Andrew A. (Andrew Alexander) Bonar.

Christ and His Church in the Book of Psalms online

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13 To him which divided the Red Sea into parts : for his mercy endurcth for

ever :

14 And made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth

for ever :
lo But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea: for his mercy en-
dureth for ever.

16 To him which led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy en-

dureth for ever.

17 To him which smote great kings : for his mercy endureth for ever :

18 And slew famous kings : for his mercy endureth for ever :

19 Sihon king of the Amorites : for his mercy endureth for ever :

20 And Og the king of Bashan : for his mercy endurcth for ever :

21 And gave their land for an heritage : for his mercy endureth for ever :

22 Even an heritage unto Israel his servant : for his mercy endureth for ever.

23 Who redeemed us in our low estate : for his mercy endureth for ever :

24 And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureih forever.

25 Who giveth food to all flesh : for his mercy endureth for ever.

26 O give thanks unto the God of heaven ! for his mercy endureth for ever.

The theme of last Psalm is taken up again ; but whereas the
glory of Jehovah was chiefly dwelt upon there, now it is his
love. The same acts display more than one illustrious perfec-
tion, and may therefore call forth variety of praise.

That " God is love" h iherperv^dmg view; or, in other words,
" God is good, and his mercy endureth forever" — the fountain
and the stream, the fountain sendcth forth its streams on our



HAS BLESSED, AND WILL BLESS FOR EVER. 41 1

scorched and blighted world, streams that shall never be with-
drawn, and which are not like the brook Cedron, flowing only
now and then, but are perennial and perpetual. We refer back
to what was said on Psalm cvii. 1, in reference to this theme
and this view of Jehovah being taught at the altar : it was
taught there most specially, and is still taught by the blood of
Him who was the sacrifice. Indeed, we may say that it is
only when standing by His side that we can truly sing this
Psalm. He raises the tune ; he calls on us thus to sing —

"Praise ye OlSn) Jehovah;"
not as in Psa. cxxxv, 1, " Hallelujah," but varying the words,
" Be ye Judahs to the Lord ! "

Praise him for what he is, (ver 1-3).

Praise him for what he is able to do, (ver. 4).

Praise him for what he has done in creation, (ver. 5-9).

Praise him for what he did in redeeming Israel from bond-
age, (ver. 10-15).

Praise him for what he did in his providence toward them,
(ver. 16-22).

Praise him for his grace in times of calamity, (ver. 23, 24).

Praise him for his grace to the world at large, (ver. 25).

Praise him at the remembrance that this God is the God of
heaven, (ver. 26).
Is he " God of gods ?" (ver. 2.) Well may we praise him, and
be sure that the mercy which has issued forth from his throne,
like the crystal river of the Apocalypse, shall flow on for ever ;
for there is none higher than himself; no rival to mar his
plans, or interfere with his schemes. Yes, he is as Moses de-
scribed in Deut. x. 17, — so infinitely higher than any creature
that ever bore the name of " god," that they dared not be
named in his presence.

Is he " Lord of lords ?" (ver. 3) as Moses also said long ago
in Deut. x. 17. Then no principality in heaven, no power in
hell, no assumed lordship in earth, can at all resist him : his
mercy shall be impeded by none. It is the mercy of the " God
of gods and the Lord of lords I" What height, depth, length,
breadth, in his mercy ! And you may sing on the banks of



41 2 PSALM CXXXVI. — PRAISE TO JEHOVAH, WHOSE MERCY

this river that fertilizes our desert world — " I am persuaded
that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor
powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor
depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate
us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,"
(Rom. viii. 88, 39).

Does he " alone" do great wonders ? (ver. 4.) That means,
he does so by himself, unaided, needing nothing from others,
asking no help from his creatures. As the Nile from Nubia to
the Mediterranean rolls on 1300 miles in solitary grandeur, re-
ceiving not one tributary, but itself alone dispensing fertility
and fatness wherever it comes ; so our God " alone" does won-
ders. (See Deut. xxxii. 12, Psa. Ixxii. 18, &c.) No promp-
ter, no helper ; spontaneously he goes forth to work, and all he
works is worthy of God. Then we have no need of any other ;
we are independent of all others ; all our springs are in him.

Did he "make the heavens by his understanding ?"
(py\2r)\ (ver. 5) — not only the firmament, but the third
heavens, too, where all is felicity, where is the throne of glory.
Then, I infer, that if the mercy which visits earth is from the
same Jehovah who built that heaven and filled it with glory,
there must be in this m^ercy something of the same " under-
standing," or wisdom. It is wise, prudent mercy ; not rashly
given forth ; and it is the mercy of Him whose love has filled
that heaven with bliss. The same architect — the same skill
— the same love !

It is he who " spread the earth above the waters" (ver. 6),
making a solid platform for man's abode. The Creator is he
who sheweth mercy on us. He was preparing a theatre for
the display of mercy. He was thinking thoughts of grace ere
ever man appeared, so that his love has a deep source, and
was issuing forth from its far back source all the time he was
forming our earth.

It is he who " inade the great lights," (ver. 7). Instead of
causing the light that was shot out from his presence, on the
three first days of creation, to serve our earth. He kindly pre-
pared the " Oreat Lights." That our comfort might be fully
attended to, two great orbs were so placed, or our earth so



HAS BLESSED, AND WILL BLESS FOR EVER. 413

placed towards them, as that our habitation might thus be full
of cheerful light. Was he not remembering man ? O praise
him ! And think as you praise, " His mercy endures for
ever ! "

He made " the sun to rule hy day," (ver. 8). Though he
knew how our earth would abuse its mercies, and sinners em-
ploy the light in order to carry on schemes of wickedness, yet
still he made it thus, and left it thus after the fall, to shine on
the fields and dwellings even of the ungodly. Yea, and " the
moon and stars hy night" (ver, 9),* — the same that shone in
Paradise and Eden. He has not withdrawn them. " His
mercy endure th for ever !"

But again ; this is he who '^ smote Egypf s first-horn,''' (ver.
1 0). Remember his sovereign grace, when righteousness would
shew itself upon the guilty. There was mercy even then to
Israel — drops of that mercy that for ever endureth — at the
very time when judgment fell on others. Should not this give
emphasis to our praises? The dark background makes the
figures in the foreground more prominent.

He "hr ought out Israel from among them," (ver. ] 1). This
was mercy, separating them from all the evil and all the misery
there. Aye, and with " a strong hand" (ver. J 2) : for mercy
prompted him to exercise power against the mighty. What a
ground of encouragement in after ages to his own ! That same
" strong hand" ready at mercy's call to do such acts, and that
mercy enduring for ever !

" He divided the Red Sea into parts," (ver. 13). Obstacles
are nothing to him whose " mercy endureth for ever." The
divided Red Sea is a " pawn of his purpose and power to de-
liver his Church" in all ages. He " made Israel pass through
the midst of it" (ver. 14), making the very bed of the sea their
highway of safety ; as he has often done since then, when the
very calamities of his own have become their blessings.

Did he "shake off" (-ly^) (ver. 1 5, as Exod. xiv. 27) Phai-aoh

* In this verse the expression " to rule " is JliVli^OD in the plural ; whereas
in Gen. i. 16 there is the repetition of pb^D'O- it is, q. d., their jurisdictions
over night : for the term seems properly to mean the post of a ruler, the office
he fills as a ruler.



414' PSALM CXXXVI. — PRAISE TO JEHOVAH, WHOSE MERCY

and his host, as he did the locusts, into the Red Sea, and this
when they would have hung on Israel's rear, and clung to his
skirts ? This was mercy to his own, their foes overthrown ;
such mercy as shall awake hallelujahs when Antichrist is de-
stroyed, in the last days, (Rev. xix. 1, 2).

Did he ''make his people walk in the wilderness?" (ver.
16.) Such a floor ! such a pathway ! Yet who has not heard
of their safety and well-being there ? Now, this mercy shall
still act thus — for ever ! All through the desert, and till it is
done, his people shall be kept.*

Aye, but enemies again appear : " He smote great kings,"
(ver. 1 7). Great as they were, it availed nothing ; they lost
their credit and prestige of greatness. And " noble kings,"
too (ver. 18), were shorn of their pomp when they touched his
anointed. Such is his mercy — mercy that lasts still for us in
these last days. Yea, " Sihon, king of Annorites" (ver. 19),
like the goodly cedar (Amos ii. 9), and the first that opposed
their entrance into their land — ^lie fell ; an example to those
who might afterwards dare to oppose the Lord's people. And
when " Og, the king of Bashan" (ver. 20), took the field, a
giant, a new and more terrific foe, he too fell. And the mercy
that thus dealt with enemies so great, enemies so strong, one
after another, " endureth for ever." When Antichrist raises
up his hosts in the latter days, one after another — when the
great, the famous, the mighty, the noble, the gigantic men,
in' succession assail the Church, they shall perish. " For his
mercy endureth for ever."

But celebrate the Lord's praise again; for " he gave their land
for an inheritance," (ver. 21). His mercy to his own soon
comforted them for all their toils and conflicts, in a land flow-

* The Arabic interpolates,

" And made the waters flow from the .folid rock :
For his mercy endureth for ever."
This, however, is of no authority, and may have originally been the pious am-
plification of some reader who felt that these were but samples of God's many
doings. Like that devout soul who said to a friend that we might, in the
very spirit of this Psalm, give thanks for affliction, singing,
" To Him who withered our grounds ;
For his mercy endureth for ever."



HAS BLESSED, AND WILL BLESS FOR EVEll. 415

iiig with milk and honey — a type of that inlieritance awaiting
liis saints now, after conflict is over. It was " an inheritance
to Israel, his servant," (ver. 22) ; to Israel who had served him,
and who would yet serve him Letter. Mercy gave this reward ;
it was not merit that won it ; and so it shall be to the end,
even in the case of the Lord's servants who labour most for
him. Israel and all the saints are debtors to mercy to the last.

He was the God " who remembered us when we were brought
low," (ver. 23). He did thus to Israel in times when sin
brought on chastisement, as in Judges ii., iii., iv., &c., or
2 Kings xiii. 4, xiv. 26, 27. In backsliding times he still kept
hold of us, not forgetting us when we forgot him. Oh what
mercy ! Like the mercy of Him whose love changes not !
The river flowed on day and night, even when we came not to
draw ! "And redeemed us (broke us off) fro77i our enemies,"
(ver. 24). Grace interposed for the helpless, the doubly help-
less ; and redeemed the backsliding ones from the very adver-
saries whom their sins raised up to chastise them. And thus
mercy will do in the latter day to Israel again ; and thus it is
ever doing for saints at this present time.

We might fancy that they who have so much to sing of in
regard to themselves, so much done for their own souls, would
have little care for others. We might fear that they would be
found selfish. But not so ; the love of God felt by a man
makes the man feel as God does towards men ; and as God's
love is ever going forth to others, so is the heart of the man of
God. We see how it is even as to patriotism — a man's intensest
patriotic feelings do not necessarily make him indifferent to
the good of other countries, but rather make him wish all
countries to be like his own ; so it is, much more certainly and
truly, with the Lord's people in their enjoyment of blessing.
Their heart expands toward others ; they would fain have all
men share in what they enjoy. They therefore cannot close
their song without having this other clause — Praise Him who is

" The giver of bread to alljiesh I" (Ver. 25.)
Not to Israel only does he give blessing. Israel had their
manna ; but, at the same time, the earth at large has its food.
So in spiritual things. Israel's God is he who giveth himself



416 PSALM CXXXVII. — EXILED ISRAELIS TENDER ZEAL

as Bread of Life to the world. Perhaps at this point the
Psalmist's eye may be supposed to see Earth in its state of
blessedness, after Israel is for the last time redeemed from all
enemies, and become " life from the dead" to the world — when
Christ reigns and dispenses bread of life to the New Earth,
as widely as he gave common food — " the feast of fat things
to all nations," (Isa. xxv, 10) ; for his mercy will not rest till
this is accomplished.

" gwe praise (•ll'irT) to the God of heaven I " (Ver. 26.)
Whom having not seen we love, for his mercy endureth for
ever ; whom seated in heaven, we see not, but from whom all
these blessings come down to earth. It is Heaven that blesses
Earth, and shall not Earth send up its praise to Heaven. Oh,
that all men were Judahs — joining in this song to Jehovah —
Praise to Jehovah because of his mercy that has blessed, and
will bless, for ever !



PSALM CXXXVIL

1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down ; yea, we wept, when we re-

membered Zion !

2 We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.

3 For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song ;

And they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying. Sing us one of the
songs of Zion.

4 How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land ?

5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.

6 If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth ;
If I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.

7 Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom, in the day of Jerusalem ;
Who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.

8 O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed ;

Happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.

9 Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the

stones.

When a fitful gust of wind has blown aside for a time the sand
that hid an ancient tomb or monument, the traveller, aiTested
by the sight, may muse beside it, and feel himself borne back
into other days, sympathising with the mourning friends who



FOR JERUSALEM AND JEHOVAH. 417

piled these monumental stones. But his deepest sympathy
can never equal, and scarcely can resemble with much near-
ness, that burst of grief with which the real mourners conse-
crated the spot. It is even thus with our Psalm. We feel it
to be a peculiar song of Zion, strangely beautiful, full of pathos,
and rising to sublimity ; but what would be the fresh emotions
of those who sang it first, and who dropped their tears into
these rivers of Babel ? No author's name is given ; but so
plaintive is it, that some have ascribed it to Jeremiah, the
weeping prophet, of whose Lamentations it has been said,
" Every word seems written with a tear, and every sound seems
the sob of a broken heart."

Tholuck says it is a Psalm by an exiled Levite, " A master
of song." Perhaps we expected to find some notice prefixed
of the instrument used when it was set to music, such as,
" On Gittith," — when first the sound of its commencing strain
broke on our ear — niin>'?y and D'^^l^f'^y,
" On the hanks of the rivers —
On the icillow-trees.''

But the only instrument before the singer is the murmuring
streams of Babylon, with the wind moaning through the willows
on either bank. Whether wandering along by Euphrates, or
Tigris, or Ulai, or Chabor,* all of them " rivers of Babylon,"
the exiles of Israel felt the burden of Jehovah's anger in their
state of estrangement from the land given to their fathers. We
have a series of most moving scenes presented to our view : —

1, The river's banks fringed with mourners, who sit there,
shaded by the willows. You see above their heads their harps
which they used in Judah, and perhaps in the temple of Jeru-
salem, some of those mentioned, 1 Chron. xv. 16 (Patrick),
carried with them as precious memorials of happier days.

2. You see some of their gay, heartless oppressors approach-
ing the weeping band, asking a song. Q. Curtius, in his his-
tory of Alexander the Great (vi. 2), tells us of the captive

* " In the midst thereof," in the midst of her (nDiD3.)) means in the midst
of the country. The four streams we have named, are four of these that Scrip-
ture speaks of in connection with the captives. Alas ! not four rivers uf
Paradise to them !

Dd



418 PSALM CXXXVII. — EXILED ISEAEL's TENDER ZEAL

woman from Persia being ordered to sing in the fashion of their
country (suo ritu canere), when, in the midst of the scene, the
king's eye caught the spectacle of a mourner on the ground,
sadder than all the rest, the wife of Hystaspis ; for the lordly
oppressors of Israel were then feeling the retribution of being
summoned to do as they had done to their captives. The wife
of Hystaspis, says the historian, struggled against those who
would fain have led her forward to the king, foremost among
the captive band with whose songs they sought to entertain
themselves ; even as here Israel, though fallen, replied in
princely dignity, to those who asked of them " words of the
song," some stanza, at least, out of some song of Zion (l^t^b) —

" How shall we sing Jehovah's song
On the soil of a stranger ? " (Ver. 4.)

3. You see their oppressors retire, and the exiles are alone
again, dropping their tears into the stream. They sing now,
the one to the other, and this is the burden —

" If Hose my memory of thee, Jerusalem,,
Jjet my right hand lose its memory !
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth
If I do not remember thee —
If I do not lift up Jerusalem
On the top of my joy ! " (Ver. 5, G.)

They remember the past ; and they know it is foretold (Isa.
XXXV. 10) that one day they shall return to Zion with songs.
But, till that day arrives, they will continue to hang up their
harps.

4. You see them assume the attitude of appeal and prayer.
They call upon Jehovah to visit their oppressors. Edom is
first mentioned. Why is this ? We find the explanation in
Obad. 8-14, where Edom^s unbrotherly exultation over Israel's
day of calamity is described ; as it is also in Lam. iv. 21 . Ba-
bylon is next. The awful cry against this foe, the Antichrist
of that day, resembles Rev. xviii. 20, " Rejoice over her ! "
The emphasis is to be put on " thee," and in verse 9, " thy
children," in opposition to God's people and their children.
Happy the man who, instead of being an oppressor of God's
heritage, is the Lord's instrument in bringing low, even to the
foundation, the city that has fought against him, thus requiting



FOR JERUSALEM AND JEHOVAH. 419

lier ill her own way ; yes, happy is that man even though in
executing the judgment he be sent to dash the children on
tlie rocks (children being reckoned one with their parents, as in
Achan's case, Josh. vii. 24), in pouring out the vial of wrath.

Could our Master sing this song? If he identified himself
with his people in Egypt, as we find him doing in Psa, Ixxxi.
5, why should he not sympathise in this strain also ? He
would use it when on earth. And his Church herself, a stranger
in a strange laud, can use it, not only in sympathising with
Israel's ruin, but in thinking of what has endeared Jerusalevi
to us. Calvary, Mount of Olives, Siloam, how fragrant are
ye with the Name that is above every name ! " If I forget
thee, Jerusalem ! " Can I forget where he walked so often,
where he spoke such gracious words, where he died ? Can I
forget that his feet shall stand on that " Mount of Olives, which
is before Jerusalem, on the east?" Can I forget that there
stood the Upper Room, and there fell the showers of Pentecost?
And can I not pray against Antichrist in using the names
of Edom and Babylon, the old foes of the Lord and his people ?
Yes, I fully sympathise in every verse of this sacred song,
for it is

Exiled Israel's tender zeal for Jerusalem and Jehovah.



PSALM CXXXVIIL

A Psalm of Daviil.

1 I WILL praise thee with my whole heart : before the gods will I sing praise

unto thee.

2 I will worship toward thy holy temple,

And praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth :
For thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.

3 In the day when I cried thou answeredst me,
And strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.

4 All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O Lord, when they hear the

words of thy mouth.

5 Yea, thy shall sing in the ways of the Lord : for great is the glory of the

Lord.

6 Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the I0WI3' :
But the proud he knoweth afar off.



420 PSALM CXXXYIII. — HEARTFELT PRAISE FOR

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me :

Thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemio.'!,
And thy right hand shall save me.

8 The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me :

Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever : forsake not the works of thine own
hands.

David's harp again sounds, from this Psahn onward to Psalm
cxlv., where praises of every kind, and probably proceeding
from various singers, close the Book.

The theme is the promise made to David (Psa. Ixxxix. 26,
and 2 Sam. vii. 28, which is in effect the same as Isa. Iv. 3),
" The sure mercies of David. It is the definite promise of a
Saviour who is to descend from David's loins, that furnishes
the subject. And is not this substantially the same as the
first 'promise, the great promise of a Deliverer, the promise of
the Seed of the woman ? Let one read over the seventh chapter
of 2 Samuel, as it came from David's full heart, and he has found
the key-note of the Psalm ; and then let us realise what was
wrapt up in the promise of a Saviour in its fulness, and we will
join in every clause of the Psalm. Our Master would feel all
at home in every verse.

In verses 1-3 he sings to this effect — No god, no pretended
god, in any country, or any age, ever gave utterance to such a
thought as I am now to sing of — " before the gods I will
sing," and I worship toward thy holy temple as I sing, prais-
ing thee for such a matchless display of mercy and trutli !
(Comp. John i. 14.)

'•' For thou hast magnified, above all thy name, tliy loord,
In the day when I called, and thou didst ansirer
(When) thoti didst make me brave in my soul iciih might .'" (Ver. 2, 3.)

In that day when the Lord brought to him the word, or pro-
mise, of which he speaks (the word concerning the future Son),
he did an act of grace that might be said to cast into the shade
even all the other displays of grace God had given. " All thy
name" is used here as equivalent to " all that hitherto has
made thee known and famous in our eyes." This is the sense
of "name" in such places as 2 Sam. vii. 9, and 23, a passage
closely allied to this ; as also viii. 13, xxiii. 18. In short,
it is like as if one had said of Abishai (1 Chron. xi. 20), " You
had a name among the three, but that last exploit of yours



Jehovah's great promise. 421

has i-aised you above all your previous name ;" or take Jer.
xxxii. 20 — " Thou hast made thee a name" by thy wonders m
Egypt, but this promise to David is " above all that name of
thine."

In verses 4, 5, he sings to this effect — No king ever heard
news like this that thou art making known. When they
liear it,

" They loill sing in the wai/s of the Lord ! " (Ver. 5.)

They ..will sing II " upon," as if to say they will enter on these
ways (Hengst.) ; or rather, at or over, because of hearing such
an account of Jehovah's dealings with men.

In verses 6, 7, he sings to this effect — Unparalleled grace !
The Lofty One has stooped down to shew mercy to one so low
as I, to the family of Jesse — yea, to the fallen family of man —

" The Lord is exalted ; and (yet) he looks upon the mean !
While the proud he knoweth afar ojf." (Comp. Luke i. 51, 52.)

This gracious Jehovah removes all my fears, whatever shall
betide ; for he will help me. And in the person of our Mas-



Online LibraryAndrew A. (Andrew Alexander) BonarChrist and His Church in the Book of Psalms → online text (page 38 of 42)