Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. Song. This is called for:
1. Because our love to the Lord should be amongst those deep and intense feelings which demand the fullest utterance of which the soul is capable. Plain prose will serve for ordinary communications, but when the soul is deeply stirred, as it should be, by the love of God, then song becomes a necessity. See in the Scriptures how the rapt utterances of psalmist and prophet inevitably clothe themselves in poetical form.
2. Because it is so attractive. It tells of a glad, bright, winsome religion, of sunshine in the soul and joy in the heart, all which in this sad, weary, sin-stricken world cannot but be infinitely attractive. Therefore God would have his people sing.
3. And because it is the noblest form of utterance. Music and poetry combine to invest the soul's deepest and holiest thought in the most perfect garment of praise.
4. And the song is to be a new song. Every day is a new day, and brings with it material for a new song.
"New mercies, each returning day, 5. And universal. This is our desire, and, if so, its expression commits us to do our best to unite "all the earth" in this song. 6. It is to be grateful. "Bless his Name." What abundant reason there is for such gratitude! Happy they who thus sing unto the Lord! II. SERMONS. These also are called for - fervent, holy speech for God. Not necessarily set discourses such as we understand by sermons. These, but not these alone, nor these at all, if God has not given us the needed capacity; but God-prompted, loving words spoken for him - these all can speak, and should do so as opportunity is given. Such speech is described, as was the song, in a threefold way. 1. Showing forth God's salvation. And this from day to day. This can be done, and perhaps best done, by what we are and do - by our life as well as by our lips; yet let not the latter be silent, as they too often are, to our own and others' great loss. 2. Declaring his glory among the heathen. There is no need to go far away to find these heathen. They are all around us. Tell them of the glory of his character, his Word, his service, his Spirit dwelling within, his eternal rest by and by. 3. His wonders among all people. Not the good people only - it is easy to talk before them; but among the unsaved, tell them what a wonderful Saviour Jesus is. - S.C.
5. And universal. This is our desire, and, if so, its expression commits us to do our best to unite "all the earth" in this song.
6. It is to be grateful. "Bless his Name." What abundant reason there is for such gratitude! Happy they who thus sing unto the Lord!
II. SERMONS. These also are called for - fervent, holy speech for God. Not necessarily set discourses such as we understand by sermons. These, but not these alone, nor these at all, if God has not given us the needed capacity; but God-prompted, loving words spoken for him - these all can speak, and should do so as opportunity is given. Such speech is described, as was the song, in a threefold way.
1. Showing forth God's salvation. And this from day to day. This can be done, and perhaps best done, by what we are and do - by our life as well as by our lips; yet let not the latter be silent, as they too often are, to our own and others' great loss.
2. Declaring his glory among the heathen. There is no need to go far away to find these heathen. They are all around us. Tell them of the glory of his character, his Word, his service, his Spirit dwelling within, his eternal rest by and by.
3. His wonders among all people. Not the good people only - it is easy to talk before them; but among the unsaved, tell them what a wonderful Saviour Jesus is. - S.C.
newness of the song called for is at once explained. God is spoken of as beginning to reign, and as coming to judge, or rule; and this precisely represents the feeling of the returned exiles, who were setting up a new theocracy. They were restoring, beginning again, their theocratic, social, and religious system. The altar of burnt offering was new. The temple was new. The order of worship was new. And if the Divine relations were not new, they were at least freshly realized. On the call to song, H.W. Beecher suggestively says, "The wings God has given us to fly up to him are the wings of song. The lyrical element is the best expression of feeling. All forms of experience have been touched in the poetry of chant and song. Singing is the process by which intellectual propositions can be converted into emotion and heart expression." The point for us is this - a new age finds a new song to God. Illustrate from the Book of Revelation, which presents the white-robed host singing a new song, because no song can ever have risen before for a completed redemption. The Christian's is a new song, because it is that fresh thing, a soul's joy in God revealed and apprehended in Christ Jesus. Illustrate the following topics from the circumstances of the returned exiles.
I. NEW SUBJECTS FOR SONG. Divine faithfulness. Divine mercy. Renewed national life. Freedom to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience. Signs of Divine favour. Realization of the Divine presence. We can always find subjects for new songs in our new and ever-varying circumstances.
II. NEW FORMS OF SONG. Every generation makes its own hymns. Davidic psalms may be partly used by the exiles; but the thoughts and emotions of the hour called for an immediate and natural expression. The thoughts of God in these psalms are new. Note especially the idea of God as "coming to reign."
III. NEW FEELINGS TO EXPRESS IS SONG. Contrast the depressed moods of the time of captivity, and the joyous moods of the time of restoration. In Babylon they hung their harps on the willows, and could not sing. When back at Jerusalem they called for harp and song with which to praise the Lord. - R.T.
I. WITH A NEW SONG. (Ver. 1.) Praise that shall celebrate the new revelation of himself, which he is about to make in a new era of the world. Constantly new revelation.
II. BY CELEBRATING THE SAVING WORK WHICH GOD IS DOING IN THE WORLD. (Ver. 2.) His coming to judge the people righteously, and thus to save them. Saving men every day.
III. BY PUBLISHING HIS CHARACTER AND WORK THROUGH THE WHOLE EARTH. (Vers. 1, 3.) This is a strongly missionary psalm: "Among the heathen;" "Among all people."
IV. BECAUSE OF HIS EXCLUSIVE DEITY. (Vers, 4, 5.) The idol gods of the nations have no existence; an idol is nothing. But Jehovah is faithful and righteous and omnipotent.
V. BECAUSE OF THE GLORY OF HIS CREATIVE WORK. (Ver. 5.) "But the Lord made the heavens."
VI. BECAUSE OF HIS MANIFESTATIONS OF HIMSELF TO TRUE WORSHIPPERS. (Vers. 6-9.) He reveals his honour and majesty, shows them his beauty and strength.
VII. HIS RIGHTEOUS GOVERNMENT SECURES THE ORDER AND STEADFASTNESS OF THE WORLD. (Ver. 10.) Despotic kings and turbulent peoples seem to shake the world and make it insecure - the moral world.
VIII. THE TRUE WORSHIPPER FEELS THAT ALL NATURE IS IN SYMPATHY WITH HIS DEVOTION. (Vers. 11, 12.) To him in his highest moods the heavens rejoice, and the earth is glad; the sea thunders forth the praises of God, and the trees of the forest clap their hands; for all see that God is coming forth to assume the supreme and universal reign. - S.
I. THE SPIRIT OF SONG IS IN HARMONY WITH MISSIONARY SERVICE. For think of what this service is. It is:
1. To preach. Not to amuse by gaudy ceremonial. Men are not so won to Christ. And not to conjure as by mystic sacramental grace. But to preach. This is what Christ commanded, what the text bids, what such as Paul gloried in, what God ever blesses. And it is a joyful service. True preachers own this as they feel that those to whom they speak are moved and touched, and are conscious in their own souls of the inspiration of their theme - a theme with which none other can compare. For:
2. It is to preach God's salvation. That which the text calls "his glory," "his wonders." Now, we know how pleasant it is to be the bearer of happy tidings - say, to a distressed household, a heart trembling with fear. And such is the work of the preacher of the salvation of God. He goes to the consciously guilty, and tells them of free forgiveness in Christ; to the sin enslaved, and tells them of complete deliverance from the accursed tyranny under which they groan; to the Sorrow-stricken, and tells them of him who shall wipe away all tears; to the dying, and tells them of him who, when he had overcome the sharpness of death, opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Such is the missionary's joyous task.
3. And to preach this to all. None are to be left out. One who had been the means of rescuing many from a watery grave through the breaking of a sheet of ice on which they had been joyously skating, tells how all his joy was marred by the fact that he had been compelled to leave many unsaved. So if we were limited, and not suffered to go to all with the glad tidings of God's salvation, we should feel our joy marred indeed. But because it is for all, therefore is our joy great.
4. Thus he is a coworker with Christ. In fellowship with him. This is an enhancement of the gladness of the work. A regiment is honoured by distinction won by one of its soldiers; a whole family, if one member wins high place. How much more the missionary when Christ is coworker with him! And:
5. It is a work which has not been in vain. What glorious results have been achieved! what trophies won! Therefore we say this service is in harmony with glad song.
II. AND THIS SPIRIT OF GLAD SONG IS NEEDED FOR SUCH SERVICE. For:
1. Men will not care for that which, so far as they can see, does you little or no good. But when they see that the faith of Christ is the sunshine of our lives, then they will more ready to believe. Do we let men see this? And:
2. It alone is strong enough for the work. Let me tell you a parable. There was a tyrant who sought to oppress the inhabitants of a certain land. The better to do this he built a strong castle, built it deep and high, and placed it at the entrance of a valley which led to the land he sought to oppress. A little stream ran along that valley near the foundation of his fortress; but he heeded not that, sure it could do no harm. Many who loved that land felt very sad as they saw the oppressor's power; but yet they hoped that somehow his power would be overthrown. And so it came to pass. The summer went on and the autumn rains came, and the little rivulet became a rapid stream, and began to gnaw away at the foundations of that grim castle; but it could not do much harm. But the winter storms came, and the stream swelled into a strong river, and began to be dangerous to the tyrant's fortress, so that he, at length, did feel fear. But matters grew worse; the winter was over, and the snow high up on the mountains which shut in the valley began to melt, and the river went on increasing in its might till, one wild night, the great reservoirs of waters that had been gathering all the winter through suddenly burst, and with a rush and a roar raged all down the valley, the waters bearing with them a vast mass of timber, stones, trees, earth, and all kinds of material; and they came down upon the tyrant's castle and overwhelmed it, sapping its foundations and tearing down its walls till it had perished out of sight. Such the parable. The interpretation is not far to seek. Heathendom is that fortress, and the prince of darkness he who built it. The rill, the stream, the river, the torrent, represent respectively the force of the motives which assail the strength of heathendom. The sense of fear, of duty, of pity, of glad joy in God. It is this last which alone avails; the others do but little, though some much more than the rest. "The joy of the Lord is our strength."
III. THE SPIRIT OF SONG SHALL BE GIVEN TO THOSE WHO ENGAGE IN THIS SERVICE. For joy comes in the service of the Lord - true joy. Be not content until you know this joy, for not till then will you effectually serve. - S.C.
conversion of the heathen to the faith and service of Jehovah. He only wanted everybody to know of his new liberty and dignity, and of the great things his God was doing for him. It was as if Englishmen went everywhere to tell what great things God had done, and was doing, for England. Active effort to convert the world to Judaism has never been made, and is not being made now. The truly missionary idea is introduced by Christianity. There is a sense in which the exclusiveness of the Jews was broken down by the Captivity. Jews were then scattered over the earth; but they were only silent missionaries wherever they went. They witnessed for Jehovah by what they were, rather than by what they said. Wherever they went they found a sort of belief in one God, clouded over by an active belief in many gods. This is the characteristic of all heathenism; and we too readily miss seeing the idea of one supreme God, which is really the root religious idea of man everywhere; the idea to which the higher revelation makes its appeal. The law of Christian missions, and missions in all ages, is this - If any man has a higher and better view of God than his neighbour, he is bound to tell it to his neighbour.
I. THE JEW HAD A BETTER VIEW OF GOD THAN HIS NEIGHBOURS. Take especially the Jew of the Restoration, to whom the primary truths concerning God seemed as if freshly revealed. He knew of three truths that are fundamental to right conceptions of God.
1. The unity of God.
2. The spirituality of God.
3. The holiness of God.
Show that these were higher views of God than were entertained in either Babylon or among the neighbouring Samaritans, Ammonites, etc. What responsibility, then, rested on the Jew, specially to show that good doctrine bears good fruit?
II. THE CHRISTIAN HAS A BETTER VIEW OF GOD THAN HIS NEIGHBOURS. He knows God in the face of Jesus, through the Sonship of Jesus as the Father, as the Forgiver of sin, and as the Forgiver on the basis of one ever-acceptable sacrifice for sin. - R.T.
Daniel 5:37). It intimates that Jehovah, though an all-powerful God, was in no sense a local God, with a limited kingdom and ordinary earthly claims. To call God the "God of heaven" is at least making a beginning towards the realization of him as spiritual.
I. GODS OF EARTH. Explain the strictly local and limited area of the kingdoms possessed by idol gods. Bel belonged to Babylon; Ra to Egypt. There were "gods of the hills and gods of the valleys." There were distinct conceptions of, and representations of, Baal for each country and almost for each city. Jealous over their own particular divinity, no missionary idea found place in the ancient world. Nobody wanted to share his god with any one else. (A striking exception to this is found in the proselyting spirit of Jezebel.) Curiously, the god of the limited district was conceived as almighty within his limits. Even when the world conquering idea took possession of nations, such as Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Grecia, Rome, in no case did propagating the religion become a primary inspiration. The conquerors freely left the conquered their local religion. So we can see the force with which the local limitations of the gods took possession of the ancient mind.
II. GOD OF HEAVEN. Observe the strong contrast. Jehovah is unlocalized, above earth, and doming all the earth. It is impossible to express, not only the superiority, but also the essential difference, of Jehovah in more brief and succinct terms. Down on earth, a multitude of small spaces, each with a petty deity. Up above, ruling from rim to rim, the one eternal God. The all-hallowing dome is heaven. This was more strikingly apprehended when the prevailing idea was that earth was a flat surface, with the blue heaven fitting to it like the cover of a dish. Work out these points concerning the "God of heaven."
1. His forces are not exclusively material. He does control the material, but he commands the spiritual.
2. His forces are working universally. We can think of no sphere in which we may not find their operation.
3. His forces claim for him universal recognition. See how the Christian revelation has taken this figure for God, and glorified it. - R.T.
I. THEY ARE THE DISTINGUISHING MARKS OF ALL GOD'S WORKS. "Jehovah made the heavens" - so we read in ver. 5; and assuredly they are seen there. And look where we will, it is the same. See the account of the Creation.
II. THEE SHOULD BE IN OUR SANCTUARIES TODAY. It is a public dishonouring of God if men are content that the sanctuaries in which they worship should be mean and ill-appointed, as so many of them are, whilst in their own houses no costly expense is spared and no adornment withheld (see Haggai 1:4). On the other hand, the magnificent churches, minsters, abbeys, which still remain in this and other lands, have throughout all the long centuries since they were built borne silent but eloquent testimony to the reverence, love, and devotion towards God which dwelt in the hearts of their builders, and which it was their profound conviction ought to dwell in the hearts of all. Meanness and miserable selfishness often skulk behind the plea of spirituality of worship, and that the heart is all that God desires.
III. THEY ARE ESSENTIAL TO THE WELFARE OF ANY CHURCH.
1. Strength must be there. Not necessarily the strength of wealth, or intellect, or social rank, but spiritual strength - that strength which springs from a firm and living faith universally and tenaciously held, manifesting itself in conscientious adherence to the truth and unsullied righteousness of life, and nourished by fervent prayer and diligent use of all the means of grace. If such strength be wanting, then the glory of that Church has departed, and her decay and dissolution and degradation are at hand. Ecclesiastical organization and money and property may keep up the scaffolding and outworks of such Church for a while, but ere long they too will fail, and the Church must die. But with such spiritual strength, the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.
2. And there must be beauty also. "The beauty of holiness," in which we are bidden "worship the Lord" (ver. 9). By this we understand that moral and spiritual beauty, such as were pre-eminent in our Lord; that winsomeness and grace, that attractiveness of love and pity and compassionate helpfulness, that beautiful grace of which St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. has so much to say, that sweet reasonableness and evident sincerity, and that holy peace and joy which union with Christ imparts, - such is the beauty, the only real beauty, which should be in the Church of the living God.
IV. AND THEY SHOULD CHARACTERIZE THE TEMPLE OF THE SOUL.
1. Strength born of faith and love, which holds the soul true to Christ and causes it to be rooted like the oak, and grounded like the deep foundations of a temple, so that it can never be moved.
2. Then beauty. The superstructure, fair in form and symmetrical, that arrests the attention and awakens the delight of the beholder - that holy beauty of Christ-like character, which, with strength also, he is waiting and willing to impart to every faithful soul. - S.C.
1. The song. All are to join in; no stopping to inquire into the motives, but all are to sing (ver. 1). It will be good even for evil men, as well as the people of God, to unite in his praise. It may help them to pass over to the side of God's people.
2. Preaching. The very idea of missions as here set forth is the overflowing, the exuberance, of the Church's joy. So only can missions really succeed (see homily on ver. 3).
3. Offerings. Of these we would specially speak. For our text lays down -
I. THE DUTY OF OFFERING TO GOD.
1. The witnesses to this will of God are numerous.
(2) The Jews. The tithes they had to pay amounted to nearly a third of their income. The treasury was a constituent part of the temple, and large sums were continually cast in there (Mark 12:41-43).
(3) The early Church. They had a common fund (Acts 2:44, 45). Paul and Barnabas (Acts 11:29, 30) gathered for the poor of Jerusalem. Paul from the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:1). Christ said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (see parable of unjust steward, Matthew 24:6, etc.);
2. The need of it is so great. Think of the multiplied objects which call for such offerings. The Church of God needs such aid for the maintenance of her ministers, her fabric, her missions, and her varied religious agencies. The poor rightly claim our help. If we have not compassion for them, how dwelleth the love of God in us? Our own spiritual life demands that we make such offerings. The only way to overcome that idolatry of money which seduces so many is to give it away in wise and Christian manner. If we hoard and keep it, the love of it will drive out the love of God.
II. THE MANNER OF FULFILLING THIS DUTY.
1. Presenting it in the house of God when we come to worship. This was the custom of the Jews (see 1 Chronicles 16:1). Also of the early Christian Church (see 1 Corinthians 16:1; 2 Corinthians 8 and 9). St. Paul's argument on this matter is very interesting and noteworthy. He was very anxious to relieve his own countrymen; to fulfil his own promise (Galatians 2:10); to prove the reality of the faith of the Gentile Churches and their love to their Jewish brethren, and thus to heal the breach that so sadly severed the Jewish and Gentile Churches. Hence he was very anxious about this collection, and hence, also, he would be sure to seek out the best means for securing it. Hence he directed that there should be the weekly Lord's day storing for this end (1 Corinthians 16:2). Now, as this plan is so good, and no other is so commended to us, we may regard it as having special claim on our attention.
2. For it has great advantages. It takes away the temptation to neglect of this duty which arises from:
(1) The largeness of the offering asked. What is given week by week is not felt as when a great sum is asked for all at once.
(2) Delay of offering.
(4) Dependence upon the excitement of the moment. Moreover:
(5) It makes worship more real.
(6) It is far more productive
(7) It is a witness bearing for Christ.
(8) It nourishes our own spiritual life.
But, of course, this especial manner of offering is not obligatory, though it has especial sanction.
III. THE MOTIVE. Love to Christ (2 Corinthians 8:9). That is the only worthy and reliable motive. Others are sure to break down sooner or later, and to miserably fail in securing the end sought after. Let Christ possess a man's heart, all else will go along with that. - S.C.
I. OFFERINGS FOR GOD MUST BE REASONABLE. That term includes two distinct things:
There may be times when an impulsive gift is acceptable; but as a rule no proper gift can be made to God save upon due consideration of all our claims. God asks but a proportion of our time, our land, or our labour. Our care should be to get and keep an honourable proportion. There is some danger in our over-valuing mere impulsive acts. They "loom large" to our view. Whereas the man who, thoughtfully estimating his means, sets aside his offering for God, lays a far nobler gift on God's altar. It is a gift of mind, and not of merely excited feeling.
II. OFFERINGS FOR GOD MUST BE MADE TO MATCH INDIVIDUALS. Two young pigeons for a mother if she be poor. Two mites for a widow; but gold for the rich. The gift should match means and good will.
III. OFFERINGS FOR GOD MUST BE EXPRESSIVE OF OFFERED SELF. To God there can be no value in things. What he asks for, and can alone accept, is the spiritual offering of the man himself - his will, his love. This can find expression in a material offering. God will only receive the offering when it is the voice of the man. - R.T.
2 Chronicles 20:21, where Jehoshaphat, in sending forth his army, "appointed singers who should praise the beauty of holiness." Holiness is the keynote of the worship of Jehovah; but it is the keynote of the worship of no other god. "Had a medal been struck in praise of Jupiter, who is the best of the pagan gods, on one side might have been engraved 'Almightiness, omnipresence, justice;' and on the reverse, 'Caprice, vengeance, lust.'" But the association of beauty with holiness now requires our attention. The best idea may be gained by thinking of ripe fruit; if it is really healthy and ripe, it cannot help having a bloom on. That bloom is the beauty of ripeness. "Beauty is a combination of elements according to the laws of harmony; the more beautiful the parts or elements, and the more perfect the harmonious combination, the higher the beauty." Then we must find the elements that go to make a worship so holy that, both in God's sight and in man's, it should be beautiful. Worship that can be thought of as showing the "beauty of holiness" must be -
I. LAWFUL. It may not be sufficiently recognized that public worship was arranged for, authorized. There is no room for self-will. There may be different views as to the ultimate authority for forms of worship. If it is to be "holy," the elements of mere self-willedness and pleasure must be excluded.
II. PURE. "Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord." This was at once typified and testified by the clean white linen garments of the priests, and by their washing before engaging in their offices. Bodily purity did but represent the moral purity God requires.
III. SINCERE. This brings before us the condition of the will. God's great reproach is levelled at the divided mind. That worship cannot be acceptable in which the man's hand is one way and his heart is another. Worship is only ceremony and routine unless a man's heart is in it. Absolute simple-mindedness is the beauty of worship, the bloom on the fruit.
IV. CHEERFUL. The psalmists constantly remind us of the joyousness of worship. It excited high emotions. Lifted out of all drudgery to become a holy delight, we feel still the "beauty of holiness" in God's glorious sanctuary and exalted worship. - R.T.
him and it (Romans 8:20-23). In a very well known discourse, Dr. H. Bushnell illustrates these two propositions:
(1) God has hidden powers of music in things without life;
(2) when they are used, in right distinctions or properties of sound, they discourse what we know - what meets, interprets, and works our feeling, as living and spiritual creatures.
I. NATURE SYMPATHIES WITH MAN IN HIS INNOCENCE. Show the kindness between the Garden of Eden and the man put into it.
II. NATURE SYMPATHIES WITH MAN IN HIS FALL. Bringing forth thorns, etc. Ground cursed for man's sake. A well known artist has a picture of Adam and Eve after their fall. They are seated, in utmost distress, at a distance from each other, and what seems to divide them is a hideously shaped tree, the trunk of which seems to take almost demon form. The artist made nature kin to our fallen parents.
III. NATURE SYMPATHIES WITH MAN IN HIS MOODS. Illustrate this by the darkness which fell behind the cross of Jesus when he died. See also the effect of the shading olives on Jesus in Gethsemane. Compare the harvest psalms - the corn, etc., shouting for joy in response to the glad and thankful moods of men.
IV. NATURE SYMPATHIES WITH MAN IN HIS REDEMPTION. For illustration, see Isaiah 11:6-9, where the very beasts are poetically represented as affected by the peace of eternal purity which one day shall come to men. - R.T.
coming to judge with the basis idea of all this series of psalms, that God was beginning to reign, setting up again his kingdom among his restored people. Here the Judge is put poetically for the King, because deciding cases, magistracy, is the main feature of Eastern kingship. Absalom enticed the people from their allegiance to David by a half-veiled promise of considerateness, if not favouritism, in the king's work of judging. The first thing recorded of Solomon is an act of skilful judgment. The association of this passage with a "day of judgment" is purely a Christian association. God the Judge is simply God the active, present Ruler and King. But we may see the element of judging as punishing, in the verse, if we take the standpoint of the returned exiles; for any intervention of God for the salvation of his people necessarily involves some judgment on those from whom they are delivered; and so the redeeming King is found to be also a Judge. Just as the idea of God's "coming to judge" endangered the sense of his actual presence and actual working as Ruler and Judge, so the idea of Christ's second coming may be so entertained as to spoil the living sense of his actual presence and abiding relations with his people. The idea of a continual appraisement of human action, of a Divine judgment, with adequate rewards and punishments, as always going on, is coming more and more into Christian thought, and is replacing the older idea of the delegation of everything to a final assize day. Two things are indicated in this verse of the text, as characteristic of God's rule or judgment.
I. IT IS ETERNALLY RIGHT. "With righteousness shall he judge." Find the absolute standard of right, and all God's kingly ways will be found in precise accordance with it.
II. IT IS ADAPTED TO CIRCUMSTANCES. "With equity shall he judge." Equity is righteousness applied to the individual as placed in particular circumstances. - R.T.