Verse 20. "And as for his judgments " - The wondrous ordinances of his law, no nation had known them; and consequently, did not know the glorious things in futurity to which they referred.
ANALYSIS OF THE HUNDRED AND FORTY-SEVENTH PSALM
The parts of this Psalm are two: - I. An exhortation to praise God, ver. 1, which is repeated, ver. 7, 12.
II. The arguments to persuade to it: God's bounty, wisdom, power, providence, justice, and mercy, dwelt on through the whole Psalm.
I. The exhortation is briefly proposed, "Praise the Lord." Which the prophet, as the chanter of the choir, begins; and then more fully repeats, "Sing unto the Lord," &c. And again "Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem," &c., ver. 12, where the Arabic, Greek, and Latin translators begin a new Psalm: but in the Hebrew they are conjoined, and form but one hymn.
The prophet, having ended his exhortation, adds his reasons for it.
1. It is pleasant and becoming.
2. His bounty in building Jerusalem, and bringing back the dispersed, ver. 2. In comfortlng the distressed, ver. 3. For his wisdom, ver. 4.
For his power, ver. 5. For his mercy and justice, ver. 6.
His first arguments are drawn from the thing itself.
I. Good: "For it is good," &c.
For many reasons this may be called good.
1. For it is God's command, and must not be neglected.
2. It elevates the heart from earth to heaven.
3. Good again, because we are bound to it by obligations.
II. "To praise God is pleasant." 1. Because it proceeds from love.
2. Because it is pleasant to perform our duty, and the end of our creation.
3. Because God is pleased with it: "He that offereth me praise, glorifieth me," &c.
4. Because God is pleased with the virtues of faith, hope, charity, humility, devotion, &c., of which praise is the effect.
III. "It is comely." There is no sin greater than that of ingratitude.
These are the first arguments the prophet uses, and they are drawn from the nature of the thing itself: they may apply to all ages of the Church.
He dwells upon the deliverance of Israel from captivity.
1. "The Lord doth build up" his Church, the seat of his sanctuary. He hath restored our policy and religion.
2. "He gathereth together," &c. The banished and scattered ones; the Gentiles.
3. "He healeth the broken in heart," &c. Oppressed by captivity or sin.
4. "And bindeth up," &c. Like a good surgeon.
The second argument is drawn from his wisdom.
1. "He telleth the number of the stars," &c. A thing to man impossible, 2. "He calleth them," &c. They are his army, and he knows them.
By the stars in this place some understand God's saints.
1. The stars are infinite in number. So are the saints.
2. Among them are planets. Saints have their circuits; and always revolve round him, the Sun of righteousness.
3. The stars shine clearest in the night. The saints in persecution.
4. One star differeth from another in glory. Some saints excel others in piety.
5. The stars are above. The saints' conversation is in heaven.
6. The stars are obscured by clouds. The Church is sometimes obscured by affliction and persecution.
His third argument is drawn from God's power: "Great is the Lord," &c.
His fourth argument is drawn from God's justice and mercy.
1. His mercy: "The Lord lifteth up the meek," &c. Sustains and exalts them.
2. His justice: "He casteth the wicked down," &c. They shall not always triumph.
But, before the prophet proceeds farther, he repeats: - 1. "Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving." Do it in words.
2. "Sing praises upon the harp," &c. Do it in works.
Then he proceeds to argue from God's providence.
1. "Who covereth the heaven," &c. Not to obscure, but fructify the earth.
2. "Who maketh grass to grow," &c. By his blessing on the most barren places.
3. "He giveth to the beast," &c. They gather it from his supplies.
4. "And to the young ravens," &c. No bird suffers its young so soon to provide for themselves, but God hears and sends them food. Christ himself uses this argument to encourage us to rely on God's providence, Matt. vi.
Should the distrustful Jew argue, Alas, we have no strength, ammunition, horse, or armour, the prophet replies: - 1. "He delighteth not," &c. When used as a warlike creature.
2. "He taketh not pleasure," &c. In the nimbleness of man, when used for warlike preparations.
But he delights in his servants.
1. "The Lord taketh pleasure," &c. In those who obey and love him.
2. "In those that hope," &c. Have faith and confidence in him.
3. He again repeats his proposition, and calls upon the Church to perform it: "Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem," &c. "Thy God, O Zion." Should others be negligent, be not ye.
He then adds four reasons why Zion should praise him:
1. Security and defense. 2. Benediction. 3. Peace. 4. Substance.
1. Security: "For he hath strengthened," &c.
2. Benediction: "He hath blessed," &c. His officers with wisdom, &c.
3. Peace: "He maketh peace." The vision of peace is the literal interpretation of the word Jerusalem.
4. Provision: "Filleth thee with the finest of the wheat," &c.
That God has done this for Jerusalem, is evident from his general providence over the world. And this argument the prophet uses: "He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth," &c. For, 1. "He giveth snow like wool." Beautiful in appearance, and in order to preserve vegetables from the nipping but necessary frost, when long continued.
2. "He scattereth the hoar frost," &c. Thickening the air with it like ashes; freezing all the vapors that float in it.
3. "He casteth forth his ice," &c. Fragments of ice.
4. "Who can stand before his cold?" Endure it unprovided.
But having described all these powerful agents, the prophet next shows how easily they are governed by his word.
1. "He sendeth out his word, and melteth them." 2. "He causeth his wind to blow," &c. And the ice and snow return to water. All these are his, and on him we must depend for safety and comfort.
By these God teaches alike nations to acknowledge him.
But there are particular acts which refer to his people; for, 1. "He showeth his word," &c. By Moses and the prophets.
2. "He hath not dealt so," &c. None at that time, but since to his Church.
3. "As for his judgments," &c. His evangelical precepts. He is sending forth his word; the nations could not find out his precepts otherwise: therefore for this praise ye the Lord.