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THIS psalm is entitled, "a Psalm or Song for the sabbath day," and was therefore, we may conclude, intended for liturgical use in the temple on that weekly festival. Jewish tradition says that it was sung in the morning at the time of the drink offering of the first lamb. It was also, we are told, recited on the second day of the Feast of Tabernacles ('Middoth,' Psalms 2:5). The psalm is altogether one of praise and thanksgiving. It is optimistic, looking forward to the complete destruction of all God's enemies (Psalms 92:7-9), and the complete triumph and happiness of his faithful ones (Psalms 92:10-14). Some Jewish commentators viewed it as descriptive of the final sabbath of the world's rest; and so Athanasius, who says of the author, Αἰνεῖ ἐκείνην τὴν γενησομένην ἀνάπαυσιν.
Metrically, the psalm seems to divide into three portions, the first and second of four verses each (Psalms 92:1-4, Psalms 92:5-8), the third of seven verses (Psalms 92:9-15).
It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord (comp. Psalms 147:1). By "a good thing" is meant that which is at ones right and pleasant. And to sing praises unto thy Name, O Most High. Israel's Lord, Jehovah, is also "the Most High over all the earth" (Psalms 83:18), and should at all times be thought of as both.
To show forth thy loving kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night. The suitableness of worship every morning and evening has been almost universally felt. The Mosaic Law provided for it by the establishment of the morning and evening sacrifice (Exodus 29:38, Exodus 29:39), with the accompanying ritual. Jewish piety added a noonday prayer (Psalms 55:17; Daniel 6:10), and Christian zeal established the "seven hours of prayer." Morning and evening still, however, remain, by common acknowledgment, the most appropriate times for worship.
Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery. Some think that only one instrument is intended here, and translate, "Upon an instrument of ten strings, even upon the psaltery" (or, "the lute"). (On the character of the psaltery, see the comment on Psalms 33:2.) Upon the harp with a solemn sound. The reference is clearly to the public service of the temple, since in the private devotions of the faithful instruments were not likely to be used.
For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work. It is difficult to say what "work" is intended. Some have supposed "the work of creation," as the psalm is one "for the sabbath" (see title); but perhaps the general "working" of God's providence in the world is more probable. (So Hengstenberg, Kay, and Cheyne.) I will triumph in the works of thy hands. A repetition for the sake of emphasis.
O Lord, how great are thy works! (comp. Psalms 40:5). Mighty and wonderful, i.e; are the ways of Providence. And thy thoughts are very deep (comp. Job 11:8).
A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this. A rude, uncultivated man has no conception of the wonderful depth of God's thoughts—the marvellousness of those counsels which underlie the general scheme of things, and make it what it is (comp. Romans 11:33, Romans 11:34).
When the wicked spring as the grass; i.e. "spring up"—"flourish" (see Psalms 92:12). The difficulty is that which disturbed Job (Job 21:7-21) and Asaph (Psalms 73:2-15), viz. the prosperity of the wicked. The present writer, however, is not disturbed—he sees in their prosperous condition nothing but a prelude to their overthrow. And when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; or, "do blossom." It is that they shall be destroyed forever; literally, it is for their destruction forever (comp. Psalms 73:18-20).
But thou, Lord, art most high forevermore; rather, art on high; i.e. remainest seated upon thy throne, unaffected either by their efforts or by their fall.
For, lo, thine enemies, O Lord, for, lo, thine enemies shall perish. Whatever else is uncertain, this at least is sure, that ultimately God's enemies will perish. The repetition adds the greatest force to the passage. All the workers of iniquity (comp. Psalms 92:7) shall be scattered. All of them—every one (comp. Matthew 7:23, "Depart from me, ye that work iniquity").
But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn; rather, of a wild ox. The Hebrew, like the Assyrian, reym, is certainly a species of wild cattle, whether the aurochs, or the bison, or the buffalo, may be doubted. The psalmist speaks in the name of Israel, or of God's faithful ones generally, and confidently predicts their exaltation to glory and honour simultaneously with the destruction of God's enemies. I shall be anointed with fresh oil. Oil was supposed to give vigour to the frame; and "fresh oil," or "green oil," would be the most efficient and the best.
Mine eye also shall see my desire on mine enemies (comp. Psalms 54:7; Psalms 59:10). The "desire" is probably that expressed in Psalms 91:13. And mine ears shall hear my desire of the wicked that rise up against me. This is an unusual phrase, but sufficiently intelligible. Triumph over enemies is perceived both by the eye and by the ear.
The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree. To an Oriental the palm is the queen of trees. "Of all vegetable forms," says Humboldt, "the palm is that to which the prize of beauty has been assigned by the concurrent voice of nations in all ages". Its stately growth, and graceful form, its perpetual verdure, its lovely and luxuriant fruit, together with its manifold uses (Strabo, 16.1, § 14), give it precedence over all other vegetable growths in the eyes that are accustomed to rest upon it. It is rather remarkable that, in the Old Testament, it is used as a figure for beauty only here and in So Psalms 7:7. Man, in his most flourishing growth, is ordinarily compared either to the cedar (2 Kings 14:9; So 2 Kings 5:15; Ezekiel 31:3-9; Amos 2:9, etc.)or the olive tree (Judges 9:8, Judges 9:9; Psalms 52:8; Jeremiah 11:16; Hosea 14:6, etc.). He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon (see, besides the passages already quoted, 2 Kings 19:23; 2 Chronicles 2:8; Jeremiah 22:23; Zechariah 11:1).
Those that be planted in the house of the Lord; rather, Planted (or, Being planted) in the house of the Lord, they. This does not refer to the "trees" of the preceding verse, but to the "righteous," who are viewed as passing their days almost continually in the temple courts, and so as (in a certain sense) "planted" there. The passage has no bearing on the question whether the temple courts were or were not planted with trees. Shall flourish in the courts of our God (comp. Psalms 84:2, Psalms 84:10).
They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; i.e. "even when they are old, they shall still bring forth fruit"—they shall still glorify God by their good works. They shall be fat and fiourishing; literally, fat and green. The metaphor of Psalms 92:12 is still kept up.
To show that the Lord is upright. The happy and flourishing old age of the righteous (Psalms 92:14; comp. Psalms 91:16) is a strong indication of God's faithfulness and truth, showing, as its does, that he keeps his promises, and never forsakes those that put their trust in him (comp. Psalms 27:10; Psalms 37:25; Isaiah 41:17, etc.). He is my Rock—rather, that he is my Rock—and that there is no unrighteousness in him. Both clauses depend on the "show" of the preceding hemistich.
"It is a good thing," etc. Songs of praise are a very ancient custom in the Church of God. David, "the sweet singer of Israel," and his brother psalmists (Asaph and the rest) were inspired to provide a manual of devotion, public and private, which will never fall into disuse while there is a Church on earth. But long ages before, when Israel for the first time stood on safe ground, breathing free air, a mighty song of praise went up on the Red Sea shore; in remembrance of which, in St. John's visions of the heavenly glory, he heard the ransomed in the heavenly temple sing "the song of Moses the servant of God" as well as "the song of the Lamb" (Revelation 15:3). There have been times in which the voice of holy song—at all events, of congregational psalmody—has fallen silent, or nearly so. But these have not been times of flourishing life, of growing piety. Times of great spiritual revival have commonly been associated with a great outburst of praiseful song. "It is a good thing to give thanks and to sing praises."
I. First, because THIS PART OF WORSHIP MOST DIRECTLY SEEKS GOD'S GLORY. Prayer glorifies God indirectly in acknowledging our dependence on him, our sin and unworthiness, our faith in his promises, and desire to serve him; glorifies Christ, as our Mediator, Sacrifice, Redeemer, Master, "the Light of the world;" glorifies the Holy Spirit, by whom alone we can pray aright. So, again, the reading of Scriptures as God's Word; the preaching of the gospel as God's message; and devout hearing, all glorify God. But praise glorifies God directly as its sole purpose. We ourselves fade out of view, or at least fall into the background. God fills our whole prospect, absorbs our thoughts. We praise him, not only because "he is our God," "the Father of spirits," but "for his excellent greatness"—for what God is in himself. We praise the Son, not only as our own Saviour, but as "the Brightness of the Father's glory, and the express Image of his Person." We praise the Spirit as "the Lord and Giver of life." Praise is therefore the highest exercise of our powers; the sublimest attitude of a created spirit.
II. The singing of praise is PUTTING TO THE BEST USE ONE or OUR NOBLEST FACULTIES. God might have given us hearing without any sense of melody and harmony; speech without song. By the wonderful structure of our organs of speech and hearing, and the capacity of harmonious vibrations bestowed on air and other substances, God has prepared an inexhaustible store of music, a whole world of delight, of which we might have been left without the slightest conception. And he has so tuned our nature that joyous or pathetic emotions naturally break into song. "Is any merry? let him sing psalms" (James 5:13).
III. PRAISE IS MEANT AND FITTED (FITTED, AND THEREFORE DESIGNED) TO BE THE MOST DELIGHTFUL PART OF WORSHIP. In prayer we gird on our armour, lay bare our weakness, take hold on God's strength to save us. The Word read and preached gives us manna from the skies, water from the rock; but also smites with the "two-edged sword," and at times lays us in the dust. But praise gives us wings; lifts us into the sunshine of God's countenance, within sight of the pearly gates and jasper walls, within hearing of the "new song before the throne." It is that part of earthly worship in which we come nearest to the worship of heaven.
IV. Lastly, PRAISE IS A RICH MEANS OF GRACE, CAPABLE OF A POWERFUL REFLEX ACTION ON OUR OWN SOULS; helping to fill us with "love, joy, peace." Paul and Silas felt this when in the dungeon they not only prayed, but "sang praises to God."
CONCLUSION. Enforce the duty of cultivating musical gifts and consecrating them; and of taking earnest part in Church psalmody.
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
The eye salve of praise.
In this psalm we have—
I. THE SPIRIT OF GLADSOME PRAISE. (Psalms 92:1-4.) The writer had evidently tried what praise could do, and the result of his testing it was this joyful outburst of praise concerning praise. He tells of its essence—giving thanks; of its expression—singing; its object—the Lord; its seasons—morning and night; its aids—music of all kinds; its inspiration—the gladness that came to him through the works of the Lord.
II. A DARK PROBLEM. (Psalms 92:7.) The seeming triumph of ungodliness. This is a problem which has baffled many, and the pain of it is heard in many a lamentation, expostulation, and prayer. For good men have trembled lest it should be believed that God was on the side of the ungodly.
III. THAT PROBLEM SEEN THROUGH by help of the spirit of praise.
1. It is seen through. The psalmist has no doubt of what is the meaning of all that prosperity of wickedness—"it is that they shall be destroyed forever," "perish," and be "scattered." The very climax of their exaltation had ushered in the moment of their fall. It is so that God forces ungodly men to consider their ways; less terrible appeals too often stand no chance of any heed being given to them.
2. But for the spirit of praise, this would not have been seen. The mist and fog of unbelief would have continued to blind the soul's vision, and have left men in the darkness of doubt and despair. But the heart that is glad in the Lord is quick-eyed to see the Lord's mind, and to discover his purpose as none others can; for praise is faith in vigorous activity, and before such faith the tangled problems of life smooth themselves out.
IV. THE RECOUNTING OF THE REASONS OF PRAISE. (Psalms 92:8-15.) The victory over doubt which has just been gained lends added vigour to the spirit of praise, and hence follows the recital of the many sources of praise which gladdened the psalmist's heart.
1. That God was over all—Most High forevermore. "The Lord reigneth"—that has been the solace and the joy of many a soul.
2. That the Lord's enemies, the men who do their bad best to turn earth into hell, shall utterly perish. Blessed be God that they shall, since they will not repent.
3. It shall be well with the righteous. (Psalms 92:12-14.) They shall flourish in beauty, permanence, glory and strength, like the palm tree; as the cedar they shall branch out on every side; the house of the Lord shall be their home, and, nurtured there, they shall not cease to enjoy and to impart rich blessing from God.—S.C.
It is good to give thanks.
It is so for many reasons.
I. BECAUSE IT IS RIGHT. God deserves our thanksgiving.
1. Did he not create us, and so start us on the road to eternal life?
2. Does he not preserve us, and bless us daily with gifts innumerable?
3. Has he not redeemed us by the sacrifice of his Son? "For God so loved the world," etc.
4. Is not the Holy Spirit with us still, ever seeking to lead us nearer God, and to sustain us in every hour of trial and sorrow?
5. And have we not the blessed hope which stretches on into life eternal? Yes; it is right to give thanks.
II. AND IT IS PLEASANT. "Is any merry? let him sing psalms,"—so said St. James. And they who know affirm that the sense of God's love, which is the substance of praise, is joy indeed.
III. AND IT RIDS US OF OUR PERSISTENT TORMENTOR—SELF. Self sinks out of sight, and God alone is seen, and that is blessed.
IV. DOUBT CANNOT ABIDE IT. "Come, Melancthon, let us sing a psalm, and drive away the devil,"—such was one of Luther's sayings. And praise does drive doubt away.
V. SOULS ARE WON TO GOD BY IT. It is winsome, comely, irresistibly attractive.—S.C.
An old writer, one John Wells, in his 'Morning Exercises,' published in 1676, thus speaks on this theme.
I. SINGING IS THE MUSIC OF NATURE. The mountains sing (Isaiah 65:23). The valleys sing (Psalms 65:13). The trees sing (1Ch 16:1-43 :53). And the air is the birds' music room, where they chant their musical notes.
II. SINGING IS THE MUSIC OF ORDINANCES. It is told of Augustine how he was moved to tears when he went into the church at Milan, and heard the singing there. Beza relates a similar experience of himself. Jesus at the Last Supper sang the hymn: it was the hundred and eleventh psalm and five others.
III. SINGING IS THE MUSIC OF SAINTS. They have performed this duty when in their greatest numbers (Psalms 149:1). And in their greatest straits (Isaiah 26:19). And in their greatest flight (Isaiah 42:10, Isaiah 42:11). And in their greatest deliverances (Isaiah 65:14).
IV. SINGING IS THE MUSIC OF ANGELS. (Job 38:7; Luke 2:13; Revelation 5:11, Revelation 5:12.)
V. SINGING IS THE MUSIC OF HEAVEN.—S.C.
Morning and evening exercises.
I. FOR THE MORNING.
1. It is to show forth the Lord's loving kindness. What a beautiful word this "loving kindness" is! It has been noticed by all devout readers of these psalms. One says, "It is a duplicate deliciousness; there are within it linked sweetnesses long drawn out. It is a kind of word with which to cast spells which should charm away all fears," Some have derived the word "kindness" from "kinnedness," the feeling which we cherish to those who are near to us in our own families. And God's kindness to his people is because he has made them of his own kin. He bids us call him "Father," and he has given us "power to become sons of God" (John 1:12). And forasmuch as amongst us the fact of being a man's "kin" may not involve, often does not, that he should be to us "kind," therefore God's kindness is spoken of as loving kindness. A woman may show kindness to poor people, hut to her own dear child she will show loving kindness—a much warmer and more tender feeling. And this is that which God cherishes and manifests towards us. Nature, providence, and grace all attest this. It is not true that Nature is immoral, harsh, bitterly cruel, "red in tooth and claw," and needing to he supplemented by the gospel of Christ, if the character of its Creater is to be regarded as beneficent (see Drummond's 'Ascent of Man'). There is another and a gentler side belonging to it. And providence, if we will but remember its educational purpose, and the graciousness of its common dealings, will give clear testimony to the loving kindness of the Lord. And so, chief of all, will the grace of God attest this. "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that," etc.
2. And this is to be our morning theme.
(1) For then are we fresh and vigorous, and the firstfruits of the day should be offered. The clews of the Holy Spirit fall then especially.
(2) And we need preparation for all the day may bring; it is sure to bring temptation, and it may bring trial and trouble; yea, disaster and death may come. But if our hearts be filled with the sense of the loving kindness of the Lord, we are ready for all that may be in store for us.
(3) And we have had fresh proof of it in the fact of spared life and renewed strength (cf. Keble's morning hymn). Now, all this is true of the literal morning. But if we understand by the "morning," the beginning of our life, its earlier days, what more fitting theme could there be for this morning than the loving kindness of the Lord? And so, too, of the morning after the night of sorrow, when God has cleared the clouds away. And without doubt we shall find it good to do this in the blessed resurrection morn. Let us prepare for this by showing forth God's loving kindness now.
II. FOR NIGHTFALL. God's faithfulness is to be our theme then. And it is most fitting. For we have experienced more of it. What he promised to give he has given—provision for our wants; protection; guidance; and deliverance from many a snare of the devil. He has been faithful all along.
III. THE EXERCISE IS TO BE A SHOWING FORTH. In praise of heart and lip and life rendered unto him; and in open confession, and grateful obedience.—S.C.
The holy oil.
We have here—
I. A VERY BLESSED THING SPOKEN OF. Under this emblem the Holy Spirit is set forth (Luke 4:18).
1. The holy oil told of was especially sacred. (See Exodus 30:33; Psalms 89:20.)
2. It enobled those on whom it was poured. Constituting them prophets, princes, priests.
3. It invigorated and empowered for high service. This is especially true of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49).
4. It was a bond of union. (Psalms 133:1, Psalms 133:2.) And so the Holy Spirit (John 17:21; Ephesians 4:3).
5. It is gladdening. (Psalms 23:5; Hebrews 1:9.)
6. Illuminating. (1 John 2:27.)
7. Sweetly fragrant. (John 12:3.) In all these and yet other respects did the holy oil tell of the blessed Spirit of God.
II. A VERY JOYFUL CONFIDENCE EXPRESSED. "I shall be anointed," etc. He does not say, "I hope;" but he is sure of what he affirms. Now, the grounds of this confidence are:
1. That it rested on God. He could not have spoken thus had it been resting only on man.
2. We are united with Christ, the Anointed One. "Of his fulness we all receive."
3. The Holy Spirit dwells within us.
4. The promises of God. So full, numerous, clear, strong.
5. The experience of God's people in all ages. Daily strength has been given for daily need. Therefore we may well believe the text.
III. AN INVALUABLE HELP TO OUR SPIRITUAL LIFE PROMISED.
1. It banishes fear.
(1) The fear of poverty. Israel, though they had only the day's supply of manna, did not fear for the morrow. Nor need we, for we know that, though the sun will set, there shall be light tomorrow.
(2) The fear of temptation. We pray, "Lead us not into temptation;" but in spite of that, we may be so led; but we need not fear—we shall be anointed with fresh oil.
(3) Of backsliding—that we shall fall away.
(4) Of great trials; if they come, it will be well with us.
(5) Of bereavements. We say, "What shall we do then?" But when one prop is taken, another is given.
2. It inspires glad hope. Of usefulness in Christ's service continued. Of full attainment in grace. Of strength sufficient for all need.
IV. A PAINFUL CONTRAST SUGGESTED. The godless have no such hope. All that sustains them is fast running out, and there is no further supply. What shall they do in the end thereof? They will have had their good things, and there are no more.—S.C.
Like the palm tree.
So do the righteous flourish. The parallels are many and striking.
I. FOR UPRIGHTNESS. The palm tree rears itself straight up into the air, erect, stately, strong. True image of the really righteous. Crooked ways are not his.
II. FOR USEFULNESS. "The extensive importance of this tree is one of the most curious subjects to which attention can be directed. A considerable part of the inhabitants of Egypt, Arabia, and Persia subsist almost entirely upon its fruits. They boast of its medicinal virtues. The camels feed upon the date stone. From the leaves they make a variety of articles for domestic use. From the fibres of the boughs, thread, ropes, and rigging are manufactured; from the sap, a spirituous liquor is prepared; and the body of the tree furnishes fuel." And so in all departments of life—the influence, the example, the spirit, the words, and works of the righteous man are full of blessing. See this supremely in Christ, the Righteous.
III. FOR BEAUTY. In the Canticles the palm tree is often taken as an emblem of beauty, as it well may be. And on the righteous man "the beauty of the Lord our God" is seen, as in our Lord above all (John 1:14). Moral beauty is as real as physical.
IV. FOR POWER. See its victory over all kinds of foes which threaten its life. It is a root out of a dry ground: the choking sand surrounds it, the burning heat scorches it, the fierce tempest beats upon it; it is often wounded—its roots crushed with all manner of weights, the elements, man, the beasts of the desert, all combine to injure it; but in spite of them all it rears its beautiful corona of leaves far on high, and flourishes still. And so is it with the righteous (cf. Paul's paean of praise, his challenge to earth and hell to harm him if they can, Romans 8:35-39).
V. FOR FRUITFULNESS. It is the staff of life to the peoples amongst whom it is found. And so the righteous (cf. John 15:1-8).
VI. FOR GUIDANCE. It is the sure sign of the presence of water (see Elim, Jericho, etc.). Across the burning sands the caravan, parched with thirst, make for the cluster of palms they see afar off, for they know that water is there. And so the righteous should be and is a sign to the sin wearied heart, which tells him where the living waters are. "Let him that heareth say, Come."
VII. FOR PERMANENCE. It continues right on to old age to be all that has been said. True emblem of the perseverance of the saints of God.—S.C.
Planted in the house of the Lord.
Five subjects fall to be considered here.
I. THE PLANTED ONES. The similitude is taken from the fact of trees being commonly planted in the quadrangles of Eastern houses; there were trees in the temple courts. Now, from this emblem we learn much about those persons whom it represents.
1. They must have had life in them. People do not plant dead things. So ere ever any soul is planted in the house of the Lord, the Divine life must have begun. It may have been very feeble, but it was there. Many come to church, and regularly, who have never been planted in the house of the Lord, because they are not "born again."
2. They are where they once were not. The tree had been transplanted, moved from one place to another. So the soul of the man spoken of here. He has been "translated out of the kingdom of darkness into," etc.; he has passed "from death into life;" he has undergone a great and wonderful change. The process may have been very painful; the roots of our life seemed so to cling to our old state. But by one means and another we have been transplanted. "If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature; old things have," etc.
3. And it was done for us, not by ourselves. We were "born, not of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of the will of God." Unless Christ saves us, we shall never be saved. We owe our all to the grace of God.
4. The roots have taken hold of the soil. (C.H. Spurgeon.) We often make use of the expression that a man has taken root in a place, meaning that he has settled down there, and has found pleasure and good in his surroundings, and is at home there. So these people, these planted ones, find their home in the house of God.
5. And they stay there. They are no mere birds of passage, but they dwell in the secret place of the Most High, love the habitation of God's house, their soul's home is there. In body they must often be absent, but in spirit never.
II. THE PROSPERITY PROMISED THEM. They "shall flourish in the courts of our God."
1. As a fact they do. What great saint ever set light store by the sanctuary of God?
2. And it is certain they will. There is the promise of God. There is the soul nurture which the sacred services of the sanctuary supply. There is the shelter, and retreat from the hostile forces of the world outside. There is the ever-watchful eye of the husbandman. God cares for the trees planted there. He watches over them night and day.
III. THE PERMANENCE OF ALL THIS. "They bring forth fruit in old age" (see homily on this clause).
IV. THE PROOF HEREBY GIVEN OF THE CHARACTER OF GOD.
1. They shout "that the Lord is upright." They do this, for they, being righteous themselves, prove that he who made them so is righteous. We judge by deeds. Righteous souls are God's deeds.
2. And they show his love also; for he does not cast them off in the time of their old age, as most men do their servants; but he puts yet more honour on them.
V. THE PERSONAL TESTIMONY OF THE PSALMIST. "He is my Rock," etc. It is as if he would say, "I know all this is true, for he is my Rock, and there is," etc. It is good to proclaim the truth of God, but he does it the more powerfully who can bear testimony from his own experience. Then, are we willing to be planted in the house of our God? Go and tell him so, and it shall be done unto you.—S.C.
Fruit in old age.
This is one of the blessed promises of God to his faithful people. Consider—
I. WHAT THIS FRUIT IS.
1. Much knowledge of God's ways. What are many years granted to man for, but that he may attain to this knowledge and the practical wisdom thence ensuing?
2. Sanctity of character. The long discipline of life should have trained his spirit, to this, and confirmed him in the ways of God.
3. Patience. Old age should "rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him."
4. Heavenly mindedness. They cannot bet know how soon their hold on this world will be loosened; and hence it should be their endeavour to be ready for the better world of heaven; their conversation should be much in heaven.
5. Concern for the salvation of others. Their exhortations and testimony will have power, and should not be withheld. God will be glorified and souls eternally blessed. Such is the fruit which old age should bring forth.
II. THOUGH SUPERNATURAL, IT IS NOT UNREASONABLE.
1. It is supernatural. Old age is not the natural season for fruit. In the tree we do not look for it. The palm tree is a rare exception. Nor in men. The outward man perishes. Decay of nature sets in. (See for beautiful description of old age, Ecclesiastes 12:1-7.) The mental faculties and force become feeble. The courage and fearlessness of former days lapse into the caution and timidity of old age. Only of God's people can it be said—
"Time, that doth all things else decay,
Still makes them flourish strong and fair."
2. But though fruit in old age be supernatural, it may be reasonably looked for. From the nature of religion, the Divine life in the soul must grow, if it lives at all. Where there is spiritual life there must be growth. From the force of holy habit, which enables the righteous to be righteous still, and the holy to be holy still. From the subsidence of the bodily passions, and so the absence of strong temptation, and from the special aid of the Spirit of God according to his sure promise.
III. SOME TROUBLE THEMSELVES ABOUT IT WHO SHOULD NOT. Many aged people of God are distressed because they cannot—so they think—see any of this blessed fruit. But this may be owing:
1. To mistaking feeling for fruit. They cannot summon up those strong rapturous feelings in worship and prayer, and hence they fear lest they have lost their religion. It is not so, for God looks not at feelings—they come and go like the clouds—but at the heart, the will which alone is the true man. That may be true to God when feeling is but faint and fitful, and has but little rapture and glow.
2. To forgetfulness of the fact that "they also serve who only stand and wait." Activity and toil are possible only to the strong and vigorous. Patient waiting upon God, meek resignation to his will,—these are the fruits of old age, and are no less acceptable to God than the strenuous activity of the young and strong.
IV. SOME DO NOT TROUBLE THEMSELVES ABOUT IT WHO SHOULD. For they bring forth no fruit. The world has them too surely; their hearts are not right with God. They find fault with others, and complain that the former times were better than these. The means of grace they do not avail themselves of, and they present the sad spectacle of men from whom much might have been expected, but who yield little or no fruit in old age.
V. IT IS INFINITELY DESIRABLE.
1. For our own peace and comfort, the esteem of our fellow Christians, and the approval of conscience, depend upon it.
2. Our power to help and bless others. For they will see and reverence fruit in old age, and will own the power of Divine grace and the blessedness of it; whilst, on the other hand, where there is little or no such fruit, they will be confirmed in their own sin and harden themselves yet more against God.
3. For Christ's sake. It will gladden and glorify him.
VI. ITS GREAT GUARANTEE AND AIDS.
1. The abiding grace of God. "Without me," said Christ, "ye can do nothing."
2. Self-examination. Ask of yourself whether you are bringing forth fruit.
3. Diligent use of means of grace—prayer, study of the Scriptures, attendance at the house of God, Holy Communion.
4. Definite endeavours to bring others to God. Great is the help of such faithful aggressive work.
5. Bringing forth fruit now ere old age comes.—S.C.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
A daily good work.
Something the good man does every morning and every night. The Talmud speaks of this psalm as being sung on the morning of the sabbath at the drink offering which followed the sacrifice of the first lamb. What is here said to be "a good thing" is the act of recognizing and acknowledging God's direct relation to our lives. He is closely related to them. We may, and we ought to, feel the relation, but it is right to say so, and it does us good to say so, day by day. The psalm may be used as a plea for the value of morning and evening devotions and worship. When Richard Baxter exerted so gracious an influence at Kidderminster, one important part of his work was securing family prayer in every house. It is said of the Christianized Fiji Islanders, that in every family there is morning and evening worship. Moses provided for thank offerings, because he understood human nature, and knew that to the thankful the outward sign of thankfulness would be an addition to thankfulness. "At all times man has mercies enough given him to make them a subject of thankfulness unto God." In saying that giving thanks daily is a "good thing," two ideas may be included.
(1) It is a right thing.
(2) It is a desirable, delightful thing.
If begun as duty, it will soon come to be a personal joy. We have always abundant
(1) cause for gratitude to God. We ought always to cherish
(2) the feeling of gratitude. And we only satisfy right impulses when we
(3) make due expression of our gratitude. But the point which may be opened with some freshness is suggested by the two terms used in ver.
2. The word "loving kindness" is associated with our morning praise; the word "faithfulness" is associated with our evening praise.
I. WHAT IS GOD TO US WHEN WE MAKE NO CONSCIOUS DEMANDS ON HIM? We make no demands in our sleep. And what seems first to come to our thought, when we wake in the morning, is the "loving kindness" of God's preservations and restorations.
"Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to life, and power, and thought."
II. WHAT IS GOD TO US WHEN WE MAKE CONSCIOUS DEMANDS ON HIM? That we do forevery day, and all day long: for all the activities and relations of life. So what comes to mind "every night" is God's "faithfulness" to the promises on which we have been relying.—R.T.
The sanctifying ministry of music.
"Upon the harp with a solemn sound." There seem to have been trumpet blasts connected with the worship of Jehovah from the time of its orderly arrangement by Moses. But what may be called distinguishing music, the accompaniment of intelligent song, seems to have been introduced by David. The association of music and song with worship changed public worship from a ceremony to a service, from something done for men to something done by men. It made public worshipping personally pleasant to the worshipper; glorified duty; kindled and exercised holy emotion. It seems a strange thing that objection should ever have been made to the introduction of instrumental music into Divine worship. On the principle of consecrating the use of all gifts and talents to the Divine service, the gifts of varied music should have been taken over and sanctified. And the lutes, and psalteries, and harps, and cymbals, of the older time, do but represent the cornets and violins and organs of this newer time. Not only artistically, but also devotionally, music is a most valuable background to song, and it may be fairly urged that the most beautiful, the most perfect, the most varied music the world can produce should be associated with the sanctuaries of the Most High.
I. Music ministers to our sanctifying by its RESTFULNESS. Nothing in the world is so soothing to us. David's power on the half-mad king Saul is but a type of the influence of music that we feel. How often nothing will quiet the tossing, restless sufferer, until some one croons a holy song! Who does not feel the cathedral song steal into his very soul, hushing down every passion, and breathing peace? And surely, tempest tossed every week, we need sabbath music.
II. Music ministers to our sanctifying by its RELATION TO OUR EMOTIONS. Illustrate by the march of a regiment to its music. The instant effect produced by dance music. The influence of tunes in the minor key, etc. Then our sensitiveness makes music, well chosen and well rendered, an actual, moral, and religious force. Music may be a means of grace.
III. Music ministers to our sanctifying by its WINSOMENESS. See the crowds attracted by Salvation Army bands; or by services of song. The power of music to win has not yet been fully realized by the Christian Church.—R.T.
God's thoughts seen in God's works.
"How great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep." Reminding us of the fine passage in Isaiah 55:8, Isaiah 55:9, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." The "thoughts" of God, his purposes and plannings, bring him before us as a moral Being, the sublime moral Being. And just as we read a man's character by his acts, so we may know God's mind by the study of his works. A man is always greater, always better, than anything he does; and yet it is only from what he does that we can gain our apprehension of the man. So God is infinitely above and beyond anything of his handiwork; and yet only through the handiwork can we get to know him. It is not enough to say that God's moral government is illustrated in nature; we must say that God himself—and it is in what God is we find the secret of the character of his government—is known through the works of his hands. The point suggested by the first sentences of this verse is that the more man studies God's works, the more he feels their greatness, their mystery, their beyondness. And then he can no longer be surprised that God's thoughts and purposes, the higher moral ends he ever keeps in view and works towards, should be deep, altogether out of his reach.
I. THE KNOWN REVEALING WHAT CAN BE KNOWN OF GOD. We can understand much of God's handiwork. We can see God's purpose in much, and use many things as God designed they should be used. We can see the moral message in much of God's work. So argues St. Paul, in Acts 14:15-17; Romans 1:19, Romans 1:20. We may know, thus, all the natural attributes of God, and gain also some apprehension of the moral attributes. But what can be known of God in this way must always be incomplete.
II. THE UNKNOWN REVEALING THAT THERE IS AN UNKNOWN IN GOD. "His thoughts are very deep;" quite beyond man's plummet. There is mystery in Nature. She holds secrets which even man's science cannot force her to disclose. And those mysteries declare that there must be deeper mysteries in him who holds the secret of them all. He is more mysterious than they.—R.T.
Eyes dimmed to spiritual things.
Two terms are used to describe those who are unable to discern either the greatness of God's works or the depth of God's thoughts. "A brutish man." "A fool." The distinction between them seems to be this—a "brute" cannot, and a "fool" will not, see spiritual things. But both incapacity and self-willedness are regarded as sins. The brutish man has made himself brutish; and the fool encourages his self-will. The Prayer book Version gives "unwise" for "brutish." But the Hebrew words suggest, for "brutish," the mere animal nature, the man who lives for his appetite; and for "fool," the stupid, inconsiderate man. "In the one case the moral sense has not come into play at all; in the other it is overgrown by sensuality, so that spiritual discernment, insight into the glories of the Divine mind, are impossible."
I. IN SOME MEN THE FACULTY OF SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT NEEDS TO BE AROUSED. In a sense this is true of every man. The spiritual faculty is dormant, as is the mental faculty. The educational element has its place in material as well as in spiritual knowledge. Usually, in religious spheres, the spiritual faculty is cultured. But vast masses of humanity, at home and abroad, have little chance of getting beyond the animal stage. The psalmist, however, is evidently thinking of those who voluntarily imprison their thoughts and interests in the things of the flesh and sense. To be a natural brute when we may be a man, is an infinite pity; to be a willing brute when we might be a son of God, is an infinite shame.
II. IN SOME MEN THE FACULTY OF SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT NEEDS TO BE DELIVERED. It has been aroused. It has had times of power. But business, pleasure, intellectual pride, material interests, have dimmed it. The man has become a "fool" to his best interests. He has persistently limited his vision to this world, until he has come really to believe that there is no world but this. Press this conclusion: We are responsible for our attitude towards spiritual things; and for our capacity to apprehend spiritual truths. If we pamper the body, we shall be sure to dim the spiritual vision.—R.T.
The instability of the success of the ungodly.
"Spring as the grass." In Eastern countries, after a time of drought, the grass responds with marvellous suddenness to the refreshing rains. But the grass which grows so swiftly is as swiftly cut down by the blazing sunshine or the scorching wind. The sudden success of the ungodly was a surprise and distress to God's people, who looked on temporal success as a special sign of Divine approval. It seemed to them as if, after all, God was practically on the side of the wicked. In drearier moments they might even think that God made fair promises to the good, but gave the actual blessings to the ungodly. The relief which the saints of olden time found for this their distress is not just the relief which we should provide now. They, like Asaph, went into the sanctuary of God, and there they came to understand the end of the wicked. Really, their high places were slippery places; and in God's time they were "cast into destruction." There is a certain measure of comfort in the thought that things gained by unrighteousness are insecure. But it is a higher standpoint that enables us to see that no success is worth having that has no righteousness at the heart of it. God is the secret of all stability, and God is not in a thing, unless goodness is the characteristic of the thing. Goodness always tends to permanency. Bible history is full of illustrations of the instability of all success attained by the ungodly. If a man's gains are secure for his own life, they are squandered by his sons. In the north of England the uncertainty of sudden prosperity is enshrined in a popular saying, "The first generation buys the carriage; the second generation rides in the carnage; the third generation pawns the carriage." See the cases of Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Haman, Herod; and note also our Lord's parable of the "rich fool."
I. THE SUCCESS OF THE WICKED IS UNSTABLE IN THE NATURE OF THINGS.
1. They who overreach are always in danger of being overreached.
2. The wicked are always making enemies, who are quick to avenge themselves, if opportunity offers.
3. The wicked make mistakes which dissipate all their gains.
II. THE SUCCESS OF THE WICKED IS UNSTABLE BECAUSE, SOONER OR LATER, GOD IS SURE TO DEAL WITH IT. He tests foundations; if they are not found righteous, the grandest houses of attainment will surely fall.—R.T.
The stability of human good lies with God.
God exalts the horn. God anoints with oil. "The horns in animals, where the Creator alone planted them, were their weapons of defence; and man, who lays all nature under tribute to enrich his stores of images and figures, very early made it synonymous with power, and then for what that will always confer upon the possessor. To exalt the horn means to advance in power, honour, and dominion." The unicorn of Scripture is, in all probability, the wild buffalo. Abbe Huc, in his travels, tells of having heard of an animal resembling the unicorn of heraldry; but we can hardly regard his work as trustworthy. Horns were, and are stilly worn by the women of the Lebanon; but the psalmist is much more likely to take his figure from the common features of animal life than from merely local customs of women. The figure of "anointing with fresh oil" is not easily explained. Attention is due to the suggestion that the use of oil in the toilet was the sign that a man was in health. When a man was sick, he refrained from his customary use of oil. So being anointed came to be the sign of good health. And established health is one of God's best blessings. So we get the two ways in which God secures the stability of the good.
I. HE LIFTS THEM OUT OF, KEEPS THEM ABOVE, THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES. Things may be always tending toward pulling down, depressing their horn. God is always raising it up, and keeping it up. This is a familiar thought to the psalmists: "He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, and out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings;" "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe."
II. HE RENEWS THEIR OWN VIGOUR AND VITALITY. And so his people are able to keep wrestling with evils, and winning victories over circumstances. God is the secret of stability, because he is both in the circumstances and in us. "What can harm you, if ye be followers of the thing that good is?" What, indeed, seeing that "he who is for you is more than all that be against you."! They who upset your good, must shift God's relations to it, before they can reach you.—R.T.
Grace and strength characterizing the righteous.
Palm trees are types of grace. Cedar trees are types of strength. The palm gracefully rises from the plain, and bears a beautiful crown of fruits and leaves. The cedar strikes its roots wide and deep into the everlasting hills, and securely spreads forth its great branches through ages of winters. Perhaps trees were actually planted in the courts of the temple, as they are in the courts of mosques nowadays; but the characteristic forms of palm and cedar are alone required for the teaching of this verse, which will go into this sentence, "They who by daily worship rest their life in communion with God, shall find the secret of unbroken freshness and undying stability."
I. THE BEAUTY OF THE RIGHTEOUS. Observe the distinction between the two "flourishings"—the flourishing of the wicked, and the flourishing of the righteous. The one is wholly a matter of outward, material good; the other is primarily a matter of personal character. The wicked may flourish by reason of what he has; and that can be easily taken from him. The godly man flourishes by reason of what he is; and that can never be taken from him. Against that the "gates of hell cannot prevail." The figure of beauty given in the palm suggests uprightness, gracefulness, gentleness, aboveness, fruitfulness, and secret sources of renewal for its life. If the palm tree was an ideal for a poet, we have a better model than they; we may say, "The righteous shall flourish as did the Man Christ Jesus." And what grace and beauty shone forth from him! It is not enough that we who bear his name are good, we must be beautiful.
II. THE STRENGTH OF THE RIGHTEOUS. Strangely men associate weakness with gentleness; and think beautiful Christly souls are out of place in this workaday world. So the figure of the "cedar" is joined to the figure of the "palm." The cedar is the strongest of all the trees. Not only is there the great grip of the mountain, but the wood is firm and lasting. So we need to have the texture of our souls firm and strong—the strength of our grip of God ever behind and supporting all our beauty of form and grace of relation.—R.T.
The testimony of old age to God's faithfulness.
Perowne thinks allusion may be to the "date palm, which, when it reaches maturity, produces three or four hundred pounds weight of fruit, and has been known even to produce six hundred pounds weight." In contrast with the prosperity of the wicked, which is but for a moment, the prosperity of the righteous is declared to be long lived. The aged are spared among us, not for any direct work they can do, but for the testimony they can render to the faithfulness and mercy of God. Over and over again we may hear them saying, "I have been young, and now am old, yet have I never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." Godly old age testifies, on the basis of its personal, lengthened, and varied experiences, of three things.
I. GRACE EVER ADAPTED. According to the promise, "As thy day, so shall thy strength be."
II. GRACE EVER ABOUNDING. According to the promise, "God is able to make all grace abound, so that ye, having all sufficiency unto all good things, may abound unto every good word and work."
III. GRACE EVER CONTINUING. As we sing in our hymn—
"His grace shall to the end
Stronger and brighter shine."
And according to the promise, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." John Owen says, "When believers are under all sorts of bodily and natural decays, and, it may be, have been overtaken with spiritual decays also, there is provision made in the covenant to render them fat, flourishing, and fruitful—vigorous in the power of internal grace, and flourishing in the expression of it in all duties of obedience. Blessed be God for this good word of grace that he hath given us such encouragement against all the decays and temptations of old age which we have to conflict withal."—R.T.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
"Celebrates in joyful strain the greatness of God's works, and especially his righteous government of the world, as manifested in the overthrow of the wicked, and the prosperity and final triumph of the righteous."
I. A GOOD MAN REJOICES IN THE RIGHTEOUS WORK OF GOD. (Psalms 92:4.)
1. Because God's work is a work of loving kindness. (Psalms 92:2.)
2. It is a work of faithfulness or truth. (Psalms 92:2.) He fulfils every word of promise and every threat of judgment.
3. God's good work is on a vast scale. (Psalms 92:5-8.) It is universal, embracing the heavens and the earth, extending throughout the universe. "God is in the height, supreme forevermore."
4. But God's way of accomplishing his righteous purpose is not always openly manifest. (Psalms 92:5.) "His thoughts are very deep." His methods of work are often deeper than we can fathom.
II. THAT THE JOY OF THE GOOD MAN IN GOD SEEKS EXPRESSION AND UTTERANCE IN WORSHIP. "It is a good thing."
1. It becomes a necessity of our nature. If the emotion of praise is in us, it demands expression; as the poet must sing, and the artist must paint. Worship thus becomes acceptable to God, and a means of our own elevation.
2. Worship such as this becomes the habit of the soul. "In the morning … every night," and on the sabbath day.
3. The true worshipper will call to his aid all that will help him to utter his emotions. The voice and other instruments—public service and ministry.
4. But it is only to our spiritual intelligence that worship becomes necessary. (Psalms 92:6.) "A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this"—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 92". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12