Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible
The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.
This short psalm sets forth the honour of the kingdom of God among men, to his glory, the terror of his enemies, and the comfort of all his loving subjects. It relates both to the kingdom of his providence, by which he upholds and governs the world, and especially to the kingdom of his grace, by which he secures the church, sanctifies and preserves it. The administration of both these kingdoms is put into the hands of the Messiah, and to him, doubtless, the prophet here hears witness, and to his kingdom, speaking of it as present, because sure; and because, as the eternal Word, even before his incarnation he was Lord of all. Concerning God’s kingdom glorious things are here spoken. I. Have other kings their royal robes? So has he (v. 1). II. Have they their thrones? So has he (v. 2). III. Have they their enemies whom they subdue and triumph over? So has he (v. 3, 4). IV. Is it their honour to be faithful and holy? So it is his (v. 5). In singing this psalm we forget ourselves if we forget Christ, to whom the Father has given all power both in heaven and in earth.
Next to the being of God there is nothing that we are more concerned to believe and consider than God’s dominion, that Jehovah is God, and that this God reigns (v. 1), not only that he is King of right, and is the owner and proprietor of all persons and things, but that he is King in fact, and does direct and dispose of all the creatures and all their actions according to the counsel of his own will. This is celebrated here, and in many other psalms: The Lord reigns. It is the song of the gospel church, of the glorified church (Rev. 19:6), Hallelujah; the Lord God omnipotent reigns. Here we are told how he reigns.
I. The Lord reigns gloriously: He is clothed with majesty. The majesty of earthly princes, compared with God’s terrible majesty, is but like the glimmerings of a glow-worm compared with the brightness of the sun when he goes forth in his strength. Are the enemies of God’s kingdom great and formidable? Yet let us not fear them, for God’s majesty will eclipse theirs.
II. He reigns powerfully. He is not only clothed with majesty, as a prince in his court, but he is clothed with strength, as a general in the camp. He has wherewithal to support his greatness and to make it truly formidable. See him not only clad in robes, but clad in armour. Both strength and honour are his clothing. He can do every thing, and with him nothing is impossible. 1. With this power he has girded himself; it is not derived from any other, nor does the executing of it depend upon any other, but he has it of himself and with it does whatsoever he pleases. Let us not fear the power of man, which is borrowed and bounded, but fear him who has power to kill and cast into hell. 2. To this power it is owing that the world stands to this day. The world also is established; it was so at first, by the creating power of God, when he founded it upon the seas; it is so still, by that providence which upholds all things and is a continued creation; it is so established that though he has hanged the earth upon nothing (Job 26:7) yet it cannot be moved; all things continue to this day, according to his ordinance. Note, The preserving of the powers of nature and the course of nature is what the God of nature must have the glory of; and we who have the benefit thereof daily are very careless and ungrateful if we give him not the glory of it. Though God clothes himself with majesty, yet he condescends to take care of this lower world and to settle its affairs; and, if he established the world, much more will he establish his church, that it cannot be moved.
III. He reigns eternally (v. 2): Thy throne is established of old. 1. God’s right to rule the world is founded in his making it; he that gave being to it, no doubt, may give law to it, and so his title to the government is incontestable: Thy throne is established; it is a title without a flaw in it. And it is ancient: it is established of old, from the beginning of time, before any other rule, principality, or power was erected, as it will continue when all other rule, principality, and power shall be put down, 1 Co. 15:24. 2. The whole administration of his government was settled in his eternal counsels before all worlds; for he does all according to the purpose which he purposed in himself; The chariots of Providence came down from between the mountains of brass, from those decrees which are fixed as the everlasting mountains (Zec. 6:1): Thou art from everlasting, and therefore thy throne is established of old; because God himself was from everlasting, his throne and all the determinations of it were so too; for in an eternal mind there could not but be eternal thoughts.
IV. He reigns triumphantly, v. 3, 4. We have here, 1. A threatening storm supposed: The floods have lifted up, O Lord! (to God himself the remonstrance is made) the floods have lifted up their voice, which speaks terror; nay, they have lifted up their waves, which speaks real danger. It alludes to a tempestuous sea, such as the wicked are compared to, Isa. 57:20. The heathen rage (Ps. 2:1) and think to ruin the church, to overwhelm it like a deluge, to sink it like a ship at sea. The church is said to be tossed with tempests (Isa. 54:11), and the floods of ungodly men make the saints afraid, Ps. 18:4. We may apply it to the tumults that are sometimes in our own bosoms, through prevailing passions and frights, which put the soul into disorder, and are ready to overthrow its graces and comforts; but, if the Lord reign there, even the winds and seas shall obey him. 2. An immovable anchor cast in this storm (v. 4): The Lord himself is mightier. Let this keep our minds fixed, (1.) That God is on high, above them, which denotes his safety (they cannot reach him, Ps. 29:10) and his sovereignty; they are ruled by him, they are overruled, and, wherein they rebel, overcome, Ex. 18:11. (2.) That he is mightier, does more wondrous things than the noise of many waters; they cannot disturb his rest or rule; they cannot defeat his designs and purposes. Observe, The power of the church’s enemies is but as the noise of many waters; there is more of sound than substance in it. Pharaoh king of Egypt is but a noise, Jer. 46:17. The church’s friends are commonly more frightened than hurt. God is mightier than this noise; he is mighty to preserve his people’s interests from being ruined by these many waters and his people’s spirits from being terrified by the noise of them. He can, when he pleases, command peace to the church (Ps. 65:7), peace in the soul, Isa. 26:3. Note, The unlimited sovereignty and irresistible power of the great Jehovah are very encouraging to the people of God, in reference to all the noises and hurries they meet with in this world, Ps. 46:1, 2.
V. He reigns in truth and holiness, v. 5. 1. All his promises are inviolably faithful: Thy testimonies are very sure. As God is able to protect his church, so he is true to the promises he has made of its safety and victory. His word is passed, and all the saints may rely upon it. Whatever was foretold concerning the kingdom of the Messiah would certainly have its accomplishment in due time. Those testimonies upon which the faith and hope of the Old-Testament saints were built were very sure, and would not fail them. 2. All his people ought to be conscientiously pure: Holiness becomes thy house, O Lord! for ever. God’s church is his house; it is a holy house, cleansed from sin, consecrated by God, and employed in his service. The holiness of it is its beauty (nothing better becomes the saints than conformity to God’s image and an entire devotedness to his honour), and it is its strength and safety; it is the holiness of God’s house that secures it against the many waters and their noise. Where there is purity there shall be peace. Fashions change, and that which is becoming at one time is not so at another; but holiness always becomes God’s house and family, and those who belong to it; it is perpetually decent; and nothing so ill becomes the worshippers of the holy God as unholiness.