Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher
GENERAL REMARKS. This Psalm has no title. It is mainly made
up of selections from other Scriptures. It has been called a mosaic, and
compared to a tessellated pavement. At the outset, its first two verses (Ps
135:1-2) are taken from Ps 134:1-3; while the latter part of Ps 135:2 and the
commencement of Ps 135:3 put us in mind of Ps 116:19; and Ps 135:4 suggests De
7:6. Does not Ps 135:5 remind us of Ps 95:3? As for Ps 135:7, it is almost
identical with Jer 10:13, which may have been taken from it. The passage
contained in Ps 135:13 is to be found in Ex 3:15, and Ps 135:14 in De 32:36. The
closing verses, Ps 135:8-12, are in Psalms 136. From Ps 135:15 to the end the
strain is a repetition of Ps 115:1-18 This process of tracing the expressions to
other sources might be pushed further without straining the quotations; the
whole Psalm is a compound of many choice extracts, and yet it has all the
continuity and freshness of an original poem. The Holy Spirit occasionally
repeats himself; not because he has any lack of thoughts or words, but because
it is expedient for us that we hear the same things in the same form. Yet, when
our great Teacher uses repetition, it is usually with instructive variations,
which deserve our careful attention.
DIVISION. The first fourteen verses contain an exhortation
to praise Jehovah for his goodness (Ps 135:3), for his electing love (Ps 135:4),
his greatness (Ps 135:5-7) his judgments (Ps 135:8-12), his unchanging character
(Ps 135:13), and his love towards his people. This is followed by a denunciation
of idols (Ps 135:15-18), and a further exhortation to bless the name of the
Lord. It is a song full of life, vigour, variety, and devotion.
Verse 1. Praise ye the LORD, or, Hallelujah. Let
those who are themselves full of holy praise labour to excite the like spirit in
others. It is not enough for us to praise God ourselves, we are quite unequal to
such a work; let us call in all our friends and neighbours, and if they have
been slack in such service, let us stir them up to it with loving exhortations.
Praise ye the name of the LORD. Let his character be extolled by you, and
let all that he has revealed concerning himself be the subject of your song; for
this is truly his name. Specially let his holy and incommunicable name of
"Jehovah" be the object of your adoration. By that name he sets forth his self
existence, and his immutability; let these arouse your praises of his Godhead.
Think of hint with love, admire him with heartiness, and then extol him with
ardour. Do not only magnify the Lord because he is God; but study his character
and his doings, and thus render intelligent, appreciative praise. Praise him,
O ye servants of the Lord. If others are silent, you must not be; you must
be the first to celebrate his praises. You are "servants", and this is part of
your service; his "name" is named upon you, therefore celebrate his name with
praises; you know what a blessed Master he is, therefore speak well of him.
Those who shun his service are sure to neglect his praise; but as grace has made
you his own personal servants, let your hearts make you his court musicians.
Here we see the servant of the Lord arousing his fellow servants by three times
calling upon them to praise. Are we, then, so slow in such a sweet employ? Or is
it that when we do our utmost it is all too little for such a Lord? Both are
true. We do not praise enough; we cannot praise too much. We ought to be always
at it; answering to the command here given--Praise, Praise, Praise. Let the
Three-in-one have the praises of our spirit, soul, and body. For the past, the
present, and the future, let us render threefold hallelujahs.
Verse 2. Ye that stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts
of the house of our God. You are highly favoured; you are the
domestics of the palace, nearest to the Father of the heavenly family,
privileged to find your home in his house; therefore you must, beyond all
others, abound in thanksgiving. You "stand; "or abide in the temple; you are
constant occupants of its various courts; and therefore from you we expect
unceasing praise. Should not ministers be celebrated for celebrating the praises
of Jehovah? Should not church officers and church members excel all others in
the excellent duty of adoration? Should not all of every degree who wait even in
his outer courts unite in his worship? Ought not the least and feeblest of his
people to proclaim his praises, in company with those who live nearest to him?
Is it not a proper thing to remind them of their obligations? Is not the
Psalmist wise when he does so in this case and in many others? Those who can
call Jehovah "our God" are highly blessed, and therefore should abound in the
work of blessing him. Perhaps this is the sweetest word in these two verses.
"This God is our God for ever and ever." "Our God" signifies possession,
communion in possession, assurance of possession, delight in possession. Oh the
unutterable joy of calling God our own!
Verse 3. Praise the LORD. Do it again; continue to do it; do
it better and more heartily; do it in growing numbers; do it at once. There are
good reasons for praising the Lord, and among the first is this--for the LORD
is good. He is so good that there is none good in the same sense or degree.
He is so good that all good is found in him, flows from him, and is rewarded by
him. The word God is brief for good; and truly God is the essence of goodness.
Should not his goodness be well spoken of? Yea, with our best thoughts, and
words, and hymns let us glorify his name. Sing praises unto his name, for
it is pleasant. The adjective may apply to the singing and to the
name--they are both pleasant. The vocal expression of praise by sacred song is
one of our greatest delights. We were created for this purpose, and hence it is
a joy to us. It is a charming duty to praise the lovely name of our God. All
pleasure is to be found in the joyful worship of Jehovah; all joys are in his
sacred name as perfumes lie slumbering in a garden of flowers. The mind expands,
the soul is lifted up, the heart warms, the whole being is filled with delight
when we are engaged in singing the high praises of our Father, Redeemer,
Comforter. When in any occupation goodness and pleasure unite, we do well to
follow it up without stint: yet it is to be feared that few of us sing to the
Lord at all in proportion as we talk to men.
Verse 4. For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself.
Jehovah hath chosen Jacob. Should not the sons of Jacob praise him who has so
singularly favoured them Election is one of the most forcible arguments for
adoring love. Chosen! chosen unto himself! --who can be grateful enough for being
concerned in this privilege "Jacob have I loved", said Jehovah, and he gave no
reason for his love except that he chose to love. Jacob had then done neither
good nor evil, yet thus the Lord determined, and thus he spake. If it be said
that the choice was made upon foresight of Jacob's character, it is, perhaps,
even more remarkable; for there was little enough about Jacob that could deserve
special choice. By nature Jacob was by no means the most lovable of men. No, it
was sovereign grace which dictated the choice. But, mark, it was not a choice
whose main result was the personal welfare of Jacob's seed: the nation was
chosen by God unto himself, to answer the divine ends and purposes
in blessing all mankind. Jacob's race was chosen to be the Lord's own, to be the
trustees of his truth, the maintainers of his worship, the mirrors of his mercy.
Chosen they were; but mainly for this end, that they might be a peculiar people,
set apart unto the service of the true God. And Israel for his peculiar treasure. God's choice exalts;
for here the name is changed from Jacob, the supplanter, to Israel, the prince.
The love of God gives a new name and imparts a new value; for the comparison to
a royal treasure is a most honourable one. As kings have a special regalia, and
a selection of the rarest jewels, so the Lord deigns to reckon his chosen nation
as his wealth, his delight, his glory. What an honour to the spiritual Israel
that they are all this to the Lord their God! We are a people near and dear unto
him; precious and honourable in his sight. How can we refuse our loudest,
heartiest, sweetest music? If we did not extol him, the stones in the
street would cry out against us.
Verse 5. For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord
is above all gods. The greatness of God is as much a reason for
adoration as his goodness, when we are once reconciled to him. God is great
positively great comparatively, and great superlatively-- "above all gods." Of
this the Psalmist had an assured personal persuasion. He says positively, "I
know." It is knowledge worth possessing. He knew by observation, inspiration,
and realization; he was no agnostic, he was certain and clear upon the matter.
He not only knows the greatness of Jehovah, but that as the Adonai, or Ruler,
"our Lord" is infinitely superior to all the imaginary deities of the heathen,
and to all great ones besides.
"Let princes hear, let angels know,
How mean their natures seem;
Those gods on high, and gods below,
When once compared with him."
Many have thought to worship Jehovah, and other gods with him;
but this holy man tolerated no such notion. Others have thought to combine their
religion with obedience to the unrighteous laws of tyrannical princes; this,
also, the sweet singer of Israel denounced; for he regarded the living God as
altogether above all men, who as magistrates and princes have been called gods.
Observe here the fourth of the five "fors." Ps 135:3-5,14 contain reasons for
praise, each set forth with "for." A fruitful meditation might be suggested by
Verse 6. Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and
in earth, in the seas, and all deep places. His will is carried out
throughout all space. The king's warrant runs in every portion of the universe.
The heathen divided the great domain; but Jupiter does not rule in heaven, nor
Neptune on the sea, nor Pluto in the lower regions; Jehovah rules over all. His
decree is not defeated, his purpose is not frustrated: in no one point is his
good pleasure set aside. The word "whatsoever" is of the widest range and
includes all things, and the four words of place which are mentioned comprehend
all space; therefore the declaration of the text knows neither limit nor
exception. Jehovah works his will: he pleases to do, and he performs the deed.
None can stay his hand. How different this from the gods whom the heathen fabled
to be subject to all the disappointments, failures, and passions of men! How
contrary even to those so called Christian conceptions of God which subordinate
him to the will of man, and make his eternal purposes the football of human
caprice. Our theology teaches us no such degrading notions of the Eternal as
that he can be baffled by man. "His purpose shall stand, and he will do all his
pleasure." No region is too high, no abyss too deep, no land too distant, no sea
too wide for his omnipotence: his divine pleasure travels post over all the
realm of nature, and his behests are obeyed.
Verse 7. He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of
the earth. Here we are taught the power of God in creation. The
process of evaporation is passed by unnoticed by the many, because they see it
going on all around them; the usual ceases to be wonderful to the thoughtless,
but it remains a marvel to the instructed. When we consider upon what an immense
scale evaporation is continually going on, and how needful it is for the
existence of all life, we may well admire the wisdom and the power which are
displayed therein. All around us from every point of the horizon the vapour
rises, condenses into clouds, and ultimately descends as rain. Whence the
vapours originally ascended from which our showers are formed it would be
impossible to tell; most probably the main part of them comes from the tropical
regions, and other remote places at "the ends of the earth." It is the Lord who
causes them to rise, and not a mere law. What is law without a force at the back
of it? He maketh lightnings for the rain. There is an intimate
connection between lightning and rain, and this would seem to be more apparent
in Palestine than even with ourselves; for we constantly read of thunderstorms
in that country as attending heavy down pours of rain. Lightning is not to be
regarded as a lawless force, but as a part of that wonderful machinery by which
the earth is kept in a fit condition: a force as much under the control of God
as any other, a force most essential to our existence. The ever changing waters,
rains, winds, and electric currents circulate as if they were the life blood and
vital spirits of the universe. He bringeth the wind out of his
treasuries. This great force which seems left to its own wild will is really
under the supreme and careful government of the Lord. As a monarch is specially
master of the contents of his own treasure, so is our God the Lord of the
tempest and hurricane; and as princes do not spend their treasure without taking
note and count of it, so the Lord does not permit the wind to be wasted, or
squandered without purpose. Everything in the material world is under the
immediate direction and control of the Lord of all. Observe how the Psalmist
brings before us the personal action of Jehovah: "he causeth", "he maketh", "he
bringeth." Everywhere the Lord worketh all things, and there is no power which
escapes his supremacy. It is well for us that it is so: one bandit force
wandering through the Lord's domains defying his control would cast fear and
trembling over all the provinces of providence. Let us praise Jehovah for the
power and wisdom with which he rules clouds, and lightnings, and winds, and all
other mighty and mysterious agencies.
Verse 8. Who smote the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and
beast. Herein the Lord is to be praised; for this deadly smiting was an act
of justice against Egypt, and of love to Israel. But what a blow it was! All the
firstborn slain in a moment! How it must have horrified the nation, and cowed
the boldest enemies of Israel! Beasts because of their relationship to man as
domestic animals are in many ways made to suffer with him. The firstborn of
beasts must die as well as the firstborn of their owners, for the blow was meant
to astound and overwhelm, and it accomplished its purpose. The firstborn of God
had been sorely smitten, and they were set free by the Lord's meting out to
their oppressors the like treatment.
Verse 9. Who sent tokens and wonders into the midst of thee,
O Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his servants. The Lord is still
seen by the Psalmist as sending judgments upon rebellious men; he keeps before
us the personal action of God, "who sent tokens", etc. The more distinctly God
is seen the better. Even in plagues he is to be seen, as truly as in mercies.
The plagues were not only terrible wonders which astounded men, but forcible
tokens or signs by which they were instructed. No doubt the plagues were aimed
at the various deities of the Egyptians, and were a grand exposure of their
impotence; each one had its own special significance. The judgments of the Lord
were no side blows, they struck the nation at the heart; he sent his bolts "into
the midst of thee, O Egypt!" These marvels happened in the centre of the proud
and exclusive nation of Egypt, which thought itself far superior to other lands;
and many of these plagues touched the nation in points upon which it prided
itself. The Psalmist addresses that haughty nation, saying, "O Egypt", as though
reminding it of the lessons which it had been taught by the Lord's right hand.
Imperious Pharaoh had been the ringleader in defying Jehovah, and he was made
personally to smart for it; nor did his flattering courtiers escape, upon each
one of them the scourge fell heavily. God's servants are far better off than
Pharaoh's servants: those who stand in the courts of Jehovah are delivered, but
the courtiers of Pharaoh are smitten all of them, for they were all partakers in
his evil deeds. The Lord is to be praised for thus rescuing his own people, and
causing their cruel adversaries to bite the dust. Let no true Israelite forget
the song of the Red Sea, but anew let us hear a voice summoning us to exulting
praise: "Sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously."
Verse 10. Who smote great nations, and slew mighty kings.
The nations of Canaan joined in the desperate resistance offered by their
monarchs, and so they were smitten; while their kings, the ringleaders of the
fight, were slain. Those who resist the divine purpose will find it hard to kick
against the pricks. The greatness of the nations and the might of the kings
availed nothing against the Lord. He is prepared to mete out vengeance to those
who oppose his designs: those who dream of him as too tender to come to blows
have mistaken the God of Israel. He intended to bless the world through his
chosen people, and he would not be turned from his purpose: cost what it might,
he would preserve the candle of truth which he had lighted, even though the
blood of nations should be spilt in its defence. The wars against the Canaanite
races were a price paid for the setting up of a nation which was to preserve for
the whole world the lively oracles of God.
Verse 11. Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og king of Bashan.
These two kings were the first to oppose, and they were amongst the most notable
of the adversaries: their being smitten is therefore a special object of song
for loyal Israelites. The enmity of these two kings was wanton and unprovoked,
and hence their overthrow was the more welcome to Israel. Sihon had been
victorious in his war with Moab, and thought to make short work with Israel, but
he was speedily overthrown: Og was of the race of the giants, and by his huge
size inspired the tribes with dread; but they were encouraged by the previous
overthrow of Sihon, and soon the giant king fell beneath their sword. And all
the kingdoms Of Canaan. Many were these petty principalities, and some of
them were populous and valiant; but they all fell beneath the conquering hand of
Joshua, for the Lord was with him. Even so shall all the foes of the Lord's
believing people in these days be put to the rout: Satan and the world shall be
overthrown, and all the hosts of sin shall be destroyed, for our greater Joshua
leads forth our armies, conquering and to conquer. Note that in this verse we
have the details of matters which were mentioned in the bulk in the previous
stanza: it is well when we have sting of mercies in the gross to consider them
one by one, and give to each individual blessing a share in our song. It is well
to preserve abundant memorials of the Lord's deliverance, so that we not only
sing of mighty kings as a class but also of "Sihon king of the Amorites and Og
king of Bashan" as distinct persons.
Verse 12. And gave their land for an heritage, an heritage
unto Israel his people. Jehovah is Lord Paramount, and permits men to
hold their lands upon lease, terminable at his pleasure. The nations of Canaan
had become loathsome with abominable vices, and they were condemned by the great
Judge of all the earth to be cut off from the face of the country which they
defiled. The twelve tribes were charged to act as their executioners, and as
their fee they were to receive Canaan as a possession. Of old the Lord had given
this land to Abraham and his seed by a covenant of salt, but he allowed the
Amorites and other tribes to sojourn in it till their iniquity was full, and
then he bade his people come and take their own out of the holders' hands.
Canaan was their heritage because they were the Lord's heritage, and he gave it
to them actually because he had long before given it to them by promise. The Lord's chosen still have a heritage from which none can
keep them back. Covenant blessings of inestimable value are secured to them;
and, as surely as God has a people, his people shall have a heritage. To them it
comes by gift, though they have to fight for it. Often does it happen when they
slay a sin or conquer a difficulty that they are enriched by the spoil: to them
even evils work for good, and trials ensure triumphs. No enemy shall prevail so
as to really injure them, for they shall find a heritage where once they were
opposed by "all the kingdoms of Canaan."
Verse 13. Thy name, O LORD, endureth for ever. God's name is
eternal, and will never be changed. His character is immutable; his fame and
honour also shall remain to all eternity. There shall always be life in the name
of Jesus, and sweetness and consolation. Those upon whom the Lord's name is
named in verity and truth shall be preserved by it, and kept from all evil,
world without end. JEHOVAH is a name which shall outlive the ages, and retain
the fulness of its glory and might for ever. And thy memorial, O LORD,
throughout all generations. Never shall men forget thee, O Lord. The
ordinances of thine house shall keep thee in men's memories, and thine
everlasting gospel and the grace which goes therewith shall be abiding reminders
of thee. Grateful hearts will for ever beat to thy praise, and enlightened minds
shall continue to marvel at all thy wondrous works. Men's memorials decay, but
the memorial of the Lord abideth evermore. What a comfort to desponding minds,
trembling for the ark of the Lord! No, precious Name, thou shalt never perish!
Fame of the Eternal, thou shalt never grow dim! This verse must be construed in its connection, and it teaches
us that the honour and glory gained by the Lord in the overthrow of the mighty
kings would never die out. Israel for long ages reaped the benefit of the
prestige which the divine victories had brought to the nation. Moreover,
the Lord in thus keeping his covenant which he made with Abraham, when he
promised to give the land to his seed, was making it clear that his memorial
contained in promises and covenant would never be out of his sight. His name
endures in all its truthfulness, for those who occupied Israel's land were
driven out that the true heirs might dwell therein in peace.
Verse 14. For the LORD will judge his people. He will
exercise personal discipline over them, and not leave it to their foes to
maltreat them at pleasure. When the correction is ended he will arise and avenge
them of their oppressors, who for a while were used by him as his rod. He may
seem to forget his people, but it is not so; he will undertake their cause and
deliver them. The judges of Israel were also her deliverers, and such is the
Lord of hosts: in this sense-- as ruling, preserving, and delivering his
chosen--Jehovah will judge his people. And he will repent himself concerning
his servants. When he has smitten them, and they lie low before him, he will
pity them as a father pitieth his children, for he doth not afflict willingly.
The Psalm speaks after the manner of men: the nearest description that words can
give of the Lord's feeling towards his suffering servants is that he repents the
evil which he inflicted upon them. He acts as if he had changed his mind and
regretted smiting them. It goes to the heart of God to see his beloved ones
oppressed by their enemies: though they deserve all they suffer, and more than
all, yet the Lord cannot see them smart without a pang. It is remarkable that
the nations by which God has afflicted Israel have all been destroyed as if the
tender Father hated the instruments of his children's correction. The chosen
nation is here called, first, "his people", and then "his servants:" as his
people he judges them, as his servants he finds comfort in them, for so the word
may be read. He is most tender to them when he sees their service; hence the
Scripture saith, "I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth
him." Should not the "servants" of God praise him? He plagued Pharaoh's
servants; but as for his own he has mercy upon them, and returns to them in love
after he has in the truest affection smitten them for their iniquities. "Praise
him, O ye servants of the Lord."
Verse 15. The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work
of men's hands. Their essential material is dead metal, their
attributes are but the qualities of senseless substances, and what of form and
fashion they exhibit they derive from the skill and labour of those who worship
them. It is the height of insanity to worship metallic manufactures. Though
silver and gold are useful to us when we rightly employ them, there is nothing
about them which can entitle them to reverence and worship. If we did not know
the sorrowful fact to be indisputable, it would seem to be impossible that
intelligent beings could bow down before substances which they must themselves
refine from the ore, and fashion into form. One would think it less absurd to
worship one's own hands than to adore that which those hands have made. What
great works can these mock deities perform for man when they are themselves the
works of man? Idols are fitter to be played with, like dolls by babes, than to
be adored by grown up men. Hands are better used in breaking than in making
objects which can be put to such an idiotic use. Yet the heathen love their
abominable deities better than silver and gold: it were well if we could say
that some professed believers in the Lord had as much love for him.
Verse 16. They have mouths. For their makers fashioned them
like themselves. An opening is made where the mouth should be, and yet it is no
mouth, for they eat not, they speak not. They cannot communicate with
their worshippers; they are dumb as death. If they cannot even speak, they are
not even so worthy of worship as our children at school. Jehovah speaks, and it
is done: but these images utter never a word. Surely, if they could speak, they
would rebuke their votaries. Is not their silence a still more powerful rebuke?
When our philosophical teachers deny that God has made any verbal revelation of
himself they also confess that their god is dumb. Eyes have they, but they see not. Who would adore a blind
man --how can the heathen be so mad as to bow themselves before a blind image?
The eyes of idols have frequently been very costly; diamonds have been used for
that purpose; but of what avail is the expense, since they see nothing? If they
cannot even see us, how can they know our wants, appreciate our sacrifices, or
spy out for us the means of help! What a wretched thing, that a man who can see
should bow down before an image which is blind! The worshipper is certainly
physically in advance of his god, and yet mentally he is on a level with it; for
assuredly his foolish heart is darkened, or he would not so absurdly play the
Verse 17. They have ears, and very large ones, too, if we
remember certain of the Hindu idols. But they hear not. Useless are their
ears; in fact, they are mere counterfeits and deceits. Ears which men make are
always deaf: the secret of hearing is wrapped up with the mystery of life, and
both are in the unsearchable mind of the Lord. It seems that these heathen gods
are dumb, and blind, and deaf--a pretty bundle of infirmities to be found in a
deity! Neither is there any breath in their mouths; they are dead,
no sign of life is perceptible; and breathing, which is of the essence of animal
life, they never knew. Shall a man waste his breath in crying to an idol which
has no breath? Shall life offer up petitions to death? Verily, this is a turning
of things upside down.
Verse 18. They that make them are like unto them. they are
as blockish, as senseless, as stupid as the gods they have made, and, like them
they are the objects of divine abhorrence, and shall be broken in pieces in due
time. So is every one that trusteth in them. The idol worshippers
are as bad as the idol makers; for if there were none to worship, there would be
no market for the degrading manufacture. Idolaters are spiritually dead, they
are the mere images of men, their best being is gone, they are not what they
seem. Their mouths do not really pray, their eyes see not the truth, their ears
hear not the voice of the Lord, and the life of God is not in them. Those who
believe in their own inventions in religion betray great folly, and an utter
absence of the quickening Spirit. Gracious men can see the absurdity of
forsaking the true God and setting up rivals in his place; but those who
perpetrate this crime think not so: on the contrary, they pride themselves upon
their great wisdom, and boast of "advanced thought" and "modern culture." Others
there are who believe in a baptismal regeneration which does not renew the
nature, and they make members of Christ and children of God who have none of the
spirit of Christ, or the signs of adoption. May we be saved from such mimicry of
divine work lest we also become like our idols.
Verse 19. Bless the LORD, O house of Israel. All of you, in
all your tribes, praise the one Jehovah. Each tribe, from Reuben to Benjamin,
has its own special cause for blessing the Lord, and the nation as a whole has
substantial reasons for pouring out benedictions upon his name. Those whom God
has named "the house of Israel", a family of prevailing princes, ought to show
their loyalty by thankfully bowing before their sovereign Lord. Bless the
LORD, O house of Aaron. These were elected to high office and
permitted to draw very near to the divine presence; therefore they beyond all
others were bound to bless the Lord. Those who are favoured to be leaders in the
church should be foremost in adoration. In God's house the house of Aaron should
feel bound to speak well of his name before all the house of Israel.
Verse 20. Bless the LORD, O house of Levi. These helped the
priests in other things, let them aid them in this also. The house of Israel
comprehends all the chosen seed; then we come down to the smaller but more
central ring of the house of Aaron, and now we widen out to the whole tribe of
Levi. Let reverence and adoration spread from man to man until the whole lump of
humanity shall be leavened. The house of Levi had choice reasons for blessing
God: read the Levite story and see. Remember that the whole of the Levites were
set apart for holy service, and supported by tim tribes allotted to them;
therefore they were in honour bound above all others to worship Jehovah with
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Jehovah, infinitude, immensity itself, in all things, to all
things, beyond all things, everywhere, wholly, essentially, continually present:
as Jehovah, constancy, immutability, eternity itself, without any variableness,
or shadow of change; yesterday, today, and for ever the same. In a word, when we
think of the Most High God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, we should think of him
as Jehovah, Unity in Trinity, Trinity in Unity, Three Persons, One Being, One
Essence, One Lord, One Jehovah, blessed for ever. This is that glorious, that
Almighty Being, which the Psalmist here means when he saith, "Praise ye the
name of the LORD." --William Beveridge, 1636-1708.
Verse 1. Praise him, O ye servants of the LORD. For ye will
do nothing out of place by praising your Lord as servants. And if ye were
to be for ever only servants, ye ought to praise the Lord; how much more ought
those servants to praise the Lord who have obtained the privilege of sons?
Verse 1. Praise, praise, praise. When duties are thus
inculcated, it notes the necessity and excellency thereof; together with our
dulness and backwardness thereunto. --John Trapp.
Verses 1-2, 21. Praise. To prevent any feeling of weariness
which might arise from the very frequent repetition of this exhortation to
praise God, it is only necessary to remember that there is no sacrifice in which
he takes greater delight than in the expression of praise. Thus (Ps 1:14),
"Sacrifice unto the Lord thanksgiving, and pay thy vows unto the Most High; "and
(Ps 116:12-13), "What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward
me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD."
Particular attention is to be paid to those passages of Scripture which speak in
such high terms of that worship of God which is spiritual; otherwise we may be
led, in the exercise of a misguided zeal, to spend our labour upon trifles, and
in this respect imitate the example of too many who have wearied themselves with
ridiculous attempts to invent additions to the service of God, while they have
neglected what is of all other things most important. That is the reason why the
Holy Spirit so repeatedly inculcates the duty of praise. It is that we may not
undervalue, or grow careless in this devotional exercise. It implies, too, an
indirect censure of our tardiness in proceeding to the duty; for he would not
reiterate the admonition were we ready and active in the discharge of it.
Verses 1-3. As Gotthold was one day passing a
tradesman's house, he heard the notes of a Psalm, with which the family were
concluding their morning meal. He was deeply affected, and, with a full heart,
said to himself: O my God, how pleasing to my ears is the sound of thy praise,
and how comforting to my soul the thought that there are still a few who bless
thee for thy goodness. Alas, the great bulk of mankind have become brutalized,
and resemble the swine, which in harvest gather and fatten upon the acorns
beneath the oak, but show to the tree, which bore them, no other thanks than
rubbing off its bark, and tearing up the sod around it. In former times, it was
the law in certain monasteries, that the chanting of the praise of God should
know no interruption, and that one choir of monks should, at stated intervals,
relieve another in the holy employment. To the superstition and trust in human
works, of which there may have been here a mixture, we justly assign a place
among the wood, hay, and stubble (1Co 3:12). At the same time it is undeniably
right that thy praise should never cease; and were men to be silent, the very
stones would cry out. We must begin eternal life here below, not only in our
conscience, but also with our praise. Our soul ought to be like a flower, not
merely receiving the gentle influence of heaven, but, in its turn, and as if in
gratitude, exhaling also a sweet and pleasant perfume. It should be our desire,
as it once was that of a pious man, that our hearts should melt and dissolve
like incense in the fire of love, and yield the sweet fragrance of praise: or we
should be like the holy martyr who professed himself willing to be consumed, if
from his ashes a little flower might spring and blossom to the glory of God. We
should be ready to give our very blood to fertilize the garden of the church,
and render it more productive of the fruit of praise. Well then, my God, I will praise and extol thee with heart and
mouth to the utmost of my power. Oh, that without the interruptions which
eating, and drinking, and sleep require, I could apply myself to this heavenly
calling! Every mouthful of air which I inhale is mixed with the goodness which
preserves my life; let every breath which I exhale be mingled at least with a
hearty desire for thy honour and praise. Hallelujah! Ye holy angels, ye children of men, and all ye
creatures, praise the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.
--Christian Scriver Gotthold,1629-1693.
Verse 3. Praise the LORD. Hallelujah (praise to Jah!)
for good (is) Jehovah. Make music to his name, for it is lovely.
The last words may also he translated, he is lovely, i.e. an object
worthy of supreme attachment. --Joseph Addison Alexander.
Verse 3. Praise the LORD; for the LORD is good. That is,
originally, transcendently, effectively; he is good, and doeth good (Ps 119:68),
and is therefore to be praised with mind, mouth, and practice. --John
Verse 3. Sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant. The
work of praising God hath a sort of reward joined with it. When we praise God
most we get much benefit by so doing: it is so comely in itself, so pleasant
unto God, and profitable to the person that offereth praises, so fit to cheer up
his spirit, and strengthen his faith in God, whose praises are the pillars of
the believer's confidence and comfort, that a man should be allured thereunto:
"Sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant; "and this is the
second motive or reason to praise God the first being that "the Lord is
good". --David Dickson.
Verse 4. For the LORD hath chosen, etc. God's distinguishing
grace should make his elect lift up many a humble, joyful, and thankful heart to
him. --John Trapp.
Verse 4. Jacob, Israel. Praise the Lord for enroling you in
this company. To quicken you in this work of praise, consider what you were; you
were not a people, God raised you up from the very dunghill to this preferment;
remember your past estate. Look, as old Jacob considered what he had been when
God preferred him (Ge 32:10); "With my staff I passed over this Jordan, and now
I am become two bands; "so do you say, I am a worthless creature, it is God that
hath taken me into his grace, praised be the Lord that hath chosen me. Then
consider how many are left to perish in the wide world. Some live out of the
church's pale that never heard of Christ, and many others have only a loose
general form of Christianity. Oh! blessed be God that hath chosen me to be of
the number of his peculiar people. It is said (Zec 13:8), "And it shall come to
pass in all the land, saith the Lord, that two parts shall be cut off and die,
but the third shall be left therein." We pass through many bolters before we
come to be God's peculiar people, as the corn is ground, bolted, searched before
it comes to be fine flour. Many have not the knowledge of God, and others live
in the church but are carnal; and for me to be one of his peculiar people, a
member of Christ's mystical body, oh! what a privilege is this! And then what
moved him to all this? Nothing but his own free grace. Therefore praise the
Lord. --Thomas Manton.
Verse 4. His peculiar treasure. The Hebrew word
scgullah signifieth God's special jewels, God's proper ones, or God's
secret ones, that he keeps in store for himself, and for his own special service
and use. Princes lock up with their own hands in secret their most precious and
costly jewels; and so doth God his: "For the LORD hath chosen Jacob
unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure", or for his
secret gain. --Thomas Brooks.
Verse 4. His peculiar treasure. Will not a man that is not
defective in his prudentials secure his jewels? "They shall be mine in that day
when I make up my jewels, and I will spare them as a father his son that serveth
him:" Mal 3:17. If a house be on fire, the owner of it will first take care of
his wife and children, then of his jewels, and last of all, of his lumber and
rubbish. Christ secures first his people, for they are his jewels; the world is
but lumber and rubbish. --Richard Mayhew.
Verse 5. For I know. The word "I" is made emphatic in
the original. Whatever may be the case with others, I have had personal and
precious experience of the greatness of Jehovah's power, and of his infinite
supremacy above all other gods. The author of the Psalm may either speak for all
Israel as a unit, or he may have framed his song so that every worshipper might
say this for himself as his own testimony. --Henry Cowles.
Verse 5. For I know that the LORD is great, etc. On what a
firm foundation does the Psalmist plant his foot--"I know!" One loves to
hear men of God speaking in this calm, undoubting, and assured confidence,
whether it be of the Lord's goodness or of the Lord's greatness. You may perhaps
say, that it required no great stretch of faith or knowledge, or any amount of
bravery, to declare that God was great; but I think that not many wise nor
mighty had in the Psalmist's days attained unto his knowledge or made his
confession, that Jehovah, the God of Israel, was "above all gods." Baal
and Chemosh, and Milcom and Dagon, claimed the fealty of the nations round
about; and David, in the Court of Achish, would have found his declaration as
unwelcome, as it would have been rejected as untrue. Moses once carried a
message from Jehovah to the king of Egypt, and his reply was, "Who is the Lord,
that I should obey his voice? I know not the Lord; "and even of Jehovah's
peculiar treasure, all were not Israel that were of Israel. There is a knowledge that plays round the head, like lightning
on a mountain's summit, that leaves no trace behind; and there is a knowledge
that, like the fertilizing stream, penetrates into the very recesses of the
heart, and issues forth in all the fruits of holiness, of love, and peace, and
joy for evermore. --Barton Bouchier.
Verse 6. Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he, etc. He
was not forced to make all that he made, but all that he willed he made. His
will was the cause of all things which he made. Thou makest a house, because if
thou didst not make it thou wouldest be left without a habitation: necessity
compels thee to make a home, not free will. Thou makest a garment, because thou
wouldest go about naked if thou didst not make it; thou art therefore led to
making a garment by necessity, not by free will. You plant a mountain with
vines, you sow seed, because if thou didst not do so, thou wouldest not have
food; all such things thou doest of necessity. God has made all things of his
goodness. He needed nothing that he made; and therefore he hath made all things
that he willed. He did whatsoever he willed in the heaven and earth: do you do
all that you will even in your field? You will many things, but can not do all
you wish in thy own house. Thy wife, perchance, gainsays thee, thy children
gainsay thee, sometimes even thy servant contumaciously gainsays thee, and thou
doest not what thou wiliest. But thou sayest, I do what I will, because I punish
the disobedient and gainsayer. Even this you do not when you will.
Verse 6. Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he, etc.
God's will obtains and hath the upper hand everywhere. Down man, down pope, down
devil; you must yield; things shall not be as you will, but as God will! We may
well say, "Who hath resisted his will?" Ro 9:19. Many, indeed, disobey, and sin
against the will of his precept; but none ever did, none ever shall, frustrate
or obstruct the will of his purpose; for he will do all his pleasure, and in his
way mountains shall become a plain. --William Slater (-1704), in "The
Verse 6. Upon the Arminian's plan (if absurdity can deserve
the name of a plan), the glorious work of God's salvation, and the eternal
redemption of Jesus Christ, are not complete, unless a dying mortal lends his
arm; that is, unless he, who of himself can do nothing, vouchsafe to begin and
accomplish that which all the angels in heaven cannot do; namely, to convert the
soul from Satan to God. How contrary is all this to the language of
Scripture--how repugnant to the oracles of truth "Whatsoever the Lord pleased,
that did he in heaven and in earth." --Ambrose Serle (-1815), in "Horoe
Verse 6. In heaven and in the earth, etc. His power is
infinite. He can do what he will do everywhere; all places are there named but
purgatory; perhaps he can do nothing there, but leaves all that work for the
Pope. --Thomas Adams.
Verse 6. In the seas, and all deep places. He did wonders in
the mighty waters: more than once he made the boisterous sea a calm, and walked
upon the surface of it; and as of old he broke up the fountains of the great
deep, and drowned the world; and at another time dried up the sea, and led his
people through the depths, as through a wilderness; so he will hereafter bind
the old serpent, the devil, and cast him into the abyss, into the great deep,
the bottomless pit, where he will continue during the thousand years' reign of
Christ with his saints. --John Gill.
Verse 6. The word "pleaseth" limits the general note
or particle "all" unto all works which in themselves are good, or else
serve for good use, and so are pleasing to the Lord for the use sake. He doth
not say that the Lord doth all things which are done, but all things which he
pleaseth, that is, he doth not make men sinful and wicked, neither doth he work
rebellion in men, which is displeasing unto him; but he doth whatsoever is
pleasing, that is, all things which are agreeable to his nature. And whatsoever
is according to his will and good pleasure, that he doth, for none can hinder
it. This is the true sense and meaning of the words. --George Walker, in "God
made visible in his Works", 1641.
Verse 6. Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did, etc. With
reference to, the government of Providence, it is said of God, that "he doeth
according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the
earth." Even insensible matter is under his control. Fire and hail, snow and
vapour, and stormy wind, fulfil his word: and with reference to intelligent
agents, we are told that he maketh the most refractory, even the Wrath of man,
to praise him, and the remainder of wrath he restrains. The whole Bible exhibits
Jehovah as so ordering the affairs of individuals, and of nations, as to secure
the grand purpose he had in view in creating the world, -- viz., the promotion of
his own glory, in the salvation of a multitude which no man can number, of all
nations, and kindreds, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues. One of the most
prominent distinctions between divine revelation and ordinary history is, that
when the same general events are narrated, the latter exhibits--(it is its
province so to do--it is not able indeed to do more,)the agency of man, the
former, the agency of God. Profane history exhibits the instruments by which
Jehovah works; the finger of divine revelation points to the unseen but almighty
hand which wields and guides the instrument, and causes even Herod and Pontius
Pilate, together with the Jews and the people of Israel, to do what the hand and
the counsel of God determined before to be done. --George Payne, in "Lectures
on Christian Theology," 1850.
Verse 7. He causeth the vapours to ascend, etc. Dr. Halley
made a number of experiments at St. Helena as to the quantity of water that is
daily evaporated from the sea, and he found that ten square inches of the
ocean's surface yielded one cubic inch of water in twelve hours --a square mile
therefore yields 401,448,960 cubic inches, or 6,914 tons of water. From the
surface of the Mediterranean Sea during a summer's day there would pass off in
invisible vapour five thousand millions of tons of water. This being only for
one day, the quantity evaporated in a year would be 365 times greater, and in
two thousand years it would amount to four thousand billions of tons, which
evaporation would in time empty the Mediterranean Sea; but we have good reason
for believing that there is as much water there now as in the time of the
Romans, therefore the balance is kept up by the downpour of rain, the influx of
the rivers, and the currents from the Atlantic. Now let us consider the amount of power required for all this
evaporation. Mr. Joule, whose experiments have given to the world so much
valuable information, says that if we had a pool of water one square mile and
six inches in depth to be evaporated by artificial heat, it would require the
combustion of 30,000 tons of coal to effect it; therefore to evaporate all the
water that ascends from the earth it would take 6,000,000,000,000 (six billion)
tons, or more than all the coal that could be stowed away in half a dozen such
worlds as this; and yet silently and surely has the process of evaporation been
going on for millions of years. --Samuel Kinns, in "Moses and Geology",
Verse 7. He causeth the vapours to ascend, etc. There is no
physical necessity that the boiling point of water should occur at two hundred
and twelve degrees of the Fahrenheit scale. As far as we know, it might have
been the same with the boiling points of oil of turpentine, alcohol or ether. We
shall see the benevolence of the present adjustment by noticing some of the
consequences which would follow if any change were made. The amount of vapour given off at ordinary temperatures by any
liquid depends on the temperature at which it boils. If the boiling point of
water were the same as that of alcohol, the vapour given off by the ocean would
be two and a half times as much as at present. Such an excess of aqueous vapour
would produce continual rains and inundations, and would make the air too damp
for animal, and too cloudy for vegetable, life. If water boiled at the same
temperature as ether, the vapour rising from the ocean would be more than
twenty-five times as much as at present. In such a state of things no man could
see the sun on account of the clouds; the rain would be so excessive as to tear
up the soil and wash away plants; inundations would be constant, and navigation
would be impossible in the inland torrents which would take the place of our
rivers. In winter the snow of one day might bury the houses. If, on the other
hand, water boiled at the same temperature with oil of turpentine, the vapour
given off by the ocean would be less than one fourth of its present amount. In
this case rain would be a rarity, like an eclipse of the sun, the dryness of the
desert of Sahara would be equalled in a large part of the globe, which would,
therefore, be bare of vegetation, and incapable of sustaining animal life.
Plants would be scorched by unclouded sunshine, springs and rivulets would be
dry, and inland navigation would cease; for nearly all the rain would be
absorbed by the porous earth. We see, then, that the boiling point of water has been adjusted
to various relations. It is adjusted to the capacity of space to contain aqueous
vapour h transparent state; if it were higher than two hundred and twelve
degrees, earth would be scorched by an unclouded sun; if it were lower, it would
under continual shade. It is suited to the demand of plants for water; if it
were higher, they would suffer from drought; if it were lower, they would torn
up by floods. It is in harmony with the texture of the soil: if it higher, the
earth would absorb all the rain which falls; if it were lower, the would often
be washed away by the surface torrents after a shower. It is to the elevation of
the continents above the sea; if it were higher, rivers their present
inclination would be so shallow as to be often dry; if it lower, most rivers
would be so deep as to be torrents, while the land would covered with floods.
Verse 7. To ascend from the ends of the earth. Rains in
England are introduced by a southeast wind. "Vapour brought to us by such a wind
have been generated in countries to the south and east of our island. It is
fore, probably, in the extensive valleys watered by the Meuse, the Moselle, the
Rhine, if not from the more distant Elbe, with the Oder and the Weser, the water
rises, in the midst of sunshine, which is soon afterwards to form our
clouds, and pour down our thundershowers." "Drought and sunshine in part
of Europe may be necessary to the production of a wet season in another" (Howard
on the Climate of London). --William Whewell (1795-1866), in "The
Bridgewater Treatise" Astronomy and General Physics. 1839.
Verse 7. From the surface of the earth raising the vapours.
The whole description is beautifully exact and picturesque. Not "the ends", or
even "summits" or "extreme mountains", for the original is in the singular
number (huq), but from the whole of the
extreme layer, the superficies or
surface of the earth; from every point of which the great process of
exhalation is perpetually going on to supply the firmament with refreshing and
fruitful clouds. --John Mason Good.
Verse 7. He maketh lightnings for the rain. When the
electrical clouds are much agitated, the rain generally falls heavily, and if
the agitation is excessive, it hails. As the electricity is dissipated by the
frequent discharges the cloud condenses, and there comes a sudden and heavy
rain; but the greater the accumulation of electricity, the longer is the rain
delayed. Thus connected as the electrical phenomena of the atmosphere are with
clouds, vapour, and rain, how forcibly are we struck with these appropriate
words in the Scriptures. --Edwin Sidney, in "Conversations on the Bible and
Verse 7. He maketh lightnings for the rain. Dr. Russell, in
his description of the weather at Aleppo, in September, tells us, that seldom a
night passes without much lightning in the north west quarter, but not
attended with thunder, and that when this lightning appears in the
west or south west points, it is a sure sign of the approaching
rain, which is often followed with thunder. This last clause, which is
not perfectly clear, is afterwards explained in his more enlarged account of the
weather of the year 1746, when he tells us that though it began to be cloudy on
the 4th of September, and continued so for a few days, and even
thundered, yet no rain fell till the 11th, which shows that his meaning
was, that the lightning in the west or south west points, which is often
followed with thunder, is a sure sign of the approach of rain. I have before
mentioned that a squall of wind and clouds of dust are the usual forerunners of
these first rains. Most of these things are taken notice of in Ps 135:7 Jer
10:13 51:16; and serve to illustrate them. Russell's account determines, I
think, that the Nesiim, which our translators render vapours, must mean,
as they elsewhere translate the word, clouds. It shows that God "maketh
lightnings for the rain", they, in the west and south west points, being
at Aleppo the sure prognostics of rain. The squalls of wind bring on
these refreshing showers, and are therefore "precious things" of the
"treasuries" of God. --Thomas Harmer.
Verse 7. He maketh lightnings for the rain. The Psalmist
mentions it as another circumstance calling for our wonder, that
lightnings are mixed with rain, things quite opposite in their
nature one from another. Did not custom make us familiar with the spectacle, we
would pronounce this mixture of fire and water to be a phenomenon altogether
incredible. The same may be said of the phenomena of the winds. Natural causes
can be assigned for them, and philosophers have pointed them out; but the winds,
with their various currents, are a wonderful work of God. He does not merely
assert the power of God, be it observed, in the sense in which philosophers
themselves grant it, but he maintains that not a drop of rain falls from heaven
without a divine commission or dispensation to that effect. All readily allow
that God is the author of rain, thunder, and wind, in so far as he originally
established this order of things in nature; but the Psalmist goes farther than
this, holding that when it rains, this is not effected by a blind instinct of
nature, but is the consequence of the decree of God, who is pleased at one time
to darken the sky with clouds, and at another to brighten it again with
sunshine. --John Calvin.
Verse 7. He maketh lightnings for the rain. It is a great
instance of the divine wisdom and goodness, that lightning should be accompanied
by rain, to soften its rage, and prevent its mischievous effects. Thus, in the
midst of judgment, does God remember mercy. The threatenings in his word against
sinners are like lightning; they would blast and scorch us up, were it not for
his promises made in the same word to penitents, which, as a gracious rain, turn
aside their fury, refreshing and comforting our frightened spirits. --George
Verse 7. He bringeth the wind out of his treasuries. That
is, say some, out of the caves and hollow places of the earth; but I rather
conceive that because the wind riseth many times on a sudden, and as our Saviour
saith (Joh 3:8), we cannot tell whence it cometh, therefore God is said here to
bring it forth, as if he had it locked up in readiness in some secret and hidden
treasuries or store houses. --Arthur Jackson.
Verse 7. He bringeth the wind. The winds are, with great
beauty, represented as laid up by him as jewels in a treasure house. Indeed, few
verses better express creative control, than those in which the winds, which
make sport of man's efforts and defy his power, are represented as thus ready to
spring forth at God's bidding from the quarters where they quietly sleep. The
occasion comes, the thoughts of Jehovah find expression in his providence, and
his ready servants leap suddenly forth: "He bringeth the winds out of his
treasuries." But this bringing forth is not for physical purposes only; it
is for great moral and spiritual ends also. Take one illustration out of many.
His people were on the edge of deepest and most brutish idolatry. They were
ready to fall into a most degraded form of idol worship, when he offered to them
that ever yearning heart of Fatherly love: "Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen." Their
god is only "the tree cut out of the forest", silvered over, or decked with
gold; "upright as the palm tree, but speaks not: the stock is a doctrine of
vanities; but the Lord is the true God; he maketh lightnings with rain; he
bringeth the wind out of his treasures." Jer 10:2-16. Thus, too, the words of
Agur to Ithiel and Ucal, "He hath gathered the wind in his fists." Pr 30:4.
--John Duns, in "Science and Christian Thought," 1868.
Verse 8. Who smote the firstborn of Egypt. The first born
only were smitten; these were singled out in every family with unerring
precision, the houses of the Israelites, wherever the blood of the lamb was
sprinkled on the door posts, being passed over. The death of all those
thousands, both of man and beast, took place at the same instant--"at midnight."
Is God unrighteous, then, that taketh vengeance? No; this is an
act of retribution. The Egyptians had slain the children of the Israelites,
casting their infants into the river. Now the affliction is turned upon
themselves; the delight of their eyes is taken from them; all their firstborn
are dead, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat upon his throne, unto the
firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon. --Thomas S. Millington, in
"Signs and Wonders in the Land of Ham," 1873.
Verse 8. And beast. The Egyptians worshipped many animals,
and when the firstborn of the sacred animals died the circumstance greatly
increased the impressiveness of the plague as an assault upon the gods of Egypt.
--C. H. S. Suggested by Otto Von Gerlach.
Verses 8-12. Worthy is Jahve to be praised, for he is the
Redeemer out of Egypt. Worthy is he to be praised, for he is the Conqueror of
the Land of Promise. --Franz Delitzsch.
Verse 10. Who smote great nations, etc. It is better that
the wicked should be destroyed a hundred times over than that they should tempt
those who are as yet innocent to join their company. Let us but think what might
have been our fate, and the fate of every other nation under heaven at this
hour, had the sword of the Israelites done its work more sparingly. Even as it
was, the small portions of the Canaanites who were left, and the nations around
them, so tempted the Israelites by their idolatrous practices that we read
continually of the whole people of God turning away from his service. But, had
the heathen lived in the land in equal numbers, and, still more, had they
intermarried largely with the Israelites, how was it possible, humanly speaking,
that any sparks of the light of God's truth should have survived to the coming
of Christ? Would not tim Israelites have lost all their peculiar character; and
if they had retained the name of Jehovah as of their God, would they not have
formed as unworthy notions of his attributes, and worshipped him with a worship
as abominable as that which the Moabites paid to Chemosh or the Philistines to
Dagon? But this was not to be, and therefore the nations of Canaan
were to be cut off utterly. The Israelites' sword, in its bloodiest executions,
wrought a work of mercy for all the countries of the earth to the very end of
the world. They seem of very small importance to us now, those perpetual
contests with the Canaanites, and the Midianites, and the Ammonites, and the
Philistines, with which the Books of Joshua and Judges and Samuel are almost
filled. We may half wonder that God should have interfered in such quarrels, or
have changed the course of nature, in order to give one of the nations of
Palestine the victory over another. But in these contests, on the fate of one of
these nations of Palestine the happiness of the human race depended. The
Israelites fought not for themselves only, but for us. It might follow that they
should thus be accounted the enemies of all mankind, --it might be that they were
tempted by their very distinctness to despise other nations; still they did
God's work, --still they preserved unhurt the seed of eternal life, and were the
ministers of blessing to all other nations, even though they themselves failed
to enjoy it. --Thomas Arnold, 1795-1842.
Verse 9. Who sent tokens and wonders. --"Tokens", that
is, signs or evidences of the Divine power. "Wonders", things fitted to
impress the mind with awe; things outside of the ordinary course of events;
things not produced by natural laws, but by the direct power of God. The
allusion here is, of course, to the plagues of Egypt, as recorded in Exodus.
Verse 10. Who smote great nations, etc. Let us not stand in
fear of any enemies that rise up against us, and conspire to hinder the peace of
the church, and stop the passage of the gospel; when God begins to take the
cause of his people into his own hand, and smiteth any of his enemies on the
jawbone, the rest are reserved to the like destruction. For wherefore doth God
punish his adversaries, and enter into judgment with them? Wherefore doth he
visit them, and strike them down with his right hand? Is it only to take
vengeance, and to show his justice in their confusion? No, it serveth for the
comfort and consolation of his servants, that howsoever God be patient, yet in
the end they shall not escape. --William Attersoll, 1618.
Verse 11. Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og. Notice is
taken of two kings, Sihon and Og, not as being more powerful than the rest, but
because shutting up the entrance to the land in front they were the most
formidable enemies met with, and the people, besides, were not as yet habituated
to war. --John Calvin.
Verse 11. Sihon king of the Amorites. When Israel arrived on
the borders of the Promised Land they encountered Sihon. (Nu 21:21.) He was
evidently a man of very great courage and audacity. Shortly before the time of
Israel's arrival he had dispossessed the Moabites of a splendid territory,
driving them south of the natural bulwark of the Arnon with great slaughter and
the loss of a great number of captives (Nu 21:26-29). When the Israelite host
appears, he does not hesitate or temporize like Balak, but at once gathers his
people together and attacks them. But the battle was his last. He and all his
host were destroyed, and their district from Arnon to Jabbok became at once the
possession of the conqueror. Josephus (Ant. 4:5,2) has preserved some singular details of
the battle, which have not survived in the text either of the Hebrew or 70. He
represents the Amorite army as containing every man in the nation fit to bear
arms. He states that they were unable to fight when away from the shelter of
their cities, and that being especially galled by the slings and arrows of the
Hebrews, and at last suffering severely from thirst, they rushed to the stream
and to the recesses of the ravine of the Arnon. Into these recesses they were
pursued by their active enemy and slaughtered in vast numbers. Whether we accept these details or not, it is plain, from the
manner in which the name of Sihon fixes itself in the national mind, and the
space which his image occupies in the official records, and in the later poetry
of Israel, that he was a truly formidable chieftain. --George Grove, in
Smith's Dictionary of the Bible. 1863.
Verse 15. The work of men's hands. Therefore they should
rather, if it were possible, worship man, as their creator and lord, than be
worshipped by him. --Matthew Pool, 1624-1679.
Verses 15-17. The Rev. John Thomas, a missionary in India,
was one day travelling alone through the country, when he saw a great number of
people waiting near an idol temple. He went up to them, and as soon as the doors
were opened, he walked into the temple. Seeing an idol raised above the people,
he walked boldly up to it, held up his hand, and asked for silence. He then put
his fingers on its eyes, and said, "It has eyes, but it cannot see! It has ears,
but it cannot hear! It has a nose, but it cannot smell! It has hands, but it
cannot handle! It has a mouth, but it cannot speak! Neither is there any breath
in it!" Instead of doing injury to him for affronting their god and themselves,
the natives were all surprised; and an old Brahmin was so convinced of his folly
by what Mr. Thomas said, that he also cried out, "It has feet, but cannot run
away!" The people raised a shout, and being ashamed of their stupidity, they
left the temple, and went to their homes. --From "The New Cyclopcedia of
Illustrative Anecdote," 1875.
Verse 16-17. Mouths, eyes, ears. So many members as the
images have, serving to represent perfections ascribed to them, so many are the
lies. --David Dickson.
Verses 16-17. They can neither speak in answer to your
prayers and inquiries, nor see what you do or what you want, nor
hear your petitions, nor smell your incenses and sacrifices, nor
use their hands either to take anything from you, or to give anything to
you; nor so much as mutter, nor give the least sign of apprehending your
condition or concerns. --Matthew Pool.
Verse 16-17. Mouths, but they speak not: ears, but they hear
A heated fancy or imagination
May be mistaken for an inspiration.
True; but is this conclusion fair to make--
That inspiration must be all mistake?
A pebble stone is not a diamond: true;
But must a diamond be a pebble too?
To own a God who does not speak to men,
Is first to own, and then disown again;
Of all idolatry the total sum
lase having gods that are both deaf and dumb.
Verse 18. Like them shall be those making them, every one who
(is) trusting in them. If the meaning had been simply, those who make
them are like them, Hebrew usage would have required the verb to be
suppressed. Its insertion, therefore, in the future form (wyhy) requires it to be rendered strictly shall
be, i.e., in fate as well as character. Idolaters shall perish with their
perishable idols. See Isa 1:31. --Joseph Addison Alexander.
Verse 18. People never rise above the level of their gods,
which are to them their better nature. --Andrew Robert Faussett.
Verse 18. They that make them are like unto them. Idolatry
is a benumbing sin, which bereaveth the idolater of the right use of his senses.
Verse 18. They that make them, etc. Teacheth us, that the
idol, the idol maker, and all such also as serve idols, are not only beastly and
blockish before men, but shall before God, in good time, come to shame and
confusion. --Thomas Wilcocks, 1549-1608.
Verse 18. Like unto them. A singular phenomenon, known as
the Spectre of the Brocken, is seen on a certain mountain in Germany. The
traveller who at dawn stands on the topmost ridge beholds a colossal shadowy
spectre. But in fact it is only his own shadow projected upon the morning mists
by the rising sun; and it imitates, of course, every movement of its creator. So
heathen nations have mistaken their own image for Deity. Their gods display
human frailties and passions and scanty virtues, projected and magnified upon
the heavens, just as the small figures on the slide of a magic lantern are
projected, magnified, and illuminated upon a white sheet. --From Elan Foster's
New Cyclopoedia of Illustrations, 1870.
Verse 18. Like unto them. How many are like idol images,
when they have eyes, ears, and mouths as though they had none: that is, when
they do not use them when and how they should! --Christoph Starke.
Verse 19. Bless the LORD. Blessing of God is to wish well
to, and speak well of God, out of goodwill to God himself, and a sense of his
goodness to ourselves. God loves your good word, that is, to be spoken of well
by you; he rejoiceth in your well wishes, and to hear from you expressions of
rejoicings in his own independent blessedness. Though God hath an infinite ocean
of all blessedness, to which we can add nothing, and he is therefore called by
way of eminency, "The Blessed One" (Mr 14:61), a title solely proper and
peculiar to him, yet he delights to hear the amen of the saints, his
creatures, resounding thereto; he delights to hear us utter our "so be it."
Verse 19. Bless the LORD. And not an idol (Isa 66:3), as the
Philistines did their Dagon, and as Papists still do their he saints and she
saints. --John Trapp.
Verse 20. Bless the LORD, O house Of Levi. In Ps 115:1-18
the exhortation given is to trust or hope in the Lord; here, to
bless him. The Levites are mentioned in addition to the house of
Aaron, there being two orders of priesthood. Everything else in the two Psalms
is the same, except that, in the last verse, the Psalmist here joins himself,
along with the rest of the Lord's people, in blessing God. --Franz
Verse 20. Ye that fear the LORD, bless the LORD. These are
distinct from the Israelites, priests, and Levites, and design the proselytes
among them of other nations that truly feared God, as Jarchi notes; and all such
persons, whoever and wherever they are, have reason to bless the Lord for the
fear of him they have, which is not from nature but from grace; and for the
favours shown them, the blessings bestowed upon them, the good things laid up
for them, and the guard that is about them, which the Scriptures abundantly
declare, and experience confirms. --John Gill.
Verse 20. Ye that fear the LORD, bless the LORD. In
Scripture it is quite common to find this "fear" put for holiness itself,
or the sum of true religion. It is not, therefore, such a fear as seized the
hearts of our first parents when, hearing the voice of the Lord God, they hid
themselves amongst the trees of the garden; nor such as suddenly quenched the
noise of royal revelry in the night of Babylon's overthrow; nor such as, on some
day yet future, shall drive despairing sinners to the unavailing shelter of the
mountains and rocks. It is not the fear of guilty distrust, or of hatred, or of
bondage--that fear which hath torment, and which perfect love casteth out; but a
fear compatible with the highest privileges, attainments, and hopes of the
Christian life. It is the fear of deep humility and reverence, of filial
subjection, and adoring gratitude; the fear which "blesseth the Lord", saying,
"His mercy endureth for ever." --John Lillie (1812-1867), in
"Lectures on the Epistles of Peter."
Verse 21. The conclusion, Ps 135:21, alludes to the
conclusion of the preceding Psalm. There, the Lord blesses thee out of Zion;
here, let him be blessed out of Zion. The praise proceeds from the same place
from which the blessing issues. For Zion is the place where the community dwells
with God. --E. W. Hengstenberg.
Verse 21. Praise ye the LORD. When the song of praise is
sung unto God, the work of his praise is not ended, but must be continued,
renewed, and followed still: "Praise ye the LORD." --David Dickson.
Verse 21. Bless, Praise. We are not only to bless God, but
to praise him: "All thy works shall praise thee, O LORD; and thy saints shall
bless thee." Blessing relateth to his benefits, praise to his excellencies. We
bless him for what he is to us, we praise him for what he is in himself. Now,
whether we bless him, or praise him; it is still to increase our love to him,
and delight in him; for God is not affected with the flattery of empty praises;
yet this is an especial duty, which is of use to you, as all other duties are.
It doth you good to consider him as an infinite and eternal Being, and of
glorious and incomprehensible majesty. It is pleasant and profitable to us.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
1. The Employment. Praise three times commended, and in three
a) With respect to God: not his works merely, but himself.
b) With respect to ourselves: it is pleasant and profitable.
c) With respect to others: it best recommends our religion to
all who hear it. All others are religions of fear, ours of joy and praise.
2. The Persons: servants in attendance at his house, who stand
there by appointment, ready to hear, ready to obey.
3. The Motives.
a) In general. It is due to God, because he is good; and it is
pleasant to us: Ps 135:3.
b) In particular. Those who are specially privileged by God
should specially praise him. Ps 135:4. "This people have I formed for myself;
they shall show forth my praise." --G. R.
Verse 1. Praise ye the LORD.
1. The Lord ought to be praised.
2. He ought to be praised by you.
3. He ought to be praised now:let us remember his
4. He ought to be praised in everything for ever.
Verse 1. Praise him, O ye servants of the LORD.
1. Praise him for the privilege of serving him.
2. Praise him for the power to serve him.
3. Praise him for the acceptance of your service.
4. Praise him as the chief part of your service.
5. Praise him that others may be induced to engage in his
--W. H. J. P.
Verse 2. What is at this day "the house of the Lord"? Who
may be said to stand in it? What special reasons have they for praise?
Verse 2. The nearer to God, the dearer to God; and the
better our place, the sweeter our praise. --W. B. H.
Verse 2-5. Our God, Our Lord. Sweet subject. See our
Verse 3. Praise the Lord,
1. For the excellence of his nature.
2. For the revelation of his name.
3. For the pleasantness of his worship.
Verse 4. It is a song of praise, and therefore election is
mentioned because it is a motive for song.
1. The Choice --"The Lord hath chosen." Divine.
Sovereign. Gracious. Immutable.
2. The Consecration --"Chosen Jacob to himself." To know
him. To preserve his truth. To maintain his worship. To manifest his grace. To
keep alive the hope of the Coming One.
3. The Separation --implied in the special choice. By
being taken into covenant: Abraham and his seed. By receiving the covenant
inheritance: Canaan. By redemption. By power and by blood out of Egypt.
Wilderness separation. Settled establishment in their own land.
4. The Elevation. In name--from Jacob to Israel. In
value--from worthless to precious. In purpose and use-- crown jewels. In
preservation kept as treasures. In delight--God rejoices in his people as his
Verse 5. I know that the LORD is great.
1. By observing nature and providence.
2. By reading his word.
3. By my own conversion, comfort, and regeneration.
4. By my after experience.
5. By my overpowering communion with him.
Verse 5. Delicious dogmatism. "I know," etc.
1. What I know.
a) The Lord,
b) That he is great.
c) That he is above all.
2. Why I know it.
a) Because he is "our Lord."
b) By his operations in nature, providence, and grace (Ps
3. My incorrigible obstinacy in this regard is proof against
worshippers of all other gods: which gods are effeminate; without sovereignty;
no god, or any god. --W. B. H.
Verse 6. Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he. God's
good pleasure in the work of grace. Seen, not in the death of the wicked, Eze
33:11; but in the election of his people, 1Sa 12:22; in the infliction of
suffering on the substitute, Isa 53:10; in the provision of all fulness for his
people in Christ, Col 1:19; in the arrangement of salvation by faith in Christ,
Joh 6:39; in instituting preaching as the means of salvation, 1Co 1:21; in the
adoption of believers as his children, Eph 1:5; in their sanctification, 1Th
4:3; in their ultimate triumph and reign, Lu 12:32. --C. A. D.
Verse 6. (last words). The power of God in places of
trouble, change, and danger--seas;and in conditions of sin, weakness,
despair, perplexity--in all deep places.
Verses 6-12. The Resistless Pleasure of Jehovah.
1. Behold it as here exemplified:
a) Ruling all nature.
b) Overturning a rebellious nation.
c) Making sport of kings and crowns.
d) Laying a fertile country at the feet of the chosen.
2. Be wise in view thereof.
a) Submit to it: it sweeps the seas, and lays hands on earth
b) Think not to hide from it: the "ends of the earth" and "all
deep places" are open to it; it is swifter than its own lightnings.
c) Be awed by its majesty: God's way is strewn with crowns and
the bones of kings.
d) Seek its protection: its mightiest efforts are in defence of
those it favours.
e) Let the Lord's people fear not with so great a God, and so
exhaustless an armoury. --W. B. H.
Verse 13. Thy name, O LORD, endureth for ever.
1. As the embodiment of perfection:God's attributes and
2. As the object of veneration:"Holy and reverent is his
3. As the cause of salvation:"For my name's sake", etc.
4. As the centre of attraction:"In his name shall the
Gentiles trust." "Our desire is to the remembrance of thy name." "Where two or
three are gathered in my name", etc.
5. As a plea in supplication:"For thy name's sake,
pardon", etc. "Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name."
6. As a warrant for action:"Whatsoever ye do, do all in
the name", etc.
7. As a refuge in tribulation:"The name of the Lord is a
strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe." "I have kept them in
8. As a mark of glorification:"I will write upon him the
name of my God."
9. As a terror to transgressors:"My name is dreadful
among the heathen." --W. J.
Verse 14. The LORD will judge his people. Others would like
to do it, but must not. The world has seven judgment days in every week, but
shall not be able to condemn the saints. He himself will judge. How will he
1. Their persons, as to whether they are in or out of Christ.
2. Their principles, as to whether they are genuine or
3. Their prayers, as to whether they are availing or useless.
4. Their profession, as to whether it is true or false.
5. Their procedure, as to whether it is good or bad. --W.
1. The position of believers his people.
2. The discipline of God's family.
3. The tenderness of the Lord to them.
4. The safety of believers: they are still the Lord's.
Verse 15. Silver and gold. These are idols in our own land,
among worldlings, and with some professors. Show the folly and wickedness of
loving riches, and the evils which come of it.
Verses 16-17. The Portrait of many,
1. "Mouths, but they speak not." No prayer, praise,
2. "Eyes, but they see not." Discern not, understand
not, take no warning; do not look to Christ.
3. "Ears, but they hear not." Attend no ministry, or are
present but unaffected; hear not God.
4. "Neither is there any breath in their mouths." No
life, no tokens of life, no prayer and praise which are the breath of spiritual
1. Men make idols like themselves.
2. The idols make their makers like themselves. Describe both
Verse 19. House of Israel. The Lord's great goodness to all
his people, perceived and proclaimed, and the Lord praised for it.
Verse 19. House of Aaron. God's blessing on Aaron's house
typical of his grace to those who are priests unto God.
1. The Exhortation.
a) To bless the Lord.
b) To bless him in his own house.
2. To whom it is addressed.
a) To the house of Israel, or the whole church.
b) To the house of Aaron, or ministers of the sanctuary.
c) To the house of Levi, or the attendants upon ministers, and
assistants in the services.
d) To all who fear God, wherever they may be. Even they who
fear God are invited to praise him, which is a sure sign that he delighteth in
mercy. --G. R.
Verse 20. The Levites, their history, duties, rewards, and
obligations to bless God.
Verse 20. (second clause).
1. The fear of God includes all religion.
2. The fear of the Lord suggests praise.
3. The fear of the Lord renders praise acceptable.
1. The double fact.
a) Blessing perpetually ascending from Zion to God.
b) God perpetually blessing his people by dwelling with them in
2. The double reason for praise, which is found in the double
fact, and concerns every member of the church.