This is sometimes called a "Hallelujah psalm," since it ends with that phrase. It is a song of praise to God for his dealings with his people, resembling in its general character Psalms 78:1-72. The opening passage is nearly identical with 1 Chronicles 16:8-22, and is thought to have been the original from which that passage was taken (Hengstenberg, Cheyne). The first six verse are an exhortation to praise, and constitute the "introduction." The remainder is an account of God's mercies to Israel as a nation, traced historically from the time of the covenant with Abraham to the occupation of the land of Canaan.
The "introduction" forms a strophe by itself. It is usual to divide the historical portion into strophes; but this can only be done arbitrarily, there being no really marked divisions.
The psalmist exhorts the seed of Abraham (Psalms 105:6) to give thanks to God and call upon his Name (Psalms 105:1-3); to make him known among the Gentiles (Psalms 105:1); to seek him and his strength (Psalms 105:4); and to bear in mind his marvellous works (Psalms 105:5). The "works" intended are those of his providential government of mankind, and especially those of his rule and government over his people Israel.
O give thanks unto the Lord (comp. Psalms 106:1; Psalms 107:1; Psalms 111:1; Psalms 136:1; Psalms 138:1). Call upon his Name; i.e. call upon him with prayer and praise, "according to his historically manifested glory" (Hengstenberg). Make known his deeds (or, "his doings") among the people; rather, among the peoples; i.e. the heathen nations (comp. Psalms 18:49; Psalms 57:9; Isaiah 12:4).
Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him; or," make melody unto him" (Cheyne); i.e. praise his Name (Psalms 105:1) with song and music. Talk ye of all his wondrous works (comp. Psalms 119:37, Psalms 119:46), Those who are full of gratitude to God for all his mercies that he has vouchsafed them cannot refrain from speaking of his goodness when they converse with others.
Glory ye in his holy Name (comp. Psalms 34:2, "My soul shall glory in the Lord'). As worldly men glory in their strength and riches, so the saints of God glory in God. Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord (comp. Psalms 33:21).
Seek the Lord, and his strength: seek his face evermore. Turn to the Lord, not from him; seek his favour, his support, the light of his countenance.
Remember his marvellous works that he hath done (see Psalms 105:2). These "wondrous works" are apter than anything else to stir up the heart to gratitude and thankfulness to God; and therefore they naturally lead on to the utterance of praise and thanksgiving. His wonders; or, "miracles"— τὰ τέρατα αὐτοῦ, LXX.—such as those touched on in Psalms 105:27-36 and Psalms 105:39-41. And the judgments of his mouth. His sentences upon sinners, as upon the Egyptians (Psalms 105:28, et seqq.) and upon the Canaanites (Psalms 105:11, Psalms 105:44).
O ye seed of Abraham his servant; i.e. "his faithful and obedient follower" (see below, Psalms 105:42; and comp. Genesis 26:24; Galatians 3:9). Ye children of Jacob his chosen; rather, his chosen ones. The word is in the plural, and must be referred, not to "Jacob," but to "children."
He is the Lord our God; rather, he, Jehovah, is our God. The psalmist now commences the praise of Jehovah in his own person, acting as spokesman for his people; and first of all declares his Godhead; next, his universal dominion. His judgments are in all the earth; i.e. "his sentences, decrees, laws, have a universal range, and command the obedience of all men."
He hath remembered his covenant forever. Thirdly, the psalmist praises God's faithfulness. God entered into a covenant with Israel, and that covenant still holds good. He has not forgotten it, and will never forget it. It is the word which he commanded to a thousand generations (comp. Deuteronomy 7:9). Professor Cheyne concludes, from this passage, that the psalm was not written during the Captivity. But surely a captive in Babylon might have had faith enough to believe that God had not abolished, but only suspended, his covenant.
Which covenant he made with Abraham (see Genesis 15:18). A promise was given even earlier (Genesis 12:14, Genesis 12:15); but it is not spoken of as a "covenant." And his oath unto Isaac. The "oath" was originally sworn to Abraham (Genesis 22:16); but a further promise to "perform the oath" was given to Isaac (Genesis 26:3).
And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law (see Genesis 28:13). And to Israel; i.e. to Jacob, after he had given him the name of Israel (see Genesis 35:12).
Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan (see Genesis 13:15; Genesis 17:8; Genesis 26:3; Genesis 28:13). The lot of your inheritance; literally, the cord, or line, of your inheritance (comp. Psalms 78:55). The words are not found among the promises made to the patriarchs, but are perhaps regarded by the writer as implied in them. When the allotment of Canaan to the several tribes was made, recourse was doubtless had to the measuring line.
When they were but a few men in number; literally, when they were men of number; i.e. when they could be easily counted. A few scores at the utmost, or, with their entire households, a few hundreds (Genesis 14:14; Genesis 33:1). Yea, very few, and strangers in it; i.e. "in the land of Canaan" (comp. Exodus 6:4).
When they went from one nation to another. Abraham "went from" Ur of the Chaldees to Haran of the Syrians, from Haran to Canaan, from Canaan to Philistia, and once as far as Egypt. Isaac and Jacob were also wanderers, though not to the same extent. From one kingdom to another people. Chaldea, Philistia, and Egypt were "kingdoms;" the Syrians and Canaanites, "peoples."
He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes. The reference is to the punishment inflicted on the Pharaoh of Abraham's time (Genesis 12:17), and on Abimelech of Gerar (Genesis 20:3, Genesis 20:7, Genesis 20:18).
Saying, Touch not mine anointed; literally, mine anointed ones; i.e. those consecrated to my service, as were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And do my prophets no harm (comp. Genesis 20:7; Genesis 27:27-29 and Genesis 27:39, Genesis 27:40; Genesis 49:3-27). The actual words of this verse do not occur in Genesis, but they express the lesson which God's dealings with Pharaoh and Abimelech taught the kings and peoples.
Moreover he called for a famine upon the land. To "call for a famine" is the same thing as to create a famine. What God "calls for" immediately exists (see Genesis 1:3). "The land" intended is the land of Canaan. He brake the whole staff of bread (comp. Le 26:26; Isaiah lit. 1). Bread is called a "staff," as the great support of life. (For the severity of the famine in Canaan, see Genesis 41:1; Genesis 42:5; Genesis 43:1.)
He sent a man before them, even Joseph. This is the real sense, though it is not fully expressed in the Hebrew. On the providential sending of Joseph into Egypt, see his own words, "God did send me before you, to preserve life" (Genesis 45:5). Who was sold for a servant (comp. Genesis 33:1-20 :28, 36; Genesis 39:1).
Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron; rather, his soul entered into iron. In Genesis nothing more is said than that Joseph "was bound" in the prison (Genesis 40:3). But the psalmist knows what imprisonment was in those early times.
Until the time that his word came; i.e. "came true," "came to pass" (comp. Deuteronomy 18:22; Jeremiah 17:15). Joseph's "word came," when the chief butler was restored to favour, and the chief baker hanged (Genesis 40:20-22). The word of the Lord tried him. It is difficult to decide what "word of the Lord" is meant. Hengstenberg suggests "the promise of the possession of Canaan." But this had not been made to him. Dean Johnson thinks that there is an "implied promise" to Joseph himself in Genesis 37:5, Genesis 37:9, etc.—a promise that he should be raised to an eminent rank above his brethren, and that it was this promise which, during the time of his affliction, "tried" or tested him.
The king sent and loosed him (see Genesis 41:14). Even the ruler of the people. Pharaoh, ruler of the Egyptians. Let him go free; i.e. made him a free man, instead of a prisoner and a slave.
He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance (see Genesis 41:40).
To bind his princes at his pleasure. The kings of Egypt were despots, and could imprison any subject. Joseph, as the Pharaoh's alter ego (Genesis 41:40, Genesis 41:44), would, of course, be able to do the same. And teach his senators wisdom. As being wiser than any of them (Genesis 41:38, Genesis 41:39).
Israel also came into Egypt; and Jacob. (For the conjunction of both names of the patriarch, see Psalms 105:10. For the journey of the Patriarch from Canaan into Egypt, see Genesis 46:1-7.) Sojourned in the land of Ham; or, was a sojourner. As a "stranger" and a "sojourner," Jacob charged his sons not to bury him in Egypt, but in the land of Canaan, with his fathers (Genesis 49:29; Genesis 50:5). (For the use of the periphrasis, "land of Ham," instead of Egypt, see below, Psalms 105:27; and comb. Psalms 106:22.)
And he increased his people greatly (comp. Exodus 1:7, Exodus 1:12, Exodus 1:20). And made them stronger than their enemies. So the Pharaoh who introduced the hard bondage, "The people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we" (Exodus 1:9).
He turned their heart to hate his people. Not by direct action on their heart, but by prospering Israel until their jealousy was stirred. To deal subtilly with his servants (comp. Exodus 1:10).
He sent Moses his servant. The mission of Moses is related in Exodus 3:10-18; Exodus 4:1-9. And Aaron whom he had chosen. (For Aaron's mission, see Exodus 4:14-17.)
They showed his signs among them; literally, the matters of his signs; i.e. his long series of signs. Aaron showed the earlier signs generally (Exodus 7:10, Exodus 7:19, Exodus 7:20; Exodus 8:6, Exodus 8:17), Moses the later ones (Exodus 9:10, Exodus 9:23; Exodus 10:13, Exodus 10:22). And wonders in the land of Ham (comp. Psalms 105:23 and Psalms 106:22).
He sent darkness, and made it dark (see Exodus 10:21-23). And they rebelled not against his word. If the "not" is to stand in this passage, it must be referred to Moses and Aaron. Professor Cheyne, however, following the Septuagint and Peshito versions, boldly cancels the "not."
He turned their waters into blood, and slew their fish (comb. Exodus 7:20, Exodus 7:21).
Their land brought forth frogs in abundance (Exodus 8:6). In the chambers of their kings (see Exodus 8:3; and comb. Exodus 8:8).
He spake, and there came divers sorts of flies. The 'arob is now generally thought to be either the dog fly ( κυνόμυια, LXX.) or some sort of beetle (see the comment on Exodus 8:21). And lice in all their coasts; rather, gnats (see on Exodus 8:17).
He gave them hail for rain (see Exodus 9:23). And flaming fire in their land; i.e. lightning, described in Exodus 9:23 as "fire that ran along upon the ground."
He smote their vines also and their fig trees. The hail "smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field" (Exodus 9:25; comb. Psalms 78:47). The sceptical objection that Egypt had no vines has long been given up. And brake the trees of their coasts. Hail, though it cannot "break" trees of any size, may do great damage to the leaves and the smaller branches.
He spake, and the locusts came (see Exodus 10:13, Exodus 10:14). And caterpillars. Either a kind of locust, or the locust at one period of its growth. Not mentioned in Exodus. And that without number (see Exodus 10:14, Exodus 10:15).
And did eat up all the herbs in their land, and devoured the fruit of their ground (comp. Exodus 10:15, "They [i.e. the locusts] did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left").
He smote also all the firstborn in their land (see Exodus 12:29). The chief of all their strength (comp. Psalms 78:51).
He brought them forth also with silver and gold (Exodus 12:35, Exodus 12:36; comp. Exodus 3:21, Exodus 3:22). And there was not one feeble person among their tribes; literally, there was not one that stumbled among their tribes, or among his tribes. Probably there were many feeble persons, who were carried on beasts of burden, or in carts, or by their friends. But all those who walked had strength given to them, and did not stumble by the way (comp. Isaiah 5:27).
Egypt was glad when they departed (see Exodus 11:1, Exodus 11:8; Exodus 12:31, Exodus 12:33). For the fear of them fell upon them. The Egyptians "were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men" (Exodus 12:33).
He spread a cloud for a covering. The "pillar of the cloud" is intended. It was a "covering" to the Israelites on the night of the passage of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:19, Exodus 14:20), and perhaps also to some extent in the wilderness, when it may have sheltered them from the sun's rays (Hengstenberg); but its main purpose was to direct them on their way (Exodus 14:21), to tell them when to move and when to step, and how long to stop (Exodus 40:36-38). And fire to give light in the night. By night the "pillar of the cloud" became a "pillar of fire," shedding a certain radiance around, and giving the people under all circumstances sufficient light (Exodus 13:21; Exodus 40:38).
The people asked, and he brought quails; literally, they asked (comp. Exodus 16:3, Exodus 16:13; Numbers 11:31). And satisfied them with the bread of heaven. The "bread of heaven" is the manna, which was given to the Israelites continuously from their first encampment in the wilderness of Sin (Exodus 16:14, Exodus 16:15) to their first Passover in Canaan (Joshua 5:12). The quails seem to have been given only twice.
He opened the rock, and the waters gushed out (see Exodus 17:5, Exodus 17:6, and Numbers 20:8-11). They ran in the dry places like a river. A poetical exaggeration of Numbers 20:11, "The water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also."
For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham; i.e. his covenant with Abraham to bring his seed into the Holy Land. His servant (comp. Psalms 105:6).
And brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness. The "bringing forth" intended is that of the Israelites from the wilderness into Canaan. It was naturally attended with much "joy" and "gladness."
And gave them the lands of the heathen (see Joshua 8-12.). And they inherited the labour of the people; rather, of the peoples (comp. Deuteronomy 6:10, Deuteronomy 6:11).
That they might observe his statutes, and keep his laws. This was God's purpose. How far Israel was from carrying it out appears from the historical books generally, and perhaps still more from the writings of the prophets (see 2 Kings 17:7-23; 2 Chronicles 36:14-17; Isaiah 1:2-23; Jeremiah 2:5-37; Hosea 4:1-18, etc.). Praise ye the Lord (comp. Psalms 104:35; Psalms 106:1, Psalms 106:48; Psalms 111:1; Psalms 112:1; Psalms 113:1, etc.).
The testimony of history.
God reveals himself in many ways; of these one is found in human history. All history may be studied, that we may understand his Divine thought and purpose; but more especially sacred history, his dealings with his ancient people. The psalmist is continually returning to this as a source of striking and convincing illustration. Among other lessons brought out by this psalm are the following:—
I. HIS FAITHFULNESS. (Psalms 105:8-11, Psalms 105:42-44.) Though, in the midst of oppression and misery in Egypt, it may have seemed that he had forgotten his covenant, it was not so. He remembered it (see Exodus 2:24). So it often seems to us, when we wait long for deliverance. We are inclined to ask, "Why hast thou forgotten me?" (Psalms 42:9). But when "the end of the Lord" is seen, then we reprove our trustlessness and adore his faithfulness.
II. HIS GOODNESS IN ADVERSITY. (Psalms 105:12-15.) As God sheltered his people, though "few in number, yea, very few," and held back the threatening hand of the strong so that in their days of pilgrimage they were preserved, so has he guarded his people in all ages, not suffering the great world powers to crush them; thus does he now manifest his presence and his power to individual men as they walk the checkered path of life.
III. HIS REDEEMING LOVE. (Psalms 105:20-22, Psalms 105:26, Psalms 105:27.) God's redeeming kindness shown to Joseph in his bondage and humiliation, and then to the whole nation in its captivity and suffering is an anticipation and a type
IV. THE MYSTERY OF HIS WAYS. (Psalms 105:16-19.) The famines which afflicted Canaan (see Genesis 12:10; Genesis 26:1), which ultimately brought Israel into Egypt, and the disgrace and hard durance of Joseph, were "trying" to the faith of those who passed through them. God does try us now, and "the trial of our faith," in dark and mysterious times, is intended to draw us nearer to himself, and to deepen the roots of our confidence in him. A faith exercised when the way was always plain and pleasant would be a poor and feeble thing; the piety that did not trust when it could not see would be of little worth.
V. THE MASTERY OF APPARENT IMPOSSIBILITIES. (Psalms 105:40, Psalms 105:41.) He who gave "bread from heaven" and "water from the rock" can interpose and save in the darkest hour, in the direst necessity. Nothing is too hard for the Lord; certainly not our own particular embarrassment.
VI. HIS LEADERSHIP. (Psalms 105:39.) God led Israel in a way as well as by a way which they knew not—a way his people could not possibly have imagined. So he leads his children now. We cannot predict either the means by which our God will guide us, or the path by which he will conduct us to our home.
VII. HIS PURPOSE IN OUR PROSPERITY. (Psalms 105:43-45.) Jehovah brought his people into the land of promise in order "that they might observe his statutes," i.e. in order that they might become a holy nation; for the end of all providential bounty and of all redeeming kindness is character, moral and spiritual worth. God enriches us, he redeems and reinstates us, in order that we may attain unto his own likeness, may be "partakers of his own holiness." Not comfort or enjoyment, but ennoblement, abiding worth, is the true end to which all blessings lead.
The response of man to the providence of God.
What should be our attitude toward God in view of all his providential dealings with us?
I. PRAISE. "O give thanks," etc.; "Sing unto him."
II. PRAYER. "Seek the Lord, and his strength: seek his face."
III. CONSIDERATION. We must remind ourselves of his works (Psalms 105:5).
IV. SACRED JOY IN HIM. (Psalms 105:3.)
V. PUBLICATION. "Make known his deeds among the people."
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
He watching over Israel slumbers not nor sleeps.
I. A BLESSED RETROSPECT.
1. He knows it is blessed, because, ere the psalmist sets it down, he summons, in intensely earnest, varied, and emphatic wag, all people to give thanks unto the Lord.
2. And he tells them wherefore they should hearken to his Word—because the Lord "hath remembered his covenant forever," etc. (Psalms 105:8).
3. Then comes the covenant history. He tells what the covenant was (Psalms 105:11), with whom it was made (Psalms 105:9), and to whom confirmed (Psalms 105:10). Then he tells of the apparent improbability of its fulfilment (Psalms 105:12), yet how God guarded them (Psalms 105:15). Then how strangely his work was carried on: sending dread famine (Psalms 105:16), and making them exiles in Egypt; sending Joseph, whom he had wonderfully prepared to be their helper in Egypt (Psalms 105:17-23). Then, when they were sufficiently multiplied, stirring up their nest there by means of the persecution they had to bear. Then came the mission of Moses and Aaron, and the ten plagues, so that at length Pharaoh was glad to let them go (Psalms 105:38). Then the triumphant exodus and the perpetual help in the wilderness, ending in the promised Canaan when the people were prepared for it (Psalms 105:44, Psalms 105:45). So did God lead his people by a right way, and so will he ever, though, as with Israel, the way may often seem very strange, unlikely, and the reverse of what we should have thought.
II. ITS LESSONS.
1. God's covenants ever come true, however unlikely and even impossible they may at times seem to be.
2. That it is a terrible thing to stand in opposition to them (Psalms 105:14, Psalms 105:27-37). Let us beware how we hinder the work of God.
3. God knows where to find and how to prepare his ministers in this work. "He sent Joseph; he sent Moses" (Psalms 105:17, Psalms 105:26). They who are to be chief in service have generally first to be chief in suffering.
4. The aim of God's covenant is the creation of a holy people (Psalms 105:45).
5. The remembrance of God's leading will ever be blessed.—S.C.
Successive steps heavenward.
I. THE FIRST IS SEEKING THE LORD.
1. We are slow enough to do this. We will try. as did the writer of Ecclesiastes, almost everything ere we turn to the Lord.
2. But the Lord desires that we should. Hence the plain declarations of his Word. Also the orderings of his providence. God will not let us have rest outside of himself. He is ever stirring up our nest. Thus he would compel us to own our need of him.
3. And there is the Holy Spirit's convicting work. And when that is done, it leads to this first blessed step heavenward—seeking the Lord.
II. SEEKING HIS STRENGTH. For though it be difficult to persuade men to take the first step, it is yet more difficult to keep them trusting in and faithful to the Lord. The real test is whether we abide in Christ. And we shall not unless we seek God's strength. All the batteries of hell will be turned against us to destroy our soul life, and we shall indeed need to be strengthened "with all might by God's Spirit in our inner man." That strength will come to us as we are:
1. Diligent in prayer.
2. Faithful in confession of Christ.
3. Feeding upon the Divine Word.
4. Trying to save others.
5. Keeping on believing.
III. SEEKING HIS FACE EVERMORE.
1. This tells of the joy of the Lord which comes to us when his face shines upon us. Let us be children of the light; keep on the sunny side of the way. Let there be joy in our service, not mere duty, doing which gets to be very dull work after a while. The elder son in the parable (Luke 15:1-32.) was a mere duty doer, and he had no joy in his service, and therefore had no welcome for his poor prodigal younger brother.
2. If we would serve God effectually, pray for "the joy of God's salvation." (Psalms 51:1-19.) Then shall we teach transgressors, and get them converted to God.
3. All this is possible. We may have much of heaven before we get there.—S.C.
When they were but a few.
If we look back to the beginnings of all great enterprises and movements amongst men, this is what might have been said of them all. There was a time when those who were associated with them "were but a few." So was it after the Deluge (1 Peter 3:20; cf. also Nehemiah 2:12). And see the beginnings of the Christian Church. Small like a grain of mustard seed. Now we are prone to be much discouraged when we see only a few caring for the things of God; and we are much elated when we see crowds of people, multitudes, uniting themselves with the professing Church. We may be wrong in both cases. Certainly we are when the fact of mere fewness casts us down. Let such despondents remember—
I. THAT IT IS QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY, THAT IS TO BE CONSIDERED. A living dog is better than a dead lion. Bigness is not strength. See the composition of the Bible. What great space is given to a little insignificant people, and the stories of their ancestors—a people who inhabited a mere shred and corner of the world, and who were just nothing at all compared with the vast empires that stretched themselves out on all sides of them! But it was because in this little handful of people the Divine life had its home, and that in them, under God, the kingdom of God on earth depended, that, therefore, their history is all-important, and a special providence watched over them. And do not we know, in our experiences, the blessed force which a few, and even less than a few, thorough and wholly consecrated Christians exert, compared with what a crowd of the common sort ever accomplish?
II. FEWNESS MAKES NO DIFFERENCE TO GOD. (Cf. 2 Chronicles 14:11; 1 Corinthians 1:27, 1 Corinthians 1:28.) How many were the men who "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6)?
III. THE REALIZATION OF OUR OWN WEAKNESS, WHICH COMES TO US WHEN THERE ARE BUT A FEW, IS ONE OF THE CONDITIONS OF GOD'S WORKING. Our Lord had to make Peter feel what a poor creature he was before he could be used as an apostle; and hence came Peter's fall.
IV. A FEW BECOME A HOST IF GOD LEAD. We may be but a row of ciphers; but if God stand at our head, then they are no longer mere ciphers. And this is not a mere figure of speech, but an actual fact demonstrated over and over again (cf. the vision, 2 Kings 6:17).
V. HIS SPECIAL PROMISES ARE FOR THE FEW. "Where two or three are gathered," etc. (Matthew 18:20). And that promise has constantly been fulfilled.
VI. THE FEW ARE HIS ESPECIAL CARE. (See Psalms 105:12-15.) And in the history of missions, the little handful who have gone to this country and that, though persecuted, and their ranks thinned by disease and death, yet have they been strengthened to hold on until they have won the battle God sent them to wage. What may not one God filled soul do? Read the history of Gideon to show this. And a company of them. If, then, "where there were but a few," there was no failure in the purpose and promise of God, let us rest assured that in like circumstances now there will be no failure. And let us stir ourselves up to lay hold on God.—S.C.
It has been remarked that in every loaf the whole tree is mirrored—root, trunk, branches, leaves (Macmillan). And so each member of Christ's mystical body resembles him in the way by which he is led. This especially true of Joseph. "Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?" These words, supremely true of our Lord, are true also of his servants. They must descend ere they ascend. The text teaches us—
I. THAT THE LORD HAS A WORD OF RICH PROMISE FOR EACH ONE OF HIS PEOPLE. Joseph had his word; so likewise have all like him. We may not be able to discern it so clearly as Joseph did, but our lives reveal it more and more, and ultimately we shall clearly know what all along it has been.
II. THAT MUCH TIME MAY ELAPSE, AND MANY OBSTACLES HAVE TO BE OVERCOME, ERE THAT WORD REFULFILLED. See this in history of Joseph. Years had to roll by, and everything seemed to say that his word never could come true. And so of the promise of the kingdom of God, whether in one individual soul or in the world at large. How long it is in coming, and how hopeless it often seems!
III. AND UNTIL THAT WORD COME TO PASS IT IS A SORE TRIAL. For in the case of Joseph, that word tried him.
1. By being the cause of his trial. If the Lord had never sent those dreams, none of his troubles would have come. And when the word of God's grace comes to a soul now, how often it stirs up a very hornet's nest, both of inward and outward trial! "I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword." How true that word has ever been!
2. By deepening the trial. What a bright, joyous picture that was which Joseph saw before his eyes when the word of the Lord came to him in his dreams! But when stripped of his coat of many colours, then flung into a pit, then sold to the Ishmaelites, then horribly because so falsely accused, then imprisoned,—what a contrast all this! How the light of the glad word made more dense the darkness of his dungeon!
3. By embittering it. What keenness of disappointment, what anguish of heart, the iron entered into his soul!
4. By the dreadful doubts which its non-fulfilment could not but occasion. How hard to keep believing under so hard and undeserved a lot!
5. And yet more, mot only his faith, but his love to God, would be tried. Could it be that God loved him if he let all this shame and sorrow come upon him. (cf. Psalms 42:1-11.)?
6. Then he was tried by being led to almost wish that he had sever received such a word. Would it not have been better if he had been like the rest of his brothers, to whom no such word came?
IV. BUT THOUGH THE WORD BE DELAYED, IT WILL COME TO PASS. It did so for Joseph; it does for all like him. Wherefore be of good cheer. And the more, because—
V. ALL THAT WEARY TIME WAS WELL-SPENT TIME. It was a discipline indispensable if he were to fitly fill the high station for which God had designed him. And so it ever is.—S.C.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
God in history.
"Tell the people what things he hath done" (Prayer book Version). As the word rendered "people" is a plural, the prominent idea seems to be the duty of making the God of history, whose working is so evident in the Jewish history, known to the heathen. If we can read history aright, and see God's working in it, we must read it aloud, so that others may be helped to find what we have found. Reviews of history are always interesting, and were specially pleasing to the Jews, who regarded themselves as a specially favoured nation. History at first is but a collection of facts, then it becomes the estimate of relations, causes, and results, which we call the philosophy of history. But that philosophy is not complete or satisfactory which fails to recognize the overruling and modifying Divine force which moves history to preordained ends. He only reaches the true philosophy of history who finds God in history. In this psalm we have such a reading of the national history as the Jewish exiles would undertake when the prospect of return to Canaan was near. We have to see the special points of view from which they would conduct their review. The thing prominent in their minds was, that God was about to redeem them from captivity, and to restore them to their own land; so they read the story of their race to find God's redemptions. And they were easy to find when men looked for them in such a mood.
I. GOD'S REDEMPTION OF ISRAEL FROM THE EGYPTIAN FAMINE. This was at the very outset of the national history. The famine affected the neighbouring countries, and God made Egypt a refuge for his redeemed people. Deliverance by quiet providences.
II. GOD'S REDEMPTION OF ISRAEL FROM THE EGYPTIAN BONDAGE. For the place of refuge presently became a place of slavery. This deliverance was accompanied with displays of august power, which reached their climax in the death of the Egyptian firstborn. Deliverance by miraculous interventions.
III. GOD'S REDEMPTION OF ISRAEL FROM ITS OWN WILFULNESS. God's deliverance of a man is never complete while it deals exclusively with his circumstances and surroundings. A man is not redeemed until he is redeemed from his bad self. The nation was not redeemed until God's gracious working within it had been completed. We see this in scenes of the wilderness journey. We see it all through, up to the great Babylonish captivity. Redemption comes by Divine discipline.—R.T.
Seeking the Lord's face.
The idea of reviewing the history is prominent, but the psalmist recognizes how much depends on the spirit in which that review is done, if any real moral and religious benefit is to be derived from it. Read it as one who is seeking for signs of the Lord's presence and power. Read it in such a mood and way that upon you shall rest signs of Divine favour. Let the result of it be that you will seek to have the shinings of the face on you, which you can see made all the glory of the history.
I. SEEKING THE LORD HIMSELF. This may be taken as referring to adequate knowledge of God. This is not in itself sanctifying; for men may know without loving. But it is the proper beginning. Seek to know God. Fearlessly take all his workings into account; both those easy to understand, and those difficult. Never shirk any facts. Only he who is willing to see the revelation of himself which God has made in history all round and all through, will ever get to know God worthily. So much mistake is made by deciding beforehand who and what God is, and then selecting, from the revelations of his Word and works, only what will support our prearranged conceptions. Few of us yet know worthily the unity of the many-sided God.
II. SEEKING THE LORD'S STRENGTH. Signs of the Divine power in history. Now, our impression of strength is but a small one while we keep in the material regions, and see only what a man can lift, what he can pull, or what he can carry. The really strong man is he who can master difficulties, put things straight, prove himself mightier than opposing forces, and even opposing forces in combination. This is the strength of the Lord God, of which we want to find signs; and precisely sirens of this—the Lord, the Overcomer, mastering all hostile forces—we find abundant in the Old Testament history.
III. SEEKING THE LORD'S FACE. The full face looking at us is the sign of favour. The downcast face is the sign of disapproval. What the child of God wants is to live with his Father's full open face smiling upon him. "When thou saidst, Seek ye my face, my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek." We may read God's dealings in such a spirit as to win God's favour in the reading.—R.T.
The psalmist, as a just returned, or as a speedily returning, exile—one just making preparations for his return—is anxious to be right hearted in relation to this new national restoration, and he is anxious to help others to be right hearted. So he thinks over aloud his personal experiences of God's dealings with himself (Psalms 103:1-22.); the marvels of God's handiwork in nature (Psalms 104:1-35.); the overrulings of Divine providence in the national history (Psalms 105:1-45.); and the causes for national humiliation (Psalms 106:1-48.). The leading idea before us, in this and the following psalm, is this. God and Israel entered into mutual covenant. Read the national story how you may, you will find that God has always been faithful to his pledges in that covenant, and the people have constantly been unfaithful. The marvel of mercy is that God's patient and persistent faithfulness triumphs at last over man's wilfulness and unfaithfulness.
I. GOD MADE COVENANT WITH HIS PEOPLE IN OLD TIMES. It is not only that God made promises the marvel of Divine grace is, that God should condescend to stand on man's platform, and join with man in putting himself under solemn pledge. Covenant making is an idea of early tribal times, when legal documents could not be written and signed. Illustrate God's covenant with Abraham, which was renewed again and again. Dwell on the fact that there were two persons, and two sets of conditions, in a covenant; and each was released if the other broke his terms. Lead on to show how the name is preserved in relation to the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ.
II. GOD WAS ALWAYS FAITHFUL TO HIS PLEDGES IN COVENANT. This the psalmist treats as an unquestionable historical fact. God was true to Abraham, Isaac, Israel in Egypt, Joseph. True to covenant in dealing with Pharaoh, Israel's oppressor. True in bringing Israel at last to the promised land. Providences are only rightly read as God's fulfilment of his covenant. That which is true of Israel is true of our persona lives. God has been to us Provider, Guide, Ruler, and Overruler.
III. GOD MAY BE FULLY TRUSTED TO PROVE FAITHFUL IN NEW SCENES. This is the appeal which the psalmist makes to the returning exiles. God has ever been faithful to your fathers; he will be faithful to you. So our trust is in what we know God to be; and we know him by what he has done, and does. He is the "faithful Promiser;" we may fully trust him.—R.T.
"Touch not mine anointed ones" (Revised Version). The reference is evidently to the patriarchs; and they are spoken of in the light of later associations, classified with those who received special Divine communications. "They were as kings and priests before God; therefore they are called 'his anointed;' they had the word, they knew the spirit of the Lord, therefore they are his 'prophets.'" (Illustrate the term "prophet" from Genesis 20:7.) The psalmist had some special instances in his mind, which he regarded as representative of the Divine defence that is always overshadowing God's faithful people. They are cases in which the three great patriarchs moved into the territory of alien or alienated people, and were preserved from all harm.
I. DIVINE DEFENCE OF ABRAHAM IN CANAAN, EGYPT, AND GERAR. Journeying into Canaan, which was then occupied by several nations, we might have expected his coming to have excited jealousy, it not fear. His tribe was large, his flocks and herds were abundant; he must have eaten up the land as he passed through it. But the Divine defence was over him, and his course was practically unhindered. He never had to fight for any position. God made his way. In Egypt, and again in Gerar, he was placed in much anxiety, and in some peril, by the licentious customs of the age. But the Divine defence was over him and his—no evil befell him; and even the seeming evil proved to be for his own moral good, and for other people's.
II. DIVINE DEFENCE OF ISAAC IN PHILISTIA. From a similar anxiety to that which Abraham had experienced, and from the strife which arose about the wells that Isaac digged. It is well to notice that, in the matter of the wells, the Divine defence worked along with Isaac's wise self-restraint, and refusal to make quarrels.
III. DIVINE DEFENCE OF JACOB IN SYRIA, AND IN ESAU'S COUNTRY. Laban of Syria was far more of an enemy than a friend to Jacob. How much the patriarch had to endure! But God ever watched over him. The supreme peril of Jacob's life was that return to Canaan which involved his meeting the justly offended Esau. Even then we find him within the Divine defence.—R.T.
The mission of Joseph.
"He had sent a man before them" (Prayer book Version). The point is, that God had been beforehand, foreknowing how the famine would affect Jacob's tribe, and getting preparations made for affording necessary relief when the testing time came. Joseph, relative to his family, was a forerunner; one sent on first in order to prepare the way. But herein is a remarkable thing—the providences that brought round to him the power to save his family, involved his own personal sufferings. An illustration of the truth that we can never do the highest good to men save at the cost of self-sacrifice, and burden bearing. Our Lord saved the world through suffering for it. The mission of Joseph is usually treated in its relation to Egypt, but the psalmist considers the mission entirely in its relation to the covenant people of God. Joseph was disciplined so as to save them. Joseph saved them in their time of peril. Joseph's salvation brought them into a special Divine discipline. These three points are suggested and illustrated in this psalm.
I. JOSEPH WAS DISCIPLINED SO AS TO SAVE HIS FAMILY. A man must gain the mastery of himself before he can gain true power to serve others. See the providences which brought Joseph into circumstances which provided moral discipline.
1. The trust Potiphar placed in him.
2. The moral temptation to which he was exposed.
3. The delay in the vindication of his innocence.
The effect of that delay is given by the figure, "the iron entered into his soul." We can see that this mastery he gained over himself prepared him to master the hatred he must have felt towards the brethren, who planned his murder, and accomplished his enslaving. The greatness of the disciplinary triumph can only be fairly judged in view of the intense, uncontrolled feelings of vengeance characteristic of that age.
II. JOSEPH SAVED HIS FAMILY IN THEIR TIME OF PERIL. Had the famine been only a temporary one, due to a single failure of the Nile, Joseph might have sent supplies to Canaan; but only the position and power he had gained in Egypt enabled him to meet the case of seven years' famine.
III. JOSEPH'S SALVATION BROUGHT HIS FAMILY INTO A SPECIAL DIVINE DISCIPLINE. And so worked out the providential designs concerning the race. Joseph's personal experiences in Egypt were, in a way, repeated in his race. They came into severe Egyptian discipline, by means of which they were prepared to exchange the wandering tribal for the settled national life. Impress, that God works moral ends through disciplinary experiences.—R.T.
It is singular that in Psalms 105:25 God should be spoken of as the agent in turning the hearts of the Egyptians to hate his people. Some would soften the expression, and make it mean only that God suffered the hostility arising from the increase of the people. But there is no difficulty when once we see that God's dealings with us are disciplinary; that he uses the ordinary events of life for his disciplinary purposes, and that in a poem he may be said to arrange and control the events which he uses for his moral ends.
I. ALL HUMAN LIFE IS DISCIPLINARY. It is precisely this that ennobles human life, and distinguishes it from the life of the brute. The events and relations of life do nothing for the animal save complete its animal nature. The events and relations of life mould and train man. He is the better or the worse, morally, forevery incident of his career, and forevery person with whom he comes in contact. To say that a thing is testing, or trying, is to say that it has a culturing force in it; it has a moral aim. Self-mastery can only be won through discipline.
II. DISCIPLINE COMES THROUGH THINGS THAT ARE GOOD. Here, in the case of Israel, our attention is directed to that swift increase of population which is the best idea of national good (Psalms 105:24). It is representative of the successes which God often gives men. But the disciplinary feature of world success is not sufficiently recognized. No severer strain is put on men's characters than that which comes by letting them succeed. Gaining wealth or fame has overstrained many a man. Moral character failed under the strain.
III. DISCIPLINE COMES THROUGH THINGS THAT ARE MYSTERIOUS. The sphere of the mysterious enlarges as we grow in knowledge and experience. The young student can explain everything. The grey-haired professor can explain nothing. Discipline comes by finding that we cannot know. It tests whether we can believe, and let faith give its tone to life. Science boasts that it knows, but science can do nothing without the scientific imagination; and that brings in the element of uncertainty.
IV. DISCIPLINE COMES THROUGH THINGS THAT ARE EVIL. This is true in both senses of the word "evil," which may mean "wicked" or "calamitous." Israel was disciplined through the hatred of Pharaoh, and also through the sufferings of their lot. The sanctifying power of affliction for Christians is often dwelt on; the disciplinary power of hard and trying circumstances, forevery one, needs fuller and wiser treatment.—R.T.
The "signs" here mentioned are the "plagues" which Jehovah sent on Egypt for the humbling of its weak but obstinate Pharaoh. They were "judgments" for Egypt; they were first steps of "deliverance" for Israel. So the salmist, regarding them from the standpoint of God's dealing with his ancestors, very properly treats them as "delivering judgments." All Divine judgments are two-sided: we see what they are to those who are judged; we ought to see what they are to those who are called to learn through the judgments.
I. WHAT ARE DIVINE JUDGMENTS TO THOSE WHO ENDURE THEM? Such the plagues were to Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Observe that the question really at issue was, the relative claim and ability of the Egyptian gods and Israel's God. Then it is easy to see that the plagues demonstrated the helplessness of the idols, and the supreme power of Jehovah. And that is the proper issue of all Divine judgments. They are intended to break us off from all forms of self-trust, and to convince us of the supreme authority and power of God, who is "known by the judgments that he executeth." "When his judgments are abroad in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness."
II. WHAT ARE DIVINE JUDGMENTS TO THOSE WHO WATCH THEM? Such were the Israelites, whose territory of Goshen was not affected by the plagues. But they were in danger of taking up with the idolatry of Egypt; they found it hard to keep true to the unseen Jehovah. So the judgments they did but observe, and did not feel, exerted a similar influence on them. They convinced them of the utter helplessness and uselessness of the Egyptian gods. They proved that the unseen Jehovah-God was practically effective in the actual scenes of nature and life. They even saw more than this. The judgments which thus fell on those who held them in bondage, were plainly beginnings of God's deliverance for them. If they seemed to tighten the Egyptian hold, they really loosened it. And when the series of judgments reached their climax, Pharaoh and his Egyptians were ready enough to thrust them out. So, while to those who come under Divine judgments they prove humblings; to those who watch and learn, they seem to be Divine deliverances.—R.T.
Psalms 105:40, Psalms 105:41
The sin of trying to make terms with God.
"The people asked, and he brought quails." The sin of this does not immediately strike the reader. It is not said that the people asked for quails. What we are to understand is, that God was graciously and wonderfully providing their staple food for the people: manna food from the skies, spring waters from the rocks. But the people were discontented with what God, in his infinite wisdom and love, provided, and wanted to arrange with God what he should provide. They wanted to make terms with God; and that meant taking the arrangement of their affairs out of the hands of God, and managing them for themselves; or, rather, making God manage them at their dictation. From this point of view we see their sin plainly enough. God met their desires, but brought upon them a most humbling judgment through the very obtaining of what they wished. He showed them how utterly incapable they were of managing for themselves, and ordering their own lives, by giving them the meat they desired, in plenty, and letting them do what they would with it. See the consequence. Quails were wholesome enough when eaten in moderation. The people devoured them unrestrainedly; they showed no sort of moderation; and the consequence was a disease which became epidemic, and swept away multitudes. On the monument for those dead men this inscription might well have been put, "Never try to make terms with God."
I. SEE THIS SIN IN THE LIGHT OF WHAT GOD IS. Take the attributes, and show that God must both know, and be able to do, what is every way wisest and best. Who understands our real needs as God does? Who controls all things as God does? Take the Father name which we are permitted to use for God, and show how wrong children are who attempt to dictate to their father as to what he shall provide.
II. SEE THIS SIN IN THE LIGHT OF WHAT GOD HAD DONE. All Jehovah's relations with his people had been gracious and considerate. They had never wanted any good thing. Defence had been close alongside danger, and provision ready for all need. Signs of distrust and murmuring were most unbecoming.
III. SEE THIS SIN IN THE LIGHT OF WHAT THE PEOPLE WERE. Had they any right to the confidence that they knew what was good for them butter than God did? Their past should have taught them submissiveness and humility.—R.T.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
God in history.
"The mighty acts of Jehovah for his people from the first dawn of their national existence are recounted as a fitting subject for thankfulness, and as a ground for future obedience."
I. GOD HAS WONDERFULLY REVEALED HIMSELF IN HISTORY.
1. By his marvellous work of love. To the Jews and to the world. Christianity a grand historical embodiment and exhibition of the love of God.
2. By his everlasting faithfulness. As witnessed in the fulfilment of his promises and threatenings to the Jews and the Christian Church. God departs neither from his word nor his plan.
3. By his righteous judgments upon the wickedness of men and nations. His righteousness is the guarantee both for his rewards and his punishments. Doing right is as much a part of the Divine character as doing good; i.e. justice and beneficence are both necessary to a perfect being.
4. By the publication of his law to mankind. (Psalms 105:5.) "The judgments of his mouth" are the utterances of his moral law which he has given by the deliverances of Moses and of Christ.
II. HOW THIS REVELATION SHOULD BE RECEIVED.
1. With rejoicing gratitude and thanksgiving. This one of the highest parts of the worship of God. Joyful gratitude is love, and when this is followed by obedience, then God is worshipped most acceptably.
2. With devout meditation. Thought, meditation, is necessary to understand the smallest fact of life; but infinitely necessary to interpret the stupendous facts of redemption.
3. With a spirit of earnest inquiry. We have only just begun to understand the Divine work, and if "the angels desire to look into these things," how much more eager should we be to bend over them with inquiring thought! We are only in the incipient stages of spiritual intelligence.—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 105". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany