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This psalm is generally assigned to the time of the dedication of the city wall (Nehemiah 12:27-43), when the gate-towers had been set up, and the gates and bars put in their places (see Psalms 147:13; and comp. Nehemiah 7:1-3). It is, more manifestly than any of the others, a Return joy-song (Psalms 147:2, Psalms 147:12-14). Its delicate appreciation of the grandeur and beauty of nature, and of God's closeness to nature (Psalms 147:4, Psalms 147:8, Psalms 147:9, Psalms 147:14, Psalms 147:16-18), is almost peculiar to it. Metrically, it seems to divide into three stanzas or strophes—one of six (Psalms 147:1-6), one of five (Psalms 147:7-11), and one of nine verses (Psalms 147:12-20).
Praise ye the Lord: for it is good to sing praises unto our God (comp. Psalms 92:1). For it is pleasant (see Psalms 135:3). And praise is comely; rather, becoming, or seemly—suitable, that is, to such a Being as we know God to be.
The Lord doth build up Jerusalem. The rebuilding of Jerusalem after the return from the Babylonish captivity covered a space of above ninety years, from B.C. 538 till B.C. 445. First the temple was built; then the city; finally, the walls and the gates. It was in connection with this last portion of the building that the present psalm seems to have been written. He gathereth together the outcasts of Israel. The exiles returned gradually—some with Zerubbabel; some with Ezra, in B.C. 457; others, doubtless, with Nehemiah, in B.C. 445; and again in B.C. 434.
He healeth the broken in heart (comp. Psalms 51:17; Isaiah 57:15). Israel in exile was broken-hearted, wretched, miserable (see Psalms 137:1-4; —Isaiah 64:6-12). Their restoration to their own land "healed" them. And bindeth up their wounds (comp. Isaiah 61:1, "He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted").
He telleth the number of the stars. Nothing escapes God's knowledge. He knew the number of the exiles, and the place and name of each, just as he knows the number of the stars and their names (comp. Isaiah 40:26). He calleth them all by their names (see Job 9:9; Isaiah l.s.c.).
Great is our Lord, and of great power; or, "mighty in strength" (comp. Nahum 1:3). His understanding is infinite. He is at once omnipotent and omniscient.
The Lord lifteth up the meek (comp. Psalms 145:14; Psalms 146:8). He casteth the wicked down to the ground (comp. Psalms 146:9, and the comment ad loc.).
Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving. God is not only to be praised for his greatness (Psalms 147:5), but also to be thanked for his loving-kindness (Psalms 147:2, Psalms 147:3, Psalms 147:8, Psalms 147:9). Sing praise upon the harp unto our God. The glad sound of the harp should accompany his praises.
Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth. In the parched and sultry East "clouds" and "rain" are a boon that we of the temperate West can scarcely appreciate. The cruel heat of the solar rays in a clear sky for weeks or months together causes a longing of the intensest kind for shade and moisture. Man and beast alike rejoice when the time of the autumn rains draws near, and the cloudless blue of the summer heaven gives place (of a sky that is gray and overcast (comp. Job 38:25-41; Psalms 104:13). Who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains. The "mountains," and even the plains of Palestine, are, with rare exceptions, completely burnt up at the close of summer, and show no verdure, but merely an arid sapless, brown or buff vegetation. When the" former rain" begins, a great change begins. Tender green blades of grass at once sprout up, and in a little time the whole country shows a tinge of verdure.
He giveth to the beast his food (comp. Psalms 104:27; Psalms 145:15, Psalms 145:16). The constant supplies of their own proper food to all classes of animals are among the principal proofs of God's power anti goodness. And to the young ravens which cry. Even the unclean raven, with his harsh croak and inelegant form, is not neglected (comp. Luke 12:24, "God feedeth them").
He delighteth not in the strength of the horse. In a certain sense, God no doubt "delights" in the glory and excellency of all his creatures; but their physical endowments do not give him the sensible pleasure which he derives from the moral qualities of his rational creation (see Psalms 147:11). The negation is not absolute, but relative (compare "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice"). He taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man; i.e. in his strength and swiftness.
The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him (comp. Psalms 149:4). The "fear" intended is, of course, that which includes trust and love (see the next clause). In those that hope in his mercy; or, "that wait for his loving-kindness."
Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem. The other exhortations to praise in the psalm are general (Psalms 147:1, Psalms 147:7); now a special call is made on Jerusalem to give him praise, since Jerusalem has lately experienced special mercies (Psalms 147:13, Psalms 147:14). Praise thy God, O Zion (comp. Psalms 146:10).
For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates. The strength of gates in the ancient world depended wholly upon their bars, which were generally strong beams of wood passed across from side to side of the gateway, about midway up the gate, having their ends inserted into strong iron hooks or clamps, which were let into the stonework of the walls. The "bars" of the gates of Jerusalem are mentioned in Nehemiah repeatedly (Psalms 3:3, Psalms 3:6, 13, 14, 15; Psalms 7:3). He hath blessed thy children within thee. Under Nehemiah's govern-meet, when he had firmly established it, Israel enjoyed a period of repose and of great prosperity, which, at the date of the psalm, was probably just commencing.
He maketh peace in thy borders. The completion of the walls and gates of Jerusalem brought to an end the troubles caused by Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, and established general peace and tranquility in Israel. And filleth thee with the finest of the wheat; literally, with the fat of wheat; i.e. wheat in abundance and of good quality. The prosperity of Nehemiah's time appears in Nehemiah 10:28-39; Nehemiah 12:44-47; Nehemiah 13:12-15.
He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth. Heavy crops, good harvests, abundant food, result from God's providential ordering of his world, to which he gives commands that are obeyed instantly, since his word runneth very swiftly.
He giveth snow like wool. The loveliness of new-fallen snow has evidently been felt by the psalmist, to whom it has seemed like a spotless robe of whitest wool spread upon the earth. Snow, though rare in Palestine, does occasionally fall, and is said to "cover the streets of Jerusalem two winters out of three. It generally comes in small quantities; but there are sometimes very snowy winters." In 1879, for instance, snow lay in Jerusalem to a depth of seventeen inches. He scattereth the hoar-frost like ashes. The metaphor is less appropriate, and was selected, probably, on account of the near resemblance of the two words, kephor and kaepher.
He casteth forth his ice like morsels; or, "like crumbs;" i.e. in profusion, as men feed birds. The "ice" intended would seem to be that of hailstones. Who can stand before his cold? Though the thermometer rarely shows more than six or seven degrees of frost in Palestine, yet the Oriental is as much chilled by such a temperature as the Englishman by one twenty degrees lower. He shivers in his light attire, and is very reluctant to leave the shelter of his house or tent.
He sendeth out his word, and melteth them (comp. Psalms 147:15). God has only to "speak the word," and all trace of winter disappears—hoar-frost, hail, snow, melt away, and the atmosphere is once more soft and genial. He causeth his wind to blow. The change usually comes With a change of wind, which, as with ourselves, is commonly cold from the north and east, warm from the west and south. And the waters flow. A thaw sets in, and soon all the watercourses are full of rushing streams.
He showeth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. Beyond and above all the physical blessings which God bestows on man are the gifts of spiritual enlightenment dud direction. These also Israel may count on receiving from him, who has already given them a written revelation—"statutes dud judgments"—while he also enlightens and directs them from time to time by his prophets.
He hath not dealt so with any nation. Though the Word of God, to a certain extent, "lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9), yet this light of nature is not to be compared to the revelation vouchsafed to Israel. Israel was God's "peculiar people," and had peculiar privileges, which involved special responsibilities. And as for his judgments, they (i.e. the nations) have not known them (comp. Amos 3:2, "You only have I known out of all the families of the earth: therefore will I visit upon you all your iniquities"). Praise ye the Lord (comp. Psalms 147:1).
We are summoned by the psalmist to praise God; we are told that praise is "pleasant" and "comely" (Psalms 147:1); it is an act which is congenial and fitting, because the God we worship is one who is worthy of all the homage we can pay him; he is "greatly to be praised" (Psalms 145:3). The grounds on which we are invited to bless God are very familiar, but they are very sound and strong; we can never dwell too much upon them.
I. HIS INFINITUDE IN UNDERSTANDING. (Psalms 147:5.) "There is no searching of his understanding" (Isaiah 40:28; see Romans 11:33-36). When we consider what must be the understanding of him who created and who sustains this marvelous framework of nature, who guides and upholds all things throughout the vast universe, every smallest thing as well as the greatest being subject to him and dependent upon him, we get some faint idea of the absolute boundlessness of the Divine wisdom.
II. HIS ALMIGHTINESS. "Of great power" (verse5).
III. HIS BENEFICENCE. (Psalms 147:8, Psalms 147:9.) It would be a terrible thing, indeed, for all created beings if almighty power were under the control of malevolence, or even of selfishness. We see what happens when exceptional human power is directed by unscrupulousness; we see what suffering, what desolation, is the result. We are so familiar with the thought of God's goodness that we are not much affected by it; but we ought to be profoundly stirred by the truth that omnipotence, exercised every where in God's vast domain, through every sphere, is put forth to feed, to clothe, to shelter, to help, to relieve, to brighten, to bless.
IV. HIS CONDESCENSION. (Psalms 147:4.) God "humbles himself to behold" every particular star that shines in the heavens, every single event that happens on the earth, every individual human soul that thinks, that feels, that struggles, that endures. Christ "calleth his own sheep by name" (John 10:3). He not only cares generally for his flock, but particularly for each member of it.
V. His RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Psalms 147:6.) Those who are content to accept his ruling, and to take cheerfully the humblest sphere he has assigned them, he "lifts up;" to them he gives honor, satisfaction, joy, life. The meek are made to "inherit the land" (Matthew 5:5), to spend peaceful, happy, useful days. But the wicked that exalt themselves unjustly and unscrupulously, he casteth to the ground." God makes pride, violence, vice, to lead downwards, and to end in shame.
VI. HIS TENDERSESS. (Psalms 147:3.) When our spirit is very sorely wounded, when our heart bleeds after some specially hard blow, then we shrink from the rough handling of conventional condolence; we fee] that we cannot bear the touch of any hand but the gentlest of all. There is often the truest kindness in silent sympathy, for speech would be hurtful, and make the wound bleed again. Only Christ can help us then. He can render us the ministry we need—can heal the broken heart, and bind up its wounds. There are deep places through which, now and again, we have to pass, of which it has been truly said, "That is a mighty baptism, and only Christ can go down with us into those waters." But he can, and he does. His Divine tenderness" soothes our sorrows, and heals our wounds."
VII. HIS GOOD PLEASURE. (Psalms 147:10, Psalms 147:11.) God's regard is not given to any of those outward and visible things, in beholding which we take pleasure, and on which we rely for safety; his regard is granted to the human spirit that is reverently turned to him in lowly worship, to the heart that is trusting in his promised mercy. The Divine Savior is not approving the Church that is boasting of its wealth, or its numbers, or the compactness of its organization; he is well pleased with the little company of souls that are realizing his presence, having true fellowship with him, sharing his suffering and sacrifice, leaning on his Word.
VIII. HIS SALVATION AND RESTORATION. (Psalms 147:2.) He who brought back the exiles from Babylon, redeeming them from servitude and dishonor, and who "built up" Jerusalem, is the God who now brings home to himself those that have been afar off; and is he who now builds up his Church in the face of its enemies.
Piety and patriotism, that go so well together and were so intimately bound together in the mind of the Jews, are here very closely associated. We, too, are convinced that the future of our country will be determined by its faithfulness or unfaithfulness to the Lord whom it professes to serve. There are four features of national well-being here.
I. SECURITY. (Psalms 147:13.) "He hath strengthened the bars of thy gates." Jerusalem was surrounded by its protecting walls (Nehemiah 2:12), and its citizens could work in safety and rest in peace. In our island home, which has known no shadow of fear of invasion for eighty years, we cannot realize how great a blessing is freedom from that great national evil, or from the dread of it. The thought hardly enters into our minds. But we have, if we would think about it, all the more occasion for gratitude that we abide in such continuous safety and security; we have "peace in our borders."
II. PROSPERITY. (Psalms 147:14-18.) The wealth of a country depends very largely on the industry, the frugality, and the forethought of its people. If they do not carefully, systematically, and scientifically cultivate its fields, spare and plant its trees, penetrate its mines and its waters, save their resources for renewed fertilization and for enterprise of various kinds, the country will, in these times of competition more especially, certainly decline. But its prosperity also depends on the bounties of Divine providence: on the fall of rain and snow; on the regular return of the seasons in their order; on the cold winds of winter, and the warm airs of summer; on the pulverizing frosts and the ripening sunshine. It is the bountiful hand of Heaven that gives the rich harvest, and fills the garners with the "finest of the wheat."
III. HOMES AND HOME-LIFE. "He hath blessed thy children within thee" (Psalms 147:13). No product of field or mine can be compared with that of the homes of the people. Happy is the nation that dwells in homes of purity, peace, love, piety!
IV. RELIGIOUS PRIVILEGE. (Psalms 147:19, Psalms 147:20.) The distinguishing blessing of Israel was its knowledge of the true God, and its consequent training in all personal, domestic, and social virtues. The people of Israel were acquainted with the "word," and therefore with the will of God, and their life was, to some large extent in their better days, ordered according to his "statutes" and "judgments." In their worship, in their pursuits, and in their homes, they rejoiced before the Lord, and they walked in his ways. This is the crowning blessing. Perhaps we may think that we in this country may adopt the language of the psalmist, and apply it to ourselves: "he hath not dealt so with any nation." That might be the exaggeration of a complacent patriotism, but would it not rather be the right feeling of a grateful piety? With all our sacred edifices, our Christian ministry, our evangelizing and philanthropic institutions (healing, preserving, remedial), our educational advantages, our preservation of the seventh day as a day of rest and worship, have we not received, and do we not retain, a measure of privilege which calls for intense gratitude, which also lays us under very serious obligation? For, from those to whom much is given much will be required; "exalted to heaven" in privilege, let us see that we are not "cast down to hell" in condemnation for not availing ourselves of it, and "knowing the day of our visitation,"
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
In praise of praise.
This psalm carries on and gloriously sustains the great Hallel of adoring gratitude and glad thanksgiving with which the Book of Psalms ends. This first verse contains a threefold laudation of the Lord's praise.
I. BECAUSE "IT IS GOOD." And this is most true.
1. In reference to God. For it ministers pleasure to him. Do not the experiences of many a parental heart bear witness to this truth? Are not we delighted with the loving utterances of our children, by which they testify their heart's affection towards us? It may be but the prattle of childish lips, or the lispings of such as are hardly more than babes, but it is delightful all the same; and our children's affection, when it has become older and more thoughtful,—what would our homes be without it? And right sure are we that our poor praise delights the Lord to whom it is rendered; he recognizes in it that response to his own love, for which all love, and emphatically his, cannot but crave. And it is good in his sight, further, because it wins him glory from men.
II. BECAUSE "IT IS PLEASANT."
III. BECAUSE "IT IS COMELY."—S.C.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
The pleasantness of praise.
When the poet Carpani inquired of his friend Haydn how it happened that his church music was always so cheerful, the great composer made the following reply: "I cannot make it otherwise; I write according to the thought I feel. When I think upon God, my heart is so full of joy that the notes dance and leap, as it were, from my pen, and since God has given me a cheerful heart, it will be pardoned me that I praise him with a cheerful spirit." Religious life and relations are often wrongly toned through the influence of the strange sentiment that what is acceptable to God must be a strain and trial to us. This strange sentiment rests on the mistaken idea that matter itself is evil, and, as man is material, his work is, at every cost, to master and crush the material element. This is at the root of Hinduism and Buddhism; it inspires the hermit; it fills nunneries and monasteries; and it explains the bodily austerities of good men, such as Henry Martyn, who walked about with pebbles in his shoes, as if to make himself miserable and so make himself acceptable to God. This notion is far more widespread, and far more mischievous, than is usually recognized. Constantly we find good people suspecting themselves of insincerity, or quite sure that something dreadful is going to happen, if they find themselves happy, and really enjoying their religious duties and exercises.
I. TO FEEL THE PLEASANTNESS OF PRAISE IS A SIGN OF CHERISHING RIGHT THOUGHTS OF GOD. What he recognizes is the good of his creatures, and that includes their happiness. And this characteristic of God is in no way affected by the fact that man has sinned. God is still anxious for his happiness, and helps him out of the bondage of sin that he may be happy. Long faces, miserable tones, depressing anticipations, and exaggerated and constant wailings about sin, do not honor or please God. He wants even his sinful children to find and feel the pleasantness of the praise they offer to him. It is comely to enjoy our religion.
II. TO FEEL THE PLEASANTNESS OF PRAISE IS A SIGN OF CHERISHING RIGHT THOUGHTS CONCERNING OURSELVES. There are times when a man ought to cherish a due sense of his sinfulness and sin, but to he always wailing over it nourishes formality and insincerity. A man is a sinner, but he is a child of God nevertheless, and does well to remember his sonship oftener than his sin.—R.T.
God's help for the suffering ones.
"It takes a brave soul to bear all this so grandly," said a tender-hearted doctor, stooping over his suffering patient. She lifted her heavy eyelids, and, looking into the doctor's face, replied, "It is not the brave soul at all; God does it all for me." "He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." The second clause of this sentence may but repeat the first with a slight variety, according to the Hebrew fashion of composition which we have had several times to observe. But we may meditatively recognize a distinction between the clauses, referring the first to the heart-sphere, and the second to the bodily.
I. MAN'S SUFFERINGS BELONG TO TWO SPHERES. Answering to man as a dual being. He's a spirit. He has a body. So he has the possibility of suffering in the spirit that he is and in the body that he has. Bodily wounds bring before us the whole sphere of sufferings which relate to the bodily organization and relations. It may be true that bodily pain directly affects the spirit, but it is equally true, if more subtle, that pain in the spirit affects the body. Still we can keep the two separate in thought. What an accumulation and variety of pains and woes can affect the human body! How tempted we are to think that these are the supreme woes! They are not. The broken heart is the woe of woes. The distresses of the spirit are the supreme distresses. Afflict a man's body, and body-sphere, even as Job was afflicted, the man does not know what suffering is until he suffers in his soul. This is impressively seen on Calvary, where was the very height of bodily woe. There we see the transcendent woe of the suffering soul.
II. GOD'S HELP BELONGS TO THE TWO SPHERES, "Who forgiveth all our iniquities, and healeth all our diseases;" "He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." This is no less true, because for his healings in the bodily sphere God uses agencies that we can recognize. He uses agencies also for his healings in the spirit-sphere, though they often are such as we cannot recognize. Even when we are willing to pray to God for the healing of our bodily pains, we are mournfully unwilling—or it may be we do not think it right—to seek God's help in our suffering mental and spiritual states. God for our woes of feeling we all but very imperfectly realize.—R.T.
The Lord's ways with the meek.
This term often means "the afflicted." This word "meek" has several distinct meanings as used in the Word of God, but its root-idea seems to be "lowly feeling about ourselves." This associates with both "humility" and "disinterestedness." Sometimes the bad side of the word comes into view, and it expresses the feeling of the crushed man, who has become heartless, spiritless, who is broken down, who has wholly lost his energy; who, like David in his time of distress, wails out his faithless fear, "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul!" There is something of that heartlessness and hopelessness indicated in this text.
I. THE LORD IS NOT ALTOGETHER INDIFFERENT TO THEM. He might be. They must be to him somewhat as the wayside beggar is to us. How often we pass him by with utter indifference! and when we have any feeling at all, it is only a revulsion from the miserable object. Yet when we think of it, that state of mind distresses us. We cannot be really good; for if we were, no form of humiliation or distress would fail to touch us with the tenderest pity. God cannot be indifferent to the meek.
II. THE LORD DOES NOT PITY THEM, AND STAND ASIDE. As the priest and Levite did when they came and looked on the stripped and wounded sufferer. Too often man pities, and does nothing; comforting himself with the thought that he pitied, and so was evidently tender and sensitive in feeling. Situations presented in novels excite our pity, but they do us no moral good, because we have no chance of putting our pity into helpful action. We could have no heart-rest in God, if all we could be sure about him was that he pitied us.
III. THE LORD GRACIOUSLY HELPS THOSE WHOM HE PITIES. As did the good Samaritan, spending himself to relieve the man whose distress awakened his pitiful feeling. The help God gives is put into a word which precisely matches the word "meek." He upholdeth. The crushed, humbled, heartless man is in danger of falling and fainting. He can hardly hold himself up. So precisely what he needs is steadying, upholding, everlasting arms put about him until he can feel his feet, recover his strength, find life flow freely again, and smile into God's watching face the smile of recovered hope.—R.T.
God's care of the mountain grasses.
The following extract from Hugh Macmillan's 'Bible Teaching in Nature' suggests both sermon-topic and illustration, and the peculiarities noticed are fresh and unfamiliar: "The mountain grasses grow spontaneously; they require no culture but such as the rain and the sunshine of heaven supply. They obtain their nourishment directly from the inorganic soil, and are independent of organic materials. Nowhere is the grass so green and vigorous as on the beautiful slopes of lawn-like pasture high up on the Alps, radiant with the glory of wild flowers, and ever musical with the hum of grasshoppers, and the tinkling of cattle-bells. Innumerable cows and goats browse upon them; the peasants spend the summer months in making cheese and hay from them for winter consumption in the valleys. This exhausting system of husbandry has been carried on during untold centuries; no one thinks of manuring the Alpine pastures; and yet no deficiency has been observed in their fertility, though the soil is but a thin covering spread over the naked rocks. It may be regarded as a part of the same wise and gracious arrangement of Providence that the insects which devour the grasses on the Kuh and Sehaf A1pen, the pasturages of the cows and sheep, are kept in check by a predominance of carnivorous insects. In all the mountain meadows, it has been ascertained that the species of carnivorous are at least four times as numerous as the species of herb-eating insects. Thus, in the absence of birds, which are rare in Switzerland, the pastures are preserved from a terrible scourge. To one not aware of this check, it may seem surprising how the verdure of the Alpine pastures should be so rich and luxuriant, considering the immense development of insect-life. The grass, whenever the sun shines, is literally swarming with them—butterflies of gayest hues, and beetles of brightest iridescence; and the air is filled with their loud murmurs. I remember well the vivid feeling of God's gracious providence which possessed me when passing over the Wengern Alp, at the foot of the Jung Frau, and seeing, wherever I rested on the green turf, the balance of nature so wonderfully preserved between the herb which is for man's food, and the moth before which he is crushed. Were the herbivorous insects allowed to multiply to their full extent, in such favorable circumstances as the warmth of the air and the verdure of the earth in Switzerland produce, the rich pastures which now yield abundant food for upwards of a million and a half of cattle would speedily become bare and leafless deserts. Not only in their power of growing without cultivation, but also in the peculiarities of their structure, the mountain grasses proclaim the hand of God. Many of them are viviparous. Instead of producing flowers and seeds, as the grasses in the tranquil valleys do, the young plants spring from them perfectly formed. They cling round the stem, and form a kind of blossom. In this state they remain until the parent stalk withers and falls prostrate on the ground, when they immediately strike root and form independent grasses. This is a remarkable adaptation to circumstances; for it is manifest that were seeds, instead of living plants, developed in the ears of the mountain grasses, they would be useless in the stormy region where they grow. They would be blown away, far from the places they were intended to clothe, to spots foreign to their nature and habits, and thus the species would speedily perish." Ruskin says, "Look up to the higher hills, where the waves of green roll silently into long inlets among the shadows of the pines, and we may perhaps know the meaning of those quiet words of Psalms 147:8."—R.T.
Psalms 147:16, Psalms 147:17
The lessons of the winter.
"What can be lovelier than the glittering jewels with which the hoar-frost bedizens every leaf and spray of the woodland? Or the translucent azure of the glacier crevasses with their long pendants of lustrous ice? There are beautiful things in winter as well as in summer; and we need the cold, unearthly splendors of the one as much as the glowing, living charms of the other to educate our sense of God's greatness in his works. But beauty is everywhere in nature the flower of utility; and in the realms of frost this quality is most strikingly displayed" (Hugh Macmillan). There is a short, but sharp winter-time in the Holy Land, extending from the middle of December to the middle of February. There are severe winds from the north and north-east, with heavy rains and frosts. Kings often had "winter houses." Even the seasons God has made to fit in with man's highest needs. Winter is the stillness and re-rooting of the year. It is as truly a busy time as any other time of the year, but the activities go on in secret, underground. So in man's religious life. He needs re-rooting times. Seasons when activity must give place to culture, in preparation for further and higher activities. Times of stillness, sickness, trouble, are the great winter-times for soul-rooting. The actual winter-time is a time of great opportunities for our religious life.
1. It may be a time of personal soul-culture.
2. It may be a time of intellectual nourishment.
3. It may be a time of social intercourse.
4. It may be a time of Christian work.
It is the Church's best time for work. When telling what the Lord Jesus did in Solomon's porch, John says, "It was winter." lie did not suffer himself to be unduly affected by outward conditions, or hindered in his work by them. In winter he was still "about his Father's business." He mastered the cold to carry out good plans. Winter is, for us, full of temptations to self-indulgence. Are we mastering the temptations, and winning our winters for God?—R.T.
The mission of the frost and the snow.
"He wraps the earth in snow as in a warm white woolen garment, and scatters the frost so that the trees, etc; appear as if powdered with (wood) ashes blown about by the wind." The rain, the frost, and the snow are all forms of moisture. Winter is God's time for putting things to rights. Three things especially want renewing and replenishing—the earth, the air, the water, and to do this replenishing is the mission of the frost, the snow, and the rain. But everything that God does is beautiful as well as useful; and so we find the hoar-frost makes an exquisite silvery world; the snow hangs in festoons of wonderful glistening whiteness; and the rain makes the lovely cascades leap from crag to crag down the hillsides. We think now chiefly of their usefulness. The frost breaks up the ground, checks the too abundant growth of insect-life, and keeps the air cool to check vegetation, and make the sap in the trees wait for its due time. The snow penetrates the soil, and nourishes it both with warmth and moisture; and it carries to the ground some of the chemical elements it needs to fit it for its new year's work. And the rain refills the secret springs whence our fresh water comes, and washes down from the hillsides new soil with which to fertilize the valleys. God does grandly in his winter-time what we see the farmer doing in his little way—ploughing, manuring, hedging, ditching, road-repairing, etc.; getting ready for summer's life and growth. And the frost and the snow may carry this as their message to our hearts concerning God's dealings with us. "We have apparently very severe and hard things to do for God; but we try to do them cheerfully, and we try to do them well, and, after all, they are really very kind things, only the gracious severities of the infinite love.—R.T.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
Jehovah the infinitely Mighty and Omniscient One, in the creation and in the human world, worthy, therefore, of all praise and worship.
"Celebrates God's almighty and gracious rule over his people, and over the world of nature, but mingles with this a special commemoration of his goodness in bringing back his people from their captivity, and rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem."
I. GOD IS ALMIGHTY IN THE WORK OF THE MATERIAL UNIVERSE.
1. He created the heavenly worlds. (Isaiah 40:26.)
2. He has a perfect knowledge of them. (Psalms 147:4.) He knows all the innumerable multitude: "telleth the number of the stars." And knows each one of them in particular: "and calleth them all by their names." "Not one faileth." God is great in power, and great in knowledge; "there is no searching of his understanding." The inference from all this is only suggested, not stated.
II. GOD IS ALL-GOOD AS WELL AS ALMIGHTY AND OMNISCIENT. (Psalms 147:2, Psalms 147:3, Psalms 147:6.) He must know and be able to succor human woe to whom it is an easy thing to create and count and guide the stars.
1. He can recover from slavery and restore to freedom. (Psalms 147:2.) Those who have been taken captive, and dispersed abroad. Slaves are those fit for slavery.
2. He can restore men from the depths of suffering and despair. (Psalms 147:3.) The broken in heart, and most deeply wounded.
3. God's justice is perfect in its retributive work. (Psalms 147:6.) He exalts the righteous above their afflictions, and casts down the prosperous wicked.—S.
God worthy of praise.
"A fresh burst of praise because of God's Fatherly care, as shown in his provision for the wants of the cattle and the fowls of the air. And as he feeds the ravens, which have neither storehouse nor barn, but only cry to him for their food, so amongst men his delight is not in those who trust in their own strength and swiftness, but in those who look to him, and put their trust in his goodness." God is to be praised—
I. BECAUSE HE PROVIDES FOR THE FERTILITY OF THE MATERIAL WORLD. Clouds temper the heat of the sun as well as pour forth rain to fertilize the earth, and make it productive of food for man and beast. The chain of connection between God and man bountifully set forth in Hosea 2:21, Hosea 2:22, "I will hear the heavens," etc.
II. BECAUSE OF HIS BOUNTY TOWARDS ALL ORDERS OF THE ANIMAL CREATION. Grass upon the mountains where the herds and flocks feed, and which the plough and labors of man cannot reach. God is the Shepherd of all inferior as well as superior life. The young ravens, which are forsaken and cast off by their mothers very early, unconsciously cry to him for food, and are fed. The great and the small equally provided for by his bountiful, universal care.
III. THOUGH GOD IS THE SOURCE OF ALL STRENGTH, HE HAS ONLY AN INFERIOR PLEASURE IN PHYSICAL STRENGTH. (Hosea 2:10.) "The strength of the hills is his also;" "Strong in power; not one faileth." He must delight in power of all kinds, intellectual and moral, as we do. But neither for himself nor for man is mere strength his chief delight.
IV. GOD'S GLORY IS IN DISPENSING HELP TO THOSE WHO TRUST AND HOPE IN HIM. His delight is in goodness. Gives confidence and courage to those who fear him. Gives strength and riches to those who hope for his loving-kindness. Gives to them his mercy.—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 147". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13