Psalm 99:5


This is the last of the series of royal psalms, of psalms which celebrate the coming of Jehovah as King. The first of the series is Psalm 93. This opens with the announcement that 'Jehovah is King;' passes on to tell that his throne has been from everlasting, that he made the world, and that he rules it - rules the raging of the elements and the convulsions of political strife, of which that is the figure - and then concludes with one brief glance at his revelation of himself to his people, and the distinguishing glory of the house in which he deigns to dwell, 'Holiness becometh thine house forever' (Perowne). Three times over in this psalm is this declaration made of the Lord's holiness: After the setting forth of his great and terrible Name (ver. 3); then after telling of his equity, judgment, and righteousness (ver 5); and after the naming of the great saints of God who called on his Name, and to whom a gracious answer was vouchsafed (ver. 9). Consider -

I. THE MEANING OF THIS REPEATED WORD, "The Lord our God is holy."

1. It tells of his own personal nature and character. That he is of too pure eyes to behold iniquity; that not, as is the case oftentimes with men, holy deeds may hide an unholy heart, but that in all his thoughts, purposes, and in his inmost being, he is holy.

2. Of the constant character of his actions. For the trial of his people's faith he may at times seem to favour the ungodly and to cause the unrighteous to prosper, yet this is never because he is really on their side, but for quite other reasons; the main stream of his providential dealing is and has ever been clear on the side of righteousness and holiness, and hence men have learned that the Lord is holy in all his ways, and righteous in all his works.

3. Of his sympathies. Men have believed and been confident that, however dark their circumstances, the love and favour of God, the shining of his countenance, have been towards his people, and that they knew it (cf. Psalm 4:6, 7).

II. ITS TRUTH. This is shown:

1. By his acts and ways. The review of God's dealings with men - his tender mercies to them that fear him, and his fierce wrath against evil doers, all have proved this sure truth.

2. By those whom he has chosen to be his chief and most honoured servants. (See ver. 6.) Not the evil, the worldly, the impure, but such as these saints of God here told of.

3. The ritual of the Law. This also taught the same truth. The gods of the heathen made no pretensions to holiness or demand for it, but the Lord demanded it always and everywhere, and above all things else. Hence, that this may be impressed and indelibly engraved upon the minds of Israel, the whole ritual and manner of worship of the Law was arranged.

4. By his revealed Word and will. Holy Scripture makes clear the mind of God in this matter.

5. By the operations of his Spirit in their hearts. That inward witness for God ever sought to lead men to holiness. They could be in no doubt as to the Divine will, and, therefore, as to the Divine character.

III. ITS UNSPEAKABLE IMPORTANCE. Such great stress and emphasis was laid upon it for many reasons.

1. It kept up a perpetual protest against sin. Before this truth wickedness could not stand.

2. It furnished a standard by which to judge of all other religions. Did they or did they not lead to holiness?

3. It implied a constant inspiration towards the pursuit of holiness. It encouraged such pursuit, for it revealed the fact that God loved holiness, since he himself was holy.

4. It was the essential preparation for the kingdom of God.

IV. ITS OBLIGATION.

1. To exalt the Lord God. In their hearts' worship and adoration; in their open confession of his Name; in their faithful obedience to his will.

2. Worship at his footstool. Such worship was his due. It aided the realization of God's presence, deepened the conviction of his holy and perfect nature, roused the affections of the heart, strengthened the resolves of the will, and helped mightily towards the attainment of like holy character in themselves. - S.C.







Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool; for He is holy.
The grand distinction between real godliness and every description of its counterfeit lies in this one point; all counterfeit professions tend to exalt the creature, and all real godliness aims at exalting God alone.

I. THE FIRST PRINCIPLE OF CHRISTIANITY IS THE EXALTING OF JEHOVAH. "Exalt ye the Lord our God," by ascribing to Him the plan of salvation whereby millions upon millions of ruined sinners shall be brought home to glory.

II. THE ORDER OF WORSHIP WHICH EXALTS JEHOVAH, AND WHICH WE ARE CALLED ON TO DO PERSONALLY. "Worship at His footstool."

1. Mark the position, and say, have you ever been there, so low at the footstool of Divine mercy as to be ashamed and confounded before God, respecting all that we find and feel in ourselves, and yet favoured with a glimpse of Divine glory in the face of Jesus Christ by a supernatural aid? Oh, wondrous position! Then, indeed, we may look on the world, with all its toys and trifles, as utterly contemptible. This is not only compatible with, but the true consequence of, the highest attainments a Christian can make.

2. Now what shall we say about the worship? The two prominent acts of worship are prayer and praise; and I do not know if they may not be said to include everything. But they must be "in spirit and in truth"; and if our offering of prayer is a mere ceremony, a mere repetition of words, a mere display of talent, it is rather mockery than worship.

III. THE REASON ASSIGNED. "For He is holy." All the persons and perfections of Deity are our inheritance, to be enjoyed personally as long as eternity shall endure. And then mark, that this inherent holiness is in Him, not in us. The man who possesses real holiness has it imparted to him; and hence the exhortation, "Be ye holy, for I am holy." A solemn command, and a gift with it; so that Jehovah the Spirit imparts a holy nature, and a holy life to the soul of the real believer, to make him like God, that he may grow up into Christ Jesus and perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. Follow on to mark, that it is an official holiness, which is given as the reason why we should exalt Him. The Father is so holy in His covenant engagements of an official kind that He cannot withhold any good thing from the objects of His love who walk uprightly. The Son is so holy in His mediatorial character, that He cannot allow it to be tarnished by the failure of any one part of the work He undertook to perform. The Holy Ghost is so holy, as Comforter, over and above the inherent holiness on which I have been dwelling, that He cannot allow a sanctified vessel to be polluted; but will cleanse it thoroughly from every sin. Moreover, it must be a national holiness that we derive from our God, and on account of which we exalt Him (1 Peter 2:9).

(J. Irons.)

I. THE DUTY AND PROPRIETY OF PUBLIC WORSHIP.

1. The universal homage which under various forms is paid to the Deity, is a proof that it is founded in human nature, and is, consequently, of moral and perpetual obligation.

2. Public worship is a duty of positive institution, and being expressly enjoined by Divine authority, involves an obligation which will not surely be called in question.

3. The great and beneficial consequences with which its due and regular observance is attended.

II. THE EFFECTS OF PUBLIC WORSHIP UPON OUR MORAL CONDUCT. Suppose that the solemn observance of the Sabbath was no more; that the altar and its worship were abandoned; that all days and seasons were alike; and that the business and bustle of the world knew no pause; what would be the dreadful .result? The depravity of the human heart, already too general, would be universal; science and the elegant arts would languish; men would revert to a state of barbarity, without government, law or control; and unheard of crimes would follow the destruction of those sacred piles, which the approved wisdom and piety of ages had consecrated to religion.

(A. Stirling, LL. D.)

I. CERTAIN PRINCIPLES IN NATURAL MEN WHICH PREPARE THEM TO RELISH A FALSE OR DEFECTIVE IMAGE OF GOD UNDER THE NAME OF THE TRUE GOD. Here are five of these principles: selfishness, which delights in a benefactor and a friend; humanity, which, when self-interest does not too strongly oppose, is affected with kindness to men in general; conscience and the love of natural fitness, which, with the aid of self-love and humanity, are pleased with a good government and social order, when personal interest does not stand in the way; and sympathy, by which the soul, in view of moving grief or the tenderness of love, is melted into compassion or tenderness. All these are found to a high degree in many infidels.

II. THERE IS A FALSE OR DEFECTIVE IMAGE OF GOD WHICH NATURAL MEN OFTEN FORM, and which they love from no higher principles than those which have been stated. Among the great variety of natural men I will select two classes.

1. Those who think superficially, have little to do with the moral character of God as exhibited in a moral government. The order of their thoughts is somewhat as follows. First they contemplate Him as a benefactor to themselves; as the one who preserves their lives, who sends them rain and fruitful seasons, who sent His Son to save them, and has filled their lives with mercies. This is pleasing to their selfishness. They next consider His kindness to the world, and contemplate the generous being who pours His bounty upon all nations. This gratifies their humanity; and it does not disturb their selfishness, pride, or love of the creature. But His moral character, as manifested in a moral government, is still out of view.

2. But there is another class of natural men who think more deeply and systematically.(1) The more ignorant suppose that the Divine law relates only to outward actions (like human laws), and requires nothing but that integrity, decency, and kindness in the different relations of life which all admit to be necessary to the order and happiness of society.(2) The less ignorant class are aware that the Divine law extends to the heart, and requires them to love both God and man. Well, they do. Their natural humanity wishes well to their fellow-men. They love God as a benefactor and a friend, and admire His generous munificence to the world. But let the Holy Spirit suddenly open their eyes, and they will see that the feelings required by the Divine law, and the temper of the Lawgiver, are altogether different from anything they ever conceived. They have been contemplating a law and character which called forth only the selfish and humane affections, and the love of which (self-righteous as that love was) only inflamed instead of weakening pride, and had no tendency to wean them from the idolatrous love of the creature.

III. SOME WAYS BY WHICH WE MAY TEST THE GENUINENESS OF OUR LOVE.

1. Is the Divine love in view of which we are affected, the mere fondness of creature love, fitted only to melt the animal affections? Or is it that holy love which, under the guidance of infinite wisdom, hates and punishes sin, which maintains a vigorous moral government, requiring all to be holy under penalty of eternal death?

2. If it is the true God you love, you will love all the essential truths which relate to Him, as comprehended in the doctrines of the Gospel.

3. Does your love, as far as it goes, subdue your selfishness, pride, and love of the world? This is an infallible test.

4. If you have no genuine love to man, you have no sincere love to God. But all love to man is not genuine. To say nothing of the domestic affections, humanity wishes well to mankind where no self-interest is in the way, and therefore almost always is gratified with the prosperity of distant nations. But try your love to man by something nearer home, — something that comes most in competition with selfishness. Select your rival in business or honour; select your greatest enemy. Do you, in any sense or degree, love him as yourself?

5. Do you conscientiously and habitually obey God? I do not ask whether you are what the world calls moral. This you may be from the mere influence of natural principles. I ask whether you habitually act, from hour to hour, with a sensible reference to God's authority, — often asking yourselves, How would God have me do in this thing? Do you cheerfully perform the most self-denying duties from a sacred regard to His authority?

(E. D. Griffin, D.D.)

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