Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite. I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.Psalm 89:15
In these words David speaks of the blessedness of the people that know the joyful sound. Although year by year the sound of the trumpet brightened the hearts of God's chosen people, yet there was one year in which that sound brought them exceeding joy. It was the year of jubilee when on the day of atonement, when all the solemn services of that day were over, there was brought to the suffering and to the poor great joy. At the sound of that trumpet every slave was set free. Yet the words had a deeper meaning even for David; for all through the teaching of that olden time there was an under-current heard by those who had ears to hear, which told them of exceeding joy. It was the hope which was the centre of their life, the great object of their longing, the hope of one who would deliver them from worse than earthly bondage, and restore them to a possession which they had forfeited by their sin.
I. But to us have not these words a deeper meaning still? The joyful sounds that stir our hearts tell us not of a coming salvation but of a Saviour who has come. It speaks to us who through our sins had forfeited the kingdom of our God, and tells us that He, our Saviour, has opened that kingdom of heaven again to all believers.
II. But how many there are to whom this is but an idle tale—an empty, not a joyful sound. They shut out all these thoughts with the absorbing cares and the fleeting pleasures of a perishing world, content to live in a fool's paradise, to dream away the few short years of life, and then wake up to the awful realities of eternity. A thousandfold more blessed than that careless, godless, reckless worldliness in which so many thousands live and die, is the fiercest agony of a sin-burdened soul, because it opens the heart to hear the joyful sound—the joyful sound which tells that, sinners though we be, and crushed beneath a load of guilt which is insupportable to us, there is one who has died to take away our sins, 'And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all'.
III. But again there are souls that have been roused to seek after God, who have long since begun the awful struggle against still unconquered sin, who are striving against the principalities and powers that surround them as they seek to fight their way to the open gates of the heavenly city, and whose hearts almost sink and fail within them as temptation comes back again and again, and as through their weakness they fall under temptation's power. Are there any who have known such a blessed unrest as this—such a glorious state of conflict as this—the conflict of an awakened soul against the powers of evil. Is it not a joyful sound that speaks to you from the lips of Jesus? 'My grace is sufficient for thee, my strength is made perfect in weakness. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.'
IV. But again there are souls that are weary with the long labour and toil and trial of the heavenward road. They are weary of the conflict, long that it were over, yet wondering how or when it shall be. Oh, with all the power of joy comes to such hearts the blessed promise of our Lord and Saviour to all weary souls—'Come unto Me, and I will give you rest'.
References.—LXXXIX. 16.—J. Cumming, Penny Pulpit, No. 1576, p. 231. Spurgeon, Old Testament Outlines, p. 126. LXXXIX. 19.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i. No. 11. LXXXIX. 19, 20.—G. Trevor, Types and the Antitype, p. 126. LXXXIX 37, 38.—E. H. Gifford, Voices of the Prophets, p. 216.
Man's Need of Immortality
I. I would describe this as the earliest Bible cry for immortality. It is a very peculiar cry. It is grounded not upon instinct, but upon reason. It is not a longing founded upon the mere love of life It is not a desire based upon the mere dread of death. It is not a wish rising from the mere search of new surroundings. It is a cry originating in the spirit of economy—the resistance to waste. The Psalmist is impressed with the inadequacy of the term of human life. He does not mean that it is too short for enjoyment; enjoyment is always taken at a quick draught. But he thinks it too short for the work assigned to it. He sees the labourer hired into the vineyard with orders to perform a certain task. But he finds that the task given to the labourer is one which he could not possibly perform within the limits of the working day. He says, 'What does the Lord of the vineyard mean by this disproportion between work and time, surely He must intend the labour to be continued into another day!'
II. You will find that the deepest cry of all ages has been the Psalmist's cry. What makes us crave a future is not a sense of this world's misery, but a sense of this world's vanity. We say with the Psalmist, 'Wherefore hast Thou made all men in vain—why hast Thou given them working orders which are quite incommensurate with the brief time they have to live on earth?' We feel that there is more furniture to be put into the house than the house will hold. We are prompted to boundless aspirations, and we live on earth for but an hour. We are inspired to endless love, and it never reaches summer. We are bidden by conscience to work for all ages, and we have only three score years and ten. Life's day is too short for us. It is not too short for the bee, which completes its destined palace. It is not too short for the lark, which completes its destined song. But it is too short for man whose ideal is unrealized, whose song is unfinished, whose labour in the field is scarce begun.
III. Therefore, O Lord, I know that this is not my goal. Thou hast furnished me with powers which here can have no adequate exercise. I speak of the ephemeral insect; yet if this life were my all, the insect would not be so ephemeral as I.... The insect finishes the work which Thou gavest it to do; I leave my studies incomplete, my book unwritten, my picture without its closing touch, my house without its topmost story. But it is just my incompleteness that makes my hope. I know Thou wouldst not give me power to be squandered; I know Thou hast appointed for me another day. It is not my fear that cries to Thee; it is my sense of justice and my wish to indicate Thy justice. If earth met all my needs, I would accept the day of death. But earth has not fully responded to any one cry of my spirit as I claim response from Thee. Surely there are answers waiting somewhere to the myriad epistles written by my heart! Forbid that I should think Thou hast made my life in vain.
—G. Matheson, Messages of Hope, p. 97.
References.—LXXXIX. 47.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 21. J. Martineau, Hours of Thought, vol. i. p. 203. LXXXIX.—International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 250. XC. 1.—C. F. Aked, Christian World Pulpit, 1891. p. 10. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i. No. 46.
For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens.
I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant,
Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah.
And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O LORD: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints.
For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD?
God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.
O LORD God of hosts, who is a strong LORD like unto thee? or to thy faithfulness round about thee?
Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them.
Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain; thou hast scattered thine enemies with thy strong arm.
The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: as for the world and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them.
The north and the south thou hast created them: Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name.
Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand.
Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.
Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance.
In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted.
For thou art the glory of their strength: and in thy favour our horn shall be exalted.
For the LORD is our defence; and the Holy One of Israel is our king.
Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.
I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him:
With whom my hand shall be established: mine arm also shall strengthen him.
The enemy shall not exact upon him; nor the son of wickedness afflict him.
And I will beat down his foes before his face, and plague them that hate him.
But my faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him: and in my name shall his horn be exalted.
I will set his hand also in the sea, and his right hand in the rivers.
He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation.
Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.
My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him.
His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven.
If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments;
If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments;
Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.
Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.
My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.
Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David.
His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me.
It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.
But thou hast cast off and abhorred, thou hast been wroth with thine anointed.
Thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant: thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground.
Thou hast broken down all his hedges; thou hast brought his strong holds to ruin.
All that pass by the way spoil him: he is a reproach to his neighbours.
Thou hast set up the right hand of his adversaries; thou hast made all his enemies to rejoice.
Thou hast also turned the edge of his sword, and hast not made him to stand in the battle.
Thou hast made his glory to cease, and cast his throne down to the ground.
The days of his youth hast thou shortened: thou hast covered him with shame. Selah.
How long, LORD? wilt thou hide thyself for ever? shall thy wrath burn like fire?
Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain?
What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Selah.
Lord, where are thy former lovingkindnesses, which thou swarest unto David in thy truth?
Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy servants; how I do bear in my bosom the reproach of all the mighty people;
Wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O LORD; wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed.
Blessed be the LORD for evermore. Amen, and Amen.