|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
97:1-7 Though many have been made happy in Christ, still there is room. And all have reason to rejoice in Christ's government. There is a depth in his counsels, which we must not pretend to fathom; but still righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. Christ's government, though it might be matter of joy to all, will yet be matter of terror to some; but it is their own fault that it is so. The most resolute and daring opposition will be baffled at the presence of the Lord. And the Lord Jesus will ere long come, and put an end to idol worship of every kind.
Verse 1. - The Lord reigneth; or, the Lord has become King - has ascended his throne (comp. Psalm 93:1; Psalm 96:10). Let the earth rejoice. When God condescends to appear on earth, the earth is bound to rejoice. His coming cannot but improve the condition of affairs. Let the multitude of isles (literally, the many isles) be glad thereof. Even "the isles" - the abode of the Gentiles - are to feel joy, for they, too, at whatever cost (ver. 3), will be benefited.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The Lord reigneth,.... He has reigned, now reigns, will and must reign until all enemies are made his footstool; See Gill on Psalm 93:1; see Gill on Psalm 96:10,
let the earth rejoice: not the land of Judea only, and the inhabitants of it, to whom the King Messiah came; for there were but few among them that received him, and rejoiced at his coming; but the whole earth, the vast continent, as distinguished from the isles after mentioned, and they that dwell upon it; the Gentiles, who had a concern in his coming, in whom they were to be blessed, to whom they were to be gathered, and in whom they should find a glorious rest; and therefore he is called
the desire of all nations: the first preaching of the Gospel was occasion and matter of great joy to them; not only the blessings contained in it of peace, pardon, righteousness, and salvation by Christ; but the effects of it, delivering them from the dominion of Satan, the god of this world; and from superstition, and idolatry, with which they were enslaved; and the bringing them into the glorious liberty of the children of God:
let the multitude of isles be glad thereof; the isles of the sea are many, even many thousands: Columbus, when he first discovered America, sailing by Cuba westward, gave names, as he passed along, to seven hundred islands, leaving three thousand more without names (r): Gejerus reports, from some writers, that an Indian king, in 1553, was converted to the Christian faith, that ruled over eleven thousand islands; and that in Maldivar there are reckoned to be sixteen thousand: well may the text speak of a multitude of them: or, "let the great islands", &c. such as ours of Great Britain and Ireland; these isles are said to wait for Christ and his doctrine, Isaiah 42:4 and therefore must be glad to hear of his coming and kingdom: the Gospel was very early sent to the isles, as to Cyprus, Crete, &c. see Acts 13:4 and to our northern isles likewise, who have great reason to be glad at its coming among us, continuance with us, and the success it has had; and that it is yet in the midst of us for further usefulness; and that Christ reigns, and will reign evermore.
(r) P. Martyr. Decad. 1. l. 3.
The Treasury of David
1 The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.
2 Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.
3 A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about.
"The Lord reigneth." This is the watchword of the Psalm - Jehovah reigns. It is also the essence of the gospel proclamation, and the foundation of the gospel kingdom. Jesus has come, and all power is given unto him in heaven and in earth, therefore men are bidden to yield him their obedient faith. Saints draw comfort from these words, and only rebels cavil at them. "Let the earth rejoice," for there is cause for joy. Other reigns have produced injustice, oppression, bloodshed, terror; the reign of the infinitely gracious Jehovah is the hope of mankind, and when they all yield to it the race will have its paradise restored. The very globe itself may well be glad that its Maker and liege Lord has come to his own, and the whole race of man may also be glad, since to every willing subject Jesus brings untold blessings. "Let the multitude of isles be glad thereof." To the ancient Israelites all places beyond the seas were isles, and the phrase is equivalent to all lands which are reached by ships. It is remarkable, however, that upon actual islands some of the greatest victories of the Cross have been achieved. Our own favoured land is a case in point, and not less so the islands of Polynesia and the kingdom of Madagascar. Islands are very numerous; may they all become Holy Islands, and Isles of Saints, then will they all be Fortunate Islands, and true Formosas. Many a land owes its peace to the sea; if it had not been isolated it would have been desolated, and therefore the inhabitants should praise the Lord who has moated them about, and given them a defence more available than bars of brass. Jesus deserves to be Lord of the Isles, and to have his praises sounded along every sea-beaten shore. Amen, so let it be.
"Clouds and darkness are round about him." So the Lord revealed himself at Sinai, so must he ever surround his essential Deity when he shows himself to the sons of men, or his excessive glory would destroy them. Every revelation of God must also be an obvelation; there must be a veiling of his infinite splendour if anything is to be seen by finite beings. It is often thus with the Lord in providence; when working out designs of unmingled love he conceals the purpose of his grace that it may be the more clearly discovered at the end. "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing." Around the history of his church dark clouds of persecution hover, and an awful gloom at times settles down, still the Lord is there; and though men for a while see not the bright light in the clouds, it bursts forth in due season to the confusion of the adversaries of the gospel. This passage should teach us the impertinence of attempting to pry into the essence of the Godhead, the vanity of all endeavours to understand the mystery of the Trinity in Unity, the arrogance of arraigning the Most High before the bar of human reason, the folly of dictating to the Eternal One the manner in which he should proceed. Wisdom veils her face and adores the mercy which conceals the divine purpose; folly rushes in and perishes, blinded first, and by-and-by consumed by the blaze of glory.
"Righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne." There he abides, he never departs from strict justice and right, his throne is fixed upon the rock of eternal holiness, righteousness is his immutable attribute, and judgment marks his every act. What though we cannot see or understand what he doeth, yet we are sure that he will do no wrong to us or any of his creatures. Is not this enough to make us rejoice in him and adore him? Divine sovereignty is never tyrannical. Jehovah is an autocrat, but not a despot. Absolute power is safe in the hands of him who cannot err, or act unrighteously. When the roll of the decrees, and the books of the divine providence shall be opened, no eye shall there discern one word that should be blotted out, one syllable of error, one line of injustice, one letter of un-holiness. Of none but the Lord of all can this be said.
"A fire goeth before him." Like an advance guard clearing the way. So was it at Sinai, so must it be: the very Being of God is power, consuming all opposition; omnipotence is a devouring flame which "burneth up his enemies round about." God is longsuffering, but when he comes forth to judgment he will make short work with the unrighteous, they will be as chaff before the flame. Heading this verse in reference to the coming of Jesus, and the descent of the Spirit, we are reminded of the tongues of fire, and of the power which attended the gospel, so that all opposition was speedily overcome. Even now where the gospel is preached in faith, and in the power of the Spirit, it burns its own way, irresistibly destroying falsehood, superstition, unbelief, sin, indifference, and hardness of heart. In it the Lord reigneth, and because of it let the earth rejoice.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ps 97:1-12. The writer celebrates the Lord's dominion over nations and nature, describes its effect on foes and friends, and exhorts and encourages the latter.
1, 2. This dominion is a cause of joy, because, even though our minds are oppressed with terror before the throne of the King of kings (Ex 19:16; De 5:22), we know it is based on righteous principles and judgments which are according to truth.
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