The Treasury of David
"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all you lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know that the Lord he is God: it is he who has made us—and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him—and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endures to all generations!"
Verse 1."Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all you lands." The original word signifies a glad shout, such as loyal subjects give when their king appears among them. Our happy God should be worshiped by a happy people; a cheerful spirit is in keeping with his nature, his acts, and the gratitude which we should cherish for his mercies. In every land Jehovah's goodness is seen, therefore in every land should he be praised. Never will the world be in its proper condition, until with one unanimous shout it adores the only God. O you nations, how long will you blindly reject him? Your golden age will never arrive until you with all your hearts revere him.
Verse 2."Serve the Lord with gladness." "Glad homage pay with solemn mirth." He is our Lord, and therefore he is to be served; he is our gracious Lord, and therefore to be served with joy. The invitation to worship here given is not a melancholy one, as though adoration were a funeral solemnity—but a cheery gladsome exhortation, as though we were bidden to a marriage feast.
"Come before his presence with singing." We ought in worship to realize the presence of God, and by an effort of the mind to approach him. This is an act which must to every rightly instructed heart be one of great solemnity—but at the same time it must not be performed in the servility of fear, and therefore we come before him, not with weepings and wailings—but with psalms and hymns. Singing, as it is a joyful, and at the same time a devout, exercise, should be a constant form of approach to God. The measured, harmonious, hearty utterance of praise by a congregation of really devout people is not merely decorous but delightful, and is a fit anticipation of the worship of heaven, where praise has absorbed prayer, and become the sole mode of adoration. How a certain society of brethren can find it in their hearts to forbid singing in public worship, is a riddle which we cannot solve. We feel inclined to say with Dr. Watts,
"Let those refuse to sing
Who never knew our God;
But favorites of the heavenly King
Must speak his praise abroad!"
Verse 3."Know that Lord he is God." Our worship must be intelligent. We ought to know whom we worship and why. "Man, know yourself," is a wise aphorism—yet to know our God is truer wisdom; and it is very questionable whether a man can know himself until he knows his God. Jehovah is God in the fullest, most absolute, and most exclusive sense. He is God alone; to know him in that character and prove our knowledge by obedience, trust, submission, zeal and love—is an attainment which only grace can bestow.
Only those who practically recognize his Godhead are at all likely to offer acceptable praise.
"It is he who has made us—and not we ourselves." Shall not the creature reverence its Maker? Some men live as if they made themselves; they call themselves "self-made men," and they adore the supposed creators! But Christians recognize the origin of their being and their well-being, and take no honor to themselves either for being, or for being what they are. Neither in our first or second creation—dare we put so much as a finger upon the glory, for it is the sole right and property of the Almighty. To disclaim honor for ourselves is as necessary a part of true reverence—as to ascribe glory to the Lord. "To YOU be the glory!" will forever remain the true believer's confession.
Of late philosophy has labored hard to prove that all things have been developed from atoms; or have, in other words, made themselves. For our part, we find it far more easy to believe that the Lord made us—than that we were developed by a long chain of natural selections from floating atoms which fashioned themselves!
"We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture." It is our honor to have been chosen from out of all the world, to be his own special people! It is our great privilege to be therefore guided by his wisdom, tended by his care, and fed by his bounty. Sheep gather around the shepherd and look up to him; in the same manner let us gather around our great Shepherd. The avowal of our relation to God is in itself praise; when we recount his goodness we are rendering to him the best adoration; our songs require none of the inventions of fictions, the bare facts are enough; the simple narration of the mercies of the Lord is more astonishing that the productions of imagination. That we are the sheep of his pasture is a plain truth, and at the same time the very essence of poetry.
Verse 4."Enter into his gates with thanksgiving." In all our public service, the rendering of thanks must abound; it is like the incense of the temple, which filled the whole house with smoke. Expiatory sacrifices are ended—but those of gratitude will never be out of date. So long as we are receivers of mercy—we must be givers of thanks. Mercy permits us to enter his gates; let us praise that mercy. What better subject for our thoughts in God's own house—than the Lord of the house.
"And into his courts with praise." Into whatever court of the Lord you may enter, let your admission be the subject of praise! Thanks be to God, the innermost court is now open to believers, and we enter into that which is within the veil; it is incumbent upon us that we acknowledge the high privilege by our songs.
"Be thankful unto him." Let the praise be in your heart—as well as on your tongue, and let it all be for him to whom it all belongs.
"And bless his name." He blessed you, bless him in return; bless his name, his character, his person. Whatever he does, be sure that you bless him for it. Bless him when he takes away—as well as when he gives; bless him as long as you live, under all circumstances; bless him in all his attributes, from whatever point of view you consider him.
Verse 5."For the Lord is good." This sums up his character and contains a mass of reasons for praise. He is good, gracious, kind, bountiful, loving; yes, God is love! He who does not praise our good God—is not good himself. The kind of praise inculcated in the psalm, namely, that of joy and gladness, is most fitly urged upon us by an argument from the goodness of God.
"His mercy is everlasting." God is not mere justice, stern and cold; he has affections of compassion, and wills not the sinner's death. Towards his own people, his mercy is still more conspicuously displayed; it has been theirs from all eternity, and shall be theirs world without end. Everlasting mercy is a glorious theme for sacred song.
"And his truth endures to all generations." No fickle being is he, promising and forgetting. He has entered into covenant with his people, and will never revoke it, nor alter anything which has gone out of his lips. As our fathers found him faithful, so will our sons, and their seed forever. A changeable God would be a terror to the righteous, they would have no sure anchorage; and amid a changing world they would be driven to and fro in perpetual fear of shipwreck. It were well if the truth of divine faithfulness were more fully remembered by some theologians; it would overturn their belief in the final fall of believers, and teach them a more consolatory system. Our heart leaps for joy as we bow before One who has never broken his word or changed his purpose.
Resting on his sure word, we feel that joy which is here commanded, and in the strength of it we come into his presence even now, and speak good of his name!