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A commentary on the book of Psalms (Volume 2) online

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" 1. Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a
joyful noise unto the God of Jacob. 2. Take a
psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant
harp with the psaltery."

If Israelites were thus exhorted to keep their
feast days, with joy and gladness of heart : to exalt
their voices, and join together all their sweetest
instruments of music, in honour of him who had
rescued them from the Egyptian bondage, and given
them a law from Sinai; in what exulting strains
ought we to celebrate the festivals of the Christian
church? With what triumph of soul, and harmony
of affections, are we bound to " sing aloud to God
our strength," who hath redeemed us from death,
and published the Gospel from Sion ? since, as the
Apostle saith, " holy days, new moons, and sabbath
days," of old, " were" only " a shadow of things to
come : but the body is of Christ." Col. ii. 16.

Ps. 81.] 245

" 3. Blow up tlie trumpet in the new moon, in
the time appointed on our solemn feast-day."

In the Jewish church, notice was given of feasts,
jubilees, &c. by sound of trumpet. All the new
moons, or beginnings of months, were observed in
this manner ; see Numb. x. 1. but on the September
new moon, or first day of the seventh month, was
kept fi great festival, called " the feast of trumpets;'*
Levit. xxiii. 24. Numb. xxix. 1. which, probably,
is here intended. This September new moon had
a particular regard paid to it, because, according to
the old calculation, before Israel came out of Egypt,
it was the first new moon in the year, which began
ypon this day, the first of the (afterwards) seventh
mouth. The tenth of the same month was the great
day of atonement; and on the fifteenth was cele-
brated the feast of tabernacles. See Levit. xxiii.
27, and 34. Our Psalm, therefore, seems to have
been designed for the purpose of awakening and
stii'ring up the devotion of the people upon the so-
lemn entrance of a month, in which they were to
commemorate so many past blessings, prefigurative
of much greater blessings to come. We have now
our feast-days, our Christmas, Easter, Whitsuntide,
&c. On these, and all other solemn occasions, let
the evangelical trumpet give a sound of victory, of
liberty, of joy and rejoicing; of victory over death,
of liberty from sin, of joy and rejoicing in Christ
Jesus our Saviour.

" For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of
the God of Jacob. 5. This he ordained in Joseph,
for a testimony, when he went out through, or

246 [Ps, 81.

against, the land of Egypt : where I heard a lan-
guage that I understood not."

The meaning is, that the observation of feasts,
with blowing of trumpets, was a statute, law, or
testimony, ordained in Joseph, or Israel, by Grod
himself, after he had destroyed the Egyptians, and
brought his people into the wilderness, where the
law was given. Concerning the words, " I heard
a language that I understood not," it is difficult to
account for the change of person; but the sense
seems to be, that the children of Israel received the
law, when they had been in bondage under a people
of strange and barbarous language, or dialect. The
passage is exactly parallel to that in Psalm cxiv. 1.
" When Israel went out of Egypt, and the house
of Jacob from a people of strange language," &c.
The new law, with its sacraments and ordinances,
was promulgated after the spiritual redemption by
Christ, as the old law, with its rites and ceremonies,
was published, after the temporal deliverance by

" 6. I removed his shoulder from the burden:
his hands were delivered from the pots."

From this verse to the end, it is plain, that God
is the speaker. He reminds Israel of their redemp-
tion, by his mercy, and power, from the burdens and
the drudgery imposed on them in Egypt. Moses
describeth their then state of servitude, by saying,
" The Egyptians made their lives bitter with hard
bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner
of service in the field;" Exod. i. 14. that is, pro-
bably, in making vessels of clay, as this verse seems

Ps. 81.] 247

to imply. Let us remember, that we have been
eased of far heavier burdens, delivered from severer
task-masters, and freed from a baser drudgery; the
intolerable load of sin, the cruel tyranny of Satan,
the vile service and bitter bondage of concupiscence.

" 7. Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered
thee: I answered thee in the secret place of thun-
der : I proved thee at the waters of Meribah."

God declares his readiness, at all times, to hear
the prayers, and relieve the distresses of his people,
as he did when they cried unto him in Egypt, and
in the wilderness, and received answers from the
cloudy pillar. In that deep recess he had fixed his
awful throne, and from thence, on proper occasions,
he manifested his power and glory, protecting Israel,
and confounding their adversaries. In Psalm xcix.
6. it is said " of Moses, Aaron," &c. " They
called upon the Lord, and he answered them: he
spake unto them in the cloudy pillar;" which passage
seems exactly parallel to that in the verse under con-
sideration — " Thou calledst, and — I answered thee
in the secret place of thunder." He who spake
unto Israel in the cloudy pillar, hath since spoken
to us by his Son: he who " proved them at the wa-
ters of Meribah," Exod. xvii. 6, 7. now proves us,
by various trials, in the world.

" 8. Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto
thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me: 9.
There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt
thou worship any strange god. 10. I am the Lord
thy God, which brought thee out of the land of
Egypt; open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it."

248 [Ps. 81.

God here addressetli himself to the Israelites,
putting them in remembrance of that first and great
commandment against idolatry; of his claim to their
obedience, as their God and Saviour; and of his
being both able and willing to satisfy the utmost
desires and wishes of such as would apply to Him
for blessing and comfort. Behold then, the rebellion,
the ingratitude, and the folly of that man, who saith
to any creature, " Thou art my God:'* who bestow-
eth on the world that fear, love, and adoration,
which are due only to its Creator and Redeemer;
who wasteth his days in seeking after happiness
where all, by their inquietude, acknowledge that it
is not to be found.

" 11. But my people, would not hearken to my
voice^ and Israel would none of me. 12. So I gave
tliem up unto their own hearts' lust: and they
walked in their own counsels."

By the subject of an earthly prince, it is justly
deemed a great honour for his sovereign to converse
with him; to counsel, and advise him: but from
sinful dust and ash^s, we hear the Majesty of
heaven complaining, that he cannot obtain an audi-
ence; no one will attend to, or observe his salutary
admonitions. When we see men enabled, by wealth
and power, to accomplish the inordinate desires of
their hearts, and carry their worldly schemes into
execution, without meeting with any obstructions in
their way, we are apt to envy their felicity; whereas
such prosperity in wickedness is the surest mark of
divine displeasure, the heaviest punishment of dis-
obedience, both in individuals and communities. " My

Ps. 81.] S49

people would not hearken to my voice, and Israel
would none of me; so I gave them up unto their
own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own

'' 13. O that my people had hearkened unto me,
and Israel had walked in my ways! 14. 'I should
soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my
hand against their adversaries."

Such are the tender mercies of our God, that he
is not only careful to provide for us the means of
salvation, but represents himself as mourning, with
a paternal affection, over his children, when their
frowardness and obstinacy disappoint the efforts of
his love. One cannot help observing the similitude
between the complaint here uttered, and one which
hath been since breathed forth, over the same peo-
ple; " O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would-
I have gathered thy children together, even as a
hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and
ye would not!"

" 15. The haters of the Lord should have sub-
mitted themselves unto him; or, should have failed,
w been subdued to him; but their time, that is, the
time of his people^ should have endured for ever."

The transgressions of the church give her enemies
all their power against her, calling the avenger
from afar, and setting an edge on the sword of the
persecutor. " Where the carcass is," where the
Spirit of religion is departed, and has left the body
to corrupt and decay, " there the eagles are gathered
together;" all the instruments of vengeance, terres-


[Ps. 81.

trial and infernal, flock by permission to the prey.
Had not this been the case with regard to Israel,
Jerusalem had continued to be through all ages,
what she was in the days of Solomon, the delight
of the nations, and the joy of the whole earth.

" 16. 'He should have fed them also with the
finest of the wheat; and with honey out of the rock
should 1 have satisfied thee.''

That is, the Israelites, if obedient, would still
have enjoyed the sweets of that good land, in which
the Lord their God had placed them, where the
fruits of the earth were produced in the highest
perfection, and honey streamed from the very rocks,
so that no part of the country was without its increase.
Upon the same conditions of faith and obedience,
do Christians hold those spiritual and eternal good
things, of which the pleasant fields and fertile hills
of Canaan were sacramental. Christ is the " bread'*
of life, he is the " rock" of salvation, and his pro-
mises are as " honey" to pious minds. But they
who reject him, as their Lord and Master, must
also lose him, as their Saviour and their Reward.

Ps. 82.] 251


Sixteenth Day. — Evening Prayer.

ARGUMENT— The Psalmist addresseth himself to judges and
magistrates ; 1. he remindeth them of the presence of that
God whom they represent, and to whom they are accountable
2 — 4. he exhorteth them to the due discharge of their office
3. reproveth the ignorance and corruption among them ; 6.
7. threateneth their fall and punishment; 8. prayeth for
the manifestation of Messiah, and the establishment of his
righteous kingdom.

" 1. God standeth in the congregation of the
mighty: he judgeth among the gods."

Earthly judicatories are the appointment of God.
All magistrates act in his name, and by virtue of his
commission. He is invisibly present in their as-
semblies, and superintends their proceedings. He
receives appeals from their wrongful decisions; he
will one day rehear all causes at his own tribunal,
and reverse every iniquitous sentence, before the
great congregation of men and angels. Unjust
judges must either disbelieve or forget all this. God
is, in like manner, present to the heart of each in-
dividual; he is privy to the various reasonings and
pleadings of grace and nature, of principle and in-
terest, in that lesser court; and he is a witness of
its determinations; which also will by him be mani-
fested to the world, and openly canvassed, when he
sitteth in judgment.

" 2. How long will ye judge unjustly, and ac-
cept the persons of the wicked? 3. Defend the

^52 [Ps. 82.

poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and
needy. 4. Deliver the poor and needy: rid the??i
out of the hand of the wicked,'*

A charge is here given, by the Spirit of God, to
all magistrates, much like that, which king Jeho-
shaphat gave to his judges, 2 Chron. xix. 6, 7.
*' Take heed what ye do; for ye judge not for man,
but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment.
Wherefore now, let the fear of the Lord be upon
you, take heed and do it; for there is no iniquity
with the Lord our God, nor respect of persons,
nor taking of gifts." It is the glory of Jehovah and
his Christ, to " accept no man's person" in judg-
ment; to regard neither the quality, nor the station
of the offender; but to give to every man, of what-
ever rank or degree in the world, according to his
works. All the sons of Adam were once " poor and
fatherless, needy and afflicted," when God took
their own cause into his own hands, and by a method
consistent with the strictest justice, " delivered them
out of the hand of the wicked one." Every oppres-
sor of the poor is a likeness of " that wicked one,"
and every upright judge, will endeavour to resemble
the Redeemer. For this purpose, he will be always
willing to admit, diligent to discuss, solicitous to ex-
pedite the cause of a poor and injured person, and
to afford such a one the speediest, the cheapest,
and the most effectual redress, equally contemning
the offers of opulence, and the frowns of power. A
judge who acts in this manner, takes the readiest
way to obtain the favour of God; and the people
will be sure to bless him.

Ps. 82.] S53

" 5. They know not, neither will they under-
stand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations
of the earth, o?-, the land, are out of course; or,
nod, or, shake."

We here find the prophet deploring, in magis-
trates, a method of proceeding contrary to that
above described. He laments their voluntary ig-
norance in the ways of righteousness, and their
choosing to " walk in darkness." In judges this
is occasioned by " presents and gifts," which, as
saith the son of Sirach, " blind the eyes of the
wise," Ecclus. xx. 29. And if once the " pillars"
and " foundations" are moved from their integrity,
and " shaken" to and fro by every blast of fear
and favour, what shall become of the political fabric
erected upon them? Verily it must fall; and
great and terrible will be the fall thereof. A com-
munity, whether ecclesiastical or civil, consisteth of
great numbers; but its well-being dependeth on a
few, in whose hands the administration is placed.
When the salt hath lost its savour, the mass must
putrify; when the light becometh darkness, how
great must be that darkness !

" 6. I have said, Ye aie gods, and all of you
ai'e children of the Most High. 7. But ye shall
die like men, or^ Adam, and fall like one of the

It is true, then, that magistrates are exalted
above other men ; that they are dignified with a
commission from above; appointed to be the vice-
gerents of heaven upon earth; and therefore called
Vol. II. M

254 [Ps. 82.

bv tlie name of him in whose name they act. But
it is Hkewise as true, that, notwithstanding all
this honour conferred upon them, for the good of
others, and of themselves, if they use it aright,
they still continue to be the mortal sons of mortal
" Adam;" like him, they must fall and perish;
God can, at any time, cast them down from their
high estate, as he did the heathen " princes" who
misbehaved themselves, and opposed his counsels:
death certainly will strip them of all their authority,
and lay»them low in the grave; from thence the
last trumpet shall call them forth, to stand, with
the rest of their brethren, before the judgment-seat
of Christ, there to take their trial, and receive
their everlasting sentence. How necessary often-
times is this consideration, to check the spirit of
tyranny and injustice, to qualify the pride and inso-
lence of office.

" 8. Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou
shalt inherit all nations."

A view of that disorder and confusion in which
frequently the Jewish nation, as well as the rest
of the world, was involved, caused the prophets
niost earnestly to wish and pray for the coming
of that Ume when " God" should " arise," in the
person of Messiah, to visit and " judge the earth;"
to deliver it from the powers of darkness, and the
tyranny of sin; to " inherit all nations," as pur-
chased and redeemed by him; to establish his church
among them; and to rule with a sceptre of righte-
ousness in the hearts of his people. " Arise" yet
once aaain, () Lord Jesus, from th.v throne, where

Ps. 83.] 255

thou sittest at the right hand of the Father; "judge
the earth," again corrupted and overwhelmed with
iniquity; do away sin, and put an end for ever to
the power of Satan ; " inherit all nations," redeem-
ed from death, and ransomed from the grave; and
reign to eternity, King of Righteousness, Peace,
and Glory.


ARGUMENT.— In this Psalm the church, 1—8. complaineth
to God of the insolence, subtilty, rage, and malice, of her
enemies, united in close confederacy against her; 9 — 12. she
prayeth for a manifestation of that power which formerly dis-
comfited Jabin, Sisera, and the Midianites; that so the hostile
nations, 13 — 15. made sensible of the superiority of Israel's
God, 16^18. might either themselves be induced to acknow-
ledge him, or else, by their destruction, become a warning and
admonition to others. As, while the world endureth there
will be a church, and while there is a church she will have
her enemies, who are to increase upon her as the end approach-
etli, this Psalm can never be out of date. And to the spiritual
adversaries of his soul, every private Christian may apply it at
all times.

*' 1. Keep not thou silence, O God; hold not
thy peace, and be not still, O God. 2. For, lo,
thine enemies make a tumult; and they that hate
thee have lifted up their head."

The church entreateth God again and again to
hear and help her in the day of trouble. Her
enemies and haters are here said to be the enemies
and haters of God, because Christ and the church,
like man and wife, are one; they have one com-



[Ps. 83.

nlon interest; they have the same friends and the
same foes. To him therefore she appiieth, terrified
by the tumultuous noise of confederated nations
roaring against her like the roaring of the sea, and
" lifting up their heads," as so many monsters of
the deep, to devour her at once. When tempta-
tions are urgent upon the soul, and the passions rise
in arms against her peace and innocence, then do
" the enemies of God make a tumult, and they that
hate him lift up their heads;" and then is the time
for her to be instant in prayer.

" 3. They have taken crafty counsel against thy
people, and consulted against thy hidden ones. 4.
They have said. Come, and let us cut them off from
heing a nation; that the name of Israel may be no
more in remembrance."

The combination, so much dreaded, is described
as having been formed upon the best principles of
secular policy, with much subtilty, and the most
determinate malice, against the " people" of God,
and his " hidden ones," that is, his peculiar na-
tion, separated from the world, and taken under
the cover and protection of his wings. To root up
the plantations of paradise, to extirpate the holy
seed, to extinguish the very " name of Israel," was
the scheme intended by these associated adversaries
of Sion. Such are our spiritual enemies; such is
their cunning, their rage, and their resolution : what
prudence, what vigilance, what courage are necessary,
that we may oppose them with success !

" 5, For they have consulted together with one
consent; they are confederate against thee."

Ps. 83.] 257

When Christ was about to be crucified, it is ob-
served by St. Luke, that " the same day Pilate and
Herod were made friends together; for before they
were at enmity between themselves :'* Luke xxiii.
12. And however the enemies of the church may
quarrel with one another, when they have nothing
else to do, yet if a favourable opportunity offer
itself for making an attack upon her, they lay aside
their differences, and unite as one man; by no means
refusing the friendly aid even of infidels and atheists,
who are always ready to join in carrying on the war
against the common adversary.

" 6. The tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmael-
ites; of Moab, and the Hagarenes; 7. Gebal,
and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines, with the
inhabitants of Tyre: 8. Assur is also joined with
them; they have holpen the children of Lot."

These are the names of the confederates. The
Edomites were descended from Esau, that old
original enemy of Jacob ; the Ishmaelites from Ish-
mael, the son of the bond-woman, and sworn foe
to Isaac, heir of the promises; the Moabites sprang
from Moab, one of the incestuous children of Lot;
the Hagarenes were other descendants of Hagar;
who the Gebalites were is uncertain; the Ammon-
ites came from Ammon, the son of Lot, and inces-
tuous brother of Moab; the Amalekites were the
progeny of Amalek, the grandson of Esau, Gen.
xxvi. 16. the Philistines and Tyrians are well
known; and to complete all, Assur, or the power
of Assyria, was called in by the children of Lot,
the Moabites and Ammonites, to assist in the great

^58 [Ps. 83.

work of exterminating Israel from the face of the
earth. These were the ten nations banded to-
trether, by a solemn league and covenant, against
the people of God. And as Israel was the grand
figure of the Christian church, which is now " the
Israel of God," so her enemies are often representr
ed by the above-recited nations, and in prophetical
language are called by their names. Every age has
its Edomites, and its Ishmaelites, &c. The actors
are changed, and the scenes are shifted; but the
stage and the drama continue the same.

" 9. Do unto them as unto the Midianites; as
to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook of Kison: 10.
Which perished at Endor: they became as dung for
the earth. 11. Make their nobles like Oreb and
like Zeeb : yea, all their princes as Zeba and as Zal-
munna: 12. Who said. Let us take to ourselves
the houses of God in possession."

The church, having recounted the enemies which
compassed her about on every side, looks up for
succour to that Almighty power which had of old
so graciously interposed on her behalf, and rescued
her from her persecutors, in the days of Deborah,
Barak, and Gideon : see Judges iv. viii. Fully sen-
sible that those deliverances were wrought by the
immediate hand of Jehovah, she offers the prayer of
faith for a like manifestation of his glory, and a like
victory over those who intended, in the same man-
ner, to seize and devour his inheritance. Of how
great use and comfort are the Old Testament his-
tories to us, in all our afflictions !

Ps. 83.] 2,59

" 13. O my God, make them like a wheel; or,
like thistle-down; as the stubble before the wind.
14. As the fire burneth a wood, and as the flame
setteth the mountains on fire; 15. So persecute,
or, thou shalt pursue, them with thy tempest, and
make, or, thou shalt make, them afraid with thy

The fate of those is here predicted, who invade
the inheritance of Jehovah, and say, " Let us take
to ourselves the houses of God in possession." The
inconstancy and mutability of their fortunes is re-
sembled to " thistle-down," or some such light re-
volving body, and to " stubble" or chaff, whirled
about and dissipated by the " wind:" the suddenness,
horror, and universality of their destruction, are
set forth by the similitude of a " fire" consuming
the dry trees in a " forest," or some combustible
matter on the " mountains." Such is the storm
and tempest of God's indignation, which pursues
and terrifies the sacrilegious and ungodly.

" 16. Fill their faces with shame; that they may
seek thy name, O Lord. 17. Let them, or, they
shall, be confounded and troubled for ever; yea, let
them, or, they shall, be put to shame and perish :
18. That men may know that thou, whose name alone
is Jehovah, art the Most High over all the earth."

The punishments inflicted by heaven upon wicked
men, are primarily intended to humble and convert
them. If they continue incorrigible under every
dispensation of merciful severity, they are at last
cutoff, and finally destroyed; that others, admonished


[Ps. 84.

by their example, may repent, and return, and give
glory to God. Salutary are the afflictions which
bring men, and happy the men who are brought by
them, to an acknowledgment of " Jehovah our
Righteousness," our exalted and gloriJfied Redeemer,
" the Most High over all the earth;" whom all
must acknowledge, and before whom all must appear
to be judged, in the great and terrible day.


ARGU3IENT.— Tliis Psalm, for the subject-matter of it, bears
a resemblance to tlie xlii. Under the figure of an Israelite,
deprived of all access to Jerusalem and the sanctuary (whether
it were David when driven away bj' Absalom, or any other
person in like circumstances at a different time), we are pre-
sented with, 1, 2. the earnest longing of a devout soul after
the house and presence of God; 3 — 7. a beautiful and passion-

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