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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Psalms 113

 

 

Verses 1-9

EXPOSITION

This is the first of the "Hallel" psalms, or of those sung at the Feasts of the Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. It is a "Hallelujah psalm," like the two preceding, but is not alphabetic. As a most joyful hymn of praise, it is selected by our Church to be one of the psalms for Easter Day.

The composition falls into three stanzas of three verses each. In the first (Psalms 113:1-3) the servants of the Lord are called upon to praise him. In the second (Psalms 113:4-6) God is praised in the heavens, with respect to his glory there. In the third (Psalms 113:7-9) he is eulogized in respect of his great doings upon the earth.

Psalms 113:1

Praise ye the Lord (comp. Psalms 104:35; Psalms 105:45; Psalms 106:1, Psalms 106:48; Psalms 111:1; Psalms 112:1). Praise, O ye servants of the Lord, praise the Name of the Lord. By "ye servants of the Lord," all faithful Israelites are certainly intended; but the phrase need not be absolutely limited to them (comp. Psalms 113:3).

Psalms 113:2

Blessed be the Name of the Lord from this time forth and for evermore. The prayer here is that God may be praised through all time, as in the next verse it is that he may be praised through all space. In connection with the praise of God, limits of time and place are unsuitable (comp. Psalms 115:18; Psalms 121:8; Psalms 125:1-5 :8; Psalms 131:3; Isaiah 59:21; Micah 4:7).

Psalms 113:3

From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same (comp. Malachi 1:3; i.e. all over the world, from the furthest east to the furthest west. The Lord's Name is to be praised; or, "praised be the Name of the Lord" (Kay).

Psalms 113:4

The Lord is high above all nations. As being "the great King over all the earth" (Psalms 47:2). And his glory above the heavens. "The heaven, and heaven of heavens, cannot contain him" (2 Chronicles 6:18). It is a "humbling of himself" to "behold the things that are in heaven and earth" (see Psalms 113:6).

Psalms 113:5

Who is like unto the Lord our God? (comp. Psalms 89:6; Isaiah 40:18, Isaiah 40:25). The highest created being does not approach within anything but an immeasurable distance of God. Who dwelleth on high; or, "who sitteth enthroned on high."

Psalms 113:6

Who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth. It is a condescension in God to regard even "the things that are in heaven," since the very "heavens are not clean in his sight" (Job 15:15). Much more is it a condescension in him to behold the gross material things of earth. Yet he gives them his constant care and attention, since otherwise they would cease to be.

Psalms 113:7

He raiseth up the poor out of the dust. Heaven is full of his glory, earth of his mercy and loving-kindness. The words of 1 Samuel 2:8 are, consciously or unconsciously, quoted. And lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; rather, from the dunghill (Revised Version).

Psalms 113:8

That he may set him with princes. The words of 1 Samuel 2:8 are still followed. (For the sentiment, see also Job 36:7.) Historically, the statement is illustrated by the examples of Joseph, Saul, David, Daniel, Mordecai. Even with the princes of his people. Not merely with heathen princes, but with those who exercise sovereignty over Israel, as Joseph with Pharaoh, Daniel with Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus, Mordecai with Ahasuerus or Xerxes.

Psalms 113:9

He maketh the barren woman to keep house. Hannah's song is still in the psalmist's thoughts, and suggests this illustration (see 1 Samuel 2:5). But it must not be restricted to a literal interpretation. The true "barren woman" was Israel (Isaiah 54:1), whose curse of barrenness was ultimately removed, and who became, as here prophesied, a joyful mother of children (comp. Isaiah 49:12, Isaiah 49:18, Isaiah 49:20; Isaiah 54:2, Isaiah 54:3; Isaiah 60:5; Galatians 4:27). Praise ye the Lord.

HOMILETICS

Psalms 113:1-9

Reasons for reverential praise.

The force of the psalmist's summons in the opening verse is felt as we proceed through the psalm itself, and when we reach the end of it; for there are brought out—

I. THE CONSTANCY OF GOD'S GOODNESS. In no less than three verses (1-3) the Lord's Name is put for himself. This is significant of the Divine constancy. The name of the Lord is never dissociated from the same class of thoughts and deeds. It is so invariably connected with these that one stands for the other. His name and his character are inseparable; utter his name, and there instantly rise to our thought the attributes which distinguish him; to sing of his Name is not to praise an imaginary or ideal one, but the very Lord God himself. We worship him "with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning."

II. THE GREATNESS OF HIS GLORY. He manifests his presence, exercises his power, and makes known his goodness

III. THE FACT OF HIS CONDESCENSION. (Psalms 113:6.) "He humbleth himself; who casts looks so low;" "and looketh down so deep." However we read it, the idea is that the "Most High God" interests himself in the children of men. He not only is concerned with the progress of our race generally, but he occupies his eternity with the intimate knowledge and practical government of each nation, province, family, individual soul. To the Infinite One nothing can be too small for his regard.

IV. HIS UPLIFTING POWER AND GRACE. (Psalms 113:7.) Obviously it could not be expected that every godly man would rise in worldly position; that involves an actual impossibility; nor would that, if it were possible, be a desirable reward of piety. But the good man—who is the faithful, thrifty, reliable man—is very often raised from obscurity to eminence, from lowliness to power. And the constant tendency of Christian worth and virtue is to convert poverty into competence, want into comfort, misery into cheerfulness, despair into peace. Indeed, this last is one of the ordinary and continual effects of piety. In the gospel of Christ, God is lifting up those that have been brought down into a sense of condemnation and shame to the holy and blessed heights of hope and joy. Christianity is everywhere and always an uplifting power.

V. HIS ENRICHING KINDNESS. (Psalms 113:9.) We do not sufficiently realize the goodness of God in the domestic enrichment with which he blesses us; in all the love and all the happiness that come from the conjugal, parental, filial, fraternal relationships which his heart has conceived, which his hand is working for us. All these things bring into view—

VI. HIS STRONG CLAIM ON OUR REVERENCE AND PRAISE. As the psalm begins and ends with a "hallelujah" so should our lives, in every part, be encircled with the utterance of heartfelt gratitude.

HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY

Psalms 113:7, Psalms 113:8

The overflowing gratitude of the saved soul.

How intense is the fervor of praise with which this psalm is full! The soul of the psalmist can scarce contain itself, and we are inevitably led to inquire into the reason and occasion of such gratitude. It is told of in the verses before us. No doubt the salvation spoken of was primarily a national one; it was Israel who had been so visited of God. It was Israel who was sunk so low in misery and degradation-sunk down to the dust and the dunghill, so poor and needy, so lonely, sad, and filled with reproach, like a woman to whom had been denied the gift of children. But by the grace and condescending compassion of God, she had been lifted up, and set among princes, and she had become joyful, like as a mother over her children. From Egypt's slavery to the glories of the time of David and Solomon; from the misery and shame of the days of the destruction of Jerusalem, when they were carried into captivity, to the brighter times of the return and restoration;—such deliverances as these it was which called forth the psalmist's and the nation's enthusiastic, grateful song. And the lesson for every nation or community which has been blessed of God with great prosperity, as our own nation has, is to remember the small beginnings, the humble place we once filled, and to give God all the praise for what he has wrought on our behalf. But we take our text as descriptive of spiritual deliverance—of God's salvation of the soul. The gratitude of such soul is uttered here. And it rests on these grounds—

I. THE DEPTHS FROM WHICH IT HAS BEEN UPLIFTED. They are described as the dust, the dunghill, the state of the barren woman. These images present an accumulation of shame, degradation, and distress. And the soul that has known the Holy Spirit's conviction of sin will know that such images are fit and true. St. Paul called himself, to the last, "the chief of sinners." Guilt, bondage to sin, vileness of heart and, perhaps, of life too, hopelessness, helplessness, and a fearful looking for of judgment,—facts like these justify the strong images of the verses before us as telling of the soul unsaved.

II. THE HEIGHTS TO WHICH IT HAS BEEN RAISED. See again the images employed. And they are true. They express the ideas of honor, wealth, joy, strength, fruitfulness; and they are all realized in the experience of the saved soul now, and are to be realized infinitely more hereafter.

III. THE INFINITE CONDESCENSION OF GOD IN ALL THIS. The unbeliever has objected that it is monstrous to suppose that the great God, who controls the universe, amid which this earth of ours is a mere shred and insignificant fragment, can be concerned with the petty affairs of man, especially of a poor individual, worthless, and sinful man. But is it not true that he who governs the vast universe, worlds upon worlds, has yet been at the pains to paint and fashion the wing of the meanest insect in most exquisite and perfect manner? It' he will stoop to that, he will stoop to me, poor wretched sinner though I be. I own it is wonderful; but it is true. Hallelujah!—S.C.

HOMILIES BY R. TUCK

Psalms 113:1

Servant-reasons for praise.

"Praise, O ye servants of the Lord." This psalm is the first of the series called the "Hallel," which was sung in connection with the annual Jewish festivals, and especially at the Passover and Feast of Tabernacles. This and the following psalm were sung before the second cup. We need not think, however, that these psalms were composed for use at the feasts with which they were afterwards associated. Only Jewish minds could recognize any particular fitness for such scenes. To us they are simply praise psalms. Here we notice that praise of the Divine Master is properly claimed from all the servants of the Divine Master.

I. PRAISE IS PROPERLY CLAIMED FROM ALL GOD'S CREATION, "All thy works praise thee, in all places of thy dominion." Poet-souls and pious souls find voice for Nature, and utter forth the joy in the Divine wisdom and goodness which all things seem to feel Many of the psalms are nature-psalms. When man is praiseful, he feels that everything around him is praiseful too.

II. PRAISE IS PROPERLY CLAIMED FROM THE MORAL BEINGS GOD HAS MADE. Inanimate things praise by answering the ends for which they are made, and meeting the conditions in which they are set. But moral beings praise by recognizing qualities and character in the Divine arrangements. They do not only see goodness, they see that only from a good and gracious Being can such goodness come. Man, as man, in distinction from man as sinner, or man as in special relations with God, is called to praise, as he recognizes the Divine providing, ruling, and overruling.

III. PRAISE IS PROPERLY CLAIMED FROM THE SERVANTS WHO DO GOD'S WILL. There may be a special call intended here to the officials of the temple—priests and Levites; but the term "servant" is used by the Prophet Isaiah of the whole people, of every person called to a ministry, and of Messiah. And the Apostle Paul delights to speak of himself as the servant, bond-servant, slave, of Jesus Christ. All God's people who have come into personal relations with him, and have received his regime rating grace, think of themselves as consecrated to his service, as having become his servants. It may be shown that they, in a special way, feel the duty of praise, and find reasons for praise. Servant-praise is based:

1. On knowledge. The intimacy with the Master is a continually fresh revelation.

2. On experience. The servant never forgets the grace that brought him into the servant-relation.

3. On office; for it is servant-work to secure the honor of the Master.—R.T.

Psalms 113:3

Universal praise.

"From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the Lord's Name is to be praised." These figures may be taken as representing two notes of universality.

1. From morning to evening, covering all time.

2. From east to west, covering all space. Note that the two conditions of human thought are "time" and "space." All space is filled with reasons for praise. All time should be filled with the spirit of praise.

I. TIME FILLED WITH PRAISE. It cannot be expected that our whole days should be occupied with formal acts of worship; though such a pious soul as David will even envy the priests of the temple, who spend all their time in praise. We need to see clearly that "praise" is a cherished spirit of trustfulness, obedience, and holy joy in God; that this can be with us, abiding with us, while we are occupied with our commonplace, everyday avocations; and that this spirit of praise ever gladly seizes fitting opportunities for formal expression. In this sense the good man's praise is universal; it covers all his time. It is cherished always; it is expressed often. And the relation of the frequent expression to the constant feeling may wisely be pointed out. Neglecting expression means fading feeling. Restraining the lips means losing the heart's joy and gratitude. If a good man's praise is not universal, as including all his time, it will soon become only weak impulse and sentiment.

II. SPACE FILLED WITH PRAISE. East and west are broader, larger suggestions than north and south. They cover all the zones in which man, in his multitudes, can dwell. So they include all humanity. It may be noted that this was a strange conception for the exclusive Jew; but in the time of the restoration from the Captivity the diffusion of the knowledge of God among the heathen had already begun. God's work is in all space. God's appeal is made to every man. God's goodness hallows every life. God therefore rightly claims universal praise. But there is an element in the redeemed man's praise which makes him the fitting leader of the universal choir. All the world over, man, should

Psalms 113:5

Likenesses to God.

"Who is like unto the Lord our God?" The precise point here may be thus expressed: "Who as he combines majesty with condescension?" Both heaven and earth, glorious and wonderful though they are, are alike immeasurably below the majesty of God. The psalmist evidently has the idolatry in mind which seeks for suggestions of God's figure either in heaven or in earth. No fitting ones can be found. They are all made things; and the maker is always grander than the things he makes. No manufactured article can ever do more than suggest something about the man who designed or made it; it can never give an adequate and complete impression of him. Think of the sun as the sublimest of all created things, but it is no more fitting to represent God, it is no more worthily a likeness of God, than the images, hideous or beautiful, which idolatry or paganism may design God absolutely refuses to permit any likeness to be made of him after anything in heaven, or earth, or under the earth. Nothing material must be permitted to limit our large, free, spiritual thought of him.

I. LIKENESSES TO GOD IN THE HEAVENS. Men naturally look up into the heavens first, because that is the sphere of mystery, and that inspires awe and leads to adoration. It does so to the uncultured, but how much more it does to the cultured, who know that the seemingly little star Uranus is eighty times larger than the earth, Neptune a hundred and fifty times larger, Saturn more than seven hundred times larger, and Jupiter more than fourteen hundred times larger! The general sentiment of humanity has found in our sun the best likeness of God; but, though this should bring to men sublime ideas of grandeur, purity, and power, even the sun is unworthy to represent God.

II. LIKENESSES TO GOD IN THE EARTH. The apostle regards it as a degrading descent, that men, unsatisfied with sun-figures, "changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things." It is an impressive proof of the uselessness of the material to represent the immaterial, that men who once look to the material for figures of God always tend to go lower and lower in the scale. Nowadays, though we are not likely to worship the sun or manufactured idols, there are still thought-ideals, thought-idols, which may be as unworthy to represent the eternal God as the images of our heathen brothers.—R.T.

Psalms 113:6

The relative value of earthly things.

There is no absolute value in them. God cannot be thought of as interested in them for their own sakes. He humbles himself to regard them because of the relation his people bear to them, and because of the influence they have upon his people. Of him it has been suggestively said, "He stoops to view the skies, and bows to see what angels do." This we say of God, because we have the revelation of him as a Moral Being, with moral as well as natural attributes. Once let a being take a moral view of things, and the material can never afterwards be the all-important thing to him. Once let us take the moral view, and we must always take it; for us the moral must have eternal precedency.

I. GOD CANNOT BE THOUGHT OF AS INTERESTED IN EVENTS FOR THEIR OWN SAKES. There is no quality in things. Even we men are not supremely interested in the things we make; we are concerned about the purposes for which we make them, and the uses to which they may be put. We go, in thought, past the things themselves. Even when God is pictured as calling each day's work of creation "very good," we are reminded that his eye was upon the moral beings for whom he was arranging it all. It would help us in gaining right views of God if we would clearly see that material creation is not his end, but his means to secure a higher end.

II. GOD MUST BE THOUGHT OF AS INTERESTED IN EVENTS FOE THE SAKE OF HIS PEOPLE. Material things, earthly events, human relations, do variously influence the moral beings that God has made; and these various influences we may think of as God's supreme concern. It is not right to say—God made everything for the sake of man. This only fills man with pride. It is right to say that God made everything for the sake of his purpose in man and through him. Illustrate from the parental relation to the mere incidents and events of the boy's life. Parents would not turn aside to consider the events if the boy were not in them. It is the boy they consider, not the events. All their concern is the influence of the events on the character and life of the boy. Transfer this to the larger, sublimer family sphere of the heavenly Father, and then our point comes out clearly. God concerns himself with his world for the sake of his purpose through his people.—R.T.

Psalms 113:7

God the Remover of disabilities.

"He raiseth up the poor out of the dust." The expressions used in this and the following verse are taken from the song of Hannah (see 1 Samuel 2:1-10), and similar expressions are found in the song of the Virgin Mary (see Luke 1:51-53). Historical illustrations of the passage may be found in the careers of Gideon, King Saul, and David. The psalmist may have in mind the restoration of the nation from the Babylonish captivity, which was an extreme national humiliation. As a fact of Divine dealing, this removing of disabilities may be illustrated from the preacher's own experience and observation. But we can so fully recognize the Divine wisdom in such dealings in general as to remove all thought of Divine favoritism or mere sovereignty. Two of the reasons guiding Divine conduct may be considered.

I. GOD GRACIOUSLY RECOGNIZES AND REWARDS CHARACTER. Some of the best features of human character can only gain expression and culture under the pressure of poverty, burdens, and disabilities. It is the misfortune of many men that they cannot be noblest-typed characters because they have never known trouble and strain. There are qualities of character in the favored ones which the poor and tried ones cannot attain; but they are not so important as the qualities of the humbled and suffering ones, which the favored few cannot attain. Since God is specially interested in character, he is concerned for the poor and needy, and finds in them persons who are fitted for responsible positions. The rise of men of lowly station to offices of influence is mainly due to the power of character, and the Divine recognition of character. It may be shown that, though this is largely true, it must be taken with some qualifications, seeing that men do sometimes rise through force of mind, or characteristic qualities, which are quite distinct from moral and religious character.

II. GOD FINDS IN THOSE UNDER DISABILITIES FITTING PERSONS FOR HIS SERVICE. Here it may be pointed out that times of disability are often the schooling of the men God wants for his work. Poverty, toil, strain, burden, make the training-ground for the Lord's heroes. And the man who is placed under any special form of disability may comfort himself with the assurance that the Lord is needing him, and so needs to have him disciplined, polished, furbished, by this trying experience.—R.T.

Psalms 113:9

The mission of the children.

Here is an evident allusion to the joy of Hannah, when her prayer was heard, and Samuel came as the firstborn of a family. "The Lord visited Hannah, so that she bare three sons and two daughters," and her adversary could provoke her no more. It is remarked that the Rabbins actually speak of a man's wife as his house; and the same form of speech is current at the present day among the Arabs. This joy men have in children, which is characteristic of every age and nation, which is, indeed, the universal sentiment, leads us to consider the mission of the children. Why do they come in helplessness, and take so long growing up to their manhood and womanhood?

I. CHILDREN ARE SENT TO CULTURE CHARACTER. This is the other side of the truth with which we are familiar—that children have characters which we must culture. There is a good sense in which children are sent into the world to "train their parents." What they can do is seen in the immediate effect their coming has upon their mothers. It changes them from thoughtless, self-centered maidens into thoughtful, self-denying women. And an equal influence, though not quite so evident, is seen in the father. Family life cultures all the graces, the stronger ones no less than the milder; and it lays the burden of personal example upon the parents; for a child makes demand of father and mother that they will show him the ideal goodness. Each element of refined and Christly character may be dealt with, and special stress may be laid upon "patience" and "charity" in the sense of going outside ourselves for our interests.

II. CHILDREN ARE SENT TO KEEP UP OUR INTEREST IN MORALS. This point is seldom dwelt on. Yet it is evident that the children come just at the time in our lives when material interests—business, society—become so absorbing. Moral and religious interests would pass out of our thought if it were not that every day brings to us concern for the children, and that must be a moral concern. The children break into the monotony of material middle-life associations. Everyday morals for every parent, and morals and religion for most parents, are brought closely to mind. The children are God's voice reminding man of eternal things.—R.T.

HOMILIES BY C. SHORT

Psalms 113:5-8

The Divine nature and character.

"Who is like unto the Lord our God," etc.? The views we form of God's nature and character are of the highest importance.

I. GOD'S INCOMPARABLE MAJESTY. (See the fortieth chapter of Isaiah.) But his moral greater than his physical greatness.

II. GOD'S CONDESCENSION. "Humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth." Displays a deep and everlasting interest in the works of his hands.

1. Great men stoop to inferior things for the purposes of science. But God has a perfect knowledge of all things.

2. Men stoop to the wants and miseries of others, but do not relinquish their rank and station. But God in Christ came in the form of a servant (Philippians 2:6-8).

3. Great men die for their country or their friends, but not for their enemies. "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners [and enemies], Christ died for us."

III. GOD'S REDEEMING COMPASSION.

1. Man's character as a sinner is described. He is called poor and needy. Poor and needy indeed! As a sinner, he has no real treasure, and not even any hope.

2. His misery is indicated. In the dust and on the dunghill—a miserable outcast.

3. His glorious elevation by the redeeming love of God. (1 Samuel 2:8.) He is translated to a seat with princes. "Who hath made us kings and priests unto God."—S.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 113:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/psalms-113.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, August 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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