By Henry Law
We have in this Psalm a revelation of glorious truth. The final judgment is announced in dreadful sublimity. Formalists are rebuked, and warned of the worthlessness of dependence on the Law. In conclusion we have directions as to true worship.
1, 2. "The mighty God, even the Lord, has spoken, and called the earth, from the rising of the sun to its going down. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shined."
May faith be granted that we may realize the scene. The great white throne is set. The mighty God is seated on His sovereign tribunal. Before Him all who have ever breathed the breath of life are summoned to appear. From all the regions of earth--from every quarter of the globe--the inhabitants are called. We are thus mercifully forewarned. We must take our station before the Judge of all mankind. Let us see to it that we are prepared to meet Him.
To prepare us for the great day, God has revealed to us all Gospel truth. Out of Zion He has shined. We have not been called to Mount Sinai, where the fiery law flowed, amid all the terrors of lightning, and thunder, and appalling clang. We have been invited to listen to the silver notes of the sweet Gospel. God has erected on earth His Church, the perfection of beauty. Here all grace and mercy shine. Here blood is presented to cleanse from all sin; a righteousness to cover all iniquity; and the plea is presented, Christ died for pardon at the judgment-bar and full admission to the glories of heaven. From this throne of Zion let us draw near to meet the final judgment.
3, 4, 5, 6. "Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people. Gather My saints together unto Me; those that have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice. And the heavens shall declare His righteousness; for God Himself is judge."
We return to the judgment-seat. As when God gave the law dreadful terrors surrounded Him, so when He comes to execute judgment all majesty shall be displayed. His irresistible voice shall ring through universal nature. All elements shall send forth the dead whom they contained. But now His professing people are specially named. But all professors are not real children. All who are of the Church are not the Church. Have we become His through the blood of the everlasting covenant? Have we made fellowship with Him through the true Sacrifice, even the Victim who died at Calvary? If so, let us joyfully exclaim, He who shall come to institute judgment is our God, and His right hand is full of righteousness.
7. "Hear, O My people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against you; I am God, even your God."
How tenderly this warning intervenes! God's people are disposed to settle on their lees, to slumber on the pillow of self-confidence, to drink the noxious goblet of carnal security. Therefore God, in the plenitude of His mercy, would rouse them. He beseeches them to listen to His gracious admonition. He will not hide from them their grievous faults, and He prefaces His reasonings with them by the loving assurance, that He who chides is God, even your God. O Lord, give us the hearing ear.
8-13. "I have no complaint about your sacrifices or the burnt offerings you constantly bring to my altar. But I want no more bulls from your barns; I want no more goats from your pens. For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. Every bird of the mountains and all the animals of the field belong to me. If I were hungry, I would not mention it to you, for all the world is mine and everything in it. I don't need the bulls you sacrifice; I don't need the blood of goats."
How vain is all dependence on external service! As aids to faith all outward rites are valuable, but it is the vanity of vanities to dream that by such observance we make God our debtor. The universe and all which the universe contains is His created property. In all our offerings we only bring Him what is His own. Let us never fancy that there is merit in most costly rites. When we bring our best to Him we give no satisfaction to His justice, or make atonement to His outraged Law. In Christ--in Christ alone--satisfaction resides. Let us bring Him always in the arms of our faith, and plead for mercy only for His sake.
14. "Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay your vows unto the Most High."
There is an offering in which God delights--the offering of the calves of our lips--the praises of devoted hearts. Let thanks, like incense, ever reach the courts of heaven. There is a grateful fragrance which He will never scorn. When we entered into covenant with God in Christ we vowed to present unto Him ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, lively sacrifice. How happy is it to redeem this vow.
15. "And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me."
Amid truths of dreadful grandeur this bright gem seems unexpectedly to shine. Its value is unspeakable. Its comfort to believers in all ages passes knowledge. Wondrous is the word, "Whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." The text before us gives special illustration. Many are the believer's troubles--they are necessary, and the chastening is not withheld. But an easy and ready remedy is prescribed. His strength may so fail that he cannot stir. But he can always call, and never shall he call in vain. His call shall bring his God to his aid; and His hand shall bring deliverance. Light shall spring up out of darkness. It shall be ever true, "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and delivered him out of all his trouble." God's glory shall be the outcome; increasing praises shall break from the delivered heart.
16, 17. "But God says to the wicked, What have you to do to declare My statutes, or that you should take My covenant in your mouth? seeing you hate instruction, and cast My words behind you."
The scene changes. Loving words are not now heard. The wicked, the gross transgressors, those whose steps are in the way of open offense, are addressed. God expostulates with such, if perhaps they will repent and turn in deep humility to Him. Such is the deceitfulness of the unregenerate man that it will be secure in profession of covenant relationship to God, while the Lord of grace is really hated, and all its saving truths are contemptuously rejected.
18. "When you saw a thief, then you consented with him, and have been partaker with adulterers."
An dreadful picture is exhibited of the extremity of iniquity into which carnal men will rush. They will practice the vilest dishonesty, and lie in the filth of the grossest uncleanness. Yet God in His mercy follows them with remonstrance, "Turn, turn, why will you die?"
19, 20, 21. "You give your mouth to evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother's son. You have done these things, and I kept silence; you thought that I was altogether like you; but I will reprove you, and set them in order before your eyes."
The tongue, which betrays the inmost working of the heart, pours out torrents of evil and deceit. Even natural affection expires, and slanders assail the sons who hang on the same mother's breast. God shows abundance of patience; but deluded sinners misinterpret His gracious character. Because wrath is restrained, the impious thought is cherished, that the evil which they love and practice is not abomination in God's sight. But the day comes when God's patience can endure no more. Their wicked deeds, in all their enormities, shall confront the evil--all the circumstances shall stare them in their face; no extenuation can cloak the guilt which must be confessed to uttermost confusion.
22. "Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver."
Tender grace exhorts to deep thought. Let all who do not have God before them consider their dreadful state before the day of vengeance bursts upon them. Then the rejected Savior saves no more. But now Jesus stands ready to deliver from the wrath to come. To Him let us cling steadfastly.
23. "Whoever offers praises glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conversation aright I will show the salvation of God."
Precious conclusion of this wondrous Psalm! What condescension to accept our worthless praise! What godlike condescension to assure us that these praises augment His glory. Let our every breath be praise. In the paths of holiness God will be met revealing all the mercies of His Gospel. Christ will appear with uttermost salvation in His hands; and glorying in Him as full redemption, we shall boldly meet the judgment-seat.