Treasury of David
We are almost at the last Psalm, and still among the Hallelujahs. This is "a new song", evidently intended for the new creation, and the men who are of new heart. It is such a song as may be sung at the coming of the Lord, when the new dispensation shall bring overthrow to the wicked and honor to all the saints. The tone is exceedingly jubilant and exultant. All through one hears the beat of the feet of dancing maidens, keeping time to the timbrel and harp.
Verse 1. Praise the LORD. Especially you, you chosen people, whom he has made to be his saints. You have praised him aforetime, praise him yet again; yes, forever praise him. With renewed zeal and fresh delight lift up your song unto Jehovah.
Sing unto the LORD a new song. Sing, for it is the fittest method for expressing reverent praise. Sing a hymn newly composed, for you have now a new knowledge of God. He is ever new in his manifestations; his mercies are new every morning; his deliverances are new in every night of sorrowólet your gratitude and thanksgivings be new also.
It is well to repeat the oldóit is more useful to invent the new. Novelty goes well with heartiness. Our singing should be "unto the Lord"; the songs we sing should be of him and to him, "for of him, and to him, and through him are all things."
Among our novelties there should be new songs. Alas! men are fonder of making new complaints than new Psalms. Our new songs should be devised in Jehovah's honor; indeed all our newest thoughts should run towards him. Never can we find a nobler subject for a song than the Lord, nor one more full of fresh matter for a new song, nor one which we are personally so much bound to sing as a new song "unto the Lord."
And his praise in the congregation of saints. Saints are precious, and a congregation of saints is a treasure-house of jewels. God is in the midst of saints, and because of this we may well long to be among them. They are so full of his praise that we feel at home among them when we are ourselves full of praise. The sanctuary is the house of praise, as well as the house of prayer. All saints praise God: they would not be saints if they did not. Their praise is sincere, suitable, seasonable, and acceptable.
Personal praise is sweet unto God, but congregated praise has a multiplicity of sweetnesses in it. When holy ones meet, they adore the Holy One. Saints do not gather to amuse themselves with music, nor to extol one anotheróbut to sing his praise whose saints they are. A congregation of saints is Heaven upon earth! Should not Jehovah, the Lord of saints, have all the praise that can come from such an assembly? Yet at times even saintly conclaves need to be stirred up to thanksgiving; for saints may be sad and apprehensive, and then their spirits require to be raised to a higher key, and stimulated to happier worship.
Verse 2. Let Israel rejoice in him who made him. Here is that new creation which calls for the new song. It was Jehovah who made Israel to be Israel, and the tribes to become a great nation; therefore let the Founder of the nation be had in perpetual honor. Joy and rejoicing are evidently to be the special characteristics of the new song.
The religion of the dead in sin is more apt to chant dirges than to sing hallelujahs; but when we are made new in the spirit of our minds we rejoice in him that made us. Our joy is in our God and King: we choose no lower delight.
Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Those who had seen the tribes formed into a settled kingdom as well as into a united nation should rejoice. Israel is the nation, Zion is the capital of the kingdom. Israel rejoices in her Maker, Zion in her King. In the case of our God we who believe in him are as glad of his Government as we are of his Creation: his reign is as truly the making of us as was his divine power. The children of Israel are happy to be made a people; the children of Zion are equally happy to be ruled as a people. In every character our God is the source of joy to us. This verse issues a permit to our joy, yes it lays an injunction upon us to be glad in the Lord.
Verse 3. Let them praise his name in the dance; let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp. Thus let them repeat the triumph of the Red Sea, which was ever the typical glory of Israel. Miriam led the daughters of Israel in the dance when the Lord had triumphed gloriously; was it not most fit that she should? The sacred dance of devout joy is no example, nor even excuse, for frivolous dances, much less for lewd ones.
Who could help dancing when Egypt was vanquished, and the tribes were free? Every mode of expressing delight was bound to be employed on so memorable an occasion. Dancing, singing, and playing on instruments were all called into requisition, and most fitly so. There are unusual seasons which call for unusual expressions of joy. When the Lord saves a soul its holy joy overflows, and it cannot find channels enough for its exceeding gratitude. If the man does not leap, or play, or sing, at any rate he praises God, and wishes for a thousand tongues with which to magnify his Savior. Who would wish it to be otherwise?
Young converts are not to be restrained in their joy. Let them sing and dance while they can. How can they mourn now that their Bridegroom is with them? Let us give the utmost liberty to joy. Let us never attempt its suppression, but issue in the terms of this verse a double license for exultation. If any ought to be glad it is the children of Zion; rejoicing is more fit for Israel than for any other people it is their own folly and fault that they are not oftener brimming with joy in God, for the very thought of him is delight.
Verse 4. For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; and therefore they should take pleasure in him. If our joy be pleasing to him let us make it full. What condescension is this on Jehovah's part, to notice, to love, and to delight in his chosen people! Surely there is nothing in us, or our actions, which could cause pleasure to the Ever-blessed One, were it not that he condescends to men of low estate.
The thought of the Lord's taking pleasure in us is a mine of joy never to be exhausted.
He will beautify the meek with salvation. They are humble, and feel their need of salvation; he is gracious, and bestows it upon them. They lament their deformity, and he puts a beauty upon them of the choicest sort. He saves them by sanctifying them, and thus they wear the beauty of holiness, and the beauty of a joy which springs out of full salvation. He makes his people meek, and then makes the meek beautiful.
Herein is grand argument for worshiping the Lord with the utmost exultation. He who takes such a pleasure in us, must be approached with every token of exceeding joy. God takes pleasure in all his children, as Jacob loved all his sons; but the meek are his Josephs, and upon these he puts the coat of many colors, beautifying them with peace, contentment, joy, holiness, and influence.
A meek and quiet spirit is called "an ornament", and certainly it is "the beauty of holiness." When God himself beautifies a man, he becomes beautiful indeed and beautiful forever.
The verse may be read, "He shall beautify the meek with salvation", or "He shall beautify the afflicted with deliverance", or, "He shall beautify the meek with victory". Each of these readings gives a new shade of meaning, well worthy of quiet consideration. Each reading also suggests new cause for joyful adoration. "O come, let us sing unto the Lord!"
Verse 5. Let the saints rejoice in this honor. God has honored them, and put a rare glory upon them; therefore let them exult therein. Shall those to whom God is their glory be cast down and troubled? Nay, let their joy proclaim their honorable estate.
Let them sing aloud upon their beds. Their exultation should express itself in shouts and songs, for it is not a feeling of which they have any need to be ashamed. That which is so fully justified by fact, may well be loudly proclaimed. Even in their quietest retreats, let them burst into song; when no one hears them, let them sing aloud unto God. If confined by sickness, let them joy in God. In the night watches, let them not lie awake and weep, but like nightingales let them charm the midnight hours. Their shouts are not now for the battlefield, but for the places of their rest. They can peacefully lie down and yet enjoy the victory with which the Lord has beautified them. Without fighting, faith wins and sings the victory. What a blessing to have our beds made into thrones, and our retirements turned into triumphs!
Verse 6. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand. It seems they are not always on their beds, but are ready for deeds of prowess. When called to fight, the meek are very hard to overcome; they are just as steady in conflict as they are steadfast in patience. Besides, their way of fighting is of an extraordinary sort, for they sing to God but keep their swords in their hands. They can do two things at a time: if they do not wield the trowel and the swordóat least they sing and strike. In this Israel was not an example, but a type.
We will not copy the chosen people in making literal war, but we will fulfill the emblem by carrying on spiritual war. We praise God and contend with our corruptions. We sing joyfully and war earnestly with evil of every kind. Our weapons are not carnal, but they are mighty, and wound with both back and edge. The word of God is all edge; whichever way we turn it, it strikes deadly blows at falsehood and wickedness.
If we do not praise, we shall grow sad in our conflict; and if we do not fight, we shall become presumptuous in our song. The verse indicates a happy blending of the chorister and the crusader.
Note how each thing in the believer is emphatic: If he sings, it is high praises, and praises deep down in his throat, as the original has it. If he fights, it is with the sword, and the sword is two-edged. The living God imparts vigorous life to those who trust him. They are not of a neutral tint: men both hear them and feel them. Quiet is their spirit, but in that very quietude abides the thunder of an irresistible force. When godly men give battle to the powers of evil, each conflict is high praise unto the God of goodness. Even the tumult of our holy war, is a part of the music of our lives.
Verse 7. To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people. This was once literally the duty of Israel: when they came into Canaan they fulfilled the righteous sentence of the Lord upon guilty nations. At this hour, under the gentler dispensation of grace, we wrestle not with flesh and blood; yet is our warfare none the less stern, and our victory none the less sure. All evil shall eventually be overthrown. The Lord shall display his justice against evildoers, and in that warfare his servants shall play their parts. The saints shall judge the world. Both the conflict and the victory at the end of it shall cause glory to God, and honor to his holy ones.
Verse 8. To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron. Thus are the greatest enemies of Jehovah and his people reduced to shame, rendered helpless, and themselves punished. This was Israel's boast in actual fact, it is ours spiritually.
The chief powers of evil shall be restrained and ultimately destroyed. Those who made captives of the godly, shall themselves be made captive. The powers of evil cannot bind our King, but by his power their king shall be bound with a great chain, and shut up in the bottomless pit, that he may at length be trodden under the feet of saints.
Verse 9. To execute upon them the judgment written. Israel as a nation had this to do, and did it, and then they rejoiced in the God who gave success to their arms.
We praise our God after another fashion; we are not executioners of justice, but heralds of mercy. It would be a sad thing for any one to misuse this text; lest any warlike believer should be led to do so, we would remind him that the execution must not go beyond the sentence and warrant; and we have received no warrant of execution against our fellow men. Christians have no commission of vengeance; it is theirs to execute the command of mercy, and that alone.
This honor have all his saints. All the godly shared in the triumphs of the Lord when he smote Israel's foes. We have like honor, but it is shown in victories of another sort. All the holy ones are sent upon errands by their holy Lord.
The honors described in this Psalm are common to all the family of grace; and such service as the Lord appoints is to be undertaken by every one of them, without exception.
The Lord honors all his chosen here, and he will glorify them all hereafter: this rule is without exception. Surely in this we have the best argument for glorifying the Lord, therefore we close our new song with another Hallelujah, Praise the Lord.