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This is a hymn of praise in anticipation of a deliverance, which may be from Sennacherib, or from some other dangerous enemy. The actual praise is confined to the first and the last two verses. The remainder of the poem (Psalms 75:2-19.75.8) sets forth God as a righteous Judge, against whom the ungodly contend in vain, and who will pour out at last the dregs of his vengeance upon them. The author may be Asaph, and the deliverance that from Zerah (2 Chronicles 14:9-14.14.13); or the date may be later, and the writer an Asaphite Levite of the time of Jehoshaphat or Hezekiah.
The phrase, "Al-taschith," in the "title," is probably a musical term. It occurs also in the titles of Psalms 57:1-19.57.11; Psalms 58:1-19.58.11; Psalms 59:1-19.59.17.
Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks; for that thy Name is near thy wondrous works declare; literally, and thy Name is near (i.e. thy providence and care are close to us); this do thy wondrous works declare. The "wondrous works" are those of times past (comp. Psalms 74:12-19.74.15), whereof the psalmist anticipates a continuance or repetition.
When I shall receive the congregation; rather, when I shall have appointed a set time. It is agreed that the speaker, in this verse and the next, is God, who announces that he is about to descend in judgment. This, however, he will do "at his own set time," for which men must wait patiently (comp. Habakkuk 2:3). I will judge uprightly; or, "with uprightness" (comp. Psalms 58:1).
The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved. They "melt" with fear (Psalms 44:6), either at God's coming in judgment, or at the dissolution which a hostile invasion is bringing on their land. I bear up the pillars of it. Meanwhile God upholds, and will uphold, both the moral and physical order of things. He will neither suffer the earth to be moved, nor the supports on which society depends to fail and crumble away.
I said. It is doubtful who is the speaker. Professor Cheyne regards the entire passage from the beginning of Psalms 75:2 to the end of Psalms 75:5 as spoken by the Almighty; but most commentators assign Psalms 75:4 and Psalms 75:5 to the psalmist or the people of Israel. Unto the fools; i.e. to the enemy which was attacking Israel; literally, to the boasters, or to the arrogant ones (see Revised Version). Deal not foolishly; rather, deal not so arrogantly. Do not set yourselves so proudly against the Almighty. And to the wicked, Lift not up the horn; i.e. be not fierce and menacing, like a bull who threatens with his horns.
Lift not up your horn on high; speak not with a stiff neck. The phrase, "a stiff neck," common in the Pentateuch (Exodus 32:9; Exodus 33:3, Exodus 33:5; Exodus 34:9; Deuteronomy 9:6, Deuteronomy 9:13; Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 31:27), is rare elsewhere. It expresses pride, arrogance, and obstinacy.
For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. So Hupfeld, Kay, Canon Cook, and the Revised Version Others suggest the meaning to be, "For it is not from the east, nor is it from the west, nor yet from the mountainous desert [that help cometh]." But the ellipse of the main idea is improbable. The address is to the enemies who threaten Israel, "Lift not up your horns—speak not proudly—for exaltation comes not from any earthly quarter—east, west, north, or south" ("north" being omitted, as sufficiently implied in the others); it is God alone who gives it, and he is not likely to give it to you."
But God is the Judge (comp. Psalms 50:6; Psalms 82:1; Psalms 94:2; and, especially, the original of all the later passages, Genesis 18:25). He putteth down one, and setteth up (or, exalteth) another. True equally of nations and of individuals.
For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red. The "cup of God's fury" is a frequent metaphor with the prophets (Isaiah 51:17, Isaiah 51:22; Jeremiah 25:15, Jeremiah 25:17, Jeremiah 25:28; Jeremiah 49:12; Lamentations 4:21; Ezekiel 23:31-26.23.33; Habakkuk 2:16, etc.); and is commonly represented as full of wine, which his enemies have to drink. The "redness" of the wine typifies the shedding of blood. It is full of mixture. Mingled, i.e; with spices, and so made stronger and more efficacious (see Proverbs 9:2; Proverbs 23:30; So Proverbs 8:2; Isaiah 5:22). And he poureth out of the same. God pours out the cup of his fury on all nations, or persons, whom he chooses to afflict, and they are compelled to drink of it (Jeremiah 25:15-24.25.28). But the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them. To drink a cup, dregs and all, is to empty it wholly, to swallow down all its contents.
But I will declare forever; i.e. "I will declare these things"—viz. God's just judgments upon the wicked. I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. On the force of the phrase, "God of Jacob," see the comment upon Psalms 20:1.
All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off. Besides declaring God's judgments and singing his praises, the psalmist adds that he will, as far as lies in his power, seek to advance God's cause, and establish his kingdom, by checking, controlling, and putting down the wicked. This he expresses by the metaphor, "I will cut off their horns;" i.e. bring down their haughtiness, and deprive them of the power of doing mischief. But the horns of the righteous shall be exalted. Then, as a necessary consequence, "the horns of the righteous"—their power and might and glory—will be exalted.
The essence, certainty, and preciousness of Divine revelation.
"Thy Name is nigh." This rendering is given in the margin of the Revised Version, and another in the text. The difference arises from the exceeding brevity of the Hebrew making the sense doubtful. But the sense given in our Authorized Version is supported by weighty authorities; and has the advantage of being at once full of meaning and full of grandeur. We may regard it as bringing before us the essence, the certainty, and the preciousness of Divine revelation.
I. ESSENCE OF DIVINE REVELATION. The possibility of knowing God, and the possibility of conversing, holding communion, with God are the two fundamental truths of revelation. Apart from these, the Bible would give us nothing but dead history, barren doctrine, baseless imagination. The first is expressed in the Scriptures by the Name of God; the second by his drawing near to us, and bringing us near to him.
1. God's Name stands in Scripture for all that we can know and do know of him. Names are the instruments of all our knowledge. What we cannot name, or name wrongly, we do not know. Giving names was the beginning of speech (Genesis 2:19). Moses, therefore, asked how he was to name God to Israel (Exodus 3:13-2.3.15; comp. Exodus 33:19; Exodus 34:6, Exodus 34:7; Exodus 23:21; Proverbs 18:10).
2. Communion with God and enjoyment of his favour are constantly expressed under this image of God's nearness (though "in him we live," etc.) (Deuteronomy 4:7; Psalms 145:18; Proverbs 15:29; Jeremiah 12:2; Ephesians 2:13, Ephesians 2:17).
II. THE CERTAINTY. How do we know that we know God, and that we can converse with him? By the evidence of experience, historical and personal. "That thy Name is near, thy wondrous works declare." Divine revelation goes exactly on the lines of human nature and life. We know one another—our fellow human beings by speech and action. These reveal character. The Bible is the continuous record of God's manifestation of himself to men by word and by deed. His works of nature reveal him (Psalms 19:1; Romans 1:19, Romans 1:20). But he has" magnified his Word above all his Name;" q.d. the living voice of his prophets and the record in Scripture of their message, has brought God near to us, and us to him, as nature never could—yet a very large part of Scripture itself consists in the record of his "wondrous deeds, his dealings with his Church and mankind." Above all, the incarnation, the personal life, and atonement of the Lord Jesus, reveal God as nothing else can (John 17:3; Joh 14:9; 1 John 4:9; 2 Peter 1:16).
III. THE PRECIOUSNESS. "Unto thee do we give thanks." What blessing, what treasure, is comparable with this—the certainty that God is near, and is known!—not the infinite Unknowable, but our Father in Christ Jesus. We do not pretend to a complete knowledge of God. The Bible, far from professing to give such knowledge, declares it impossible (Job 11:7; Psalms 139:6; Isaiah 55:9). We do not completely know our fellow men or our own selves. But we know all we need to know. Our knowledge, as far as it goes, is real and certain (John 1:18; Job 28:28; Jeremiah 9:23, Jeremiah 9:24). It is an ample resting place, both for intellect and heart (Matthew 11:28).
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
The undaunted one.
Such is the spirit of this psalm; fearlessness characterizes it throughout, and concerning this spirit it teaches much.
I. ON WHAT SUCH SPIRIT RESTS.
1. On the conviction that God is near at hand for our help. "For that thy Name is near," etc. (Psalms 75:1).
2. On the evidence for this conviction which God's "wondrous works" supplies: works in nature, providence, grace.
II. THE FRUITS SUCH SPIRIT BEANS.
1. Thankfulness. (Psalms 75:1.)
2. Righteous dealing. (Psalms 75:2, "I will judge uprightly.")
3. Clear sightedness as to the reality of things (Psalms 75:3). Where this spirit is, there is no fear of man. He shrinks not from facing and confessing the actual truth, however unwelcome it may be.
4. Cheerful toil. "I bear up the pillars of it" (Psalms 75:3); cf. St. Paul, "I can do all things through Christ," etc.
5. Faithful testimony. (Psalms 75:4.) Against the wicked. For God (Psalms 75:7). Concerning wrath to come (Psalms 75:8).
6. Delight in God. (Psalms 75:9.)
7. Open siding with the right against the wrong (Psalms 75:10).
III. THE GREAT EXEMPLAR AND GIVER OF THIS SPIRIT—the Lord Jesus Christ.—S.C.
The uplifting God.
Such is the theme of this psalm. This we gather from the frequent repetition of the word "uplift." Like the repeated clear strokes of a boll, it reverberates through the psalm. In Psalms 75:4 the wicked are bidden "lift not up the horn," as doth the fierce bull that, in the pride of his might, tosses his horns defiantly against all comers. Let them not boast themselves in their fancied strength. And Psalms 75:5 repeats this warning, and Psalms 75:6 tells them that "uplifting"—"promotion," our Authorized Version reads it, but it is the same word all through—is neither from the east, nor the west, nor south, but—so Psalms 75:7 tells them—God is the Judge; he putteth down one and "lifts up" another,—again the same word. And then once more in Psalms 75:10 God declares that the strength, "the horns," of the righteous shall be lifted up. Thus over and over again this emphatic word and keynote of the psalm is heard. And this gracious dealing of God with his people is the ground of the earnest thanksgiving with which the psalm opens; and it is the "Name" of God which it asserts to be so "near," and which his wondrous works declare. As in Psalms 121:1-19.121.8, God's gracious keeping of his people is the theme, and hence the word "keep" is repeated all through the psalm. We do not know for certain when or by whom, or on what occasion, this psalm was written. It is like the song of Hannah echoed in the Magnificat of the mother of our Lord. Or it may celebrate one or all of David's many deliverances—how God had "uplifted him" out of all his troubles, and hence his vow of righteousness which in Psalms 121:2 and repeatedly, he declares. Or it may celebrate the "uplifting" of Judah and Hezekiah from the peril of Sennacherib. We do not know, nor does it matter. Severed as it is for us from all special circumstances, we are the better able to make application of it according to our individual need. Now, in the text we note—
I. ITS EXUBERANT THANKSGIVING. The writer's heart was full.
1. He repeats his thanksgiving. It is as if he felt himself unable to tell out all his gratitude; as if he had said, "Yea, Lord, unto thee do we give thanks; yea, we do."
2. And it arises from many hearts, not one alone. It is "we," not "I."
3. And it reveals the character of the grace received. That it had been such as was greatly and consciously needed; and could come from no other source (Psalms 121:6); and it had been great indeed (Luke 7:47); and both unexpected and undeserved.
II. THE ABUNDANT SEASON FOR IT. "For that thy Name is near."
1. What are we to understand by "thy Name"? It means that which the name suggests. Names call up in our minds that which we know and feel of those to whom they belong. The Name of God suggests, therefore, to any man his idea of God—one thing to one man, another to another. To the writer of this psalm it is evident what thought of God his Name suggested. God was to him the God who lifts his people up from all their distresses.
2. What he says of this Name. It is "near." He meant, near in time, in locality,—at hand and not afar off, to his consciousness; he realized this nearness of God.
3. And we can still assert the Name. How often and how greatly, and for how many, God has uplifted their souls!—from the burden of guilty fear, of sin's oppression, of earthly care, of death's terror, and of all forms of Satan's rage. In all such times of trouble God has been near to his people, and has lifted them up far above and away from all their fear.
III. ITS PERSUASIVE PLEA. Surely testimony such as is here given is a plea unanswerable that we all should put our trust in the uplifting God, and turn to him in every trouble, and abide in him always. For us, too, there is the further argument of God's grace in Christ, and the infinite love revealed in him. May we hearken and obey!—S.C.
Help laid on One that is mighty.
Our text and this whole psalm show clearly enough that—
I. SUCH HELP WAS NEEDED.
1. Society, order, law, seemed all on the point of dissolution. A condition of affairs is contemplated in which everything seemed rushing ruinwards, and would rapidly have reached such sad ending, had they not been held back by One mightier than they. We cannot say for certain, though we may conjecture, what special age, persons, or events are alluded to. The psalm suits several such, and is capable of many applications. For our own use of its teachings it is well that we are left in ignorance of its actual allusions, and cannot point to the special events which were before the psalmist's mind.
2. And such conditions are all too common. We see them in nations, Churches, families, individual souls. Everything seems slipping away, all order and strength and well being dissolving. It is as if "the earth and all the inhabitants thereof were dissolved." It is so in things temporal, and so, too, in things spiritual.
3. The causes that produce such conditions are manifold. Sometimes, in nations, it is war, or political strife, or, and this more commonly, moral corruption. So it seems to have been in the condition contemplated by this psalm (see Psalms 75:2, Psalms 75:4). And none can read the records of history, whether in the Bible or in other books, but may trace this cause, sin, ever at its deadly work. If a nation, a Church, a city has fallen, we have not far to seek for what has brought it about, The philosophy of history is the tracing out the contrasted effects of righteousness and wrong. And in the dissolution told of here, the solvent that brought it about was certainly sin. And so is it also in the like conditions that are found elsewhere.
4. But wherever found, they are very sad. The groaning and travail of the whole creation, which were so audible and distressing to St. Paul, are the result of such conditions, and the sorrow would have been greater than he could have borne had he not been "saved by hope"—the hope suggested by the latter half of our text, of help being laid on One that is mighty. For—
II. SUCH HELP IS FORTHCOMING. "I bear up the pillars of it." The earth is pictured as some vast temple supported on pillars, but which are on the point of giving way, and would were they not upheld by a mighty support. The meaning is plain—that there is One who holds back the ruin which is everywhere threatening, who will interpose and prevent it. Who is this Mighty One? It may be some monarch, statesman, prophet. God has raised up such—like Moses, David, our own Alfred the Great; like Nehemiah, like William the Silent, and many more. The saying, "I bear up," etc; is not arrogance, but the simple statement of the duty God has assigned him. The faith in God, and the courage which characterize such men, are evident in this psalm. But in the last resort it is God who is the real Up-bearer. It is he who inspires and qualifies his servants.
III. SUCH HELP, UNDER SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES, IS WAITING FOR US. Seek it.—S.C.
The uplifted horn and the stiff neck.
These are two formidable enemies of God and the soul. They are generally found together, as in nature, so in the soul. They help one another in doing evil. They are metaphors derived from the tossing horn and the sturdy neck of the fierce wild bull found in the forests of Palestine. They represent severally the haughty spirit,—that is the uplifted horn; and the stubborn will,—that is the stiff neck. Let us speak of—
I. THEIR ORIGINS.
1. The haughty spirit. Many are its roots. The evil heart, seeing the wicked prosper, worldly success, God's delay of judgment, ill example, and often the possession of a naturally strong will to which other men, as is usual, yield.
2. The stubborn will. This partly natural, partly acquired, and ever fostered by the haughty spirit. Pride cherishes it, and encourages it always.
II. THEIR EVIL WORK. God's Spirit, his Word, his ministers, his providence, Christ's love, plead, threaten, and warn in vain, and the man dies in his sins.
III. THEIR DESTRUCTION. This wrought by:
1. The final awful judgment of God.
2. His providence.
3. His Spirit's power.
They come in reverse order. But they are effectual, one or other of them. Which shall be so with us?—S.C.
The Lord's cup for us.
Many will say that the cup told of in this verse is the Lord's cup of wrath, as in Psalms 11:6; Isaiah 51:17-23.51.23, and frequently elsewhere. And if it were here said that the whole cup told of in our text was to be drunk by the wicked, there could be no doubt as to what cup was meant. But it is only "the dregs" thereof that is said to be their portion, not the rich foaming draught that fills the rest of the cup. No doubt there is the cup of God's wrath, but there is also the cup of salvation, and for his people "the Lord" himself "is the portion of their cup." And as in the previous verse the diverse dealings of God with men are told of, putting down one and setting up another, so here also we have the main contents of the cup, which are rich and bright and good, declared, and the miserable dregs which the wicked shall drink and drain out to the last. There is the better part for the good, the evil part for the wicked. We therefore take the "cup" here told of, as setting forth human life, our earthly existence allotted to us by the Lord. And thus we learn—
I. THAT OUR LIFE IS GIVEN TO US OF THE LORD. It is a cup, a portion, an assigned lot, intended and ordered for us. "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" So said our blessed Saviour of the life allotted to him. Life for us all is in the hand of God, and he gives it to each one as he sees fit. This is a very blessed truth. For we know we have no choice over the main elements of our life; when, where, with what endowments, many or few, or of what parentage we shall be born,—all this we have no control over. But it is good to know that not chance, still less ill will, but the Lord, has assigned to each of us the life we have to live, and he, like the master of the feast, deals out to each his cup (cf. Psalms 100:1-19.100.5," It is he that hath made us," etc.). Therefore we may be sure that he means it to be for our good; for—
II. HE PURPOSES THAT IT SHOULD BE BRIGHT AND JOYOUS. This, though apparently so contrary to what life is to many, is, nevertheless, what the metaphor employed here means, it tells of the wine which was meant to "make glad the heart of man;" the wine which was the symbol, not of vile debauchery, as it too often is in this country, but of gladness, mirth, joy. And the wine spoken of is of the choicest sort—sparkling, foaming, bright, not some common sour beverage, such as the "vinegar" which one of the soldiers at the cross gave to our Lord to drink when he cried, "I thirst." But the cup which the Lord gives us, as many of his children know, the life which he assigns us, is one that he would have to be rich and bright and glad. Not rich it may be—it rarely is—with this world's wealth, but rich with those "unsearchable riches," with that "heavenly gift," which is the perpetual gladness of the soul. Do we all of us know this? We ought to. The fault is our own if we do not. Our Lord would have us all live—and we may—bright and blessed and beautiful lives. We thirst for joy, and God gives us, in the gift of life, a cup full of it. But, as in the happiest of homes, the child to be happy must be obedient, so is it with ourselves towards God.
III. NEVERTHELESS, THERE IS MUCH OF DANGER IS IT. "It is full of mixture" (cf. Proverbs 9:2). As was the wine mingled with myrrh, intended to stupefy the senses, which was given to our Lord on his way to Calvary. This mixture increased the intoxicating power of the wine, or acted as a narcotic to deaden the senses. And in the cup of life there is much to intoxicate, to excite with pride and passion, and to unduly lift up the foolish heart. See Jeshurun, Nebuchadnezzar, the power of wealth, the pride of life, the effects of power, etc. Oh, how many souls have been ruined thus! And there is much to deaden or dull all holy sensibility. Yes, "full of mixture" is this cup of life.
IV. THE WICKED DRINK THE DREGS. They drink so deeply, the world is everything to them, they care for nothing else, and they find that life has its dregs, and they have to drink them. Evil conscience, fear of judgment, disappointment, the future dark, death without hope,—these are some of the dregs. Oh for grace that we may use the world, and not abuse it!—S.C.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
A pious rulers purposes and confidences.
The division of the Book of Psalms into five books, and the clear recognition of the historical relations of many of the psalms, have given fresh interest to the study of this book of the Bible. It was usual to seek only for historical associations of the Psalms in the life of David. We now know that many of the later psalms stand related to the succeeding reigns, to the time of the Captivity, and to the renewed national life, on the return from Babylon. The Psalms have wider associations than the records of the experience of any one life. They reflect God's ways with his people in all the ages, and the ways of God's people with him. This psalm is often passed over as not being a very striking one, or having in it any very memorable or suggestive sentences. But it gains new interest when we connect it with Hezekiah, and find illustrations for it in the great strain-time of his reign, when Sennacherib put the holy city in peril, and there was a strange and sad strife of parties within the city, making Hezekiah's position an extremely difficult one. Some pleaded hard for human alliances as defence against the Assyrians; Hezekiah held fast his dependence on God, the God of his fathers, the God of the nation. Disorganization within paralyzed his pious attempts; and the party of Shebna was plotting to secure an alliance with Egypt. The psalm is the expression of steadfast purpose and pious hope in a time of inward trouble. Its refrain is, "God reigneth, God is Judge, God is near. All things will he well, for God is with us." See what such a cherished conviction can do for a man.
I. IT GIVES HIM A QUIET CONFIDENCE. He can even give thanks, because his trust makes him feel so restful and happy (see Habakkuk 3:17, Habakkuk 3:18).
II. IT HELPS HIM TO STAND FAST TO THE RIGHT, uninfluenced by the mere party contentions of the time. Man's right is variable in each generation; God's right is the same throughout all generations. The man whose strength and hope are in God can "judge uprightly."
III. IT KEEPS HIM STEADFAST IN EVIL TIMES. "I hear up the pillars." Hezekiah guided the state wisely through that time of commotion and peril. When everything seemed shifting and uncertain, he stood firm to first principles, primary truths, and God. Time always comes round to those who are strong, and stand firm to truth and righteousness.
IV. IT FREES HIM FROM ALL FEAR OF THE WILFUL. He knows that "God is Promoter." The evil man may push and strive: "God putteth down one, and setteth up another."
V. IT ASSURES HIM OF FINAL AND IRREVERSIBLE JUDGMENT, God must be against the wicked. God must be for the righteous, And it will be seen at last that he is.—R.T.
The Divine Name and Names.
"For that thy Name is near, thy wondrous works declare." Every god worshipped by a people has his own distinctive name among the people. But this is peculiarly true of the nation of Israel. The Divine Name, Jehovah, was given as the seal of the special covenant made with the nation. So the name Jehovah stands ever for God, God's presence, God's relations. But we can never be wholly satisfied with any one name for God. Besides it, we must have names of our own for him, which find expression for our sense of his gracious dealings with us, and relations to us. Two points are suggested:
1. God has a Name.
2. God has many Names.
I. GOD HAS A NAME. This helps us to realize that he is a Person, not a mere force or influence. The general name for God is El. The specific name for God, as God of Israel, is Jehovah (see occasion of definitely fixing the name, Exodus 3:14). Note that it is the assertion of absolute and independent existence. It works out suggestively in three directions. It asserts
(1) God's unity;
(2) God's spirituality;
(3) God's holiness.
This threefold conception of God lies at the basis of the Mosaic system, and is, therefore, properly gathered up into his Name. But it is striking and impressive to note, that God. was not satisfied with giving his people a name which only dealt with his abstract nature. He added a name which would gather up his relations with his people, and called himself, "The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob." God's Name is said to be "near," when men are specially impressed with his wonderful workings. Past dealings and present dealings bring home to men's hearts the power and justice and grace which are summed up and expressed in his Name (Deuteronomy 4:7; Isaiah 30:27). A remarkable deliverance, such as that from Sennacherib, was poetically spoken of as a "coming near of the Divine Name."
II. GOD HAS MANY NAMES. In families there are often pet names as well as the fixed names. Those pet names express individual feeling. So each person who gains an individual apprehension of God wants to put his special apprehension into a name. Indicate the variety of names: "God of heaven," "King," "Father," etc.; and poetic figures like "my Rock," "Refuge," "Horn," etc. Impress the point that no man really knows God until he finds he can put his own special meaning into the term he uses for him. Each one of us, reading the story of God's wondrous works for us and gracious dealings with us, ought to be able to put our impressions into a name of our own.—R.T.
Reasonings from the Divine activity.
"Thy wondrous works declare." The thought of the restless activity of God is made by the psalmists, frequently, their ground of confidence. "He that keepeth thee will not slumber; behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep;" "Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders and the judgments of his mouth." As first introduced to us in the Word, God comes forth into activity as the Creator of the earth; busy for six continuous Divine periods in framing the world of material things to be the trial scene for man, and setting man in his sphere. And all the ages of human history have revealed God working in man's spheres, providing, correcting, guiding, restoring, delivering; man's model of unresting activity.
I. THE DIVINE ACTIVITY IMPRESSES ON US THE DIVINE NOBILITY. Contrast the unexpressive, passive faces of idol gods. There is no dignity in listlessness, no honour in doing nothing. He is miserable indeed who has nothing to do; but he is a thousandfold more miserable who wants to do nothing. Among men the workers are the true nobility. And God is exalted to our thought when the Lord Jesus says of him, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work."
II. THE DIVINE ACTIVITY CONVINCES US OF THE DIVINE INTEREST. Thinking of God's wondrous works, the psalmist feels bow near God is to him and to his people—near in love and power, near in succour and blessing. How much more impressive this becomes if we apply it to immediate signs of Divine activity in the sudden overthrow of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:35)! Hezekiah could confidently rest in the assurance that God was actively working for him, and the rest of his anxieties would surely be mastered, as this one had been. So we can in a general way assure our hearts by reading of what God has done for our fathers; but the impression of Divine interest comes home to us only when we have been the objects of some gracious deliverance and guidance; then we know God is working for us.
III. THE DIVINE ACTIVITY ASSURES US OF THE DIVINE EFFICIENCY. We can trace the way in which that activity has wrought through long ages; and we can see what it has accomplished. It is not only that "with God all things are possible;" it is that all things are wise, right, good. He can—that is true. "He doeth all things well"—that is even more true; and it is a more precious truth. The conviction that God is working, and that God is near, calls for the thanks which would fittingly express our trust in him.—R.T.
God's set time for judgment.
It is not certain whether Psalms 75:2 and Psalms 75:3 are to be taken as an utterance of the psalmist for himself, or whether God is here introduced as speaking. Dean Perowne thinks, "God is abruptly introduced as the speaker. The oracle is thus given as from the month of God himself, to those who may be in doubt or perplexity because their lot is cast in troublous times" But other writers think that Hezekiah is appealing to God, and assuring him that, even amidst the civil commotions and party struggles creating strong feelings, he will hold fast his integrity as chief magistrate, and judge fairly, uprightly, between man and man. "Receiving the congregation" is thus a poetical figure for the king's daily magistracy. The Revised Version renders, "When I shall find the set time, I will judge uprightly," and this favours the view that God is the speaker. "Judgment" here probably stands for "active intervention." God often seems to delay his help; and such delay is a strain on faith and feeling. He never does really delay, because his time is set in infinite wisdom. Illustrate by the waiting at the shores of the Red Sea, for God's set time to make the pathway through. See also Hezekiah's waiting for God's set time before his deliverance from the Assyrians. A "set time" implies—
I. THOUGHT BEFOREHAND. God knew all Hezekiah's anxieties long before he seemed to intervene. He was interested. He watched. God was caring when he did not seem to care. How much better it is that God should observe all circumstances, and decide for the wisest moment in which to act for us! We may wish him to act at once; but in that case he could only alter our circumstances. By thoughtfully deciding on a "set time," the "best time," God is able to bless us, to carry on his sanctifying work in us. A set time implies—
II. THE SELECTION OF THE BEST TIME. But what is a best time can never be judged from any one point of view. God's best is the best all round; the best for everybody; and the best in every sense. In connection with the psalm, God's set time had to be best for Assyria, best for Sennacherib, best for Israel, best for Hezekiah, best for Shebna and his party, and best for us who have to learn from the old world story. We can so seldom make a fair judgment concerning God's "set times" for us, because we cannot view them all round, and therefore we easily misunderstand them as seen from some point of self-interest. A "set time" implies—
III. EFFECTIVE ACTION WHEN THE TIME HAS COME. Illustrate by the attack of Wolseley on Tel-el-Kebir. A set time was fixed, so everything was prepared and adjusted, and the stroke was vigorously delivered. It is well for us to wait God's time, because his time is a "set time."—R.T.
The self-lifted horn.
Perhaps the most suggestive explanation of this figure is that given by Mr. Munro, in his 'Summer Rambles in Syria.' He is writing concerning the females in a Maronite village of Mount Lebanon. "The most remarkable peculiarities of their dress are the immense silver earrings hanging forward upon the neck, and the tantoura, or 'horn,' which supports the veil. This latter ornament varies in form, material, and position, according to the dignity, taste, and circumstances of the wearer. Horns are of gold, silver-gilt, and silver, and sometimes of wood. The former are either plain or figured in low relief, and occasionally set with jewels; but the length and position of them is that upon which the traveller looks with the greatest interest, as illustrating and explaining a familiar expression of Scripture. The young, the rich, and the vain wear the tantoura of great length, standing straight up from the top of the forehead; whereas the humble, the poor, and the aged place it upon the side of the head, much shorter, and spreading at the end like a trumpet. I do not mean to say that these distinctions are universal, but I was told that they are very general, and thus the 'exalted horn' still remains a mark of power and confidence, as it was in the days of Israel's glory." The appeal of the text is to those who unduly exalt themselves, as party leaders in times of civil commotion are in constant danger of doing. They "think of themselves above that they ought to think." This is clearly indicated in the marginal alternative of the Revised Version, "Speak not insolently with a haughty neck" (see Hannah's song, 1 Samuel 2:3).
I. THE SELF-IMPORTANT MAN DOES NOT WORTHILY ESTIMATE HIMSELF. The most difficult work for any man to do is honestly to criticize himself. Men shrink from that work. Men incapacitate themselves for it. Men spoil their own vision, and when they look in on themselves only find what they wished to find. "To thine own self be true," even if the truth humbles you in the dust. Illustrate from the case of Shebna.
II. THE SELF-IMPORTANT MAN TAKES NO ACCOUNT OF GOD'S ESTIMATE OF HIM. "Be not deceived: God is not mocked." A man can never delude God with any braggings, or mere appearances. He searcheth the heart and trieth the reins (see Isaiah 2:10-23.2.17). See the confession of a psalmist," My goodness extendeth not to thee." Only the humble man can dare to consider the Divine searchings. Of the proud man it must be said, "God is not in all his thoughts." He would be glad if there were no God.
III. THE SELF-IMPORTANT MAN DELUDES HIMSELF CONCERNING OTHER PEOPLE'S ESTIMATE OF HIM. Because he will only give heed to the flatterers. He blinds himself to the mistrust and fear all prudent and good men show in relation to him.—R.T.
Psalms 75:6, Psalms 75:7
Divine promotions through Divine providences.
There seems to be a recalling of the sentiments expressed in Hannah's song (see 1 Samuel 2:6-9.2.8). Keeping to the relations of the psalm with Hezekiah's trouble, we may understand him as expressing his confidence that the national deliverance would not come by securing any national alliances, either with Egypt, the power of the south, or with the kingdoms of the mountain districts round Palestine. Hezekiah's assurance was that Divine providence would work out the Divine purpose. He believed God's purpose was set on his deliverance, therefore he encouraged himself to watch and wait for the working of God's providence. It is remarkable that no reference is made to the north. This Delitzsch explains: "It is a northern power which arrogantly, even to blasphemy, threatens the small Israelitish nation with destruction, and against which it looks for help neither from the east nor west, nor from the reed staff of Egypt, but from Jahve alone." The word "promotion" should be rendered "lifting up," and seems to refer to the depression and distress of the people at this time of invasion. The point is this—He who trusts in God can wait for God's workings. Illustrate three ways of trusting God, and find out which of the ways alone can honour him.
I. TRUSTING GOD, AND DOING NOTHING. To this pious people are often tempted. It is a very specious kind of self-delusion. It seems to be a special way of honouring God, to let him do it all. Sometimes this mistake is associated with the Divine promise to give right words when God's servants have to stand before kings. But a promise specially made for sudden experience must not be forced to apply to ordinary, everyday, and anticipated duty.
II. TRUSTING GOD, AND SEEKING HELP FROM FELLOW MAN. This is an unconscious hypocrisy. The trusting God becomes the unreality, and the reliance on man becomes the practical reality. The condition is indicated in those who "feared the Lord, and served other gods." It was the special sin of a section of the people in Hezekiah's time. They said, "Trusting God is all very well, but we had better be doing something for the national deliverance and defence." It is our peril still. We may really be leaning on man, and think we are leaning on God.
III. TRUSTING GOD, AND DOING THE DUTY OF THE HOUR. This is acceptable to God. Simply doing present duty is leaving God's providence to work out God's "upliftings." The duty of the hour is a step in God's providence; each duty is a step; and on them we shall certainly rise to the realization of God's gracious purposes concerning those who thus show their trust.—R.T.
The dregs for the wicked.
Burder has an interesting note on this verse. "The punishments which Jehovah inflicts upon the wicked are compared to a cupful of fermenting wine, mixed with intoxicating herbs, of which all those to whom it is given must drink the dregs, or sediment. The same image is found, not only frequently in other places of the Old Testament, but also very often in the Arabian poets. Thus Taabbata Scharran, in a passage of an Arabic Anthology, by Albert Schultens: 'To those of the tribe of Hodail, we gave the cup of death, whose dregs were confusion, shame, and reproach.' Another poet says, 'A cup such as they gave us, we gave to them.' When Calif Almansor had his valiant though dreaded general, Abre-Moslem, murdered, he repeated the following verse, in which he addressed the corpse: 'A cup such as he gave, gave I to him, bitterer to the taste than wormwood.'" The point to which attention is directed is that all the contents of the cup God offers to his people have more or less bitterness in them. But the good drink the wine, which is mostly sweet, though in some degree bitter; the wicked drink the dregs, which are almost all bitter, and are intensely bitter. And the added bitterness is that they will be obliged to drink these dregs, whether they wish it or not. Probably reference may be to the dreadful fate of Sennacherib's army, and the humiliation of the general himself; but possibly reference is also intended to the anti-Jehovah party in Israel, who caused so much trouble by their mischievous schemings. A time of bitterest humiliation was before them, when the nation was so gloriously delivered by God.
I. THE MIXED CUP OF A HUMAN LOT. Wine and bitter herbs were in this cup. But the taste of the herbs was only added to the wine, giving it really a tonic value. So the good man's earthly lot is a mixed one. Much that is pleasant; something afflicting, something humbling; but these things only with tonic power. Good men are bettered by the influence on them of the bitter flavour in God's cup.
II. THE DREGS IN THE CUP OF A HUMAN LOT. All the strength of the bitter herbs is kept in the dregs. Nobody would drink them if they were not obliged. The wicked man has to drink them. They represent the "after time" of all wilful, untrustful souls. There is a judgment of wrath meted out to sinners, and given them to endure to the end. Compare St. Paul's figure, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."—R.T.
The God of Jacob.
It is a singular and suggestive thing that God is not thought of by Hezekiah here as the God of Abraham, but as the God of Jacob. The revelations God makes to men are, partly, general to all men, suitable to man as man; and, partly, special to individuals, precisely adapted to the circumstances and necessities of particular persons. We may therefore profitably study what God was to Abraham, what to Isaac, what to Jacob. And if we can see these three cases to be, in a comprehensive sense, typical cases, we shall have a general sense of God's relations with men when we call him "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." But the life of Abraham presented no particular likeness to the circumstances of Hezekiah. To Abraham God was the gracious Guide, the near Friend. To Jacob's troubled, anxious life the king turned, and found similar experiences to his own. God's ways with Jacob were those of the Redeemer and Deliverer. This probably was more especially in the mind of Hezekiah. Jacob was a man grievously wronged—wronged by Laban, and fearing wrong at the hands of Esau. And God had stood by the wronged man, saw him through, and saw him righted. That came as a Divine comforting to Hezekiah. He too was wronged; he too was misunderstood; be too was in peril But the God of Jacob was his God. The "God of Jacob" is God the Judge. This may be shown to include three things.
I. GOD IS THE ESTIMATOR OF CHARACTER. It is plain that a man's character can never be safely estimated by a consideration of his circumstances. Job's could not. Jacob's could not. David's could not. Try to read Hezekiah's character in those times of strain and stress. Ask Shebna's party their opinion of the king. It is full of comforting to us that we can be sure God is not deceived by circumstances, but knows us altogether. We may be absolutely content with the Divine appraisement. Read Jacob's life in man's light, then try to read it in God's light.
II. GOD IS THE VINDICATOR OF THE GOOD. This is absolutely and entirely true of every good man, in what is called the "long run." As in Jacob's case, Job's case, and David's case, the vindication may be delayed for purposes of Divine training and sanctifying. God never has finally left his faithful servants unvindicated. His witness rested on Hezekiah: the Divine deliverance from Sennacherib proved a Divine witness on behalf of the faithful king.
III. GOD IS THE PUNISHER OF THE WICKED. And the severest punishment to them is the humbling failure of their seemingly well devised schemes.—R.T.
Horns cut off.
"All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off." A lifted horn well represents the insolent boasting of Rabshakeh, the Assyrian officer (see Isaiah 36:1-23.36.22). The Divine answer was the cutting off of Rabshakeh's uplifted horn. God dealt in this way with proud Rabshakeh: "Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land" (Isaiah 37:7). Or, if Sennacherib be chiefly in mind, we may see that his vain confidences of capturing Jerusalem were destroyed, his "purposes were broken off," his horn was brought low. "So Sennacherib returned," a humiliated and disgraced man; "and it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword" (Isaiah 37:37, Isaiah 37:38). Some think that Antiochus Epiphanes is in the mind of the psalmist; and, certainly, further illustration may be taken from his case (Daniel 8:9). The confidence Hezekiah has in God's deliverance enables him to declare that he shall humble the pride of his foes. And God's intervention would confirm the king in his regular work of humbling the wicked and exalting the righteous, in the exercise of his authority.
I. GOD'S HUMBLING OF THE WICKED. The wicked here are more especially those who scorn his claims and insult his majesty, as did the Assyrian general, saying, "Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the King of Assyria." God is jealous of the honour of his Name. "The lofty looks of man must be bowed down, and the Lord alone exalted." Show what state of mind and heart is indicated by the offering of such insult to Jehovah. That state of mind and heart is ruin to any man.
II. GOD'S HUMBLING, ENCOURAGING GOD'S PEOPLE TO HUMBLE THE WICKED. Hezekiah will do it, in his official position, because God does it. Apply to all positions of authority. But there is no more difficult duty committed to us than this humbling the proud. It has to be done. It is both right and kind to do it. But we may harden, not humble. We may act in passion rather than in the calmness of holy love. We should humble because God does. But we must only humble as God does; wounding in the hope of healing.—R.T.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
The righteous judgment of God.
This psalm celebrates in prophetic strain the righteous judgment of God. The voice of God himself declares from heaven his righteousness; that he is not, as human impertinence has been wont to think, regardless of wrong and suffering, but only waits for the moment which to his infinite wisdom seems best.
I. GOD'S RIGHTEOUS GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD.
1. God's wonderful work in history attests it. (Psalms 75:1.) "What nation is there that hath God so near unto them?" (Deuteronomy 4:7). He is not separated by distance from the world. His Name, his nature, is near to us.
2. God's times of judgment are wisely and divinely chosen. (Psalms 75:2, "When the set time is come, I, even I, will judge uprightly.") He executes his sentence not according to man's impatient expectations, but at the time which he himself has chosen.
3. When the moral order of the world seems near dissolution, Goers power is the security for its continuance. (Psalms 75:3.) The natural and the moral framework of the world are here identified, He sustains the world by the pillars which he has set up.
4. God is the real Source of every righteous revolution in the world. (Psalms 75:6, Psalms 75:7.) "Glory and power come not from any earthly source, though a man should seek it in every quarter of the globe, but only from God, who lifteth up and casteth down according to his own righteous sentence."
II. THE ADMONITION WHICH THESE TRUTHS ADMINISTER TO THE WICKED. (Psalms 75:4, Psalms 75:5.)
1. It is madness to resist God. (Psalms 75:4.)
2. No arrogant self-exaltation will avail against God's judgments. (Psalms 75:5, Psalms 75:8.) The poet speaks here as a prophet. That which God threatens he accomplishes by the hands of his servants. "Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished"—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 75". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent