Psalm 65:5
By terrible things in righteousness will you answer us, O God of our salvation; who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off on the sea:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) By terrible things.—Rather, wondrously, a noun used adverbially.

Wilt thou answer us.—Better, Thou dost answer us; describing the usual course of God’s providence. The LXX. and Vulg. make it a prayer: “Hear us.”

The conviction that God, the God of Israel’s salvation or deliverance, would answer wonderfully in righteousness, was, of course, based on the whole experience of the Divine dealings. Righteousness was recognised as the foundation on which the moral order rested.

The confidence of all the ends of the earth.—This might refer to Israel in exile; but it seems more in accordance with the general tenor of the psalm to give the words their widest range. Consciously or unconsciously the whole world rests in God.

Of them that are afar off upon the sea.—Literally, of the sea of those at a distance, i.e., of the farthest seas. (Comp. Isaiah 11:11 : “of the islands of the sea.”)

Psalm 65:5. By terrible things, &c. — Or, in a terrible manner; that is, so as to strike thy people with a holy awe and reverence of thee, and of thy judgments, and thine enemies with dread and horror. The Chaldee renders the word, נוראת, noraoth, here used, in a wonderful manner. This may be understood of the rebukes which God, in his providence, sometimes gives to his own people; he often answers them by wonderful and terrible events, for the awakening and quickening of them; but always in righteousness; he neither doth them any wrong, nor intends them any hurt; for even then he is the God of their salvation. But it is rather to be understood of his judgments upon their enemies; God answers his people’s prayers by the destructions made for their sakes among those who reject his truth; and the recompense which he renders to their proud oppressors as a righteous God, the God to whom vengeance belongs, and the God that protects and saves his people. The clause may be read, by wonderful things wilt thou answer us; things which are very surprising, and which we looked not for, Isaiah 64:3. Or by things which strike an awe upon us. “The ancient church here foretels,” says Dr. Horne, “that God would answer her prayers for the coming of the Messiah, by wonderful things in righteousness, which were brought to pass by the death and the resurrection of Christ, the overthrow of idolatry, and the conversion of the nations.” Some again, by these wonderful things, understand the works of God’s providence mentioned in the following verses; “which, however they may be disregarded by us, through our familiarity with them, are indeed most stupendous, amazing, and awful; such as will always engage the inquiry and excite the wonder of the most profound philosophers; but will for ever surpass their comprehension.” See Dodd. Who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth — Of all thy saints all the world over, and not only of those who are of the seed of Israel. For he is the God of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews; the confidence of them that are afar off from his holy temple, that dwell in the islands of the Gentiles, or that are in distress upon the sea. They trust in him, and cry to him when they are at their wit’s end. Nor is there any other in whom they can safely trust, or to whom they can have recourse with any prospect of relief. For this God of our salvation is the only object of a safe and undeceiving confidence; there is no other person or thing in the world that any man living can trust to, without fear or certainty of disappointment.65:1-5 All the praise the Lord receives from this earth is from Zion, being the fruit of the Spirit of Christ, and acceptable through him. Praise is silent unto thee, as wanting words to express the great goodness of God. He reveals himself upon a mercy-seat, ready to hear and answer the prayers of all who come unto him by faith in Jesus Christ. Our sins prevail against us; we cannot pretend to balance them with any righteousness of our own: yet, as for our transgressions, of thine own free mercy, and for the sake of a righteousness of thine own providing, we shall not come into condemnation for them. Observe what it is to come into communion with God in order to blessedness. It is to converse with him as one we love and value; it is to apply ourselves closely to religion as to the business of our dwelling-place. Observe how we come into communion with God; only by God's free choice. There is abundance of goodness in God's house, and what is satisfying to the soul; there is enough for all, enough for each: it is always ready; and all without money and without price. By faith and prayer we may keep up communion with God, and bring in comfort from him, wherever we are. But it is only through that blessed One, who approaches the Father as our Advocate and Surety, that sinners may expect or can find this happiness.By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us - That is, By things suited to inspire us and all people with awe, or with a deep sense of thy majesty, thy power, and thy glory. The answer to their prayers would be in such a manner as deeply to impress their minds and hearts. God's judgments on his foes, and the manner of his manifesting his favor to his people, would be such as to impress the mind with a deep sense of his own greatness. Yet all this would be in righteousness; in the infliction of a just sentence on the wicked; in direct interposition in favor of the righteous. The judgments of God on guilty people have been always such as to keep the world in awe; such as were adapted deeply to impress mankind with a sense of his own majesty and glory.

O God of our salvation - The God on whom our salvation, or our safety depends.

Who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth - Of all parts of the earth, the word "ends" being used on the supposition that the earth is a plain having appropriate limits. This allusion is often found in the Scriptures, the sacred writers speaking, as all men do, as things appear to be. Thus all philosophers, as well as other people, speak of the sun as rising and setting, which is, in itself, no more strictly accurate than it is to speak of the earth as if it had limits or boundaries. The word confidence as used here means that God is the source of trust, or, that all proper reliance, by all people, in all parts of the earth and on the sea, must be in him; that is, that there is no other on whom people can properly rely. It does not mean that all people actually repose such confidence in him, which would not be true - but that he is the only true source of confidence.

And of them that are afar off upon the sea - That is, of all men on sea and land. The seaman has no other source of security amidst the dangers of the deep than God. Compare Psalm 107:23-30. The language does not mean that all mariners actually do put their trust in God, but that they cannot confide in the winds and the waves - in the strength of their vessel - or their own power or skill in managing it - but that the true and only ground of trust is God.

5. terrible things—that is, by the manifestation of justice and wrath to enemies, accompanying that of mercy to His people (Ps 63:9-11; 64:7-9).

the confidence—object of it.

of all … earth—the whole world; that is, deservedly such, whether men think so or not.

5 By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation; who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea:

6 Which by his strength setteth fast the mountains; being girded with power:

7 Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people.

8 They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid at thy tokens: thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice.

Psalm 65:5

"By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation." God's memorial is that he hears prayer, and his glory is that he answers it in a manner fitted to inspire awe in the hearts of his people. The saints, in the commencement of the Psalm, offered praise in reverential silence; and now, in the like awe-stricken spirit, they receive answers to their prayers. The direct allusion here is, no doubt, to the Lord's overthrow of the enemies of his people in ways calculated to strike terror into all beholders; his judgments in their severe righteousness were calculated to excite fear both among friends and foes. Who would not fear a God whose blows are so crushing? We do not always know what we are asking for when we pray; when the answer comes, the veritable answer, it is possible that we may be terrified by it. We seek sanctification, and trial will be the reply: we ask for more faith, and more affliction is the result: we pray for the spread of the gospel, and persecution scatters Us. Nevertheless, it is good to ask on, for nothing which the Lord grants in his love can do us any harm. Terrible things will turn out to be blessed things after all, when they come in answer to prayer.

See in this verse how righteousness and salvation are united, the terrible things with the gracious answers. Where but in Jesus could they be blended? The God who saves may answer our prayers in a way which puts unbelief into a flutter; but when faith spies the Saviour, she remembers that "things are not what they seem," and she is of good courage. He who is terrible is also our refuge from terror when we see him in the Well-beloved. "Who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth." The dwellers in the far-off isles trust in God; those most remote from Zion yet confide in the ever living Jehovah. Even those who dwell in countries, frozen or torrid, where nature puts on her varied terrors, and those who see dread wonders on the deep, yet fly from the terrors of God and place their confidence in the God of terrors. His arm is strong to smite, but also strong to save. "And of them that are afar off upon the sea." Both elements have their elect bands of believers. If the land gave Moses elders, the sea gave Jesus apostles. Noah, when all was ocean, was as calm with God as Abraham in his tent. All men are equally dependent upon God: the seafaring man is usually most conscious of this, but in reality he is not more so than the husbandman, nor the husbandman than anyone else. There is no room for self-confidence on land or sea, since God is the only true confidence of men on earth or ocean. Faith is a plant of universal growth, it is a tree of life on shore and a plant of renown at sea; and, blessed be God, those Who exercise faith in him anywhere shall find that he is swift and strong to answer their prayers. A remembrance of this should quicken our devotions when we approach unto the Lord our God.

Psalm 65:6

"Which by his strength setteth last the mountains." He, as it were, fixed them in their sockets, and preserved them from falling by earthquake or storm. The firmest owe their stability to him. Philosophers of the forget-God school are too much engrossed with their laws of upheaval to think of the Upheaver. Their theories of volcanic action and glacier action, etc., etc., are frequently used as bolts and bars to shut the Lord out of his own world. Our poet is of another mind, and sees God's hand settling Alps and Andes on their bases, and therefore he sings in his praise. Let me for ever be just such an unphilosophic simpleton as David was, for he was nearer akin to Solomon than any of our modern theorists. "Being girded with power." The Lord is so himself, and he therefore casts a girdle of strength around the hills, and there they stand, braced, belted, and bulwarked with his might. The poetry is such as would naturally suggest itself to one familiar with mountain scenery; power everywhere meets you, sublimity, massive grandeur, and stupendous force are all around you; and God is there, the author and source of all.

Let us learn that we poor puny ones, if we wish for true establishment, must go to the strong for strength. Without him, the everlasting hills would crumble; how much more shall all our plans, projects, and labours come to decay. Repose, O believer, where the mountains find their bases - viz., in the undiminished might of the Lord God.

Psalm 65:7

"Which stilleth the noise of the seas." His soft breath smooths the sea into a glass, and the mountainous waves into ripples. God does this. Calms are of the God of peace; it needs not that we look for a hurricane when it is said that he cometh. He walked of old in the garden in the cool of the day; he is resting even now, for his great seventh day is not yet over, and he is always "the Lord and giver of peace." Let mariners magnify the God who rules the waves. "The noise of their waves." Each separate brawler amid the riot of the storm is quieted by the divine voice. "And the tumult of the people." Nations are as difficult to rule as the sea itself, they are as fitful, treacherous, restless, and furious; they will not brook the bridle nor be restrained by laws. Canute had not a more perilous sea by the rising billows than many a king and emperor has had when the multitude have been set on mischief, and have grown weary of their lords. God alone is King of nations. The sea obeys him, and the yet more tumultuous nations are kept in check by him. Human society owes its preservation to the continued power of God: evil passions would secure its instant dissolution; envy, ambition, and cruelty would create anarchy tomorrow, if God did not prevent; whereof we have had clear proof in the various French revolutions, Glory be unto God who maintains the fabric of social order, and checks the wicked, who would fain overthrow all things. The child of God in seasons of trouble should fly at once to him who stills the seas: nothing is too hard for him.

Psalm 65:8

"They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid at thy tokens." Signs of God's presence are not few, nor confined to any one region. Zembla sees them as well as Zion, and Terra del Fuego as surely as the Terra Sacra. These tokens are sometimes terrible phenomena in nature - such as earthquake, pestilence, tornado, or storm; and when these are seen, even the most barbarous people tremble before God. At other times they are dread works of providences such as the overthrow of Sodom, and the destruction of Pharaoh. The rumour of these judgments travels to earth's utmost verge, and impresses all people with a fear and trembling at such a just and holy God. We bless God that we are not afraid but rejoice at his tokens: with solemn awe we are glad when we behold his mighty acts. We fear, but not with slavish fear. "Thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice." East and west are made happy by God's favour to the dwellers therein. Our rising hours are bright with hope, and our evening moments mellow with thanksgiving. Whether the sun go forth or come in we bless God and rejoice in the gates of the day. When the fair morning blushes with the rosy dawn we rejoice; and when the calm evening smiles restfully we rejoice still. We do not believe that the dew weeps the death of the day; we only see jewels bequeathed by the departing day for its successor to gather up from the earth. Faith, when she sees God, rounds the day with joy. She cannot fast, because the bridegroom is with her. Night and day are alike to her, for the same God made them and blessed them. She would have no rejoicing if God did not make her glad; but, blessed be his name, he never ceases to make joy for those who find their joy in him.

By terrible things; or, in a terrible manner, i.e. so as to strike thy people with a holy awe and reverence of thee and of thy judgments, and thine enemies with dread and horror. Or, in a wonderful manner, as this word is rendered in the Chaldee, Deu 10:21; things wonderful and terrible being put together, as expressing the same thing, Psalm 106:22. In righteousness, i.e. by virtue of thy justice, or faithfulness, or goodness; whereby thou art inclined and engaged to help thy people when they are in distress, and resort unto thee by prayer. Wilt thou answer us; thou wilt graciously answer and grant our prayers and desires.

The confidence, i.e. the only object of a safe and undeceiving confidence; for there is no other person or thing in the world that any man living can trust to without fear and certainty of disappointment. Or, thou art the stay and support of all mankind, by thy powerful and gracious providence, Psalm 104:27 Acts 17:28 Hebrews 1:3. Others refer this to the calling of the Gentiles. But that seems not to suit with the following verses, which manifestly speak of God’s general providence. Of all the ends of the earth; not only of thy people Israel, but of all persons and nations, even as far as to the end of the earth, or of this vast continent in which we live.

Upon the sea; or, in the sea, i.e. in the islands of the sea, which are here distinguished from the continent; and under those two heads are comprehended all the inhabitants of the world. By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us,.... Not by afflictive dispensations of Providence, which, though disagreeable to flesh and blood, and are sometimes terrible to good men, when they apprehend the wrath of God in them, and look upon them as punishments for sin; yet these are consistent with the love of God to them, are for their spiritual good, and, when viewed in this light, they rejoice and glory in them; but as afflictions are not prayed for, nor to be prayed for, there being no direction for it, nor example of it, they cannot be considered as answers of prayer; but the Lord answers his people in this way, by inflicting judgments on their enemies: by such terrible things did he answer the Israelites at the Red sea, in the wilderness, and in the land of Canaan, Deuteronomy 10:17; and in this way will he answer his people in the destruction of antichrist and his followers, Revelation 6:9. Moreover, by "terrible things" may be meant things stupendous, marvellous, and even miraculous; and by such things does God sometimes answer his people, in destroying their enemies and saving them; and which are so called, because they inject horror and terror into their enemies, and fill them with fear and reverence of God: and which are done "in righteousness"; in faithfulness to his promises made to his people; in the exercise of his vindictive justice upon their enemies; in goodness, grace, and mercy to them, as "righteousness" sometimes signifies, as in Psalm 51:14; and not for their righteousness, who do not present their supplications to him for the sake of that; but for the righteousness of his Son, for the sake of which they are heard and answered;

O God of our salvation: not only temporal, but spiritual and eternal; which he has resolved upon, and chose his people to, and has settled the way and manner of, in which it should be brought about; has secured it in covenant for them, promised it in his word, sent his Son to obtain it, and his Spirit to give knowledge and make application of it; and from this character of his, and the concern he has in salvation, it may be concluded he will answer the prayers of his people for their good;

who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth; of all that dwell upon the continent, to the uttermost parts of the habitable world;

and of them that are afar off upon the sea: not only in ships upon the sea, but upon islands in the sea; and so the Targum,

"and of the islands of the sea, which are afar off from the dry land;''

and Kimchi and Ben Melech interpret it in the same manner; such snare the isles in which we live: this seems to refer to Gospel times, in which the Lord is not only the "confidence" or "hope of Israel", but of the Gentiles also; who are encouraged to hope in the Lord, and put their confidence in him, seeing with him there is forgiving mercy, and plenteous redemption; hath appointed Christ to be his salvation to the ends of the earth; has sent his Gospel into all the world declaring this; and Christ in it encourages all the ends of the earth to look unto him for salvation; and multitudes upon the continent, and in different isles, have been enabled to hope in him.

By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou {d} answer us, O God of our salvation; who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the {e} sea:

(d) You will declare yourself to be the preserver of your Church in destroying your enemies, as you did in the Red Sea.

(e) As of all barbarous nations, and far off.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. By terrible things &c.] The R.V. gives a better order: By terrible things thou wilt answer us in righteousness. As God Himself is ‘a terrible God’ (Psalm 47:2; Psalm 76:7 ff), so His acts are ‘terrible,’ inspiring His enemies with dread, and His people with reverent awe. The epithet is often applied to the mighty works of the Exodus (Deuteronomy 10:21; 2 Samuel 7:23; Isaiah 64:3; Psalm 106:22; Psalm 145:6); here to all similar deliverances, granted in answer to prayer. ‘Righteousness’ is the principle of the divine government; and it is closely related to ‘salvation’; for by it God’s honour is pledged to answer prayer and deliver His people. Cp. Psalm 48:10; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 45:8; Isaiah 45:21; Isaiah 51:5; &c.

who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth] R.V. (cp. P.B.V.), thou that art the confidence &c. This may mean that He is the object of their unconscious trust, although they know Him not, because it is He who provides for their wants and rules their destinies (Psalm 67:4; Amos 9:7; Acts 17:23 ff); but the further thought is certainly included that His mighty deeds on behalf of His people in destroying their tyrannical oppressors will lead all the oppressed and needy throughout the world to turn to Him with a conscious trust. Cp. Isaiah 33:13.

and of them that are afar off upon the sea] Better, and of the sea afar off. A slight change of text would give the phrase of Isaiah 66:19, the isles, or coastlands, afar off. But the change is unnecessary; land and sea naturally stand for the entire world.

5–8. In the future, as in the past, God will prove His righteousness by awe-inspiring acts on behalf of His people in answer to their prayers, for He has created and sustains the universe, and controls the forces alike of nature and of the nations.Verse 5. - By terrible things in righteousness (i.e. "by terrible acts of righteous judgment upon our enemies") wilt thou answer us. This is a sequel to ver. 2. As God hears prayer and answers it, so when his people cry to him for protection and deliverance from their foes, the result can only be righteous judgments of a fearful character upon the persecutors. O God of our salvation; i.e. God through whom we obtain salvation. Who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth (see the comment on ver. 2, and comp. ver. 8). And of them that are afar off upon the sea; literally, and of the sea of those afar off. The reading is, perhaps, corrupt. Deep is man's heart and inward part, but not too deep for God, who knoweth the heart (Jeremiah 17:9.). And He will just as suddenly surprise the enemies of His anointed with their death-blow, as they had plotted it for him. The futt. consec. that follow represent that which is future, with all the certainty of an historical fact as a retribution springing from the malicious craftiness of the enemies. According to the accentuation, Psalm 64:8 is to be rendered: "then will Elohim shoot them, a sudden arrow become their wounds." Thus at length Hupfeld renders it; but how extremely puzzling is the meaning hidden behind this sentence! The Targum and the Jewish expositors have construed it differently: "Then will Elohim shoot them with arrows suddenly;" in this case, however, because Psalm 64:8 then becomes too blunt and bald, פּתאם has to be repeated in thought with this member of the verse, and this is in itself an objection to it. We interpunctuate with Ewald and Hitzig thus: then does Elohim shoot them with an arrow, suddenly arise (become a reality) their wounds (cf. Micah 7:4), namely, of those who had on their part aimed the murderous weapon against the upright for a sudden and sure shot. Psalm 64:9 is still more difficult. Kimchi's interpretation, which accords with the accents: et corruere facient eam super se, linguam suam, is intolerable; the proleptic suffix, having reference to לשׁונם (Exodus 3:6; Job 33:20), ought to have been feminine (vid., on Psalm 22:16), and "to make their own tongue fall upon themselves" is an odd fancy. The objective suffix will therefore refer per enallagen to the enemy. But not thus (as Hitzig, who now seeks to get out of the difficulty by an alteration of the text, formerly rendered it): "and they cause those to fall whom they have slandered [lit. upon whom their tongue came]." This form of retribution does not accord with the context; and moreover the gravely earnest עלימו, like the הוּ-, refers more probably to the enemies than to the objects of their hostility. The interpretation of Ewald and Hengstenberg is better: "and one overthrows him, inasmuch as their tongue, i.e., the sin of their tongue with which they sought to destroy others, comes upon themselves." The subject to ויּכשׁילהוּ, as in Psalm 63:11; Job 4:19; Job 7:3; Luke 12:20, is the powers which are at the service of God, and which are not mentioned at all; and the thought עלימו לשׁונם (a circumstantial clause) is like Psalm 140:10, where in a similar connection the very same singularly rugged lapidary, or terse, style is found. In Psalm 64:9 we must proceed on the assumption that ראה ב in such a connection signifies the gratification of looking upon those who are justly punished and rendered harmless. But he who tarries to look upon such a scene is certainly not the person to flee from it; התנודד does not here mean "to betake one's self to flight" (Ewald, Hitzig), but to shake one's self, as in Jeremiah 48:27, viz., to shake the head (Psalm 44:15; Jeremiah 18:16) - the recognised (vid., Psalm 22:8) gesture of malignant, mocking astonishment. The approbation is awarded, according to Psalm 64:10, to God, the just One. And with the joy at His righteous interposition, - viz. of Him who has been called upon to interpose, - is combined a fear of the like punishment. The divine act of judicial retribution now set forth becomes a blessing to mankind. From mouth to mouth it is passed on, and becomes an admonitory nota bene. To the righteous in particular it becomes a consolatory and joyous strengthening of his faith. The judgment of Jahve is the redemption of the righteous. Thus, then, does he rejoice in his God, who by thus judging and redeeming makes history into the history of redemption, and hide himself the more confidingly in Him; and all the upright boast themselves, viz., in God, who looks into the heart and practically acknowledges them whose heart is directed unswervingly towards Him, and conformed entirely to Him. In place of the futt. consec., which have a prophetic reference, simple futt. come in here, and between these a perf. consec. as expressive of that which will then happen when that which is prophetically certain has taken place.
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