more faithful to the letter; but Hengstenberg seems to us to present the idea of the poet, that he will offer to God constant worship. Praise with the godly man is not an occasional exercise of the voice, but a continual disposition of the soul. "Praising God must be our daily work; no day must pass, though ever so busy a day, without praising God. We ought to reckon it the most needful of our daily employments, and the most delightful of our daily comforts. God is every day blessing us, doing well for us; there is therefore reason that we should be every day blessing Him, speaking well of Him."—Henry.
2. It is perpetual. "I will extol Thee, my God, O King; and I will bless Thy name for ever and ever.… I will praise Thy name for ever and ever." Here are two aspects of the perpetuity of the praise of God:—
(1.) The devout soul. will praise God for ever. "So long as his being lasted in the lovingkindness of God, he must also continue to give praise."
"Through all eternity to Thee
A joyful song I'll raise:
But oh! eternity's too short
To utter all Thy praise."—Addison.
(2.) Every succeeding generation shall praise God. "One generation shall praise Thy works to another, and shall declare Thy mighty acts." "The generation that is going off shall tell them to that which is rising up, shall tell what they have seen in their days and what they have heard from their fathers; and the generation that is rising up shall follow the example of that which is going off: so that the death of God's worshippers shall be no diminution of His worship, for a new generation shall rise up in their room to carry on that good work to the end of time, when it shall be left to that world to do it in in which there is no succession of generations."
3. It is fervent. "Greatly to be praised.… They shall abundantly utter the memory of Thy great goodness," &c. Conant translates: "Let them pour forth the memory," &c. The idea is that the heart is filled to overflowing with thoughts of the great goodness of God, and that it pours forth its feelings in grateful and fervent praise. God shall be praised with glowing enthusiasm.
4. It is songful. "They shall sing aloud of Thy righteousness." His praise is celebrated by His people openly and publicly; not in cold and measured prose, but in glowing and rapturous poetry; not in ordinary speech, but with music's highest and sweetest strains. Their adoring joy pours itself forth in holy and exultant songs.
Let our hearts and voices be much engaged in this holy and delightful service.
THE PRAISE OF TIME
We may consider this—
I. As the decree of God.
He who made the world has willed that it should praise Him. The works of God carry out His decree. The sun and moon proclaim His power. Day and night utter His wisdom. The seasons declare His bounty and His faithfulness. And the history of man, even yet more strikingly, sets forth God's glory. This truth is ever written—"The Lord is King." He rules. "None can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?" Look at Pharaoh; … Nebuchadnezzar. Or call to mind the history of Joseph, Balaam, Jonah, Sennacherib, Cyrus, Saul of Tarsus. Or the Jewish rulers who crucified the Lord of glory, &c. (Act ). The mysteries of affliction teach the same lesson. The erring has been thus brought back, or the faithful confirmed, or God's power displayed (Joh 9:3). And the Church of Christ is a standing witness of the same great truth. "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Man's opposition has proved the wave that has wafted the truth onward (Act 4:31; Act 11:19; Act 13:51; Act 14:20; Act 17:15; Act 25:11; Act 28:31).
What a contrast is there in all this to the name and acts of men! How does every annual revolution of time find human propositions annulled, human names forgotten, human greatness brought low. But each succeeding year finds one Name unchanged; one arm still mighty to deliver; one King ruling, as ever; one Lord still faithful to His promise; one memorial enduring through all generations. The decree of God is kept. All time sets forth His praise.
II. As expressing the resolution and work of Christ's Church.
Praise is the rightful attitude of the redeemed (Psa ). Mercy felt love appreciated, salvation embraced and enjoyed, is sure to beget true thanksgiving. God hath chosen His people to praise Him (Isa 43:21; 1Pe 2:9). And even angels cannot sing the new song which belongs to the saved from earth alone (Rev 14:3). And the people of God have ever claimed their holy privilege. They have sung of creation and of providence, and the wonders of redeeming love. God has never left Himself without this witness in the world. In every age, however corrupt, there have been those who rejoiced to declare His mighty acts. Even before the Flood, there was Noah; in the time of idolatrous Ahab, Elijah; in Babylon, Daniel. In New Testament days we have the same history. Every martyr, from Stephen onward, bore in his blood the testimony of praise. If Job said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him," Paul answered, "I am willing … to die for the Name of the Lord Jesus." If David said, "I will bless the Lord at all times," Paul, again, added, "Rejoice in the Lord alway." If Elijah showed himself to Ahab, Luther did not shrink from meeting those who sought to take his life. If the Apostles went forth, in obedience to the Lord's command, and preached the Gospel, hazarding their lives for the Saviour's Name, this noble act of praise has been re-echoed in later days in Sierra Leone, in New Zealand, in India, in the Sandwich Islands, in Central Africa, by those who have gone forth to brave every danger in making known the same good tidings. Thus in all time the resolution of the Church of Christ is one and the same. "One generation shall praise Thy works to another."
Three thoughts seem to arise in conclusion:—
1. What are WE doing to make our generation one of praise? We have received from the generations before a glorious light; are we sending it onward and around?
2. Do we possess in ourselves that salvation which alone enables us truly to praise? Have we tasted that the Lord is gracious?
3. How glorious shall be the praise of heaven! Now one age to another, one land to another, praise God. What shall be the glory of the song when every age and every land shall join in the song of Moses and the Lamb!—W.S.Bruce, M.A. From "The Homiletic Quarterly."
THE PRAISE OF THE DIVINE GOODNESS
In these verses the poet celebrates the praise of God as a good or benevolent Being. Three leading considerations claim our attention:—
I. The various manifestations of God's goodness.
The goodness or benevolence of God is here clearly stated. "Jehovah is gracious …; Jehovah is good to all." And it seems to us that the expressions used by the Psalmist suggest certain manifestations of this goodness. Here is an indication of His—
1. Pity for suffering men. "Jehovah is full of compassion." Perowne: "Of tender compassion is Jehovah." It presents to us the goodness of God in its attitude towards the wretched. How great and manifold are the sufferings and sorrows of human life! God regards all sufferers with tenderest pity. In all their afflictions He is afflicted. He is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities;" and touched deeply, for He is "full of compassion." "The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy."
2. Patience with sinful men. "Slow to anger." He holds back the outgoings of His wrath. He has great patience with perverse rebels. "The Lord is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
3. Pardon for penitent men. "Of great mercy;" or, "great in mercy." How freely and fully in His great mercy does God forgive all who penitently seek Him! His "mercy is great unto the heavens." "His mercy is everlasting." The greatness of His mercy is seen—
(1.) In the immense numbers to which it extends. "His tender mercies are over all His works." He is "not willing that any should perish."
(2.) In the characters to which it extends. It reaches to the chief of sinners. It offers pardon to the most guilty. It "saves unto the uttermost."
(3.) In the sacrifice which its exercise involved. "God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." "God who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us," &c. "He spared not His own Son," &c.
(4.) In the blessings which flow from it. The free and full forgiveness of sins is but the beginning of its blessings. Holiness, peace, joy, heaven, are all bestowed upon believers in Christ Jesus, in the exercise of the Divine mercy. The blessings which flow from it are rich, inexhaustible, everlasting, and unspeakably precious. Truly God is "great in mercy." "He delighteth in mercy."
II. The universality of God's goodness.
"Jehovah is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works." It has been well observed that "this is a saying which does not seem as true in the winter as in the summer of life. Spoken in the quiet church, amid all the accompaniments of prayer and praise, with the quietude of the holy place to calm us, and music and memory and hope to bear us company, it is a saying that men will let pass as something they do not think of questioning; but, spoken to a poor woman who has just lost the stay of her home; spoken to a hard-working man who has just seen the hopes of years disappear; spoken to little children who have just been thrown on the world without father, or mother, or friend, or home; spoken to a good man whose reward seems nothing but disappointment and trouble and loss,—I do not wonder that it sounds to some like a mockery: and I do not wonder that men have turned away and said that these things are all very well in the church, but that they break down when men go into the open world.
"Let us look at these words, then, that we may, if possible, find some solid ground for this saying that God is ‘good to all.' And here the fact we have to master is this:—That we must judge of God's dealings towards us with reference to some system or order under which we live. The system under which we live is something like this:—
1. A vast, complicated, and beneficent set of laws are at work, which apply in common to all. We are in a world the central principle of which is the universality and certainty of every prevailing law—this necessitating that God shall not come forth to accommodate the facts and the laws of the universe to every individual need, but that He shall provide for the steadfast abiding of everything in its place, and for the constancy of that thing to the law of its being. In this very thing, then, which has seemed so hard, inexorable, and cruel; in this steadfastness of the laws of the universe, I find the first proof of the universal goodness of God—a goodness which would not be increased, which would indeed be marred and spoiled and thwarted if He made the connection between cause and effect uncertain; and if, by special interferences on behalf of individuals, He brought uncertainty into the common life of the race. For if He specially came forth, to interfere in particular cases, to reverse or suspend the ordinary laws of life, or to save men from the effects of causes, every man would look for such interferences on his behalf; and recklessness, and presumption, and indolence, with all their attendant miseries and disappointments, would be increased a thousandfold. Here, then, where God's goodness seems to be defective, we find an abiding proof of it.
2. We see that in the Divine administration of the laws of the universe, there is no partiality; all these great laws are steadfast, whoever applies to them. God is good to all in working by beautiful and beneficent laws that are as generous and as steadfast as Himself A man who has just denied the very existence of God goes into his field, and sows his seed; and, in a moment, all the wonderful laws of God leap to obey and bless him, and to give him the result of his seed-sowing, quite as readily, quite as speedily, as in the case where the sower thanks God and sows his seed with prayer. God is clearly no partial administrator of His laws. His sun shines and His rain falls on the evil and on the unthankful. He holds all the myriad laws of the universe to their appointed place, for He is ‘good to all.'
3. Then, closely connected with that, is His impartial bestowment of all the common mercies of life for all. God distributes His mercies, not to bless this man or that, any more than He maintains His beautiful laws to advantage this man or that; but He scatters His mercies as men scatter seed, as though He reflected not which should prosper, this or that, or which was good or which was thorny ground. God's sun shines; but if the sinner opens his eyes first, he will first behold it. God's pure air comes on the wings of the morning; but if the impious one goes out first to breathe it, he will first be invigorated by it. God's rain falls on every field, and if the sinner's seed is in, it will first get the sweet enrichments of it. It is the same with everything. The mercies of God come to all, are open to all. It is only when sin makes a man naturally unable to find or keep a mercy of God that he finds the mercy disappear; but in every case there is a natural connection between the sin and the deprivation. Thus, again, if a man be pure, and wise, and good, he may be blest above the man who is impure, and foolish, and debased; but if so, it will be because there is a necessary and natural connection between his virtue and the blessing he finds, the one growing out of the other, and not because God selects him for rewards.
4. We may find His universal goodness in that wonderful law of our being, by which, as a rule, men are so easily and insensibly adapted to their condition. Thus, we find that a condition of life which would be insupportable to one, has become quite bearable or even satisfactory to another. The back adjusts itself to the burden; and the mind, the temperament, the tastes, the habits, the hopes, the likes and dislikes of a man, all, as a rule, naturally fall into harmony with his state; and this without his knowing it, or planning it, or striving after it. Thus, it is really quite an open question, whether men who are very rich enjoy life more than men who are moderately poor; or whether the palaces have contained more pleasure than the cottages of the world. You have heard men express their love for occupations that you would despise, and their contentment in habitations that made you shudder, and even their delight in persons from whom you shrink. You wonder how they can do without this or that—how they can bear with this or that; but the want is not felt by them, the burden galls them not. To this I might add the touching and most significant fact, that time seems to have a gentle healing virtue in it to soothe and comfort men; so that not only to our general condition in life, but to our special griefs, this blessed law applies. It is not that we forget; for often, as time goes on, memory only brightens and deepens with the passing years; but a gracious hand seems to steal over us, smoothing down the wrinkles of the spirit, and healing the wounds of the heart, and in this we may see a touching proof that God is ‘good to all.'
5. We may look for a closing proof of this statement to the results that follow much of what we call not good and not merciful in this world. Much that seems not good, much that seems not merciful, is the best part of the discipline of life—or sometimes even the best guide to the ‘still waters' and the ‘green pastures.' A vast number of the ills of life are incentives to action, calls to duty, motives for exertion, wonderful schoolmasters to give us the needed mastery of the knowledge of good and evil. Many of the results of hardships are beneficent.
"God is indeed good to all; to every creature—to the lowest, the saddest, the meanest, the sinfullest; and His tender mercies are over all His works."
III. The praise of God's goodness.
"All Thy works shall praise Thee, O Jehovah; and Thy saints shall bless Thee." Concerning this praise two points require notice:—
1. Its universality. "All Thy works praise Thee, O Jehovah." "All God's works do praise Him, as the beautiful building praises the builder, or the welldrawn picture praises the painter." All His works combine in setting forth His perfections; they manifest His power, and wisdom, and goodness. "The heavens declare the glory of God," &c.
2. Its diversity. "Thy works praise Thee; and Thy saints bless Thee." "His saints praise Him actively, while His other works praise Him only objectively." Angels and glorified saints in heaven, and His people upon earth, praise Him with their will and affections, their reverence and loving obedience.
"Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me bless His holy name," &c.
ERRORS RESPECTING THE DIVINE BEING
Right views of God are most important. Our religion will necessarily be a reflection of them. Our spirit, our hopes or fears, will be influenced, &c. Nations always are as the gods they worship. For the moral character of God we must go to His Word. Our text is an epitome.
I. Let us see what it means.
The goodness or benevolence of God is that which makes Him the source of blessing to His creatures. It takes in kindness, goodwill, love, benignity, &c. In our text it includes mercy, kindness to the guilty and miserable. Now, observe, this view of God is the doctrine of all dispensations—
1. See God as man's creator (Gen ).
2. Hear God under the law (Exo ; Exo 34:6).
3. In the age of Solomon and the Temple (2Ch ).
4. The prophet Nahum saying, "The Lord is good; a stronghold," &c. (Nah ).
5. Now, hear the Apostles. John: "God is love." Paul: "God is rich in mercy" (Eph ). James: "The Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy" (Jas 5:11). Peter: "If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious," &c. (1Pe 2:3-9). Now, before we leave this view of God, see the extent of the Divine goodness. "To all." "Over all." It must be so. God is infinite, and His goodness and love are thus unbounded. "A sea without a bottom, or a shore," &c. And see its duration. "From everlasting to everlasting." "Endureth for ever." Unchanging and eternal.
II. What views of God are inconsistent with this portrait, and therefore necessarily erroneous.
1. The view that represents God as possessing implacable wrath. This is the opposite pole; never can harmonise; and thus is, of necessity, false. He hateth all evil; but His mercy embraces all sinners.
2. Views which represent God's goodness as partial and limited. Flatly contradicting the text and the passages we have quoted.
3. Views of the Divine reprobative decrees. By which men have been unconditionally appointed, or left by God, to perish for ever. This is at total variance with the text.
4. Views which represent God's goodness as only attainable through sacrifice. That God would not be good to sinners until Christ appeased His wrath, &c. "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son," &c. Christ is the effect, not the cause, of the Divine mercy. The channel through which it flows, not the spring from whence it rises.
5. That God can be made good by some acts or ceremonies of ours. Tears, penance, &c. How futile! We may come to it by tears, repentance, and faith; but there it was in God before we wept, &c.
6. That God will only be good in the highest sense to a very few. But the Scriptures say: "The earth is full of His goodness." "He delighteth in mercy." "Not willing that any should perish." Such, then, is the great goodness of God; His true merciful character.
Application. If so—
1. Then even reason says, Adore Him.
2. Gratitude says, Love, praise, and serve Him. We say to all—
3. Come to Him by faith. Trust Him with all your hearts, and evermore, &c.
4. Love says, Delight in Him; be filled with His complacent favour.
5. Wonder marvels at it. "Herein is love," &c. "God commendeth His love to us," &c. It "passeth knowledge." Here is redemption's rock—eternal, immutable, &c. "Oh give thanks," &c.
6. Jesus is the grand unspeakable manifestation of it. "God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself," &c. (2Co, seq.).—Jabez Burnt, D.D.
THE PRAISE OF THE DIVINE REIGN
The Psalmist here celebrates the greatness and goodness of God as a King in His kingdom. The suggestions of this part of the Psalm may be grouped under two heads:—
I. The characteristics of the reign of the Lord.
The poet here speaks of it as—
1. Glorious. "They shall speak of the glory of Thy kingdom; … to make known to the sons of men the glorious majesty of His kingdom." The glory of Jehovah's kingdom is not in external pomp and pageantry, but in its moral perfections. In its goodness, its righteousness, its beneficence; in the fact that He reigns to bless His subjects. "Where," asks Perowne, "is the conspicuous excellence of that kingdom seen? Not in the symbols of earthly pride and power, but in gracious condescension to the fallen and the crushed, in a gracious care which provides for the wants of every living thing." (See our remarks on "the blessings of His reign" in vol. i. pp. 383, 384.)
2. Mighty. "They shall talk of Thy power; to make known to the sons of men His mighty acts." Barnes refers this to His power "as put forth in the works of creation; as manifested in the dispensations of His providence; as evinced in the conversion of sinners; as displayed in carrying His truth around the world; as exhibited in sustaining the sufferer, and in giving peace and support to the dying." The might of the reign of Jehovah is moral, the power of truth, righteousness, goodness.
3. Perpetual. "Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endureth throughout all generations." (On "the perpetuity of His reign" see vol. i. pp. 224 and 385.)
II. The conversation on the reign of the Lord.
"They shall speak of the glory of Thy kingdom, and talk of Thy power; to make known," &c. Three homiletical points are here:—
1. Delight in His reign. This is here clearly implied. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." We talk of the things in which we are interested, and of those which afford us pleasure. The reign of the Lord is to His people a delightful theme of meditation and discourse.
2. Praise of His reign. The poet here celebrates its perfection and perpetuity. The saints speak of it because they feel that it is worthy of praise and honour. It is one of the reasons for which His saints do bless Him. (On "the praise of His reign" see vol. i. p. 385.)
3. Desire for the extension of His reign. The saints speak of its glory and power "to make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of His kingdom." They are solicitous that others should understand and appreciate the perfections of His reign; that they might be led "to yield themselves His willing subjects, and so put themselves under the protection of such a mighty potentate." "The Lord," says David Dickson, "will have His saints to instruct such as are not converted to know His glory, power, and majesty, that they may be brought in and made subjects of His special kingdom of grace."
What is our relation to this glorious King?
THE GLORY OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM
As the kingdom of Christ is so conspicuous an object in both Testaments, and is the only one among men by whose government their happiness can be secured, it cannot be improper, from the words before us, to direct your attention to some particulars relating to the nature, extent, and durability of its glory.
I. The glory of this kingdom is manifested in its origin.
It had its origin in infinite mercy and grace. It entered into the councils of the Eternal before the foundation of the world was laid.
In order to establish this kingdom, it was necessary that the Son of God should become incarnate.… The foundation of the kingdom was laid in the incarnation and atonement of the Son of God; a foundation proportionate to the grandeur and beauty of the edifice that was to be erected.
The doctrines of the Gospel were, and are, the grand instruments in the hand of the Lord Jesus for bringing souls into subjection to His sceptre. The warfare is entirely spiritual; it is carried on by the light of truth and the burning of conviction. This is a glorious manner of raising a kingdom, worthy of Him who is a Spirit, and who reigns by spiritual and intellectual means in the hearts of His people.
II. The glory of Christ's kingdom is manifested in the manner and spirit of its administration.
The last words of David describe the manner of administering this government; "The anointed of the God of Jacob," &c. (2Sa ).
The most essential quality in the administration of any government is justice; and justice is most conspicuous in this administration. "With righteousness shall He judge the poor," &c. (Isa ). He will render to each of His subjects, not for their works, yet according to their works.
The administration of His kingdom is also benign and gracious—it is indeed a kingdom of grace. He revealeth His grace, which is His glory; and thus He captivates the hearts of His people. "He delivers the poor when he cries, the needy, and him that hath no helper." "When the poor and needy seek water," &c. (Isa ).
In earthly kingdoms the subjects are governed by general laws, which must necessarily be very inadequate to the variety of cases and occurrences. But our King is intimately acquainted with all hearts, and being present in all places, He can apply His acts to individual examples, and appropriate smiles and frowns to each, as if there were no other beings that participated in His attention. In human administrations, the law extends only to outward acts; it relates only to objects of sense: but the kingdom of heaven is a spiritual one—it extends to the heart; it is "within you," and relates to "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
It is justly considered a high excellence in a ruler, that he is disinterested, that he pursues no interest of his own apart from the general good of the empire. But never was any one so disinterested as the King of Zion, who laid down His life for His people, while they were yet enemies. The glory of the Father, and the good of man: these engaged His heart, these brought Him from heaven, &c.
III. The glory of the kingdom of Christ appears in the character of His subjects.
1. These subjects are enlightened. They form right estimates of objects, as they are holy or sinful, temporal or eternal, &c.
2. The subjects of this kingdom are renewed. They are made, imperfectly, yet truly holy. It is in this kingdom that patience, purity, humility, faith, and love to God and men, reside.
3. The subjects of this kingdom have in them a preparation for perfect blessedness. They have that which renders them meet "to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." All the love and joy that glow with celestial fervour before the throne of the Heavenly Majesty, is only the consummation of seeds like those which are sown in the hearts of believers.
IV. The glory of the kingdom of Christ is manifest in the privileges that are attached to it.
1. Peace is a peculiar blessing of this kingdom. This begins in reconciliation with God. The consequence of peace with God is peace with one another.
2. The dignity of the subjects of this kingdom is another privilege. To "as many as receive Him," &c. (Joh ; Rom 8:16-17; 1Jn 3:1-2).
3. Immortality shall be the blessing of this kingdom; the subjects shall partake of endless life (Joh ; Joh 6:58). Believers receive in them the embryo of eternal life; the spiritual life rises up into eternal life, and will be displayed in its perfection in the world of glory. These terms include everlasting felicity in the presence of God.
I might mention other properties of this kingdom, which, though they do not enter into the essence of it, are very important.
It is a growing kingdom. "Of its increase there shall be no end."
The perpetuity of this kingdom must endear it to a good man. It shall never be taken away to be given to any other people.
Let us, while we live here, sincerely pray and labour for the advancement and glorious increase of this kingdom.
Finally, let us look to ourselves, that, while we hear these things, we may possess a personal interest in this glorious and happy kingdom.—Robert Hall, A.M.
THE PRAISE OF THE DIVINE RELATION TO DIFFERENT CHARACTERS
In these verses Jehovah is praised because of the attitude He sustains and the blessings He bestows upon persons in different classes of character.
I. His relation to the weak and the burdened.
1. He sustains the weak. "Jehovah upholdeth all them that fall." The weak and the sinking are here meant; those who by reason of their feebleness are ready to fall. Many are ready to sink beneath life's sorrows, many are almost falling before temptations to sin; but the Lord is their Sustainer: He upholds them.
2. He relieves the burdened. "And raiseth up all those that be bowed down." The Psalmist means those who are heavily laden with the duties, the cares, and the trials of life; to whom these things are a heavy burden, bowing them down. Such persons the Lord relieves:—
(1.) By removing the burden. In answer to prayer He sometimes takes away the load of care or trial.
(2.) By increasing the strength of those who are burdened. By giving more grace the weight and painfulness of the burden are taken away—the burden ceases to be a burden. Let the weak and the heavy-laden trust in Him.
II. His relation to the dependent. "The eyes of all wait upon Thee," &c. (Psa ). We have here—
1. Universal dependence. "The eyes of all wait upon Thee; … Thou satisfiest the desire of every living thing." Every creature in the universe is a dependent one. God alone is independent. All creatures depend upon Him. "By Him all things consist." Dependent creatures should be humble.
2. Divine provision. "Thou givest them their meat in due season," &c. Here are three points—
(1.) The seasonableness of the Divine provision. "In due season." God's gifts are always timely. He will not bestow them too soon; He will not withhold them one moment after their due time.
(2.) The ease of the Divine provision. To supply the needs of the universe does not tax the resources of God, or cause Him any anxiety or effort. He has but to open His hand, and the countless and endlessly diversified needs of His creatures are supplied. "Thou openest Thine hand," &c.
(3.) The sufficiency of the Divine provision. "And satisfiest the desire of every living thing." "This," says Barnes, "is to be taken in a general sense. It cannot mean that absolutely no one ever wants, or ever perished from want, but the idea is that of the amazing beneficence and fulness of God in being able and willing to satisfy such multitudes; to keep them from perishing by cold, or hunger, or nakedness. And, in fact, how few birds perish by hunger; how few of the infinite number of the inhabitants of the sea; how few animals that roam over deserts, or in vast plains; how few men; how few even of the insect tribes—how few in the world revealed by the microscope—the world beneath us—the innumerable multitudes of living things too small even to be seen by the naked eye of man!"
All this implies unlimited resources in God; and should inspire the hearty confidence of man in Him.
III. His relation to the prayerful.
"The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him," &c. (Psa ). Notice—
1. The character indicated. This is marked by—
(1.) Prayerfulness. "Them that call upon Him." Here we have not simply dependence, but dependence felt and acknowledged; dependence rising into prayer. We have also an interesting and true view of prayer; it is here presented to us as expressed longing, the cry of desire. "He will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him; He also will hear their cry," &c.
(2.) Sincerity. "All that call upon Him in truth." Sincerity is utterly indispensable to acceptable approach unto God.
(3.) Reverence. "Them that fear Him." This fear is not the terror of a slave, but the filial reverence of a child.
2. The blessings promised.
(1.) The manifestation of His presence. "Jehovah is nigh unto all them that call upon Him," &c. He is near unto all men; but His true worshippers feel Him near unto them, they have communion with Him. "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart," &c.
(2.) The granting of their desires. "He will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him." "Delight thyself in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart." The desires of godly souls accord with the holy will of God.
(3.) The bestowment of His help. "He also will hear their cry, and will save them." Perowne: "And when He heareth their cry He helpeth them." "Call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee," &c. The unanimous testimony of the history of His people confirms these assurances.
IV. His relation to His saints.
"The Lord preserveth all them that love Him."
1. The human character. "Them that love Him." They have confidence and complacency in Him; they have given their hearts unto Him. Their language is, "Whom have I in heaven but Thee?" &c. "The chiefest among ten thousand.… He is altogether lovely."
2. The Divine keeping. "Jehovah preserveth," or "keepeth them." It is implied that they are exposed to danger. They are beset by spiritual enemies; they are weak and liable to receive injury; their spiritual interests are threatened. But Jehovah keepeth them. They "are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation." "He preserveth the souls of His saints; He delivereth them from the hand of the wicked." By curbing the power of temptation; by restraining from evil by His Holy Spirit; by quickening the conscience, and strengthening the will, and increasing the spiritual life and activity by the same Holy Spirit, the Lord keepeth His people.
V. His relation to the wicked.
"But all the wicked will He destroy." See here—
1. A sad character. This character is the opposite of the godly in all those aspects which have come under our notice. The wicked do not love God, do not reverence Him, do not pray to Him; but the evil of their character is positive and deep rooted; they have fitted themselves for destruction.
2. A dread destiny. "Will He destroy." "The enemies of the Cross of Christ; whose end is destruction." They "shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power."
VI. His righteousness and kindness in all His relations.
"Jehovah is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works." Instead of "holy," the Margin has "merciful, or bountiful." Conant: "kind." Perowne: "loving." In His relations to all His creatures, whatever may be their character, He is just and merciful,righteous and kind. He wrongs no one; He requires of no one services which would be unjust. Even to the rebellious and wicked He is kind. "He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." He is slow to anger even with the greatest sinners, and swift to save them when they turn to Him.
VII. His praise because of all His relations.
"My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord; and let all flesh bless His holy name for ever and ever." We have here—
1. A resolution to offer personal praise. "My mouth shall speak the praise of Jehovah."
2. A desire that He might be praised universally. "Let all flesh bless His holy name." The godly soul. intensely desires that all men should worship the Lord.
3. A desire that He might be praised perpetually. "For ever and ever."
UNIVERSAL DEPENDENCE AND DIVINE SUPPORT
The Psalmist here teaches—
I. The universality of dependence amongst creatures.
"The eyes of all wait upon Thee." We depend upon God for "life, and breath, and all things." "He giveth breath to the people upon earth, and spirit to them that walk therein." "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above," &c. Entire dependence should beget deep humility. "What hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?"
II. The infinitude of the Divine resources.
"Thou givest them their meat in due season; … and satisfiest the desire of every living thing." This indicates the possession of resources—
1. Infinitely vast. "Every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle upon a thousand hills." "The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine, saith the Lord of bosts." His resources are adequate to the abundant supply of all the wants of all creatures. His riches are unsearchable.
2. Infinitely various. They are not only more than sufficient for all necessities, but adapted to every variety of need.
III. The timeliness of the Divine communications.
"In due season." The Divine Being is punctual in the fulfilment of every engagement. His gifts are bestowed at that time which infinite wisdom and infinite goodness adjudges to be the "due season." In this we have a reason for patience if His interpositions or communications seem to be delayed.
IV. The sublime ease of the Divine communications.
"Thou openest Thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing." To satisfy the innumerable needs of the myriads of His creatures does not tax His resources, or challenge an exertion of His power. He has but to open His hand, and the countless needs of the universe are satisfied. What an encouragement is this to believing prayer! He "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think."
V. The sufficiency of the Divine communications.
"And satisfiest the desire of every living thing." "God giveth to all liberally." The provisions of His table are both bounteous and free. He gives "bread enough" for all His creatures, "and to spare." So in spiritual things, His "grace is sufficient." "God is able to make all grace abound toward yon; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: being enriched in everything to all liberality."
Our subject urges all men to—
1. Gratitude. Constant provision should lead to constant thankfulness and consecration.
(1.) For temporal supplies. "Be not careful for your life, what ye shall eat, and what ye shall drink," &c. (Mat .)
(2.) For spiritual supplies. "Grace to help in time of need" will surely be given to all who look to Him.
ATTRIBUTES AND ADVANTAGES OF ACCEPTABLE PRAYER
What is prayer? According to Psa, it is a sincere calling upon God. According to Psa 145:19, it is the cry of the desire of the godly soul. In our text we have—
I. Some attributes of acceptable prayer.
1. Sincerity. "All that call upon Him in truth." "God is a Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." All unreality is known unto Him, and is abhorred by Him. Words and forms of prayer without the heart are an abomination in His sight.
2. Reverence. "Them that fear Him." This is not dread, but reverence,—a devout, trustful, filial spirit. Religiousness of spirit is an essential condition of acceptable prayer.
There are other attributes of acceptable prayer, which are not expressed here, although they are perhaps implied. Of these, two are of prime importance, viz.—Faith. "Without faith it is impossible to please Him." And, Accordance with the Divine will. "If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us; and if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him."
II. Some advantages of acceptable prayer.
1. The realisation of His presence. "Jehovah is nigh unto all them that call upon Him," &c. In His omnipresence and omnipotence He is near unto all men, but in gracious fellowship He is near only to devout souls. Locally, He is everywhere present; but sympathetically, He is present only with the truly pious. "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit," &c. In gracious interest and tenderest regard He is nigh unto them; they realise His blessed presence. "Our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ."
2. The fulfilment of their desires. "He will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him." God does not promise to grant the desire of the irreligious, the worldly, or the wicked. It would be neither kind nor right to do so. But He pledges His word to grant the desire of the godly. Their desires are pure, unselfish, spiritual, in harmony with His will; and to fulfil them will promote both His own glory and the good of His universe. This truth is very clearly stated in the book of Job ; Job 22:26-27; and by David: "Delight thyself in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart." (See also Joh 15:7; Jas 5:16.)
3. The obtainment of His salvation. "He also will hear their cry, and will save them." "There is no rhetoric, nothing charming, in a cry, yet God's ears are open to it, as the tender mother's to the cry of her sucking child, which another would take no notice of." In answer to prayer He helps His people in all their need, and ultimately saves them from all evil into perfect purity and joy.
CONCLUSION.—"Oh, fear the Lord, ye His saints; for there is no want to them that fear Him." "Trust in Him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us."
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 145". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany