Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher
SUBJECT. This is a specially remarkable song. In it the
greatness and the condescending goodness of the Lord are celebrated The God of
Israel is set forth in his peculiarity of glory as caring for the sorrowing, the
insignificant, and forgotten. The poet finds a singular joy in extolling one who
is so singularly gracious. It is a Psalm of the city and of the field, of the
first and the second creations, of the common wealth and of the church. It is
good and pleasant throughout.
DIVISION. The, song appears to divide itself into three
portions. From Ps 147:1-6, Jehovah is extolled for building up Zion, and
blessing his mourners; from Ps 147:7-11, the like praise is given because of his
provision for the lowly, and his pleasure in them; and then, from Ps 147:12-20,
he is magnified for his work on behalf of his people, and the power of his word
in nature and in grace. Let it be studied with joyful gratitude.
Verse 1. Praise ye the Lord, or Hallelujah: The flow of the
broad river of the Book of Psalms ends in a cataract of praise. The present
Psalm begins and ends with Hallelujah. Jehovah and happy praise should ever be
associated in the mind of a believer. Jove was dreaded, but Jehovah is beloved.
To one and all of the true seed of Israel the Psalmist acts as choir master, and
cries, "Praise ye the Lord." Such an exhortation may fitly be addressed to all
those who owe anything to the favour of God; and which of us does not? Pay him
we cannot, but praise him we will, not only now, but for ever. "For it is
good to sing praises unto our God." It is good because it is right;
good because it is acceptable with God, beneficial to ourselves, and stimulating
to our fellows. The goodness of an exercise is good argument with good men for
its continual practice. Singing the divine praises is the best possible use of
speech: it speaks of God, for God, and to God, and it does this in a joyful and
reverent manner. Singing in the heart is good, but singing with heart and voice
is better, for it allows others to join with us. Jehovah is our God, our
covenant God, therefore let him have the homage of our praise; and he is so
gracious and happy a God that our praise may best be expressed in joyful song. For it is pleasant; and praise is comely. It is pleasant
and proper, sweet and suitable to laud the Lord Most High. It is refreshing to
the taste of the truly refined mind, and it is agreeable to the eye of the pure
in heart: it is delightful both to hear and to see a whole assembly praising the
Lord. These are arguments for song service which men who love true piety, real
pleasure, and strict propriety will not despise. Please to praise, for praise is
pleasant: praise the Lord in the beauty of holiness, for praise is comely. Where
duty and delight, benefit and beauty unite, we ought not to be backward. Let
each reader feel that he and his family ought to constitute a choir for the
daily celebration of the praises of the Lord.
Verse 2. The Lord doth build up Jerusalem. God appears both
ill the material and spiritual world as a Builder and Maker, and therein he is
to be praised. His grace, wisdom, and power are all seen in the formation and
establishment of the chosen seat of his worship; once a city with material
walls, but now a church composed of spiritual stones. The Jews rejoiced in the
uprising of their capital from its ruins, and we triumph in the growth of the
church from among a godless world. He gathereth together the outcasts of
Israel; and thus he repairs the waste places, and causes the former
desolations to be inhabited. This sentence may relate to Nehemiah and those who
returned with him; but there is no reason why it should not with equal fitness
be referred to David, who, with his friends, was once an outcast, but ere long
became the means of building up Jerusalem. In any case, the Psalmist ascribes to
Jehovah all the blessings enjoyed; the restoration of the city and the
restoration of the banished he equally traces to the divine hand. How clearly
these ancient believers saw the Lord present, working among them and for them!
Spiritually we see the hand of God in the edification of the church, and in the
ingathering of sinners. What are men tinder conviction of sin but outcasts from
God, from holiness, from heaven, and even from hope? Who could gather them from
their dispersions, and make citizens of them in Christ Jesus save the Lord our
God? This deed of love and power he is constantly performing. Therefore let the
song begin at Jerusalem our home, and let every living stone in the spiritual
city echo the strain; for it is the Lord who has brought again his banished
ones, and builded them together in Zion.
Verse 3. He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up
their wounds. This the Holy Spirit mentions as a part of the glory of
God, and a reason for our declaring his praise: the Lord is not only a Builder,
but a Healer; he restores broken hearts as well as broken walls. The kings of
the earth think to be great through their loftiness; but Jehovah becomes really
so by his condescension. Behold, the Most High has to do with the sick and the
sorry, with the wretched and the wounded! He walks the hospitals as the good
Physician! His deep sympathy with mourners is a special mark of his goodness.
Few will associate with the despondent, but Jehovah chooses their company, and
abides with them till he has healed them by his comforts. He deigns to handle
and heal broken hearts: he himself lays on the ointment of grace, and the soft
bandages of love, and thus binds up the bleeding wounds of those convinced of
sin. This is compassion like a God. Well may those praise him to whom he has
acted o gracious a part. The Lord is always healing and binding: this is no new
work to him, he has done it of old; and it is not a thing of the past of which
he is now weary, for he is still healing and still binding, as the original hath
it. Come, broken hearts, come to the Physician who never fails to heal: uncover
your wounds to him who so tenderly binds them up!
Verse 4. He telleth the number of the stars. None but he can
count the mighty host, but as he made them and sustains them he can number them.
To Jehovah stars are as mere coins, which the merchant tells as he puts them
into his bag. He calleth them all by their names. He has an intimate
acquaintance with each separate orb, so as to know its name or character.
Indeed, he gives to each its appropriate title, because he knows its
constitution and nature. Vast as these stars are, they are perfectly obedient to
his bidding; even as soldiers to a captain who calls their names, and allots
them their stations. Do they not rise, and set, and move, or stand, precisely
according to his order? What a change is here from the preceding verse! Read the
two without a break, and feel the full force of the contrast. From stars to
sighs is a deep descent! From worlds to wounds is a distance which only infinite
compassion can bridge. Yet he who acts a surgeon's part with wounded hearts,
marshals the heavenly host, and reads the muster roll of suns and their majestic
systems. O Lord, it is good to praise thee as ruling the stars, but it is
pleasant to adore thee as healing the broken in heart!
Verse 5. Great is our Lord. Our Lord and King is great--
magnanimous, infinite, inconceivably glorious. None can describe his majesty, or
reckon up the number of his excellencies. And of great power.
Doing as he wills, and willing to do mighty deeds. His acts reveal something of
his might, but the mass of his power is hidden, for all things are possible with
God, even the things impossible with men. His understanding is infinite.
There is no fathoming his wisdom, or measuring his knowledge. He is infinite in
existence, in power, and in knowledge; as these three phrases plainly teach us.
The gods of the heathen are nothing, but our God filleth all things. And yet how
condescending! For this is he who so tenderly nurses sick souls, and waist to be
gracious to sinful men. He brings his boundless power and infinite understanding
to bear upon human distress for its assuagement and sanctification. For all
these reasons let his praise be great: even could it be infinite, it would not
exceed his due. In the building of his church and the salvation of souls, his
greatness, power, and wisdom are all displayed: let him be extolled because of
each of these attributes.
Verse 6. The LORD lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked
down to the ground. He reverses the evil order of things. The meek
are down, and he lifts them up; the wicked are exalted, anti he hurls them down
to the dust. The Lord loves those who are reverent to himself, humble in their
own eyes, and gentle to their fellow men: these he lifts up to hope, to peace,
to power, to eternal honour. When God lifts a man, it is a lift indeed. Proud
men are in their own esteem, high enough already; only those who are low will
care to be lifted up, and only such will Jehovah upraise. As for the wicked,
they must come down from their scats of vain glory. God is accustomed to
overthrow such; it is his way and habit. None of the wicked shall in the end
escape. To the earth they must go; for from the earth they came, and for the
earth they live. It is one of the glories of our God for which his saints praise
him, that he hath put down the mighty from their seats, and hath exalted them of
low degree. Well may the righteous be lifted up in spirit and the wicked be
downcast as they think of the judgments of the Lord God. In this verse we see the practical outcome of that character of
Jehovah which leads him to count and call the stars as if they were little
things, while he deals tenderly with sorrowful men, as if they were precious in
his esteem. He is so great that nothing is great to him, and he is so
condescending that nothing is little to him: his infinite majesty thus naturally
brings low the lofty and exalts the lowly.
Verse 7. In this paragraph the contrast announced in the
former section is enlarged upon from another point of view, namely, as it is
seen in nature and in providence. Sing unto the LORD with, thanksgiving; or rather, "respond
to Jehovah." He speaks to us in his works, let us answer him with our thanks.
All that he does is gracious, every movement of Iris hand is goodness; therefore
let our hearts reply with gratitude, and our lips with song. Our lives should be
responses to divine love. Jehovah is ever engaged in giving, let us respond with
thanksgiving. Sing praise upon the harp unto our God. Blend music with
song. Under a dispensation of ritual the use of music was most commendable, and
suitable in the great congregation: those of us who judge it to be less
desirable for public worship, under a spiritual economy, because it has led to
so many abuses, nevertheless rejoice in it in our privacy, and are by no means
insensible to its charms. It seems profanation that choice minstrelsy should so
often be devoted to unworthy themes: the sweetest harmonies should be
consecrated to the honour of the Lord. He is our God, and this fact is
one choice joy of the sing. We have chosen him because he has chosen us; and we
see in him peculiarities which distinguish him from all the pretended deities of
those among whom we dwell. He is our God in covenant relationship for ever and
ever, and to him be praise in every possible form.
Verse 8. Who covereth the heaven with clouds. He works in
all things, above as well as below. Clouds are not caused by accident, but
produced by God himself, and made to assume degrees of density by which the blue
firmament is hidden. A sky scape might seem to be a mere fortuitous concourse of
vapours, but it is not so: the Great Artist's hand thus covers the canvas of the
heavens. Who prepareth rain for the earth. The Lord prepares
clouds with a view to rain, and rain with an eye to the fields below. By many
concurrent circumstances all things are made ready for the production of a
shower; there is more of art in the formation of a rain cloud and in the
fashioning of a rain drop, than appears to superficial observers. God is in the
vapour, and in the pearly drop which is born of it. Who maketh grass to grow
upon the mountains. By the far reaching shower he produces vegetation where
the hand of man is all unknown. He cares not only for Goshen's fertile plains,
but for Carmel's steep ascents. God makes the heavens the servants of the earth,
and the clouds the irrigators of the mountain meadows. This is a kind of
evolution about which there can be no dispute. Nor does the Lord forget the
waste and desolate places, but causes the lone hills to be the first partakers
of his refreshing visitations. This is after the manner of our God. He not only
causes rain to descend from the heavens to water the grass, and thus unites the
skies and the herbs by a ministry of mercy; but he also thinks of the rocky
ledges among the hills, and forgets not the pastures of the wilderness. What a
God is this!
"Passing by the rich and great,
For the poor and desolate."
Verse 9. He giveth to the beast his food. By causing the
grass to grow on the hills the Lord feeds the cattle. God careth for the brute
creation. Men tread grass under foot as though it were nothing, but God causeth
it to grow: too often men treat their cattle with cruelty, but the Lord himself
feedeth them. The great God is too good, and, indeed, too great to overlook
things that are despised. Say not, "Doth God care for oxen?" Indeed he does, and
he permits himself to be here described as giving them their food as husbandmen
are wont to do. And to the young ravens which cry. These wild creatures,
which seem to be of no use to man; are they therefore worthless? By no means;
they fill their place in the economy of nature. When they are mere fledgelings,
and can only clamour to the parent birds for food, the Lord does not suffer them
to starve, but supplies their needs. Is it not wonderful how such numbers of
little birds are fed! A bird in a cage under human care is in more danger of
lacking seed and water than any one of the myriads that fly in the open heavens,
with no owner but their Creator, and no provider but the Lord. Greatness
occupied with little things makes up a chief feature of this Psalm. Ought we not
all to feel special joy in praising One who is so specially remarkable for his
care of the needy and the forgotten? Ought we not also to trust in the Lord? for
he who feeds the sons of the raven will surely nourish the sons of God!
Hallelujah to Him who both feeds the ravens and rules the stars! What a God art
thou, O Jehovah!
Verse 10. He delighteth not in the strength of the horse.
Not to great and strong animals doth the Creator in any measure direct his
special thought; but in lesser living things he has equal pleasure. If man could
act the Creator's part, he would take peculiar delight in producing noble
quadrupeds like horses, whose strength and speed would reflect honour upon their
maker; but Jehovah has no such feeling; lie cares as much for helpless birds in
the nest as for the war horse in the pride of its power. He taketh not
pleasure in the legs of a man. These are the athlete's glory, but God
hath no pleasure in them. Not the capacities of the creature, but rather its
weakness and necessity, win the regard of our God. Monarchs trust in their
cavalry and infantry; but the King of kings exults not in the hosts of his
creatures as though they could lend power to him. Physical or material greatness
and power are of no account with Jehovah; he has respect to other and more
precious qualities. Men who boast in fight the valour of gigantic might, will
not find themselves the favourites of God: though earthly princes may feast
their eyes upon their Joabs and their Abners, their Abishais and Asahels, the
Lord of hosts has no pleasure in mere bone and muscle. Sinews and thews are of
small account, either in horses or in men, with Him who is a spirit, and
delights most in spiritual things. The expression of the text may be viewed as
including all creature power, even of a mental or moral kind. God does not take
pleasure in us because of our attainments, or potentialities: he respects
character rather than capacity.
Verse 11. The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him in
those that hope in his mercy. While the bodily powers give no content
to God, spiritual qualities are his delight. He cares most for those emotions
which centre in himself: the fear which he approves is fear of him, and
the hope which he accepts is hope in his mercy. It is a striking thought
that God should not only be at peace with some kinds of men, but even find a
solace and a joy in their company. Oh! the matchless condescension of the Lord,
that his greatness should take pleasure in the insignificant creatures of his
hand. Who are these favoured men in whom Jehovah takes pleasure? Some of them
are the least in his family, who have never risen beyond hoping and fearing.
Others of them are more fully developed, but still they exhibit a blended
character composed of fear and hope: they fear God with holy awe and filial
reverence, and they also hope for forgiveness and blessedness because of the
divine mercy. As a father takes pleasure in his own children, so doth the Lord
solace himself in his own beloved ones, whose marks of new birth are fear and
hope. They fear, for they are sinners; they hope; for God is merciful. They fear
him, for he is great; they hope in him, for he is good. Their fear sobers their
hope; their hope brightens their fear: God takes pleasure in them both in their
trembling and in their rejoicing. Is there not rich cause for praise in this special feature of
the divine character? After all, it is a poor nature which is delighted with
brute force; it is a diviner thing to take pleasure in the holy character of
those around us. As men may be known by the nature of the things which give them
pleasure, so is the Lord known by the blessed fact that he taketh pleasure in
the righteous, even though that righteousness is as yet in its initial stage of
fear and hope.
Verse 12. Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O
Zion. How the poet insists upon praise: he cries praise, praise, as if it
were the most important of all duties. A peculiar people should render peculiar
praise. The city of peace should be the city of praise; and the temple of the
covenant God should resound with his glories. If nowhere else, yet certainly in
Zion there should be joyful adoration of Zion's God. Note, that we are to praise
the Lord in our own houses in Jerusalem as well as in his own house in Zion. The
holy city surrounds the holy hill, and both are dedicated to the holy God,
therefore both should ring with hallelujahs.
Verse 13. For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates.
Her fortifications were finished, even to the fastenings of the gates, and God
had made all sound and strong, even to her bolts and bars: thus her security
against invading foes was guaranteed. This is no small mercy. Oh, that our
churches were thus preserved from all false doctrine and unholy living! This
must be the Lord's doing; and where he has wrought it his name is greatly to be
praised. Modern libertines would tear down all gates and abolish all bars; but
so do not we, because of the fear of the Lord. He hath blessed thy
children within thee. Internal happiness is as truly the Lord's gift
as external security. When the Lord blesses "thy sons in the midst of thee",
thou art, O Zion, filled with a happy, united, zealous, prosperous, holy people,
who dwell in communion with God, and enter into the joy of their Lord. When God
makes thy walls salvation thy gates must be praise. It would little avail to
fortify a wretched, starving city; but when the walls are strengthened, it is a
still greater joy to see that the inhabitants are blessed with all good gifts.
How much our churches need a present and abiding benediction.
Verse 14. He maketh peace in thy borders. Even to the
boundaries quiet extends; no enemies are wrangling with the borderers. If there
is peace there, we may be sure that peace is everywhere. "When a man's ways
please the Lord he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him." Peace is
from the God of peace. Considering the differing constitutions, conditions,
tastes, and opinions of men, it is a work of God when in large churches unbroken
peace is found year after year; and it is an equal wonder if worldlings, instead
of persecuting the godly, treat them with marked respect. He who builds Zion is
also her Peace maker, the Lord and Giver of peace. And filleth thee with
the finest of the wheat. Peace is attended with plenty, -- plenty of the
best food, and of the best sort of that food. It is a great reason for
thanksgiving when men's wants are so supplied that they are filled: it takes
much to fill some men: perhaps none ever are filled but the inhabitants of Zion;
and they are only to be filled by the Lord himself. Gospel truth is the finest
of the wheat, and those are indeed blessed who are content to be filled
therewith, and are not hungering after the husks of the world. Let those who are
filled with heavenly food fill their mouths with heavenly praise.
Verse 15. He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth. His
messages fly throughout his dominions: upon earth his warrants are executed as
well as in heaven. From his church his word goes forth; from Zion he missions
the nations with the word of life. His word runneth very swiftly:
his purposes of love are speedily accomplished. Oriental monarchs laboured hard
to establish rapid postal communication; the desire, will, and command of the
Lord flash in an instant from pole to pole, yea, from heaven to earth. We who
dwell in the centre of the Lord's dominions may exceedingly rejoice that to the
utmost extremity of the realm the divine commandment speeds with sure result,
and is not hindered by distance or time. The Lord can deliver his people right
speedily, or send them supplies immediately from his courts above. God's
commands in nature and providence are fiats against which no opposition is ever
raised; say, rather, to effect which all things rush onward with alacrity. The
expressions in the text are so distinctly in the present that they are meant to
teach us the present mission and efficiency of the word of the Lord, and thus to
prompt us to present praise.
Verse 16. Here follow instances of the power of God upon the
elements. He giveth snow like wool. As a gift he scatters the snow, which
falls in flakes like fleecy wool. Snow falls softly, covers universally, and
clothes warmly, even as wool covers the sheep. The most evident resemblance lies
in the whiteness of the two substances; but many other likenesses are to be seen
by the observant eye. It is wise to see God in winter and in distress as well as
in summer and prosperity. He who one day feeds us with the finest of the wheat,
at another time robes us in snow: he is the same God in each case, and each form
of his operation bestows a gift on men. He scattereth the hoarfrost
like ashes. Here again the Psalmist sees God directly and personally at
work. As ashes powder the earth when men are burning up the rank herbage; and as
when men cast ashes into the air they cause a singular sort of whiteness in the
places where they fall, so also does the frost. The country people talk of a
black frost and a white frost, and the same thing may be said of ashes, for they
are both black and white. Moreover, excessive cold burns as effectually as great
heat, and hence there is an inner as well as an outer likeness between hoarfrost
and ashes. Let us praise the Lord who condescends to wing each flake of snow and
scatter each particle of rime. Ours is no absent or inactive deity: he worketh
all things, and is everywhere at home.
Verse 17. He casteth forth his ice like morsels. Such are
the crumbs of hail which he casts forth, or the crusts of ice which he creates
upon the waters. These morsels are his ice, and he casts them
abroad. The two expressions indicate a very real presence of God in the
phenomena of nature. Who can stand before his cold? None can resist the
utmost rigours of cold any more than they can bear the vehemence of heat. God's
withdrawals of light are a darkness that may be felt, and his withdrawals of
heat are a cold which is absolutely omnipotent. If the Lord, instead of
revealing himself as a fire, should adopt the opposite manifestation of cold, he
would, in either case, consume us should he put forth all his power. It is ours
to submit to deprivations with patience, seeing the cold is his cold.
That which God sends, whether it be heat or cold, no man can defy with impunity,
but he is happy who bows before it with childlike submission. When we cannot
stand before God we will gladly lie at his feet, or nestle under his wings.
Verse 18. He sendeth out his word, and melteth them. When
the frost is sharpest, and the ice is hardest, the Lord intervenes; and though
he doth no more than send his word, yet the rocks of ice are dissolved at once,
and the huge bergs begin to float into the southern seas. The phenomena of
winter are not so abundant in Palestine as with us, yet they are witnessed
sufficiently to cause the devout to bless God for the return of spring. At the
will of God snow, hoarfrost, and ice disappear, and the time of the opening bud
and the singing of birds has come. For this let us praise the Lord as we sun
ourselves amici the spring flowers. He causeth his wind to blow, and the
waters flow. The Lord is the great first cause of everything; even
the fickle, wandering winds are caused by him. Natural laws are in themselves
mere inoperative rules, but the power emanates directly from the Ever present
and Ever potent One. The soft gales from the south, which bring a general thaw,
are from the Lord, as were those wintry blasts which bound the streams in icy
bonds. Simple but effectual are the methods of Jehovah in the natural world;
equally so are those which he employs in the spiritual kingdom; for the breath
of his Holy Spirit breathes upon frozen hearts, and streams of penitence and
love gush forth at once. Observe how in these two sentences the word and the wind go
together in nature. They attend each other in grace; the gospel and the Holy
Spirit cooperate in salvation. The truth which the Spirit breathed into prophets
and apostles he breathes into dead souls, and they are quickened into spiritual
Verse 19. He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and
his judgments unto Israel. He who is the Creator is also the
Revealer. We are to praise the Lord above all things for his manifesting himself
to us as he does not unto the world. Whatever part of his mind he discloses to
us, whether it be a word of instruction, a statute of direction, or a judgment
of government, we are bound to bless the Lord for it. He who causes summer to
come in the place of winter has also removed the coldness and death from our
hearts by the power of his word, and this is abundant cause for singing unto his
name. As Jacob's seed of old were made to know the Lord, even so are we ill
these latter days; wherefore, let his name be magnified among us. By that
knowledge Jacob is ennobled into Israel, and therefore let him who is made a
prevailing prince in prayer be also a chief musician in praise. The elect people
were bound to sing hallelujahs to their own God. Why were they so specially
favoured if they did not, above all others, tell forth the glory of their God?
Verse 20. He hath not dealt so with any nation. Israel had
clear and exclusive knowledge of God, while others were left in ignorance.
Election is the loudest call for grateful adoration. And as for his
judgments, they have not known them; or, and judgments they had
not known them, as if not knowing the laws of God, they might be looked upon
as having no laws at all worth mentioning. The nations were covered with
darkness, and only Israel sat in the light. This was sovereign grace in its
fullest noontide of power. Praise ye the Lord. When we have
mentioned electing, distinguishing love, our praise can rise no higher, and
therefore we close with one more hallelujah.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. The whole Psalm is an invitation unto praising
of God. Arguments therein are drawn, First, from God's general
goodness to the world (Ps 147:4,8-9,16-18): Secondly, from his special
mercy to his Church. 1. In restoring it out of a sad and broken
condition (Ps 147:2-3). 2. In confirming it in a happy and prosperous
estate, both temporal, in regard of strength, peace, and plenty (Ps 147:12-14);
and spiritual, in regard of his word, statutes, and judgments, made known unto
them (Ps 147:19-20). Lastly, these mercies are all commended by the
manner of bestowing them--powerfully and swiftly. He doth it; by a
word of command, and by a word of speed: "He sendeth forth his commandment upon
earth: his word runneth very swiftly" (Ps 147:15). The temporal part of this happy estate, together with the
manner of bestowing it, is herein described, but we must by no means exclude the
spiritual meaning. And what can be wanting to a nation which "strengthened" with
walls, "blessed" with multitudes, hath "peace" in the border, "plenty" in the
field, and, what is all in all, God in the sanctuary: God the bar of the "gate",
the Father of the children, the crown of the "peace", the staff of the "plenty"?
They haven "gate" restored, a "city" blessed, a "border" quieted, a "field"
crowned, a "sanctuary" beautified with the oracles of God. What can bc wanting
to such a people, but a mouth filled, a heart enlarged, a spirit exalted in the
praises of the Lord? "Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion",
etc. (Ps 147:12). --Edward Reynolds in a Sermon entitled "Sion's Praises",
Whole Psalm. The God of Israel, what he has done, what he
does, what he can do--this is the "Hallelujah" note of his song. So happy
is the theme, that in Ps 147:1 we find a contribution for it levied on Ps 33:1
92:1 135:3; each must furnish its quota of testimony to the desirableness of
giving praise to such a God. --Andrew A. Bonar.
Verse 1. Praise ye the Lord. Alleluia. An expression in
sound very similar to this seems to have been used by many nations, who can
hardly be supposed to have borrowed it from the Jews. Is it impossible that this
is one of the most ancient expressions of devotion? From the Greeks using
eleleu ih, as a solemn beginning and
ending of their hymns to Apollo, it should seem that they knew it; it is said
also to have been heard among the Indians in America, and Alia, Alla, as the
name of God, is used in great part of the East: also in composition. What might
be the primitive stock which has furnished such spreading branches? --Augustin
Verse 1. It is good to sing praises unto our God. Singing is
necessarily included and recognised in the praise of Psalms. That the joyful
should sing is as natural as that the afflicted should pray-- rather more
natural. Song as the expression of cheerfulness is something universal in human
nature; there were always, both in Israel and among all other nations, songs of
joy. Hence it is constantly mentioned in the prophets, by whom joyous singing is
used as a frequent figure, even as they threaten that God will take away the
song of the bridegroom and the bride, and so forth. The singing of men is
in itself good and noble. The same God who furnished the birds of heaven with
the notes wherein they unconsciously praise their Creator, gave to man the power
to sing. We all know how highly Luther, for example, estimated the gift and the
art of song. Let him to whom it is granted rejoice therein; let him who lacks it
seek, if possible, to excite it; for it is a good gift of the Creator. Let our
children learn to sing in the schools, even as they learn to read. Our fathers
sang more in all the affairs of life than we do; our tunes are in this respect
less fresh, and artless, and joyous. There are many among us who never sing,
except when adding their voices to the voice of the church, --and therefore they
sing so badly there. Not that a harsh song from a good heart is unacceptable to
God; but he should have our best. As David in his day took care that there
should be practised singers for the sanctuary, we also should make provision for
the church's service of song, that God may have in all respects a perfect
offering. How gracious and lovely is the congregation singing with the heart
acceptable songs! --Rudolf Stier, in "The Epistle of James Expounded,"
Verse 1. The translation here is doubtful. It may either be
rendered, "Praise the Lord for he is good", or, "for it (praise) is
good." Why is it declared to be "pleasant" and "comely" to praise
the Deity? Not only because if we glorify him he will also glorify us, but
because he is so infinitely glorious that we are infinitely honoured simply in
being reckoned worthy to worship One so great. --John Lorinus.
Verse 1. It is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is
pleasant; and praise is comely. These points are worthy of careful
1. To praise God is "good" for divers reasons. a) That
is good which God commands (Mic 6:8). So that thanksgiving is no indifferent
action, no will worship, but it is cultus institutus, not to be
neglected. b) It raiseth the heart from earth to heaven; and being the work of
angels and saints in heaven, joins us with that choir above. c) It is good,
again, because by it we pay, or at least acknowledge, a debt, and this is common
justice. d) Good, because for it we are like to receive a good and a great
reward; for if he that prays to God is like to be rewarded (Mt 6:6), much more
that man who sings praises to him; for in prayer we consult with our own
necessities, in our praises we honour God, and bless him for his gifts.
2. To praise God is "pleasant." a) Because it proceeds
out of love; for nothing is more pleasant to him that loves, than to make
sonnets in the praise of that party he loves. b) Because it must needs please a
man to perform that duty for which he was created; for to that end God created
men and angels, that they should praise him. c) Because God is delighted with
it, as the sweetest sacrifice (Ps 50:23). d) It is pleasant to God, because he
is delighted with those virtues which are in us, --faith, hope, charity,
religion, devotion, humility, etc., of all which our praises are a manifestation
3. To praise God is "comely"; for there is no greater
stain than ingratitude; it is made up of a lie and injustice. There is, then,
all the decency in the world in praise, and it is comely that a man be thankful
to his God, who freely gives him all things. --William Nicholson.
Verse 1. David, to persuade all men to thankfulness, saith,
It is a good and pleasant thing to be thankful. If he had said no
more but "good", all which love goodness are bound to be thankful; but
when he saith not only "good", but "pleasant" too, all which love
pleasure are bound to be thankful; and therefore, as Peter's mother-in-law, so
soon as Christ healed her of a fever, rose up immediately to minister unto him
(Mt 8:15), so we, so soon as Christ hath done anything for us, should rise up
immediately to serve him. --Henry Smith.
Verse 1. There is no heaven, either in this world, or the
world to come, for people who do not praise God. If you do not enter into the
spirit and worship of heaven, how should the spirit and joy of heaven enter into
you? Selfishness makes long prayers, but love makes short prayers, that it may
continue longer in praise. --John Pulsford, 1857.
Verse 1. Praise. There is one other thing which is a serious
embarrassment to praising through the song service of the Church, and that is,
that we have so few hymns of praise. You will be surprised to hear me say so;
but you will be more surprised if you take a real specimen of praising and
search for hymns of praise. You shall find any number of hymns that talk about
praise, and exhort you to praise. There is no lack of hymns that say that God
ought to be praised. But of hymns that praise, and say nothing about it, there
are very few indeed. And for what there are we are almost wholly indebted to the
old churches. Most of them came down to us from the Latin and Greek
Churches...There is no place in human literature where you can find such praise
as there is in the Psalms of David. --Henry Ward Beecher.
Verse 2. The Lord doth build up Jerusalem, etc. If this
Psalm were written on occasion of the return from Babylon, and the rebuilding of
the earthly city, the ideas are to be transferred, as in other Psalms of the
same kind, to a more important restoration from a much worse captivity, and to
the building up of the church under the gospel, when Christ "gathered together
in one the children of God that were scattered abroad" (Joh 11:52); that is, in
the words of our Psalm, he gathered together the outcasts of Israel. So
shall he again, at the resurrection, "gather together his elect from the four
winds" (Mt 24:31), and "build up a Jerusalem", in which they shall serve and
praise him for ever. --George Horne.
Verse 2. The Lord doth build up Jerusalem, etc.
Jerusalem! Jerusalem! the blessing lingers yet
On the city of the chosen, where the Sabbath seal was set;
And though her sons are scattered, and her daughters weep apart,
While desolation, like a pall, weighs down each faithful heart;
As the plain beside the waters, as the cedar on the hills,
She shall rise in strength and beauty when the Lord Jehovah wills:
He has promised her protection, and the holy pledge is good,
'Tis whispered through the olive groves, and murmured by the flood,
As in thee Sabbath stillness the Jordan's flow is heard,
And by the Sabbath breezes the hoary trees are stirred.
--Mrs. Hale, in "The Rhyme of Life."
Verse 2. He gathereth together the outcasts of Israel.
Wonder not that God calls together "the outcasts", and singles them out
from every corner for a return; why can he not do this, as well as "tell the
number of the stars, and call them all by their names"? There are none of his
people so despicable in the eye of man, but they are known and regarded by God.
Though they are clouded in the world, yet they are the stars of the world; and
shall God number the inanimate stars in the heavens, and make no account of his
living stars on the earth? No; wherever they are dispersed, he will not forget
them: however they are afflicted, he will not despise them. The stars are so
numerous that they are innumerable by man; some are visible and known by men,
others lie more hid and undiscovered in a confused light, as those in the milky
way; a man cannot see one of them distinctly. God knows all his people. As he
can do what is above the power of man to perform, so he understands what is
above the skill of man to discover. --Stephen Charnock.
Verse 2. He gathereth together the outcasts of Israel. David
might well have written feelingly about the "outcasts", for he had
himself been one; and even from Jerusalem, in his age, when driven forth from
thence by his unnatural son, he went up by the ascent of Olivet, weeping and
barefooted, and other "outcasts" with him, weeping also as they went.
Verse 3. He healeth the broken in heart, etc. Here are two
things contained in this text; the patients and the physician. The
patients are the broken in heart. The physician is Christ; it is he who bindeth
up their wounds. The patients here are felt and discerned to have two wounds or
maladies; brokenness of heart, and woundedness: he binds up such. Brokenness of
heart presupposes a former wholeness of heart. Wholeness of heart is twofold;
either wholeness of heart in sin, or wholeness of heart from sin.
First, wholeness of heart from sin is when the heart is without
sin; and so the blessed angels have whole hearts, and so Adam and Eve, and
we in them, before the fall, had whole hearts. Secondly, wholeness of heart
in sin; so the devils have whole hearts, and all men since the fall, from
their conception till their conversion, have whole hearts; and these are they
that our Saviour intends, --"The whole need not the physician, but they that are
Brokenness of heart may be considered two ways; first,
in relation to wholeness of heart in sin: so brokenness of heart
is not a malady, but the commencement of the cure of a desperate disease.
Secondly, in relation to wholeness of heart from sin; and so it is a
malady or sickness, and yet peculiar to one blood alone, namely, God's elect;
for though the heart be made whole in its desire towards God, yet it is broken
for its sins. As a man that hath a barbed arrow shot into his side, and the
arrow is plucked out of the flesh, yet the wound is not presently healed; so sin
may be plucked out of the heart, but the scar that was made with plucking it out
is not yet cured. The wounds that are yet under cure are the plagues and
troubles of conscience, the sighs and groans of a hungering soul after grace,
the stinging poison that the serpent's fang hath left behind it; these are the
wounds. Now the heart is broken three ways.
First, by the law;
as it breaks the heart of a thief to hear the sentence of the law, that he
must be hanged for his robbery; so it breaks the heart of the soul, sensibly to
understand the sentence of the law, --Thou shalt not sin; if thou do, thou shalt
be damned. If ever the heart come to be sensible of this sentence, --"Thou art a
damned man", it is impossible to stand out under it, but it must break. "Is not
my word like a hammer, that breaketh the rock in pieces?" (Jer 23:29). Can any
rock heart hold out and not be broken with the blows of it? Indeed, thus far a
man may be broken, and yet be a reprobate; for they shall all be thus broken in
hell, and therefore this breaking is not enough.
Secondly, by the Gospel; for if ever the heart come to
be sensible of the love of the Gospel, it will break all to shatters. "Rend your
heart; for the Lord is gracious", etc.: Joe 2:13. When all the shakes of God's
mercy come, they all cry "Rend." Indeed, the heart cannot stand out against
them, if it once feel them. Beat thy soul upon the gospel: if any way under
heaven can break it, this is the way.
Thirdly, the heart is broken by the skill of the
minister in the handling of these two, the law and the gospel: God furnishes
him with skill to press the law home, and gives him understanding how to put the
gospel, and by this means doth God break the heart: for, alas, though the law be
never so good a hammer, and although the gospel be never so fit an anvil, yet if
the minister lay not the soul upon it the heart will not break: he must fetch a
full stroke with the law, and he must set the full power of the gospel at the
back of the soul, or else the heart will not break.
He healeth the broken in heart. Hence observe, that
Christ justifies and sanctifies; for that is the meaning.
1. First, because God hath gives Christ grace to practise
for the sake of the broken in, heart; and therefore if this be his
grace, to heal the broken hearted, certainly he will heal them. "The Spirit of
the Lord is upon me", etc. "He hath sent me to heal the broken hearted", etc.:
Lu 4:18. If he be created master of this art, even for this purpose, to
heal the broken in heart, he will verily heal them, and none but them. It is not
like Hosander and Hippocrates, whose father appointed them both to be
physicians; he appointed his son Hippocrates to be a physician of horses, yet he
proved a physician for men; he appointed Hosander to be a physician for men, and
he proved a physical for horses. Jesus is not like these; no, no; he will heal
those whom he was appointed to heal.
2. Because Christ hath undertaken to do it. When a
skilful Physician hath undertaken a cure, he will surely do it: indeed,
sometimes a good physician may fail, as Trajan's physician did, for he died
under his hands; on whose tomb this was written, "Here lies Trajan the emperor,
that may thank his physician that be died." But if Christ undertake it, thou
mayest be sure of it; for he tells thee that art broken in heart that he hath
undertaken it, he hath felt thy pulse already. Isa 57:15. He doth not only
undertake it, but he saith he will go visit his sick patient, he will
come to thy bedside, yea, he will come and dwell with thee all the time of thy
sickness; thou shalt never want anything, but he will be ready to help thee:
thou needest not complain and say, "Oh, the physician is too far off, he will
not come at me." I dwell in the high places indeed, saith God, but yet I will
come and dwell with thee that art of an humble spirit. Thou needest not fear,
saying, "Will a man cure his enemies? I have been an enemy to God's glory, and
will he yet cure me?" Yea, saith Christ, if thou be broken in heart I
will bind thee up.
3. Thirdly, because this is Christ's charge, and he will
look to his own calling: "The Lord hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted"
(Isa 61:1) ...Neither needest thou fear thine own poverty, because thou hast not
a fee to give him; for thou mayest come to him by way of begging; he will look
to thee for nothing; for, "To him will I look that is poor", etc.: Isa 66:2.
4. Fourthly, none but the broken in heart will take physic
of Christ. Now this is a physician's desire, that his patient would
cast himself upon him; if he will not, the physician hath no desire to meddle
with him. Now none but the broken in heart will take such physic as Christ
gives, and therefore he saith, "To him will I look that is of a broken heart,
and trembles at any words": Isa 56:2. When I bid him take such a purge, saith
God, he trembles, and he takes it. --William Fenner, in a Sermon entitled,
"The Sovereign Virtue of the Gospel," 1647.
O Thou who dry'st the mourner's tear,
How dark this world would be,
If, when deceived and wounded here,
We could not fly to Thee!
The friends, who in our sunshine live,
When winter comes are flown;
And he who has but tears to give
Must weep those tears alone.
But Thou wilt heal that broken heart,
Which, like the plants that throw
Their fragrance from the wounded part,
Breathes sweetness out of woe.
When joy no longer soothes or cheers,
And e'en the hope that threw
A moment's sparkle o'er our tears
Is dimmed and vanished too;
Oh! who would bear life's stormy doom,
Did not Thy wing of love
Come, brightly wafting through the gloom
Our peace branch from above?
Then sorrow, touched by Thee, grows bright
With more than rapture's ray;
As darkness shows us worlds of light
We never saw by day! --Thomas Moore, 1779-1852.
Verse 3. He healeth the broken in heart. The broken in heart
is one whose heart is affected with the evil of sin, and weeps bitter tears on
account of it; one who feels sorrow, shame, and anguish, on the review of his
past sinful life, and his base rebellion against a righteous God. Such a one has
a broken heart. His heart is broken at the sight of his own ingratitude--the
despite done by him to the strivings of the Holy Spirit. His heart is broken
when he considers the numberless invitations made to him in the Scriptures, all
of which he has wickedly slighted and despised. His heart is broken at the
recollection of a thousand kind providences to him and to his family, by day and
by night, all sent by God, and intended for his moral, spiritual, and eternal
benefit, but by him basely and wantonly abused. His heart is broken at the
consideration of the love and compassion of the adorable Redeemer; the
humiliation of his birth; the devotedness of his life; the reproach, the
indignity of his sufferings; the ignominy and anguish of his death. His heart is
broken when his conscience assures him that all this humiliation, this
suffering, this death, was for him, who had so deliberately and repeatedly
refused the grace which the blood and righteousness of Christ has purchased. It
is the sight of Calvary that fills him with anguish of spirit, that overwhelms
him with confusion and self abasement. While he contemplates the amazing scene,
he stands, he weeps, he prays, he smites upon his breast, he exclaims", God be
merciful to me a sinner!" And adds, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver
me from the body of this death?"
The broken in heart must further be understood as one who seeks
help from God alone, and will not be comforted till he speaks peace to his soul.
The act of God, in the scripture before us, is the moral and
spiritual health of man--of man, who had brought disease on himself --of man, by
his own rebellion against his Creator of man, who had, in ten thousand ways,
provoked the justice of heaven, and deserved only indignation and eternal
wrath--the health of man, whom, in an instant, he could hurl to utter
destruction. The saving health here proposed is the removal of all guilt,
however contracted, and of all pollution, however rooted. It is the
communication of God's favour, the riches of his grace, the implantation of his
righteousness. To effect the healing of the broken heart, God has, moreover,
appointed a Physician, whose skill is infallible, whose goodness and care are
equal to his skill. That Physician is none other than the Son of God. In that
character has he been made known to us. "They that be whole need not a
physician, but they that be sick." The prophet Isaiah introduces his advent in
the most sublime language: "He hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to
proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are
The health, the moral and spiritual soundness of the soul, my
brethren, is derived from the atoning sacrifice of Christ. The grace of God
flows to the broken in heart through his manhood, his godhead, his
righteousness, his truth; through his patience, his humility, his death and
passion; through his victory over sin, his resurrection, and ascension into
heaven. Here, thou broken in heart, thou sorrowing, watching penitent; here is
the medicine, here the Physician, here the cure, here the health thou art
seeking. The healing of the broken in heart must be further understood
as effected through the agency of the Holy Spirit. It is done by the Spirit of
God, that it may be done, and that it may be well done; and that all the praise,
the glory of that which is done, may be ascribed to the plenitude, the freeness,
the sovereignty of his grace. The Spirit of God, however, uses means. The means
of grace are appointed expressly for this purpose; the blessing of health is
there applied. There, under the sound of the everlasting gospel, while looking
by faith to Christ, and appropriating his merits, he healeth the broken in
heart. There, while commemorating the dying love of Christ, and applying its
benefits by faith to the soul, he healeth the broken in heart. There, while the
soul, sensible of his goodness, is offering up the song of praise, and trusting
alone in his mercy, he healeth the broken in heart. There, while prostrate at
his footstool, supplicating his grace, resting on his finished redemption, he
healeth the broken in heart. In the private acts of devotion the Spirit of God
also is near to bless and save. There, while reading and believing his holy
Word, while meditating on its meaning; there, while in secret, solemn prayer,
the soul takes hold on God in Christ Jesus; he healeth the broken in heart.
--Condensed from a Sermon by Thomas Blackley, 1826.
Verse 3. He healeth the broken in, heart. I do indeed most
sincerely sympathise with you in this fresh sorrow. "Thy breaking waves pass
over me." The trial, so much the heavier that it is not the first breaking in,
but the waters continuing still, and continuing to rise, until deep calleth unto
deep at the noise of God's water spouts, "Yea, and thy billows all." In such
circumstances, we are greatly tempted to wonder if it be true, of the Holy One
in the midst of us, that a bruised reed he will not break, that the smoking flax
he will not quench. We may not, however, doubt it, nor even in the day of our
grief and our desperate sorrow, are we at liberty to call it in question. Our
God is the God of the broken heart. The deeper such a heart is smitten, and the
more it bleeds, the more precious it is in his sight, the nearer he draws to it,
the longer he stays there. "I dwell with him who is of a contrite heart." The
more abundantly will he manifest the kindness and the glory of his power, in
tenderly carrying it in his bosom, and at last binding up its painful wounds.
"He healeth the broken in heart." "O, thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and
not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy
foundations with sapphires." Weeping Naomi said, "Call me Marah, for the Lord
hath dealt very bitterly with me." Afterwards, happy Naomi took the child of her
own Ruth, and laid it in her bosom, and sweetly found that the days of her
mourning were ended. My dear friend, this new gash of deep sorrow was prepared for
you by the Ancient of Days. His Son--and that Son is love--watched over the
counsels of old, to keep and to perform them to the minutest circumstance.
--John Jameson, 1838.
Verse 4. He telleth the number of the stars, etc. In which
similitude he showeth, that albeit Abraham could not comprehend the multitude of
the children, either of his faith or of his flesh, more than he could count the
number of the stars; yet the Lord knoweth every believer by name, as he knoweth
every star and can call every one by its name. --David Dickson.
Verse 4. He telleth the number of the stars, etc. Among the
heathen every constellation represented some god. But the Scriptures show
Jehovah, not as one of many starry gods, but as the one God of all the stars. He
is, too, as he taught his people by Abraham, the God of a firmament of nobler
stars. His people are scattered and trodden as the sands of the sea-shore. But
he turns dust and dirt to stars of glory. He will make of every saint a star,
and Heaven is his people's sky, where broken hearted sufferers of earth are
glorified into glittering galaxies. --Hermann Venema.
Verse 4. He calleth them all by their names. Literally,
"calleth names to all of them", an expression marking not only God's power in
marshalling them all as a host (Isa 40:26), but also the most intimate knowledge
and watchful care, as that of a shepherd for his flock. Joh 10:3. --J.J.
Verse 4. He calleth them all by their names. They render a
due obedience to him, as servants to their master. When he singles them out and
calls them by name to do some official service, he calls them out to their
several offices, as the general of an army appoints the station of every
regiment in a battalion; or, "he calls them by name", i.e. he
imposes names upon them, a sign of dominion, the giving names to the inferior
creatures being the first act of Adam's derivative dominion over them. These are
under the sovereignty of God. The stars by their influences fight against Sisera
(Jud 5:20); and the sun holds in its reins, and stands stone still to light
Joshua to a complete victory: Jos 10:12. They are all marshalled in their ranks
to receive his word of command, and fight in close order, as being desirous to
have a share in the ruin of the enemies of their sovereign. --Stephen
Verse 4. The immense distance at which the nearest stars are
known to be placed, proves that they are bodies of a prodigious size, not
inferior to our own sun, and that they shine, not, by reflected rays, but by
their own native light. But bodies encircled with such refulgent splendour,
would be of little use in Jehovah's empire, unless surrounding worlds were
cheered by their benign influence, and enlightened by their beams. Every star is
therefore concluded to be a sun surrounded by planetary globes. Nearly a
thousand of these luminaries may be seen in a clear winter's night by the naked
eye. But these do not form the eighty-thousandth part of what may be descried by
the help of telescopes. While Dr. Herschel was exploring the most crowded part
of the milky way, in one quarter of an hour's time no less than 116,000 stars
passed through the field of view of his telescope. It has been computed, that
nearly one hundred millions of stars might be perceived by our most perfect
instruments, if all the regions of the sky were thoroughly explored. But
immeasurable regions of space lie beyond the utmost boundaries of human vision,
even thus assisted, into which imagination itself can scarcely penetrate, but
which are doubtless filled with operations of divine wisdom and divine
omnipotence. --Thomas Dick, in "The Christian Philosopher."
Verse 5. His understanding is infinite. Hebrew: "Of
his understanding there is no number." God is incomprehensible. In
place; in time; in understanding; in love. First, in
place; because no place, no space, can be imagined so great, but God
exceeds it, and may be found beyond it. Secondly, in time; because he
exceeds all time: for be was before all time that can be conceived, and shall be
after all lime. Time is a created thing, to attend upon the creation and
continuance of all things created and continued by God. Thirdly, in
understanding; because no created understanding can comprehend him so
that nothing of God may be hid from it. Fourthly, in love because God
doth exceed all love: no creature can love God according to his worth. All these
ways of incomprehensibleness follow upon his infiniteness. --Thomas Larkham,
in "The Attributes of God Unfolded, and Applied," 1656.
Verse 5. His understanding is infinite. The Divine wisdom is
said to be "without number"; that is, the objects of which this wisdom of
God can take cognisance are innumerable. --Simon de Muis.
Verse 5. In this verse we have three of God's attributes,
his greatness, his power, and his knowledge; and though only the last of these
be expressly said to be infinite, yet is the same implied also of the two
former; for all the perfections of God being essential to him, must need be
infinite as he himself is; and therefore what is affirmed of one must, by a
parity of reason, be extended to the rest. --John Conant, 1608-1693.
Verse 6. The Lord lifteth up the meek, etc. The meek need
not envy the lofty who sweep the earth with their gay robes, any more than real
royalty is jealous of the kingly hero who struts his hour upon the stage. They
shall be princes and rulers long after these actors have laid aside their
tinselled crowns. How wonderful shall be the reversal when God shall place the
last first and the first last! Moralists have often pointed us to the ruler of a
hundred broad kingdoms lying down at last in six feet of imprisoning clay; but
God shall show us the wayside cottager lifted into the inheritance of the
universe. --Evangelical Magazine.
Verses 7-9. God creates, and then fails not to supply.
Analogically, the Lord buildeth Jerusalem, and provides for the wants of the
inhabitants; by spiritual inference, the saints argue that Christ establishes
his church and gives all the gracious gifts which are needed in that
institution. --John Lorinus.
Verses 8-9. Mountains . . . ravens. Wonderful Providence which
takes cognisance of the mountainous and the minute alike. The All Provider
descends from august and sublime heights to save the meanest creature from
starvation--extending constant care to the wants of even those abject little
objects, the young ravens, Heb. "the sons of the raven." --Martin Geier.
Verse 8. Clouds...rain...grass. There is a mutual dependence
and subordination between all second causes. The creatures are serviceable to
one another by mutual ministries and supplies; the earth is cherished by the
heat of the heavens, moistened by the water, and by the temperament of both made
fruitful; and so sendeth forth innumerable plants for the comfort and use of
living creatures, and living creatures are for the supply of man. It is
wonderful to consider the subordination of all causes, and the proportion they
bear to one another. The heavens work upon the elements, the elements upon the
earth, and the earth yieldeth fruits for the use of man. The prophet taketh
notice of this admirable gradation: "I will hear the heavens, and the heavens
shall hear the earth; and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the
oil; and the corn, and the wine, and the oil, shall hear Jezreel" (Ho 2:21-22).
We look to the fields for the supplies of corn, wine, and oil; but they can do
nothing without clouds, and the clouds can do nothing without God. The creatures
are beholden to one another, and all to God. In the order of the world there is
an excellent chain of causes, by which all things hang together, that so they
may lead up the soul to the Lord. --Thomas Manton.
Verse 8. Who prepareth rain? The rain cloud parts with its
contents only when God commands it, and as he commands, whether in the soft
gentle shower or in the drenching downpour that floods the fields and obstructs
the labours of the husbandman. --Thomas Robinson, in "Homiletical Commentary
on the Book of Job," 1876.
Verse 8. Who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains. The
wild grasses are taken, as it were, under the special providence of God. In the
perennial verdure in regions above the zone of man's cultivation, we have a
perpetual proof of God's care of the lower animals that neither sow nor reap.
The mountain grasses grow spontaneously; they require no culture but such as the
rain and the sunshine of heaven supply. They obtain their nourishment directly
from the inorganic soil, and are independent of organic materials. Nowhere is
the grass so green and vigorous as on the beautiful slopes of lawn like pasture
high up in the Alps, radiant with the glory of wild flowers, and ever musical
with the hum of grasshoppers, and the tinkling of cattle bells. Innumerable cows
and goats browse upon them; the peasants spend their summer months in making
cheese and hay from them for winter consumption in the valleys. This exhausting
system of husbandry has been carried on during untold centuries; no one thinks
of manuring the Alpine pastures; and yet no deficiency has been observed in
their fertility, though the soil is but a thin covering spread over the naked
rocks. It may be regarded as a part of the same wise and gracious arrangement of
Providence, that the insects which devour the grasses on the Kuh and
Schaf Alpen, the pastures of the cows and sheep, are kept in check by a
predominance of carnivorous insects. In all the mountain meadows it has been
ascertained that the species of carnivorous are at least four times as numerous
as the species of herb eating insects. Thus, in the absence of birds, which are
rare in Switzerland, the pastures are preserved from a terrible scourge. To one
not aware of this check, it may seem surprising how the verdure of the Alpine
pastures should be so rich and luxuriant considering the immense development of
insect life. The grass, whenever the sun shines, is literally covered with
them--butterflies of gayest hues, and beetles of brightest iridescence; and the
air is filled with their loud murmurs. I remember well the vivid feeling of
God's gracious providence, which possessed me when passing over the beautiful
Wengern Alp at the foot of the Jungfrau, and seeing, wherever I rested on the
green turf, alive with its tiny inhabitants, the balance of nature so
wonderfully preserved between the herb which is for man's food and the moth
before which he is crushed. Were the herbivorous insects allowed to multiply to
their full extent, in such favourable circumstances as the warmth of the air and
the verdure of the earth in Switzerland produce, the rich pastures which now
yield abundant food for upwards of a million and a half of cattle would speedily
become bare and leafless deserts. Not only in their power of growing without
cultivation, but also in the peculiarities of their structure, the mountain
grasses proclaim the hand of God. Many of them are viviparous. Instead of
producing flowers and seed, as the grasses in the tranquil valleys do, the young
plants spring from them perfectly formed. They cling round the stem and form a
kind of blossom. In this state they remain until the parent stalk withers and
falls prostrate on the ground, when they immediately strike root and form
independent grasses. This is a remarkable adaptation to circumstances; for it is
manifest that were seeds instead of living plants developed in the ears of the
mountain grasses, they would be useless in the stormy regions where they grow.
They would be blown away far from the places they were intended to clothe, to
spots foreign to their nature and habits, and thus the species would speedily
perish. The more we think of it, the more we are struck with the wise
foresight which suggested the creative fiat, "Let the earth bring forth grass."
It is the most abundant and the most generally diffuse of all vegetation. It
suits almost every soil and climate. --Hugh Macmillan, in "Bible Teachings in
Verses 8-9. The Hebrews had no notion of what we denominate
"secondary laws", but believed that God acted directly upon matter, and was the
immediate, efficient cause of the solemn order, and the varied and wonderful
phenomena of nature. Dispensing thus with the whole machinery of cause and
effect, as we employ those terms in philosophical language, their minds were
brought into immediate contact with God in his manifold works, and this gave,
both to devotion and the spirit of poetry, the liveliest inspiration and the
freest scope of action. Heaven and earth were governed by his commands; the
thunder was his "voice", the lightning his "arrows." It is he who "causeth the
vapour to ascend from the ends of the earth." When the famished city should call
upon the corn, the wine, and the oil, and those should call upon the earth for
nourishment, and the parched earth should call upon the heavens for moisture,
and the heavens should call upon the Lord for permission to refresh the earth,
then Jehovah would hear and supply. He gave the rain, and he sent the drought
and famine. The clouds were not looked upon merely as sustained by a law of
specific gravity, but God spread them out in the sky; these clouds were God's
chariot. The curtains of his pavilion, the dust of his feet. Snow and hail were
fearful manifestations of God, often sent as the messengers of his wrath. --G.
Hubbard, in "Bate's Encylopeaedia," 1865.
Verses 8-9. God by his special providence prepares
food for those who have no other care taken for them. Beasts that
live among men are by men taken care of; they enrich the ground with manure and
till the ground; and that brings forth corn for the use of these cattle as well
as men. But the wild beasts that live upon the mountains, and in
the woods and desert places, are fed only from the heavens: the rain that
from thence distils enriches those dry hills and maketh grass to grow
there, which else would not, and so God giveth to these wild beasts their
food after the same manner of Divine Providence as in the end of the verse he is
said to provide for the young ravens. --Henry Hammond.
Verse 9. The young ravens cry. The strange stories told by
Jewish and Arabian writers, on the raven's cruelty to its young, in driving them
out of their nests before they are quite able to provide for themselves, are
entirely without foundation, as no bird is more careful of its young ones than
the raven. To its habit of flying restlessly about in search of food to satisfy
its own appetite and that of its young ones, may perhaps be traced the reason of
its being selected by the sacred writers as an especial object of God's
protecting care. --W. Houghton, in "The Bible Educator."
Verse 9. The young ravens cry. While still unfledged the
young ravens have a strange habit of falling out of their nests, and flapping
their wings heavily to the ground. Next morning they are found by the shepherds
sitting croaking on the ground beneath their former homes, and are then captured
and taken away with comparative ease. --J.G. Wood, in "The Illustrated Natural
Verse 9. The young ravens cry. The evening proceedings and
manoeuvres of the rooks are curious and amusing in the autumn. Just before dusk
they return in long strings from the foraging of the day, and rendezvous by
thousands over Selbourne down, where they wheel round in the air, and sport and
dive in a playful manner, all the while exerting their voices, and making a loud
cawing, which, being blended and softened by the distance that we at the village
are below them, becomes a confused noise or chiding; or rather a pleasing
murmur, very engaging to the imagination, and not unlike the cry of a pack of
hounds in hollow, echoing woods, or the rushing of the wind in tall trees, or
the tumbling of the tide upon a pebbly shore. When this ceremony is over, with
the last gleam of day, they retire for the night to the deep beechen woods of
Tisted and Ropley. We remember a little girl, who, as she was going to bed, use
to remark on such all occurrence, in the true spirit of physico-theology, that
the rooks were saying their prayers, and yet this child was much too young to be
aware that the Scriptures had said of the Deity that He feedeth the
ravens that call upon him. --Gilbert White (1720-1793), in "The
Natural History of Selborne."
Behold, and look away your low despair;
See the light tenants of the barren air:
To them, nor stores, nor granaries belong,
Nought but the woodlands and the pleasing song;
Yet, your kind heavenly Father bends his eye
On the least wing that flits along the sky.
To him they sing when Spring renews the plain;
To him they cry in Winter's pinching reign;
Nor is the music, nor their plaint, in vain.
He hears the gay, and the distressful call,
And with unsparing bounty fills them all.
Will he not care for you, ye faithless, say?
Is he Unwise? Or, are ye less than they?
Verse 9. It is related of Edward Taylor, the sailor preacher
of Boston, that on the Sunday before he was to sail for Europe, he was
entreating the Lord to care well for his church during his absence. All at once
he stopped, and ejaculated, "What have I done? Distrust the Providence of
heaven! A God that gives a whale a ton of herrings for a breakfast, will he not
care for my children?" and then went on, closing his prayer in a more confiding
manner. --From "Eccentric Preachers," by C.H.S.
Verse 10. The two clauses of this verse are probably
intended to describe cavalry and infantry, as forming the military
strength of nations. It is not to those who trust in such resources that Jehovah
shows favour, but to those who rely on his protection (Ps 147:11). --Annotated
Verses 10-11. When a sinner is brought upon his knees, and
becomes a suppliant, when as he is laid low by affliction, so he lieth low in
prayer and supplication, then the Lord will be favourable to him, and show his
delight in him. The Lord delighteth not in the strength of the horse:
he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. No man is favoured by God
because of his outward favour, because he hath a beautiful face, or strong,
clean limbs; yea, not only hath the Lord no pleasure in any man's legs, but not
in any man's brains, how reaching soever, not in any man's wit how quick soever,
nor in any man's judgment how deep soever, nor in any man's tongue how eloquent
or well spoken soever; but The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him,
in those that hope in his mercy, in those that walk humbly with him,
and call upon him...All the beauties and rarities both of persons and things are
dull and flat, yea, wearisome and loathsome to God, in comparison of a gracious,
honest, humble soul. Princes have their favourites (Job 33:26); they are
favourable to some above many, either because they are beautiful and goodly
persons, or because they are men of excellent speech, prudence and deportment.
All godly men are God's favourites; he is favourable to them not only above many
men in the world, but above all the men of this world, who have their portion in
this life; and he therefore favours them, because they are the purchase of his
Son and the workmanship of his Spirit, convincing them of, and humbling them
for, their sins, as also creating them after God in righteousness and true
holiness. Such shall be his favourites. --Joseph Caryl.
Verse 11. Them that fear him, those that hope in his mercy.
Patience and fear are the fences of hope. There is a beautiful relation between
hope and fear. The two are linked in this verse. They are like the cork in a
fisherman's net, which keeps it from sinking, and the lead, which prevents it
from floating. Hope without fear is in danger of being too sanguine; fear
without hope would soon become desponding. --George Seaton Bowes, in "In
Prospect of Sunday"; 1880.
Verse 11. Them that fear him, those that hope in his mercy.
A sincere Christian is known by both these; a fear of God, or a constant
obedience to his commands, and an affiance, trust, and dependence upon his
mercies. Oh, how sweetly are both these coupled, a uniform sincere obedience to
him, and an unshaken constant reliance on his mercy and goodness! The whole
perfection of the Christian life is comprised in these two--believing God and
fearing him, trusting in his mercy and fearing his name; the one maketh us
careful in avoiding sin, the other diligent to follow after righteousness; the
one is a bridle from sin and temptations, the other a spur to our duties. Fear
is our curb, and hope our motive and encouragement; the one respects our duty,
and the other our comfort; the one allayeth the other. God is so to be feared,
as also to be trusted; so to be trusted, as also to be feared; and as we must
not suffer our fear to degenerate into legal bondage, but hope in his mercy, so
our trust must not degenerate into carnal sloth and wantonness, but so hope in
his word as to fear his name. Well, then, such as both believe in God and fear
to offend him are the only men who are acceptable to God and his people. God
will take pleasure in them, and they take pleasure in one another. --Thomas
Verse 11. Fear and Hope are the great vincula
of Old Testament theology, bracketing and including in their meaning all its
ideas. --Thomas Le Blanc.
Verse 11. Fear and hope are passions of the
mind so contrary the one to the other, that with regard to the same object, it
is strange they should meet in the same laudable character; yet here we see they
do so, and it is the praise of the same persons, that they both fear God, and
hope in him. Whence we may gather this doctrine: That in every concern that lies
upon our hearts, we should still endeavour to keep the balance even between hope
and fear. We know how much the health of the body depends upon a due
temperament of the humours, such as preserves any one from being predominant
above the rest; and how much the safety and peace of the nations result from a
due balance of trade and power, that no one grow too great for its neighbours;
and so necessary is it to the health and welfare of our souls, that there be a
due proportion maintained between their powers and passions, and that the one
may always be a check upon the other, to keep it from running into extremes; as
in these affections mentioned in the text. A holy fear of God must be a check
upon our hope, to keep that from swelling into presumption; and a pious hope in
God must be a check upon our fear, to keep that from sinking into despondency.
This balance must, I say, by a wise and steady hand, be kept even in every
concern that lies upon our hearts, and that we have thoughts about. I shall
enumerate those that are of the greatest importance. We must keep up both hope
and fear. 1. As to the concerns of our souls, and our spiritual and eternal
state. 2. As to our outward concerns, relating to the body and the life that now
is. 3. As to the public concerns of the church of God, and our own land and
nation. In reference to each of these, we must always study and strive
to support that affection, whether it be hope or fear, which the present temper
of our minds and circumstances of our case make necessary to preserve us from an
extreme. --Matthew Henry.
Verse 12. That all Creation must involuntarily praise the
Lord, and that the primary duty of conscious intelligence is the willing praise
of the same Deity, are the two axioms of the Psalmist's theology. He has
in the first part of this Psalm been stating the first, and now he is about to
announce the second. --Martin Geier.
Verse 13. He hath strengthened the bars of thy gates.
Blessed is the city whose gates God barreth up with his power, and openeth again
with his mercy. There is nothing can defend where his justice will strike; and
there is nothing can offend where his goodness will preserve. --Thomas
Verses 13-14. The Psalmist recites four arguments from which
he would have Zion sing praises: 1. Security and defence. 2. Benediction. 3. Peace.
4. Sustenance or provision.
1. Security. Jerusalem is a city secure, being defended
by God: For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates. Gates and bars do
well to a city, but then only is the city secure when God makes them strong. The
true munition of a city is God's defence of it. Arms, laws, wealth, etc., are
the bars, but God must put strength into them.
2. Benediction. Jerusalem is a happy city, for he
hath blessed thy children, within, thee, thy kings, princes,
magistrates, etc., with wisdom, piety, etc.
3. Peace. Jerusalem is a peaceable city. He maketh
peace in thy borders, the very name intimates so much; for Jerusalem
interpreted is visio pacis --Vision of peace.
4. Abundance. Jerusalem is a city provided by God with
necessary food and provision; for He filleth thee with the finest of
the wheat. --William Nicholson.
Verse 14. He maketh peace in thy borders, etc. There is a
political peace--peace in city and country; this is the fairest flower of a
Prince's crown; peace is the best blessing of a nation. It is well with bees
when there is a noise; but it is best with Christians when, as in the building
of the Temple, there is no noise of hammer heard. Peace brings plenty along with
it; how many miles would some go on pilgrimage to purchase this peace! Therefore
the Greeks made Peace to be the nurse of Pluto, the God of wealth. Political
plants thrive best in the sunshine of peace. "He maketh peace in thy borders,
and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat." The ancients
made the harp the emblem of peace: how sweet would the sounding of this harp be
after the roaring of the cannon! All should study to promote this political
peace. The godly man, when he dies, "enters into peace" (Isa 57:2); but while he
lives, peace must enter into him. --Thomas Watson.
Verse 14. He maketh peace. The Hebrews observe that all the
letters in the name of God are literae quiescentes, letters of rest. God
only is the centre where the soul may find rest: God only can speak peace to the
conscience. --John Stoughton, --1639.
Verse 14. Finest of the wheat. If men give much it is in
cheap and coarse commodity. Quantity and quality are only possible with human
production in in verse ratio; but the Lord gives the most and
best of all supplies to his pensioners. How truly the believer under the
gospel knows the inner spirit of the meaning here! The Lord Jesus Christ says,
"My peace I give unto you." And when he sets us at rest and all is
reconciliation and peace, then he feeds us with himself --his body, the
finest wheat, and his blood, the richest wine. --Johannes Paulus
Verse 15. His word runneth very swiftly. There is not a
moment between the shooting out of the arrow and the fastening of it in the
mark; both are done in the very same atom and point of time. Therefore we read
in the Scripture of the immediate effects of the word of Christ. Saith he to the
leprous man; "Be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed": Mt 8:3.
And to the blind man, "Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And
immediately he received his sight"; Mr 10:52. No arrow makes so immediate an
impression in the mark aimed at as the arrow of Christ's word. No sooner doth
Christ say to the soul, Be enlightened, be quickened, be comforted, but the work
is done. --Ralph Robinson.
Verse 16. He giveth snow like wool. There are three things
considerable in snow, for which it is compared to wool. First, for the
whiteness of it. Snow is white as wool; snow is so exceeding white that
the whiteness of a soul cleansed by pardoning grace, in the blood of Christ, is
likened unto it (Isa 1:18); and the latter part of the same verse intimates that
the whiteness of snow bears resemblance to that of wool. The whiteness of snow
is caused by the abundance of air and spirits that are in that pellucid body, as
the naturalists speak. Any thing that is of a watery substance, being frozen or
much wrought upon by cold, appears more white; and hence it is that all persons
inhabiting cold climates or countries, are of a whiter complexion than they who
inhabit hot. Secondly, snow is like wool for softness, 'tis pliable to
the hand as a lock or fleece of wool. Thirdly, snow is like wool (which may seem
strange) with respect to the warmness of it. Though snow be cold in
itself, yet it is to the earth as wool, or as a woollen cloth or blanket that
keeps the body warm. Snow is not warm formally, yet it is warm effectively and
virtually; and therefore is it compared to wool. --Joseph Caryl.
Verse 16. Like wool. Namely, curled and tufted, and as white
as the snow in those countries. Isa 1:18 Re 1:14. --John Diodati.
Verse 16. Snow like wool. The ancients used to call
snow eriwdez udwr, woolly
water (Eustathius, in Dionys. Perieget. p. 91). Martial gives it the name of densum vellus aquarum,
a thick fleece of waters (Epigram. l. iv. Ep. 3). Aristophanes calls
clouds, "flying fleeces of wool" (Nubes, p. 146). Pliny calls it the
forth of the celestial waters (Nat. His. lib. xvii. cap. 2). --Samuel
Verse 16. He giveth snow like wool. In Palestine snow is not
the characteristic feature of winter as it is in northern latitudes. It is
merely an occasional phenomenon. Showers of it fall now and then in severer
seasons on the loftier parts of the land, and whiten for a day or two the
vineyards and cornfields: but it melts from the green earth as rapidly as its
sister vapours vanish from the blue sky...But the Psalmist seized the occasional
snow, as he seized the fleeting vapour, and made it a text of his spiritual
meditations. Let us follow his example. "He giveth snow like wool", says the Psalmist. This
comparison expressly indicates one of the most important purposes which the snow
serves in the economy of nature. It covers the earth like a blanket during that
period of winter sleep which is necessary to recruit its exhausted energies, and
prepare it for fresh efforts in the spring; and being, like wool, a bad
conductor, it conserves the latent heat of the soil, and protects the dormant
life of plant and animal hid under it from the frosty rigour of the outside air.
Winter sown wheat, when defended by this covering, whose under surface seldom
falls much below 32 Fahr., can thrive even though the temperature of the air
above may be many degrees below the freezing point. Our country, enjoying an
equable climate, seldom requires this protection; but in northern climates,
where the winter is severe and prolonged, its beneficial effects are most
marked. The scanty vegetation which blooms with such sudden and marvellous
loveliness in the height of summer, in the Arctic regions and on mountain
summits, would perish utterly were it not for the protection of the snow that
lies on it for three quarters of a year.
But it is not only to Alpine plants and hibernating animals
that God gives snow like wool. The Eskimo take advantage of its curious
protective property, and ingeniously build their winter huts of blocks of
hardened snow; thus, strangely enough, by a homoeopathic law, protecting
themselves against cold by the effects of cold. The Arctic navigator has been
often indebted to walls of snow banked up around his ship for the comparative
comfort of his winter quarters, when the temperature without has fallen so low
that even chloric ether became solid. And many a precious life has been saved by
the timely shelter which the snow storm itself has provided against its own
violence. But while snow thus warms in cold regions, it also cools in warm
regions. It sends down from the white summits of equatorial mountains its cool
breath to revive and brace the drooping life of lands sweltering under a tropic
sun; and from its lofty inexhaustible reservoirs it feeds perennial rivers that
water the plains when all the wells and streams are white and silent in the
baking heat. Without the perpetual snow of mountain regions the earth would be
reduced to a lifeless desert.
And not only does the Alpine snow thus keep always full rivers
that water the plains, but, by its grinding force as it presses down the
mountains, it removes particles from the rocks, which are carried off by the
rivers and spread over the plains. Such is the origin of a large part of the
level land of Europe. It has been formed out of the ruins of the mountains by
the action of snow. It was by the snow of far off ages that our valleys and lake
basins were scooped out, the form of our landscapes sculptured and rounded, and
the soil formed in which we grow our harvests. Who would think of such a
connection? And yet it is true! Just as each season we owe the bloom and
brightness of our summer fields to the gloom and blight of winter, so do we owe
the present summer beauty of the world to the great secular winter of the
glacial period. And does not God bring about results as striking by agencies
apparently as contradictory in the human world? He who warms the tender latent
life of the flowers by the snow, and moulds the quiet beauty of the summer
landscape by the desolating glacier, makes the cold of adversity to cherish the
life of the soul, and to round into spiritual loveliness the harshness and
roughness of a carnal, selfish nature. Many a profitable Christian life owes its
fairness and fruitfulness to causes which wrecked and wasted it for a time. God
giveth snow like wool; and chill and blighting as is the touch of sorrow, it has
a protective influence which guards against greater evils; it sculptures the
spiritual landscape within into forms of beauty and grace, and deepens and
fertilizes the soil of the heart, so that in it may grow from God's own planting
the peaceable fruits of righteousness.
And now let us look at the Giver of the snow. "He giveth
snow like wool." "The snowflake", as Professor Tyndall strikingly says, "leads
back to the sun" --so intimately related are all things to each other in this
wonderful universe. It leads further and higher still--even to him who is our sun
and shield, the light and heat of all creation. The whole vast realm of winter,
with its strange phenomena, is but the breath of God--the Creative Word--as it
were, congealed against the blue transparency of space, like the marvellous
frost work on a window pane. The Psalmist had not the shadow of a doubt that God
formed and sent the annual miracle of snow, as he had formed and sent the daily
miracle of manna in the desert. It was a common place thing; it was a natural,
ordinary occurrence; but it had the Divine sign upon it, and it showed forth the
glory and goodness of God as strikingly as the most wonderful supernatural event
in his nation's history. When God would impress Job with a sense of his power,
it was not to some of his miraculous, but to some of his ordinary works that he
appealed. And when the Psalmist would praise God for the preservation of Israel
and the restoration of Jerusalem-- as he does in the Psalm from which my subject
is taken--it is not to the wonderful miraculous events with which the history of
Israel abounded that he directs attention, but to the common events of
Providence and the ordinary appearances and processes of nature. He cannot think
enough of the Omnipotent Creator and Ruler of the Universe entering into
familiar relations with his people, and condescending to their humblest wants.
It is the same God that "giveth snow like wool", who "shows his word unto Jacob,
and his statutes and commandments unto Israel." And the wonder of the
peculiarity is enhanced by thoughts borrowed from the wonders of nature. We know
a thousand times more of the nature, formation, and purpose of the snow than the
Psalmist did. But that knowledge is dearly earned if our science destroys our
faith. What amount of precision of scientific knowledge can compensate us for
the loss of the spiritual sensibility, which in all the wonders and beauties of
the Creation brings us into personal contact with an infinitely wise mind and an
infinitely loving heart? --Hugh Macmillan, in "Two Worlds are Ours," 1880.
Verse 16. Snow. It is worth pausing to think what wonderful
work is going on in the atmosphere during the formation and descent of every
snow shower; what building power is brought into play; and how imperfect seem
the productions of human minds and hands when compared with those formed by the
blind forces of nature. But who ventures to call the forces of nature blind? In
reality, when we speak thus, we are describing our own condition. The blindness
is ours; and what we really ought to say, and to confess, is that our powers are
absolutely unable to comprehend either the origin or the end of the operations
of nature. --John Tyndall, in "The Forms of Water," 1872.
Verses 16-17. The Lord takes the ice and frost and cold to be
his; it is not only his sun, but his ice, and his frost:
"he scattereth his hoar frost like ashes." The frost is compared to ashes
in a threefold respect. First, because the hoar frost gives a little
interruption to the sight. If you scatter ashes into the air, it darkens the
light, so doth the hoar frost. Secondly, the hoary frost is like ashes because
near in colour to ashes. Thirdly, 'tis like, because there is a kind of burning
in it: frost burns the tender buds and blossoms, it nips them and dries them up.
The hoar frost hath its denomination in the Latin tongue from burning,
and it differs but very little from that word which is commonly used in
Latin for a coal of fire. The cold frost hath a kind of scorching in it, as well
as the hot sun. Unseasonable frosts in the spring scorch the tender fruits,
which bad effect of frost is usually expressed by carbunculation or
blasting. --Joseph Caryl.
Verse 17. He casteth forth his ice like morsels. Or,
shivers of bread. It is a worthy saying of one from this text,
--The ice is bread, the rain is drink, the snow is wool, the frost a fire to the
earth, causing it inwardly to glow with heat; teaching us what to do for God's
poor. --John Trapp.
Verse 17. He casteth forth his ice like morsels. The word
here translated "morsels", means, in most of the places where it occurs
in the Bible, pieces of bread, exactly the LXX qwmouv; for this very ice, this wintry cold, is profitable to the
earth, to fit it for bearing future harvests, and thus it matures the morsels
of bread which man will yet win from the soil in due season.
--Genebrardus, in Neale and Littledale.
Verse 17. Morsels. Or, crumbs. Ge 18:5 Jud 19:5.
Doubtless the allusion is to hail. --A.S. Aglen.
Verse 17. "It is extremely severe", said his sister to
Archbishop Leighton one day, speaking of the season. The good man only said in
reply, "But thou, O God, hast made summer and winter." --From J.J. Pearson's
Life of Archbishop Leighton, 1830.
Verse 18. He sendeth out his word, and melteth them. Israel
in the captivity had been icebound, like ships of Arctic voyagers in the Polar
Sea; but God sent forth the vernal breeze of his love, and the water flowed, the
ice melted, and they were released. God turned their captivity, and, their icy
chains being melted by the solar beams of God's mercy, they flowed in fresh and
buoyant streams, like "rivers of the south", shining in the sun. See Ps 126:4.
So it was on the day of Pentecost. The winter of spiritual
captivity was thawed and dissolved by the soft breath of the Holy Ghost, and the
earth laughed and bloomed with spring tide flowers of faith, love, and joy.
Verse 19. Here we see God in compassion bending down, in
order to communicate to the deeply fallen son of man something of a blessed
secret, of which, without his special enlightenment, the eye would never have
seen anything, nor the ear ever have heard. --J.J. Van Oosterzee, on "The
Image of Christ."
Verses 19-20. If the publication of the law by the ministry
of angels to the Israelites were such a privilege that it is reckoned their
peculiar treasure--He hath shewed his statutes unto Israel; he hath not
dealt so with any nation --what is the revelation of the gospel by the Son of
God himself? For although the law is obscured and defaced since the fall, yet
there are some ingrafted notions of it in human nature; but there is not the
least suspicion of the gospel. The law discovers our misery, but the gospel
alone shows the way to be delivered from it. If an advantage so great and so
precious doth not touch our hearts; and, in possessing it with joy, if we are
not sensible of the engagements the Father of mercies hath laid upon us; we
shall be the most ungrateful wretches in the world. --William Bates.
Verses 19-20. That some should have more means of knowing the
Creator, others less, it is all from the mercy and will of God. His church hath
a privilege and an advantage above other nations in the world; the Jews had this
favour above the heathens, and Christians above the Jews; and no other reason
can be assigned but his eternal love. --Thomas Manton.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Verse 1. Praise. Its profit, pleasure, and propriety.
Verse 1. The Reasonable Service.
1. The methods of praise: by word, song, life; individually,
2. The offerers of praise: "ye."
3. The objects of praise: "the Lord, our God."
4. The reasons for praise: it is "good", "pleasant",
1. The Privilege of Praising God.
a) It is good.
2. The Duty of Praising God.
a) For gathering a church for himself among men: "The Lord doth
build up Jerusalem."
b) For the materials of which it is composed: "The outcasts",
c) For the preparation of those materials for his purpose: "He
healeth", etc. Ps 147:3. --G.R.
Verse 2. The Lord is Architect, Builder, Sustainer,
Restorer, and Owner of the Church. In each relation let him be praised.
Verse 2. The Great Gatherer.
1. Strange persons sought for.
2. Special search and means made use of.
3. Selected centre to which he brings them.
4. Singular exhibition of them for ever and ever in heaven.
Verse 2. First the church built and then the sinners
gathered into it. A prosperous state of the church within necessary to her
increase from without.
Verse 2. See "Spurgeon's Sermons", No. 1302: "Good Cheer for
Verse 2. Upbuilding and Ingathering.
1. The church may be in a fallen condition.
2. Its upbuilding is the Lord's work.
3. He accomplishes it by gathering together its outcast
Verse 3. See "Spurgeon's Sermons", No. 53: "Healing for the
Verse 3. God a true physician, and a tender nurse.
Verses 3-4. Heaven's Brilliants, and Earth's Broken Hearts.
1. The Proprietor of the Stars with the Wounded. The stars left
kingless for broken hearts. Jehovah! with lint and liniment and a woman's hand.
Who binds together the stars, shall bind firmly grieved hearts.
2. The Gentle Heart healer with the Stars. Be all power
intrusted to such tenderness. Its comely splendour. God guides the stars with an
eye on wounded hearts. The hopefulness of prayer.
3. Hearts, Stars, and Eternity. Some hearts shall "shine as the
stars." Some stars shall expire in "blackness of darkness." God's hand and eye
are everywhere making justice certain. Trust and sing. --W.B.H.
Verses 3-4. God's Compassion and Power.
1. Striking diversity of God's cares: "hearts" and "stars."
2. Wonderful variety of God's operations. Gently caring for
human hearts. Preserving the order, regularity, and stability of creation.
3. Blessed results of God's work. Broken hearts healed; wounds
bound up. Light, harmony, and beauty in the heavens.
4. Mighty encouragement to trust in God. God takes care of the
universe; may I not entrust my life, my soul, to him? Where he rules
unquestioned there is light and harmony; let me not resist his will in my life. --C.A.D.
Verse 5. A contemplation of God's greatness.
1. Great in his essential nature.
2. Great in Power.
3. Great in wisdom. Let us draw inferences concerning the
insignificance of man, & c.
Verse 6. Reversal.
1. In the estimate of the world the meek are cast down and the
wicked lifted up.
2. In the judgment of heaven the meek are lifted up and the
wicked cast down.
3. The judgment of heaven will, in the end, be found the true
Verse 7. The use and benefit of singing.
Verse 8. God in all. The unity of his plan; the cooperation
of divine forces; the condescending mercy of the result.
Verse 9. See "Spurgeon's Sermons", No. 672: "The Ravens'
Verse 11. The singularity of our God, and of his favour. For
which he is to be praised.
1. The objects of that favour distinguished.
a) From physical strength.
b) From mental vigour.
c) From self reliance.
d) From mere capacity for service.
2. The objects of that favour described.
a) By emotions relating to God.
b) By the weakest forms of spiritual life.
c) By the highest degrees of it; for the maturest saint fears
d) By the sacred blend of it. Fear of our guilt, hope of his
mercy. Fear of self, confidence in God. Hope of perseverance, fear of sinning.
Hope of heaven, fear of coming short. Hope of perfection, mourning defects.
3. The blessing of that favour implied.
a) God loves to think of them.
b) To be with them.
c) To minister to them.
d) To meet them in their fears and their hopes.
e) To reward them for ever.
Verse 11. He takes pleasure in their persons, emotions,
desires, devotions, hopes, and characters. --W.W.
1. The Lord whom we praise.
2. His praise in our houses--Jerusalem.
3. Our praise in his house--Zion.
Verse 13. A Strong Church.
1. The utility and value of a strong church.
2. The marks which distinguish it.
a) Gates well kept.
b) Increase of membership.
c) The converts blessed to others.
3. The important care of a strong church: to trace all blessing
to Zion's God. --W.B.H.
Verses 14-15. See "Spurgeon's Sermons", No. 425: "Peace at
Home, and Prosperity Abroad."
Verses 14-15. Church blessings.
3. Missionary energy.
4. The presence of God: the source of all blessing.
Verse 15. (second clause). See "Spurgeon's Sermons",
No. 1607: "The Swiftly Running Word."
Verse 16. The unexpected results of adversity: snow acting
Verses 16-18. See "Spurgeon's Sermons, "No. 670: "Frost and
1. God's people.
2. God's Word.
3. God's revelation to the soul.
4. God's praise for this special revelation.
Verse 20. He hath not dealt so with any nation... Praise ye
the Lord. The sweet Psalmist of Israel, a man skilful in praises,
doth begin and end this Psalm with Hallelujah. In the body of the Psalm
he doth set forth the mercy of God, both towards all creatures in general
in his common providence, and towards his church in particular. So in
this close of the Psalm: "He sheweth his word unto Jacob, and his statutes to
Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation." In the original 'tis, "He hath
not dealt so with every nation": that is, with any nation.
In the text you may observe a position and a conclusion. A position;
and that is, that God deals in a singular way of mercy with his people above
all other people. And then the conclusion: "Praise ye the Lord."
Doctrine. That God deals in a singular way of mercy with his people, and
therefore expects singular praises from his people. --Joseph Alleine
(1633-1668), in "A Thanksgiving Sermon."
Verse 20. See the wonderful goodness of God, who besides the
light of nature, has committed to us the sacred Scriptures. The heathen are
enveloped in ignorance. As for his judgments, they have not known
them. They have the oracles of the Sybils, but not the writings of Moses
and the apostles. How many live in the region of death, where the bright star of
Scripture has never appeared! We have the blessed Book of God to resolve all our
doubts, and to point out a way of life to us. "Lord, how is it thou wilt
manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?" Joh 14:22. --Thomas
Verse 20. Electing Grace inspires the Heart with Praise.
1. God's love has chosen us. Hallelujah.
2. God has intrusted us with his truth. Hallelujah.
3. God has made us almoners of his bounty. Hallelujah.
4. God through us is to save the world. Hallelujah.