The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble! He is enthroned above the cherubim. Let the earth quake.
on the cherubim is difficult, because we cannot be quite sure of the ideas Israelites had of the position and relations of the fire symbol of God in the holy of holies. In Psalm 80:1 God is presented as sitting, throned above the cherubim;" and the idea here is probably "above the cherubim" rather than "on the cherubim." Then we get a clear meaning. The cherubim represent all created beings superior to man, all superseusual beings; and God is to be thought of as beyond and above even them, as superior to them as to the people of this earth, and as unaffected by conceivable changes in them as he is unaffected by the commotions of earth. The more usual way of explaining the figure is given by Spurgeon, thus: "In grandeur of sublime glory, yet in nearness of mediatorial condescension, Jehovah revealed himself above the mercy seat, whereon stood the likeness of those flaming ones who gaze upon his glory, and forever cry, 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts.'"
I. GOD'S REIGN ESTABLISHED. Keep the associations of the restored exiles. They set up again the theocratic kingdom, and conceived of Jehovah as coming again to reign. So they naturally recalled the old sign of his presence and rule, the Shechinah-light which shone above the mercy seat, which the cherubic figures guarded. The sign of the lapse of the nation from Jehovah was the fading or removing of that light.]Now the restored exiles rejoiced in the resumption of Jehovah's reign, and in figure presented it as God taking his seat again above the cherubim. God takes the throne only when hearts are willing to receive him.
II. GOD'S REIGN CONFIRMED. The satisfaction of the psalmist evidently is in the fact that God means to stay enthroned. He is conceived of as unaffected by the trembling of the people or the shaking of the earth. There is even a more striking poetical figure. If even the cherubim were to tremble, or shake, or fail, God's reign is too confirmed to be affected by it. We may think of him as "above the cherubim." Absolute reliance on him may find expression in loyal and loving service of him. - R.T.
Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein
I. MAN IS NATURE'S KING. The psalmist speaks as if he were the leader of nature's orchestra. And indeed, insignificant as man may seem in presence of those forces by which he is surrounded, yet here he stands in the midst of the world, "by the grace of God," its king. The earth was made for man, not man for the earth. If the "Great King" were governing nature capriciously, without any fixed or discoverable order, man would be the slave of nature, instead of her lord. He would be at the mercy of her ever-varying moods, — liable to have his plans nullified by the unexpected outbreaks of her power, and to be himself dragged as a captive at the wheels of her mighty chariot. But, as it is, every fresh discovery which man makes in the realm of science is a new gem in that royal crown which bespeaks his lordship over the world. All fuller knowledge of nature's facts is virtually, for him, a more extended mastery over nature's forces. And so he harnesses these forces to the chariot of human progress, and makes them do his bidding.
II. MAN IS NATURE'S PRIEST. The whole inanimate creation, reflecting the glory of God, and radiant with the beauty which He has impressed upon it, seems to the mind of the psalmist to be praising its Creator. Or rather, looking abroad upon the world with the eye of a priest who is laying upon the Divine altar the sacrifice of grateful adoration, he takes it upon himself to interpret and present the inarticulate offering of nature. The most beautiful melody may be played upon the harp or the organ; you may call it a "sacred" melody if you please; and the sounds which are drawn forth from the instrument may, in their very nature, be such as would furnish a most fitting vehicle of worship; yet, in these sounds there is no actual praising of God, if there be no praise in the heart of player or listener. But, on the other hand, even if the player be himself an ungodly man, let there only be some one by who can interpret these sounds and who makes them his own through sympathy with their spiritual significance, having his heart attuned to the feeling which they are fitted to express, — and now the melody is no longer soulless; it becomes a living thing; the very sounds them. selves rise up before God as acceptable worship. In like manner, throughout the whole region of the material world, considered merely in itself, there is no actual praise of God; for there is no spirit conscious of His presence, thankful for His goodness, exulting in His smile. The trees of the wood are beautiful as their green leaves glance in the sunbeams and rustle in the summer breeze; and the song of the birds amongst the branches harmonizes with the idea of thankful worship; but there is no thankfulness — no worship — there, until man comes, with a devout, joyful heart, consecrating the grove into a temple and making the birds his choristers. Influenced by the beauty and music of the world, be in turn fills all that beauty and music with a soul. To his eye the sun is as "a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoicing as a strong man to run a race." To his ear "the heavens declare the glory of God." And, having an ear for the voiceless language of nature, when she speaks to him of God, he in turn becomes, as it were, the voice of nature, enabling her to speak to God. And who can doubt that, through the exercise of this "royal priesthood," the whole world becomes more beautiful in the sight of the Creator Himself? The smile upon the face of earth, as it brightens beneath the sunshine, becomes a living smile. And nature is thus made to praise God, just as the harp or the organ praises Him, when the listener has not only an appreciative ear, but also a worshipping soul.
III. MAN IS NATURE'S PROPHET. The psalmist feels sure that the righteous and merciful God will not allow sin to disfigure and curse His world for ever, that He will manifest Himself as the rectifier of the earth's evil, the healer of the earth's sorrow, the enlightener of the earth's darkness. And there is no wonder that, in his glad hopefulness, he should call upon the inanimate creation to rejoice, as it were, with him, in prospect of that coming day which he himself delights in anticipating. For the prophetic vision of the world's regeneration implies and includes the vision of nature's redemption. Surely it is but natural that we should thus identify ourselves with the world in which we dwell, so as to associate its future, in our thoughts and hopes, with the future of its inhabitants. We know how much more heavenly this earth seems to us when we ourselves are in a heavenly frame of mind; and we can conceive in what a "celestial light" it would be "apparelled" were it only the abode of an unsinning race. We observe, moreover, how, as mankind advances in intelligence and goodness, the face of the earth undergoes a corresponding change, so that, even literally, the "wilderness" is often made to "rejoice and blossom as the rose." And therefore, cherishing, as man ought to do, a faith in the ultimate perfection of the race, it is only right that, as the prophet of nature, he should also speak with glad hopefulness concerning the future which is in store for the material creation. We may well rejoice in the thought that this earth, linked to our memories by so many associations, is to share the destinies of our redeemed humanity. And, looking forward with prophetic eye to the time when this world shall be the perfect dwelling-place of a perfected race, we may, with poetic fitness, call upon the inanimate creation to share our gladness.
(T. C. Finlayson.).
The Lord reigneth.
Homilist.I. AS SEEN IN SYMBOL. "He sitteth between the cherubim." This reference to the Shekinah teaches us that His reign is —
3. Glorious. The ark is a humble emblem of that throne which is invisible in its nature, and universal in its authority, and withal characterized by the sublimely moral, merciful, and redemptive.
II. AS EXTOLLED IN LANGUAGE (vers. 2-4). He is extolled —
1. Because He is supreme. "King of kings and Lord of lords."
2. Because He is holy. His throne has never been stained with wrong, it is a "great white throne."
3. Because it is mighty in rectitude (ver. 4). God's throne is morally omnipotent because it is infinitely just.
III. AS RECALLED IN MEMORY (vers. 6-8). His reign as here brought to the memory of the author of this poem taught two things.
1. That His reign had respect to human prayer. Moses and Aaron prayed and they were answered, Samuel prayed and he was answered, and so ever it was with the pious Hebrew. He recognized the duty and power of human prayer. Prayer is an element of the Divine Government.
2. That His reign had respect to human forgiveness. How frequently did He forgive His people of old; He forgave Moses, Samuel, Aaron, David, etc. Thus under God's reign on earth forgiveness is dispensed, dispensed to all true penitents. "Let the wicked forsake his way," etc.
IV. AS FELT IN CONSCIENCE (vers. 5, 9). Here the sublime sense of moral obligation in the author is touched, excited and speaks with an ill-imperial voice. "Exalt ye." It is at once the supreme interest and duty of every man to give Him in all things the pre-eminence in thought, sympathy, volition, aim.
I. CONSIDER THE FACT, THAT "THE LORD REIGNETH."
1. And in doing so, let it be understood, that nothing whatever is intended to be said by way of proof. That would be both useless and impertinent; for God has declared the fact. And when God speaks, it is the duty of men to believe, not to dispute or argue.
2. But though it is not necessary to prove the truth of what God has said, or to explain its reasonableness, ere we receive it, it is of the utmost advantage to obtain suitable illustrations; as thereby, not only is a more sensible impression made upon the mind, but our faith also is greatly strengthened.
3. The first idea suggested arises from a consideration of the person who is said to reign — "The Lord reigneth" — that is, the Almighty, Omniscient, Omnipresent God. Now, if such attributes belong to God, then all difficulties as to the ability of God to reign supremely at once vanish.
4. Having thus glanced at some of the attributes of God, we next observe that the idea of "reigning" implies permission of every thing which occurs. We must not, therefore, be staggered at those strange transactions, which ever and anon fill the world with wonder and alarm, as though they indicated the absence of a supreme sovereignty.
5. But this idea of "permission," when applied to God, necessitates the thought of control also. For to say that He permits only because He cannot resist is to deny His power altogether.
6. But if God reigns supremely, then all things must be reader His direction, as well as control. Otherwise, there may be another will in operation before the will of God, and independent of Him.
7. But, in thus endeavouring to show the absolute supremacy of God, we may not forget that His glory will be the sure result of His reign, whatever efforts may be made by men or others to frustrate it.
8. It has sometimes been argued, that as no creature can do anything except by the permission of God, add as the glory of God is the necessary result of whatever He permits, so men are justified in all their actions; and the well-known sentiment "whatever is, is right," has become a very favourite maxim with many, who plead for a licentious and irresponsible course of life. Such reasoning, however, is of no weight, since it totally overlooks the Word of God, which is our only rule of action.
II. CONSIDER THE DUTY OF THOSE WHO BELIEVE THAT "THE LORD REIGNETH." "Let the people tremble."
1. It is a fearfully solemn and overwhelming thought, that an almighty and infinitely holy God is the ruler of this ungodly world, and that " He has appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness" (Acts 17:31). Surely, then, those who believe the Word of God ought to take every opportunity to "let their light shine"; not only that they may bear a testimony in favour of His truth, but likewise that, "knowing the terror of the Lord," they may persuade men to "flee from the wrath to come."
2. This consideration is strengthened by remembering, how utterly impotent and vain are all our efforts to withstand the Most High.
3. It is not a man that reigns, nor any creature, however great in intelligence or power. It is the eternal God, "with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." However much men may repine at His dispensations and strive to alter His purposes, and whatever wickedness may fill the earth while the nations are resisting His authority and His laws, the wisdom of His government is unimpeachable, and demands our unreserved and cheerful submission.
4. But not less are we called to rejoice in the goodness, than in the wisdom of God. Is the law to be vindicated? Is justice to be satisfied? Is holiness to be enforced? All this is done, so as clearly to discover that "God is love."
5. But are not other duties imperative, besides those already referred to? It is not enough that we should "tremble" and "rejoice," while we remember that God reigns. He requires us also to be co-workers with Him in establishing His kingdom.
Homilist.We have here a contrast between the omnipotence of God and the impotence of man: — We see the great King sitting on His throne, raised up far above all the changes of time and sense; we see the people raging, discontented, contending one with another, but all their fury in no way affects the calm majesty of the great King. The picture is an impressive one. Power, solemnity, grandeur, on the one hand; paltriness, meanness, pretence on the other.
I. LET IT TEACH US OUR OWN INSIGNIFICANCE. We make among ourselves lords many and gods many. Our little sphere is exalted and magnified, but how ridiculous are our pretensions!
II. LET IT TEACH US OUR DEPENDENCE. All we can do cannot alter or change our condition. We must be dependent on the sovereign power of the Almighty.
III. LET IT TEACH US PATIENCE. The restless wave is hurled back upon itself broken in pieces from the granite rock. Our greenings and discontent recoil upon our own heads when we attempt to murmur against Omnipotence.
IV. LET IT TEACH US REVERENCE We cannot but honour One so great. Our own insignificance should teach us the folly of setting up ourselves as a model of perfection.
I. GREATER HONESTY OF THOUGHT. Professor Huxley, when he set himself to number the triumphs of scientific work during the reign of Victoria, did not put so high the inventions which have yoked steam and electricity to man's service as he put the more general habit of scientific thinking. The man in the street takes fewer statements on faith, and popular literature offers more reasons for actions. Old customs and old beliefs are tried in a court where the question is, "Does this custom express present belief? Does this belief express truth?" Positions of great attraction are now often considered, not only in relation to the pay or the power they offer, but the further question is asked, "Can I take this post and be honest? Can I, having my views, serve in this leader's party? Can I, with my opinions, take orders?" Men of high intelligence and goodness who would to-day be preaching and teaching in the Church, are doing work they like less because they will not be untrue. Justice to the individual is now often regarded as of greater obligation than expediency. The value set on thinking has brought out the value of the man; each one would live his own life and would let his neighbour live his life. Never before was there so much care that the weak and the wicked should have fair treatment.
II. A LARGER HUMAN SPIRIT. Each morning's news takes in the history of the world, and sympathy from English breakfast-tables reaches out to the needs of the sick, the plague-stricken, the wrecked, and the oppressed in all parts of the world. People watch with anxiety the movement of ideas, and without an eye to their own profit give their time and money to forward or hinder the spread of ideas. Societies for relief, for giving knowledge, for passing on discoveries and inventions increase daily.
III. A MORE GENERAL HISTORIC SENSE. This is shown in the new interest taken in the characters of old times, in the many books and essays written out of much study to throw light on men who hitherto have been but names. It is shown in the interest taken in old forms, in the revival of ritual and pageantry, and in the popularity of romantic literature, in the care and restoration of old monuments. It is shown in the judgments now passed on the manners and morals of other ages. Acts wrong in the present society are seen to be right in another environment. The same principle has been discovered in martyrs and persecutors, in those who kill prophets and in those who build their sepulchres. The seeds of institutions now admired have been sown in deeds now condemned. The past and present are parts of one whole. Unity is seen to be in diversity rather than in uniformity, and a care for beauty, which is the expression of the unity of diversity, has thus been developed. Religion, which I have been trying to show is the thought about God, is, if we will only open our eyes, being worked into the actions and feelings of modern life. God is King, and His kingdom comes.
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