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For that Thy name is near Thy wondrous works declare.
God’s nearness to the world
I. He is near as the sustainer of a dissolving system (Psalms 75:3). The force of disintegration operates every moment, not only in organized matter, but even in what we call simple substances, if, indeed, such things exist. The mountains falling come to nought. Every plant in the great system of vegetation is dissolving; and the great world of animal life, from the tiniest insect to the hugest monster of the forest or the sea, is ever in the process of dissolution. What prevents the whole universe tumbling to pieces, flying off part from part, particle from particle as a log of wood in the flames? No force short of God. The same principle of disintegration is at work in human society. Families, societies, Churches, nations, are dissolving; kingdoms are constantly breaking into pieces. God alone keeps things together, bears up the pillars of a dissolving universe. “He upholds all things by the word of His power.”
II. He is near as the rebuker of human wickedness (Psalms 75:4-5).
1. Three phases of wickedness are here indicated:--
(1) Folly--“Deal not foolishly.” Sin is folly. It is against the reason, the interests, the dignity and blessedness of existence. “He that sinneth against Me wrongeth his own soul.”
(2) Haughtiness--“Lift not up the horn.” Pride and arrogance enter into the very essence of wickedness. “God resisteth the proud,” etc.
(3) Recklessness--“Speak not with a stiff neck.” Bold, shameless, obstinate disregard to the claims of God and all the moral proprieties.
2. God is present in the world, reproving all the wickedness with the voice of Providence, by the admonitions of conscience, by the ministry of His Word and the stricings of Ills Spirit.
III. He is near as the sovereign disposer of all social changes. “For promotion cometh neither from the east,” etc. “But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another” (1 Samuel 2:7). He is in the rise and in the fall, not only of empires, but individual men. “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust,” etc.
IV. He is near--administering to all men dispensations from a common source (Psalms 75:8). What is that cup? Infinite benevolence; and from this cup “He poureth out of the same,” great natural blessings. “God is good, and His tender mercies are over all the works of His hand.”
1. The cup is a mixed cup. “Full of mixture.” What an infinite variety of blessings are in this cup, this cup of level Something from it falls fresh upon every being every hour.
2. The contents of this cup have a different effect upon different characters. To the righteous it is a pleasant cup. Its blooming, sparkling mixture is delicious and inspiring. Not so to the wicked; what is delicious and sustaining to the good is distasteful and pernicious to the evil. Moral character changes subjectively the very nature of things.
V. He is near to destroy the power of the wicked and to augment the power of the righteous (Psalms 75:10). Matthew Arnold has somewhere described God “as a stream of tendency that maketh for righteousness.” His meaning, I presume, is that the whole procedure of God in the moral world tends to put down the wrong and to raise and glorify the right. (Homilist.)
The nearness of God
God is near--
I. To observe our sins (Job 24:14-15; Psalms 139:2-4; Genesis 3:9-24; Genesis 19:24-28; Joshua 7:24-26; Acts 5:1-10).
II. To notice our desires after him (Jeremiah 31:18-20; Luke 15:20).
III. To pardon, sanctify, and justify (Isaiah 50:7-9).
IV. To answer our prayers (Psalms 145:18-19; Isaiah 65:24).
V. To relieve our wants (Psalms 34:10; Psalms 84:11; Habakkuk 3:17-18).
VI. To succour us in distress (Psalms 34:19; Isaiah 49:10). VII. To save us from danger (Daniel 3:27). Job; Peter. From this subject we may derive warning to sinners, an encouragement to the penitent; comfort to believers. (R. Simpson, M. A.)
God’s works declare Him
When that great artist, Dore, was once travelling in Southern Europe, he lost his passport. When he came to the boundary line where he needed to produce it, the official challenged him. Said he, “I have lost my passport; but it is all right--I am Dore the artist. Please let me go on.” “Oh, no,” said the officer; “we have plenty of people representing themselves as this or that great one.” After some conversation the man said, “Well, I want you to prove it. Hero is a pencil and some paper. Now, if you are the artist, draw me a picture.” Dore took the pencil, and with a few master strokes sketched some of the features of the neighbourhood. Said the man, “Now I am perfectly sure of it. You are Dore; no other man could do that.” Thus all the works of creation their great Original proclaim, “that Thy name is near Thy wondrous works declare.”
God revealed in nature
A legend has it that a prophet appealed to God for a sign such as had been granted to other prophets. In response a tuft of moss opened before the man, and from the rock beneath rose a lovely violet. As he looked admiringly on the opening leaves he had no need to ask for signs and wonders, for as he was leaving home his little daughter had given him a violet precisely like the one created before his eyes. We need not ask to see a new star flashing gorgeous lights on the darkness of a wintry night, or oaks to spring in a moment from acorns, as demonstrations of a Divine presence. God is as truly revealed in a little flower as in the most stupendous miracle that could amaze and overwhelm the mind; Archdeacon Farrar tells about a boy who took a flower with him to his work every morning. He put the flower on his desk in the schoolroom, and when asked why he did this, replied that the flower was to remind him of God and keep him from evil thoughts. (The Signal.)
I bear up the pillars of it.
God behind nature
It is literally true in the realm of nature. “I bear up the pillars of it.” God is being gradually eliminated from His own world. In olden time God was brought in at every nook and corner and turn. If it rained, the Lord had opened the bottles of heaven. If there was a drought, the Lord had locked up the heavens. If a hurricane occurred, the Lord had raised up a mighty wind. In ancient times men saw God in all the phenomena of nature. We are more educated now--indeed, so educated that we have nearly excluded God from the realm of His own universe. There is a scientific explanation for everything. No matter what may happen, we are told, “There are the pillars that support, and there is nothing supernatural.” But the Lord comes in and asks this question, “Who supports the pillars?” If a semi-infidel world says, “Everything can be explained by science, and that which at present seems almost insoluble has only to be waited for a little while, and the pillars will appear,” God says, “True, but then 1 bear up the pillars.” (A. G. Brown.)
Speak not with a stiff neck.
The text is a figure of that pride, stubbornness, or wilful disobedience which refuses to yield to rightful and loving authority.
I. Let me indicate the classes of persons who are morally and spiritually stiffnecked
1. If you resist the conviction of sin, you are stiffnecked.
2. You have shown your stiff neck by despising faithful warnings.
3. Or, it may be, that you have rejected the counsel of godly parents.
4. Your stubbornness in tribulation shows that you have a stiff neck towards God.
II. Let me exhort you to repentance. Let the love of God draw you to turn to Him. (W. Birch.)
God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another.
It is not a trivial question, whether your life, my young friend, is to be a failure or a success. Everybody is going on. We are all getting through our little span of daylight. But some people are not only going on, they are getting on. Each vocation has its rising men. How is it that men get on? It is a very simple and primary notion, capable of reception only by the most unsophisticated mind, that the most deserving always get on best. Whatever be the law, it is not that. To gain any advantage or eminence, a man must have a certain amount of merit. I am obliged to say, as the result of all my observations of the way in which human beings get on, that they get on mainly by chance or luck, in a fashion that looks fortuitous. There must be merit in walks where men have to make their own way; but that a man may get on, he must be seconded by good luck. We know, of course, that there is a Higher Hand, and we humbly recognize that. I believe that these words of the psalmist give us the entire philosophy of getting on. It is a matter of God’s sovereignty; and God’s sovereignty, as it affects human beings, we speak of as their good or ill luck. Of course, there is really no chance in the matter. Everything is rightly arranged and governed. Still, nothing can be more certain than the fact that there are men who are what we call lucky, and other men who are unlucky. The unlucky, perhaps, need it all; and the lucky can stand it all; but there is the fact. And we know that there are blessed compensations, which may make the crook in the lot a true blessing. Life is a lottery. No doubt, there is no real chance in life; but then there is no real chance in any lottery. Honest industry and perseverance, also resolute selfishness, meanness, toadyism, and unscrupulousness, tend to various forms of worldly success. But you can draw no assurance from these general principles, as to what either may do for yourself. My text is not the resort of soured disappointment: it is the confession of humbled and shamed success. The worthier way of getting on is, when a man, by his doings and character, makes a position important, which in other hands would not be so. In treatises on the arts of self-advancement and self-help, there is a fallacy at the foundation of all their instructions. They all say, “Do so and so, and you will get on.” But they all fail to allow for chance or Providence. Let us always keep it in our remembrance that there is something far better than any amount of worldly success, which may come of worldly failure. A wise and good man in this world will not set his heart on getting on, and will not push very much to get on. He will do his best, and humbly take, with thankfulness, what the Hand above sends him. It is not worth while to push. “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not.” It is not worth while. Let us trust in God, and do right, and we shall get on as much as He thinks good for us. (A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)
For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red.
God’s threatenings against incorrigible sinners
In this verse we have a lively description and amplification of the judgments of God upon the world, which are here set forth unto us under a threefold representation of them. First, in their preparation. Secondly, in their execution. Thirdly, in their participation.
I. The preparation.
1. The vessel--a cup. By this we may understand whatsoever it is which is the means, and conveyance, and derivation of any evil unto us. God makes the same providences to be a cup of physic to His children, for the recovering of them from their spiritual infirmities, and a cup of poison to His enemies, for the destroying of them, in the midst of their sins.
2. The liquor.
(1) Red wine--a cup of blood prepared for the inhabitants of the world, as an expression of God’s vengeance upon them.
(2) Full of mixture, i.e. wrath and revenge.
3. The preparer--God Himself.
II. The execution. God will not be always in the forewarnings of judgment, He will be at last in the dispensations of it. He will not be always tempering it, He will be at last pouring out of it. The Lord is full of patience and longsuffering, and bears much with the sons of men for a long while together; but when His patience and longsuffering is once abused, He then comes on to punishment and execution. And this I say it is, when sin is come to its ripeness and maturity, and is at its full growth. There are three aggravations of sin which do put God upon the execution of judgment, and this pouring forth of wrath.
1. Boldness and insolence in sinning (Jeremiah 8:12).
2. Generality in sinning; when it comes to taint and overspread a whole nation.
3. Security and presumption.
III. The participation.
1. The persons mentioned. “The wicked of the earth,” that is, such as are more scandalous, and presumptuous, and impenitent, and farthest from reformation; such as those who, for the nature of sin, are more abominable, and for the continuance in it, are more incorrigible; these are they which the Holy Ghost does here point at in a more principal manner.
2. The evil denounced against them.
(1) The potion or draught itself, it is the dregs of the cup. This is the potion of wicked men, while ‘tis said they shall drink the dregs, there are three things implied in this expression as belonging unto it.
(a) The reservation of judgment, they shall drink the last.
(b) The aggravation of judgment, they shall drink the worst.
(c) The perfection and confirmation of judgment, they shall drink up all. They shall drink the last, they shall drink the worst, they shall drink all; each of these are implied in the dregs. (T. Horton, D. D.)
The Lord’s cup
I. The contents of the Lord’s cup. “The wine is red; it is full of mixture;” that is, however fair the appearance of things may be, however splendid any state of happiness, or any situation of life may appear, there is always added to it a certain portion of evil. By evil, I mean only the usual misfortunes and afflictions of human life. These are what temper the cup of the Lord; and in this mixed state it is poured out to the inhabitants of the earth. Man being compounded of good and evil, all his labours partake of the mixture. Let him form what schemes he will; let him employ all his little prudence and foresight in bringing them to perfection, still we will find mixed with them in one shape or other, uncertainty, disappointment, and miscarriage.
II. How the ungodly man drinks.
IV. The text says, “He drinks the dregs.” Now, the dregs of any liquor are the pernicious parts. It is fairly implied, therefore, that the ungodly man turns both the good and evil of life to his own destruction.
III. How the godly man drinks it. As the ungodly man drinks the dregs, the finer parts of the liquor are, of course, the portion of the godly man. In the first place, he expects to find a degree of bitterness in his cup. He sees the propriety of it, and fully acknowledges the great usefulness of this mixture of good and evil. If the potion were perfectly palatable, he fears he might drink to excess. When it pleases Heaven to bless him; when his designs succeed; and his hopes dilate in some view of happiness before him, “Now is the time” (he suggests to himself) “when I must guard my heart with double care. Now is the time when insolence, and wantonness, and pride, the attendants of a prosperous hour, are most liable to corrupt me. Let prosperity soften my heart, instead of hardening it. Let me be humble, and mild, and condescending, and obliging to all. In the midst of my own enjoyments, let my heart expand. Let me feel the misery of others; and turn my plenty to the relief of their necessity.” Again, when it pleases Heaven to mix some bitter ingredients in his cup, still he has the same sense of acting under the will of God. “Now,” he cries, “is the time when I am to exercise patience and resignation. Now my religion is put to the test. Shall I receive good at the hand of the Lord, and not receive evil? Gracious God! grant that I may improve my heart under this trial of my faith; and make my sufferings, through Jesus Christ, the means of purifying my affections. Let me for His sake bear a Lifting part of what He bore for me; and let me keep that great pattern of suffering resignation always before my eyes.” Thus the godly man drinks of the Lord’s cup, and his draught, whether sweet or bitter, is wholesome to him. (W. Gilpin.)
But I will declare for ever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
A model of devout praise
The praise resolved upon here is worthy of our imitation, inasmuch as it--
I. Loses sight of self in devout admiration of the character and doings of God.
1. He will praise God for His doings.
(1) Undeserved by us. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
(2) Unsought by us. We did not seek God, but He sought us by Jesus Christ.
(3) Freely and heartily given by God out of His own sovereign love. “Bless the Lord, O my soul.”
2. He will praise God for His faithfulness. With Him there is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
3. He will praise God “for ever.” “Let not thy praises be transient--a fit of music, and then the instrument hung by the wall till another gaudy day of some remarkable providence makes thee take it down. God comes not guest-wise to His saints’ house, but to dwell with them. David took this up for a life-work: ‘As long as I live, I will praise Thee.’”
II. Evinces its reality by resolving to imitate him. Our praise of the excellences of others is a very hollow affair unless we also cultivate those excellences. We praise God for His “unspeakable gift”; are we imitating His pure generosity? We praise Jesus Christ for His great self-sacrifice for us; are we denying ourselves in His spirit that others might be benefited? We bless God for the Gospel; are we exemplifying the spirit of the Gospel? A certain Dr. Whitaker, on reading the fifth chapter of Matthew, brake out, saying, “Either this is not the Gospel, or we are not of the Gospel.” And is it not to be feared that the spirit of the Gospel for which men praise God, and the spirit of their lives, are often widely different? Let us evince the sincerity of our praise to God by imitating Him in our spirit and life. Let us admire Him, commune with Him, adore Him, until we are transformed into the same image. (W. Jones.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 75". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34