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This is a thanksgiving hymn. It was probably composed upon the occasion of some remarkable victory that the Lord manifested to the church over her enemies. Some have gone so far as to determine it to have been for the triumph, in the days of Hezekiah, over the Assyrians; 2 Chronicles 20:28 . But this is but conjecture. The Psalmist celebrates the glory and majesty of Jehovah, eminently shown in his church; and, in the close of the Psalm, exhorts the church to a suitable reverence and godly fear.
To the chief musician on Neginoth, A Psalm or Song of Asaph.
The prophet, in the name of the church, is here triumphing in the consciousness of the divine presence. Well indeed might Israel say, He hath not dealt so by any nation; Psalms 147:20 . Distinguishing mercies are the sweetest of all mercies. The sun that enlightens, and warms, and makes fruitful the earth; and the rain, and the dew, and the air; these are all blessings; but they are not distinguishing, for they visit all the world. But God's statutes and ordinances are peculiar to his Israel. Reader, since Israel revolted, and the gospel is given to us poor Gentiles, think what distinguishing mercies Great Britain hath been favored with? Oh! for grace to see, and for hearts to acknowledge the vast privileges!
The best comment on this verse is the apostle's general observation, If God be for us, who can be against us? Jesus is both a Sun and a Shield; and no weapon formed against his people can prosper. Romans 8:31 .
If this be an address to the church, it is a lovely and a just one: Zion is glorious and excellent in her Redeemer's view; Song of Solomon 1:15 . But the cause of all this loveliness is from himself. Ezekiel 16:14 .
These verses serve to illustrate the subject of the whole Psalm, in reference to the occasion on which it is supposed to have been written. If it relates to the destruction of Sennacherib's army in the night, by the destroying angel, the circumstance is here mentioned in great beauty of language. But we may without violence, and indeed with much improvement, consider the spiritual sense of it as relating to the sovereignty of God over sinners. How often doth the Lord, arrest them in their course, and convert the very weapons they were bringing forth against himself and his people, as means in his almighty hand for the promotion of his glory? See that illustrious instance in point of Paul's conversion, Acts 9:0 .
Here are strong and sublime intimations of God's greatness, and of the weakness of all power when opposed to him. Reader, think what that sovereignty will be, when the Lord shall come to judgment, and when he will take vengeance on them that know not God, nor obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Thessalonians 1:8 .
This is a most beautiful verse, and contains a most important doctrine indeed. We easily conceive how the Lord can make all his divine perfections to set forth his glory; but when he maketh the very wrath of man and the malice of his enemies to promote that end, and to produce the very reverse of what they intend; this more signally displays the divine hand. We have many illustrious examples in the word of God in proof. The cruelty manifested by the brethren of Joseph, in selling him for a slave, was made by the Lord to minister to his praise, in the preservation of all the house of Jacob; Genesis 45:7-1.45.8 . So again the wrath of Haman against Mordecai laid the foundation for the Lord's praise in the ruin of Haman and the exaltation of Mordecai. Esther 7:10; Esther 7:10 . But above all, that glorious instance of the death of Christ, which the malice and wrath of the Jews accomplished, will prove the ground of everlasting praise, from the millions thereby redeemed, to all eternity! Acts 2:36 . Hence we should learn, that the Lord will make use of so much of the malice of his and his people's enemies as shall subserve the purposes of his own glory and their welfare; and the remainder of that wrath, like the waves of the sea, he will keep back. So the Lord said to the proud invader, Isaiah 37:29 . Reader, never lose sight of this.
These are the natural and just conclusions of what was said before. If God be so great, and so gracious, oh! seek his favor and his love! Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and so ye perish from the right way. And how are these arguments heightened in the view of the rich, and free, and sovereign salvation which God hath manifested towards the spiritual Israel, in the finished work, and offices, and person of his dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ? Psalms 2:10-19.2.12 .
MY soul, thou hast been looking at the happy state of Israel, when living under the divine presence, and beheld the blessedness of having the Lord Jehovah in the midst of his Zion, to comfort and to strengthen her. There, indeed, as the prophet sang, the glorious Lord was unto them as a place of broad rivers and streams, wherein no galley with oars from the enemy could go, neither any of their gallant ships pass by: for if the Lord himself was the river and streams of his people, surely upon all the glory was there a defense. And are the advantages of God's people less now? No, in no wise. If in Judah God was known, and his name was great in Israel, is not God truly known in Him and by Him who sprang out of Judah? And hath he not made himself truly known in and by the revelation of his dear Son? Hath not the name of Jehovah been made great and gracious also, since Jesus came and proclaimed, in his own and his Father's name, salvation to poor sinners in his blood and righteousness? Was the tabernacle at Salem glorious when the Shechinah was manifested there, and God's dwelling known to be in Zion by these marks and testimonies? And are these mercies less, or rather, are they not all abundantly heightened, since Jesus came down and tabernacled in our nature, and fulfilled the promise which John heard: Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. Oh! thou precious Lord Jesus! it is thou, that hast brought us truly acquainted with God, and art not only come nigh unto us, but hast brought us nigh by thy blood. There, indeed, in thy tabernacling in our flesh, didst thou break the arrows of the bow, the shield, the sword, and the battle; for in our nature, and for our salvation, thou hast destroyed all the powers of the enemy, and thou art more glorious and excellent than the mountains of prey. Hail! thou blessed and victorious Friend of poor sinners!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Psalms 76". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent