Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Job 26., 28., 38.; Isaiah 40.; Psalm 104., 19., 147., and that in the psalm before us now, which rises to the very noblest heights of Hebrew poetry, in its symmetry and grandeur. Bishop Perowne (who acknowledges his obligations to Ewald therein) has a most interesting introduction to this psalm, in which he points out the beauty of its structure, as in its grand description of a tempest it shows the storm at its height of majesty, and then in its subsidence to comparative calm. And, verily, even on this lower ground of poetic beauty, he would be by no means to be envied who could read it without a strange commingling of rapture, wonder, and awe. We seem to hear the roll of the ocean, to listen to the pealing thunder, to watch the flash of the lightning, the crashing of the trees of the forest, the heaving of the mountains, as if they were loosed from their foundations by an earthquake, Lebanon and Sirion leaping as wild creatures free from all restraint. But while it is to the descriptions of all this grandeur and majesty that some expositors chiefly call our attention, neither nature's grandeur nor majesty is the main topic of the psalm. By no means; but rather the glory of HIM whose dominion extendeth over all! In the eye of the psalmist, all the forces of nature are under one sceptre; that sceptre is wielded by one hand; that hand is moved by one heart, even that of our redeeming God. Such is the theme before us.
I. HERE POWER IN VARIED MANIFESTATIONS IS TRACED TO ONE SOURCE. There are five thoughts which are presented cumulatively.
1. Power in nature's works and wonders specially as shown in storm and tempest, lightning and thunder, earthquake and mountain wave. Note: The larger our knowledge of natural science, the more capable shall we be of discoursing with interest, delight, and profit to others on these "wonderful works of God."
2. Power in providential administration. (Ver. 10.) "The Lord sat enthroned at the flood." This word rendered "flood" is the one applied to the Deluge of Noah, and only so applied. Hence it seems to include the specific thought that over and above all merely natural disclosures of power, there is a moral enthronement, whereby natural phenomena are made subservient to moral ends. Not only is every atom kept in harness, but the collocation of atoms is subsidiary to the discipline of souls.
3. There is gracious loving-kindness towards his own people. (Ver. 11.) "His people." There are those in the world marked off from the rest by tokens known to God alone. They are his, having "made a covenant with him by sacrifice" (Psalm 50:5). And with reference to them, there is a grace marvellous in its tenderness. The same Being who can thunder most loudly can also whisper most sweetly, and can also give out blessings to his own.
(2) Peace. While the fiercest storm is raging without, God can and does give us peace within; a peace which becomes richer and fuller, till it is exceedingly abundant "above all we can ask or think." It is "the peace of God, passing all understanding" (John 14:27; Philippians 4:6, 7; Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:14).
4. He who thus rules in nature, providence, grace, is the everlasting King. (Ver. 10.) "King for ever! 'The sceptre of universal power will never drop from his hands, nor will he ever transfer it to another (Psalm 97:1). The hand that upholds all will never become weary. The eye that watches all will never droop with fatigue. The arms that clasp believers in their embrace will never relax their hold. The voice that whispers, "Peace!" will never be stilled in death. The love that enriches with blessing will never be chilled. "King for ever!"
5. He who is this everlasting King is our redeeming God. The usual term for God as the God of nature is "Elohim" (Genesis 1:1). But here we are reminded that the God who thunders in the heavens and controls the swelling seas; that he who guides the forked lightning, is "Jehovah," the "I am that I am," the Lord who has thus revealed himself to his people as their God. And the great Ruler of nature is he who exercises loving-kindness, righteousness, and judgment in the earth, in order that he that glorieth may glory in the Lord.
II. SUCH THOUGHTS OF GOD MAY WELL EVOKE GRATEFUL SONG. They know not how much of gladness and inspiration they lose who cannot see God everywhere. To see law everywhere and God nowhere would be enough to crush us. To see God everywhere working by law inspires rest and joy: our "Father is at the helm." Note: Since we have such disclosures of God, we have:
1. Unity in diversity. The seemingly complicated question of" the origin of force " is settled once for all by the man who sees God. And this privilege is reserved for "the pure in heart" (Matthew 5:8).
2. Since one God is over all, natural phenomena as well as providential incident may be made fuel for the religious life. A thunderstorm may aid worship.
3. Since one Being is the Origin of all kinds of force, prayer for natural blessings and temporal mercies is perfectly reasonable; e.g. prayer for rain. It is quite true that prayer and rain lie in totally distinct spheres. But since the same Being who hears one sends the other, the spheres find their unity at his throne.
4. Since the God who governs all is One whom we know, we may read and sing of glory under all circumstances and everywhere. (Ver. 9.) "In his temple every whir of it uttereth glory; "or, "In his temple every one says, Glory!" Yes; we may triumph everywhere since our God is "King for ever!"
5. Holy awe may well combine with triumph, and loyalty with praise. For God "sits enthroned" - such is the sublime figure suggested here. And "his people" though we are by grace, his absolute sovereignty must never be forgotten by us (ver. 2); ever must we give unto the Lord "the glory due unto his Name," and "worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" - in holy attire, even in the "fine linen which is the righteousness of saints" (Revelation 19:8), "having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10:22).
6. Amid all natural convulsions and national upheavings, let confidence and hope remain undisturbed. "King for ever!" Then, however gloomy the outlook of events, nothing can happen beyond the bounds of Divine control, nothing which he cannot make subservient to the inbringing of his everlasting kingdom. "Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea" (Psalm 46:2). - C.
Psalm 8. should be read at night when the sky is bright with stars, and Psalm 19. by day when the sun is high in the heavens, this should be studied in the gloom of the storm, when the lightnings flash and the thunders roll, and the terrors of the Lord are on every side. It is then we can realize its deep grandeur and beauty, and feel its power to bring us nearer God.
1. The first thing is that we should take the right standpoint. "Not to the earth confined ascend to heaven." We must rise above the things seen, above the various forces working around us, above the mere reasonings and imaginations of our own hearts. We must take our place by the side of the highest, "the God-like ones," "the sons of the mighty" - the angels, who are in truest sympathy with God. It is as we hear with their ears, and see with their eyes, and enter into fellowship with them in mind and spirit, that we can truly behold Jehovah's glory, and fitly sing his praise (ver. 1).
2. The true spirit with which to contemplate the magnificent spectacle is reverence and trust (ver. 2). Thus prepared, we are able to recognize God's presence. A "voice" implies a speaker. Behind all the glory of visible and natural things there is the glory of God. He is the Force of all forces, and the Life of all life. The man of science may see nothing in the thunderstorm but cold material law, and the savage may recognize only a mysterious power which fills his soul with fear and trembling; but if we are of the same spirit as the psalmist, we can rise from the seen to the unseen, and acknowledge the presence and the glory of God.
3. Further, we are able to confess with humility and awe the supreme majesty of God. The storm in progress witnesses to his eternal power and Godhead. We behold his glory as the Lord of heaven and earth. We see him not only as the Lord of the "waters," but of the dry land; not only of "the cedars," but of all living creatures; not only of the children of men, but of all the host of heaven (vers. 3-9).
4. Lastly, we are able to rejoice in God as our God, the supreme Object of our fear and love. The psalm ends as it began, with God. At the beginning we are raised from earth to heaven, and in the close we have heaven brought down to earth. It is as we ascend with Christ to God that God will descend with Christ to us. Thus we are enabled to confide in God as our almighty King and our gracious Redeemer. "The Lord will give strength unto his people." These are the two great blessings of salvation. "Strength" we have lost through sin; but it is recovered through Christ. God's people are strong to do, to suffer, and to endure, to overcome evil and daily to perform their vows in the service or' their Lord (Philippians 4:13). God's people have "peace " - that inner harmony and calm which results from oneness with God. Amidst all the stress and struggle of life, though there should come wars and famines and pestilences, when men's hearts are failing them for fear, they are able to say "It is the Lord!" He will keep us from evil; he will bless us with strength and with peace. - W.F.
nature psalms. This is a wonderful description of a thunderstorm.
I. THE OMNIPOTENCE OF GOD IN NATURE INSPIRES THE DEVOUT MIND WITH THE SPIRIT OF WORSHIP. Inspires the common mind with fear. The scientific mind with inquiry. Inflames the imagination of the poetic mind. But fills the devout mind with the spirit of worship of the great invisible Creator. "Give unto the Lord the honour [or, 'glory'] due unto his Name." Every manifestation of God is interesting to the religious man.
II. THAT THE DEVOUT MAN SEEKS FOR SYMPATHY AND FELLOWSHIP IN HIS WORSHIP. (Vers. 1, 2.) He calls upon the whole invisible world of the sons of God to give glory to God in the "beauty of holiness," or in holy apparel, i.e. dressed as priests in spotless attire.
1. Human praise is poor and inadequate. And he would have the angelic choir give full-voiced utterance to God's glory in higher strains than he could reach.
2. The spirit of worship brings man into closer sympathy with his fellow-man. Hence the necessity of public worship, because all our best emotions become deepened when shared with others. We are made for fellowship in all the highest good of life.
III. THE GOD WHO IS MIGHTY IN NATURE WILL GIVE STRENGTH UNTO HIS PEOPLE. The crashing thunderstorm which awakens fear in ordinary minds awakens trust and confidence in the devout mind.
1. He who by his might raises the storm will give strength to the weak and persecuted. He sits above the storm, is Master and King over it; and he sits above the storms of the mind and heart, to control them.
2. lie who quells the storm is able to quell the tumults of the mind, and to give us peace. Christ gave his peace to the disciples; and "the peace of God which passeth all understanding is able to keep [guard] our hearts and minds." It is inward trust and rest, and not outward tranquillity. - S.
Numbers 6:22-27) may be said to be summed up in these two things, "strength" and "peace. Together they make up all that is needed for daily life. When man goes forth in the morning to his work (Psalm 104:23), what he requires is strength," that he may be able to do the will of God. When the evening comes, what he needs is "peace" - the rest and content of the heart in God. The two things cannot be separated. It is in the measure we use aright the "strength" God gives that we can have "peace." If we are unfaithful, if we alienate to selfish and unworthy purposes the "strength" which should have been wholly devoted to God, we mar our "peace." David has taught us the secret (Psalm 119:165), and David's Son and Lord has made the truth still plainer (John 15:10). "His people." There is nothing arbitrary in this. In one sense all are God's people, for he is the Maker of all. Then in the higher sense all may become God's people if they so choose. But besides, the blessings of "strength" and "peace" can only be received by such as are in a fit state to receive them. There are blessings that are common. There are other blessings that are of a nobler kind, and are necessarily limited to those who can receive them (2 Corinthians 2:11, 12). The delights of art and science and literature are for those who have a certain preparedness. So it is in spiritual things. We must be weak before we are strong. We must be of one mind with God in Christ before we can have peace (Romans 5:1; John 14:27). - W.F.