By Henry Law
Praise is the note which sounds throughout this hymn. Marvelous mercies are recounted, both temporal and spiritual. All demand devout thanksgiving. As recipients of mercy, may our hearts joyfully respond!
1-2. "Make a joyful noise unto God, all you lands; sing forth the honor of His name; make His praise glorious."
An exhortation sounds to all the dwellers upon earth. All lands, with all their inhabitants, are called to loud and joyful praise. What mighty motives urge to this work. How sweetly mercy beams upon the world. Behold creation in its every part. How suited to provide for happiness and comfort. In every part we see benevolent contrivance for man's good. There is no moment when blessings are not strewn around. There should be no moment when responding praises should not ascend. Away with meager praise and scanty payment of blessing. The exhortation bids us to make His praise to be glorious. It should be our noblest exercise. It should call forth the grandest energies of our noblest powers. But if temporal blessings require these bursts of adoration, how much more do the blessings of the Gospel demand the overflowings of this grace!
3. "Say to God, How awesome are You in Your works! through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves unto You."
We are encouraged to recite to God the manifestations of His awesome power. Thus to enumerate them is to deepen in us the sense of their greatness. It is a sad fact that from creation's hour hostile powers have armed themselves against God. In vile hatred they have raised their puny arm against His majesty and rule. They have vainly thought to subvert His empire--to wrest the scepter from His hands. But how tremendous has been their overthrow! He who sits in the heavens has laughed. The Lord has had them in derision.
4. "All the earth shall worship You, and shall sing to You; they shall sing to Your name."
Prediction here proclaims the glories of the coming kingdom. "The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever." Every lip shall praise Him. Every heart shall swell with adoration--one loud hallelujah shall pervade the world.
5-6. "Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His works toward the children of men. He turned the sea into dry land; they went through the flood on foot; there we rejoiced in Him."
We are here invited to draw instruction from the study of God's works. How precious is the contemplation! It shows in large and wondrous page how God has manifested Himself in olden times. It tells of deliverances in extremest times and from extremest perils. Great is the value of such study. For the God of our fathers is the God of His present family, and will be the God of His children to the last day. He is the same yesterday, and today, and forever in love and power. In His lovingkindness and in His truth there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
Ponder these manifestations in the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage. In the rear the king pursues with overwhelming hosts--on each side heights impassable forbid escape--in the front the sea presents the obstruction of impeding billows. Moses is commanded to wave his rod. The waters part. A dry pavement opens the passage of deliverance. The people march as on dry land. In safety they look back and see the returning billows rolling their foes to fearful death. Awesome was the work. The past deliverance bids us take courage. So, also, when Canaan's promised land was reached, the rolling Jordan did not impede entrance. The waters parted. The hosts marched onwards as on by ground. Marvelous was the deliverance--a type that no opposing foes shall check our entrance to our promised home.
7-9. "He rules by His power forever; His eyes behold the nations; let not the rebellious exalt themselves. O bless our God, you people, and make the voice of His praise to be heard; who holds our soul in life, and allows not our feet to be moved."
The same power still sits on the throne of universal sway. The same eye still looks down upon the fury of the nations. Let the rebels take heed. Their destruction cannot be escaped. But let God's people bless and praise Him. Their souls yet live far above the reach of injury. Their feet still stand immovable. Let us trust more and more. Let us praise more and more.
10-12. "For You, O God, have proved us; You have tried us, as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; You laid affliction upon our loins. You have caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; but You brought us out into a wealthy place."
The dealings of God are all mercy and truth to His chosen heritage, but these dealings often show a dark and trying aspect. A scourge is used, and grievous troubles multiply. But such discipline is needful. Without it we would slumber in our nests, and indolently indulge sloth. Our feet would go astray, and we would not ripen for the heavenly home. The vine will not be fruitful unless pruned; the silver will not be purged from dross unless the furnace be again and again employed. It is our wisdom thus to see the hand of love in all our seasons of affliction.
The Psalmist recognizes God's hand in bringing him into his many difficulties. The afflictions which oppress are the burdens which the Lord imposes. Afflictions do not arise from the dust; they are all designed to humble, to excite watchfulness, to purify, to sanctify, to bless, to produce conformity to our Elder Brother's image. For a season our adversaries are permitted to trample on us with insulting feet. This is a grievous passage in our pilgrimage; but it has its end, and proves to be the entrance of enlarged prosperities.
14-15. "I will go into Your house with burnt offerings; I will pay my vows to You, which my lips have uttered, and my mouth has spoken, when I was in trouble. I will offer unto You burnt-sacrifices of fatlings, with the incense of rams; I will offer bullocks with goats."
Times of trouble strongly attract us to the mercy-seat. Prayer becomes more fervent, and grateful service is devoutly vowed. These pledges should be all redeemed, and public acknowledgment should be rendered. Gratitude does not forget the large mercies of deliverance. It delights to pour forth streams upon streams of pious adoration.
The Psalmist brought his appointed victims to the altar; he shed the prefiguring blood; he presented the foreshadowing offerings. We know that these types were emblems of our blessed Lord, through whom alone we can draw near to God; and who, by the incense of His blood, gives perfume to our every service. In the full faith of Christ may we thus ever worship; pleading His blood, may we bring all our vows. Acceptance comes when in His name we thus approach.
16-17. "Come and hear, all you that fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul. I cried to Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue."
The Psalmist invites the saints who are around him to come and listen to his grateful tale. Right indeed it is to encircle God's throne with praises; but gratitude should not be limited to such devotion. Our lips should tell aloud to all around His gracious dealings. Those who fear the Lord speak often to one another. This exercise is not disregarded on high. A book of remembrance is written.
Of what did the Psalmist speak? Of all that God had done for his soul. Oh! the breadth and length, the depth and height, of this most marvelous declaration! He visited his soul in darkness, and gave the light of life. He found it in the prison-house of the devil, and translated it into the kingdom of grace and glory. He saw it laden with all iniquities, and removed the total burden. He saw it filthy in all the mire of evil, and clothed it with the garments of righteousness and salvation. Such is the theme of the believer's story; but heaven must be reached and eternity exhausted before the whole can be told.
He adds the assurance that he was incessant in prayerful cries, and that his tongue was ever loud in raising high the praises of his God.
18-20. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. But, truly, God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me."
He adds the solemn warning, that if iniquity is fondled in the heart, vain will be the utterance of his lips. Prayer is a holy exercise; the admixture of unholiness reduces it to nullity. But his prayer was the offspring of sincerity and truth; the answers which came gave evidence that the petitions were sanctified by the Spirit and accepted of the Lord. With what happiness would he exclaim, "Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me."