Psalm 89:15
Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of your countenance.
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(15) That know the joyful soundi.e., that are familiar with the shouting and music that accompanied the feasts of Israel.

They shall walk.—Better in the present; and so of the verb in the next verse. The light of Jehovah’s countenance of course means His favour.



Psalm 89:15

The Psalmist has just been setting forth, in sublime language, the glories of the divine character-God’s strength, His universal sway, the justice and judgment which are the foundation of His Throne, the mercy and truth which go as heralds before His face. A heathen singing of any of his gods would have gone on to describe the form and features of the god or goddess who came behind the heralds, but the Psalmist remembers ‘Thou shalt not make unto thyself any . . . likeness of God.’ A sacred reverence checks his song. He veils his face in his mantle while He whom no man can see and live passes by. Then he breaks into rapturous exclamations which are very prosaically and poorly represented by our version. For the text is not a mere statement, as it is made to be by reading ‘Blessed is the people,’ but it is a burst of adoring wonder, and should be read, ‘Oh! the blessedness of the people that know the joyful sound.’

Now, the force of this exclamation is increased if we observe that the word that is rendered ‘joyful sound’ is the technical word for the trumpet blast at Jewish feasts. The purpose of these blasts, like those of the heralds at the coronation of a king, was to proclaim the presence of God, the King of Israel, in the festival, as well as to express the gladness of the worshippers. Thus the Psalmist, when he says, ‘Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound,’ has no reference, as we ordinarily take him to have, to the preaching of the Gospel, but to the trumpet-blasts that proclaimed the present God and throbbed with the gladness of the waiting worshippers. So that this exclamation is equivalent to ‘Oh! how blessed are the people who are sure that they have God with them!’ and who, being sure, bow before Him in loving worship. It is to be further noticed that the subsequent words of the text state the first element which it indicates of that blessedness of a devout life, ‘They shall walk, O Lord! in the light of Thy countenance.’

I. We deal first with the meaning of this phrase.

Of course, ‘the light of Thy countenance’ is a very obvious and natural symbol for favour, complacency, goodwill on the part of Him that is conceived of as looking on any one. We read, for instance, in reference to a much lower subject in the Book of Proverbs, ‘In the light of the king’s countenance is life, and his favour is as a cloud of the latter rain.’ Again we have, in the Levitical benediction, the phrase accompanied in the parallel clauses by what is really an explanation of it, ‘The Lord cause His face to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee.’ So that the simple and obvious meaning of the words, ‘the light of Thy countenance,’ is the favour and lovingkindness of God manifested in that gracious Face which He turns to His servants. As for the other chief word in the clause, ‘to walk’ is the equivalent throughout Scripture for the conduct of the active life and daily conversation of a man, and to walk in the light is simply to have the consciousness of the divine Presence and the experience of the divine lovingkindness and friendship as a road on which we travel our life’s journey, or an atmosphere round us in which all our activities are done and in which we ever remain, as a diver in his bell, to keep evil and sin from us.

There is only one more remark in the nature of explanation which I make, and that is that the expression here for walking is cast in the original into a form which grammarians call intensive, strengthening the simple idea expressed by the word. We may express its force if we read, ‘They walk continually in the light of Thy countenance.’

Is not that just a definition of the Christian life as an unbroken realisation of the divine Presence, and an unbroken experience of the lovingkindness and favour of God? Is not that religion in its truest, simplest essence, in its purest expression? The people who are sure that they have their King in their midst, and who feel that He is looking down upon them with tender pity, with loving care, with nothing but friendship and sweetness in His heart, these people, says the Psalmist, are blessed. So much, then, for the meaning of the word.

II. Consider the possibility of such a condition being ours.

Can such a thing be? Is it possible for a man to go through life carrying this atmosphere constantly with him? Can the continuity which, as I remarked, is expressed by the original accurately rendered, be kept up through an ordinary life that has all manner of work to do, or are we only to ‘hear the joyful sound,’ now and then, at rare intervals, on set occasions, answering to these ancient feasts? Which of the two is it to be, dear brethren? There is no need whatever why any amount of hard work, or outward occupations of the most secular character, or any amount of distractions, should break for us the continuity of that consciousness and of that experience. We may carry God with us wherever we go, if only we remember that where we cannot carry Him with us we ought not to go. We may carry Him with us into all the dusty roads of life; we may always walk on the sunny side of the street if we like. We may always bear our own sunshine with us. And although we are bound to be diligent in business, and some of us have had to take a heavy lift of a great deal of hard work, and much of it apparently standing in no sort of relation to our religious life, yet for all that it is possible to bend all to this one direction, and to make everything a means of bringing us nearer to God and fuller of the conscious enjoyment of His presence. And if we have not learned to do that with our daily work, then our daily work is a curse to us. If we have allowed it to become so absorbing or distracting as that it dims and darkens our sense of the divine Presence, then it is time for us to see what is wrong in the method or in the amount of work which is thus darkening our consciences. I know it is hard, I know that an absolute attainment of such an ideal is perhaps beyond us, but I know that we can approach-I was going to say infinitely, but a better word is indefinitely-nearer it than any of us have ever yet done. As the psalm goes on to say in the next clause, it is possible for us to ‘rejoice in His Name all the day.’ Ay, even at your tasks, and at your counters, and in your kitchens, and in my study, it is possible for us; and if our hearts are what and where they ought to be, the possibility will be realised. Earthly duty has no necessary effect of veiling the consciousness of God.

Nor is there any reason why our troubles, sorrows, losses, solitude should darken that sunshine. I know that that is hard, too, perhaps harder than the other. It is more difficult to have a sense of the sunshine of the divine Presence shining through the clouds of disaster and sorrow than even it is to have it shining through the dust that is raised by traffic and secular occupation. But it is possible. There is nothing in all the sky so grand as clouds smitten by sunshine, and the light is never so glorious as when it is flashed back from them and dyes their piled bosoms with all celestial colours. There is no experience of God’s Presence so blessed as that of a man who, in the midst of sorrow, has yet with him the assurance of the Father’s friendship and favour and love, and so can say ‘as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.’ This sunshine shines in the foulest corners, and the most thunder-laden clouds only flash back its glories in new forms.

There is only one thing that breaks the continuity of that blessedness, and that is our own sin. We carry our own weather with us, whether we will or no, and we can bring winter into the middle of summer by flinging God away from us, and summer into the midst of winter by grappling Him to our hearts. There is only one thing that necessarily breaks our sense of His Presence, and that is that our hearts should turn away from His face. A man can work hard and yet feel that God is with him. A man can be weighed upon by many distresses and yet feel that God is with him and loves him; but a man cannot commit the least tiny sin and love it, and feel at the same time that God is with him. The heart is like a sensitive photographic plate, it registers the variations in the sunshine; and the one hindrance that makes it impossible for God’s light to fall upon my soul with the assurance of friendship and the sense of sweetness, is that I should be hugging some evil to my heart. It is not the dusty highway of life nor the dark vales of weeping and of the shadow of death through which we sometimes have to pass that make it impossible for this sunlight to pour down upon us, but it is our gathering round ourselves of the poisonous mists of sin through which that light cannot pierce; or if it pierce, pierces transformed and robbed of all its beauty.

III. Let me note next the blessedness which draws out the Psalmist’s rapturous exclamation.

The same phrase is employed in one of the other psalms, which, I think, bears in its contents the confirmation of the attribution of it to David. When he was fleeing before his rebellious son, at the very lowest ebb of his fortunes, away on the uplands of Moab, a discrowned king, a fugitive in danger of death at every moment, he sang a psalm in which these words occur: ‘There be many that say, Who will show us any good?’ ‘Lord, lift up the light of Thy countenance upon us’; and then follows, ‘Thou hast put gladness into my heart more than when their corn and wine abound.’ The speech of the many, ‘Who will show us any good?’ is contrasted with the prayer of the one, ‘Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us.’ That is blessedness. It is the only thing that makes the heart to be at rest. It is the only thing that makes life truly worth living, the only thing that brings sweetness which has no after taint of bitterness and breeds no fear of its passing away. To have that unsetting sunshine streaming down upon my open heart, and to carry about with me whithersoever I go, like some melody from hidden singers sounding in my ears, the Name and the Love of my Father God-that and that only, brother, is true rest and abiding blessedness. There are many other joys far more turbulent, more poignant, but they all pass. Many of them leave a nauseous taste in the mouth when they are swallowed; all of them leave us the poorer for having had them and having them no more. For one who is not a Christian I do not know that it is

‘Better to have loved and lost

Than never to have loved at all.’

But for those to whom God’s Face is as a Sun, life in all its possibilities is blessed; and there is no blessedness besides. So let us keep near Him, ‘walking in the light,’ in our changeful days, ‘as He is in the light’ in His essential and unalterable being; and that light will be to us all which it is taken in Scripture to symbolise-knowledge and joy and purity; and in us, too, there will be ‘no darkness at all.’

But there is one last word that I must say, and that is that a possible terror is intertwined with this blessedness. The next psalm to this says, with a kind of tremulous awe in the Psalmist’s voice: ‘Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance.’ In that sense all of us, good and bad, lovers of God and those that are careless about Him, walk all the day long in the light of His face, and He sees and marks all our else hidden evil. It needs something more than any of us can do to make the thought that we do stand in the full glaring of that great searchlight, not turned occasionally but focussed steadily on us individually, a joy and a blessing to us. And what we need is offered us when we read, ‘His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength, and I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His hand upon me and said, Fear not! I am He that liveth and was dead; and behold! I am alive for ever more.’ If we put our poor trust in the Eternal Light that was manifest in Christ, then we shall walk in the sunshine of His face on earth, and that lamp will burn for us in the darkness of the grave and lead us at last into the ever-blazing centre of the Sun itself.Psalm 89:15. Blessed are the people, &c. — Next to the praises of Jehovah, is declared the happiness of those who have him for their God, who are his worshippers and servants, living under his righteous and merciful government; that know — That hear, from time to time, acknowledge and obey; the joyful sound — “The sound of the trumpet, by which the festivals of the Jewish Church were proclaimed, and the people were called together to the offices of devotion;” that is, who have God’s word and ordinances among them, and are favoured with his presence, and with the tokens of his mercy and grace, in and by these means; they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance — Being blessed with the light of truth, and being enabled to walk therein, they shall live under the comfortable influences of thy love and favour. Remember, reader, “these blessings are now become our own; the evangelical trumpet hath sounded through the once heathen world; the Sun of righteousness hath risen upon all nations. Let us attend to the joyful sound; let us walk in the glorious light.” — Horne.89:15-18 Happy are those who so know the joyful sound of the gospel as to obey it; who experience its power upon their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives. Though believers are nothing in themselves, yet having all in Christ Jesus, they may rejoice in his name. May the Lord enable us to do so. The joy of the Lord is the strength of his people; whereas unbelief dispirits ourselves and discourages others. Though it steals upon us under a semblance of humility, yet it is the very essence of pride. Christ is the Holy One of Israel; and in him was that peculiar people more blessed than in any other blessing.Blessed is the people - Happy is their condition. See the notes at Psalm 1:1.

That know the joyful sound - That hear that sound. DeWette explains this of the call to the festivals and offerings, Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 10:10; Psalm 27:6. That is, says he, those who honor and worship God. The Hebrew word - תרועה terû‛âh - means a loud noise; a tumult; especially, shouts of joy, or rejoicing, Job 8:21; 1 Samuel 4:5; the "shout of a king," that is, the joyful acclamations with which a king is welcomed, Numbers 23:21; the shout of battle, Jeremiah 4:19; Jeremiah 49:2. Then it means the sound or clangor of trumpets, Leviticus 25:9; Numbers 29:1-6. The word is, therefore, especially applicable to the sounding of the trumpets which attended the celebration of the great; festivals among the Hebrews, and there can be little doubt that this is the reference here. The idea is, that they are blessed or happy who are the worshippers of Yahweh, the true God; who are summoned to his service; who are convened to the place of his worship.

They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance - They shall live in thy favor, and enjoy thy smiles.

15. His government of righteousness is served by "mercy" and "truth" as ministers (Ps 85:10-13).

know the joyful sound—understand and appreciate the spiritual blessings symbolized by the feasts to which the people were called by the trumpet (Le 25:9, &c.).

walk … countenance—live in His favor (Ps 4:6; 44:3).

15 Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance,

16 In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteous shall they be exalted.

17 For thou art the glory of their strength: and in thy favour our how shall be exalted.

18 For the Lord is our defence; and the Holy One of Israel is our king.

Psalm 89:15

"Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound." He is a blessed God of whom the Psalmist has been singing, and therefore they are a blessed people who partake of his bounty, and know how to exult in his favour. Praise is a peculiarly joyful sound, and blessed are those who are familiar with its strains. The covenant promises have also a sound beyond measure precious, and they are highly favoured who understand their meaning and recognise their own personal interest in them, There may also be a reference here to the blowing of trumpets and other gladsome noises which attended the worship of Jehovah, who, unlike the gods of the heathen was not adored by the shrieks of wretched victims, or the yells and outcries of terror-stricken crowds, but by the joyful shouts of his happy people. "They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance." For them it is joy enough that Jehovah is favourable to them; all day long this contents them and enables them with vigour to pursue their pilgrimage. Only a covenant God could look with favour upon men, and those who have known him in that relationship learn to rejoice in him, yea, to walk with him in fellowship, and to continue in communion with him we give God our ear and hear the joyful sound, he will shew us his face and make us glad. While the sun shines, men walk without stumbling as to their feet, and when the Lord smiles on us we live without grief as to our souls.

Psalm 89:16

"In thy name shall they rejoice all the day." And good cause they have for so doing, for to the soul which, in Christ Jesus, has entered into covenant with God, every attribute is a fountain of delight. There is no hour in the day, and no day in our life, in which we may not rejoice in the name, person, and character of the Lord. We need no other reason for rejoicing. As philosophers could make merry without music, so can we rejoice without carnal comforts; the Lord All-sufficient is an all-sufficient source of joy. "And in thy righteousness, shall they be exalted." By the Lord's righteous dealings the saints are uplifted in due time, however great may have been the oppression and the depression from which they may have suffered. In the righteousness which the covenant supplies, which is entirely of the Lord, believers are set on high, in a secure and blessed position, so that they are full of sacred happiness. If God were unjust, or if he regarded us as being without righteousness, we must be filled with misery, but as neither of these things is so, we are exalted indeed, and would extol the name of the Lord.

Psalm 89:17

"For thou art the glory of their strength." Surely in the Lord Jehovah have we both righteousness and strength. He is our beauty and glory when we are strong in him, as well as our comfort anti sustenance when we tremble because of conscious weakness in ourselves. No man whom the Lord makes strong may dare to glory in himself, he must ascribe all honour to the Lord alone; we have neither strength nor beauty apart from him. "And in thy favour our horn shall be exalted." By the use of the word our the Psalmist identifies himself with the blessed people, and this indicates how much sweeter it is to sing in the first person than concerning others. May we have grace to claim a place among those in covenant with God, in Christ Jesus, for then a sense of divine favour will make us also bold and joyous. A creature full of strength and courage lifts up its horn, and so also does a believer become potent, valiant, and daring. The horn was an eastern ornament, worn by men and women, or at least is so at this day, and by the uplifting of this the wearer showed himself to be in good spirits, and in a confident frame of mind: we wear no such outward vanities, but our inward soul is adorned and made bravely triumphant when the favour of God is felt by us. Worldly men need outward prosperity to make them lift up their heads, but the saints find more than enough encouragement in the secret love of God.

Psalm 89:18

"For the Lord is our defence." Whoever else may defend us, he is our ultimate Defender and Shield. "And the Holy One of Israel is our king." He who protects should govern, our defender should be acknowledged as our king. Kings are called the shields of nations, and the God of Israel is both our Ruler and Defence. Another sense may be that Israel's defender and king was of the Lord, belonging to him and sent by him; even the protectors of the land being themselves protected by the Lord. The title "the Holy One of Israel" is peculiarly delightful to the renewed heart. God is one, we worship none beside. He is holiness itself, the only being who can be called "the Holy One," and in his perfection of character we see the most excellent reason for our faith. He who is holy cannot break his promises, or act unjustly concerning his oath and covenant. Moreover, he is the Holy One of Israel, being specially the God of his own elect, ours by peculiar ties, ours for ever and ever. Who among the saints will not rejoice in the God of election? Are they not indeed a people greatly blessed who can call this God their God for ever and ever?

The psalmist, intending to describe the doleful estate of the royal family and kingdom of Israel, aggravates it by the consideration of their former felicity.

That know the joyful sound, i.e. who enjoy the presence of God and his ordinances, and the tokens of his grace and mercy to them, to which they were called and invited by the sound of trumpets, which upon that only reason was very pleasant and grateful to the Israelites. See Numbers 10:9,10. So the sign is put for the thing signified, as is manifest, both from the following clause of the verse, and because otherwise the hearing of the outward sound of trumpets could never make them blessed.

Walk in the light of thy countenance; they live under the comfortable influences of thy grace and favour; whereof at present we are bereaved. Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound,.... Of the love, grace, and mercy of God displayed in Christ, of peace and pardon by his blood, of justification by his righteousness, of atonement by his sacrifice, and of complete salvation by his obedience, sufferings, and death; this is the sound of the Gospel, and a joyful one it is to sensible sinners; and is so called in allusion either to a shout made upon a victory gained, and such a sound is the Gospel; it declares victory by Christ over sin, Satan, the world, and death, and every enemy; and that he has made his people more than conquerors over them; or to the jubilee trumpet, which proclaimed liberty and a restoration of inheritances, Leviticus 25:9 and so the Gospel proclaims liberty to the captives, freedom from the dominion of sin, and condemnation by it, from the tyranny of Satan, and the bondage of the law; and gives an account of the inheritance the saints have in Christ, and through his death, to which they are regenerated, and for which they are made meet by the Spirit of God, and of which he is the seal and earnest: or to the silver trumpets, for the use of the congregation of Israel, and blown at their solemn feasts, and other times, and were all of a piece, Numbers 10:1, the trumpet of the Gospel gives a certain sound, an even one, a very musical one; there is no jar nor discord in it; is a soul charming alluring sound, and very loud; it has reached, and will reach again, to the ends of the earth, Romans 10:18, it is a blessing to hear it, but it is a greater to "know" it, not merely notionally, but spiritually and experimentally; so as not only to approve of it, and be delighted with it, but so as to distinguish it from all other sounds; and by faith to receive it, and appropriate the things it publishes to a man's own soul; and such must be "blessed", or happy persons, for the reasons following in this verse, and in Psalm 89:16,

they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance: enjoy the gracious presence of God, have the manifestation of himself, the discoveries of his love, communion with him through Christ, and the comforts of the Holy Spirit, and these continued; so that they shall walk in the sunshine of these things, though not always; for sometimes they walk in darkness, and see no light; but it is an unspeakable mercy and blessing to walk herein at any time, for ever so short a season, see Psalm 4:6.

Blessed is the people that {m} know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy {n} countenance.

(m) Feeling in their conscience that God is their father.

(n) They will be preserved by your fatherly providence.

15. Happy the people that know the shout of joy,

That walk, Jehovah, In the light of thy countenance.

Terû‘âh may mean the jubilant shouting with which religious festivities were celebrated (Psalm 27:6; Psalm 33:3; Psalm 81:1; Psalm 95:1-2; 2 Samuel 6:15); or the acclamation with which a king was greeted (Psalm 47:1; Psalm 47:5; Numbers 23:21); or the blowing of trumpets upon certain solemn occasions (Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 29:1). Happy indeed is Israel when it can thus greet its God (Psalm 144:15), enjoying the sunshine of His favour (Psalm 4:6).

15–18. Happy the people that have such a God, and whose King is the vicegerent of such a Sovereign. These verses form the transition to the second division of the Psalms , vv19 ff. From the praise of God it is natural to pass on to the felicity of His people, and from the mention of the people to the king who is their head and His representative.Verse 15. - Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound. The sound of devotional joy appears to be intended - the sound which went up from the sanctuary in the great festival times (see Numbers 10:1, 9; Leviticus 25:9; Psalm 27:6; Psalm 81:1, etc.). They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance. Herein consists especially their blessedness (comp. Psalm 4:6). At the time of the poet the nation of the house of David was threatened with assault from violent foes; and this fact gives occasion for this picture of God's power in the kingdom of nature. He who rules the raging of the sea, also rules the raging of the sea of the peoples, Psalm 65:8. גּאוּת, a proud rising, here of the sea, like גּאוה in Psalm 46:4. Instead of בּשׂוע, Hitzig pleasantly enough reads בּשׁוא equals בּשׁאו from שׁאה; but שׂוא is also possible so far as language is concerned, either as an infinitive equals נשׂוא, Psalm 28:2; Isaiah 1:14 (instead of שׂאת), or as an infinitival noun, like שׂיא, loftiness, Job 20:6, with a likewise rejected Nun. The formation of the clause favours our taking it as a verb: when its waves rise, Thou stillest them. From the natural sea the poet comes to the sea of the peoples; and in the doings of God at the Red Sea a miraculous subjugation of both seas took place at one and the same time. It is clear from Psalm 74:13-17; Isaiah 51:9, that Egypt is to be understood by Rahab in this passage as in Psalm 87:4. The word signifies first of all impetuosity, violence, then a monster, like "the wild beast of the reed," Psalm 68:31, i.e., the leviathan or the dragon. דּכּאת is conjugated after the manner of the Lamed He verbs, as in Psalm 44:20. כּחלל is to be understood as describing the event or issue (vid., Psalm 18:43): so that in its fall the proudly defiant kingdom is like one fatally smitten. Thereupon in Psalm 89:12-15 again follows in the same co-ordination first the praise of God drawn from nature, then from history. Jahve's are the heavens and the earth. He is the Creator, and for that very reason the absolute owner, of both. The north and the right hand, i.e., the south, represent the earth in its entire compass from one region of the heavens to the other. Tabor on this side of the Jordan represents the west (cf. Hosea 5:1), and Hermon opposite the east of the Holy Land. Both exult by reason of the name of God; by their fresh, cheerful look they give the impression of joy at the glorious revelation of the divine creative might manifest in themselves. In Psalm 89:14 the praise again enters upon the province of history. "An arm with (עם) heroic strength," says the poet, inasmuch as he distinguishes between the attribute inherent in God and the medium of its manifestation in history. His throne has as its מכון, i.e., its immovable foundation (Proverbs 16:12; Proverbs 25:5), righteousness of action and right, by which all action is regulated, and which is unceasingly realized by means of the action. And mercy and truth wait upon Him. קדּם פּני is not; to go before any one (הלּך לפני, Psalm 85:14), but anticipatingly to present one's self to any one, Psalm 88:14; Psalm 95:2; Micah 6:6. Mercy and truth, these two genii of sacred history (Psalm 43:3), stand before His face like waiting servants watching upon His nod.
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