Verse 35. "O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places " - The sanctuary and heaven. Out of the former he had often shone forth with consuming splendour; see the case of Korah and his company: out of the latter he had often appeared in terrible majesty in storms, thunder, lightning, &c.
"He that giveth strength and power unto his people. " - Therefore that people must be invincible who have this strong and irresistible God for their support.
Blessed be God. ] He alone is worthy to be worshipped. Without him nothing is wise, nothing holy, nothing strong; and from him, as the inexhaustible Fountain, all good must be derived. His mercy over his creatures is equal to his majesty in the universe, and as he has all good in his possession, so is he willing to deal it out, to supply the utmost necessities of his creatures. Blessed be God! The Arabic adds, Alleluiah! The best analysis I find of this Psalms is that by Bishop Nicholson. I shall give it at large, begging the reader to refer particularly to those passages on which the preceding notes are written, as in some of them the analysis gives a different view of the subject. The old Psalter gives the whole Psalm a spiritual and mystical interpretation. And this is commonly the ease in the commentaries of the fathers.
ANALYSIS OF THE SIXTY EIGHTH PSALM
There are many conjectures as to the occasion of the composing of this Psalm; but the most probable is, that it was composed by David when he brought up the ark of God, which was the type of the Church and symbol of God's presence, to Jerusalem. After the ark was sent home by the Philistines, it rested first in the obscure lodge of Aminadab; it then for a time stayed with Obed-edom, nearly sixty years in both places. It was David's care to provide a fit room for it in the head of the tribes, even in his own city; and to express his joy, and honour the solemnity, David led the way, dancing with all his might in a linen ephod; and all the house of Israel followed with shouts and instruments of music in a triumphant manner. Now, that the choir might not want to know how to express their joyful affections, the sweet singer of Israel made this anthem, beginning the verse himself, as was commanded at the removal of the ark, Num. x. 35. The Psalm has six parts: - I. The entrance, or exordium, ver. 1-4.
II. The invitation to praise God, ver. 4.
III. The confirmation of it by many arguments, ver. 4-24.
IV. A lively description of triumph, or pomp of the ark's deportation, ver. 24-28.
V. A petition, which has three parts, ver. 28-31.
VI. An exhortation to all nations to praise God, ver. 31-35.
I. "Let God arise" is either a prayer or acclamation; a prayer that he would, or an acclamation that he does, show his power and presence. Of which the consequence would be double: - 1. Towards his enemies, destruction; for he prays, "Let his enemies be scattered; let those that hate him fly before him." He illustrates it by a twofold comparison: - (1) "As smoke (when it is at the highest) is driven away, so drive them away." (2) "As wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish in the presence of God." 2. Towards good men, his servants; which is quite contrary to the other: "Let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God; yea, let them exceedingly rejoice." Thus it happened; for when the ark was taken by the Philistines, the glory was departed from Israel, and there was nothing but sadness and sorrow: but with the return of the ark the glory returned and all was joy and gladness.
II. And so, by an apostrophe, he turns his speech to all good men, and exhorts them to praise God.
1. "Sing unto God." Let it be done with your voice publicly.
2. Psallite: "Sing praises to his name," with Instruments of music." 3. "Extol him." Show his way, as in a triumph. Thus, when our saviour rode into Jerusalem they cut down branches, and strewed their garments in the way.
III. And so David enters upon his confirmation, producing his reasons why they should praise God.
1. Drawn from his majesty: "He rideth upon the heavens;" that is, he rules in the heavens.
2. From the essence: "By his name Jah," the contraction of Jehovah, I am. He gives essence to all things; therefore, "rejoice before him." 3. From his general providence and goodness towards his Church.
(1) "He is the father of the fatherless." Loves, cares, and provides an inheritance for them.
(2) "A judge of the widows." He cares for his people when deserted, and for whom no man cares, and when exposed to injury. Such is God in his holy habitation; whose presence is represented by this ark.
(3) "God setteth the solitary in families." He makes the barren woman to keep house, and to be the joyful mother of children. As also the barren woman-the Gentile Church that had no husband, to bring forth children to God.
(4) He brings forth those which are bound with chains; as Joseph, Jeremiah, Daniel, Peter, Paul.
4. On the contrary: "But the rebellious dwell in a dry land;" perish with want and hunger.
IV. From his special providence toward his people Israel, which he introduces by an elegant apostrophe: "O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people;" thus amplified: - 1. God's going before them, and marching along with them in Egypt, in the wilderness. These signs manifested his presence: "The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel." 2. God's provision for them after he gave them the possession of the good land. He fed, sustained them there, counted them his inheritance, and gave them rain and fruitful seasons: "Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby thou didst confirm thine inheritance, when it was weary. The congregation hath dwelt therein: thou, O God, hast prepared of thy goodness for the poor." 3. The victories he gave them over their enemies, ver. 12, which he prefaces by imitation of the song of the victory, sung usually by the women and damsels of those times, ver. 11: "The Lord gave the word," that is, either the word of war, or else the song; and then "Great was the company of those that published it." As Miriam, Deborah, &c. And in these songs they sang, "Kings of armies did flee apace; and she that tarried at home divided the spoil." So great was the prey.
4. The deliverance he sends from troubles, and the joy he gives after them. "Though ye have lien among the pots," that is, cast aside as some useless or broken pot, the offscouring of all things; "yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold; " i.e., shining and glorious. The allusion seems to be taken from some standard, whose portraiture and device was a dove so overlaid. The Babylonian ensign was a dove. But see the note on this passage.
And this he farther declares by another similitude: "When the Almighty scattered kings in it:" or for her, i.e., his Church, it was white-glittering, glorious, to be seen afar off; "it was white as snow in Salmon," with which it is generally covered.
5. From God's especial presence among them, which, that he might make it more evident, David enters upon the commendation of the hill of Sion to which the ark was at this time brought, comparing it with other hills, especially with Bashan. That is a hill of God; a high, plentiful, and fertile hill. As if he had said, So much I grant. But, "why leap ye, ye high hills?" Why are ye so proud? Why do ye boast your vines, your fruits, your pastures, your cattle? Sion has the pre-eminence of you all in two respects:-
1. For God's continual habitation and common presence is there: "This is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever." 2. For his defense of it. "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels:" and these are for the defense of Sion, his Church; "for God is among them as in Sinai, in the holy place;" in glory and majesty, to Sinai, and in Sion.
And yet he goes on to persuade us to praise God, 1. For his strange and wonderful works. 2. For the performance of his promises. Among his great works there was none so glorious as the ascension of our saviour, of which the ark's ascension to Jerusalem at this time was a type.
First. 1. Before the ark David and the people used this acclamation: "Thou hast ascended on high." Thou, O God, whose presence is shadowed out by the ark, hast ascended from an obscure house to a kingly palace, Sion.
2. "Thou hast led captivity captive;" those that led us captives being captives themselves, and now led in triumph.
3. "Thou hast received gifts for men;" spoils and gifts from the conquered kings; or who may become homagers unto him, and redeem their peace.
4. "Yea, for the rebellious also: "Formerly so, but now tributaries.
5. "That the Lord God might dwell among them;" might have a certain place to dwell in; and the ark not be carried, as before, from place to place.
This is the literal sense; but the mystical refers to our saviour's ascension.
St. Paul says, Eph. iv. 8:
1. "Thou hast ascended on high:" when the cloud carried him from earth to heaven.
2. "Thou hast led captivity," those who captured us, "captive;" death, the devil, sin, the power of hell, the curse of the law.
3. "He received, and gave gifts to men:" The apostles, evangelists, prophets, doctors, and teachers, were these gifts-graces, gifts of the Spirit.
4. "Yea, for the rebellious also:" Paul, a persecutor; Austin, a Manichhaean.
5. "That the Lord God might dwell among them:" for to that end St. Paul says these gifts were given, "to the work of the ministry, to the edification of the Church, to the building up of the body of Christ." Eph. iv. 12, &c.
The two effects of his ascension then were, one towards his enemies, the other for his friends: "When thou ascendest up on high: - " 1. "Thou leddest captivity captive:" this was the consequence to his enemies.
2. "Thou receivedst, and gavest gifts:" This for his friends. For which he sings, "Blessed be God;" for he comes over both again: - 1. The gifts to his friends: "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation."He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues from death." He knows many ways to deliver in death itself, when there is no hope.
2. The conquest of his enemies; for such he counts obstinate impenitent sinners; those he will destroy: "God shall wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of such a one as goeth on still in his trespasses." Secondly, His last argument is, God's performance of his promise to save them. When you were in the wilderness; when you fought with Og, king of Bashan, when at the Red Sea, I delivered you. The Lord saith still to his people: - 1. "I will bring again from Bashan;" from equally great dangers.
2. "I will bring my people again from the depths of the sea:" when there is no hope.
3. And for thy enemies, they shall be destroyed by a great effusion of blood: "That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies, and the tongue of thy dogs in the same;" thou shalt waste, and make a great slaughter.
4. And now he descends to set before our eyes the pomp and show which was used in the ascent and bringing back of the ark, and the proceeding of it.
1. The people were present to witness it: "They have seen thy goings, O God; even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary." 2. The manner of the pomp: "The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; among them were the damsels playing with timbrels." 3. In the pomp they were not silent; and that they be not, he exhorts them: "Bless ye God in the congregations, even the Lord, from the fountain of Israel," - Jacob's posterity.
4. And he gives in the catalogue of the tribes that were present, but these especially: - 1. "There is little Benjamin," Jacob's youngest son, or now the least, wasted with war, "with their ruler," the chief prince of their tribe.
2. "The princes of Judah, and their council." 3. "The princes of Zebulun, and the princes of Naphtali;" the farthest tribes, therefore the nearest.
V. And in the midst of the pomp he makes a prayer which has three vows, before which he prefixes the acknowledgment that all the power and strength of Israel was trom God: "Thy God hath commanded thy strength." He then prays: - 1. For the confirmation, establishment, and continuance of this strength: "Strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us; " and let this be evinced "by the kings and tributaries that shall bring gifts.
Because of thy temple at Jerusalem shall kings bring presents unto thee." 2. For the conquest and subduing of the enemy, until they become tributaries, and do homage: "Rebuke the company of spearmen, the multitude of the bulls, with the calves of the people;" kings, princes, and their potent subjects; "till every one submit himself with pieces of silver: scatter thou the people that delight in war." See the note.
3. For the increase of Christ's kingdom, of which David was but a type, by the access of the Gentiles. "Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God." These, by a synecdoche, being put for all nations.
VI. This excellent Psalm draws now towards a conclusion; and it is a resumption of that which he principally intended; that is, that God be blessed, honoured, praised. He first exhorts, then shows the reasons for it.
1. He exhorts all nations to perform this duty: at first, the Jews, but now all universally: "Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord." 2. His reasons to induce them to do it.
The majesty of God testified: - 1. By his works: "To him that rideth upon the heaven of heavens, which were of old." 2. His power, in his thunder, in his word: "He doth send out his voice, and that a mighty voice." 3. His wise protection of and providence over his people: "Ascribe ye strength unto God: his excellency is over Israel, and his strength is in the clouds." 4. His communication of himself to his Church in particular:
1. "O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places." 2. "The God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people." 3. "Blessed be God." With this epiphonema he concludes.