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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Psalms 149

 

 

Verses 1-9

EXPOSITION

A "Hallelujah Psalm," combining the praise of God for mercies already received with anticipations of future vengeance, through God's help, on heathen enemies that are still bent on persecuting God's "loving ones." The tone is that of Psalms 109:1-31; though the expressions used are less fierce. Metrically, the psalm seems to divide itself into three stanzas of three verses each (Psalms 109:1-3, Psalms 109:4-6, Psalms 109:7-9).

Psalms 149:1

Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song. A "new song" on account of a new deliverance (comp. Psalms 33:3). The deliverance may have been one of those under Nehemiah (Nehemiah 4:7-23; Nehemiah 6:2-16). And his praise in the congregation of saints. The psalm would seem to have been composed for a special thanksgiving service.

Psalms 149:2

Let Israel rejoice in him that made him; or, "in his Maker" (comp. Psalms 95:6). This ground of thankfulness Israel possesses in common with all the rest of mankind; but he has also another exclusive ground—let the children of Zion be joyful in their King (comp. 8:23; 1 Samuel 8:7; 1 Samuel 10:19; 1 Samuel 12:12, etc.). God, by covenant with Israel, had constituted himself in an especial way their King (Hosea 13:10).

Psalms 149:3

Let them praise his Name in the dance (comp. Psalms 150:4). (On the employment of dancing by the Hebrews as a religious exercise, and in their most solemn acts of worship, see Exodus 15:20; 2 Samuel 6:14 -160. Let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp. (On the toph, or "timbrel," see the comment upon Psalms 68:25). It was used to accompany a hymn of rejoicing by Miriam (Exodus 15:20), by Jephthah's daughter ( 11:34), and by David (2 Samuel 6:5).

Psalms 149:4

For the Lord taketh pleasure in his people. God had shown by the mercy, whatever it was (Psalms 149:1), recently vouchsafed to his people, that he was well pleased with them, and might be counted on to support and sustain them. He will beautify the meek with salvation. Those who patiently submit to his chastisements God will ultimately "adorn," or "beautify," with his salvation.

Psalms 149:5

Let the saints be joyful in glory. Therefore let God's saints at the present time—his restored people, who have just had a fresh deliverance—rejoice, in the "glory" that covers them—rejoice and give God thanks for it. Let them sing aloud upon their beds. Not, as in former days, weeping through the long night (Psalms 6:6; Psalms 77:2-6), and watering their couches with their tears, but, like Paul and Silas (Acts 16:25), singing hymns of praise to God "at midnight" as they rest upon their beds.

Psalms 149:6

Let the high praises of God be in their mouth; literally, in their throat (comp. Isaiah 58:1). And a two-edged sword in their hand. Some understand this metaphorically. But the weapons of Jewish warfare in Nehemiah's time were thoroughly carnal (Nehemiah 4:13, Nehemiah 4:16, Nehemiah 4:17, Nehemiah 4:18); and against adversaries such as Sanbailat, Geshem, and Tobiah, a nation threatened with extermination is certainly entitled to use the sword.

Psalms 149:7

To execute vengeance upon the heathen. Not private revenge, but the just vengeance which a threatened nation has, from time to time, to execute on its persecutors in self-defense. And punishments upon the people; rather, upon the peoples. A variant of the phrase in the preceding clause, without any serious modification of the meaning.

Psalms 149:8

To bind their kings with chains. Even royal captives were thus treated in the ancient world. Assyrian and Babylonian monarchs always represent their captives, even when kings, as fettered. Nebuchadnezzar "bound Zedekiah with fetters of brass" (2 Kings 25:7). Parthia, and later Persia, and even Rome, followed the same practice. And their nobles with fetters of iron. On the monuments, cap-fives below the rank of kings are not often seen "fettered." Their arms, however, are frequently tied together with a cord, and they are fastened one to another by a stout rope.

Psalms 149:9

To execute upon them the judgment written. The allusion is probably to Deuteronomy 32:41, Deuteronomy 32:42, where God announces the judgments that he will execute upon the oppressors of his people. This honor have all his saints; rather, a glory is this to all his saints. "The victories of their Lord reflect glory on all his faithful and devoted servants" (Kay.). Praise ye the Lord (comp. Deuteronomy 32:1).

HOMILETICS

Psalms 149:1-9

God's pleasure in us, and ours in him.

The more particularly inviting passage is found in the fourth verse; but those before and after are also suggestive. Taking them first, and that last, we have—

I. THE CONSTANCY OF OCCASION FOR PRAISING GOD. (Psalms 149:1.) The "new song" of the psalmist is surely not a fresh composition, though we may well be thankful for the new hymnologist, and consider him a very valuable gift of God to the Church; but it is rather the song which rises fresh from the heart at the consciousness of some fresh mercy received at the hand of God, whether uttered in a familiar or an original strain. And if our hearts are as full of thanksgiving as our lives are crowded with blessings, we shall be always ready to sing "a new song" unto our God. "Moments come fast, but mercies are more free and fleet than they." They who are quick to see loving-kindnesses will not be long before they find a fresh reason for lilting up the heart in praise.

II. PUBLIC WORSHIP. Private and public worship are the complement of one another; neither is complete without the other. We praise God "in the congregation of saints" all the more happily and heartily because we bless him for his goodness in the home. We worship him more reverently in the home because we sing his praise with his people in the sanctuary.

III. GOD'S CLAIM ON US AS OUR CREATOR AND OUR RULER. (Psalms 149:2.) We cannot too often or too earnestly recall the great fact that our God called us into being, gave us our very selves, made us all that we are, with all our immeasurable capacities and possibilities. He also is the indisputable Sovereign to whom we bring our loyal allegiance, in whom, as our righteous and gracious Ruler, we rejoice.

IV. THE TRIUMPH OF THE TRUTH. (Psalms 149:6-9.) The psalmist saw in his vision the people of God mingling the praises of their lips with brave and strong blows from their hand dealt against their enemies and the Lord's. We see in our vision another and better warfare. We see the ministers and missionaries of the gospel assailing error and superstition with "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God;" doing battle earnestly and devotedly with all forms of sin and wrong, their one weapon being the revealed truth of God. And we see, not kings in chains and soldiers slaughtered on battle-fields, but heathen temples in decay, the ashes of old idols that have been "utterly abolished," peoples clothed and in their right mind, nations walking in the fear and love of God.

V. GOD'S GOOD PLEASURE IN US, AND OUR HOPE IN HIM. (Psalms 149:4.)

1. His heritage in us.

2. Our heritage in him. The proud and the contentious find little satisfaction anywhere; but "the meek," who are willing to learn and to receive, are adorned or crowned with "salvation." To them are given the peace, the joy, and the hope, which the gospel of Christ confers on the humble-hearted.

HOMILIES BY R. TUCK

Psalms 149:1

The ever-repeated call for a new song.

"A new song (as in Psalms 33:3; Psalms 96:1; Psalms 144:9) is the old song of praise, made new by newness of heart and newness of air." "New as expressive of all the new hopes and joys of a new era; a new spring of the nation; a new youth of the Church, bursting forth into a new life."

I. A NEW SONG IS WANTED BECAUSE THERE ARE ALWAYS NEW OCCASIONS. A song was sung by Israel, under the lead of Moses and Miriam, when the people were safely on the further shore of the Red Sea. It was well to keep that song in remembrance, and it was wisely repeated when the great deliverance was recalled. But there came occasions in the national history when that song was unsuitable, and a new song on the old lines had to be made. Illustrate by the song of Deborah; the songs of David on bringing up the ark; of Solomon on dedicating the temple; of the exiles on return from captivity; of the Maccabees on recovering the holy city; of Mary on receiving the visit of the angel. So in a single life there are recurring occasions when the heart is inspired to make a new song.

II. A NEW SONG MAY BE THE OLD SONG PUT IN A NEW FORM. Perhaps it would be true to say that there really is no new song; for man there can never be anything more than the oh! song put into a new form. For man's song is always a loving and grateful recognition of God's goodness. And yet how much importance attaches to the fact that the old song does get set in ever-varying forms! The old song would lose interest, would become formal; its old form would become too strait, unsuitable, repressive of feeling. The song of Moses will not always satisfy. It will need to have much more put into it, and then it will appear as the "song of Moses and the Lamb."

III. AN OLD SONG IS NEW WHEN A NEW SPIRIT IS PUT INTO IT. And that is the spirit of a man's individuality. Everything is new to me that is actually mine—a genuine expression of myself. It may be as old as the hills; it is new to me; it is the output of my feeling, the creation of my experience. It is like nothing else, for on it rests the stamp of my individuality.—R.T.

Psalms 149:2

The Maker of nations.

The expression seems to refer rather to the selection and constitution of Israel as the people of Jehovah than to the act of creation. By the restoration from Babylon, Israel had been appropriated anew in this special character; made or constituted a nation. It was in the restored and renewed national life that the people so greatly rejoiced.

I. GOD MAKES FAMILIES. It is well for us to see distinctly what is the Divine order for humanity. God made man in his image as a Father; gave him a helpmeet, through whom a family was to gather round him. That family was to be trained by Personal influence for an independent family life, into which its members would pass; and so families would reproduce families, and by means of families the whole earth would be peopled, and the moral perfection of the entire family of God attained. This, God's ideal, man's self will and passion have spoiled.

II. MAN-MADE NATIONS. Cowper says, "God made the country, and man made the town." It is answering fact to say, "God made the family, and man made the nation." It is full of significance that the aggregation of men for mutual protection, out of which nations and civil governments have been evolved, was a device of the sons of Cain; i.e. of those who, in some sense, had been "driven out from the presence of the Lord." It is easy to see that, had God's family idea been preserved, no schemes for mutual protection would have been necessary, no walled cities, no government, no army, no police; for brothers in a family would never think of injuring brothers, and the family feeling would also save the relations of families.

III. GOD OVERRULES THE MAKING OF NATIONS. He, in a way, accepts as facts, and use s for his purposes, the conditions in which man has set himself. He lets man have what has been called a "free experiment;" and as it pleases man to create nations, God is pleased to deal with nations as such, using them for his purposes, even as he uses individuals. And nations really are aggregations of men in which personal individualities are sunk in order to construct a composite individuality. God deals with that individuality, and uses it. We call it the "national genius."—R.T.

Psalms 149:4

God's pleasure in his people.

The Peculiarity of religion is that it gives us pleasure in the thought of God, by removing the fear of him which is common to sinful men. This is seen in the joy-songs of the psalmists. When we cherish the thought of God, we find our hearts are incited to praise him

Whether we are finding pleasure in the thought of God is one of the surest and best tests of our religion. In the verse before us, our joy in God and praise of God are demanded on two very sufficient and suggestive grounds.

I. GOD'S PRESENT PLEASURE IN HIS PEOPLE. That ought to be a constant pleasure and joy to us. It is not only that he cares for us—that may be but a cold consideration. It is not only that he loves us—we may feel almost lost among the many whom he loves. It is that he finds pleasure in us, and that necessarily involves some form of personal relations. But what can there possibly be in us in which God can find personal pleasure?

1. We are to him as children.

2. We are the objects of his great redemption.

3. We may reflect his image. There is a strange pleasure in discovering our characteristic self in another person.

4. We may lean upon his grace. And there is great pleasure felt by the good man in simply being relied on. What gave Christ his pleasure in his disciples? Take home the thought of God's pleasurable interest in us, and then see under what obligations we lie never to spoil his pleasure, but do all we can to increase it.

II. GOD'S FUTURE PURPOSE FOR HIS PEOPLE. HIS pleasure in them makes him work for them. And those for whom he works are indicated by their chief characteristic-meekness. "I will beautify the meek." For such God has:

It may be shown how they tend to beautify

What, then, will be our beauty in the sight of God when his salvation work in us is fully complete?—R.T.

Psalms 149:4

God's pleasure in his people.

In what respects does the Lord take pleasure in his people?

I. He takes pleasure in them, inasmuch as HE DELIGHTS IN THE EXERCISES OF THEIR GRACES TOWARDS HIM. They all believe in him, and have faith in his Word and promises; they rely on his truth and power; they hope in his mercy; they fear his displeasure; they love his Person and Name.

II. He takes pleasure IN THE SERVICES OF HIS PEOPLE. They can do but little for him, and he regards their services, not with an eye to their intrinsic value in themselves, but for the sake of the willing mind from which they flow.

III. He takes pleasure IN THE PROSPERITY OF HIS PEOPLE. His Name is love; his nature is goodness. And can we doubt that he loves to see his people happy? Even in those dispensations which in themselves are grievous and painful, he is seeking their good, and in the end promoting their happiness. (After C.H.S.)—R.T.

Psalms 149:6

Song and stroke.

"Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their handy "The age when such a psalm was most likely to be produced was undoubtedly that of the Maccabees, and the coincidence between this verse and 2 Macc. 15:27 may indicate the very series of events amid which, with hymns of praise in their throats, and a two-edged sword in their hand, the chasidim in battle after battle claimed and won the honor of executing vengeance on Jehovah's foes." Illustration may be taken also from Nehemiah's providing the workmen engaged on the wall with a weapon as well as a tool. But in that case the weapon was for defensive purposes only. The point here is that the sword was for active and aggressive work against the foes of God and the nation; such foes as were the Syrians in the days of the Maccabees.

I. GOD'S WORK IN THE WORLD CALLS FOR STROKE AS WELL AS SONG. It is quite true that the weapons of our warfare are "not carnal;" but they are weapons, and they are for a warfare. There is some danger of overdoing the peaceful and submissive side of the Christian religion. There are many evils, and especially those of a private and personal character, which can best—perhaps can only—be met and conquered by submission. But there are other evils, and especially those of a public character, which must be actively dealt with in a spirit of war. For them the servant of God must have strokes—stroke upon stroke. The two injunctions can be, and must be, observed—"Resist not evil;" "Resist the devil." The spirit of the soldier should be in every Christian. (Illustrate by F. W. Robertson of Brighton.)

II. GOD'S WORK OF "STROKE" IS NEVER RIGHTLY DONE SAVE AS WE KEEP THE SOUL OF SONG. That keeps us from a wrong spirit in doing what so easily arouses a bad spirit. The song in our soul shows we are only God's servants; and it keeps us reminded that even in doing stern things we are only doing good, trying to waken song in other souls.—R.T.

Psalms 149:9

The limitation of all human vengeance.

"To execute upon them the judgment written." "It was the thought that vengeance was the righteous retribution, written in the book of God, which made Israel glory in inflicting it." "The psalmist probably desires to fire the broken-spirited despondency which the history shows to have weighed so heavily on the returned exiles." Just in one thing humanity has always failed—it has overdone its vengeance. Vengeance may be duty, but whenever man tries to do that duty, his passions come in and spoil his work. Illustrate by the treatment of the conquered in Old Testament wars; by the horrors of the Roman siege of Jerusalem; by the awful scenes at the sacking of besieged cities in modern warfare. Christianity has wrought a great blessing for humanity in putting strict limitation on vengeance. And it puts as strict limitations on the vengeance which an individual man may take on a fellow-man who has wronged him. Works of fiction often present the exaggerated vengeance taken by men who are under no restraint of Christianity. The Christian limitations are twofold.

I. HUMAN VENGEANCE IS LIMITED BY THE FACT THAT THOSE ON WHOM WE TAKE IT STAND IN THE LOVE OF GOD. The Mohammedan can freely slay the "infidels" in propagating his doctrines with the sword, because in his view they are altogether out of the love of God, and these vengeance-takers think they are executing the vengeance of God. We can do nothing of the kind, for that love of God in which we live embraces every fellow of our humanity. To strike a man is to strike one whom God loves. This checks our taking vengeance.

II. HUMAN VENGEANCE IS LIMITED BY THE NECESSITY OF KEEPING IN VIEW THE WELL-BEING OF THOSE ON WHOM THE VENGEANCE IS TAKEN. The servant of God must never do anything but good to anybody. He may do seeming injury in order to reach ends of good; but he must always have in view the salvation—in the large sense—of those with whom he deals.—R.T.

HOMILIES BY C. SHORT

Psalms 149:1-5

The voice of praise.

"Breathes the spirit of intense joy and eager hope in the period which succeeded the return from Babylon. The poet saw in their return so signal a proof of the Divine favor, that he regarded it as a pledge of a glorious future yet in store for the nation. But language like that of Psalms 149:6-9 is no warrant for the exhibition of a similar spirit in the Christian Church."

I. A NEW ERA IN THE LIFE OF THE NATION OR INDIVIDUAL FURNISHES NEW MATERIAL FOR PRAISE. (Psalms 149:1.) Escape from a miserable captivity and the return home was a new national experience, if they had not lost the spirit of freedom. How many eras in our individual life correspond to this? A long sickness recovered from, or a long habit of sin escaped from.

II. SOCIAL WORSHIP IS MOST CONGENIAL TO THE SPIRIT OF PRAISE, (Psalms 149:1.) The people were summoned to rejoice in the congregation. Enthusiasm of any kind more easily inspired in a multitude than in an individual, and more easily propagated.

III. WE ARE TO REJOICE IN OUR CREATOR AND KING AS OUR REDEEMER. (Psalms 149:2, Psalms 149:3.) Such a King will not leave them subject to alien rule, but redeem them.

1. For God rejoices in his near relation to his people. (Psalms 149:4.) Takes pleasure in his fellowship with them and in their welfare.

2. He delights to array them in honor and glory. To put beauty and glory upon the outcast and afflicted.

IV. THE JOY OF THE REDEEMED WILL UTTER ITSELF IN PRIVATE AS WELL AS IN PUBLIC. (Psalms 149:5.) "Upon their beds." In their most restful moments they will exult in God's favor now, and in hope for the future.—S.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 149:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/psalms-149.html. 1897.

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Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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