Treasury of David
This Psalm is evidently taken from that sacred song which was composed by David at the time when "the ark of God was set in the midst of the tent which David had prepared for it, and they offered burnt sacrifices and peace offerings before God." See the sixteenth chapter of the first book of the Chronicles. The former part of that sacred song was probably omitted in this place because it referred to Israel, and the design of the Holy Spirit in this psalm was to give forth a song for the Gentiles, a triumphant hymn with which to celebrate the conversion of the nations to Jehovah in gospel times. It follows fitly upon the last Psalm, which describes the obstinacy of Israel, and the consequent taking of the gospel from them that it might be preached among the nations who would receive it, and in due time be fully won to Christ by its power. It thus makes a pair with the Ninety-fifth Psalm. It is a grand MISSIONARY HYMN, and it is a wonder that Jews can read it and yet remain exclusive.
If blindness in part had not happened unto Israel, they might have seen long ago, and would now see, that their God always had designs of love for all the families of men, and never intended that his grace and his covenant should relate only to the seed of Abraham after the flesh. We do not wonder that the large hearted David rejoiced and danced before the ark, while he saw in vision all the earth turning from idols to the one living and true God. Had Michal, Saul's daughter, only been able to enter into his delight, she would not have reproached him, and if the Jews at this day could only be enlarged in heart to feel sympathy with all mankind, they also would sing for joy at the great prophecy that all the earth shall be fitted with the glory of the Lord.
DIVISION. We will make none, for the song is one and indivisible, a garment of praise without seam, woven from the top throughout.
Verse 1. O sing unto the Lord a new song.
New joys are filling the hearts of men, for the glad tidings of blessing to all people are proclaimed, therefore let them sing a new song. Angels inaugurated the new dispensation with new songs, and shall not we take up the strain?
The song is for Jehovah alone, the hymns which chanted the praises of Jupiter and Neptune, Vishnoo and Siva are hushed forever; Bacchanalian shouts are silenced, lascivious sonnets are no more. Unto the one only God all music is to be dedicated. Mourning is over, and the time of singing of hearts has come. No dismal rites are celebrated, no bloody sacrifices of human beings are presented, no cutting with knives, and outcries of lamentation are presented by deluded votaries. Joy is in the ascendant, and singing has become the universal expression of love, the fitting voice of reverent adoration. Men are made new creatures, and their song is new also. The names of Baalim are no more on their lips, the wanton music of Ashtareth ceases; the foolish ditty and the cruel war song are alike forgotten; the song is holy, heavenly, pure, and pleasant. The psalmist speaks as if he would lead the strain and be the chief musician—he invites, he incites, he persuades to sacred worship, and cries with all his heart, "O sing unto Jehovah a new song."
Sing unto the Lord, all the earth.
National jealousies are dead; a Jew invites the Gentiles to adore, and joins with them, so that all the earth may lift up one common psalm as with one heart and voice unto Jehovah, who has visited it with his salvation. No corner of the world is to be discordant, no race of heathen to be silent. All the earth Jehovah made, and all the earth must sing to him. As the sun shines on all lands, so are all lands to delight in the light of the Sun of Righteousness. Out of many, one song shall come forth. The multitudinous languages of the sons of Adam, who were scattered at Babel, will blend in the same song when the people are gathered at Zion.
Not men alone—but the earth itself is to praise its Maker. Made subject to vanity for a while by a sad necessity, the creation itself also is to be delivered from the bondage of corruption, and brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God, so that sea and forest, field and flood, are to be joyful before the Lord. Is this a dream? then let us dream again. Blessed are the eyes which shall see the kingdom, and the ears which shall hear its songs. Hasten your advent, good Lord! Yes, send forth speedily the rod of your strength out of Zion, that the nations may bow before the Lord and his Anointed.
Verse 2. Sing unto the Lord, bless his name.
Thrice is the name of the Lord repeated, and not without meaning. Is it not unto the Three One Lord that the enlightened nations will sing? Unitarianism is too cold to warm the world to worship; the sacred fire of adoration only burns with vehement flame where the Trinity is believed in and beloved. In other ways beside singing, the blessed Lord is to be blessed. His name, his fame, his character, his revealed word and will are to be delighted in, and remembered with perpetual thanksgiving. We may well bless him who so divinely blesses us. At the very mention of his name it is fit to say, "Let him be blessed forever."
Show forth his salvation from day to day.
The gospel is the clearest revelation of himself. Salvation outshines creation and providence; therefore let our praises overflow in that direction. Let us proclaim the glad tidings, and do so continually, never ceasing the blissful testimony. It is ever new, ever suitable, ever sure, ever perfect; therefore let us show it forth continually until he comes, both by words and deeds, by songs and sermons, by sacred Baptism and by the Holy Supper, by books and by speech, by Sabbath services and weekday worship.
Each day brings us deeper experience of our saving God, each day shows us anew how deeply men need his salvation, each day reveals the power of the gospel, each day the Spirit strives with the sons of men. Therefore, never pausing, be it ours to tell out the glorious message of free grace. Let those do this who know for themselves what his salvation means; they can bear witness that there is salvation in none other, and that in him salvation to the uttermost is to be found. Let them show it forth until the echo flies around the spacious earth, and all the armies of the sky unite to magnify the God who has displayed his saving grace among all people.
Verse 3. Declare his glory among the heathen.
His salvation is his glory, the word of the gospel glorifies him; and this should be published far and wide, until the remotest nations of the earth have known it. England has spent much blood and treasure to keep up her own prestige among barbarians; when will she be equally anxious to maintain the honor of her religion, the glory of her Lord? It is to be feared that too often the name of the Lord Jesus has been dishonored among the heathen by the vices and cruelties of those who call themselves Christians. May this fact excite true believers to greater diligence in causing the gospel to be proclaimed as with a trumpet in all quarters of the habitable globe.
His wonders among all people.
The gospel is a mass of wonders, its history is full of wonders, and it is in itself far more marvelous than miracles themselves. In the person of his Son the Lord has displayed wonders of love, wisdom, grace, and power. All glory be unto his name; who can refuse to tell out the story of redeeming grace and dying love? All the nations need to hear of God's marvelous works; and a really living, self denying church would solemnly resolve that right speedily they fill shall hear thereof. The tribes which are dying out are not to be excluded from gospel teaching any more than the great growing families which, like the fat cows of Pharaoh, are eating up other races. Red Indians as well as Anglo Saxons are to hear of the wonders of redeeming love. None are too degraded, none too cultured, none too savage, and none too refined.
Verse 4. For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised.
He is no petty deity, presiding, as the heathen imagined their gods to do, over someone nation, or one department of nature. Jehovah is great in power and dominion, great in mind and act; nothing mean or narrow can be found in him or his acts, in all things he is infinite. Praise should be proportionate to its object, therefore let it be infinite when rendered unto the Lord. We cannot praise him too much, too often, too zealously, too carefully, too joyfully. He deserves that nothing in his worship should be little—but all the honor rendered unto him should be given in largeness of heart, with the utmost zeal for his glory.
He is to be feared above all gods.
Other gods have been worshiped at great cost, and with much fervor, by their blinded rotaries—but Jehovah should be adored with far greater reverence. Even if the graven images had been gods, they could not have borne comparison for an instant with the God of Israel, and therefore his worship, should be far more zealous than any which has been rendered to them.
He is to be feared, for there is cause to fear. Dread of other gods is mere superstition—awe of the Lord is pure religion. Holy fear is the beginning of the graces, and yet it is the accompaniment of their highest range. Fear of God is the blush upon the face of holiness, enhancing its beauty.
Verse 5. For all the gods of the nations are idols.
Mere images of wood and stone, vanities, nothings.
But the Lord made the heavens.
The reality of his Godhead is proved by his works, and foremost among these the psalmist mentions that matchless piece of architecture which casts its arch over every man's head, whose lamps are the light of all mankind, whose rains and dew fall upon the fields of every people, and whence the Lord in voice of thunder is heard speaking to every creature.
The idol gods have no existence—but our God is the author of all existences. They are mere earthly vanities, while he is not only heavenly—but made the heavens. This is mentioned as an argument for Jehovah's universal praise. Who can be worshiped but he? Since none can rival him, let him be adored alone.
Verse 6. Honor and majesty are before him.
Men can but mimic these things; their pompous pageants are but the pretense of greatness. Honor and majesty are with him and with him alone. In the presence of Jehovah real glory and sovereignty abide, as constant attendants.
Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
In him are combined all that is mighty and lovely, powerful and resplendent. We have seen rugged strength devoid of beauty, we have also seen elegance without strength; the union of the two is greatly to be admired. Do we desire to see the "sublime and beautiful" at one glance? Then we must look to the eternal throne.
In the Chronicles we read strength and gladness; and the two renderings do not disagree in sense, for in the highest degree in this instance it is true that "a thing of beauty is a joy forever." Not in outward show or parade of costly robes does the glory of God consist; such things are tricks of state with which the ignorant are dazzled. Holiness, justice, wisdom, grace, these are the splendors of Jehovah's courts, these the jewels and the gold, the regalia, and the pomp of the courts of Heaven.
Verse 7. The first six verses commenced with an exhortation to sing, three times repeated, with the name of the Lord thrice mentioned; here we meet with the expression, Give unto the Lord, used in the same triple manner. This is after the manner of those poets whose flaming sonnets have best won the ear of the people, they reiterate choice words until they penetrate the soul and fire the heart.
The invocation of the sweet singer is still addressed to all mankind, to whom he speaks as, You kindreds of the people. Divided into tribes and families, we are called in our courses and order to appear before him and ascribe to him all honor. "All worship be to God only," is the motto of one of our City companies, and it may well be the motto of all the families upon earth. Family worship is peculiarly pleasing unto him who is the God of all the families of Israel.
Give unto the LORD glory and strength.
That is to say, recognize the glory and power of Jehovah, and ascribe them unto him in your solemn hymns. Who is glorious but the Lord? Who is strong, save our God?
You great nations who count yourselves both famous and mighty, cease your boastings! You monarchs, who are styled imperial and omnipotent, humble yourselves in the dust before the only Potentate. Glory and strength are nowhere to be found, save with the Lord, all others possess but the semblance thereof. Well did Massilion declare, "God alone is great!"
Verse 8. Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name.
But who can do that to the full? Can all the nations of the earth put together discharge the mighty debt? All conceivable honor is due to our Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, and Redeemer. However much of zealous homage we may offer to him, we cannot give him more than his due. If we cannot bring in the full revenue which he justly claims, at least let us not fail from want of honest endeavor.
Bring an offering, and come into his courts.
Come with an unbloody sacrifice; atonement for sin having been made, it only remains to bring thank offerings, and let not these be forgotten. To him who gives us all, we ought gladly to give our grateful tithe. When assembling for public worship we should make a point of bringing with us a contribution to his cause, according to that ancient word, "None of you shall appear before me empty." The time will come when from all ranks and nations the Lord will receive gifts when they gather together for his worship. O long expected day begin!
Verse 9. O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
This is the only beauty which he cares for in our public services, and it is one for which no other can compensate. Beauty of architecture and apparel he does not regard; moral and spiritual beauty is that in which his soul delights. Worship must not be rendered to God in a slovenly, sinful, superficial manner; we must be reverent, sincere, earnest, and pure in heart both in our prayers and praises. Purity is the white linen of the Lord's choristers. Righteousness is the lovely garment of his priests. Holiness is the royal apparel of his servants.
Fear before him, all the earth.
"Tremble" is the word in the original, and it expresses the profoundest awe, just as the word "worship" does, which would be more accurately translated by "bow down." Even the bodily frame would be moved to trembling and prostration if men were thoroughly conscious of the power and glory of Jehovah. Men of the world ridiculed "the Quakers" for trembling when under the power of the Holy Spirit; had they been able to discern the majesty of the Eternal they would have quaked also. There is a sacred trembling which is quite consistent with joy, the heart may even quiver with a solemn excess of delight. The sight of the King in his beauty caused no alarm to John in Patmos, and yet it made him fall at his feet as dead. Oh, to behold him and worship him with prostrate awe and sacred fear!
Verse 10. Say among the heathen that the LORD reigns.
This is the gladdest news which can be carried to them—the Lord Jehovah, in the person of his Son has assumed the throne, and taken to himself his great power. Tell this out among the heathen, and let the heathen themselves, being converted, repeat the same rejoicing. The dominion of Jehovah Jesus is not irksome, his rule is fraught with untold blessings, his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.
The world also shall be established that it shall not be moved.
Society is safe where God is king, no revolutions shall convulse his empire, no invasions shall disturb his kingdom. A settled government is essential to national prosperity, the reign of the God of truth and righteousness will promote this to the highest degree. Sin has shaken the world, the reign of Jesus will set it fast again upon sure foundations.
He shall judge the people righteously.
This is the best method for establishing society on a secure basis, and this is the greatest source of joy to oppressed nations. Iniquity makes the dynasties of tyrants fall, equity causes the throne of Jesus to stand. He will impartially rule over Jew and Gentile, prince and peasant, and this will bring happiness to those who are now the victims of the despot's arbitrary will.
Verse 11. Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad.
Above and below let the joy be manifested. Let the angels who have stood in amaze at the wickedness of men, now rejoice over their repentance and restoration to favor, and let men themselves express their pleasure in seeing their true prince set upon his throne. The book of creation has two covers—heavens and earth; and on each of these let the glory of the Lord be emblazoned in letters of joy.
Let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof.
Let it be no more a troubled sea, wailing over shipwrecked mariners, and rehearsing the griefs of widows and orphans—but let it adopt a cheerful note, and rejoice in the kingdom of the Lord. Let it thunder out the name of the Lord when its tides are at its full, and let all its teeming life express the utmost joy because the Lord reigns even in the depth of the sea. In common with the rest of the creation, the sea has groaned and travailed until now; is not the time close at hand in which its hollow murmur shall be exchanged for an outburst of joy? Will not every billow soon flash forth the praises of him who once trod the sea?
Verse 12. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein.
Let the cultivated plains praise the Lord. Peace enables their owners to plough and sow and reap, without fear of the rapine of invaders, and therefore in glad notes they applaud him whose empire is peace.
Both men, and creatures that graze the plain, and the crops themselves are represented as swelling the praises of Jehovah, and the figure is both bold and warranted, for the day shall come when every inhabited foot of ground shall yield its song, and every farmstead shall contain a church.
Then shall all the trees of the forest rejoice.
He does not say, let them rejoice—but they shall do so. The faith of the psalmist turns itself from the expression of desire, to the fully assured prediction of the event. Groves have in old times stood shuddering at the horrid orgies which have been performed within their shade, the time shall come when they shall sing for joy because of the holy worship, the sounds of which they shall hear. The bush is the stronghold of savage men and robbers—but it shall be sanctified to retirement and devotion. Perhaps the psalmist was thinking of the birds; so Keble must have supposed, for he versifies the passage thus—
"Field exults and meadow fair,
With each bud and blossom there,
In the lonely woodlands now
Chants aloud each rusting bough."
Verse 13. They sing before the LORD, for he comes.
Even now he is near, his advent should, therefore, be the cause of immediate rejoicing: already are we in his presence, let us worship him with delight.
For he comes to judge the earth.
To rule it with discretion; not to tax it, and control it by force, as kings often do—but to preside as magistrates do whose business it is to see justice carried out between man and man. All the world will be under the jurisdiction of this great Judge, and before his bar all will be summoned to appear.
At this moment he is on the road, and the hour of his coming draws near. His great assize is proclaimed. Hear you not the trumpets? His foot is on the threshold.
He shall judge the world with righteousness.
His essential rectitude will determine all causes and cases, there will be no bribery and corruption there, neither can error or failure be found in his decisions.
And the peoples with his truth.
Or rather "the nations in faithfulness." Honesty, veracity, integrity, will rule upon his judgment seat. No nation shall be favored there, and none be made to suffer through prejudice. The black man shall be tried by the same law as his white master, the aboriginal shall have justice executed for him against his civilized exterminator, the crushed and hunted Bushman shall have space to appeal against the Boer who slaughtered his tribe, and the South Sea Islander shall gain attention to his piteous complaint against the treacherous wretch who kidnapped him from his home. There shall be true judgment given without fear or favor. In all this let the nations be glad, and the universe rejoice.
In closing, let us ourselves join in the song. Since the whole universe is to be clothed with smiles, shall not we be glad? As John Howe observes, "Shall we not partake in this common dutiful joy, and fall into concert with the adoring loyal chorus? Will we cut ourselves off from this happy throng? And what should put a pleasant face and aspect upon the whole world—shall it only leave our faces covered with clouds, and a mournful sadness?"