God presides in the divine assembly; He renders judgment among the gods:
We have here a vivid picture of the corruption of men, supposed to be, and who should have been, the best in Israel. It refers to the judges, and tells them how judges are judged (Acts 23:3
). And it may be applied to all misuse of power or abuse of trust, where, when, or howsoever any may be guilty thereof. This short psalm tells much concerning -
I. THE DIVINE ESTIMATE OF NATIONS SUCH AS ISRAEL. They are "the congregation of God." This is the true rendering (cf. Numbers 27:17; Numbers 31:16; Joshua 22:16, 17). Israel is no mere fortuitous concourse of individuals, but a chosen people, a congregation of God. They belong to him, are cared for by him; God dwells in, their midst, takes his place - "standeth" - among them. Such nations are really theocracies, no matter what form of earthly government may exist. This name for nations, "the congregation of God," likely, if recognized, to be of salutary power. To the nation itself it will give self-respect, and tend to righteousness. To its governors, a sense of responsibility, and a holy fear lest they abuse their high office.
II. THE DIVINE METHOD OF RULE. By means of vicegerents, who should derive their authority from God, and who should embody in themselves the majesty of law, and in whom men would look to find the most perfect earthly pattern of Divine attributes of truth, and justice, and mercy, and impartiality. The name "gods" is therefore applied to the judges (see also ver. 6, and Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8, 28; Exodus 4:16; Perowne). And men are ever on the look out for such; and that form of government is best by which such men are most surely placed in power, and men of an opposite character most surely excluded. And to better ensure such rulership is the intent of the reminder that God himself will judge the judge. Nevertheless, we are shown next -
III. MAN'S FRUSTRATION OF GOD'S PURPOSE. (Ver. 2.) This has been a crying evil, not in Israel alone, but wherever God has been unknown or forgotten. The proper duty of the judge is declared in vers. 3, 4; but this they have been tar enough from remembering or practising.
IV. THE CAUSES OF SUCH WRONG.
1. Moral blindness. "They know not."
2. They care not to acquaint themselves with the Law of God. What little they do know they understand not, and they harden themselves in their sin by their "walking in darkness," their habitual practice of evil. There are ever the downward steps in wrong. Then we are shown -
V. THE TERRIBLE CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR SIN.
1. To society generally. "All the foundations of the earth are out of course." That is, there is a general breakup of all civil order; anarchy and confusion inevitably ensue. It does not need the Bible to show how exceedingly bitter and evil a thing sin is. The facts of history and the observation of God's providence make that clear enough.
2. To the wrong doers themselves. They had been greatly exalted; they had been regarded, in virtue of their sacred office, as "gods," as "sons of the Most High;" but by their abuse of their trust they should be hurled down as other evil men, and fall low like as they bad seen so many evil princes fall And this not in the natural course of events, but as the result of the awful judgment of God.
CONCLUSION. From all the injustices of earth we may turn to God (ver. 7), and appeal to his judgment. For - blessed be his Name! - we are the inheritance, the real possession, not of ungodly men, but of God. Our true Judge is the true "Son of the Most High" (John 10:34-38). - S.C.
Blow up the trumpet in the new moon.
The savage and the child of civilization are alike in this, that they both draw their notions of time, and measure its lapse, by the movements of the heavenly bodies, thus fulfilling the primaeval prophecy that the sun, moon and stars should be for ever the means of marking time. The easiest of measures, and the one which would make the deepest impression on man's mind, would be the circle of the moon's changes — the thin crescent, the half-circle, and the full orb. Next would be marked the course of the sun. This is most to be observed when the sun sets behind some cliff or precipitous range of rocks, and after a certain anniversary begins to daily sink behind the horizon beyond that point. The idea of a regular year would, when once suggested by the heavenly bodies, be aided in many lands by the altered appearance of summer and winter, and thus the prehistoric races found themselves supplied with sufficient chronology for their simple needs. But amongst those nations where the higher instincts of religion were felt there was a need for measuring the recurring periods of religious festivals. The Jewish people strictly observed the weekly festival of the Sabbath, which, by its very peculiarity of dividing time by seven days, seems to point at once to its Divine origin. But in keeping other festivals they were guided by a more complicated system to fix the feast of the Passover in connection with the Paschal Moon; and the other feasts, such as Pentecost, and that of Tabernacles, had a certain relation to the harvest season. In addition to these great feasts, it was ordained that sacrifices and offerings should be made in the Temple on the occasion of each new moon. It was also usual to summon worshippers to remember this duty by the sound of the silver trumpets echoing through the air, and blown by the sons of Aaron. In addition to the festivals observed at each new moon, there was a special day of solemn observation called the Feast of Trumpets, on the first new moon of the first month of the year — in fact, on what answered to our New Year's Day. This day was fixed with the Jews in September, and with the mediaeval Christians it was observed on the 25th of March, and by modern usage on the 1st of January. It is of little importance on what particular day the year begins. The essence of the matter is that we are entering on a new cycle of days — on a new course of the earth's journeying round its great central sun; that another milestone on the road of life is passed; that another division of our mortal existence is entered on. The words of the text seem to call on the Priesthood of the magnificent Temple of Solomon to take up their trumpets and rouse the people to the great duties of offering sacrifice and acknowledging God. There is no other instrument of music that has such a wonderful power of rousing and exhilarating the soul as the trumpet. Its shrill, wild, exulting tones have ever been valued in martial music, and that person's feelings must indeed be cold and stagnant whose enthusiasm is not awakened by the clarion's sound. When the trumpet sounds the warrior ought to prepare himself for war. The imagery of the Christian conflict has lost its power by familiar usage, but it represents a great truth — the reality and force of temptation. Each new year will bring its temptations and difficulties. We should prepare to meet them by fresh resolves and more earnest prayers.
The Jews thought a good deal of the new moon. When it first appeared they took note of it at once. Indeed, six times in the year they attached such importance to the appearance of the new moon that if any one saw it, and thought he was among the first to see it, he was expected to go to Jerusalem at once and state the fact to the Sanhedrim, who sat in the "Hall of Polished Stones "to receive the information. Those who went were carefully examined and cross-examined. If they had only seen the moon through a cloud, or anything like glass, or had only seen it reflected in water, their testimony could not be accepted. It was necessary that they should see it directly and clearly in the heavens above them. If no one saw the moon before the thirtieth day there was no special note taken of the fact, because they generally reckoned the month to be thirty days long, but if the new moon appeared on the 29th day of the month, special notice was taken of it, and a fire was lit upon the summit of Mount Olivet; then men who were on the watch on other summits kindled their fires, too, in order to show that they had noted the signal, and also in order to give the signal to those on other mountain tops; and thus from one end of the land to the other it was soon known that the new moon bad appeared before the thirtieth day. The Jews rejoiced exceedingly at the appearance of every new moon. It was a new beginning, and the Jews attached a great deal of importance to beginnings — the first fruits of the harvest, the oldest child in the family, etc. They consecrated the first of everything to God, and by so doing they felt they were consecrating all the rest. The first sheaves of harvest were consecrated for the whole harvest. They gave the first to God as aa acknowledgment of His right to all the rest. And so with regard to the months, they consecrated each month to God, by specially consecrating the first day of the month. Now, we may well follow their example in presenting the first of everything to God. I should like you to feel that you ought to give the beginning of your life to God as the Jews gave the first day of every month specially to Him. It is wonderful what is done by giving the beginning: so much depends upon how we begin. If every little boy here would give his heart to the Lord Jesus just now at the beginning of life, oh, what a blessing it would be!
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