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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Psalms 147

 

 

Verses 1-20

INTRODUCTION

"Like the last Psalm, and like those which follow it, this is evidently an anthem intended for the service of the Second Temple. It celebrates God's almighty and gracious rule over His people and over the world of nature, but mingles with this a special commemoration of His goodness in bringing back His people from their captivity and rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. In the allusions to these events in Psa , and Psa 147:13-14, we shall probably be justified in seeing the occasion of the Psalm. It may have been written for the dedication of the wall at Jerusalem, which, as we learn from Neh 12:27, was kept ‘with gladness, both with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps.' It is indeed not improbable, as Hengstenberg suggests, that not this Psalm only, but the rest of the Psalms to the end of the Book, are all anthems originally composed for the same occasion. The wall had been built under circumstances of no ordinary difficulty and discouragement (Neh 2:17; Neh 4:23); its completion was celebrated with no common joy and thankfulness; ‘for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the wives also and the children had rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.' (See Neh 12:27-43.)

"The Psalm cannot be said to have any regular strophical arrangement, but the renewed exhortations to praise, in Psa ; Psa 147:12, suggest a natural division of the Psalm. It is a Trifolium of praise."—Perowne.

THE EXCELLENCE OF PRAISE TO GOD

(Psa )

The Psalm opens with the summons to praise Jehovah, and proceeds to adduce motives for praising Him. We may arrange these under two heads:—

I. The praise of God is excellent in itself.

"Praise ye the Lord, for"—

1. "It is good to sing praises unto our God. The adjective here used is a very comprehensive one— טוֹב καλός pulcher, beautiful; or, ἀγαθός bonus, good; or, useful, profitable, beneficent. The same word is applied to the praise of God in Psa . (See our remarks on that verse, vol. ii. pp. 63, 64.)

2. "It is pleasant." To the godly soul praising God is a delightful thing; a thing affording purest satisfaction, and real joy to the heart. This truth is expressed also in Psa : "Sing praises unto His name, for it is pleasant."

3. It "is comely." This clause is probably taken from Psa . "Praise is comely for the upright." To praise God is a most seemly thing. Nothing can be more appropriate than that man, who owes to God so much, and is to some extent capable of appreciating the perfections and glories of His character, should pay to Him humble and hearty worship. It is a becoming thing in man; an honour and an ornament to him.

II. The praise of God is excellent in its reasons.

"Jehovah doth build up Jerusalem," &c. (Psa ). God is here praised because of—

1. His relation to His Church. "Jehovah doth build up Jerusalem; He gathereth together the outcasts of Israel." There are references here to the rebuilding of the walls and the city of Jerusalem after the Captivity, and to the restoration of the exiled people to their own land. (Comp. Isa ; Isa 56:8.) The Lord is the builder of His Church. "Upon this rock will I build My Church." "Ye are God's building." He hews the stones out of the quarries of nature, cuts them into shape, works them into the glorious edifice, and carves them into grace and beauty. "The Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved." He will carry onward the building to splendid completeness. And when His people have been scattered by persecution, or famine, or strife, He brings them together again. "As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered, so will I seek out My sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day."

2. His relation to troubled souls. "He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." There is much sorrow of heart in the world. It is probable that broken hearts are more frequent amongst men than is generally supposed. Broken hearts are not paraded; they are rather carefully concealed. Hearts are broken by sorrow for sin, by painful disappointments, by wicked calumnies, by distressing bereavements, by severe afflictions, by heavy losses. The Lord is the comforter and healer of such suffering souls. He heals the troubled penitent with His gracious forgiveness of sin; to the disappointed He presents new and brighter and well-assured hopes; to the calumniated He gives the assurance of a splendid vindication (Psa ); before the bereaved He holds out the prospect of everlasting and joyful reunion with the beloved departed in our Father's house; He transforms afflictions into angels laden with blessings; and out of temporal losses He evolves eternal gains. "He heals the broken in heart," &c. It is His "to comfort all that mourn, to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion," &c. (Isa 61:2-3). "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you," &c.

Yet God counts all these stars; marshals all these stars. What an illustration we have in this of—

(1.) His unlimited might! What power is involved in marshalling the countless hosts of stars, in guiding and keeping them in their spheres! "Great is our Lord, and of great power."

(2.) His infinite knowledge. "He calleth them all by their names." Perowne: "He giveth names unto them all." The expression indicates "the most intimate knowledge and the most watchful care, as that of a shepherd for his flock (Joh )." Or the figure has been interpreted thus: "‘He calleth them all by their names'—as if each one had a name, and God could call them forth one by one by their names, like the muster-roll of an army." "His understanding is infinite." Margin: "Of His understanding there is no number." In the Hebrew there is a play upon the word which is translated "number" in Psa 147:4. Unlimited is the number both of His understanding and of the stars. The limit of human knowledge is soon reached, but "there is no searching of His understanding." Now this infinite intelligence and almighty power of God should prove an encouragement and an inspiration to all who trust in Him. The idea has been well expressed by Dr. Chalmers: "The God who sitteth above, and presides in high authority over all worlds, is mindful of man; and though at this moment His energy is felt in the remotest provinces of creation, we may feel the same security in His Providence as if we were the objects of His undivided care. It is not for us to bring our minds up to this mysterious agency. But such is the incomprehensible fact, that the same Being, whose eye is abroad over the whole universe, gives vegetation to every blade of grass, and motion to every particle of blood which circulates through the veins of the minutest animal; that, though His mind takes into its comprehensive grasp immensity and all its wonders, I am as much known to Him as if I were the single object of His attention—that He marks all my thoughts—that He gives birth to every feeling and every movement within me—and that with an exercise of power which I can neither describe nor comprehend: the same God who sits in the highest heaven, and reigns over the glories of the firmament, is at my right hand to give me every breath which I draw, and every comfort which I enjoy."

4. His retributive relation to men. "Jehovah lifteth up the meek; He casteth the wicked down to the ground." He who "rules the stars in their courses, rules also the world of man."

(1.) He exalts the humble and the oppressed. "Jehovah lifteth up the meek," or "the afflicted." (See our remarks on Psa ; Psa 146:8.)

(2.) He abases the wicked. (See our remarks on Psa .) "His rule and His order are a correction of man's anarchy and disorder."

"Praise ye the Lord; for it is good," &c.

THE GREATNESS AND GENTLENESS OF GOD

(Psa )

The text reveals the constructive side of the Divine government.

I. As shown in the building of the Church.

"The Lord doth build up Jerusalem," &c. That He should do so shows

(1) that the Church is self-demolished;

(2) that it is selfhelpless; and

(3) that God is the Gatherer, the Redeemer, and the Builder of the Church.

It is not God's purpose to destroy. It is His very nature to preserve, extend, complete, and glorify. He does destroy, but never willingly. His arm does not become terrible until His heart has been grieved, until His patience has been exhausted, and until the vital interests of the universe have been put in peril.

II. As seen in the gentle care of human hearts.

"He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." Still, you see how constructive and preservative is God. His work is edification, not destruction. Who cares for broken-hearted men? Who has patience with the weak and faint? The greater the nature, the greater the compassion. "It is better to fall into the hands of God than into the hands of men." Learn from this gentle care of human hearts—

1. The personality of God's knowledge. He knows every bruised reed. Hearts suffer in secret; there is nothing hidden from God!

2. The infinite adaptations of Divine grace. Every heart, whatever its grief, may be healed? There is "a sovereign balm for every wound." Are we wounded on account of sin? Are we writhing under the agonies of penitence? Are we tortured by circumstances over which we have no control—the waywardness of children, physical prostration, the opposition of bad men, and the like? For every wound there is healing in the grace of God.

3. The perfectness of Divine healing. Other healers say, "Peace, peace, when there is no peace." Others, "Heal the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly." We are not healed until God heals us. God offers to heal us; our disease and our sorrow are challenges to prove His grace. What of the responsibility of refusal?

III. As seen in the order, the regularity, and the stability of creation.

"He telleth the number of the stars; He calleth them all by their names." Creation is a volume open to all eyes. Read it, and see the might and gentleness, the wisdom and patience, of God. "Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: He calleth them all by names by the greatness of His might, for that He is strong in power; not one faileth." Jesus Christ taught us to reason from the natural to the spiritual: "Consider the lilies," &c.; "Behold the fowls of the air," &c.

(1.) God takes care of the great universe, may I not trust Him with my life?

(2.) Where God's will is unquestioned, the result is light, beauty, music: why should I oppose myself to its gracious dominion?

Let the Church be of good courage. "When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory." "The gates of hell shall not prevail."

Are we truly broken in heart? Hear, then, the Saviour: "He hath sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted,"—sent His Son to heal us.

Are we contrite, humble, penitent! "Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." Our brokenness attracts Him. The cry of our sorrows brings Him down from heaven.—Joseph Parker, D.D.

THE SUPREMELY GREAT

(Psa )

Here are three aspects of the Divine greatness:—

I. God is great in His essence.

"Great is the Lord." He is great by reason of—

1. His spirituality. "God is a Spirit." Spiritual substances are more excellent than material. "The more perfect anything is in the rank of creatures, the more spiritual and simple it is, as gold is the more pure and perfect that hath least mixture of other metals." So God is a pure and perfect Spirit: He "is light, and in Him is no darkness at all." In Him there is "spirituality without any matter, perfection without any shadow or taint of imperfection."

2. His self-existence. His Being is underived and independent. With Him life is essential. He is the "I AM." His name is Jehovah, the Self-Existent One.

3. His infinity.

(1.) He is infinite as regards duration. "From everlasting to everlasting Thou art God." He is eternal in the largest sense of that word. He endures always. He "inhabiteth eternity."

(2.) He is infinite as regards space. He is present everywhere, from infinity to infinity. "There is no part of the universe, no portion of space, uninhabited by God, none wherein this Being of perfect power, wisdom, and benevolence is not essentially present. Could we with the swiftness of a sunbeam dart ourselves beyond the limits of the creation, and for ages continue our progress in infinite space, we should still be surrounded with the Divine presence, nor ever be able to reach that space where God is not." (Comp. Psa ; Jer 23:23-24.)

4. His unity. There is but one God. "The Lord our God is one Lord." "If God be an infinitely-perfect Being," says Bishop Wilkins, "it is impossible to imagine two such beings at the same time, because they must have several perfections or the same. If the former, neither of them can be God, because neither of them has all possible perfections. If they have both equal perfections, neither of them can be absolutely perfect, because it is not so great to have the same equal perfections in common with another as to be superior to all others." Well did Masillon exclaim, "God alone is great!"

II. God is great in power.

"And of great power." "The power of God is that ability and strength whereby He can bring to pass whatsoever He please; whatsoever His infinite wisdom can direct, and whatsoever the infinite purity of His will can resolve." This power is manifested—

1. In the creation and sustentation of the universe. "He spake, and it was done," &c. "He is mighty in strength," &c. (Job ). "He stretcheth out the north over the empty place," &c. (Job 26:7-14). "By Him all things consist."

2. In the government of the universe. He rules over holy angels. "He maketh His angels spirits," &c. He presides over human governments. He "bringeth the princes to nothing," &c. (Isa ). "He putteth down one, and setteth up another." "He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth," &c. He rules even over His enemies. "Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee," &c. "The angels which kept not their first estate," &c. (Jude 1:6).

3. In the redemption of mankind. We see here the power of infinite wisdom and truth and love overcoming the antagonism of rebellious wills, the alienation of estranged hearts, &c. This is the grandest, sublimest display of the power of God. He is "mighty to save."

The consideration of the almightiness of God should

(1.) prove a warning to the wicked. He has power to fulfil His threatenings. "Hast thou an arm like God?"

(2.) Awaken awe in all men. We should reverently fear so great a Being.

(3.) Encourage faith in His people. Omnipotence is pledged for their help and keeping. "The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" "If God be for us, who can be against us?"

III. God is great in knowledge.

"His understanding is infinite."

1. He knows Himself. "The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God," &c. (1Co ).

2. He knows all creatures. Angels, men, and even the meanest creatures. (Comp. Job ; Psa 50:11; Luk 12:6-7.) And He knows them clearly and completely. Thus He is perfectly acquainted with man's thoughts (Psa 139:2; Eze 11:5), and secret sins (Psa 90:8), and necessities (Mat 6:32), and circumstances, and works, and ways (Psa 139:1-6).

3. He knows all events.

(1.) All past events. He never forgets anything. This knowledge is clearly implied in Ecc ; Rev 20:12.

(2.) All present events. Nothing escapes the vigilance of His eye (Heb ).

(3.) All future events (Isa ; Act 15:18).

(4.) All possible events. All the possibilities of all things, and beings, and worlds must be present to Him "whose understanding is infinite."

The consideration of this infinite knowledge of the holy God should (i.) Check sin both in thought and in deed. You cannot sin in secret. "There is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves." (ii.) Humble all pride of intellect. As compared with God, what does even the most intelligent man know? "We are but of yesterday, and know nothing," &c. (iii.) Destroy all notions of our self-righteousness. In the presence of this holy and heart-searching Being, "Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?" (iv.) Inspire confidence in the triumph of His cause. His enemies cannot outwit Him. His designs are formed in infinite knowledge and wisdom. "The gates of hell shall not prevail against" His Church, (v.) Inspire confidence in His providential dealings with us. His infinite knowledge is pledged to all who trust in Him. He knows their trials and dangers and sorrows, their wants and ways; and He will guide and support them, &c. "He knoweth our frame," &c.

THE PROVIDENCE AND PLEASURE OF GOD A REASON FOR PRAISING HIM

(Psa )

Let us consider—

I. The providence of God. The Psalmist exhibits the providential agency of God in—

1. Presiding over the elements. "He covereth the heaven with clouds, He prepareth rain for the earth." (Comp. Job ; Job 28:25-26; Job 36:27-28; Psa 104:13.) The clouds do not cover the heavens, neither does the rain descend upon the earth by chance; both are governed by fixed laws; and these laws were appointed and are controlled by God. He is sovereign over all the arrangements and forces of nature.

2. Creating vegetation. "He maketh grass to grow upon the mountains." The mountains are mentioned because Palestine was a mountain-land. "A land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven" (Deu ). And these, which are not watered by the rivers, God clothes with verdure and beauty. (Comp. Psa 104:14; Act 14:17.)

3. Providing for the wants of His creatures. "He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry." (See our remarks on Psa ; Psa 104:27-28; Psa 145:15-16.) The ravens are mentioned here rather than other birds probably because they are offensive birds, in order to show that no creature, however regarded by man, is uncared for by God. Seeing that He supplies the needs of the ravens, is not the conclusion irresistible that He will provide for His children? (Comp. Mat 6:26; Luk 12:6-7.)

II. The pleasure of God.

1. It is not in those who trust in their own resources. "He delighteth not in the strength of the horse; He taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man." Horse and foot soldiers are here meant; the cavalry and infantry of an army God has no delight in armies great and strong, or in those who trust in them. Perowne expresses his idea of the meaning of the verse thus: "His delight is not in those who trust in their own strength and swiftness." It is one thing to trust in great and mighty armies and skilful generals; it is another, and in the sight of God a far nobler thing, to say with Jehoshaphat, "O our God, we have no might against this great company," &c. (2Ch ).

2. It is in those who reverence and trust in Him. "The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy." "A holy fear of God," says Matthew Henry, "and hope in God, not only may consist, but must concur. In the same heart, at the same time, there must be both a reverence of His majesty and a complacency in His goodness, both a believing dread of His wrath and a believing expectation of His favour; not that we must hang in suspense between hope and fear, but we must act under the gracious influences of hope and fear. Our fear must save our hope from swelling into presumption, and our hope must save our fear from sinking into despair." God delights in the man who looks to Him for all good, who reverences Him in all things, and who leans upon Him at all times and in all circumstances. Man's confidence in God is a pleasure to Him. He loves to be trusted by His creatures.

III. The praise of God.

"Sing unto Jehovah with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God." The praise which man offers unto God is here represented as—

1. A response for Divine favours. "Sing unto the Lord." The fundamental signification of the word here translated "sing" is to reply, to answer; and, according to Fürst, as used here it means "always to sing in reply, not to sing merely." Conant translates: "Answer Jehovah with thanksgiving." And Moll: "‘Answer to Jehovah.' There is no allusion here to an antiphonal choral song, as in Exo , but a song of praise is called for as the answer of grateful men, to the honour of the Divine Giver (Exo 32:18; Num 21:17; Isa 27:2)." The idea seems "to be, that we are to make a suitable response or answer to the manifold favours which we have received at the hand of God." God blesses man by the bestowal of His gifts, and man responds to God by the presentation of praise to Him.

2. An expression of gratitude for Divine favours. "Answer unto Jehovah with thanksgiving," &c. A grateful recollection of the goodness of God to us should find expression in our songs to Him. In our hymns of praise His blessings to us should be thankfully acknowledged, and the glory of them should be given to Him alone.

In the spirit of such worship let us endeavour to live.

GRASS, AND ITS MORAL ANALOGIES

(Psa )

He maketh grass to grow upon the mountains."

Mr. Ruskin in his Modern Painters (III. Pt.

4. ch. 14. 51, 52) says some beautiful and suggestive things concerning grass.

"Gather a single blade of grass, and examine for a minute, quietly, its narrow sword-shaped strip of fluted green. Nothing, as it seems there, of notable goodness or beauty. A very little strength, and a very little tallness, and a few delicate long lines meeting in a point—not a perfect point neither, but blunt and unfinished, by no means a creditable or apparently much-cared-for example of Nature's workmanship; made, as it seems, only to be trodden on to-day, and to-morrow to be cast into the oven; and a little pale and hollow stalk, feeble and flaccid, leading down to the dull brown fibres of roots. And yet, think of it well, and judge whether of all the gorgeous flowers that beam in summer air, and of all strong and goodly trees, pleasant to the eyes or good for food—stately palm and pine, strong ash and oak, scented citron, burdened vine—there be any by man so deeply loved, by God so highly graced, as that narrow point of feeble green.… Consider what we owe merely to the meadow grass, to the covering of the dark ground by that glorious enamel, by the companies of those soft, and countless, and peaceful spears. The fields! Follow but forth for a little time the thoughts of all that we ought to recognise in those words. All spring and summer is in them—the walks by silent, scented paths—the rests in noonday neat—the joy of herds and flocks—the power of all shepherd life and meditation—the life of sunlight upon the world, falling in emerald streaks, and failing in soft blue shadows, where else it would have struck upon the dark mould, or scorching dust—pastures beside the pacing brooks—soft banks and knolls of lowly hills—thymy slopes of down overlooked by the blue line of lifted sea—crisp lawns all dim with early dew, or smooth in evening warmth of barred sunshine, dinted by happy feet, and softening in their fall the sound of loving voices: all these are summed in those simple words; and these are not all. We may not measure to the full the depth of this heavenly gift, in our own land; though still, as we think of it longer, the infinite of that meadow sweetness, Shakespeare's peculiar joy, would open on us more and more, yet we have it but in part. Go out in the spring time, among the meadows that slope from the shores of the Swiss lakes to the roots of their lower mountains. There, mingled with the taller gentians and the white narcissus, the grass grows deep and free; and as you follow the winding mountain paths, beneath arching boughs all veiled and dim with blossom,—paths that for ever droop and rise over the green banks and mounds sweeping down in scented undulation, steep to the blue water, studded here and there with new-mown heaps, filling all the air with fainter sweetness,—look up towards the higher hills, where the waves of everlasting green roll silently into their long inlets among the shadows of the pines; and we may, perhaps, at last know the meaning of those quiet words of the147th Psalm, ‘He maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.'

"There are also several lessons symbolically connected with this subject, which we must not allow to escape us. Observe, the peculiar characters of the grass, which adapt it especially for the service of man, are its apparent humility and cheerfulness."

We discover in the grass an illustration of—

I. Christian humility.

It illustrates—

1. The usefulness of humble service. Grass "seems created only for lowest service,—appointed to be trodden on and fed upon." Yet of what great use and value it is! In like manner the lowly services of humble souls are indispensably necessary and unspeakably precious.

2. The beauty of humble service. To a person of pure and refined taste grass is very beautiful. To gaze upon it is in the highest degree restful and grateful to the tired eye. How beautiful is a life of humble service! Our Lord "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister." He said, "I am among you as He that serveth." He "made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant," &c.

3. The divine acceptance of humble service. "Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water," &c. The Most High has declared His special regard for the humble. (See Pro ; Pro 18:12; Pro 22:4; Pro 29:23; Isa 57:15; 1Pe 5:5.)

Let us cultivate lowly thoughts of ourselves; for—

(1.) They are most likely to be true.

(2.) They will promote our usefulness.

(3.) They attract the Divine regard.

II. Christian cheerfulness.

Grass illustrates—

1. Cheerfulness in the prosperity of others. When spring comes the grass "rejoices with all the earth,—glowing with variegated flame of flowers,—waving in soft depth of fruitful strength." The Christian rejoices with them that rejoice; he looks "not on his own things, but also on the things of others;" he is animated by the charity which "seeketh not her own."

2. Cheerfulness in the midst of adversity. When winter comes, the grass, "though it will not mock its fellow-plants by growing then, it will not pine and mourn, and turn colourless or leafless as they. It is always green, and is only the brighter and gayer for the hoar frost." In like manner the Christian "glories in tribulation," &c. (Rom ). He "reckons that the sufferings of this present," &c. (Rom 8:18). Thus the truly pious are cheerful in the midst of adversity.

3. Cheerfulness increased by adversity. Grass "seems to exult under all kinds of violence and suffering. You roll it, and it is stronger the next day; you mow it, and it multiplies its shoots, as if it were grateful; you tread upon it, and it only sends up richer perfume." Thus afflictions increase the serenity and cheerfulness and strength of humble souls. The proud are hardened and embittered by them; the humble are enriched and blessed. Their "chastening yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness." (Comp. Jas ; 1Pe 1:6-9.)

Let us learn the lessons which the grass may teach us (Mat ).

Let us cultivate humility of spirit.

PRAISE FROM EXCELLENT SOCIETY AND FOR EXCELLENT REASONS

(Psa )

We have here another paragraph in this hymn of praise, in which the poet appeals especially to Jerusalem to celebrate the praise of Jehovah; and mentions the special reasons which its inhabitants had for doing so. Here are two main lines of thought—

I. Praise from excellent society.

"Praise Jehovah, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion." By Jerusalem and Zion the Psalmist means the chosen people of God, the ancient Church. The people of God are under special obligations to praise Him.

1. They have a clearer knowledge of Him than others. They have His revealed mind and will. He manifests Himself unto them as He does not unto the world. He bestows upon them His Holy Spirit for their instruction and sanctification.

2. They have a closer relation to Him than others. "Thy God" (Psa ). Jehovah was in covenant relation with Israel. He speaks of them as "My people Israel." "I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be My people." "Say unto Zion, Thou art My people." Christians, in like manner, are now spoken of as the people of God. (See Act 15:14; Tit 2:14; Heb 8:10; 1Pe 2:9-10.) Into this relationship they were called with a view to the praise of God, as Peter distinctly states (1Pe 2:9).

3. They receive richer blessings from Him than others. This is a result of their closer relation to Him. It was so in the case of Israel (Lev ). It is so in the case of Christians. They are guided by Him (Rom 8:14); heirs of Him (Rom 8:17); interceded for by His Spirit (Rom 8:26); have all good guaranteed by Him (Rom 8:32); have communion with Him (1Jn 1:3); are called and kept by Him unto a glorious inheritance (1Pe 1:3-6). Therefore they are under special obligation to praise Him.

II. Praise for excellent reasons.

1. For the blessings of His providence. "He hath blessed thy children within thee." Three of these blessings are specified by the poet.

(1.) Protection. "He hath strengthened the bars of thy gates." The reference is to the restoration of the walls of Jerusalem and the setting up of the gates by Nehemiah (Neh ). God had enabled them to succeed in this, notwithstanding crafty and determined opposition. "God's almighty protection is the true defence of a country; without it all other defences can neither help or endure." God is the guardian of His people and of His Church.

(2.) Peace. "He maketh peace in thy borders." The Margin is correct: "Who maketh thy border peace." (Comp. Isa : "I will also make thy officers peace," &c.) "If there be trouble anywhere," says Matthew Henry, "it is in the borders, the marches of a country; the frontier towns lie most exposed, so that, if there be peace in the borders, there is a universal peace, a mercy we can never be sufficiently thankful for." Peace in the soul, in society, and in the world is the gift of God. The universal supremacy of the spirit and principles of Christ would result in universal peace.

(3.) Plenty. "He filleth thee with the finest of the wheat." The literal rendering is, "He satisfieth thee with the fat of wheat." (Comp. Psa .) God gave them abundance of provisions, and those of the best kind. Here, then, we have reasons for praising God.

2. For His agency in nature. "He sendeth forth His commandment upon earth," &c. (Psa ). He is here represented as—

(1.) The controller of Nature. All its changes are ordered and effected by Him. And they are effected with ease. "He sendeth forth His commandment," and it is at once fulfilled. "He spake, and it was done," &c. (Psa ). They are effected also with rapidity. "His word runneth very swiftly." Snow, frost, ice, cold, warmth, wind, all obey Him without reluctance and without delay.

(2.) The proprietor of Nature. It is "His ice, His cold, His wind." God is still the sovereign Proprietor of His universe.

(3.) The instructor of man by means of Nature. ( α) His sovereignty over the changes of Nature illustrates His control over the changes of the life of His people. Hengstenberg: "In Psa there is probably not only an allusion to the omnipotence of God as manifested in Nature not less than in the government of His people, but at the same time an allegorical representation of this government, so that the Psalmist perceived in the operations of God in Nature the image of His administration in Grace—in the snow, hoar-frost, and frost, an image of the now no longer existing time of trouble; in the spring (Psa 147:18) an image of the returning salvation. (Comp. the similar figurative representations in Psalms 107)" He regulates the vicissitudes of their life, and causes them to "work together for good to them that love God." ( β) His agency in nature shows the futility of opposing Him. "Who can stand before His cold?" "If we cannot stand before the cold of His frosts, how can we stand before the heat of His wrath?" ( γ) The ready obedience of Nature to Him is both a rebuke and an example to man. The immediate and universal obedience of Nature is a reproach to disobedient man. He alone is rebellious, &c. He may profitably imitate winds and stars, heat and cold, in their prompt fulfilment of the Creator's will.

3. For the blessings of His revelation. "He showeth His word unto Jacob," &c. (Psa ). "God's works in Nature," says Perowne, "are for all men; ‘He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust' (Mat 5:45); but there is a special privilege belonging to His chosen people. They, and they alone in the world, have received the lively oracles of His mouth. (Comp. Rom 3:1-2.)" Delitzsch: "The joyful Hallelujah is not sounded because these other nations do not possess such a positive knowledge of God's judgments, but because Israel does possess it. It is declared abundantly in other places that this knowledge of Israel shall be the means of making salvation the common property of the whole world of nations." And Barnes: "There is no nation now so favoured as the nation that has the revealed will of God—the Bible. The possession of that Book gives a nation a vast superiority in all respects over all others. In laws, customs, morals, intelligence, social life, purity, charity, prosperity, that Book elevates a nation at once, and scatters blessings which can be derived from nothing else. The highest benevolence that could be showed to any nation would be to put it in possession of the Word of God in the language of the people."

Here, then, we have abundant and excellent reasons for uniting in the praise of God. Let us praise Him not only occasionally with our voice, but constantly by the loyal obedience of our life.

WINTER, AND ITS MORAL SUGGESTIONS

(Psa )

The Psalmist believed in God's supremacy over Nature. He saw His hand in all its various changes. The more we discover of law and order in Nature the more should we be impressed with the wisdom and power of God; and so we should render to Him a more intelligent worship, and exercise in Him a firmer trust.

The Psalmist also believed in the moral significance of Nature. So also did David: "The heavens declare the glory of God," &c. Our great dramatist speaks of finding

"Tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,

Sermons in stones, and good in everything."

And the Supreme Teacher read and pointed out the significance of Nature: "Consider the lilies of the field," &c.

The seasons of the year are full of instruction. Spring is a manifestation of the beauty and tenderness and love of God; summer, with its light and heat, speaks of His glory; autumn proclaims His bountifulness; and winter indicates the stern aspects of His character. Let us consider some of the suggestions of winter.

I. Winter indicates the severity of God.

It hints that there is wrath as well as love in God. Nor is it alone in its testimony in this respect. Earthquakes, floods, storms, also testify to a terrible power in Nature, and to something answering to it in the God of Nature. (Comp. Rom ; Rev 6:16-17.)

II. Winter suggests the retributiveness of the Divine arrangements.

Many of those who during the preceding seasons have been guilty of indolence, intemperance, or extravagance, will find the bitter result now. It is in winter that the defective garment is painfully felt, and the dreary home seems utterly intolerable. "Whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him." These retributive laws are at work in the spiritual realm also.

III. Some of the things which are peculiar to this season have special instruction for us.

1. Snow illustrates the wisdom and tastefulness of God. "Snow is congealed vapour formed in the air by the vapour being frozen there before it is collected into drops large enough to form hail. In the descent of the vapour to the earth it is frozen, and descends in the numerous variety of crystallised forms in which the flakes appear. Perhaps there is nothing more fitted to excite pleasing conceptions of the wisdom of God—not even the variety of beauty in flowers—than the various forms of crystals in which snow appears. These crystals present an almost endless variety of forms. Captain Scoresby, who gave much attention to the subject and to other Arctic phenomena, says that, ‘The extreme beauty and the endless variety of the microscopic objects perceived in the animal and vegetable kingdoms are perhaps fully equalled, if not surpassed, in both particulars of beauty and variety, by the crystals of snow. Some of the general varieties in the figures of the crystals may be referred to the temperature of the air; but the particular and endless modification of the same classes of crystals can only be referred to the will and pleasure of the First Great Cause, whose works, even the most minute and evanescent, and in regions the most remote from human observation, are altogether admirable.'" The Divine wisdom and love of beauty are everywhere manifest.

2. Snow illustrates the power of God. "Not the thunder itself speaks God's power more than the snow. It bears His omnipotence, soft and beautiful as it seems. While it is yet in the air, it is lord of the ocean and the prairies. Ships are blinded by it. It is a white darkness. All harbours are silent under this plashy embargo. The traveller hides. The prairies are given up to its behest, and woe to him that dares to venture against the omnipotence of soft-falling snow upon those trackless wastes!… But when flake is joined to flake, and the frosts within the soil join their forces to the frosts descended from the clouds, who shall unlock their clasped hands? Who shall disannul their agreement? or who shall dispossess them of their place? Gathered in the mountains, banked and piled till they touched the very clouds again in which once they were born and rocked, how terrible is their cold, and more terrible their stroke when, slipping, some avalanche comes down the mountain-side, the roar and the snow-stroke loud as thunder and terrible as lightning! God gives to the silent snow a voice, and clothes its innocence and weakness with a power like His own."

3. Snow also illustrates "the power of littles." Small, insignificant, and feeble in the extreme is the snow-flake when alone; but when multitudes of them are united and firmly frozen, their power is dreadful—sometimes irresistible and terribly destructive.

IV. Winter is an emblem of old age.

Poets and artists in personifying winter have generally pictured it as an aged man or woman. Spring is an emblem of youth; summer of young manhood; autumn of mature manhood; and then our life passes into the winter of old age. How frequently does old age seem like winter—cold, cheerless, barren! But as spring is being prepared in winter, and winter shall pass into spring, so the aged Christian is preparing for eternal youth, and the winter of his age shall pass into the "everlasting spring" of heaven.

V. Winter is an emblem of the present state of the bodies of the departed.

In winter Nature is not dead; it only seems so. It is full of life and activities; and the result will be manifest in spring. So also with the bodies sown in "God's acre." God shall awake them from their deep wintry slumbers. "All that are in the graves shall hear His voice," &c.

VI. Winter is an emblem of the present moral state of the world as it often appears to us.

We see much of evil and suffering, much of darkness and mystery, much of madness and more of sin amongst men. But it will not be so always. God is at work; and out of the darkness He will educe light, &c.

"Ye noble few who here unbending stand

Beneath life's pressure, yet bear up awhile,

And what your bounded view, which only saw

A little part, deemed evil is no more;

The storms of wintry time will quickly pass,

And one unbounded spring encircle all."

—Thomson.

THE DIVINE GOODNESS IN NATURE, PROVIDENCE, AND GRACE

(Psa )

We owe much to Divine revelation for the more exalted views we entertain of the character, the perfections, and the grace of God. It was the distinction of the Jews that they possessed "the lively oracles." Hence the superiority of their faith and worship over those of neighbouring nations.

Men mould their idols in their own shape and image: and the worshipper soon reflects the character of the idols he adores. God condemns this. The controversy between Him and man has been,—"Thou thoughtest that I was altogether as thyself."

I. We see much of the Divine goodness in the vast economy of Nature and Providence.

"He sendeth out His word, and melteth them," &c. God changes the times and seasons—

1. In an unexpected moment. When the frost was at its height.

The wintry season was sometimes very severe in Judea and Palestine; usually lasted about six weeks; though sometimes intermingled with casual mitigations. Severe about Jerusalem—having both hail and snow. But when the sky is agitated by those tempestuous winds called Levanters, the cold is so piercing, the conflict so great of hail, ice, snow, and rain, that many of the poor people and their cattle perish. And it is dreadful to be at the mercy of armed bands at those times. An Oriental describing a defeated army near Ascalon says: "In haste they threw away their armour and clothes, but soon sunk under the cold, together with want of food, slippery and rugged roads, which were everywhere furrowed and broken up by torrents, that they were taken captives in the woods and on the mountains, and threw themselves into the hands of their enemies rather than perish." How welcome, then, the sudden and unexpected change in the text! "He causeth His wind," &c.

2. By very simple means. The south wind particularly;—for then the waters, before still and motionless, flow abundantly. So it is by very slight means that God in His Providence relieves trial and restores peace. (Comp. Psa ; Psa 126:4.) A word of advice from a friend may change our plans—a letter—or an accidental interview with a stranger, &c.

II. We owe much to God in the economy of Grace.

God has His softening dispensations.

1. In the conversion of the sinner it is not all terror, but much mildness. The Lord opened the heart of Lydia. By nature the heart of man is hard and impenetrable, like the earth beneath the frost; cold and stubborn; without any wermth of love to God and Christ and spiritual things. But when God sends His word, accompanied with Divine power, it melts them. When the south wind of His blessed Spirit penetrates the heart, they are convinced of sin and righteousness and judgment.

2. In the edification of believers it is not all terror. They owe much to Barnabas the son of Consolation, as well as to Boanerges the son of Thunder. The strong wind, earthquake, and fire were succeeded by the "still small voice." When the Sun of Righteousness arises on them, it is with healing in His wings. "Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south" … to show that every wind may blow kindly to the Christian.

3. In the descent of the Dark Valley it is not all terror. Death comes with gentle step. We tread on velvet. Stephen pleading, ha. (Act .)

III. We shall owe much to God in a future world.

The curse banished. A more favouring constitution of things. "Long nights and darkness dwell below."—Samuel Thodey.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 147:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/psalms-147.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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