Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher
TITLE. A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath day. This
admirable composition is both a Psalm and a Song, full of equal measures of
solemnity and joy; and it was intended to be sung upon the day of rest. The
subject is the praise of God; praise is Sabbatic work, the joyful occupation of
resting hearts. Since a true Sabbath can only be found in God, it is wise to
meditate upon him on the Sabbath day. The style is worthy of the theme and of
the day, its inspiration is from the "fount of every blessing"; David spake as
the Spirit gave him utterance. In the church of Christ, at this hour, no Psalm
is more frequently sung upon the Lord's day than the present. The delightful
version of Dr. Watts is familiar to us all--
"Sweet is the work, my God, my King,
To praise thy name, give thanks, and sing;
To shew thy love by morning light,
And talk of all thy truth at night."
The Sabbath was set apart for adoring the Lord in his finished
work of creation, hence the suitableness of this Psalm; Christians may take even
a higher flight, for they celebrate complete redemption. No one acquainted with
David's style will hesitate to ascribe to him the authorship of this divine
hymn; the ravings of the Rabbis who speak of its being composed by Adam, only
need to be mentioned to be dismissed. Adam in Paradise had neither harps to play
upon, nor wicked men to contend with.
Verse 1. It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, or
JEHOVAH. It is good ethically, for it is the Lord's right; it is good
emotionally, for it is pleasant to the heart; it is good practically, for it
leads others to render the same homage. When duty and pleasure combine, who will
be backward? To give thanks to God is but a small return for the great benefits
wherewith he daily loadeth us; yet as he by his Spirit calls it a good thing we
must not despise it, or neglect it. We thank men when they oblige us, how much
more ought we to bless the Lord when he benefits us. Devout praise is always
good, it is never out of season, never superfluous, but it is especially
suitable to the Sabbath; a Sabbath without thanksgiving is a Sabbath profaned. And to sing praises unto thy name, O most High. It is good
to give thanks in the form of vocal song. Nature itself teaches us thus to
express our gratitude to God; do not the birds sing, and the brooks warble as
they flow? To give his gratitude a tongue is wise in man. Silent worship is
sweet, but vocal worship is sweeter. To deny the tongue the privilege of
uttering the praises of God involves an unnatural strain upon the most
commendable prompting of our renewed manhood, and it is a problem to us how the
members of the Society of Friends can deprive themselves of so noble, so
natural, so inspiring a part of sacred worship. Good as they are, they miss one
good thing when they decline to sing praises unto the name of the Lord. Our
personal experience has confirmed us in the belief that it is good to sing unto
the Lord; we have often felt like Luther when he said, "Come, let us sing a
psalm, and drive away the devil."
Verse 2. To shew forth thy loving kindness in the morning.
The day should begin with praise: no hour is too early for holy song. Loving
kindness is a most appropriate theme for those dewy hours when morn is sowing
all the earth with orient pearl. Eagerly and promptly should we magnify the
Lord; we leave unpleasant tasks as long as we can, but our hearts are so
engrossed with the adoration of God that we would rise betimes to attend to it.
There is a peculiar freshness and charm about early morning praises; the day is
loveliest when it first opens its eyelids, and God himself seems then to make
distribution of the day's manna, which tastes most sweetly if gathered ere the
sun is hot. It seems most meet that if our hearts and harps have been silent
through the shades of night we should be eager again to take our place among the
chosen choir who ceaselessly hymn the Eternal One. And thy faithfulness every night. No hour is too late for
praise, the end of the day must not be the end of gratitude. When nature seems
in silent contemplation to adore its Maker, it ill becomes the children of God
to refrain their thanksgiving. Evening is the time for retrospect, memory is
busy with the experience of the day, hence the appropriate theme for song is the
divine faithfulness, of which another day has furnished fresh evidences.
When darkness has settled down over all things, "a shade immense", then there
comes over wise men a congenial, meditative spirit, and it is most fitting that
they should take an expanded view of the truth and goodness of Jehovah--
"This sacred shade and solitude, what is it?
It is the felt presence of the Deity."
"Every night, "clouded or clear, moonlit or dark, calm or
tempestuous, is alike suitable for a song upon the faithfulness of God, since in
all seasons, and under all circumstances, it abides the same, and is the
mainstay of the believer's consolation. Shame on us that we are so backward in
magnifying the Lord, who in the daytime scatters bounteous love, and in the
night season walks his rounds of watching care.
Verse 3. Upon an instrument of ten strings; with the fullest
range of music, uttering before God with the full compass of melody the richest
emotions of his soul. And upon the psaltery; thus giving variety to praise: the
Psalmist felt that every sweet-sounding instrument should be consecrated to God.
George Herbert and Martin Luther aided their private devotions by instrumental
music; and whatever may have been the differences of opinion in the Christian
church, as to the performance of instrumental music in public, we have met with
no objection to its personal and private use. Upon the harp with a solemn sound, or upon meditation
with a harp; as much as to say, my meditative soul is, after all, the
best instrument, and the harp's dulcet tones comes in to aid my thoughts. It is
blessed work when hand and tongue work together in the heavenly occupation of
"Strings and voices, hands and hearts,
In the concert bear your parts:
All that breathe, your God adore,
Praise him, praise him, evermore."
It is, however, much to be feared that attention to the mere
mechanism of music, noting keys and strings, bars and crotchets, has carried
many away from the spiritual harmony which is the soul and essence of praise.
Fine music without devotion is but a splendid garment upon a corpse.
Verse 4. For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work.
It was natural for the psalmist to sing, because he was glad, and to sing unto
the Lord, because his gladness was caused by a contemplation of the divine work.
If we consider either creation or providence, we shall find overflowing reasons
for joy; but when we come to review the work of redemption, gladness knows no
bounds, but feels that she must praise the Lord with all her might. There are
times when in the contemplation of redeeming love we feel that if we did not
sing we must die; silence would be as horrible to us as if we were gagged by
inquisitors, or stifled by murderers. I will triumph in the works of thy hands. I cannot help it,
I must and I will rejoice in the Lord, even as one who has won the victory and
has divided great spoil. In the first sentence of this verse he expresses the
unity of God's work, and in the second the variety of his works; in both there
is reason for gladness and triumph. When God reveals his work to a man, and
performs a work in his soul, he makes his heart glad most effectually, and then
the natural consequence is continual praise.
Verse 5. O Lord, how great are thy works! He is lost in
wonder. He utters an exclamation of amazement. How vast! How stupendous are the
doings of Jehovah! Great for number, extent, and glory and design are all the
creations of the Infinite One. And thy thoughts are very deep. The Lord's plans are as
marvellous as his acts; his designs are as profound as his doings are vast.
Creation is immeasurable, and the wisdom displayed in it unsearchable. Some men
think but cannot work, and others are mere drudges working without thought; in
the Eternal the conception and the execution go together. Providence is
inexhaustible, and the divine decrees which originate it are inscrutable.
Redemption is grand beyond conception, and the thoughts of love which planned it
are infinite. Man is superficial, God is inscrutable; man is shallow, God is
deep. Dive as we may we shall never fathom the mysterious plan, or exhaust the
boundless wisdom of the all comprehending mind of the Lord. We stand by the
fathomless sea of divine wisdom, and exclaim with holy awe, "O the depth!"
Verse 6. A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool
understand this. In this and the following verses the effect of the
psalm is heightened by contrast; the shadows are thrown in to bring out the
lights more prominently. What a stoop from the preceding verse; from the saint
to the brute, from the worshipper to the boor, from the psalmist to the fool!
Yet, alas, the character described here is no uncommon one. The boorish or
boarish man, for such is almost the very Hebrew word, sees nothing in nature;
and if it be pointed out to him, his foolish mind will not comprehend it. He may
be a philosopher, and yet be such a brutish being that he will not own the
existence of a Maker for the ten thousand matchless creations around him, which
wear, even upon their surface, the evidences of profound design. The unbelieving
heart, let it boast as it will, does not know; and with all its parade of
intellect, it does not understand. A man must either be a saint or a brute, he
has no other choice; his type must be the adoring seraph, or the ungrateful
swine. So far from paying respect to great thinkers who will not own the glory
or being of God, we ought to regard them as comparable to the beasts which
perish, only vastly lower than mere brutes, because their degrading condition is
of their own choosing. O God, how sorrowful a thing it is that men whom thou
hast so largely gifted, and made in thine own image, should so brutify
themselves that they will neither see nor understand what thou hast made so
clear. Well might an eccentric writer say, "God made man a little lower than the
angels at first, and he has been trying to get lower ever since."
Verse 7. When the wicked spring as the grass, in abundance,
and apparent strength, hastening on their progress like verdant plants, which
come to perfection in a day, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; flowering
in their prime and pride, their pomp and their prosperity; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever. They grow to
die, they blossom to be blasted. They flower for a short space to wither without
end. Greatness and glory are to them but the prelude of their overthrow. Little
does their opposition matter, the Lord reigns on as if they had never blasphemed
him; as a mountain abides the same though the meadows at its feet bloom or
wither, even so the Most High is unaffected by the fleeting mortals who dare
oppose him; they shall soon vanish for ever from among the living. But as for
the wicked-- how can our minds endure the contemplation of their doom "for
ever." Destruction "for ever" is a portion far too terrible for
the mind to realise. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, the full terror of the
wrath to come!
Verse 8. But thou, Lord, art most high for evermore. This is
the middle verse of the Psalm, and the great fact which this Sabbath song is
meant to illustrate. God is at once the highest and most enduring of all beings.
Others rise to fall, but he is the Most High to eternity. Glory be to his name!
How great a God we worship! Who would not fear thee, O thou High Eternal One!
The ungodly are destroyed for ever, and God is most high for ever; evil is cast
down, and the Holy One reigns supreme eternally.
Verse 9. For, lo, thine enemies, O Lord. It is a wonder full
of instruction and warning, observe it, O ye sons of men; for, lo, thine enemies shall parish; they shall cease from
among men, they shall be known no more. In that the thing is spoken twice it is
confirmed by the Lord, it shall surely be, and that speedily. All the workers of iniquity shall be scattered; their
forces shall be dispersed, their hopes broken, and themselves driven hither and
thither like chaff before the tempest. They shall scatter like timid sheep
pursued by the lion, they will not have the courage to remain in arms, nor the
unity to abide in confederacy. The grass cannot resist the scythe, but falls in
withering ranks, even so are the ungodly cut down and swept away in process of
time, while the Lord whom they despised sits unmoved upon the throne of his
infinite dominion. Terrible as this fact is, no true hearted heart would wish to
have it otherwise. Treason against the great Monarch of the universe ought not
to go unpunished; such wanton wickedness richly merits the severest doom.
Verse 10. But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an
unicorn. The believer rejoices that he shall not be suffered to perish, but
shall be strengthened and enabled to triumph over his enemies, by the divine
aid. The unicorn may have been some gigantic ox or buffalo now unknown, and
perhaps extinct--among the ancients it was the favourite symbol of unconquerable
power; the psalmist adopts it as his emblem. Faith takes delight in foreseeing
the mercy of the Lord, and sings of what he will do as well as of what he has
done. I shall be anointed with fresh oil. Strengthening shall be
attended with refreshment and honour. As guests were anointed at feasts with
perfumed unguents, so shall the saints be cheered and delighted by fresh
outpourings of divine grace; and for this reason they shall not pass away like
the wicked. Observe the contrast between the happiness of the brutish people and
the joy of the righteous: the brutish men grow with a sort of vegetable vigour
of their own, but the righteous are dealt with by the Lord himself, and all the
good which they receive comes directly from his own right hand, and so is doubly
precious in their esteem. The psalmist speaks in the first person, and it should
be a matter of prayer with the reader that he may be enabled to do the same.
Verse 11. Mine eye also shall see MY DESIRE on mine enemies.
The words, "my desire", inserted by the translators, had far better have been
left out. He does not say what he should see concerning his enemies, he leaves
that blank, and we have no right to fill in the vacant space with words which
look vindictive. He would see that which would be for God's glory, and that
which would be eminently right and just. And mine ears shall hear MY DESIRE of the wicked that rise
up against me. Here, again, the words "my desire" are not inspired,
and are a needless and perhaps a false interpolation. The good man is quite
silent as to what he expected to hear; he knew that what he should hear would
vindicate his faith in his God, and he was content to leave his cruel foes in
God's hands, without an expression concerning his own desire one way or the
other. It is always best to leave Scripture as we find it. The broken sense of
inspiration is better let alone than pieced out with additions of a translator's
own invention; it is like repairing pure gold with tinsel, or a mosaic of gems
with painted wood. The holy psalmist had seen the beginning of the ungodly, and
expected to see their end; he felt sure that God would right all wrongs, and
clear his Providence from the charge of favouring the unjust; this confidence he
here expresses, and sits down contentedly to wait the issues of the future.
Verse 12. The song now contrasts the condition of the
righteous with that of the graceless. The wicked "spring as the grass", but
The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, whose growth may not be so
rapid, but whose endurance for centuries is in fine contrast with the transitory
verdure of the meadow. When we see a noble palm standing erect, sending all its
strength upward in one bold column, and growing amid the dearth and drought of
the desert, we have a fine picture of the godly man, who in his uprightness aims
alone at the glory of God; and, independent of outward circumstances, is made by
divine grace to live and thrive where all things else perish. The text tells us
not only what the righteous is, but what he shall be; come what may, the good
man shall flourish, and flourish after the noblest manner. He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. This is another
noble and long lived tree. "As the days of a tree are the days of my people",
saith the Lord. On the summit of the mountain, unsheltered from the blast, the
cedar waves its mighty branches in perpetual verdure, and so the truly godly man
under all adversities retains the joy of his soul, and continues to make
progress in the divine life. Grass, which makes hay for oxen, is a good enough
emblem of the unregenerate; but cedars, which build the temple of the Lord, are
none too excellent to set forth the heirs of heaven.
Verse 13. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord
shall flourish in the courts of our God. In the courtyards of
Oriental houses trees were planted, and being thoroughly screened, they would be
likely to bring forth their fruit to perfection in trying seasons; even so,
those who by grace are brought into communion with the Lord, shall be likened to
trees planted in the Lord's house, and shall find it good to their souls. No
heart has so much joy as that which abides in the Lord Jesus. Fellowship with
the stem begets fertility in the branches. If a man abide in Christ he brings
forth much fruit. Those professors who are rooted to the world do not flourish;
those who send forth their roots into the marshes of frivolous pleasure cannot
be in a vigorous condition; but those who dwell in habitual fellowship with God
shall become men of full growth, rich in grace, happy in experience, mighty in
influence, honoured and honourable. Much depends upon the soil in which a tree
is planted; everything, in our case, depends upon our abiding in the Lord Jesus,
and deriving all our supplies from him. If we ever really grow in the courts of
the Lord's house we must be planted there, for no tree grows in God's garden
self sown; once planted of the Lord, we shall never be rooted up, but in his
courts we shall take root downward, and bring forth fruit upward to his glory
Verse 14. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age.
Nature decays but grace thrives. Fruit, as far as nature is concerned, belongs
to days of vigour; but in the garden of grace, when plants are weak in
themselves, they become strong in the Lord, and abound in fruit acceptable with
God. Happy they who can sing this Sabbath Psalm, enjoying the rest which
breathes through every verse of it; no fear as to the future can distress them,
for their evil days, when the strong man faileth, are the subject of a gracious
promise, and therefore they await them with quiet expectancy. Aged believers
possess a ripe experience, and by their mellow tempers and sweet testimonies
they feed many. Even if bedridden, they bear the fruit of patience; if poor and
obscure, their lowly and contented spirit becomes the admiration of those who
know how to appreciate modest worth. Grace does not leave the saint when the
keepers of the house do tremble; the promise is still sure though the eyes can
no longer read it; the bread of heaven is fed upon when the grinders fail; and
the voice of the Spirit in the soul is still melodious when the daughters of
music are brought low. Blessed be the Lord for this! Because even to hoar hairs
he is the I AM, who made his people, he therefore bears and carries them. They shall be fat and flourishing. They do not drag out a
wretched, starveling existence, but are like trees full of sap, which bear
luxuriant foliage. God does not pinch his poor servants, and diminish their
consolations when their infirmities grow upon them; rather does he see to it
that they shall renew their strength, for their mouths shall be satisfied with
his own good things. Such an one as Paul the aged would not ask our pity, but
invite our sympathetic gratitude; however feeble his outward man may be, his
inner man is so renewed day by day that we may well envy his perennial peace.
Verse 15. This mercy to the aged proves the faithfulness of
their God, and leads them to shew that the Lord is upright, by their cheerful
testimony to his ceaseless goodness. We do not serve a Master who will run back
from his promise. Whoever else may defraud us, he never will. Every aged
Christian is a letter of commendation to the immutable fidelity of Jehovah. He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. Here
is the psalmist's own seal and sign manual; still was he building upon his God,
and still was the Lord a firm foundation for his trust. For shelter, for
defence, for indwelling, for foundation, God is our rock; hitherto he has been
to us all that he said he would be, and we may be doubly sure that he will abide
the same even unto the end. He has tried us, but he has never allowed us to be
tempted above what we are able to bear: he has delayed our reward, but he has
never been unrighteous to forget our work of faith and labour of love. He is a
friend without fault, a helper without fail. Whatever he may do with us, he is
always in the right; his dispensations have no flaw in them, no, not the most
minute. He is true and righteous altogether, and so we weave the end of the
psalm with its beginning, and make a coronet of it, for the head of our Beloved.
It is a good thing to sing praises unto the Lord, for
"he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. This is entitled A Psalm to be sung on the day of
the Sabbath. It is known that the Jews appropriated certain Psalms to
particular days. R. Selomo thinks that it refers to the future state of the
blessed, which is a perpetual sabbath. Others pretend that it was composed by
Adam, on the seventh day of the creation. It might, with more probability, have
been supposed to be put, by a poetic fiction, into the mouth of Adam, beholding,
with wonder and gratitude, the recent creation. But Ps 92:2 seems to refer to
the morning and evening sacrifice, which the psalmist considers as most proper
for prayer and praise. --D. Cresswell.
Title. For the Sabbath day. Perchance, as Lud. de
Dieu remarks on this place, every day of the week had its allotted psalms,
according to what is said in the Talmud, lib. Myvdq. The songs which the Levites
formerly sang in the sanctuary are these: on the first day, Ps 24:1-10; on the
second, Ps 48:1-14; on the third, Ps 82:1-8; on the fourth, Ps 104:1-35; on the
fifth, Ps 81:1-16; on the sixth, Ps 93:1-5; on the seventh, the Ps 92:1-15, the
beginning of which is, a psalm or a canticle for the Sabbath day,
that is to say, for the future age, which will be altogether a sabbath.
Title. For the Sabbath. It is observable that the name
JEHOVAH occurs in the Psalms seven times--the sabbatical number (1,4,5,8,9,13,15). --C. Wordsworth.
Verse 1. It is a good thing. It is bonum, honestum,
jucundum, utile; an honest, pleasant, and profitable good. The altar
of incense was to be overlaid with pure gold, and to have a crown of gold round
about it. Which (if we may allegorically apply it) intimates unto us, that the
spiritual incense of prayers and praises is rich and precious, a golden and a
royal thing. --Henry Jeanes, in "The Works of Heaven upon Earth," 1649.
Verse 1. It is a good thing to give thanks, etc. Giving of
thanks is more noble and perfect in itself than petition; because in petition
often our own good is eyed and regarded, but in giving of thanks only God's
honour. The Lord Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Now,
a subordinate end of petition is to receive some good from God, but the sole end
of thanks is to give glory unto God. --William Ames (1576-1633), in
Verse 1. "Give thanks; ""praises." We thank God for his
benefits, and praise him for his perfections. --Filliucius, out of
Verse 1. To sing praises.
1. Singing is the music of nature. The Scriptures tell
us, the mountains sing (Is 41:23); the valleys sing (Ps 65:13); the trees of the
wood sing (1Ch 16:33). Nay, the air is the birds' music room, where they chant
their musical notes.
2. Singing is the music of ordinances. Augustine reports
of himself, that when he came to Milan and heard the people sing, he wept for
joy in the church to hear that pleasing melody. And Beza confesses, that at his
first entrance into the congregation, and hearing them sing Ps 91:1-16 he felt
himself exceedingly comforted, and did retain the sound of it afterwards upon
his heart. The Rabbis tell us, that the Jews, after the feast of the Passover
was celebrated, sang Ps 91:1-16, and the five following psalms; and our Saviour
and his apostles "sang an hymn" immediately after the blessed supper, (Mt
3. Singing is the music of saints. (1) They have
performed this duty in their greatest numbers, (Ps 149:1). (2) In their greatest
straits, (Is 26:19). (3) In their greatest flight, (Is 42:10-11). (4) In their
greatest deliverances, (Is 65:14). (5) In their greatest plenties. In all these
changes singing hath been their stated duty and delight. And indeed it is meet
that the saints and servants of God should sing forth their joys and praises to the Lord Almighty; every attribute of him can
set both their song and their tune.
4. Singing is the music of angels. Job tells us, "The
morning stars sang together", (Job 38:7). Now these morning stars, as Pineda
tells us, are the angels; to which the Chaldee paraphrase accords, naming these
morning stars, aciem angelorum, "a host of angels." Nay, when this
heavenly host was sent to proclaim the birth of our dearest Jesus, they
delivered their message in this raised way of duty, (Lu 2:13). They were
ainountwn, delivering their messages in a "laudatory singing", the whole company
of angels making a musical choir. Nay, in heaven, there is the angels' joyous
music, they there sing hallelujahs to the Most High, and to the Lamb who sits
upon the throne, (Re 5:11-12).
5. Singing is the music of heaven. The glorious saints
and angels accent their praises this way, and make one harmony in their state of
blessedness; and this is the music of the bride chamber, (Re 15:3). The saints
who were tuning here their psalms, are now singing hallelujahs in a louder
strain, and articulating their joys, which here they could not express to their
perfect satisfaction. Here they laboured with drowsy hearts, and faltering
tongues; but in glory these impediments are removed, and nothing is left to jar
their joyous celebrations.
--John Wells(-1676), in "The Morning Exercises."
Verse 2. In the morning. When indeed the mind after the rest
of the night is more active, devoted and constant. In other parts of the day, as
at noon, or in the afternoon, many sounds of business disturb, and greater
lassitude oppresses. Compare Ps 5:4 59:17 58:2 88:14 Ps 119:147-148, where this
same part of the day is celebrated as the fittest for sacred meditations.
However, this ought not to be taken exclusively, as if, in the morning alone,
and not also at noon or in the evening, it was suitable to celebrate divine
grace. --Martin Geier.
Verse 2. In the morning. The Brahmins rise three hours
before the sun, to pray. The Indians would esteem it a great sin to eat in the
morning before praying to their gods. The ancient Romans considered it impious
if they had not a little chamber, in their house, appropriated to prayer. Let us
take a lesson from these Turks and heathen; their zealous ardour ought to shame
us. Because we possess the true light, should their zeal surpass ours?
--Frederic Arndt, in "Lights of the Morning", 1861.
Verse 2. To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning.
Our praise ought to be suitably arranged. In the time of prosperity or the
morning we should declare thy lovingkindness, because whatever of
prosperity we have proceeds from the mercy and grace of God; and in the time of
adversity or night, we should declare thy justice or faithfulness,
because whatever adversity happens to us is ordained by the just judgment of
God. --J. Turrecremata.
Verse 2. God's mercy is itself the morning ray,
which scatters away darkness (Ps 3:5 59:16); his faithfulness the
guardian, that assures us against night peril. --F. Delitzsch.
Verse 2. In the morning, and...every night. God is Alpha and
Omega. It is fit we should begin and end the day with his praise, who begins and
ends it for us with mercy. Well, thou seest thy duty plainly laid before thee.
As thou wouldst have God prosper thy labour in the day, and sweeten thy rest in
the night, clasp them both together with thy morning and evening devotions. He
that takes no care to set forth God's portion of time in the morning, doth not
only rob God of his due, but is a thief to himself all the day after, by losing
the blessing which a faithful prayer might bring from heaven on his
undertakings. And he that closes his eyes at night without prayer, lies down
before his bed is made. --William Gurnall.
Verse 2. Thy faithfulness (Vulg. `veritas, ')every
night. Truth can be taken in its proper signification. Thus St. Jerome on
our Psalm takes it, and says: "The truth of the Lord is announced in the night,
as if it were wrapped up in some verbal obscurities. In an enigma it is spoken,
and in parables; that seeing, they should not see, and hearing, they should not
understand. Moses ascended Mount Sinai, Ex 24:9, and passed into the tempest and
into the blackness and darkness, and there spake with the Lord." Thus Jerome.
Christ brings back the light to us, as Lactantius teaches. Shall we wait, says
he, till Socrates shall know something? Or Anaxagoras find light in the
darkness? Or Democritus draw forth the truth from a well? Or till Empedocles
expands the paths of his soul? Or Ascesilas and Carneades see, feel, and
perceive? Behold a voice from heaven teaches us the truth, and reveals it more
clearly to us than the sun himself ...In the night truth is to be shown forth,
that the night may be turned into day. --Le Blanc.
Verse 3. Upon an instrument of ten strings. Eusebius, in his
comment on this psalm, says: "The psaltery of ten strings is the worship
of the Holy Spirit performed by means of the five senses of the body, and by the
five powers of the soul." And to confirm this interpretation, he quotes
the apostle, 1Co 14:15: "I will pray with the spirit, and with the understanding
also; I will sing with the spirit, and with the understanding also." "As the
mind has its influence by which it moves the body, so the spirit has its own
influence by which it moves the soul." Whatever may be thought of this gloss,
one thing is pretty evident from it, that instrumental music was
not in use in the church of Christ in the time of Eusebius, which was near the
middle of the fourth century. Had any such thing then existed in the
Christian Church, he would have doubtless alluded to or spiritualized it; or, as
he quoted the words of the apostle above, would have shown that carnal
usages were substituted for spiritual exercises. --Adam Clarke.
Verse 3. In Augustine to Ambrose there is the following
passage bearing on this same subject: --"Sometimes, from over jealousy, I would
entirely put from me and from the church the melodies of the sweet chants that
we use in the Psalter, lest our ears seduce us; and the way of Athanasius,
bishop of Alexandria, seems the safe one, who, as I have often heard, made the
reader chant with so slight a change of voice, that it was more like speaking
than singing. And yet, when I call to mind the tears I shed when I heard the
chants of thy church in the infancy of my recovered faith, and reflect that I
was affected, not by the mere music, but by the subject, brought out as it were
by clear voices and appropriate tune, then, in turn, I confess how useful is the
Verse 3. We are not to conceive that God enjoyed the harp as
feeling a delight like ourselves in mere melody of sounds; but the Jews, who
were yet under age, were restricted to the use of such childish elements. The
intention of them was to stimulate the worshippers, and stir them up more
actively to the celebration of the praise of God with the heart. We are to
remember that the worship of God was never understood to consist in such outward
services, which were only necessary to help forward a people, as yet weak and
rude in knowledge, in the spiritual worship of God. A difference is to be
observed in this respect between his people under the Old and under the New
Testament; for now that Christ has appeared, and the church has reached full
age, it were only to bury the light of the Gospel, should we introduce the
shadows of a departed dispensation. From this, it appears that the Papists, in
employing instrumental music, cannot be said so much to imitate the practice of
God's ancient people, as to ape it in a senseless and absurd manner, exhibiting
a silly delight in that worship of the Old Testament which was figurative, and
terminated with the gospel. --John Calvin.
Verse 3. Chrysostom says, "Instrumental music was only
permitted to the Jews, as sacrifice was, for the heaviness and grossness of
their souls. God condescended to their weakness, because they were lately drawn
off from idols; but now instead of organs, we may use our own bodies to praise
him withal." Theodoret has many like expressions in his comments upon the Psalms
and other places. But the author under the name of Justin Martyr is more express
in his determination, as to matter of fact, telling us plainly, "that the use of
singing with instrumental music was not received in the Christian churches as it
was among the Jews in their infant state, but only the use of plain song."
Verse 3. Instrumental music, the more I think of it, appears
with increasing evidence to be utterly unsuited to the genius of the gospel
dispensation. There was a glare, if I may so express it, which characterized
even the divine appointments of Judaism. An august temple, ornamented with gold
and silver, and precious stones, golden candlesticks, golden altars, priests in
rich attire, trumpets, cymbals, harps; all of which were adapted to an age and
dispensation when the church was in a state of infancy. But when the substance
is come, it is time that the shadows flee away. The best exposition of harps in
singing is given by Dr. Watts--
"Oh may my heart in tune be found,
Like David's harp of solemn sound."
Verse 3. (last clause). On meditation with a
harp. (New translation.) By a bold but intelligible figure, meditation is
referred to as an instrument, precisely as the lyre and harp are, the latter
being joined with it as a mere accompaniment. --J.A. Alexander.
Verse 3. With a solemn sound. Let Christians abound as much
as they will in the holy, heavenly exercise of singing in God's house and in
their own houses; but let it be performed as a holy act, wherein they have
immediately and visibly to do with God. When any social open act of devotion or
solemn worship of God is performed, God should be reverenced as present. As we
would not have the ark of God depart from us, her provoke God to make a breach
upon us, we should take heed that we handle the ark with reverence. --Jonathan
Edwards, in "Errors connected with singing praises to God."
Verse 4. Thou LORD hast made me glad through thy work. One
of the parts of the well spending of the Sabbath, is the looking upon, and
consideration of the works of creation. The consideration of the Lord's works
will afford us much sweet refreshment and joy when God blesses the meditation;
and when it is so we ought to acknowledge our gladness most thankfully and lift
up our heart in his ways. --David Dickson.
Verse 4. Thy work. The "work of God" here is one no less
marvellous than that of creation, which was the original ground of hallowing the
Sabbath (see title of this Psalm) --namely, the final redemption of his people.
Verse 4. Made me glad through thy work, etc. Surely there is
nothing in the world, short of the most undivided reciprocal attachment, that
has such power over the workings of the human heart as the mild sweetness of
Nature. The most ruffled temper, when emerging from the town, will subside into
a calm at the sight of an extended landscape reposing in the twilight of a fine
evening. It is then that the spirit of peace settles upon the heart, unfetters
the thoughts, and elevates the soul to the Creator. It is then that we behold
the Parent of the universe in his works; we see his grandeur in earth, sea, sky;
we feel his affection in the emotions which they raise, and half mortal, half
etherealized, forgot where we are in the anticipation of what that world must
be, of which this lovely earth is merely the shadow. --Miss Porter.
Verse 4. I will triumph in the works of thy hands. Here it
will be most fitting to remind the reader of those three great bursts of adoring
song, which in different centuries have gushed forth from souls enraptured with
the sight of nature. They are each of them clear instances of triumphing in the
works of God's hands. How majestically Milton sang when he said of our unfallen
"Nor holy rapture wanted they to praise
Their Maker, in fit strains pronounced or sung
Unmeditated; such prompt eloquence
Flowed from their lips in prose or numerous verse,
More tunable than needed lute or harp
To add more sweetness."
Then he gives us that noble hymn, too well known for us to
quote, the reader will find it in the fifth book of the Paradise Lost,
"These are thy glorious works, Parent of good, Almighty!"
Thomson also, in his Seasons, rises to a wonderful height, as
he closes his poem with a hymn--
"These as they change, Almighty Father, these
Are but the varied God."
Coleridge in his "Hymn before Sunrise, in the Vale of
Chamouni", equally well treads the high places of triumphant devotion, as he
"Awake my soul! not only passive praise
Thou owest! not alone these swelling tears,
Mute thanks and secret ecstasy! Awake,
Voice of sweet song! Awake, my heart, awake!
Green vales and icy cliffs, all join my hymn."
Verse 5. Thy thoughts. The plural of tbvrm, from the verb
meditate, to count, to weave; and this last word gives a good idea of
what is here made the subject of admiration and praise, the wonderful intricacy
and contrivance with which the Divine Mind designs and executes his plans, till
at length the result is seen in a beautifully woven tissue of many delicately
mingled and coloured threads. --Christopher Wordsworth.
Verse 5. Thy thoughts are very deep. Verily, my brethren,
there is no sea so deep as these thoughts of God, who maketh the wicked
flourish, and the good suffer: nothing so profound, nothing so deep; therein
every unbelieving soul is wrecked, in that depth, in that profundity. Dost thou
wish to cross this depth? Remove not from the wood of Christ's cross; and thou
shalt not sink: hold thyself fast to Christ. --Augustine.
Verse 6. Expressively he wrote: "The man brute will
not know; the fool will not understand this", viz., that when the wicked spring
up with rapid and apparently vigorous growth as the summer flowers in Palestine,
it is that they may ripen soon for a swift destruction. The man brute
precisely translates the Hebrew words; one whom God has endowed with manhood,
but who has debased himself to brutehood; a man as being of God's creation in
his own image, but a brute as being self moulded (shall we say self made?) into
the image of the baser animals! --Henry Cowles.
Verse 6. A brutish man knoweth not, etc. A sottish
sensualist who hath his soul for salt only, to keep his body from
putrefying (as we say of swine) he takes no knowledge of God's great works, but
grunts and goes his ways, contenting himself with a natural use of the
creatures, as beasts do. --John Trapp.
Verse 6. A brutish man knoweth not, etc. That is, he being a
beast, and having no sanctified principle of wisdom in him, looks no further
than a beast into all the works of God and occurrences of things; looks on all
blessings as things provided for man's delight by God; but he extracts seldom
holy, spiritual, and useful thoughts out of all, he wants the art of doing it.
Verse 6. A brutish man knoweth not. How universally do men
strive, by the putrid joys of sense and passion, to destroy the fineness of the
sensibilities which God has given them. This mind, which might behold a world of
glory in created things, and look through them as through a transparent veil to
things infinitely more glorious, signified or contained within the
covering, is as dull and heavy as a piece of anthracite coal. Who made it so?
Alas, habits of sense and sin have done this. If from childhood the soul had
been educated for God, in habits accordant with its spiritual nature, it would
be full of life, love, and sensibility, in harmony with all lovely things in the
natural world, beholding the spiritual world through the natural, alive to all
excitement from natural and intellectual beauty, and as ready to its duty as a
child to its play. What a dreadful destruction of the mind's inner sensibilities
results from a sensual life! What a decline, decay, and paralysis of its
intuitive powers, so that the very existence of such a thing as spiritual
intuition, in reference to a spiritual world, may be questioned, if not denied! A man may be frightfully successful in such a process of
destruction if long enough continued, upon his own nature. "Who can read without
indignation of Kant", remarks De Quincey, "that at his own table in social
sincerity and confidential talk, let him say what he would in his books, he
exulted in the prospect of absolute and ultimate annihilation; that he planted
his glory in the grave, and was ambitious of rotting for ever! The King of
Prussia, though a personal friend of Kant's, found himself obliged to level his
State thunders at some of his doctrines, and terrified him in his advance; else
I am persuaded that Kant would have formally delivered Atheism from the
professor's chair, and would have enthroned the horrid ghoulish creed, which
privately he professed, in the University of Königsberg. It required the
artillery of a great king to make him pause. The fact is, that as the stomach
has been known by means of its natural secretion, to attack not only whatsoever
alien body is introduced within it, but also (as John Hunter first showed),
sometimes to attack itself and its own organic structure; so, and with the same
preternatural extension of instinct, did Kant carry forward his destroying
functions, until he turned them upon his own hopes, and the pledges of his own
superiority to the dog, the ape, the worm." --George B. Cheever, in "Voices of
Verse 6. A fool. The simpleton is an automaton, he is a
machine, he is worked by a spring; mere gravity carries him forward, makes him
move, makes him turn, and that unceasingly and in the same way, and exactly with
the same equable pace: he is uniform, he is never inconsistent with himself;
whoever has seen him once, has seen him at all moments, and in all periods of
his life; he is like the ox that bellows, or the blackbird which whistles; that
which is least visible in him is his soul; it does not act, it is not exercised,
it takes its rest. --Jean de la Bruyère (1639-1696), quoted by
Verse 6. Neither doth a fool understand this.
He roved among the vales and streams,
In the green wood and hollow dell;
They were his dwellings night and day, --
But nature never could find the way
Into the heart of Peter Bell.
In vain, through every changeful year,
Did Nature lead him as before;
A primrose by a river's brim
A yellow primrose was to him,
And it was nothing more.
In vain, through water, earth, and air,
The soul of happy sound was spread,
When Peter on some April morn,
Beneath the broom or budding thorn,
Made the warm earth his lazy bed.
At noon, when by the forest's edge
He lay beneath the branches high,
The soft blue sky did never melt
Into his heart; he never felt
The witchery of the soft blue sky!
There was a hardness in his cheek,
There was a hardness in his eye,
As if the man had fixed his face,
In many a solitary place,
Against the wind and open sky.
--W. Wordsworth, 1770-1850.
Verse 7. When the wicked spring as the grass, etc. Their
felicity is the greatest infelicity. --Adam Clarke.
Verse 7. Little do they think that they are suffered to
prosper that like beasts they may be fitter for slaughter. The fatter they are,
the fitter for slaughter, and the sooner slain: "He slew the fattest of them."
Ps 78:31. --Zachary Bogan.
Verse 8. Here is the central pivot of the Psalm. But
thou, Lord, art most high for evermore, lit. "art height",
& c., the abstract used for the concrete, to imply that the essence of
all that is high is concentrated in Jehovah. When God and the cause of
holiness seem low, God is really never higher than then; for out
of seeming weakness he perfects the greatest strength. When the wicked seem
high, they are then on the verge of being cast down for ever. The
believer who can realize this will not despair at the time of his own
depression, and of the seeming exaltation of the wicked. If we can feel
"Jehovah most high for evermore", we can well be unruffled, however low
we lie. --A.R. Fausset.
Verse 9. "Lo thine enemies"; "lo thine enemies." He
represents their destruction as present, and as certain, which the repetition of
the words implies. --Matthew Pool.
Verse 9. Thine enemies shall perish. This is the only Psalm
in the Psalter which is designated a Sabbath song. The older Sabbath was a type
of our rest in Christ from sin; and therefore the final extirpation of sin forms
one of the leading subjects of the psalm. --Joseph Francis Thrupp.
Verse 9. All the workers of iniquity shall be scattered. The
wicked may unite and confederate together, but the bands of their society are
feeble. It is seldom that they long agree together; at least as to the
particular object of their pursuit. Though they certainly harmonize in the
general one, that of working iniquity. But God will soon by his power, and in
his wrath, confound and scatter them even to destruction. --Samuel Burder.
Verse 10. Thou shalt lift up, as a Reêym, my horn, seems to
point to the mode in which the bovidoe use their horns, lowering the head
and then tossing it up. --William Houghton, in Smith's Bible Dictionary.
Verse 10. The horn of an unicorn. --After discussing the
various accounts which are given of this animal by ancient and modern writers,
Winer says, I do not hesitate to say, it is the Antelope Leucoryx, a
species of goat with long and sharp horns. --William Walford.
Verse 10. If shall be anointed with fresh oil. Montanus has,
instead of "fresh oil", given the literal meaning of the original
virido oleo, "with green oil." Ainsworth also renders it: "fresh
or green oil." The remark of Calmet is: "The plants imparted somewhat of
their colour, as well as of their fragrance, hence the expression, `green
oil.'"Harmer says, "I shall be anointed with green oil." Some of these
writers think the term green, as it is in the original, signifies
"precious fragrant oil"; others, literally "green" in colour; and others,
"fresh" or newly made oil. But I think it will appear to mean "cold drawn oil",
that which has been expressed or squeezed from the nut or fruit without the
process of boiling. The Orientals prefer this kind to all others for anointing
themselves; it is considered the most precious, the most pure and efficacious.
Nearly all their medicinal oils are thus extracted; and because they cannot gain
so much by this method as by the boiling process, oils so drawn are very dear.
Hence their name for the article thus prepared is also patche, that is,
"green oil." But this term, in Eastern phraseology, is applied to other
things which are not boiled or raw: thus unboiled water is called
patchi-tameer, "green water": patche-pal, likewise, "green
milk", means that which has not been boiled, and the butter made from it is
called "green butter"; and uncooked meat or yams are known by the same
name. I think, therefore, the Psalmist alludes to that valuable article which is
called "green oil", on account of its being expressed from the nut or
fruit, without the process of boiling. --Joseph Roberts's Oriental
Verse 10. Anointed with fresh oil. Every kind of benediction
and refreshment I have received, do receive, and shall receive, like one at a
feast, who is welcomed as a friend, and whose head is copiously anointed
with oil or fragrant balm. In this way, the spirits are gently refreshed, an
inner joyousness excited, the beauty of the face and limbs, according to the
custom of the country, brought to perfection. Or, there is an allusion to the
custom of anointing persons at their solemn installation in some splendid
office. Compare Ps 23:5 "Thou anointest my head with oil, "and Ps 45:7,
"God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness." --Martin
Verse 10. (last clause). The phrase is not "I am
anointed", hvm; but ytlb, imbutus sum--perfusus sum; apparently in reference to the
abundance of perfume employed on the occasion, viz., his being elected King over
all the tribes, as indicative of the greater popularity of the act, or the
higher measure of Jehovah's blessing on his people. The difference, indeed,
between the first anointing of David and that of Saul, as performed by Samuel,
is well worthy of notice on the present occasion. When Samuel was commanded to
anoint Saul, he "took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head." in
private, 1Sa 16:13. Here we find the horn again made use of and apparently full
to the brim--David was soaked or imbued with it. --John Mason
Verse 11. Mine enemies. --The word here used rwv shur --
occurs nowhere else. It means, properly, a lier in wait, one who watches;
one who is in ambush; and refers to persons who watched his conduct;
who watched for his ruin. --A. Barnes.
Verse 12. Like the palm tree. Look now at those stately palm
trees, which stand here and there on the plain, like military sentinels, with
feathery plumes nodding gracefully on their proud heads. The stem, tall,
slender, and erect as Rectitude herself, suggests to the Arab poets many a
symbol for their lady love; and Solomon, long before them, has sung, "How fair
and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights! This thy stature is like a palm
tree" (So 7:6-7). Yes; and Solomon's father says, "The righteous shall
flourish like a palm tree", etc. The royal poet has derived more than
one figure from the customs of men, and the habits of this noble tree, with
which to adorn his sacred ode. The palm grows slowly, but steadily, from century
to century uninfluenced by those alternations of the seasons which affect other
trees. It does not rejoice over much in winter's copious rain, nor does it droop
under the drought and the burning sun of summer. Neither heavy weights which men
place upon its head, nor the importunate urgency of the wind, can sway it aside
from perfect uprightness. There it stands, looking calmly down upon the world
below, and patiently yielding its large clusters of golden fruit from generation
to generation. They bring forth fruit in old age. The allusion to being planted in the house of the Lord
is probably drawn from the custom of planting beautiful and long lived trees in
the courts of temples and palaces, and in all "high places" used for worship.
This is still common; nearly every palace, and mosque, and convent in the
country has such trees in the courts, and being well protected there, they
flourish exceedingly. Solomon covered all the walls of the "Holy of Holies"
round about with palm trees. They were thus planted, as it were, within the very
house of the Lord; and their presence there was not only ornamental, but
appropriate and highly suggestive. The very best emblem, not only of patience in
well doing, but of the rewards of the righteous--a fat and flourishing old age--a
peaceful end--a glorious immortality. --W.M. Thomson.
Verse 12. The palm tree. The palms were entitled by
Linnaeus, "the princes of the vegetable world"; and Von Martius enthusiastically
says, "The common world atmosphere does not become these vegetable monarchs: but
in those genial climes where nature seems to have fixed her court, and summons
around her of flowers, and fruits, and trees, and animated beings, a galaxy of
beauty, --there they tower up into the balmy air, rearing their majestic stems
highest and proudest of all. Many of them, at a distance, by reason of their
long perpendicular shafts, have the appearance of columns, erected by the Divine
architect, bearing up the broad arch of heaven above them, crowned with a
capital of gorgeous green foliage." And Humboldt speaks of them as "the loftiest
and stateliest of all vegetable forms." To these, above all other trees, the
prize of beauty has always been awarded by every nation, and it was from the
Asiatic palm world, or the adjacent countries, that human civilization sent
forth the first rays of its early dawn. On the northern borders of the Great Desert, at the foot of the
Atlas mountains, the groves of date palms form the great feature of that parched
region, and few trees besides can maintain an existence. The excessive dryness
of this arid tract, where rain seldom falls, is such that wheat refuses to grow,
and even barley, maize, and Caffre corn, (Holcus sorghum,)afford the husbandman
only a scanty and uncertain crop. The hot blasts from the south are scarcely
supportable even by the native himself, and yet here forests of date palms
flourish, and form a screen impervious to the rays of the sun, beneath the shade
of which the lemon, the orange, and the pomegranate, are cherished, and the vine
climbs up by means of its twisted tendrils; and although reared in constant
shade, all these fruits acquire a more delicious flavour than in what would seem
a more favourable climate. How beautiful a comment do these facts supply to the
words of Holy Writ, "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree!"
Unmoved by the scorching and withering blasts of temptations or persecutions,
the Christian sustained by the secret springs of Divine grace, lives and grows
in likeness to his Divine Master, when all others are overcome, and their
professions wither. How striking is the contrast in the psalm. The wicked and
worldlings are compared to grass, which is at best but of short duration, and
which is easily withered; but the emblem of the Christian is the palm tree,
which stands for centuries. Like the grateful shade of the palm groves, the
Christian extends around him a genial, sanctified, and heavenly influence; and
just as the great value of the date palm lies in its abundant, wholesome, and
delicious fruit, so do those who are the true disciples of Christ abound in
"fruits of righteousness", for, said our Saviour, "Herein is my Father
glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples." --"The Palm Tribes and their Varieties." R.T. Society's
Verse 12. The righteous shall flourish. David here tells us
how he shall flourish. "He shall flourish like the palm tree: he
shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon." Of the wicked he had said just before,
"When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do
flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever." They flourish as the
grass, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven. What a
contrast with the worthlessness, the weakness, transitoriness, and destiny, of
grass--in a warm country too--are the palm tree and cedar of Lebanon! They are
evergreens. How beautifully, how firmly, how largely, they grow! How strong and
lofty is the cedar! How upright, and majestic, and tall, the palm tree. The palm
also bears fruit, called dates, like bunches of grapes. It sometimes yields a
hundredweight at once. He tells us where he shall flourish. "Those that be
planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God." The
allusion is striking. It compares the house of God to a garden, or fine well
watered soil, favourable to the life, and verdure, and fertility, of the trees
fixed there. The reason is, that in the sanctuary we have the communion of
saints. There our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus
Christ. There are dispensed the ordinances of religion, and the word of
truth. There God commandeth the blessing, even life for evermore. He also tells us when he shall flourish. "They shall
still bring forth fruit in old age." This is to show the permanency of their
principles, and to distinguish them from natural productions.
"The plants of grace shall ever live;
Nature decays, but grace must thrive;
Time, that doth all things else impair,
Still makes them flourish strong and fair."
The young Christian is lovely, like a tree in the blossoms of
spring: the aged Christian is valuable, like a tree in autumn, bending with ripe
fruit. We therefore look for something superior in old disciples. More deadness
to the world, the vanity of which they have had more opportunities to see; more
meekness of wisdom; more disposition to make sacrifices for the sake of peace;
more maturity of judgment in divine things; more confidence in God; more
richness of experience. He also tells us why he shall flourish. "They shall be
fat and flourishing; to shew that the Lord is upright." We might rather have
supposed that it was necessary to shew that they were upright. But by the
grace of God they are what they are--not they, but the grace of God which is in
them. From him is their fruit found. Their preservation and fertility,
therefore, are to the praise and glory of God; and as what he does for them he
had engaged to do, it displays his truth as well as his mercy, and proves
that he is upright. --William Jay.
Verse 12. The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree.
1. The palm tree grows in the desert. Earth is a desert
to the Christian; true believers are ever refreshed in it as a palm is in the
Arabian desert. So Lot amid Sodom's wickedness, and Enoch who
walked with God amongst the antediluvians.
2. The palm tree grows from the sand, but the sand is not
its food; water from below feeds its tap roots, though the heavens
above be brass. Some Christians grow, not as the lily, Ho 14:5, by green
pastures, or the willow by water courses, Isa 44:4, but as the palm of the
desert; so Joseph among the Cat-worshippers of Egypt, Daniel in
voluptuous Babylon. Faith's penetrating root reaches the fountains of living
3. The palm tree is beautiful, with its tall and verdant
canopy, and the silvery flashes of its waving plumes; so the Christian virtues
are not like the creeper or bramble, tending downwards, their palm branches
shoot upwards, and seek the things above where Christ dwells, Co 3:1: some trees
are crooked and gnarled, but the Christian is a tall palm as a son of the light,
Mt 3:12; Php 2:15. The Jews were called a crooked generation, De 32:5, and Satan
a crooked serpent, Isa 27:1, but the Christian is upright like the palm. Its
beautiful, unfading leaves make it an emblem of victory; it was twisted into
verdant booths at the feast of Tabernacles; and the multitude, when escorting
Christ to his coronation in Jerusalem, spread leaves on the way, Mt 21:8; so
victors in heaven are represented as having palms in their hands, Re 7:9. No
dust adheres to the leaf as it does with the battree; the Christian is in
the world, not of it; the dust of earth's desert adheres not to his palm leaf.
The leaf of the palm is the same--it does not fall in winter, and even in the
summer it has no holiday clothing, it is an evergreen; the palm trees' rustling
is the desert orison.
4. The palm tree is very useful. The Hindus reckon it
has 360 uses. Its shadow shelters, its fruit refreshes the weary traveller, it
points out the place of water, such was Barnabas, a son of consolation, Ac 4:36;
such Lydia, Dorcas, and others, who on the King's highway showed the way to
heaven, as Philip did to the Ethiopian eunuch, Ac 9:34. Jericho was called the
City of Palms, De 34:3.
5. The palm tree produces even to old age. The best
dates are produced when the tree is from thirty to one hundred years old; 300
pounds of dates are annually yielded: so the Christian grows happier and more
useful as he becomes older. Knowing his own faults more, he is more mellow to
others: he is like the sun setting, beautiful, mild, and large, looking like
Elim, where the wearied Jews found twelve wells and seventy palm trees. --J.
Long, in "Scripture Truth in Oriental Dress", 1871.
Verse 12. Palm trees. The open country moreover wears a sad
aspect now: the soil is rent and dissolves into dust at every breath of wind;
the green of the meadows is almost entirely gone, --the palm tree alone
preserves in the drought and heat its verdant root of leaves. --Gotthelf H.
von Schubert, 1780-1860.
Verse 12. A cedar in Lebanon. Laying aside entirely any
enquiry as to the palm tree, and laying aside the difficulty contained in the Ps
92:13, I have only to compare this description of the cedar in Lebanon with the
accounts of those who have visited them in modern days. Without believing (as
the Maronites or Christian inhabitants of the mountains do), that the seven very
ancient cedars which yet remain in the neighbourhood of the village of Eden in
Lebanon are the remains of the identical forest which furnished Solomon with
timber for the Temple, full three thousand years ago, they can yet were be
proved to be of very great antiquity. These very cedars were visited by Belonius
in 1550, nearly three hundred years ago, who found them twenty-eight in number.
Rawolf, in 1575, makes them twenty-four. Dandini, in 1600, and Thevenot about
fifty years after, make them twenty-three. Maundrell, in 1696, found them
reduced to sixteen. Pococke, in 1738, found fifteen standing, and a sixteenth
recently blown down, or (may we not conjecture?) shivered by the voice of God.
In 1810, Burckhardt counted eleven or twelve; and Dr. Richardson, in 1818,
states them to be no more than seven. There cannot be a doubt, then, that these
cedars which were esteemed ancient nearly three hundred years ago, must be of a
very great antiquity; and yet they are described by the last of these travellers
as "large, and tall, and beautiful, the most picturesque productions of the
vegetable world that we had seen." The oldest are large and massy, rearing their
heads to an enormous height, and spreading their branches afar. Pococke also
remarks, that "the young cedars are not easily known from pines. I observed,
they bear a greater quantity of fruit than the large ones." This shows
that the old ones still bear fruit, though not so abundantly as the young
cedars, which, according to Richardson, are very productive, and cast many seeds
annually. How appropriate, then, and full of meaning, is the imagery of the
Psalmist: "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a
cedar in Lebanon. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be
fat and flourishing." --R.M. Macheyne.
Verses 12-15. The life and greenness of the branches in an
honour to the root by which they live. Spiritual greenness and fruitfulness is
in a believer an honour to Jesus Christ who is his life. The fulness of Christ
is manifested by the fruitfulness of a Christian. --Ralph Robinson.
Verse 13. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord
shall flourish in the courts of our God, are not distinctive of some
from others, as though some only of the flourishing righteous were so planted;
but they are descriptive of them all, with an addition of the way and means
whereby they are caused so to grow and flourish. And this is their implantation
in the house of the Lord, --that is, in the church, which is the seat of all the
means of spiritual life, both as unto growth and flourishing, which God is
pleased to grant unto believers. To be planted in the house of the Lord, is to
be fixed and rooted in the grace communicated by the ordinances of divine
worship. Unless we are planted in the house of the Lord, we cannot flourish in
his courts. See Ps 1:3. Unless we are partakers of the grace administered in the
ordinances, we cannot flourish in a fruitful profession. --John Owen.
Verse 13. Those that be planted in, the house of the Lord,
etc. Saints are planted in the house of God; they have a kind of rooting there:
but though the tabernacle be a good rooting place, yet we cannot root firmly
there, unless we are rooted in Jesus Christ. To root in tabernacle work, or in
the bare use of ordinances, as if that would carry it, and commend us to God,
when there is no heart work, when there is no looking to the power of godliness,
and to communion with Christ, what is this but building upon the sand? Many come
often to the tabernacle, who are more strangers to Christ; they use pure
ordinances, but are themselves impure. These may have a great name in the
tabernacle for a while, but God blots their names, and roots their hopes out of
the tabernacle; yea, he puts them from the horns of the altar, or slays them
there, as Solomon gave commandment concerning Joab. --Abraham Wright.
Verse 13. In the house of the Lord. As if in a most select
viridarium or as if in a park, abounding in trees dedicated to God. And as in Ps
5:12 he had made mention of Lebanon, where the cedars attain their highest
perfection, so now he tacitly opposes to Lebanon the house of God, or
church, wherein we bloom, grow, and bring forth fruit pleasing to God.
Verse 14. They shall still bring forth fruit in, old age.
The point on which the Psalmist in this passage fixes, as he contemplates the
blessedness of God's own children, is the beauty and happiness of their old age.
The court or open area in the centre of an eastern dwelling, and especially the
court of any great and stately dwelling, was often adorned with a tree, or
sometimes with more than one, for beauty, for shade, and, as it might be, for
fruit. There sometimes the palm tree, planted by the cool fountain, shot up its
tall trunk toward the sky, and waved its green top, far above the roof, in the
sunlight and the breeze. There sometimes the olive, transplanted from the rocky
hill side, may have flourished under the protection and culture of the
household, and may have rewarded their care with the rich abundance of its
nutritious berries. With such images in his mind, the Psalmist, having spoken of
the brief prosperity of the wicked, and having compared it with the springing
and flourishing of the grass, which grows to its little height only to be
immediately cut down, naturally and beautifully compares the righteous, not with
the deciduous herbage, but with the hardy tree that lives on through the
summer's drought and the winter's storms, and from season to season still renews
its growth. These trees of righteousness, as the poet conceives of them, are
"planted in the house of the Lord"; they stand fair and "flowering in the courts
of our God" --even "in old age they bring forth fruit" --they are "full of sap and
flourishing" --they are living memorials "to show that the Lord is faithful", and
that those who trust in him shall never be confounded. --Leonard Bacon,
Verse 14. --There be three things which constitute a
spiritual state, or belong to the life of God.
1. That believers be fat; that
is, by the heavenly juice, sap, or fatness of the true olive, of Christ himself,
as Ro 11:17. This is the principle of spiritual life and grace derived from him.
When this abounds in them, so as to give them strength and rigour in the
exercise of grace, to keep them from decays and withering, they are said to be
fat; which, in the Scripture phrase, is strong and healthy.
2. That they
flourish in the greenness (as the word is) and verdure of profession; for
vigorous grace will produce a flourishing profession.
3. That they still bring
forth fruit in all duties of holy obedience. All these are promised unto them
even in old age.
Even trees, when they grow old (the palm and the cedar), are
apt to lose a part of their juice and verdure: and men in old age are subject
unto all sorts of decays, both outward and inward. It is a rare thing to see a
man in old age naturally vigorous, healthy, and strong; and would it were not
more rare to see any spiritually so at the same season! But this is here
promised unto believers as an especial grace and privilege, beyond what can be
represented in the growth or fruit bearing of plants and trees. The grace
intended is, that when believers are under all sorts of bodily and natural
decays, and, it may be, have been overtaken with spiritual decays also, there is
provision made in the covenant to render them fat, flourishing, and fruitful,
--vigorous in the power of internal grace, and flourishing in the expression of
it in all duties of obedience; which is that which we now inquire after. Blessed
be God for this good word of his grace, that he hath given us such encouragement
against all the decays and temptations of old age which we have to conflict
withal! And the Psalmist, in the next words, declares the greatness of
the privilege: "To shew that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no
unrighteousness in him." Consider the oppositions that lie against the
flourishing of believers in old age, the difficulties of it, the temptations
that must be conquered, the acting of the mind above its natural abilities which
are decayed, the weariness that is apt to befall us in a long spiritual
conflict, the cries of the flesh to be spared, and we shall see it to be an
evidence of the faithfulness, power, and righteousness of God in covenant;
nothing else could produce this mighty effect. So the prophet, treating of the
same promise, Ho 14:4-8, closes his discourse with that blessed remark, Ho 14:9,
"Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know
them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them."
Spiritual wisdom will make us to see that the faithfulness and power of God are
exerted in this work of preserving believers flourishing and fruitful unto the
end. --John Owen.
Verse 14. Constancy is an ingredient in the obedience Christ
requires. His trees bring forth fruit in old age. Age makes other things decay,
but makes a Christian flourish. Some are like hot horses, mettlesome at the
beginning of a journey, and tired a long time before they come to their
journey's end. A good disciple, as he would not have from God a temporary
happiness, so he would not give to God a temporary obedience; as he would have
his glory last as long as God lives, so he would have his obedience last as long
as he lives. Judas had a fair beginning, but destroyed all in the end by
betraying his Master. --Stephen Charnook.
Verse 14. Flourishing. Here is not only mention of growing
but of flourishing, and here's flourishing three times mentioned, and it
is growing and flourishing not only like a tree, but like a palm tree,
(which flourisheth under oppression), and like a cedar (not growing in
ordinary places, but) "in Lebanon", where were the goodliest cedars. Nor
doth the Spirit promise here a flourishing in boughs and leaves only (as some
trees do, and do no more), but in fruit; and this not only fruit for once in a
year, or one year, but they still bring forth fruit, and that not only in
the years of their youth, or beginnings in grace, but in old age, and
that not only in the entrance of that state which is called old age,
threescore years, but that which the Scripture calls the perfection of
old age, threescore years and ten, as the learned Hebrews observe upon
the word used in the psalm. What a divine climax doth the Spirit
of God make in this Scripture, to show that the godly man as to his state, is so
far from declining, that he is still climbing higher and higher. --Joseph
Verse 15. He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in,
him. Implying that God can no more be moved or removed from doing
righteously, than a rock can be removed out of its place. --Joseph Caryl.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
1. It is a good thing to have cause for gratitude. Every one
2. It is a good thing to have the principle of gratitude. This
is the gift of God.
3. It is a good thing to give expression to gratitude. This may
excite gratitude in others.
Verses 1-3. The blessedness of praise,
Ps 92:1. The theme of praise,
Ps 92:2. The ingenuity of praise,
Ps 92:3. Inanimate nature enlisted in the holy work.
1. Our praises of God should be intelligent, declaring
his varied attributes.
2. Seasonable, declaring each attribute in appropriate
3. Continual, every night, and every day.
1. All the powers of the soul shall be praise. "Upon an
instrument of ten strings", all the chords of the mind, affections, will, etc.
2. All the utterances of the lips should be praise.
2. All the actions of the life should be praise.
Verse 3. In our praise of God there should be,
1. Preparation --for instruments should be tuned.
2. Breadth of thought --"upon an instrument of ten
3. Absorption of the whole nature --"ten strings."
4. Variety --psaltery, harp, etc.
5. Deep reverence --"solemn sound."
Verse 4. (first sentence).
1. My state--"glad."
2. How I arrived at it--"thou hast made me glad."
3. What is the ground of it? --"through thy work."
4. What, then, shall I do? --ascribe it all to God, and bless
him for it.
1. The most divine gladness--of God's creation, having God's
work for its argument.
2. The most divine triumph--caused by the varied works of God in
creation, providence, redemption, & c. The first is for our own hearts, the
second is for the convincing of those around us.
Verse 5. The unscalable mountains and the fathomless sea: or
the divine works and the divine thoughts (God revealed and hidden) equally
beyond human apprehension. --C.A. Davis.
Verse 7. Great prosperity the frequent forerunner of
destruction to wicked men, for it leads them to provoke divine wrath--
1. By hardness of heart, as Pharaoh.
2. By pride, as Nebuchadnezzar.
3. By haughty hatred of the saints, as Haman.
4. By carnal security, as the rich fool.
5. By self exaltation, as Herod.
Verses 7-10. Contrasts. Between the wicked and God, Ps
92:7-8. Between God's enemies and his friends, Ps 92:9-10. --C.A. Davis.
Verses 7, 12-14. The wicked and the righteous pourtrayed.
Verse 10. (last clause). Christian illumination,
consecration, gladness, and graces, are all of them the anointing of the Spirit.
--William Garrett Lewis, 1872.
Verse 10. (last clause). The subject of David's
1. Very comprehensive, including renewed strength, fresh tokens
of favour, confirmation in office, qualification for it, and new joys.
2. Well grounded, since it rested in God, and his promises.
3. Calming all fears.
4. Exciting hopes.
5. Causing pity for those who have no such confidence.
1. The righteous flourish in all places. Palm in the valley,
cedar on the mountain.
2. In all seasons. Both trees are evergreen.
3. Under all circumstances. Palm in drought, cedar in storm and
2. Growth in grace--"flourish."
4. Perseverance--"old age."
5. The reason of it all--"to shew that the Lord", etc.
Verse 15-16. The reason and the pledge of final
perseverance. --C.A. Davis.