Treasury of David
TITLE. There is no title to this psalm—but it is an alphabetical hymn of praise, having for its subject the works of the Lord in creation, providence, and grace.
The sweet singer dwells upon the one idea that God should be known by his people, and that this knowledge when turned into practical piety is man's true wisdom, and the certain cause of lasting adoration.
Many are ignorant of what their Creator has done, and hence they are foolish in heart, and silent as to the praises of God: this evil can only be removed by a remembrance of God's works, and a diligent study of them; to this, therefore, the psalm is meant to arouse us. It may be called: "The Psalm of God's Works" intended to excite us to the work of praise.
DIVISION. The psalmist begins with an invitation to praise, Verse 1;
and then proceeds to furnish us with matter for adoration in God's works and his dealings with his people, Verses 2-9.
He closes his song with a commendation of the worship of the Lord, and of the men who practice it.
Verse 1. Praise the LORD!
Or, Hallelujah! All you his saints unite in adoring Jehovah, who works so gloriously. Do it now, do it always, do it heartily, do it unanimously, do it eternally. Even if others refuse, take care that you have always a song for your God. Put away all doubt, question, murmuring, and rebellion, and give yourselves up to the praising of Jehovah, both with your lips and in your lives.
I will praise the Lord with my whole heart.
The sweet singer commences the song, for his heart is all on flame. Whether others will follow him or not, he will at once begin and long continue. What we preach we should practice. The best way to enforce an exhortation is to set an example. But we must let that example be of the best kind, or we may lead others to do the work in a limping manner. David brought nothing less than his whole heart to the duty; all his love went out towards God, and all his zeal, his skill, and his ardor went with it.
Jehovah the one and undivided God cannot be acceptably praised with a divided heart, neither should we attempt so to dishonor him; for our whole heart is little enough for his glory, and there can be no reason why it should not all be lifted up in his praise. All his works are praiseworthy, and therefore all our nature should adore him.
In the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation.
Whether with few or with many he would pour forth his whole heart and soul in praise, and whether the company was made up of select spirits or of the general mass of the people he would continue in the same exercise. For the choicest society there can be no better engagement than praise, and for the general assembly nothing can be more fitting.
For the church and for the congregation, for the family or the community, for the private chamber of pious friendship, or the great hall of popular meeting, the praise of the Lord is suitable; and at the very least the true heart should sing hallelujah in any and every place.
Why should we fear the presence of men? The best of men will join us in our song, and if the common sort, will not do so, our example will be a needed rebuke to them. In any case let us praise God, whether the hearers be a little band of saints or a mixed multitude. Come, dear reader, he who pens this comment is in his heart magnifying the Lord—will you not pause for a moment and join in the delightful exercise?
Verse 2. The works of the LORD are great.
In design, in size, in number, in excellence, all the works of the Lord are great. Even the little things of God are great. In some point of view or other each one of the productions of his power, or the deeds of his wisdom, will appear to be great to the wise in heart.
Sought out by all those who have pleasure therein.
Those who love their Maker delight in his handiwork, they perceive that there is more in them than appears upon the surface, and therefore they bend their minds to study and understand them.
The devout naturalist ransacks nature, the earnest student of history pries into hidden facts and dark stories, and the man of God digs into the mines of Scripture, and hoards up each grain of its golden truth.
God's works are worthy of our researches, they yield us instruction and pleasure wonderfully blended, and they grow upon us, appearing to be far greater, after investigation than before.
Men's works are noble from a distance; God's works are great when sought out. Delitzsch reads the passage, "Worthy of being sought after in all their purposes," and this also is a grand truth, for the end and design which God has in all that he makes or does is equally admirable with the work itself. The hidden wisdom of God is the most marvelous part of his works, and hence those who do not look below the surface miss the best part of what he would teach us. Because the works are great they cannot be seen all at once—but must be looked into with care, and this seeking out is of essential service to us by educating our faculties, and strengthening our spiritual eye gradually to bear the light of the divine glory.
It is well for us that all things cannot be seen at a glance, for the search into their mysteries is as useful to us as the knowledge which we thereby attain. The history of the Lord's dealings with his people is especially a fit subject for the meditation of reverent minds who find therein a sweet solace, and a never failing source of delight.
Verse 3. His work is honorable and glorious.
His one special work, the salvation of his people, is here mentioned as distinguished from his many other works. This reflects honor and glory upon him. It is deservedly the theme of the highest praise, and compels those who understand it and experience it to ascribe all honor and glory unto the Lord. Its conception, its sure foundations, its gracious purpose, its wise arrangements, its gift of Jesus as Redeemer, its application of redemption by the Holy Spirit in regeneration and sanctification, and all else which make up the one glorious whole salvation—all redound to the infinite honor of Him who contrived and carried out so astounding a method of salvation.
No other work can be compared with it: it honors both the Savior and the saved, and while it brings glory to God it also brings us to glory. There is none like the God of Jeshurun, and there is no salvation like that which he has wrought for his people.
And his righteousness endures forever.
In the work of grace righteousness is not forgotten, nor deprived of its glory; rather, it is honored in the eyes of the intelligent universe. The bearing of guilt by our great Substitute proved that not even to effect the purposes of his grace, would the Lord forget his righteousness; no future strain upon his justice can ever be equal to that which it has already sustained in the bruising of his dear Son; it must henceforth assuredly endure forever.
Moreover, the righteousness of God in the whole plan can never now be suspected of failure, for all that it requires is already performed, its demands are satisfied by the double deed of our Lord in enduring the vengeance due, and in rendering perfect obedience to the law.
Caprice does not enter into the government of the Lord, the rectitude of it is and must forever be beyond all question. In no single deed of God can unrighteousness be found, nor shall there ever be: this is the very glory of his work, and even its adversaries cannot gainsay it. Let believers, therefore, praise him evermore, and never blush to speak of that work which is so honorable and glorious.
Verse 4. He has made his wonderful works to be remembered.
He meant them to remain in the recollection of his people, and they do so. Partly because they are in themselves memorable, and because also he has taken care to record them by the pen of inspiration, and has written them upon the hearts of his people by his Holy Spirit.
By the ordinances of the Mosaic law, the coming out of Egypt, the sojourn in the wilderness, and other memorabilia of Israel's history were constantly brought before the minds of the people, and their children were by such means instructed in the wonders which God had wrought in old time.
Deeds such as God has wrought are not to be admired for an hour and then forgotten, they are meant to be perpetual signs and instructive tokens to all coming generations; and especially are they designed to confirm the faith of his people in the divine love, and to make them know that the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.
They need not fear to trust his grace for the future, for they remember it in the past. Grace is as conspicuous as righteousness in the great work of God; yes, a fullness of tender love is seen in all that he has done. He treats his people with great consideration for their weakness and infirmity; having the same pity for them as a father has towards his children. Should we not praise him for this?
A silver thread of loving-kindness runs through the entire fabric of God's work of salvation and providence, and never once is it left out in the whole piece. Let the memories of his saints bear witness to this fact with grateful joy.
Verse 5. He has given food unto those who fear him.
Or spoil, as some read it, for the Lord's people both in coming out of Egypt and at other times have been enriched from their enemies. Not only in the wilderness with manna—but everywhere else by his providence he has supplied the necessities of his believing people. Somewhere or other they have had food necessary for them, and that in times of great scarcity.
As for spiritual food, that has been plentifully furnished them in Christ Jesus; they have been fed with the finest of the wheat, and made to feast on royal dainties. His word is as nourishing to the soul as bread to the body, and there is such an abundance of it that no heir of Heaven shall ever be famished.
Truly the fear of the Lord is wisdom, since it secures to a man the supply of all that he needs for soul and body.
He will ever be mindful of his covenant.
He could not let his people lack food because he was in covenant with them, and they can never want in the future, for he will continue to act upon the terms of that covenant. No promise of the Lord shall fall to the ground, nor will any part of the great compact of eternal love be revoked or allowed to sink into oblivion.
The covenant of grace is the plan of the great work which the Lord works out for his people, and it will never be departed from. The Lord has set his hand and seal to it, his glory and honor are involved in it—yes, his very name hangs upon it, and he will not even in the least jot or tittle cease to be mindful of it.
Of this the feeding of his people is the pledge—he would not so continually supply their needs if he meant after all to destroy them. Upon this most blessed pledge let us settle our minds; let us rest in the faithfulness of the Lord, and praise him with all our hearts every time that we eat bread or feed upon his word.
Verse 6. He has showed his people the power of his works.
They have seen what he is able to do and what force he is prepared to put forth on their behalf. This power Israel saw in physical works, and we in spiritual wonders, for we behold the matchless energy of the Holy Spirit and feel it in our own souls.
In times of dire distress the Lord has put forth such energy of grace that we have been astonished at his power. This was part of his intent in bringing us into such conditions that he might reveal to us the arm of his strength. Could we ever have known it so well if we had not been in pressing need of his help? We may well turn this verse into a prayer and ask to see more and more the power of the Lord at work among us in these latter days.
O Lord, let us now see how mightily you can work in the saving of sinners and in preserving and delivering your own people.
That he may give them the heritage of the heathen.
He put forth all his power to drive out the Canaanites and bring in his people. Even thus may it please his infinite wisdom to give to his church the heathen for her inheritance in the name of Jesus. Nothing but great power can effect this—but it will surely be accomplished in due season.
Verse 7. The works of his hands are verity and judgment.
Truth and justice are conspicuous in all that Jehovah does. Nothing like artifice or crooked policy can ever be seen in his proceedings; he acts faithfully and righteously towards his people, and with justice and impartiality to all mankind. This also should lead us to praise him, since it is of the utmost advantage to us to live under a sovereign whose laws, decrees, acts, and deeds are the essence of truth and justice.
All his commandments are sure.
All that he has appointed or decreed shall surely stand, and his precepts which he has proclaimed shall be found worthy of our obedience, for surely they are founded in justice and are meant for our lasting good.
He is no fickle despot, commanding one thing one day and another another—but his commands remain absolutely unaltered, their necessity equally unquestionable, their excellence permanently proven, and their reward eternally secure.
Take the word commandments to relate either to his decrees or his precepts, and we have in each case an important sense; but it seems more in accordance with the connection to take the first sense and consider the words to refer to the ordinances, appointments, or decrees of the great King.
Whatever the mighty Lord decrees,
Shall stand forever sure.
The settled purpose of his heart
To ages shall endure!
Verse 8. They stand fast forever and ever.
That is to say, his purposes, commands, and courses of action. The Lord is not swayed by transient motives, or moved by the circumstances of the hour. Immutable principles rule in the courts of Jehovah, and he pursues his eternal purposes without the shadow of a turning.
Our works are too often as wood, hay, and stubble—but his doings are as gold, silver, and precious stones. We take up a purpose for a while and then exchange it for another—but he is of one mind, and none can turn him. He acts in eternity and for eternity, and hence what he works abides forever.
Much of this lasting character arises out of the fact which is next mentioned, namely, that they are done in truth and uprightness. Nothing stands but that which is upright. Falsehood soon vanishes, for it is a mere show—but truth has salt in it which preserves it from decay.
God always acts according to the glorious principles of truth and integrity, and hence there is no need of alteration or revocation; his works will endure until the end of time.
Verse 9. He sent redemption unto his people.
When they were in Egypt he sent not only a deliverer—but an actual deliverance; not only a redeemer—but complete redemption. He has done the like spiritually for all his people, having first by blood purchased them out of the hand of the enemy, and then by power rescued them from the bondage of their sins. Redemption we can sing of as an accomplished act: it has been wrought for us, sent to us, and enjoyed by us, and we are in very deed the Lord's redeemed.
He has commanded his covenant forever.
His divine decree has made the covenant of his grace a settled and eternal institution. Redemption by blood proves that the covenant cannot be altered, for it ratifies and establishes it beyond all recall.
This, too, is reason for the loudest praise. Redemption is a fit theme for the heartiest music, and when it is seen to be connected with gracious engagements from which the Lord's truth cannot swerve, it becomes a subject fitted to arouse the soul to an ecstasy of gratitude. Redemption and the covenant are enough to make the tongue of the dumb sing!
Holy and reverend is his name.
Well may he say this. The whole name or character of God is worthy of profoundest awe, for it is perfect and complete, whole or holy. It ought not to be spoken without solemn thought, and never heard without profound homage. His name is to be trembled at, it is something very solemn; even those who know him best rejoice with trembling before him.
How religious men can endure to be called "reverend" we know not. Being unable to discover any reason why our fellow men should reverence us—we half suspect that in other men there is not very much which can entitle them to be called reverend, very reverend, right reverend, and so on. It may seem a trifling matter—but for that very reason we would urge that the foolish custom should be allowed to fall into disuse.
Verse 10. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.
It is its first principle—but it is also its head and chief attainment. The word "beginning" in Scripture sometimes means the chief; and true religion is at once the first element of wisdom, and its chief fruit. To know God so as to walk aright before him is the greatest of all the applied sciences. Holy reverence of God leads us to praise him, and this is the point which the psalm drives at, for it is a wise act on the part of a creature towards his Creator.
A good understanding have all those who do his commandments. Obedience to God proves that our judgment is sound. Why should he not be obeyed? Does not reason itself claim obedience for the Lord of all? Only a man void of understanding will ever justify rebellion against the holy God. Practical godliness is the test of wisdom. Men may know and be very orthodox, they may talk and be very eloquent, they may speculate and be very profound; but the best proof of their intelligence must be found in their actually doing the will of the Lord.
The former part of the psalm taught us the doctrine of God's nature and character, by describing his works. The second part supplies the practical lesson by drawing the inference that to worship and obey him is the dictate of true wisdom. We joyfully own that it is so.
His praise endures forever.
The praises of God will never cease, because his works will always excite adoration, and it will always be the wisdom of men to extol their glorious Lord.
Some regard this sentence as referring to those who fear the Lord—their praise shall endure forever. Indeed, it is true that those who lead obedient lives shall obtain honor of the Lord, and commendations which will abide forever. A word of approbation from the mouth of God will be a medal of honor which will outshine all the decorations which kings and emperors can bestow. Lord, help us to study your works, and henceforth to breathe out hallelujahs as long as we live.