Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout unto God with a voice of triumph.
2 Chronicles 20.), we may admit; but we can scarcely understand how the peoples should have been invited to clap their hands at their own humiliating defeat. And it seems to us altogether unworthy of the sublime elevation of this psalm to look at it solely, or even mainly, from a military point of view, as if all the nations were invited to a song of triumph over their utter powerlessness to prevail against the chosen people of God. Delitzsch remarks, "In the mirror of the present event, the poet reads the great fact of the conversion of all peoples to Jehovah, which closes the history of the world." Perowne writes, "This is a hymn of triumph, in which the singer calls upon all the nations to praise Jehovah as their King, and joyfully anticipates the time when they shall all become one body with the people of the God of Abraham." Canon Cook says, "While celebrating a transaction of immediate interest to God's people, the psalmist uses expressions throughout which have their adequate fulfilment in the Person and work of the Messiah." And Dr. Binnie wisely remarks that the invitation to the nations, in the first verse, plainly implies that the subjugation is not a carnal one, but "the yearning of men's minds and hearts for God." We are not called on to decide, nor even to ask the question - How much did the human penman of this psalm understand by it? Nor are we to perplex ourselves by asking - How could any human mind forecast all this? For it is not by any law of naturalistic psychology that such a psalm as this is to be tested. The Apostle Peter tells us that "no prophecy of the Scripture comes out of any private interpretation" of the will of God. Nay, further, that the will of man was not the origin of prophecy (2 Peter 1:21), but that holy men of God spake as they were borne on by the Holy Ghost. He tells us, too (1 Peter 1:10-12), that they did not comprehend the full significance of the words which came from their lips; that they diligently inquired into their meaning; that they uttered them, not for themselves, but for us; that their theme was "the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." So that, having this key to the interpretation of the prophetic songs of Scripture, we see that such remarks as those of Cheyne concerning prophecy and psychology are utterly wide of the mark, and that the sole question before us is - What do the words of this psalm declare, when dealt with according to the analogy of faith, concerning the prophetic forecast of the kingdom of the Messiah?
I. THE WORDS OF THIS PSALM DISCLOSE A GREAT THEME FOR SONG. A theme evidently much vaster and more far-reaching than the results of any material, local, or national triumph could possibly be; for it is one which is calculated to make all peoples clap their hands with joy, which could not possibly be true of any victory on an earthly battle-field. We feel increasingly that the terms of this psalm are intelligible only as referred immediately to the conflict and victory of the great Captain of salvation in undertaking to "save" his people from their sins. As Matthew Poole admirably remarks, "In Psalmo 45 actum est de Rege; in Psalmo 46 de eivitate Dei; hic, de Gentium adjunctione ad populum Dei, quam per Christum impletam videmus." And thus we see how far ahead the expansiveness of the Old Testament predictions was of the narrow exclusiveness of the average Jew. Here there is a celebration of God's work which brings out expressions of greatest delight. The delight is in a triumphant achievement that will link all nations in one; and the cause of the delight is not their work, but God's work for them. To nothing but the redemption which is in Christ Jesus could all this possibly apply. Here is a fourfold work of God.
1. The descent of the King to earth. In ver. 5 we read, "God is gone up with a shout." So in Psalm 68:18, "Thou hast ascended up on high," etc. In quoting this last-named verse, the Apostle Paul argues (Ephesians 4:9), "brow that he ascended, what is it but that he descended first into the lower parts of the earth?" The ascension implies that he descended. How can it be otherwise here? That God has gone up from earth involves the truth that he was here; and that means that he came down from heaven (so John 3:13; John 16:28; John 17:5, 24; Luke 19:10; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:6, 7; 1 Timothy 1:15). The coming of the Son Incarnate into the world is the fact announced in the New Testament, and many times predicted in the Old Testament (Isaiah 9:6; Genesis 49:10; Luke 24:44; Matthew 5:17; John 5:46). How far the psalmist understood the meaning of his own words, we are not called on to say; but the meaning of the Holy Ghost in inspiring them is perfectly clear,
2. The ascent of the King is also foretold. (Ver. 5.) The descent, implicitly; the ascent, explicitly. And in this doctrine many of the Old Testament writers blend their words (Psalm 68:18; Psalm 110:11). The King was to be exalted on high. He is (cf. Acts 1:9; Acts 2:33; Ephesians 4:10; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 9:24; Hebrews 10:12).
3. The exalted King is Sovereign over all the nations. (Ver. 8.) "The heathen" (Authorized Version) is equivalent to "the nations" (Revised Version). All the nations are under Immanuel's sceptre. Through his death Satan is dethroned, and the Christ enthroned, and every child of man is now under his mediatoriai sway. So we are taught in John 12:31, 32; Acts 10:34, 35. He is now enthroned at the right hand of God; and those hands that were pierced with nails now sway the sceptre of universal power. Yea, and he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet (Psalm 110.). The mediatorial throne is "the throne of his holiness" (ver. 8). In the life of Christ holiness was manifested; in his death, whereby he condemned sin, holiness was vindicated. From his seat above, holiness sways the sceptre; by the power of his Spirit, holiness is created in human spirits. And under the sway of this throne all nations are embraced. "Earth's poor distinctions vanish here." "In Christ there is neither Greek, nor Jew, barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free; but Christ is all, and in all." And in him all the peoples of the earth may find their home in Abraham's God (ver. 9). The shields, i.e. the princes, of the earth belong unto God.
4. The King governs the world for the sake of the Church. (Ver. 3.) So the third verse indicates. The thought is expressed with gospel clearness in Ephesians 1:22 and Romans 8:28, that out of a sinful world God may call a living Church, to be presented to himself, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. This is the Divine subjugation of his foes, which the mediatorial sovereignty of Christ ensures.
II. HERE IS A CALL FOR SONG ON THIS GREAT THEME, FROM ALL PEOPLES. Man's sin makes us weep. God's mercy makes us sing; and no aspect thereof makes us gladder than that of the triumph of redeeming grace and dying love. And well may the psalmist, thus forecasting redemption's story through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, call for universal song. Well may we sing; for:
1. The great conflict is past. "The voice of triumph" may therefore be ours (cf. Colossians 2:15).
2. The sceptre of the world is in the hands of One, and of One only. There is no division of power (ver. 7).
4. There is a rich inheritance in store for, the loyal ones. The Jew expected an earthly inheritance by virtue of his descent from Abraham; but all believers will have an infinitely greater inheritance by virtue of their union with Christ. God chooses it for us; and with his choice we may be well content. He will deal right royally with his own, and will act worthily of a God. For this inheritance we can wait (Romans 8:17, 18).
5. In the advance of the Divine plans all barriers between race and race are destined to fall: All kindreds of the earth are to rally to the standard of Abraham's God! Nowhere is this breaking down of boundaries more strikingly set forth than in Ephesians 2:12-22, which is an exposition of the basis and structural plan of the Christian commonwealth. This the aged Jacob foretold when he said, "To him shall the gathering of the people be." To this psalmists and seers Point. For this the Saviour prayed: "That they all may be one." He died to "gather together in one the children of God which are scattered abroad" (John 11:52; John 10:16; Isaiah 42:4). At such a thought, "Clap your hands, all ye peoples!" - C.
He maketh wars to cease unto the ends of the earth; He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; He burneth the chariot in the fire.I. As IT AFFECTS THE HAPPINESS OF MANKIND. Think of —
1. Its rapid extinction of innumerable lives without concern.
2. Think of the manner of their death. Far from their native home, no tender assiduities of friendship, no well-known voice, no wife, or mother, or sister, is near to soothe their sorrows, relieve their thirst, or close their eyes in death. Unhappy man! and must you be swept into the grave unnoticed and unnumbered, and no friendly tear be shed for your sufferings, or mingled with your dust?
3. But think, also, of the condition of those countries which are the scene of hostilities. How dreadful to hold everything at the mercy of an enemy.
II. THE INFLUENCE OF WAR UPON THE MORALS OF MANKIND. It is both the offspring and the parent of injustice. The injury which the morals of a people sustain from an invading army is prodigious. The agitation and suspense universally prevalent are incompatible with everything which requires calm thought or serious reflection. In such a situation is it any wonder the duties of piety fall into neglect, the sanctuary of God is forsaken, and the gates of Zion mourn and are desolate? Familiarized to the sight of rapine and slaughter, the people must acquire a hard and unfeeling character. Let us now turn to the pleasing part of our subject, which invites us to contemplate the reasons for gratitude and joy suggested by the restoration of peace. Permit me to express my hope, that along with peace the spirit of peace will return. How can we better imitate our Heavenly Father, than, when tie is pleased to compose the animosities of nations, to open our hearts to every milder influence? Let us hope, more mutual forbearance, a more candid construction of each other's views and sentiments will prevail. No end can now be answered by the revival of party disputes. Our public and private affections are no longer at variance. That benevolence which embraces the world is now in perfect harmony with the tenderness that endears our country. Burying in oblivion, therefore, all national antipathies, together with those cruel jealousies and suspicions which have too much marred the pleasures of mutual intercourse, let our hearts correspond to the blessings we celebrate, and keep pace, as far as possible, with the movements of Divine beneficence.
(Robert Hall, M. A.)
Homilist.There are three methods at least adapted to crush this monster of war, and to banish it from the habitations of men. One is political, another is educational, and the other is Christian. The one pertains to the science of government, the other to the science of teaching, and the other to the science of remedial mercy. The first is good, the second is better, the third is best of all — it is infallible.
I. THY, POLITICAL METHOD. There is, I think, a form of human government adapted not only to arrest the progress of this demon, but to bind him in indissoluble chains. What is it? A cosmopolitan administration, a great federal government for the world, a government which shall bear, with some modification, the same relation to all the present kingdoms of the earth, as the Government of America to all the States with which it is united, or as the various counties and boroughs of England to the British rule. But how would such a world-wide government "cause wars to cease from the ends of the earth"?
1. It would promote free mercantile intercourse. Mutual temporal interests, if not strong enough to bind hearts in harmony, are strong enough to yoke limbs and brains together in a common work.
2. It would lead to the destruction of nationalities. Nationality is a "middle wall of partition" that keeps men asunder, and makes those on each side feel jealous and suspicious of the other. It is a false glass through which we look at other nations. A glass which magnifies their vices and minifies their virtues. Nationality is an insolent, swaggering, greedy, heartless monster on the earth.
3. It would lead to the abolition of the despotic power. Who are the men that create wars? Not the people — not the farmer, the manufacturer, not the mechanic, and the labourer; but the arrogant and ruthless despots who by villainy or fortune have gained their way to power. Such men would have but little power in a thoroughly cosmopolitan government.
II. THE EDUCATIONAL METHOD. What is this method? The indoctrinating of men with a true knowledge of their duty, their rights, and their interest. Whence is the knowledge of duty to be obtained? We have the revelation of an infallible ethical Teacher — One who was sent into the world by God to teach man his duty both to himself and his fellow-man.
1. Work into the people of the earth the conviction that all men are equal in the sight of God, that one man has rights as well as another, that each holds his being and his powers in trust from the Almighty, and must render to Him an account at last. And what then? Why then every man would respect his own individuality, employ his own individual talents, and work out his own individual beliefs, and despots would have to fight their own battles; men would no longer consent to be engines worked by tyrants.
2. Were men permeated with this true idea of their obligation to their fellow-men, could war exist a day? No. Men would feel that war was not only a curse to the community, destroying the Jives of men and the means of human support, creating misery in all directions, and entailing poverty on posterity, but also a huge crime before Almighty God.
3. War is a tremendous mistake, not only in morals, but in policy. In what does the interest of a nation consist? In the means of support, comfort, and education. On what do these depend? On the amount of a nation's skilled industry. Anything that checks productive industry is a national curse. War is the greatest adversary to the prosperity of a community; war is destruction, both of the produce and of the producing power.
III. THE CHRISTIAN METHOD. What is this method? The conquering of evil by good. This is something higher than ethics, Diviner than all mere human teaching. This is the essence of Christianity. Christianity is essentially pacific. This may be argued from the teachings of the New Testament, from the biography of Christ, which is Christianity, and from the fact that its universal triumph will issue in universal peace.
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