Psalm 97:4
His lightning enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) See Psalm 77:17-18, from which this is taken.

97:1-7 Though many have been made happy in Christ, still there is room. And all have reason to rejoice in Christ's government. There is a depth in his counsels, which we must not pretend to fathom; but still righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. Christ's government, though it might be matter of joy to all, will yet be matter of terror to some; but it is their own fault that it is so. The most resolute and daring opposition will be baffled at the presence of the Lord. And the Lord Jesus will ere long come, and put an end to idol worship of every kind.His lightnings enlightened the world ... - See the notes at Psalm 77:18. Compare Psalm 104:32; Habakkuk 3:6-10. 3-5. The attending illustrations of God's awful justice on enemies (Ps 83:14) are seen in the disclosures of His almighty power on the elements of nature (compare Ps 46:2; 77:17; Hab 3:6, &c.).4 His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled.

5 The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

6 The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory.

Psalm 97:4

"His lightnings enlightened the world." In times of tempest the whole of nature is lighted up with a lurid glare, even the light of the sun itself seems dim compared with the blaze of lightning. If such are the common lights of nature what must be the glories of the Godhead itself? When God draws aside the curtain for a moment how astonished are the nations, the light compels them to cover their eyes and bow their heads in solemn awe. Jesus in the gospel lights up the earth with such a blaze of truth and grace as was never seen or even imagined before. In apostolic times the word flashed from one end of the heavens to the other, no part of the eivilised globe was left unilluminated. "The earth saw, and trembled." In God's presence the solid earth quakes, astonished by his glory it is convulsed with fear. To the advent of our Lord and the setting up of his kingdom among men these words are also most applicable; nothing ever caused such a shaking and commotion as the proclamation of the gospel, nothing was more majestic than its course, it turned the world upside down, levelled the mountains, and filled up the valleys. Jesus came, he saw, he conquered. When the Holy Ghost rested upon his servants their course was like that of a mighty storm, the truth flashed with the force and speed of a thunderbolt, and philosophers and priests, princes and people were utterly confounded, and altogether powerless to withstand it. It shall be so again. Faith even now sets the world on fire, and rocks the nations to and fro.

Psalm 97:5

"The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord." Inanimate nature knows its Creator, and worships him in its own fashion. States and kingdoms which stand out upon the world like mountains are utterly dissolved when he decrees their end. Systems as ancient and firmly-rooted as the hills pass away when he does but look upon them. In the Pentecostal era, and its subsequent age, this was seen on all hands, heathenism yielded at the glance of Jehovah Jesus, and the tyrannies based upon it dissolved like melted wax. "At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth." His dominion is universal, and his power is everywhere felt. Men cannot move the hills, with difficulty do they climb them, with incredible toil do they pierce their way through their fastnesses, but it is not so with the Lord, his presence makes a clear pathway, obstacles disappear, a highway is made, and that not by his hand as though it cost him pains, but by his mere presence, for power goes forth from him with a word or a glance. O for the presence of the Lord after this sort with his church at this hour! It is our one and only need. With it the mountains of difficulty would flee away, and all obstacles would disappear. O that thou wouldest rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, O Lord.

In the little world of our nature the presence of Jesus in reigning power is as a fire to consume our lusts and melt our souls to obedience. Sometimes we doubt the presence of the Lord within, for he is concealed with clouds, but we are again assured that he is within us when his light shines in and fills us with holy fear, while at the same time the warmth of grace softens us to penitence, resignation and obedience, even as wax becomes soft in the presence of fire.

Psalm 97:6

"The heavens declare his righteousness." It is as conspicuous as if written across the skies, both the celestial and the terrestrial globes shine in its light. It is the manner of the inspired poets to picture the whole creation as in sympathy with the glory of God, and indeed it is not mere poetry, for a great truth underlies it, the whole creation has been made to groan through man's sin, and it is yet to share in the joy of his restoration. "And all the people see his glory." The glorious gospel became so well known and widely promulgated, that it seemed to be proclaimed by every star, and published by the very skies themselves, therefore all races of men became acquainted with it, and were made to see the exceeding glory of the grace of God which is resplendent therein. May it come to pass ere long that, by a revival of the old missionary ardour, the glad tidings may yet be carried to every tribe of Adam's race, and once again all flesh may see the glory of Jehovah. It must be so, therefore let us rejoice before the Lord.

His lightnings enlightened the world: this phrase signifies not so much illumination as terror and judgments, as appears both from the following words, and from the constant use of the phrase in that sense, as Psalm 18:14 144:6, &c. His lightnings enlightened the world,.... Either the doctrines of the Gospel, compared thereunto, because of the swift progress they made, and the large extent of them in the world, in a very little time; by the apostles they were published in all nations, and were the means of enlightening them in the true knowledge of themselves, and of the way of salvation by Christ: hence they are called the "lights of the world", Matthew 5:14, as the coming of Christ, in his kingdom and power, by them, is compared to lightning, and so are the arrows of his word, Matthew 24:27, or else his judgments on the Jewish nation are meant, which were manifest and clear, and obvious to all the world; see Psalm 18:14,

the earth saw, and trembled; the inhabitants of the earth, of the Gentile world, saw the judgments of God upon the Jews, and were astonished at them; see Deuteronomy 29:24, it is usual for lightnings and earthquakes to go together; see Revelation 11:19.

His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and {d} trembled.

(d) This fear does not bring the wicked to true obedience, but makes them run away from God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. His lightnings lightened the world, as of old when He brought Israel out of Egypt. From Psalm 77:18 b.

the earth &c.] Based upon Psalm 77:16; Psalm 77:18 : cp. Psalm 96:9 b.

4–6. The recent manifestation of Jehovah’s power, described in terms of the great Theophanies of old.Verse 4. - His lightnings enlightened the world. Here the tenses change from present to past - not, however, that any past event is alluded to, but merely to mark prophetic certainty. The psalmist, rapt in vision, sees the future as past. Lightnings play a part in almost' all theophanies (Exodus 19:16; Job 37:1-5; Psalm 18:13; Psalm 77:18, etc.). The earth saw, and trembled (comp. Judges 5:4; Psalm 68:8; Psalm 114:7). That which is to be said among the peoples is the joyous evangel of the kingdom of heaven which is now come and realized. The watchword is "Jahve is King," as in Isaiah 52:7. The lxx correctly renders: ὁ κύριος ἐβασίλευσε

(Note: In the Psalterium Veronense with the addition apo xylu, Cod. 156, Latinizing ἀπὸ τῷ ξύλῳ; in the Latin Psalters (the Vulgate excepted) a ligno, undoubtedly an addition by an early Christian hand, upon which, however, great value is set by Justin and all the early Latin Fathers.)

for מלך is intended historically (Revelation 11:17). אף, as in Psalm 93:1, introduces that which results from this fact, and therefore to a certain extent goes beyond it. The world below, hitherto shaken by war and anarchy, now stands upon foundations that cannot be shaken in time to come, under Jahve's righteous and gentle sway. This is the joyful tidings of the new era which the poet predicts from out of his own times, when he depicts the joy that will then pervade the whole creation; in connection with which it is hardly intentional that Psalm 96:11 and Psalm 96:11 acrostically contain the divine names יהוה and יהו. This joining of all creatures in the joy at Jahve's appearing is a characteristic feature of Isaiah 40:1. These cords are already struck in Isaiah 35:1. "The sea and its fulness" as in Isaiah 42:10. In the chronicler Psalm 96:10 (ויאמרו instead of אמרו) stands between Psalm 96:11 and Psalm 96:11 - according to Hitzig, who uses all his ingenuity here in favour of that other recension of the text, by an oversight of the copyist.

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