God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.
Psalm 42. It is "a song upon Alamoth," which, according to Furst, is the proper name of a musical choir. As the word "Alamoth" means "virgins," it is supposed that the song was for soprano voices. We have, however, to deal with the contents of the song itself. It has long been a favourite with the people of God. "This is my psalm," said Luther. To this we owe his "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott," and many other songs of the sanctuary. It would seem to have been suggested by some one of the many deliverances which the Hebrews had from the onsets of their foes; but to which of those it specially refers, is and must be left an open question. There are phrases in it which remind us of the redemption from Egypt (cf. ver. 5 with Exodus 14:27, Hebrew). There are others which recall the deliverance for which Jehoshaphat prayed (cf. vers. 10, 11 with 2 Chronicles 20:17, 22, 23). Other words vividly set forth the boasting of Sennacherib and the destruction of his army (cf. vers. 3, 6 with 2 Kings 18:29-35; 2 Kings 19:6, 7, 15-19, 28, 35). At each of these crises the four points of this psalm would be
(1) a raging storm;
(2) a commanding voice;
(3) a humbled foe;
(4) a jubilant song.
And how many times this song has been sung by individuals, by families, by Churches, by nations, the closest students of history best can tell. And in setting forth this song for homiletic use, we might show that it records the repeated experience of the Church; that it becomes the grateful song of the family; that it fits the lips of the believer in recounting providential mercy; that it is the constant song of the saints in rehearsing redemption's story. To deal with all these lines of thought would far exceed our space. We will confine ourselves to the last-named use of the words before us, showing that this forty-sixth psalm means far more on the lips of the Christian than it did on the lips of Old Testament believers. It is not the song itself that is our chief joy, but that revelation of God which has made such a song possible for believers - first under the Old Testament, and specially, in Christ, under the New Testament.
I. THE SAINTS NOW HAVE A CLEARER VIEW OF GOD. (Hebrews 1:1, 2.) Of old, God spake through prophets; now he speaks in his Son. And when we hear our Lord say, "He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father," we know at once to whom to turn for the interpretation of that greatest of all words, "God." To the Hebrews, their covenant God was revealed in words (Exodus 34:6, 7); but to us he is revealed in the living Word, in the Person of the incarnate Son of God. "In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily."
II. THE SAINTS NOW CAN RECORD A GREATER DELIVERANCE than Israel of old could boast - an infinitely greater one. Not only was there all the difference between rescues that were local, temporary, national, and one that is for the race for all time, but also the difference between a deliverance from Egypt, Ammon, Moab, and Assyria, and one that is from Satan and from sin; from the curse of a broken Law, and from the wrath to come. The song of Miriam is infinitely outdone by the new song, even the song of Moses and the Lamb.
III. THE SAINTS CAN NOW REJOICE IN A BETTER COVENANT. At the back, so to speak, of the psalm before us there was a recognized covenant between God and the people (Exodus 19:5, 6; Psalm 46:7, 11). In the later days of David "the everlasting covenant" was the aged monarch's hope and rest. But now, in Christ, we have the "better covenant," "the everlasting covenant," sealed and ratified with blood (Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 13:20; Matthew 26:28). This covenant assures to the penitent, forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified. It includes all that Christ is and has, as made over to those who rely on him, for ever and for ever. It is not dependent on the accidents of time or sense. No duration can weaken it; no ill designs can mar it; not all the force of earth or hell can touch these who look to "the sure mercies of David."
IV. THE SAINTS NOW MAKE UP A MORE PRIVILEGED CITY. (Ver. 4.) While nations were proudly and angrily raging like the wild waves of the tossing sea, there was a calm, peaceful river, whose branches peacefully flowed through the city of God. Thus beautifully does the psalmist indicate the calm which took possession of believers then, while the nations roared around them. And in "the new Jerusalem," the present "city of God," which Divine love founded, and which Divine power is building up, there still flows the deep, still, calm river of Divine peace and joy and love. Or, if it be preferred, let Dr. Watts tell " That sacred stream, thine Holy Word, That all our raging fear controls; Sweet peace thy promises afford, And give new strength to fainting souls." Through the new city of God, the Holy Catholic Church, made up of all believers, this peaceful stream ever runs, refreshing and fertilizing wherever it flows. No frost congeals it; no heat can dry it up; it will eternally make glad the city of God. Hence -
V. THE SAINTS NOW PEAL FORTH A MORE JUBILANT SONG, We can sing this psalm, especially its first verse, with wider intelligence, larger meaning, deeper peace, and more expansive joy, than were possible to the Hebrews of old. As revelation has advanced, the believer's joy in God has grown likewise. Faith becomes larger as faith's Object becomes clearer. And no Hebrew could sing of the deliverance of his fathers so joyously as we can sing of the redemption of a world - a redemption in which we can rejoice, not only in our days of sadness, but in our days of gladness too. And as the psalmist could think of God as the Lord of hosts, and yet the God of Jacob; as the Leader of the armies of heaven, and yet the Helper of the lonely, wayworn traveller; so the believer, in thinking of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, can say, "He died for all," and also, "He loved me, and gave himself for me."
VI. THE SONG IS GRANDEST WHERE TROUBLE HAS BEEN THE GREATEST. "He has been found a Help in trouble exceedingly " - the adverb expressive of intensity may refer to the greatness of the trouble. But however this may be, certain it is that it is in the troubles of life that the believer finds out all that God is to him. And the man who can sing this psalm most jubilantly is the one who has been weighted with care most heavily. This is the glory of our great redeeming God. He is a Friend for life's dark days, as well as for the bright ones. Note:
1. The troubles of life often bring out to us our need of God. It is easy to be serene when trouble is far from us, and to spin fine philosophic webs; but let trouble come upon us, - that will make all the difference. The late beloved Princess Alice was almost led to the dark negations of Straussianism; but when she lost her child, her trouble led her to feel her need of a Refuge, and then she sought and found the Lord. Ellen Watson, the accomplished mathematician, revelled in exact science, and "wanted nothing more," till the death of a friend broke in on her exact science, rent her heart, opened her eyes, and was the means of leading her to Jesus. The experience of a young civil engineer, whom the writer visited in his last illness, was precisely the same.
2. Those who can give us no comfort or rest in the troubles of life are of little use in such a world as this. In a letter of an aged Unitarian minister to a friend of the writer, the expression is used, "I am just battling with the inevitable." "Battling with the inevitable!" So it must be, if men turn away from our God as the Redeemer from sin, the Saviour of the lost.
3. It is the glory of Christ as our Refuge that he can hide us securely in the fiercest troubles of life.
"Should storms of sevenfold thunder roll, And shake the globe from pole to pole No flaming bolt shall daunt my face For Jesus is my Hiding-place." ? C.
Kings' daughters were among Thy honourable women. Upon Thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir.I. THE GENERAL PROPRIETY AND SIGNIFICANCE OF THE IMAGE OF A MARRIAGE AS IT IS HERE EMPLOYED. Familiar emblems are needful for the better understanding of the Gospel by the mass of the people. Now, the relation between Christ and His Church, it is evident, must be of a nature not to be adequately typified by anything in the material world; and nothing could be found in human life which might so aptly represent it as the relation of husband and wife in the holy state of wedlock; and in this the analogy is so perfect that the notion" of the ancient Jews has received the express sanction of St. Paul, that the relation of the Saviour and the Church was typified in the union of our first parents, and in the particular manner of Eve's formation out of the substance of Adam.
II. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THIS MARRIAGE. The magnificence of the court of the king as it appeared on the wedding-day, the splendour of the royal robes, the profusion of rich perfumes, are dwelt on. Of these last such quantities were used that the whole person was not merely sprinkled, but "ran down" with them to the very skirts of the garment. The psalmist describes the fragrance of Messiah's garments to be such as if the robes had been made of the very substance of aromatic woods. "Thy garments are all myrrh, aloes and cassia." No palace adorned with ivory — a favourite ornament of palaces — could furnish such fragrance, no, nor even the incense that was burnt upon the golden altar as a grateful odour to the Lord. Now, all these perfumed garments were typical; first, of the graces and virtues of the Redeemer Himself in His human character; secondly, of whatever is refreshing, encouraging, consoling, and cheering in the external ministration of the word; and, thirdly, of the internal comforts of the Holy Spirit. We proceed to other particulars in the magnificent appearance of His court on the wedding-day, figurative of the glory of the Church in its final condition of purity and peace, and of the rank and order of particular churches. "Kings' daughters are among Thy honourable women." But the primary meaning of the word rendered "honourable" is "bright, sparkling," and the imagery of the original would be better preserved if rendered thus, "Kings' daughters are among the bright beauties of Thy court." The beauty certainly is mystic — the beauty of evangelical sanctity and innocence. But who are these kings' daughters? They are the kingdoms and peoples, perhaps the various national churches, fostered for many ages by the piety of Christian princes, and now brought to the perfection of beauty by their being cleansed from all wrong — they may welt be called "kings' daughters," of whom kings and queens are called in prophetic language the fathers and mothers. Then, the consort, "the queen," who is she? Some expositors have imagined that the consort is an emblem of the Church catholic in her totality; the kings' daughters, typical of the several particular churches of which that one universal is composed. But the queen consort here is unquestionably the Hebrew Church; the Church of the natural Israel, reunited, by her conversion, to her husband, and advanced to the high prerogative of the mother Church of Christendom; and the kings' daughters are the churches which had been gathered out of the Gentiles in the interval between the expulsion of his wife and the taking of her home again, that is, between the dispersion of the Jews by the Romans and their restoration. The restoration of the Hebrew Church to the rights of a wife, to the situation of the queen consort in Messiah's kingdom upon earth, is the constant strain of prophecy. The prophet, I said, describes the Gentile converts as becoming, upon the reunion, children of the pardoned wife. And so St. Paul (Romans 11.). The standard gold upon the queen's robe denotes the treasures of which the Church is the depositary — the Word and Sacraments, and the dispensation of grace and forgiveness by their due administration. Then follows —
III. THE COUNSEL TO THE BRIDE (Vers 10, 11). If a princess from a distant land, taken in marriage by a great king, were admonished to forget her own people and her father's house, the purport of the advice would easily be understood to be, that she should divest herself of all attachment to the customs of her native country, and to the style of her father's court, and learn to speak the language and assume the dress, the manners and the taste of her husband's people. The "father's house," and "own people," which the psalmist advises the queen consort to forget, is the ancient Jewish religion in its external form, the ceremonies of the temple service, the sacrifices and the typical purgations of the Levitical priesthood. Not that she is to forget God's gracious promises to Abraham, nor the covenant with her forefathers, nor any of the wonderful things God did for them. But only, so as to desire no more, the ancient Levitical rites and worship. They have served their purpose, and are now to be laid aside. Christ, her husband, is her paramount authority now, and is entitled to her unreserved obedience. There is given —
IV. THE DESCRIPTION OF THE QUEEN (ver. 13). "The king's daughter." Who is this? Not some new personage, the Christian Church in general composed of both Jews and Gentiles, as Luther thought, but, as Bishop Hume observes, "that the connection between Christ and His spouse unites in itself every relation and every affection." She is, therefore, daughter, wife and sister all in one. The same seems to have been the notion of a learned Dominican of the seventeenth century, who remarks that the Empress Julia, in the legends of some ancient coins, is called the daughter of Augustus, whose wife she was. But, with much general reverence for the opinions of these learned commentators, I am persuaded that the stops have been misplaced in the Hebrew manuscripts by the Jewish critics upon the last revision of the text — that translators have been misled by their false division of the text, and expositors misled by translators. The stops being rightly placed, the Hebrew words give this sense: "She is all glorious" — she, the consort of whom we have been speaking, is glorious in every respect — "Daughter of a king!" That is, she is a princess born; she is glorious, therefore, for her high birth. She is, indeed, of high and heavenly extraction! Accordingly, in the Apocalypse, the bride, the Lamb's wife, is "the holy Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God." The psalmist adds: "She is conducted in procession to the king" — in all the pomp of a public procession. This may point to some remarkable assistance which the Jews will receive from the Christian Gentiles in their re-settlement in the Holy Land (Isaiah 18, at end, and Zephaniah 3:10). And then follow the prediction as to the Church's children and the distinguished character they shall hold, and he closes with setting forth the design and predicting the effect of this Divine song.
LinksPsalm 46:1 NIV
Psalm 46:1 NLT
Psalm 46:1 ESV
Psalm 46:1 NASB
Psalm 46:1 KJV
Psalm 46:1 Bible Apps
Psalm 46:1 Parallel
Psalm 46:1 Biblia Paralela
Psalm 46:1 Chinese Bible
Psalm 46:1 French Bible
Psalm 46:1 German Bible
Psalm 46:1 Commentaries