Treasury of David
TITLE. To the Chief Musician. Many songs were dedicated to this leader of the chorus, but he was not overloaded thereby. God's service is such delight that it cannot weary us; and that choicest part of it, the singing of his praises, is so pleasurable that we cannot have too much of it. Doubtless, the chief musician, as he was commissioned with so many sacred songs, felt that the more the merrier.
A Psalm for the Sons of Korah. We cannot agree with those who think that the sons of Korah were the authors of these Psalms; they have all the indications of David's authorship that one could expect to see. Our ear has grown accustomed to the ring of David's compositions, and we are morally certain that we hear it in this Psalm. Every expert would detect here the autography of the Son of Jesse, or we are greatly mistaken. The Sons of Korah sang these Psalms, but we believe they did not write them. Fit singers were they whose origin reminded them of sin, whose existence was a proof of sovereign grace, and whose name has a close connection with the name of Calvary.
SUBJECT. Whether the immediate subject of this Psalm be the carrying up of the ark from the house of Obed-Edom to Mount Zion, or the celebration of some memorable victory, it would be hard to decide. As even the doctors differ, who should dogmatize? But it is very clear that both the present sovereignty of Jehovah, and the final victories of our Lord, are here fitly hymned—while his ascension, as the prophecy of them, is sweetly gloried in.
DIVISION. In so short a Psalm, there is no need of any other division than that indicated by the musical pause at the end of Verses 4.
Verse 1. O clap your hands. The most natural and most enthusiastic tokens of exultation are to be used in view of the victories of the Lord, and his universal reign. Our joy in God may be demonstrative, and yet he will not censure it.
All you people. The joy is to extend to all nations. Israel may lead the van, but all the Gentiles are to follow in the march of triumph, for they have an equal share in that kingdom where there is neither Greek nor Jew, but Christ is all and in all. Even now if they did but know it, it is the best hope of all nations that Jehovah rules over them. If they cannot all speak the same tongue, the symbolic language of the hands they can all use.
All people will be ruled by the Lord in the latter days, and all will exult in that rule; were they wise they would submit to it now, and rejoice to do so; yes, they would clap their hands in rapture at the thought.
Shout, let your voices keep tune with your hands. Unto God, let him have all the honors of the day, and let them be loud, joyous, universal, and undivided. With the voice of triumph, with happy sounds, consonant with such splendid victories, so great a King, so excellent a rule, and such happy subjects. Many are human languages, and yet the nations may triumph as with one voice.
Faith's view of God's government is full of transport. The prospect of the universal reign of the Prince of Peace is enough to make the tongue of the dumb sing; what will the reality be?
Verse 2. For the Lord, or JEHOVAH, the self-existent and only God.
Most high, most great in power, lofty in dominion, eminent in wisdom, elevated in glory.
Is awesome, none can resist his power or stand before his vengeance; yet as these terrors are wielded on the behalf of his subjects, they are fit reasons for rejoicing. Omnipotence, which is mighty to crush, is almighty to protect.
At a grand review of the troops of a great prince, all his loyal subjects are filled with triumph, because their awesome lord is so able to defend his own, and so much dreaded by his foes.
He is a great King over all the earth. Not over Judea only, but even to the utmost isles his reign extends. Our God is no local deity, no petty ruler of a tribe. In infinite majesty he rules the mightiest realm as absolute arbiter of destiny, sole monarch of all lands, King of kings, and Lord of lords. Not a hamlet or an islet is excluded from his dominion. How glorious will that era be when this is seen and known of all; when in the person of Jesus all flesh shall behold the glory of the Lord!
Verse 3. He, with whom is infinite power.
Shall subdue the people under us. The battle is not ours but the Lord's. He will take his own time, but he will certainly achieve victory for his church. Truth and righteousness shall through grace climb to the ascendant. We wage no doubtful warfare. Hearts the most rebellious, and wills the most stubborn, shall submit to all-conquering grace. All the Lord's people, whether Jews or Gentiles, may clap their hands at this, for God's victory will be theirs; but surely apostles, prophets, ministers, and those who suffer and labor the most, may take the largest share in the joy. Idolatry, infidelity, superstition, we shall yet tread upon, as men tread down the mire of the street.
And the nations under our feet. The church of God shall be the greatest of monarchies, her victory shall be signal and decisive. Christ shall take to himself his great power and reign, and all the tribes of men shall own at once his glory and the glory of his people in him.
How changed will be the position of affairs in coming ages! The people of God have been under the feet of men in long and cruel persecutions, and in daily contempt; but God will reverse the position, and the best in character shall be first in honor.
Verse 4. He shall choose our inheritance for us. While as yet we see not all things put under him, we are glad to put ourselves and our fortunes at his disposal. We feel his reign to be so gracious that we even now ask to be in the fullest degree the subjects of it. We submit our will, our choice, our desire, wholly to him. Our heritage here and hereafter we leave to him, let him do with us as seems him good.
The excellency of Jacob whom he loved. He gave his ancient people their portion, he will give us ours, and we ask nothing better; this is the most spiritual and real manner of clapping our hands because of his sovereignty—namely, to leave all our affairs in his hands, for then our hands are empty of all care for self, and free to be used in his honor.
He was the boast and glory of Israel, he is and shall be ours. He loved his people and became their greatest glory; he loves us, and he shall be our exceeding joy.
As for the latter days, we ask nothing better than to stand in our appointed lot, for if we have but a portion in our Lord Jesus, it is enough for our largest desires. Our beauty, our boast, our best treasure, lies in having such a God to trust in, such a God to love us.
Selah. Yes, pause, you faithful songsters. Here is abundant room for holy meditation:
"Muse awhile, obedient thought,
Lo, the theme's with rapture fraught;
See your King, whose realm extends
Even to earth's remotest ends.
Gladly shall the nations own
Him their God and Lord alone;
Clap their hands with holy mirth,
Hail him Monarch of the Earth.
Come, my soul, before him bow,
Gladdest of his subjects you;
Leave your portion to his choice,
In his sovereign will rejoice,
This your purest, deepest bliss,
He is your and you are his."
Verse 5. God has gone up with a shout. Faith hears the people already shouting. The command of the first verse is here regarded as a fact. The fight is over, the conqueror ascends to his triumphant chariot, and rides up to the gates of the city which is made resplendent with the joy of his return.
The words are fully applicable to the ascension of the Redeemer. We doubt not that angels and glorified spirits welcomed him with acclamations. He came not without song, shall we imagine that he returned in silence?
The Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Jesus is Jehovah. The joyful strain of the trumpet betokens the splendor of his triumph. It was fit to welcome one returning from the wars with martial music. Fresh from Bozrah, with his garments all red from the winepress, he ascended, leading captivity captive, and well might the clarion ring out the tidings of Immanuel's victorious return.
Verse 6. Sing praises. What jubilation is here, when five times over the whole earth is called upon to sing to God! He is worthy, he is Creator, he is goodness itself.
Sing praises, keep on with the glad work. Never let the music pause. He never ceases to be good, let us never cease to be grateful. Strange that we should need so much urging to attend to so heavenly an exercise.
Sing praises unto our King. Let him have all our praise; no one ought to have even a particle of it. Jesus shall have it all. Let his sovereignty be the fount of gladness. It is a sublime attribute, but full of bliss to the faithful. Let our homage be paid not in groans, but in songs. He asks not slaves to grace his throne; he is no despot; singing is fit homage for a monarch so blessed and gracious. Let all hearts that own his scepter sing and sing on forever, for there is everlasting reason for thanksgiving while we dwell under the shadow of such a throne.
Verse 7. For God is the King of all the earth. The Jews of our Savior's time resented this truth, but had their hearts been right they would have rejoiced in it. They would have kept their God to themselves, and not even have allowed the Gentile dogs to eat the crumbs from under his table. Alas! how selfishness turns honey into wormwood. Jehovah is not the God of the Jews only, all the nations of the earth are, through the Messiah—yet to own him Lord. Meanwhile his providential throne governs all events beneath the sky.
Sing praises with understanding. Sing a didactic Psalm. Sound doctrine praises God. Even under the economy of types and ceremonies, it is clear that the Lord had regard to the spirituality of worship, and would be praised thoughtfully, intelligently, and with deep appreciation of the reason for song.
It is to be feared from the slovenly way in which some make a noise in singing, that they imagine any sound will do. On the other hand, from the great attention paid by some to the mere music, we feel sadly sure that the meaning has no effect upon them. Is it not a sin to be tickling men's ears with sounds when we profess to be adoring the Lord? What has a sensuous delight in organs, anthems, etc., to do with devotion? Do not men mistake physical effects for spiritual impulses? Do they not often offer to God strains far more calculated for human amusement, than for divine acceptance? An understanding enlightened of the Holy Spirit is then and then only fully capable of offering worthy praise.
Verse 8. God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne. Now at this moment, over the most debased idolaters, God holds a secret rule; here is work for faith. How we ought to long for the day when this truth shall be changed in its aspect, and the rule now unrecognized shall be delighted in! The great truth that God reigns in providence is the guarantee that in a gracious gospel sense his promises shall be fulfilled, and his kingdom shall come.
God is seated on his holy throne. Unmoved he occupies an undisputed throne, whose decrees, acts, and commands are holiness itself. What other throne is like this? Never was it stained with injustice, or defiled with sin. Neither is he who sits upon it dismayed, or in a dilemma. He sits in serenity, for he knows his own power, and sees that his purposes will not miscarry. Here is reason enough for holy song.
Verse 9. The princes of the people are gathered together. The prophetic eye of the psalmist sees the willing subjects of the great King assembled to celebrate his glory. Not only the poor and the men of low estate are there, but nobles bow their willing necks to his sway. "All kings shall bow down before him." No people shall be unrepresented; their great men shall be godly men, their royal ones regenerate ones. How august will be the parliament where the Lord Jesus shall open the court, and princes shall rise up to do him honor!
Even the people of the God of Abraham. That same God, who was known only to here and there a patriarch like the father of the faithful, shall be adored by a seed as many as the stars of Heaven. The covenant promise shall be fulfilled, "In you and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." Shiloh shall come, and "to him shall the gathering of the people be." Babel's dispersion shall be obliterated by the gathering arm of the Great Shepherd King.
For the shields of the earth belong unto God. The insignia of pomp, the emblems of rank, the weapons of war—all must pay loyal homage to the King of all. Right honorables must honor Jesus, and majesties must own him to be far more majestic. Those who are earth's protectors, the shields of the commonwealth, derive their might from him, and are his. All principalities and powers must be subject unto Jehovah and his Christ, for He is greatly exalted. In nature, in power, in character, in glory, there is none to compare with him.
Oh, glorious vision of a coming era! Make haste, O wheels of time! Meanwhile, O saints, "Be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."