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“The prayer which the Church offers up at the conclusion of the preceding psalm now issues in a hymn of praise, the result of a believing view of the glory which is to follow, when Messiah’s sufferings are ended. This is one of the beautiful songs of which we find many in Scripture, prepared by the Holy Spirit to awaken and enliven the hopes and expectations of the Church while she waits for the Lord, and to give utterance to her joy at the time of His arrival. The theme is Messiah’s exaltation and glory, and the time chosen for its delivery it just the moment when darkness covered the earth, and all nature seemed about to die with its expiring Lord. Scripture deals largely in contrasts. It seems to be suitable to the human mind to turn from one extreme to another. Man can endure any change, however violent and contradictory, but a long continuance, a sameness either of joy or sorrow, has a debilitating and depressing effect.”—Ryland.
THE JOY OF THE HEAVENLY KING
I. This joy arose from a consciousness of newly achieved victory. “In Thy salvation how greatly shall He rejoice” (Psalms 21:1).
1. This victory was achieved by supernatural power. “In Thy strength, O Lord” (Psalms 21:1). The Man of sorrows, as He entered into the stern conflict with evil, knew full well the victory could not be gained by the ordinary tactics of military genius, or by the prowess of a human arm. He relied on the strength of Jehovah, and not in vain: He emerged from the dark, fierce contest, an exultant conqueror. How often do we fail in the great battle of life by being too self-reliant; and in proportion to our blind confidence in an arm of flesh is the humiliation and misery of our defeat! “Our weakness unstrings our harps, but His strength tunes them anew. If we cannot sing a note in honour of our own strength, we can at any rate rejoice in our omnipotent God.” The salvation of humanity is a Divine work, and will be to myriads the source of ceaseless and ever-increasing joy.
2. This victory was granted in answer to earnest prayer. “Thou hast given Him His heart’s desire, and hast not withholden the request of His lips” (Psalms 21:2). On the lonely shore, among the silent hills or under the shadows of the solitary garden, the Messiah poured out His soul in earnest prayer for strength to suffer and to prevail on behalf of His people; and He was heard and marvellously answered. “What is in the well of the heart is sure to come up in the bucket of the lips; and those are the only true prayers where the heart’s desire is first, and the lips’ request follows after. The requests of the Saviour were not withheld. He was and still is a prevailing pleader. Our Advocate on high returns not empty from the throne of grace.”—Spurgeon. The agony of wrestling prayer is often turned into the rapture of success. The last psalm, says Perowne, was a litany before the king went forth to battle. This is apparently a Te Deum on his return.
II. This joy was accelerated by possessing an affluence of Divine Blessing.
1. He was surrounded with evidences of the Divine Beneficence. “Thou preventest Him with the blessings of goodness.” To prevent signifies to anticipate, to go before. “Thou goest before Him with the blessings of Thy goodness as a pioneer, to make crooked ways straight and rough places smooth; or as one who strews flowers in the path of another, to render the way beautiful to the eye and pleasant to the tread. God’s gifts are God’s love embodied and expressed. And this greatly enhances the value of our blessings—that they are cups as full of God and of God’s kindness as of happiness and blessedness.”—S. Martin.
2. He was invested with the most illustrious dignity. “Thou settest a crown of pure gold on His head. His glory is great in Thy salvation: honour and majesty hast Thou laid upon Him” (Psalms 21:3; Psalms 21:5). Jesus wore the thorn-crown, but now wears the glory-crown. It is a crown, indicating royal nature, imperial power, deserved honour, glorious conquest, and Divine government. The crown of pure gold has respect to His exaltation at the right hand of God, where He is crowned with glory and honour; and this crown being of pure gold denotes the purity, glory, solidity, and perpetuity of His kingdom. The diadems of earthly monarchs are liable to be suddenly displaced; but this crown is set upon the head of the Redeemer so firmly that no power can remove it. “Honour and majesty”—as Parkhurst reads—splendour and beauty—“hast Thou laid upon Him.” As the wood of the tabernacle was overlaid with pure gold, so is Jesus covered with honour and glory.—Spurgeon, in loco. “Were there ten thousand millions of heavens created above these highest heavens, and again as many above them, and as many above them, till angels were wearied with counting, it were but too low a seat to fix the princely throne of that Lord Jesus above them all.”—Rutherford.
3. He enjoyed the consciousness of an imperishable life (Psalms 21:4). “Even length of days for ever and ever.” The lavish endowments of God often exceed our greatest petitions and loftiest hopes. Jesus, as man, asked for life, and He was heard in that He feared. He was raised from the dead, to die no more. The power of God and all His moral attributes secure the perpetuity of the life of the risen and exalted Saviour. He was endowed with length of days for ever and ever—“the prolonged ages of this world which the Church was to have, and after them an eternity, world without end.”
4. He became the source of endless blessing to others. “For Thou hast made Him most blessed for ever” (Psalms 21:6). Messiah is the source whence all blessings for time and for eternity shall be derived. He is an overflowing well-spring of blessing to others, a sun filling the universe with light. In and through Him all nations of the earth are blessed. True blessedness is found, not in accumulating riches, not in the weary, treadmill circle of philosophic research, not in travel and commune with Nature in her varying moods: it is found only in Christ. And yet men, in seeking for the streams of bliss, wander from its source.
5. He exults in the Divine favour. “Thou hast made Him exceeding glad with Thy countenance” (Psalms 21:6). “Though this be metaphorically used for favour, yet is the speech not all metaphor, and that well-experienced Christians will tell you. The countenance of God makes the Prince of Heaven glad: how ought we to seek it, and how careful should we be lest we should provoke Him by our sins to hide His face from us! Our anticipations may cheerfully fly forward to the hour when the joy of our Lord shall be shed abroad on all the saints, and the countenance of Jehovah shine on all the blood-bought.”—Spurgeon.
III. This joy was intensified by the assurance of the unshakeable permanency of is government.
1. The permanency of Messiah’s throne is secured by the Divine mercy. “Through the mercy of the Most High He shall not be moved” (Psalms 21:7). He who is Most High in every sense, engages all His infinite perfections to maintain the throne of grace upon which our King in Zion reigns. He was not moved from His purpose, nor in His sufferings, nor by His enemies, nor shall He be moved from the completion of His designs. It is an encouraging evidence of the Divine mercy that the throne of the Great Redeemer still exists among men. If human malice and Satanic rage had not been restrained by the Divine mercy, that throne would have been overthrown long ago.
2. The assurance of this permanency is strengthened by Messiah’s confidence in God. “For the king trusteth in the Lord” (Psalms 21:7). He did not depend on worldly armies or human skill and stratagem; but wholly in Jehovah, the Lord of Hosts. “A holy confidence in God is the true mother of victories.” The joy and confidence of Christ our King, is the ground of all our joy and confidence, and the pledge of final conquest over all our foes.
CHRIST AS THE SOURCE OF BLESSING TO THE RACE
I. Is exalted to the highest dignity. He who was despised and rejected of men, and who Himself despised and rejected the affluence and honours of the world, was lifted up on high and clothed with majesty and glory. The cross was exchanged for a throne, the cast-off garment for a robe of peerless lustre, comparative obscurity for undying fame, suffering for felicity, the ribaldry of the mob for angelical applause. The most forbidding and unlikely appearances may disguise great resources. The dry, knotty, leafless, sapless vine seems past all recovery; but erelong it flourishes in verdant beauty, and bends under the weight of abundant fruitfulness. Christ was as a root out of a dry ground—lowly and unattractive in the beginning of His earthly life; and it seemed very improbable that anything great could ever come out of such humble and miserable surroundings. But He is now exalted to the highest dignity, and has become the benefactor to the race: before His glory all earthly splendour fades, and on His bounty the life of all depends.
II. Is endowed with all power. Whatever can minister to the happiness and prestige of His people, Christ has unlimited ability to bestow. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” All the forces of the universe are under His control. All created intelligences are obedient to His will. He can transmute the instruments of evil into agencies of good. He can cripple and destroy the most formidable opposition. He can deliver in the latest emergency; and turn despair into victory. The soul that relies on Him can never be confounded.
III. Is inexhaustible in supply. “Thou hast made Him most blessed for ever.” At all times, in all circumstances, His aid is suitable and sufficient. The river that has flowed for ages and borne afar its treasured argosies, is not more certain in the perpetual supply of its liquid current, than is the vast stream of the Divine beneficence that flows perennially from the heavenly hills, burdened with the wealth of blessing to every needy soul. The fruit of the vintage may fail and the gathering time may not come, the earth may be shut up in hopeless barrenness, all human resources may be cut off, but the fountain of Divine blessing is never sealed, and its supplies continually abound. “Of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.”
IV. Rejoices to communicate. It was the saying of a certain generous Spanish captain, “There is no way of enjoying one’s property like giving it away.” It is a joy, a luxury to give. The generosity of God knows no stint. When a certain English monarch once threw open his park and gardens to the public, the royal gardener, finding it troublesome, complained to his Majesty that the visitors plucked the flowers. “What,” said the kind-hearted king, “are my people fond of flowers? Then plant some more!” So our heavenly King, with lavish hand, scatters on our daily pathway the flowers of blessing, and, as fast as we can gather them, spite of the grudging, churlish world, more are supplied. “Not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” The greater our need, and the more urgent our cry for help, the greater the rapture of our Divine benefactor in supplying that need. “The Lord rejoiced over you to do you good” (Deuteronomy 28:63).
THE EXPOSURE AND PUNISHMENT OF SIN
I. That the exposure of sin is inevitable. “Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies.” Iniquity delights in cunning, and is itself a masterpiece of cunning. It may succeed in deluding its victims, and for a time escape detection. But there is One to whom every detail of the plot is fully known; and He grieves to see the toilsome ingenuity of the wicked, and smiles at its utter impotency. Sin is often its own detective. An unguarded word, a suspicious sign, an unconscious oversight, will unmask the most carefully disguised plans, and lead to exposure and misery. It is the theme of many a ballad, how the cranes aided in the discovery of the assassins of Ibycus, the poet. Recently, the house of the Caliph of the Ben Oreazen in Algeria, was entered by a band of robbers, and a box containing 25,000 francs stolen. In their haste to escape, the thieves left behind them an Arab cake bearing a particular mark, which one of the bakers of the town recognised as the sign used by Ben Xerafas, it being the custom for each family in sending their bread to the oven to mark it so as to distinguish the loaves. The police acted on the information, and, descending on a certain hut, caught the robbers asleep, with a portion of the plunder still in their possession. A simple Arab cake was the insignificant agent of discovery and exposure! If the sinner does not betray himself, the hand of God, which has power to tear away every covering, will sooner or later find him out.
II. That the exposure of sin will extend to the inmost feelings of the heart. “Thy right hand shall find out those that hate Thee.” That sin is not always the worst which is most apparent. The bland, submissive countenance may cover the most vile and malignant feelings of the heart. The secret haters of God only want the opportunity and the power; and they would outrival the most notoriously wicked. The wilful and obstinate sinner would, if it were possible, bury Christ again within the rock of his hardened heart, and seal the stone that He might never rise. An electric log has recently been constructed, which thrown overboard will register the speed of the vessel through the water. By a simple contrivance, the captain, while sitting in his cabin, can detect the dial movements of the log in the depths of the sea, and ascertain his rate of sailing every quarter of an hour. If it were possible, by any method, to watch the operations of a sinful heart, what a depth and rush of wickedness would be discovered there! And yet the day is coming when the strong hand of God shall turn aside all disguise and reveal iniquity in all its loathsomeness and deformity. He “shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.”
III. That the punishment of sin will be terrible and complete.
1. It will be terrible. “Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of Thine anger”—Thy angry look. Since the king is in the presence of Jehovah (Psalms 21:6), when He directs His face upon His enemies, it exerts that destructive power which is usually ascribed to the angry look of Jehovah. “However coldly God now seems to look upon the enemies of Christ, the more will His anger burn against them in the future. God has His limited time as well for His wrath as for His grace.”—Lange. The sins of the impenitent wicked will supply fuel to the fire of their sufferings, and perhaps be used as the means of punishing others—one class of sinners tormenting another class. “Who can abide in the fierceness of His anger?” (Nahum 1:6).
2. It will be complete. “The Lord shall swallow them up in His wrath, and the fire shall devour them.” The certainty of punishment for wrong-doing is evident, not only from the declarations of Scripture, but also from the history of mankind. Nations are an example—the Antediluvians, the Sodomites, the Jews. Individuals are an example—Korah, Dathan, Abiram, Saul, and Judas. The hearts that will not glow with holy gratitude and praise shall burn with shame and infinite remorse, and the awful sentence, “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire,” shall be but the echo of their own self-abhorring consciences.
THE UTTER OVERTHROW OF THE ENEMIES OF CHRIST
As God had already granted victory and gone so far beyond the expectations and hopes of those who had gone forth to battle, the idea evidently suggested by these verses is, that there will be ultimately a complete victory over all the foes of Messiah and of His people. Note:
I. That the enemies of Christ are full of malignity.
1. They are skilful in plotting mischief. “For they intended evil against Thee: they imagined a mischievous device” (Psalms 21:11). They extended, or stretched out evil—an idea derived from stretching out or laying snares for the purpose of entrapping wild beasts or birds. The brain of the evil-doer is continually racked, either in devising new plans of mischief, or in counter-acting the plans of others that threaten to interfere with his own. It is hard work to be wicked; it involves anxious thought, incessant activity, and sleepless vigilance. The fair goddess who lured to the first transgression and threw around it an irresistible charm, is now transformed to a demon, and tyrannises over its victim, forcing him to do as a necessity what he began to do as a pleasure. All wrong-doing begins in the intention: there the most malignant venom is secreted.
2. They are impotent in carrying out their wicked designs. “Which they are not able to perform” (Psalms 21:11). The power of evil is limited, else virtue would soon cease to exist, and the throne of righteousness be overturned. But sinners are not permitted to do all that is in their power; much less are they able to accomplish all they intend. There is all the virulence of malice aforethought, all the barefaced evidence of guilty intention; but there is the lack of that which can alone give efficiency and success to their villany—the lack of power. They are not able to perform. “The serpent may hiss, but his head is broken; the lion may worry, but he cannot devour; the tempest may thunder, but cannot strike.”
II. That the enemies of Christ will be certainly detected and exposed. “Thine hand shall find out all Thine enemies: Thy right hand shall find out those that hate Thee” (Psalms 21:8). Not only are the eyes of the Lord upon the wicked, but His hand is in search of them; and as sure as His eyes see, so certainly will His hand grasp all the workers of iniquity. None can hide from His gaze; none can escape from the terrible grip of His right hand. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God—the offended and avenging God! Rocks and mountains will be no better shelter at last, than fig-leaves were at first. The finding out, says Spurgeon, relates not only to the discovery of the hiding-places of the haters of God, but to the touching of them in their tenderest part, so-as to cause the severest suffering. When He appears to judge the world hard hearts will be subdued into terror and proud spirits humbled into shame. He who has the key of human nature can touch all its springs at His will, and find out the means of bringing the utmost confusion and terror upon those who aforetime boastfully expressed their hatred of Him.
III. That the enemies of Christ will be stricken with dismay. “Therefore shalt Thou make them turn their back when Thou shalt make ready Thine arrows upon Thy strings against the face of them” (Psalms 21:12). “Thou shalt cause them to turn their backs and fly as if a volley of arrows had been discharged in their faces. God can in a moment strike the most powerful and numerous army, even in the moment of victory, with panic; and then even the lame, the army which they had nearly routed, shall take the prey and divide the spoil.”—A. Clarke. The idea is that the Almighty has set up His enemies as a butt. (Comp. Job 7:20; Job 16:12; Lamentations 3:12-13). “The judgments of God are called His arrows, being sharp, swift, sure, and deadly. What a dreadful situation, to be set as a mark and butt at which these arrows are directed! View Jerusalem encompassed by the Roman armies without, and torn to pieces by the animosity of desperate and bloody factions within! No further commentary is requisite upon this verse.” G. Horne.
IV. That the enemies of Christ will be utterly overthrown.
1. Their overthrow will entail severe suffering. “Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of Thine anger: the Lord shall swallow them up in His wrath, and the fire shall devour them” (Psalms 21:9). The wicked shall be consumed with the fire of Divine wrath, like wood put into a furnace. The wrath of God is often represented under the image of fire. (See Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 32:22; Psalms 18:8; Matthew 13:42; Matthew 18:8; Matthew 25:41; Mark 9:44; 2 Thessalonians 1:8.) The enemies of Christ shall not only be cast into the furnace of fire; but the Lord shall make them themselves as a fiery oven: they will be their own tormentors. “Our pleasant vices are made the whips to scourge us.” It is said that a frown of Queen Elizabeth killed Sir Christopher Hatton, the Lord Chancellor of England. Who then can stand before the frown and fierce anger of the insulted Majesty of Heaven?
2. The overthrow will be complete. “Their fruit shalt Thou destroy from the earth, and their seed from among the children of men” (Psalms 21:10). That which they prize the most, and which has cost a life of toil and anxiety to acquire, will perish. The ambitious dream, the hoarded treasure, the coveted honour, shall vanish as a fractured bubble. Even their posterity—the children who have imbibed their acrimony and trod in their footsteps—shall pass away, so that the race shall come to an end, and their memory be forgotten. The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance; but the name of the wicked shall rot. The possessions of the haters of Christ are a heritage of woe.
V. That the overthrow of the enemies of Christ will illustrate the supreme power of Jehovah.
1. The supreme power of Jehovah is self-sustained. “Be Thou exalted Lord, in Thine own strength” (Psalms 21:13). Exalt Thyself, O Lord—Thy creatures cannot exalt Thee. Lift Thyself up and discomfit Thy foes by Thine own strength! God’s right hand has often given the victory to His followers, though they struck not one blow in their own defence. How little can the strength of man avail when the Lord raiseth up Himself to the battle. The end of all conflict with evil will be the eternal, unchallengeable exaltation of Jehovah. While He watches over and ensures the best interests of His people, He preserves inviolate His own honour and majesty.
2. The supremacy of Jehovah should be Joyfully celebrated. “So will we sing and praise Thy power” (Psalms 21:13). “God is to receive praise in reference to that attribute which He has exhibited most in the defence or salvation of His followers. One feels himself lost, condemned, on the brink of hell; he calls for mercy, is heard and saved: mercy therefore will be the chief subject of his praise, and the burden of his song. Another feels himself beset with powerful adversaries, with the weakest of whom he is not able to cope; he cries to the Almighty for strength; he is heard and strengthened with strength in his soul. He therefore will naturally magnify the all-conquering power of the Lord.”—A. Clarke. Joy should always flow in the channel of praise. The leading thought in the whole psalm is, that God will ultimately triumph over all His enemies, and that this triumph will be followed by universal rejoicing and praise. Haste, O haste, the happy eza!
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 21". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28