Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord.
Homilist.The two first verses of this psalm — the last of the Pilgrim Psalms — are addressed by the congregation to the priests and Levites who had charge of the temple during the night (1 Chronicles 9:27-33). The last verse seems to be the answer of the priests in dismissing the people with a blessing.
I. MAN is here represented as BLESSING THE LORD. "Bless ye the Lord." That is, praise ye the Lord — worship Him, worship Him in spirit and in truth.
II. The LORD is here represented as BLESSING MAN (ver. 3). This is the usual form of priestly benediction (Numbers 6:24).
1. The Author of the blessing. "The Lord that made heaven and earth." What a condescension in Him, what an honour for us!
2. The condition of the blessing. He will bless us on the condition that we bless Him or worship Him. So it ever is, there is a Divine blessing in worship.
1. It is to be expected of ministers that with humble gladness they deem themselves, and show that they wish to be considered "servants of the Lord." They are also servants of the Church (2 Corinthians 4:5). But they may no more follow the will of men, as if blind slaves to the congregation, than their own independent will, "as being lords over God's heritage" (1 Peter 5:3). It must be their great concern to ascertain, obey and teach the will of their Supreme Master. Having received Divine instruction, they must, in a becoming spirit and manner, fearless of consequences, speak and act accordingly (1 Corinthians 4:1-4; 2 Timothy 2:3; 1 Peter 4:10). The address in the psalm implies a call upon ministers to speak in their lives what they say with their lips, and be themselves the blessing they pronounce. The margin reads, "Lift up your hands in holiness." "Cast out first the beam out of thine own eye," etc. (Luke 6:42). "Be thou an example of the believers," etc. (1 Timothy 4:12). Merit the title we give you of "servants of the Lord." Deserve, as far as possible, to praise Jehovah for the congregation, and in His name to bless His people.
2. What the people of God require their pastors to be and do they aim at for themselves in prayer and practice. Language like this in the psalm, addressed to the Lord's servants in the place "where prayer is wont to be made," implies the possession of a praying spirit, and an engagement to offer prayer. We cannot turn our wishes and counsels into prayer without also, in our relation and degree, turning them into practice. The psalm implies that all who use it, in the spirit of it, people as well as pastors, are servants of the Lord; and in nearly every respect the duty of ministers of religion exhibits that of their fellow-worshippers. And not only in the worship of the temple and the reading of the sacred volume, but in the cleanness of your hands, in the purity of your hearts, in the holiness of your lives be as consistent as you would have your ministers.
(E. J. Robinson.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Which by night stand in the house of the Lord.
I. THE CHARGE TO THE WATCHERS. "Bless ye the Lord." It is because they are the servants of the Lord that, therefore, it is their business to bless the Lord. It is because they stand in the house of the Lord that it is theirs to bless the Lord. So for us Christians. We are servants of the Lord — His priests. That we "stand in the house of the Lord" expresses not only the fact of our great privilege of confiding approach to Him and communion with Him, whereby we may ever abide in the very Holy of Holies, and be in the secret place of the Most High, even while we are busy in the world, but it also points to our duty of ministering; for the word "stand" is employed to designate the attendance of the priests in their office, and is almost equivalent to "serve." "To bless the Lord," then, is the work to which we are especially called. And then there is another lesson here, and that is that all times are times for blessing God. Although no sacrifice was smoking on the altar, and no choral songs went up from the company of praising priests in the ritual service; and although the nightfall had silenced the worship and scattered the worshippers, yet some low murmur of praise would be echoing through the empty halls all the night long, and the voice of thanksgiving and of blessing would blend with the clank of the priests' feet on the marble pavements as they went their patrolling rounds; and their torches would send up a smoke not less acceptable than the wreathing columns of the incense that had filled the day. And so as in some convents you will find a monk kneeling on the steps of the altar at each hour of the four-and-twenty, adoring the sacrament exposed upon it, so in the Christian heart there should be a perpetual adoration and a continual praise — a prayer without ceasing. What is it that comes first of all into your minds when you wake in the middle of the night? Yesterday's business, to-morrow's vanities, or God's present love and your dependence upon Him? In the night of sorrow, too, do our songs go up, and do we hear and obey the charge which commands not only perpetual adoration, but bids us fill the night with music and with praise? Well for us if it be anticipating the time when "they rest not day nor night saying Holy! Holy! Holy!"
II. THE ANSWERING BLESSING (ver. 3). May we venture to draw from this interchange of counsel and benediction a simple lesson as to the best form in which mutual goodwill and friendship may express itself? It is by the interchange of stimulus to God's service and praise, and of grateful prayer. He is my best friend who stirs me up to make my whole life a strong sweet song of thanksgiving to God for all His numberless mercies to me. Even if the exhortation becomes rebuke, faithful are such wounds. It is but a shallow affection which can be eloquent on other subjects of common interests, but is dumb on this, the deepest of all; which can counsel wisely and rebuke gently in regard to other matters, but has never a word to say to its dearest concerning duty to the God of all mercies. And the true response to any loving exhortation to bless God, or any religious impulse which we receive from one another, is to invoke God's blessing on faithful lips that have given us counsel. But observe, further, the two kinds of blessing which answer to one another — God's blessing of man, and man's blessing of God. The one is communicative, the other receptive and responsive. The one is the great stream which pours itself over the precipice; the other is the basin into which it falls, and the showers of spray which rise from its surface, rainbowed in the sunshine, as the cataract of Divine mercies comes down upon it. God blesses us when He gives. We bless God when we thankfully take, and praise the Giver. God's blessing, then, must ever come first. Ours is but the echo of His, but the acknowledgment of the Divine act, which must precede our recognition of it as the dawn, must come in order that the birds may wake to sing. Our highest service is to take the gifts of God and with glad hearts to praise the Giver. Our blessings are but words. God's blessings are realities. We wish good to one another when we bless each other. But He does good to men when He blesses them. Observe, too, the channel through which God's blessings come — "out of Zion." For the Jew the fulness of the Divine glory dwelt between the cherubim, and the richest of the Divine blessings were bestowed on the waiting worshippers there. And no doubt it is still true that God dwells in Zion, and blesses men from thence. The New Testament analogue to the Old Testament temple is no outward building. A material type must have a spiritual fulfilment. In the true sense, Jesus Christ is the Temple. In Him God dwelt; in Him man meets God; in Him was the place of Revelation; in Him the place of Sacrifice. "In this piece is one greater than the temple," and the abiding of Jehovah above the mercy-seat was but a material symbol, shadowing and foretelling the true indwelling of all the fulness of the Godhead bodily in that true tabernacle which the Lord hath pitched and not man. So the great Fountain of all possible good and benediction, which was opened for the believing Jew in "Zion," is opened for us in Jesus Christ who stood in the very court of the temple, and called in tones of clear, loud invitation: "If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink." There is another application of the temple symbol in the New Testament — a derivative and secondary one — to the Church, that is, to the aggregate of believers. In it God dwells through Christ. Receiving His Spirit, instinct with His life it is His Body, and as in His earthly life "He spake of the temple of His 'literal' body," so now that Church becomes the temple of God, being builded through the ages. In that Zion all God's best blessings are possessed and stored, that the Church may by faithful service impart them to the world.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
(J. B. Heard, M. A.)
(J. H. Cooke.)
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary.
(H. White, M. A.)
The Lord that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion.
I. JEHOVAH — THE FOUNTAIN OF BLESSING. There is in the Divine nature an infinite and everlasting disposition to do us good; and connected with that infinite and everlasting disposition to do us good are all power, all knowledge, all wisdom, absolute independence and eternity of being. And we find actual blessings on God's part according to that capacity. He does not bless as His creatures bless — often unwisely, often insufficiently, often half-heartedly — but when God blesses, He blesses with all that is within Him; with all that can be employed in that particular act and work of blessing.
II. THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH, EVIDENCE OF DIVINE CAPACITY TO BLESS. While we, of course, look chiefly and supremely to the manifestation of God's goodness in our Lord and Saviour, we ought not to overlook the expressions of His care and kindness which we find in the grass of the field, and in the very dust which we tread beneath our feet.
III. THE CHURCH A CHANNEL OF BLESSING. The Church is the conservator of Divine revelation, — the Church is the offerer on earth of true worship — it consists of a company of priests, a royal priesthood, part of whose mission is "to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." The Church is the heritor of the covenants. God's covenants are made with His Church, and His promises are addressed chiefly to His Church. The Church is the scene of special Divine ministrations, God shows Himself to His Church as He does not to that which is called the world. It is also the scene of special heavenly influences: and in a sense next to that in which God is said to reside in heaven, the Church is the dwelling-place of the Most High. Now, what is it to be blessed out of Zion? It is surely to be blessed with Zion's blessings, and to have Zion's endowments and gifts rendered sources of advantage and profit to us.
IV. THE SAINTS AS THE MEANS OF SPREADING THE BLESSING, AND THAT, TOO, BY THE SPIRIT OF BLESSING. "The Lord that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion." "Bless thee!" You know where this was first said, and when. The Fountain of Blessing first said it. He said it in Paradise to our first father and mother when, beautiful in holiness, and glorious in uprightness and goodness, they came fresh from His hand. As their Creator, He said to them both, "Bless thee"; and we have learned to say, "Bless thee," from our Father in heaven, the Fountain of Blessing. We never should have said to each other, "Bless thee," had not God taught us; and when we say it, we but echo His voice. "Bless you," said the Son of God to the multitude around Him. And, "Bless you," said He emphatically to His apostles when He was about to leave them — when He was about to ascend from Olivet, and depart out of their sight. "He lifted up His hands, and blessed them." "Bless you," said the apostles to the Churches. How full of benedictions are these glorious epistles! "Grace, mercy, and peace be with all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all." And what has this to do with spreading the Divine blessing? Much every way. Such benediction, when sincere, and when not a mere form of words, is prayer. And every promise that is made to prayer is made to benediction. So that he who is possessed by the spirit of blessing, and who expresses it in his behaviour, and in his deportment, is constantly supplicating the throne of the heavenly grace on behalf of others.
V. THE RICHES INVOLVED IN THE DIVINE BENEDICTION. It means, The Lord speak comfortably to thee. It means, The Lord keep thee; the Lord be thy shepherd; the Lord restore thy soul when thy spirit wanders; the Lord keep thee in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake; the Lord hold up thy goings in His paths, that thy footsteps slip not; the Lord be thy light and thy salvation; God be thy refuge and strength, thy present help in trouble. May morning follow the night, and the night be driven away by the lifting up of the light of the countenance of the loving God — by expressions of His love adapted to the time of sorrow, and to the state of depression and despondency." "The Lord give thee peace," — that is, prosperity, well-being, health in the soul, comfort in the heart, rest, joy, quiet in the spirit.
I. THE UNIVERSE HAD AN ORIGIN. The heaven and the earth are not eternal, they had a beginning (Genesis 1:1).
II. THE ORIGINATOR OF THE UNIVERSE WAS ONE. "The Lord." He created it alone. There was no one to instruct Him in planning it, no one to aid Him in building it up.
III. THE ONE ORIGINATOR OF THE UNIVERSE IS THE OBJECT FOR UNIVERSAL PRAISE. "Bless the Lord." True worship should be, therefore —
1. Unaided. There is no one to share the praise.
2. Enthusiastic. This One Being should be the all-in-all of the soul.
3. Incessant. He is ever-present, ever-giving, ever-sustaining, ever-inspiring.
(David Thomas, D. D.)
(E. P. Thwing.).