Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
2 Chronicles 20.), we may admit; but we can scarcely understand how the peoples should have been invited to clap their hands at their own humiliating defeat. And it seems to us altogether unworthy of the sublime elevation of this psalm to look at it solely, or even mainly, from a military point of view, as if all the nations were invited to a song of triumph over their utter powerlessness to prevail against the chosen people of God. Delitzsch remarks, "In the mirror of the present event, the poet reads the great fact of the conversion of all peoples to Jehovah, which closes the history of the world." Perowne writes, "This is a hymn of triumph, in which the singer calls upon all the nations to praise Jehovah as their King, and joyfully anticipates the time when they shall all become one body with the people of the God of Abraham." Canon Cook says, "While celebrating a transaction of immediate interest to God's people, the psalmist uses expressions throughout which have their adequate fulfilment in the Person and work of the Messiah." And Dr. Binnie wisely remarks that the invitation to the nations, in the first verse, plainly implies that the subjugation is not a carnal one, but "the yearning of men's minds and hearts for God." We are not called on to decide, nor even to ask the question - How much did the human penman of this psalm understand by it? Nor are we to perplex ourselves by asking - How could any human mind forecast all this? For it is not by any law of naturalistic psychology that such a psalm as this is to be tested. The Apostle Peter tells us that "no prophecy of the Scripture comes out of any private interpretation" of the will of God. Nay, further, that the will of man was not the origin of prophecy (2 Peter 1:21), but that holy men of God spake as they were borne on by the Holy Ghost. He tells us, too (1 Peter 1:10-12), that they did not comprehend the full significance of the words which came from their lips; that they diligently inquired into their meaning; that they uttered them, not for themselves, but for us; that their theme was "the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." So that, having this key to the interpretation of the prophetic songs of Scripture, we see that such remarks as those of Cheyne concerning prophecy and psychology are utterly wide of the mark, and that the sole question before us is - What do the words of this psalm declare, when dealt with according to the analogy of faith, concerning the prophetic forecast of the kingdom of the Messiah?
I. THE WORDS OF THIS PSALM DISCLOSE A GREAT THEME FOR SONG. A theme evidently much vaster and more far-reaching than the results of any material, local, or national triumph could possibly be; for it is one which is calculated to make all peoples clap their hands with joy, which could not possibly be true of any victory on an earthly battle-field. We feel increasingly that the terms of this psalm are intelligible only as referred immediately to the conflict and victory of the great Captain of salvation in undertaking to "save" his people from their sins. As Matthew Poole admirably remarks, "In Psalmo 45 actum est de Rege; in Psalmo 46 de eivitate Dei; hic, de Gentium adjunctione ad populum Dei, quam per Christum impletam videmus." And thus we see how far ahead the expansiveness of the Old Testament predictions was of the narrow exclusiveness of the average Jew. Here there is a celebration of God's work which brings out expressions of greatest delight. The delight is in a triumphant achievement that will link all nations in one; and the cause of the delight is not their work, but God's work for them. To nothing but the redemption which is in Christ Jesus could all this possibly apply. Here is a fourfold work of God.
1. The descent of the King to earth. In ver. 5 we read, "God is gone up with a shout." So in Psalm 68:18, "Thou hast ascended up on high," etc. In quoting this last-named verse, the Apostle Paul argues (Ephesians 4:9), "brow that he ascended, what is it but that he descended first into the lower parts of the earth?" The ascension implies that he descended. How can it be otherwise here? That God has gone up from earth involves the truth that he was here; and that means that he came down from heaven (so John 3:13; John 16:28; John 17:5, 24; Luke 19:10; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:6, 7; 1 Timothy 1:15). The coming of the Son Incarnate into the world is the fact announced in the New Testament, and many times predicted in the Old Testament (Isaiah 9:6; Genesis 49:10; Luke 24:44; Matthew 5:17; John 5:46). How far the psalmist understood the meaning of his own words, we are not called on to say; but the meaning of the Holy Ghost in inspiring them is perfectly clear,
2. The ascent of the King is also foretold. (Ver. 5.) The descent, implicitly; the ascent, explicitly. And in this doctrine many of the Old Testament writers blend their words (Psalm 68:18; Psalm 110:11). The King was to be exalted on high. He is (cf. Acts 1:9; Acts 2:33; Ephesians 4:10; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 9:24; Hebrews 10:12).
3. The exalted King is Sovereign over all the nations. (Ver. 8.) "The heathen" (Authorized Version) is equivalent to "the nations" (Revised Version). All the nations are under Immanuel's sceptre. Through his death Satan is dethroned, and the Christ enthroned, and every child of man is now under his mediatoriai sway. So we are taught in John 12:31, 32; Acts 10:34, 35. He is now enthroned at the right hand of God; and those hands that were pierced with nails now sway the sceptre of universal power. Yea, and he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet (Psalm 110.). The mediatorial throne is "the throne of his holiness" (ver. 8). In the life of Christ holiness was manifested; in his death, whereby he condemned sin, holiness was vindicated. From his seat above, holiness sways the sceptre; by the power of his Spirit, holiness is created in human spirits. And under the sway of this throne all nations are embraced. "Earth's poor distinctions vanish here." "In Christ there is neither Greek, nor Jew, barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free; but Christ is all, and in all." And in him all the peoples of the earth may find their home in Abraham's God (ver. 9). The shields, i.e. the princes, of the earth belong unto God.
4. The King governs the world for the sake of the Church. (Ver. 3.) So the third verse indicates. The thought is expressed with gospel clearness in Ephesians 1:22 and Romans 8:28, that out of a sinful world God may call a living Church, to be presented to himself, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. This is the Divine subjugation of his foes, which the mediatorial sovereignty of Christ ensures.
II. HERE IS A CALL FOR SONG ON THIS GREAT THEME, FROM ALL PEOPLES. Man's sin makes us weep. God's mercy makes us sing; and no aspect thereof makes us gladder than that of the triumph of redeeming grace and dying love. And well may the psalmist, thus forecasting redemption's story through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, call for universal song. Well may we sing; for:
1. The great conflict is past. "The voice of triumph" may therefore be ours (cf. Colossians 2:15).
2. The sceptre of the world is in the hands of One, and of One only. There is no division of power (ver. 7).
4. There is a rich inheritance in store for, the loyal ones. The Jew expected an earthly inheritance by virtue of his descent from Abraham; but all believers will have an infinitely greater inheritance by virtue of their union with Christ. God chooses it for us; and with his choice we may be well content. He will deal right royally with his own, and will act worthily of a God. For this inheritance we can wait (Romans 8:17, 18).
5. In the advance of the Divine plans all barriers between race and race are destined to fall: All kindreds of the earth are to rally to the standard of Abraham's God! Nowhere is this breaking down of boundaries more strikingly set forth than in Ephesians 2:12-22, which is an exposition of the basis and structural plan of the Christian commonwealth. This the aged Jacob foretold when he said, "To him shall the gathering of the people be." To this psalmists and seers Point. For this the Saviour prayed: "That they all may be one." He died to "gather together in one the children of God which are scattered abroad" (John 11:52; John 10:16; Isaiah 42:4). At such a thought, "Clap your hands, all ye peoples!" - C.
I. THE HOMAGE OF THE INTELLECT. "The Most High" is the Maker of heaven and earth. He is infinitely wise and holy and powerful. Not dependent upon other beings, he rules singly and done, in supreme majesty. Reason, therefore, not only confesses his right, but his fitness. Here is the repose of the mind in a perfect King.
II. THE ACQUIESCENCE OF THE CONSCIENCE. The Lord Most High is "terrible." This does not mean that he is an object of terror, but of reverence. What God does in dealing with the nations is ever the expression of judgment and righteousness. Whether it be in the temple or in the world, in manifesting himself in love to his people or in ruling over the heathen, he is ever just. His government, in its laws and administration, is absolutely pure. The throne on which he is seated is the throne of his holiness. Conscience, where it is free, cries, "Amen."
III. THE ADORATION OF THE HEART. "Sing praises." Four times this call is given. This shows both its justice and its universality. To this call, all hearts, "honest and good," respond with joy. The more we study, the better we understand, the character and the rule of God, the more fervently shall we join in the anthem of praise. "Sing praises to God." This is no mere form, no senseless outburst, like that of the men of Ephesus, who for two whole hours cried out, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" (Acts 19:34). Looking to the past, contemplating the present, imaging the future, we see that, under God, all things are tending towards one great end, and therefore we can sing praises "with understanding." It has been said that "a people's voice is the proof and echo of all human fame." So as truth prevails, and men everywhere are brought under the benign and holy sway of Christ, shall they with glad enthusiasm proclaim the Name and glory of God. Learn, therefore, the evil and the folly of sin. It is rebellion against the Lord Most High! Learn also the real unity of believers. Whatever differences there may be amongst them as regards lesser things, when they utter their hearts in prayer and praise, we find that they are one. The hymns of the Church for ever witness to the unity of the Church. Learn also how all the prophets speak of Christ and his kingdom. Their words had higher meanings than they knew of. Consciously or unconsciously, but moved by the Holy Ghost, they spake of the glories of the latter day.
"Come then, and, added to thy many crowns, Receive yet one, the crown of all the earth, Thou who alone art worthy." W.F.
the universal sovereignty of God. "God is the King of all the earth." Three thoughts are suggested.
I. GOD CONSTRAINS HIS ENEMIES TO FULFIL HIS PURPOSE. (Vers. 3-8.)
1. The almighty wisdom and goodness of God bring good out of evil. "Maketh the wrath of man to praise him, and the remainder of wrath he restrains."
2. This should be aground of truth and joy to the whole world. (Vers. 6, 7.) Evil, therefore, is not absolute and eternal, and cannot be finally victorious over him to whom "the shields of the earth belong." This is the psalmist's thought.
II. GOD HAS CHOSEN AND SECURED THE INHERITANCE OF HIS PEOPLE, (Ver. 4.) The reference here is to the Holy Land. God would not allow the heathen to wrest it from them.
1. Generally, God has given us a grand destiny in Christ and heaven. Rest is our inheritance.
2. He wall secure this to all who accept his promises, and faithfully seek for it. He restored the Jews, who for a time had been disinherited, when they became penitent and forsook their idolatry. "If God be for us, who can be against us?"
III. THE GREATEST MEN, KINGS AND LEADERS, SHALL AT LENGTH YIELD THEMSELVES TO GOD. (Ver. 9.)
1. The kings of thought shall at length bow to Christ as the highest Wisdom.
2. The kings of action will acknowledge him as the inspiration of the grandest conduct. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, to whom every knee shall bow. - S.
I. ITS REPRESENTATION OF GOD. It has been truly said that "Christianity alone of religions gives a clear, self-consistent, adequate view of God. It alone discloses and promises to man a complete communion with God." The cry of Philip, "Show us the Father," finds in Christ a full response (John 14:9). "In creation God is a God above us; in the Law he is a God against us; but in the gospel, he is Immanuel, a God with us, a God like us, a God for us."
II. ITS DOCTRINE OF SALVATION. The evil that presses upon men everywhere is sin. How can it be taken away? The answer is," Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." Our character and life depend upon our beliefs. Belief in Christ not only secures pardon and reconciliation with God, but restoration of purity. In the Gospels we have not only the doctrine, but facts that authenticate the doctrine. The great conversions of St. Luke (Luke 7:48; Luke 19:9, 10; Luke 23:43) are samples of what Christ has done and is doing (1 Timothy 1:15-17), and what he begins he will perfect.
III. ITS IDEAL OF HUMANITY. We have not only the Law, but the life (Matthew 5:1-11; 1 Peter 2:21). Christ not only gives us the ideal, but shows us how that ideal may be realized (Matthew 15:24-27; Titus 2:11-13). Thus in Christ God comes down to man, and man is raised up to God. The promise is unto all, without respect of persons.
IV. ITS BOND OF BROTHERHOOD. What force, and commerce, and ecclesiasticism, and all human devices failed to do, Christ has done. He treats men simply as men, and by his Spirit binds them together as brethren. The wall of partition is broken down. The divisions formed by pride and selfishness are abolished, and all the world over "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free," but all are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
V. ITS CONSOLATIONS AND HOPES. Here there is comfort for every troubled heart. Christ is our Hope. To use the words of Arthur Hallam, "I see that the Bible fits into every fold of the human heart. I am a man, and I believe it to be God's book, because it is man's book."
VI. ITS PROMISE OF IMMORTALITY. This is the climax. Godliness has the promise not only of the life that now is, but of that which is to come. The vision rises bright before every Christian. "Days without night; joys without sorrow; sanctity without sin; charity without stain; possession without fear; society without envying; communication of joys without lessening; and they shall dwell in a blessed country where an enemy never entered, and from which a friend never went away." Therefore we pray with increasing fervour, "Thy kingdom come." - W.F.