Psalm 149
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
A new song (as in Psalm 33:3; Psalm 96:1; Psalm 144:9) is the old song of praise, made new by newness of heart and newness of air. "New as expressive of all the new hopes and joys of a new era; a new spring of the nation; a new youth of the Church, bursting forth into a new life."

I. A NEW SONG IS WANTED BECAUSE THERE ARE ALWAYS NEW OCCASIONS. A song was sung by Israel, under the lead of Moses and Miriam, when the people were safely on the further shore of the Red Sea. It was well to keep that song in remembrance, and it was wisely repeated when the great deliverance was recalled. But there came occasions in the national history when that song was unsuitable, and a new song on the old lines had to be made. Illustrate by the song of Deborah; the songs of David on bringing up the ark; of Solomon on dedicating the temple; of the exiles on return from captivity; of the Maccabees on recovering the holy city; of Mary on receiving the visit of the angel. So in a single life there are recurring occasions when the heart is inspired to make a new song.

II. A NEW SONG MAY BE THE OLD SONG PUT IN A NEW FORM. Perhaps it would be true to say that there really is no new song; for man there can never be anything more than the oh! song put into a new form. For man's song is always a loving and grateful recognition of God's goodness. And yet how much importance attaches to the fact that the old song does get set in ever-varying forms! The old song would lose interest, would become formal; its old form would become too strait, unsuitable, repressive of feeling. The song of Moses will not always satisfy. It will need to have much more put into it, and then it will appear as the "song of Moses and the Lamb."

III. AN OLD SONG IS NEW WHEN A NEW SPIRIT IS PUT INTO IT. And that is the spirit of a man's individuality. Everything is new to me that is actually mine - a genuine expression of myself. It may be as old as the hills; it is new to me; it is the output of my feeling, the creation of my experience. It is like nothing else, for on it rests the stamp of my individuality. - R.T.

Breathes the spirit of intense joy and eager hope in the period which succeeded the return from Babylon. The poet saw in their return so signal a proof of the Divine favor, that he regarded it as a pledge of a glorious future yet in store for the nation. But language like that of vers. 6-9 is no warrant for the exhibition of a similar spirit in the Christian Church.

I. A NEW ERA IN THE LIFE OF THE NATION OR INDIVIDUAL FURNISHES NEW MATERIAL FOR PRAISE. (Ver. 1.) Escape from a miserable captivity and the return home was a new national experience, if they had not lost the spirit of freedom. How many eras in our individual life correspond to this? A long sickness recovered from, or a long habit of sin escaped from.

II. SOCIAL WORSHIP IS MOST CONGENIAL TO THE SPIRIT OF PRAISE, (Ver. 1.) The people were summoned to rejoice in the congregation. Enthusiasm of any kind more easily inspired in a multitude than in an individual, and more easily propagated.

III. WE ARE TO REJOICE IN OUR CREATOR AND KING AS OUR REDEEMER. (Vers. 2, 3.) Such a King will not leave them subject to alien rule, but redeem them.

1. For God rejoices in his near relation to his people. (Ver. 4.) Takes pleasure in his fellowship with them and in their welfare.

2. He delights to array them in honor and glory. To put beauty and glory upon the outcast and afflicted.

IV. THE JOY OF THE REDEEMED WILL UTTER ITSELF IN PRIVATE AS WELL AS IN PUBLIC. (Ver. 5.) "Upon their beds." In their most restful moments they will exult in God's favor now, and in hope for the future. - S.

The expression seems to refer rather to the selection and constitution of Israel as the people of Jehovah than to the act of creation. By the restoration from Babylon, Israel had been appropriated anew in this special character; made or constituted a nation. It was in the restored and renewed national life that the people so greatly rejoiced.

I. GOD MAKES FAMILIES. It is well for us to see distinctly what is the Divine order for humanity. God made man in his image as a Father; gave him a helpmeet, through whom a family was to gather round him. That family was to be trained by Personal influence for an independent family life, into which its members would pass; and so families would reproduce families, and by means of families the whole earth would be peopled, and the moral perfection of the entire family of God attained. This, God's ideal, man's self will and passion have spoiled.

II. MAN-MADE NATIONS. Cowper says, "God made the country, and man made the town." It is answering fact to say, "God made the family, and man made the nation." It is full of significance that the aggregation of men for mutual protection, out of which nations and civil governments have been evolved, was a device of the sons of Cain; i.e. of those who, in some sense, had been "driven out from the presence of the Lord." It is easy to see that, had God's family idea been preserved, no schemes for mutual protection would have been necessary, no walled cities, no government, no army, no police; for brothers in a family would never think of injuring brothers, and the family feeling would also save the relations of families.

III. GOD OVERRULES THE MAKING OF NATIONS. He, in a way, accepts as facts, and use's for his purposes, the conditions in which man has set himself. He lets man have what has been called a "free experiment;" and as it pleases man to create nations, God is pleased to deal with nations as such, using them for his purposes, even as he uses individuals. And nations really are aggregations of men in which personal individualities are sunk in order to construct a composite individuality. God deals with that individuality, and uses it. We call it the "national genius." - R.T.

The Peculiarity of religion is that it gives us pleasure in the thought of God, by removing the fear of him which is common to sinful men. This is seen in the joy-songs of the psalmists. When we cherish the thought of God, we find our hearts are incited to praise him

(1) for what he is in his own glorious nature;

(2) for what he is in the ordering of his gracious providences;

(3) for what he is in covenant relations with his people.

Whether we are finding pleasure in the thought of God is one of the surest and best tests of our religion. In the verse before us, our joy in God and praise of God are demanded on two very sufficient and suggestive grounds.

I. GOD'S PRESENT PLEASURE IN HIS PEOPLE. That ought to be a constant pleasure and joy to us. It is not only that he cares for us - that may be but a cold consideration. It is not only that he loves us - we may feel almost lost among the many whom he loves. It is that he finds pleasure in us, and that necessarily involves some form of personal relations. But what can there possibly be in us in which God can find personal pleasure?

1. We are to him as children.

2. We are the objects of his great redemption. (Illustrate by the interest of a doctor in his patient.)

3. We may reflect his image. There is a strange pleasure in discovering our characteristic self in another person.

4. We may lean upon his grace. And there is great pleasure felt by the good man in simply being relied on. What gave Christ his pleasure in his disciples? Take home the thought of God's pleasurable interest in us, and then see under what obligations we lie never to spoil his pleasure, but do all we can to increase it.

II. GOD'S FUTURE PURPOSE FOR HIS PEOPLE. HIS pleasure in them makes him work for them. And those for whom he works are indicated by their chief characteristic-meekness. "I will beautify the meek." For such God has:

(1) Salvation in its fullest, deepest senses.

(2) Help for every emergency, constant as their need, and adapted to it in its ever-varying forms.

(3) Final emancipation from the evil which has been all along marring and spoiling our beauty. Illustrate how beauty returns when encroaching and enfeebling disease is at last mastered and dismissed. It is important to dwell on the point - that the salvations of God which are going on in us and for us, because he takes pleasure in us, are adornments to the Christian. God's grace to him and in him tends to "beautify him." It may be shown how they tend to beautify

(1) his very face;

(2) his character; and

(3) his relationships. What, then, will be our beauty in the sight of God when his salvation work in us is fully complete? - R.T.

In what respects does the Lord take pleasure in his people?

I. He takes pleasure in them, inasmuch as HE DELIGHTS IN THE EXERCISES OF THEIR GRACES TOWARDS HIM. They all believe in him, and have faith in his Word and promises; they rely on his truth and power; they hope in his mercy; they fear his displeasure; they love his Person and Name.

II. He takes pleasure IN THE SERVICES OF HIS PEOPLE. They can do but little for him, and he regards their services, not with an eye to their intrinsic value in themselves, but for the sake of the willing mind from which they flow.

III. He takes pleasure IN THE PROSPERITY OF HIS PEOPLE. His Name is love; his nature is goodness. And can we doubt that he loves to see his people happy? Even in those dispensations which in themselves are grievous and painful, he is seeking their good, and in the end promoting their happiness. (After C.H.S.) - R.T.

Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their handy The age when such a psalm was most likely to be produced was undoubtedly that of the Maccabees, and the coincidence between this verse and 2 Macc. 15:27 may indicate the very series of events amid which, with hymns of praise in their throats, and a two-edged sword in their hand, the chasidim in battle after battle claimed and won the honor of executing vengeance on Jehovah's foes." Illustration may be taken also from Nehemiah's providing the workmen engaged on the wall with a weapon as well as a tool. But in that case the weapon was for defensive purposes only. The point here is that the sword was for active and aggressive work against the foes of God and the nation; such foes as were the Syrians in the days of the Maccabees.

I. GOD'S WORK IN THE WORLD CALLS FOR STROKE AS WELL AS SONG. It is quite true that the weapons of our warfare are "not carnal;" but they are weapons, and they are for a warfare. There is some danger of overdoing the peaceful and submissive side of the Christian religion. There are many evils, and especially those of a private and personal character, which can best - perhaps can only - be met and conquered by submission. But there are other evils, and especially those of a public character, which must be actively dealt with in a spirit of war. For them the servant of God must have strokes - stroke upon stroke. The two injunctions can be, and must be, observed - "Resist not evil;" "Resist the devil." The spirit of the soldier should be in every Christian. (Illustrate by F. W. Robertson of Brighton.)

II. GOD'S WORK OF "STROKE" IS NEVER RIGHTLY DONE SAVE AS WE KEEP THE SOUL OF SONG. That keeps us from a wrong spirit in doing what so easily arouses a bad spirit. The song in our soul shows we are only God's servants; and it keeps us reminded that even in doing stern things we are only doing good, trying to waken song in other souls. - R.T.

To execute upon them the judgment written. "It was the thought that vengeance was the righteous retribution, written in the book of God, which made Israel glory in inflicting it." "The psalmist probably desires to fire the broken-spirited despondency which the history shows to have weighed so heavily on the returned exiles." Just in one thing humanity has always failed - it has overdone its vengeance. Vengeance may be duty, but whenever man tries to do that duty, his passions come in and spoil his work. Illustrate by the treatment of the conquered in Old Testament wars; by the horrors of the Roman siege of Jerusalem; by the awful scenes at the sacking of besieged cities in modern warfare. Christianity has wrought a great blessing for humanity in putting strict limitation on vengeance. And it puts as strict limitations on the vengeance which an individual man may take on a fellow-man who has wronged him. Works of fiction often present the exaggerated vengeance taken by men who are under no restraint of Christianity. The Christian limitations are twofold.

I. HUMAN VENGEANCE IS LIMITED BY THE FACT THAT THOSE ON WHOM WE TAKE IT STAND IN THE LOVE OF GOD. The Mohammedan can freely slay the "infidels" in propagating his doctrines with the sword, because in his view they are altogether out of the love of God, and these vengeance-takers think they are executing the vengeance of God. We can do nothing of the kind, for that love of God in which we live embraces every fellow of our humanity. To strike a man is to strike one whom God loves. This checks our taking vengeance.

II. HUMAN VENGEANCE IS LIMITED BY THE NECESSITY OF KEEPING IN VIEW THE WELL-BEING OF THOSE ON WHOM THE VENGEANCE IS TAKEN. The servant of God must never do anything but good to anybody. He may do seeming injury in order to reach ends of good; but he must always have in view the salvation - in the large sense - of those with whom he deals. - R.T.

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