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Superscription.—“A Psalm for Solomon.” Margin: “Of Solomon.” Hengstenberg: “Solomon is named in the title as the author of the Psalm. Attempts have been made, to no purpose, to interpret לִשְׁלמֹה here, as in Psalms 127:0, in another sense. The ל, when it occurs as in the titles, without anything to limit its application, always indicates, as here, the author. In favour of the announcement in the title, we have first the remarkably objective character of the Psalm, common to it with the other writings of Solomon, and in striking contrast to that flow of feeling which forms such a marked feature in the Psalms of David. And, in the second place, there is also the fact that it is the circumstances of Solomon’s time that form the groundwork of the Psalm.”
We have in the Psalm a picture of the character and extent of the sovereignty of the Messiah. “Solomon, when at the height of his own power,” says Canon Liddon, “sketches a Superhuman King, ruling an empire which in its character and in its compass altogether transcends his own. The extremest boundaries of the Kingdom of Israel melt away before the gaze of the Psalmist. The new kingdom reaches ‘from sea to sea, and from the flood unto the world’s end’ (Psalms 72:8). It reaches from each frontier of the Promised Land to the remotest regions of the known world in the opposite quarter. From the Mediterranean it extends to the ocean that washes the shores of Eastern Asia; from the Euphrates to the utmost West. At the feet of its mighty Monarch, all who are most inaccessible to the arms or the influence of Israel hasten to tender their voluntary submission. The wild sons of the desert (Psalms 72:9), the merchants of Tarshish in the then distant Spain, the islanders of the Mediterranean, the Arab chiefs, the wealthy Nubians (Psalms 72:10), are foremost in proffering their homage and fealty. But all kings are at last to fall down in submission before the Ruler of the new kingdom; all nations are to do Him service (Psalms 72:11). His empire is to be co-extensive with the world: it is also to be co-enduring with time (Psalms 72:17). His empire is to be spiritual; it is to confer peace on the world, but by righteousness (Psalms 72:3). The King will Himself secure righteou judgment (Psalms 72:2; Psalms 72:4), salvation (Psalms 72:4; Psalms 72:13), deliverance (Psalms 72:12), redemption (Psalms 72:14), to His subjects. The needy, the afflicted, the friendless, will be the especial objects of His tender care (Psalms 72:12-13). His appearance in the world will be like the descent of ‘the rain upon the mown grass’ (Psalms 72:6); the true life of man seems to have been killed out, but it is yet capable of being restored by Him. He himself, it is hinted, will be out of sight; but His Name will endure for ever; His Name will ‘propagate’; and men shall be blessed in Him to the end of time (Psalms 72:17). This King is immortal; He is also all-knowing and all-mighty. ‘Omniscience alone can hear the cry of every human heart; Omnipotence alone can bring deliverance to every human sufferer.’ ”
Looking at the Psalm homiletically we see in it A Prayer for Kings (Psalms 72:1), The Glorious Reign of the Messiah (Psalms 72:2; Psalms 72:17), and the Doxology.
A PRAYER FOR KINGS
This brief prayer for the king suggests—
I. The character of a true king. It is clearly implied that he should be righteous. “Give Thy righteousness unto the king’s son.” Kings should be righteous in heart, in aims, in actions. They are bound to this,—
1. By obligations which are common to all men. Kings as much as their subjects are required “to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” The eternal and immutable laws of God for moral beings are as binding upon the mightiest sovereign as upon the meanest subject.
2. By obligations which are special to men of high position. Their example is incomparably more influential than that of those who occupy less conspicuous, or obscure positions. “The people are fashioned,” says Claudian, “according to the example of their king; and edicts are of less power than the model which his life exhibits.”
“A sovereign’s great example forms a people;
The public breast is noble, or is vile,
As he inspires it.”—Mallet.
Hence kings are under special obligations to “wear the white flower of a blameless life.”
Are justice, verity, temperance, stableness,
Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness,
Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude.”
“He’s a king,
A true right king, who dares do aught, save wrong;
Fears nothing mortal, but to be unjust;
Who is not blown up with the flatt’ring puffs
Of spongy sycophants; who stands unmoved,
Despite the jostling of opinion;
Who can enjoy himself, maugre the throng
That strive to press the quiet out of him;
Who sits upon Jove’s footstool as I do,
Adorning, not affecting, majesty;
Whose brow is wreathed with the silver crown
Of clear content.”—Marston.
“He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.”
II. The function of a true king. It is implied that his business is to administer justice. “Give the king Thy judgments, O God.” The “judgments” are the legal decisions, or sentences. The judgments of God are contrasted with those which the king gives independently. “The essence of all justice lies in the conformity of the decisions of the earthly judge to the decisions of the heavenly Lord of Justice.” Barnes: “It is one of the primary ideas of the character of a king that he is the fountain of justice; the maker of the laws; the dispenser of right to all his subjects. The officers of the law administer justice under him; the last appeal is to him.” The true administrators of justice are “persuaded that justice is God’s own work, and themselves His agents in this business,—the sentence, of right, God’s own verdict, and themselves His priests to deliver it.” (Comp. Deuteronomy 1:17; 2 Chronicles 19:6; Proverbs 8:15.)
“A monarch should be
Heaven’s true vicegerent, whose superior soul
Raised high above the tyrant’s selfish poorness,
Pants but for power of doing good, rejects
All power of doing ill; who makes no war
But to revenge his people’s wrongs; no peace
But what secures their safety; courts no fame
But from their happiness: a parent he,
The public parent—they not slaves, but sons.”
Or, as Tennyson portrays him—
“Who reverenced his conscience as his king;
Whose glory was, redressing human wrong;
Who spake no slander, no, nor listen’d to it;
Who loved one only, and who clave to her.”
“The king that faithfully judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established for ever.” The kingdom whose rulers are not characterised by righteousness, and whose judges are not just, must hasten to its overthrow.
III. The need of a true king. It is implied in the text that he needs—
1. Divine guidance. “Give the king Thy judgments, O God.” If kings are to exercise the functions of their high office truly and wisely, they must be instructed and strengthened from above. When “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” rests upon kings, their rule shall be righteous, their throne secure, and their subjects happy. (Comp. Isaiah 11:2-5.)
2. Divine grace. “Give Thy righteousness unto the king’s son.” Righteousness is not innate in kings. “There is none righteous, no, not one.” Righteousness must come to them as the gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, and must be sought and obtained by faith, &c. Very great is the need of kings of the constant help of God. Their temptations are many and very powerful; they stand in slippery places; their exaltation has a tendency to unsettle their moral equilibrium, &c. They need the guidance and support of the Divine hand.
IV. The duty of subjects. We may make this our prayer for our rulers:—“Give the king Thy judgments, O God,” &c. Every subject ought to pray for the blessing of God upon his sovereign. M. Henry: “Those who would live quiet and peaceable lives must pray for kings and all in authority, that God would give them His judgments and righteousness.” Let us pray God with His favour to behold all the rulers of men, and so replenish them with the grace of His Holy Spirit, that they may alway incline to His will and walk in His way.
THE GLORIOUS REIGN OF THE MESSIAH
That these splendid utterances cannot be applied merely to the kingdom of Solomon, or of any of his successors, must be obvious even to the most superficial reader. That they are prophetic of the kingdom of the Messiah will also be obvious, we think, to every one who thoughtfully regards them. Consider—
I. The blessings of His reign. Several of these are here specified.
1. The administration of justice. “He shall judge Thy people with righteousness, and Thy poor with judgment. He shall judge the poor of the people. He shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.” (See remarks in the preceding sketch on the function of a true king.) Eloquently has Isaiah portrayed the character of the Messianic administration (Psalms 11:1-5).
2. The enjoyment of peace. “The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills by righteousness.” Mountains and hills are characteristic features of Palestine. In ancient times these were terraced and cultivated as far up as possible. In the representation of this peace by the Psalmist we have three ideas.
(1) Prevalence. The mountains and hills by reason of their number and prominence are well fitted to express the idea that the land everywhere shall be full of peace. There shall be “abundance of peace.” The war drum shall no longer throb, and the battle flag shall be for ever furled. Men “shall beat their swords into ploughshares,” &c. Strife and bitterness between different classes of society shall be no more. Peace in man’s own being. Peace between man and man. Peace between God and man.
(2) Reality. “Peace by righteousness.” The peace which is not rooted in righteousness is spurious and deceptive. True peace is the product and consequence of righteousness. It is so in the individual. “Being justified by faith we have peace with God,” &c. It is so also in society and in nations. Christ is “the Prince of Peace,” because He “reigns in righteousness.”
(3) Permanence. The spurious peace which is not rooted in righteousness is of short duration. The true peace, which is “by righteousness,” shall last. Like its Author, it is abiding, everlasting. What an unspeakably precious boon is this Divine peace!
3. The progress of religion (Psalms 72:5-7). We have three conspicuous features of true religion.
(1) Reverence towards God. “They shall fear Thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.” One of the blessed effects of the glorious reign of the Messiah is that God will be regarded by man with the deepest reverence. And this reverence shall be perpetual. Generations of men come and go—
“Like the snowfall in the river,
A moment white—then melts for ever.”
But the sun and moon remain and shine through all generations while they remain, God shall be reverenced by man. And when they are no more, even for ever, shall He be feared.
(2) Refreshment from God. “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass; as showers that water the earth.” A beautiful illustration of Divine influences—
“As rain on meadows newly mown,
So shall He send His influence down;
His grace on fainting souls distils,
Like heavenly dew on thirsty hills.”—Watts.
The showers that water the earth tend to produce life, beauty, and fruit. In this they symbolise the gracious influences of the reign of Jesus Christ.
(3) Growth towards God. “In His days shall the righteous flourish.” As the mown grass springs into vigorous and beauteous growth after genial showers, so the righteous in His day shall grow and prosper; they shall bring forth “fruit unto holiness.” If they have been depressed, by His blessing they shall be revived and strengthened. Their faith and love and obedience, their consecration and zeal and sanctity, their truth and tenderness and power, all shall increase. What an inspiring and glorious prospect this is! Evil shall not always lord it over good, &c.
4. Beneficent government. We have already made some remarks on the righteousness of His administration, but we return to it, because the Psalmist gives special prominence to His treatment of the poor and the oppressed. Three characteristics at least of that treatment he sets before us.
(1) He regards the cry of the needy and helpless. “He shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper.” Not even the most obscure or despised of men shall cry to Him in vain.
(2) He champions their cause. “He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence.” He will befriend the friendless, will be the Helper of the helpless, and the Protector of the defenceless. “His administration will have special respect to those who are commonly overlooked, and who are exposed to oppression and wrong.”
(3) He prizes their life. “And precious shall their blood be in His sight.” In His sight men are precious not in proportion to their rank or wealth or power, but according to their character. “The Lord knoweth them that are His,” and holds them dear to Him. He guards His subjects well because He loves them well. “Christ is the poor man’s King.”
5. Abundant prosperity. “There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains, the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon, and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the field.” The word—פִּסָּה—translated “handful,” is rendered abundance by Conant, Gesenius, Hengstenberg, Moll, et al. Fuerst gives as its meaning, superabundance. Abundance of corn is the sign of abundant prosperity. As the mountains are prominent and picturesque, so the signs of the prosperity would be conspicuous and beautiful. The cities also shall be populous and prosperous. Beauty, plenty, and joy, shall be universally diffused throughout the dominions of the Messiah. An historical basis of the ideas of prosperity presented in this verse is found in the time of Solomon, and recorded in 1 Kings 4:20. (For further treatment of Psalms 72:16, see below.) Such, in brief, are some of the more prominent blessings of the reign of the Christ. Consider—
II. The universality of His reign (Psalms 72:8-11).
1. He shall reign over all classes. The wanderers of the desert and the kings of wealthy and famous cities shall bow to the sway of the Lord Jesus. Rich and poor, learned and illiterate, distinguished and obscure, great and small, men of all ranks and conditions, shall loyally call Jesus Lord.
2. He shall reign in all places. “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” For an historical basis of the statements in Psalms 72:8-10, see 1 Kings 4:21. Applying the words of Psalms 72:8, to the kingdom of the Messiah we are not, it seems to us, to fix upon any particular sea or river. M. Henry: “No sea, no river, is named, that it might, by these proverbial expressions, intimate the universal monarchy of the Lord Jesus.” Hengstenberg: “The dominion of this king extends from any one sea to any other sea, and from any river even to the ends of the earth—it is a kingdom of boundless extent.” “All nations shall serve Him.” (Comp. Revelation 11:15.)
And His dominion shall be as secure as it is wide, as real as it is extensive All His foes shall be completely subdued unto Him. “His enemies shall lick the dust,” in token of reverence and submission to Him.
Mark the reason of this universal and complete sovereignty. The Psalmist gives it in Psalms 72:12-14. Perowne: “The reason is given why all kings and nations should thus do homage to Him who sits on David’s throne. He has merited such submission by the exercise of every royal virtue, by the justice and the mercy of His sway, by His deep sympathy with, and compassion for, the poor, by the protection which He extends to them against the ministers of fraud and violence. It is not that He merely covers with the shadow of His throne all neighbouring nations, and is acknowledged as their political head, but that the bright example which He sets, the majesty of righteousness enthroned in His person, compels all to bow before Him.”
III. The perpetuity of His reign. “They shall fear Thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.… His name shall endure for ever; His name shall be continued as long as the sun.” Margin: “Shall be as a son to continue his father’s name for ever.” Conant: “As long as the sun shall His name flourish.” Moll: “Before the sun let His name sprout.” The idea seems to be that the name of the king would be always acquiring fresh renown by His new deeds on behalf of His subjects. Through all the coming generations of men new glories shall break forth for His name, in which all nations may bless themselves. The reign of Jesus will be perpetual. “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation.” The perpetuity of His reign is guaranteed by—
1. The declarations of God’s Word (Psalms 45:6; Psalms 89:36; Isaiah 9:7; Daniel 4:3; Revelation 11:15).
2. The character of His sovereignty. He rules in the hearts of His subjects, by the force of truth, righteousness, and love. The loyalty and service which they render to Him are voluntary and joyous.
IV. The praise of His reign. The Psalmist represents this as presented to the king in various forms. It is expressed by—
1. Rendering homage to Him. “They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before Him, and His enemies shall lick the dust. Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him.”
2. Rendering service to Him. “All nations shall serve Him.” His subjects will praise Him not only by forms and expressions of homage, but by loyal obedience also. Their hearty submission to Him will be manifest in their devoted service.
3. Paying tribute to Him. “The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents; the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. To Him shall be given of the gold of Sheba.” The day is surely coming when men everywhere shall gladly lay their best and most treasured possessions at His feet. Genius, eloquence, power, riches, shall all be heartily rendered to Him.
4. Ascribing blessing to Him. “Prayer also shall be made for Him continually, and daily shall He be praised. And men shall be blessed in Him: all nations shall call Him blessed.” The prayer is made “not for Him personally, but for the success of His reign—for the extension of His kingdom. Prayer made for that is made for Him, for He is identified with that.” Instead of “men shall be blessed in Him,” many render: “Shall bless themselves in Him;” and interpret it as the expression of admiration of His blessedness, and desire to be blessed as He is. Daily men praise Him. And the time approaches when men of every nation shall constantly ascribe to Him all power, and dominion, and glory, and blessing; their lives shall become grateful, adoring, and songful; from all peoples, and from all places, praise shall ascend to the Saviour-King.
1. Let the enemies of Christ submit themselves cheerfully to Him as their King. Manifestly it is both their duty and their interest to do so.
2. Let His loyal subjects take encouragement from the sure and glorious prospect of His reign. The sin and strife and sorrow of the race will have an end. The kingdom of holiness, peace, and joy will be universal and perpetual. Here is encouragement to work and wait, to pray and hope.
“O’er every foe victorious,
He on His throne shall rest:
From age to age more glorious,
All blessing and all bless’d.
“The tide of time shall never
His covenant remove:
His name shall stand for ever!
That name to us is—LOVE.”
PEACE BY POWER
“The mountains shall bring peace.”
The writer of this Hebrew ode finds the peaceful in the grand—rest in greatness. Our doctrine is, that the quiet of the human soul is to be honestly found, not in descending to its lower or lessforcible states, but in the freedom of its highest qualities, and through its stronger exercises: or, that Christian peace is an attainment of the spiritual energies, and not a mere acquiescence in inferiority.
When the Saviour speaks of the ultimate result of His religion in the single heart or in the world, He calls it Peace; “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you.” But as soon as you look into the spirit and relations of His words, you see that in this peace there is something quite peculiar. He says, “My peace.” It is a peace obtained by the drops of blood and the cross; Gethsemane and Calvary; by a life in which there was no place to lay the head. It is not a mere constitutional, negative, nor any superficial peace: it is not what we call pleasure, nor a happy temperament, nor gratified sensibilities, nor satiated appetites. It is something deeper and stronger. It is an attainment; it is a victory; it is tribulation overcome. It is the mightiest powers of our nature balanced, reconciled, and harmonised at last, though we know not by what struggles and sufferings, till, by the perfect sway of one supreme principle of faith, there are the equipoise and serenity that pass all understanding.
The three obvious attributes of mountains are elevation, magnitude, and permanency. Out of these three several characters comes an influence of peace. In just such attributes of strength, human character, also, is to find its moral balance, its real peace, viz., in its aspiration, its largeness, its constancy. Man is high with his devotional affections, his prayers; wide with his practical principles; and steadfast with his convictions. Or, he is high with his spirit, wide with his will, and steadfast with his reason. With these three properly adjusted, you will have a general effect of serenity; because such a man will live in a certain equipoise within himself, centred and completed according to the grand designs of his Creator, as a creature belonging both to the world and heaven. He reaches up into the infinite mystery that broods like a sea of conscious life about him. He reaches out, in all liberal fellowships, to mankind, with a love that cannot narrow into hatred, nor be fretted into war; and he rests firmly on eternal foundations. And thus, on all sides—God-ward, and man-ward, and self-ward—so far as man can, he resides in the securities of a well-defended peace.
Spiritual serenity, then, is spiritual strength. It comes in by no softness of sentiment, but by thorough work. It comes by a faith that emboldens and energises the whole soul, a penitence that searches and strains it, and often a secret fight of afflictions. Christianity is a robust religion. It was planted in the world by a race of heroes.…
Take any one of these three traits just mentioned away, and, besides what other ruin you make, you most disastrously disturb the peace.… On whichever side you enfeeble man, you unbalance and torture him.
Proceed to some examples, in other regions of life, how peace depends on power.
In literary expression, the effect of pathos is finest in thinkers habitually severe. What saves sentiment from sentimentality is the feeling of a firm intellectual fibre through the emotion.
Persons who have been in the strain and peril of some moral or civil revolution, wounded with real weapons, and compacted by times of terror, if they have benignant qualities, impress us in that way far more than is possible for men of softer discipline. Tenderness is doubly tender when we know a rugged and aggressive temper has been subdued to it by that rule over the spirit which is mightier than the taking of cities.
It is familiar how bereavements, which are the storms of the soul, prepare the way for religious tranquility. Crosses bring calmness.… In the solemn portrait-galleries of history, the serenest faces are the saddest—where peace has not been inherited, but conquered.
We have this union of power and tenderness eminently in such as Luther; …
Again, in the great pacifications of empires, the same rule prevails. It takes the strongest heads to bring peace. Diplomacy has to summon her stoutest, clearest-sighted, and farthest-sighted ministers. The most intrepid are most pacific. Magnanimity makes no quarrels.
Hence we come to discover in what order of persons we are to look for the noblest charity and the real consolation. We want our consolers to be, not only the subjects of pain, but its conquerors through their suffering. The more masculine your pity, the more it moves and melts.
And when we speak of comfort, we are directed up to the Comforter.… What is the whole doctrine of that Spirit, in the New Testament, and in Paul? They represent Him as not only Comforter, but also and first, Rebuker, Renewer, and Sanctifier.
All our peace is in God, who is not only the strongest, but Almighty. “The Lord will give strength unto His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.”
1. Learn never to be afraid of rugged and even painful experiences.
“Great souls snatch vigour from the stormy air,
While weaker natures Suffer and despair,
Grief not the languor but the action brings,
And spreads the horison but to nerve the wings.”
2. A rule for “strengthening the brethren.” As we would comfort one another, we must try, with the apostle’s earnestness, to “endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.”
3. Of how sterling worth is a form of religious belief which holds fast the stringent as well as the soothing doctrine of Christ’s evangelical teaching. The order of the universe is poised between justice and mercy; and it is not kindness, but the bitterest cruelty, which would unsettle that order, by giving us a Deity too doting to punish, and too fond too judge.
4. Learn the way of making our own eternal life secure. The New Testament speaks continually to us of salvation. By salvation Christ means such safety as lies in a sturdy and athletic power of character, will, heart, conscience, and intellect, got by daring to attempt great virtues and by incessant intrepidity. He holds up no lower standard than to be perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect. He wins confidence by the very immensity of His demands.
5. We disturb the true spiritual order and invert God’s plan for us, whenever we go in search of peace first, and not holiness. “First pure, then peaceable:” that is the clearly-pronounced order and everlasting law of a disciple’s way.—F. D. Huntington, D.D. Abridged from Christian Believing and Living.
THE GOSPEL THE POWER OF GOD
Such figurative language as that of the text is frequently employed to describe the Gospel as a mere system of means, unlikely to accomplish the purpose contemplated, and yet as certain of ultimate success. Considering this language as referring to the Gospel, let us notice—
I. The insignificance of its commencement. In Ezekiel’s vision of the waters issuing from the sanctuary, it is but “a little rill,” which takes its rise at the south side of the altar, just where the blood of the sacrifices overflow. In the vision of Nebuchadnezzar it is “a little stone,” cut out of the mountain without hands. And in the New Testament we find our Saviour comparing it to “a grain of mustard seed;” and to “a little leaven” hid in meal. In our text it is compared to “a handful of corn.”
1. Look at its commencement in the world. It was heralded by one who had not his abode in cities, who was not of the honourable of the earth, either as to wealth or learning; but one of stern and forbidding aspect, &c. Look at its Author; a poor carpenter’s son, belonging to the despised city of Nazareth; and to Him, He associates twelve of the poorest class of society. Yet to these twelve was committed the task of evangelising the world.
2. Look at the fewness of its doctrines. The first preachers of the Gospel went forth to proclaim a fact—that Jesus Christ had died for sinners—and from that fact they drew various inferences, and urged various duties upon men, and with these, as all that was necessary to accomplish their purpose, they went forth.
3. Look at its commencement in the heart. How insignificant are some of the means made use of. Perhaps it is a single word dropped from the lips of a preacher; sometimes it is the sight of a word in the Bible; sometimes even a look is enough; sometimes many are awakened by merely seeing others in concern, as in the great revival at Kilsyth, a century ago.
II. Its unlikelihood of success. “An handful of corn in the earth on the top of the mountains.” How unlikely, how impossible, for it to yield a crop there. Yet such is the figure employed to represent the Gospel in the world. This language may point out—
1. The feebleness of its instrumentality. Soil found on the tops of mountains, both from its poverty and scarcity, would be a very unlikely instrument for yielding a crop of corn. So they who have been employed by God in diffusing the Gospel have not been such instruments as were likely in human estimation to accomplish its purposes. “God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty.” He hath put the “treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God.” The first preachers of the cross were a few fishermen.
2. The difficulties it has to surmount. Corn sown on the top of a mountain would not be likely to yield a crop, on account of the adverse influences it would have to encounter. There would not only be the unfitness and scarcity of the soil itself; there would be the want of solar heat, its exposed situation, open to every current of air and to all the storms of the sky; and as mountains are the first to attract the clouds, the teeming rain would likely wash down both seed and soil to the base beneath. The Gospel, in its first promulgation among men, had to encounter many obstacles.
(1) It had to contend with long-established forms of error, … to encounter systems of superstition, which possessed a mighty influence over the minds of their votaries, because they had the argument of antiquity in their favour, and because they were the religious systems of their fathers.
(2) It had to encounter those errors in an age of great refinement. This was the Augustan age of literature. It was at this time that some of the greatest minds that ever adorned our planet were shedding the light of learning, philosophy, and poetry around them, much of which is resplendent to the present day. How unlikely was the Gospel to make progress in such an age as this. Yet this was the period chosen.
(3) The enmity of man’s nature is another obstacle which would then as now be presented to the progress of the Gospel. There is nothing in the doctrines or duties of the Gospel which is at all congenial to man’s fallen nature. Its truths are foolishness to him. Its purity excites his enmity.
(4) There is against the Gospel the combined powerful agency of the mighty and malicious prince of darkness and his numerous followers. This is a subject of frequent allusion to the early promoters of Christianity.
III. Its glorious results. “The fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon,” &c. These results are placed before us—
1. In the fertility that attends it. Wherever the waters of the Gospel flow, it turns the wilderness into a fruitful field, and makes the desert as “the garden of the Lord.” “Lovely tempers, fruits of grace,” everywhere attend the proclamation of the Gospel of peace.
2. In the beauty that adorns it. “Shake like Lebanon.” How beautiful the change which the Gospel has effected in every place in which it has been introduced. It has been alike successful in demolishing callous systems of philosophy and sanguinary superstition. What are those buildings which rear their fronts where once Druid temples were erected? They are asylums for the wretched, the sick, the destitute, and the dying. And to what do we owe the change? To the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Witness its triumphs also in the islands of the South Sea, in Africa, &c.
3. In the triumphs which it is destined universally to accomplish. “They of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.” Count the numbers of the blades of grass which are spread over the surface of this earth of ours: ou cannot! Neither can you count the numbers of the future converts of Zion. This language may also point out its rapid progress in the latter day. Grass is proverbially speedy in its growth. The triumphs of the Gospel will very soon be equally rapid. “The earth shall be made to bring forth in one day, and a nation be born at once.”—Abridged from One Hundred Sketches of Sermons.
HOPE OPENED TO THE WORLD
“Men shall be blessed in Him; all nations shall call Him blessed.”
Hope, with respect to the world, affords some comfort to us, when viewing its affecting condition since the fall; and this spring of consolation we have opened to us in God’s word of promise. What a glorious time is the Psalmist looking forward to here! Observe—
I. The objects regarded. “Men.” Not angels. While we have abundant cause to admire the grace of God in this; it must obviously be looked upon as bearing a striking impress of sovereignty. Men participated with devils in their guilt; yet not one of the latter is ever to be blessed (Hebrews 2:16; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6).
II. The number included. “All nations.” How many nations are there in the world that never heard of Christ? How many, that have been deprived of the Gospel during a long series of ages? But this distinction among nations with respect to the means of salvation was never intended in the Divine mind to continue always (Matthew 24:14; Matthew 26:13; Mark 14:9; Mark 16:15). If little has been hitherto done for distant countries, it must be ascribed to the selfishness of men (Philippians 2:21).
III. The exercise mentioned. “Call Him blessed.” The worth of Christ shall be universally sung; none shall be afraid to confess Him before men, or dare to offer any vain excuse for not yielding allegiance to Him; but from every tribe under heaven soldiers shall hasten to His standard and proclaim His honours.
IV. The certainty expressed. “All nations shall call Him blessed.” This certainty may be argued from prophetic representation—from the dominion given to the Saviour—from the facilities afforded in the present day to missionary exertions—from the desires and expectations of the saints—and from the Divine threatenings against the powers of darkness.—W. Sleigh.
“Verses 18 and 19 do not belong to the Psalm, but contain the doxology which forms the conclusion of the second book.” This doxology is fuller than that which is appended to Psalms 41:0, at the close of the first book.
The historical remark which constitutes Psalms 72:20 is no part either of the Psalm or of the doxology. It seems to have been attached to a collection of the Psalms of David, as distinguished from separate Psalms of his. Hengstenberg: “All the Psalms of David in the last two books are inserted as component parts into the later cycles. The subscription at the end of the second book must have been designed to separate the free and the bound, the scattered and the serial Psalms of David, from each other. Analogous in some measure is the subscription—‘At an end are the speeches of Job,’ in Job 31:40, which is not contradicted by the fact that Job appears again speaking, in chaps. 40 and 42; it should rather be regarded as serving to give us a light understanding of that formal conclusion.” In this doxology there are four leading homiletic points—
I. The comprehensiveness of the praise. God is praised because—
1. Of what He is in Himself. “Blessed be the Lord God, and blessed be His glorious name.” Note the ideas conveyed by these terms. “Jehovah”—“the existing, i.e., He who has come into existence by nothing outside Himself, the continuing, permanent, everlasting; its antithesis or opposite being the non-real, the transitory, the nought.”—Fuerst. “God,” Elohim, the Almighty. “His glorious name,” perhaps referring particularly to Jehovah. “Still the prayer would be, that all the names by which He is known, all by which He has revealed Himself, might be regarded with veneration always and everywhere.”
2. Of what He is to His people. “The God of Israel.” He had entered into covenant relation with them. (See p. 205.)
3. Of what He does. “Who only doeth wondrous things.” (α) In creation. (β) In providence, (γ) In redemption. His wondrous redemptive work transcends even angelic intelligence. “Which things the angels desire to look into.”
“The first-born sons of light
Desire in vain its depths to see;
They cannot reach the mystery,
The length and breadth and height.”
His works are wondrous
(1) In their power.
(2) In their wisdom.
(3) In their kindness. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”
(4) In their significance. “No man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.” Therefore, “Blessed be the Lord God,” &c.
II. The perpetuity of the praise. “For ever.”
“My days of praise shall ne’er be past,
While life and thought and being last,
Or immortality endures.”
He is “the author of eternal salvation;” He calls us “to His eternal glory;” He promises an “eternal inheritance;” therefore, let His praise be eternal.
“But O! eternity’s too short
To utter all His praise.”
III. The universality of the praise. “Let the whole earth be filled with His glory.” (Comp. Numbers 14:21.) This brief prayer involves two things—
1. That the whole earth may be filled with His blessing. “It is not a little favoured spot that the Psalmist regards; it is not an insulated portion of the globe that he would have fructified and converted into a paradise. It is not on his own garden or fields that he wishes the refreshing showers only to fall; but with a noble, expansive, and generous mind, he prays that the whole earth may be filled with God’s glory.”
2. That the whole earth may be filled with His praise. “Let every heart, and every mouth, and every assembly be filled with the high praises of God.” (See Malachi 1:11.)
IV. The intensity of the praise. “Amen and Amen.” (See p. 205.)
“May kindness, truth,
Wisdom, and knowledge, liberty, and power,
Virtue, and holiness o’erspread all orbs;
the world be bliss and love;
And heaven above be all things; till at last
The music from all souls redeemed shall rise,
Like a perpetual fountain of pure sound,
Upspringing, sparkling in the silvery blue;
From round creation to Thy feet, O God!”
—P. J. Bailey.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 72". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34