The Lord reigneth; He is clothed with majesty.
Homilist.The psalm teaches the following things concerning the rule of God over the world: —
I. It is ALL-GLORIOUS. God "clothed!" Poetry has represented the universe as the costume of the mighty Maker. How inexpressibly magnificent is that costume! But His clothing is of no material fabric. His moral character is His garment, and that character is transcendently grand — "glorious in holiness."
II. It is ALL-MIGHTY. "The Lord is clothed with strength." How strong in might must He be who sustains and manages the stupendous universe! How strong in intellect, to arrange and plan and balance the countless globes of space! How strong in purpose! No swerving from the original plan; the same from age to age.
III. It is ALL-ENDURING (ver. 2). Under His Government all past generations of men lived and died, and all coming ones, down to the last, will be the subjects of His Almighty rule.
IV. It is ALL-VICTORIOUS (vers. 3, 4). What within the whole range of human vision or experience is more sublimely awful than the sea when the tempest has lashed it into fury, when its waters rise like lofty mountains, and fight and foam like maddened lions? But these floods are only emblems of floods more terrible and dangerous — the floods of the wicked passions of wicked souls. But He is above those floods.
V. It is ALL-HOLY (ver. 5). This "house" — where is it? Everywhere.
I. THE KING.
1. Supreme in authority — none higher, greater; the primal source of law.
2. Infinite in wisdom — omniscient, unerring.
3. Holy in character (ver. 5) knowing nothing of prejudice, partiality, connivance at wrongdoing: hence, righteous in administration, consistent, and beautiful in all.
4. Glorious in apparel — "clothed with majesty," "clothed with strength" (His attributes are His royal robes) (ver. 1).
5. Excellent in laws (ver. 5) — "thy testimonies are very sure," in rewarding obedience, in punishing transgression — they are just, perfect, good, can never fail.
6. Almighty in power (vers. 3, 4) — tumults and wars are all under His sovereign control.
II. THE KINGDOM.
4. Everywhere. From eternity unto eternity.
III. THE LESSONS.
1. We must first know Him as Saviour before we can obey Him as Sovereign.
2. Despite the most furious storms that may rage around the Christian or the Church, we have nothing to fear while "The Lord reigneth." He is mightier than nature's mightiest forces, and stronger than the "Strong man armed." We are "in His hand"; nor earth nor hell can pluck us thence
(J. O. Keen, D.D.)
I. IN RELATION TO CREATION. Life has no intelligible meaning, there is no satisfactory explanation of anything apart from the belief, "The Lord reigneth." To find "laws," yet to deny the Lawmaker; to admit processes, yet to negative the mind which started and controls the processes; to gaze on astounding effects, and yet ignore the only adequate cause; to talk of kingdoms, and yet reject the reigning Sovereign, is, to all intents and purposes, the climax of folly, and a gross violation of all correct logical principles. "Worlds are but signs of His presence, systems are but His initials in bold type, and the universe but His flaming superscription. All the activities displayed are but a faint symbol of the unlimited and ceaseless movements of the King. They are but bubbles on the rushing torrent of His onward sweep, sprays from the cataracts of His operations, wavelets upon the fathomless ocean of His activity."
II. IN THE SPHERE AND MYSTERIES OF PROVIDENCE. In all the dramas of life — individual life, family life, national life, Church life — we must rise in thought and faith from secondary causes to the great First Cause: from mere caprice to Eternal Sovereignty: from the seeming accidental to the actual Divinity, which governs every life, evolves every history, and works all things after the counsel of His own Will. His march is in mystery — through the shadowed avenues of His "Hidings," the very emblems of His Majesty being the robes of His concealment. What can we know of the interlacings of life with life? of the mysterious and untraceable effects of blood relationship? of hereditary and transmitted evil, disease, influence, and so forth, down through the vast chain of human life and history? Here, the highest created intellect must pause in adoring wonder, and say, "Just and true are Thy ways, O King of saints." Are any of you troubled and dismayed about the outcome of events, complicated and strange in your eyes, relative to the Church? "The Lord reigneth." We have nothing to fear.
III. IN THE HISTORY AND PROGRESS OF CHRISTIANITY. Christianity does not rest on such side-issues as the miracles of Christ, but on Christ Himself, and its culminating fact — the miracle of His Resurrection. He is its grand historic Reality, its abiding supernatural fact. How came it to be a history, if it is not true? How came it to be first reported, and then to be written, if it were wholly or in part false? The magnetism of Christianity was never greater among the nations than it is to-day. "Think of the undermining process that has been slowly but surely going on in the hoary systems of idolatry, and how the old mythologies have been transfixed by rays of light from Bethlehem and Tabor. Brahma and Vishnu are quaking on their precarious thrones, and Buddha lies sprawling on the rivers of China. Add to this the fact that the Christian religion is making in our day a vast impression on society, and enters more deeply than ever into the thoughts and life of the world. It is leavening all literature. Essays, poems, treatises, biographies, and even novels are almost as full of it as sermons are. It affects legislation, sweetening the Statute-book, and purifying the fountains of justice. It is never weary of erecting hospitals, asylums, orphanages, homes, colleges, and other monuments of beneficence whose name is legion." Do these look like the symptoms of an exhausted force or a dying cause?
(J. O. Keen, D. D.)
I. The stability of God presented to us in the Scripture consists in HIS FIXED CHARACTER AND PURPOSES, BACKED BY UNLIMITED POWER. It is not law — regular and uniform sequence, dependent on the necessity of things — to which the Bible refers the order of nature. There is a will above law, and a character of infinite wisdom and goodness behind will, which is the support of the universe. But this wisdom and moral excellence could not sit upon a throne, God could not be a king without power equal to His wisdom. Separate the two, conceive of wisdom without power, or power without wisdom, and there could be no stability in the system of things. Power alone would be ever fashioning and destroying; wisdom would be ever contriving without accomplishing, or else would confine itself to the field of its own limited resources, because, it would be unwise to push further. God's majesty and strength as a ruler is, in fact, the union of His perfect attributes.
II. THE STABILITY OF THE WORLD RESULTS FROM THE STABILITY OF GOD. It is the place where He unfolds His fixed but progressive system. "The world is established that it cannot be moved." This stability is an emanation of the wisdom and power of God — of wisdom which has contrived it as the theatre where He is carrying forward His great plan, and which must be kept in its place as long as the plan demands, and of power which deals with unyielding matter, as easily as the potter with the clay.
III. The psalmist proceeds to speak of FORCES NATURAL, AND PERHAPS MORAL OR HUMAN, WHOSE VIOLENCE SEEMS FOR THE TIME TO OBSTRUCT THE PLAN OF GOD AND TO ENDANGER THE STABILITY OF THE SYSTEM.
1. Casting our eyes first upon the seemingly irregular forces of nature, with what awe we behold the great deep agitated by tempests, etc. These are wild, convulsionary forces, but others wear away or alter the earth in silence. In a course of ages what vast effects are produced by moisture, by heat and cold, by the soil descending with the currents of rivers, by melting snow and the decay of vegetable matter. But notwithstanding all these powers, violent or quiet, the world is established that it cannot be moved. The agitated sea and air, the flood and the lightning, do their work, and that on the whole a beneficent work according to God's laws, without endangering the safety of the system.
2. But violence in the moral world, the fury and wild force of nations, as of individuals, is not only against moral order but also against the original conception of the system. The fact of sin, then, the impetuous rage of sin on the great scale, looks as if finite beings were getting the better of God, as if they were disappointing Him, and marring somewhat the majesty of His throne, when they lift up their waves against Him. But it is far otherwise: the Lord on high is in the end shown to be "mightier than the noise of many waters, yea than the mighty waves of the sea."(1) The law of retribution is continually coming into play, when nations commit great crimes. The blind force of finite minds punishes itself, and thus clothes God before the eyes of His creatures with majesty, and establishes His throne.(2) God draws good out of evil.
IV. The psalmist passes on by an easy sequence to teach us that GOD'S TESTIMONIES OR PRECEPTS ARE SURE, that is, are true, permanent, and to be relied upon. If the swelling waters that lift up their voice are symbols of disorder among nations as well as in nature, the transition is yet more smooth; for from the majesty and power of God as displayed against rebellious nations we go directly to His precepts which they have violated and which He upholds by His judgments. The great system of righteousness must take a permanent place in a mind of boundless wisdom, which has no biasses and needs no experience. And not only this, but the moral in God's sight must have a far higher value than the physical; righteousness is the stability of His throne; it were better for heaven and earth to pass away than that He should favour or sanction one jot of injustice. If so, His precepts are sure, they can never be abrogated, never be made light of. They are the reliance of all who love righteousness, individuals or nations. And thus holiness becomes His house for ever. Having a character of holiness which will never alter, He demands a like disposition from those who worship Him.
1. Whatever adds to the strength of the conviction that God and His precepts are immovable, adds also to the power of the righteous in the world.
2. Times of natural and moral convulsion are preeminently times calculated to bring God before the mind. They bring Him from behind the cloud, He seems to show His face, and to those who humble themselves before Him He speaks words of encouragement and hope.
3. How glorious the system of God will appear to those who shall see it in its oneness and completion. God will not seem slow or slack then, but majestic, almighty, all-wise, one and the same through the whole drama. We look upon some vast mountain of solid rock; we call to mind that it has defied the elements for ages; the flood rose and fell leaving it as it was, the rains and snows have scarcely made an impression on its surface; it has outlasted all human works and will stand until the doom. Such, to illustrate great things by small, will the stability of God's system appear, when surveyed and traced out from the heights of Heaven. But even in this world we may expect that at some future time there will be a most profound impression pervading mankind of the stability and oneness of God's counsels; general history will one day be more wrought out than now, and will be brought into harmony with revelation. When such a time shall come, the world will appear to be one more than now, and the race one, and the counsels of God one from their germ to their perfect fulfilment.
(T. D. Woolsey.)
Thy throne is established of old: Thou art from everlastingI. THE VASTNESS AND MAJESTY OF THIS TRUTH. Apart from wonder and curiosity, there appears no substantial object in ascertaining how far the sun is from the earth, or Sirius from the sun, or one world from another, or in computing the waves in that sea of time which has been rolling from the creation of the globe until now. But when we take these vast measurements as counters by which, though in the faintest degree, to approximate the idea of God's eternity; when we use them as steps by which to rise towards that height, as lines by which we try to fathom something of that depth; when we think of the universe in its present relations as only a single season in His endless years; when in those rocky joints and scars we trace the tide-marks of His ceaseless action, the footprints of His forth-going from eternity — then do we find a special use in these computations. At least, in our attempt to form some conception of God, they serve to steady us. In their degree, they lift us to a higher point of contemplation. As the fine spider's web stretched across the telescopic lens enables us to appreciate the movement of the stars, so, in their turn, do these objects, stretched across the area of our thought, help us to recognize the boundlessness of the Almighty.
II. Regard the truth set forth in the text as A NECESSITY OF REASON. The words of the psalmist here are not a mere metaphor: they proclaim a reality. This orderly movement of the universe must have proceeded from design, which implies pre-existent mind. Indeed, the human mind itself, which thus conceives an eternal Mind, testifies to the existence of such a Mind. It is more conceivable that the substantial Root of these transient phenomena should be intelligent than that it should be non-intelligent. Our thoughts, perplexed at the best, are compelled to lodge somewhere; and they lodge far more satisfactorily upon the proposition of eternal mind than upon the proposition of eternal matter.
III. This truth of God's eternity, vast as it is, and transcending all finite thought, is, in some sense, A STANDARD FOR HUMAN MEASUREMENT.
1. It presents a standard of human littleness. Here stretches before us the limitless horizon on which the drama of human life stands out in full relief. Across this disc of absolute being glide all our plans, our pursuits, and the lines of our mortal years. And, compared with this, what are they all? That which we call "a long life" — what is it as it thus flits into nothingness? What are our schemes in which we plunge our hearts and our hopes? What are our achievements, our monuments of brass or granite, when all the ages of the world upon this fathomless deep are but a ripple, a scud of foam?
2. The eternity of God is also a standard for human hope and confidence. For, fleeting as is the measure of our days, to this immutable Being we are bound by imperishable relations. "God is patient because He is eternal;" and we may learn to be patient in proportion as we realize our share in that eternity — patient with this swift-flying time, that will not let us rest, but hurries us through the precious years; patient with this transient suffering and loss; patient with any special affliction, considering that it is only a part of a transcendent scheme.
3. The text presents a standard of personal responsibility. Among all the interests of life, among all that claims our love or tempts our desire, this throne that is established of old demands our supreme homage. The criterion of all our conduct is the will of Him who is from everlasting.
(E. H. Chapin.)
The floods... lift up their waves.I. What are the waves saying to us of HUMAN LIFE? Even in its greatest tranquillity there is its deep throb and moan; the sea is really never at rest. Life is like the sea, in constant motion. However exempt some may seem to be from anxiety and care, every heart knows its own bitterness, every spirit its own sob and sigh. Especially to the Christian this is not a place of rest. Toil and care, temptation and sorrow, mingle in the woof and warp of life. The waves therefore speak to us of the restlessness of human life. They also speak to us of the changefulness of life. How ever-changing the ocean is! At one time its waves are lashed into frantic fury, and its huge billows leap mountain high; anon, it is hushed and reeked to a cradled calm; at one time it is all aglow, and flaming with phosphorescent fire; at another time it is dull and leaden, and looks like liquid blue. How changing, too, is human life! Seasons of sorrow succeed seasons of gladness. Life is made up of losses and crosses, as well as of prizes and crowns. Especially is the life of the Christian chequered with storm and calm, shadows and sunshine, smiles and tears. The waves speak to us also of the separations of life. How the sea separates continent from continent and shore from shore! How many farewells are uttered on its shores! Life is full of adieus, from the cradle to the grave. The waves also speak to us of the depravity of life. By sin, death came into our world; and the ocean is like a mighty grave.
II. WHAT ARE THE WAVES SAYING TO US OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE.?
1. The history of God's Providence has been as the ebb and flow of the tide. The rising tide has ever gained back what it seemed to lose, and it rises higher and higher; and the issue shall be that the knowledge of the Lord shall one day cover the earth as the waters cover the face of the mighty sea.
2. The sea cannot be controlled, but it can be made subservient to man, and a minister to his good. So we cannot command or control Divine Providence; but we can work with it, obey its laws, and make it subservient to our present and permanent good, and with its friendly aid we may sail to a better and a brighter shore.
3. The sea has an under-current. Although the waves may leap and roar, or the surface of the deep may be calm and still as a sheet of glass, yet the great deep, undisturbed, moves on! So, in the course and conduct of Divine Providence, around the shores of time, in the bays and creeks of human affairs, the waters may twist and twirl; but the great purposes of God move on, and His undisturbed affairs perpetually progress.
III. WHAT ARE THE WAVES SAYING TO US OF ALMIGHTY GOD? They speak to us of His power, wisdom, goodness, immensity. The sea is the symbol of infinity and eternity.
(F. W. Brown.)
Thy testimonies are very sure.
I. THE PROTECTION OF GOD (Psalm 18:2; Psalm 125:2). God is our strength, our shelter, our shield, our sun, and for ever. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my Father's love shall be my portion, my joy, my immortal life. This is enough; I ask no more.
II. THE FULFILMENT OF HOLY SCRIPTURE. The ruins of Tyre, Babylon, and Nineveh attest that there was in ancient years a sure word of prophecy, and, as time passes on, the Word of the Lord continueth to be its own witness. It needs no defence. The Bible, in the march of daily events, is fulfilled to the letter. Sooner shall the Nile cease to flow, to rise and fall, than the word of prophecy fail. So with the promises of the Bible. They are renewed every morning.
III. THE CONFUSION OF SLANDERERS. Let loose talkers remember (Proverbs 19:5). And if the liar and gossip should have annoyed you, let your soul find hope in this gracious promise (Proverbs 16:7). Go on your way, then, with a light step and a brave heart, and the Lord in whom you trust will deliver and comfort you.
IV. THE HARVEST TIME. Science teaches you that the earth's fertility is boundless. Cultivate it wisely, and it will blossom as the rose. And what saith the Scripture of God, and the earth which He made (Genesis 8:22; Psalm 145:15; Psalm 23:1)? Fear not, then, to ask God for your daily bread. He hath promised it; He will give it.
V. THE REWARD OF TRUE SERVICE. God is a good paymaster. He will not be debtor to any man. His reward will be abundant. Be brave and true, then, in the service of God.
VI. THE REMISSION OF SINS. This salvation is free. You need bring no silver, gold, or precious stones. This salvation is full. It is for every soul and for every sin. This salvation is everlasting. It begins on earth, and is continued in heaven.
VII. THE RESURRECTION OF THE JUST.
(G. W. McCree.)
Holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord, for everI. THE NECESSITY OF HOLINESS.
1. The ministers of God's house must be holy in manner, motive, life, doctrine.
2. They must preach holiness.
3. All in the Lord's house are called to holiness. It is profitable to meditate beforehand on the glorious majesty and might of the Eternal Sovereign to whose palace we are going. It is dangerous to .engage in worldly conversation, or irrelevant thoughts, up to the sacred porch.
II. THE METHOD OF HOLINESS. They do not show an intelligent appreciation of the holiness of the house of the Lord who are indifferent to the order and symmetry of its services. One step in public and united worship rests on another. If the first be missed it is not easy to reach the second. Be in time! There is a calm preliminary exercise indispensable to those who would be in time for the entire service. Looking round to know what people are coming in and going out is not the business of everybody. Let your thoughts be directed continually to the Lord.
(E. J. Robinson.)
(W. H. Harwood.)
(A. B. Grosart.).