By Henry Law
An earnest call invites to universal praise. The story of God's dealings with His ancient people is used to quicken this hymn.
1-4. "O give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the people. Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; talk of all His wondrous works. Glory in His holy name; let the heart of those rejoice who seek the Lord. Seek the Lord, and His strength; seek His face evermore."
It is a blessed task to seek the Lord rejoicingly in praise. Supplications should be intermixed. Prayer should awaken praise, and praise enliven prayer. God's mighty deeds afford large scope. It should be incessant joy to recall His wonders, and to encircle them with outbursts of adoring hymns. Thus let us seek the Lord, and magnify His strength, and come into His presence.
5-7. "Remember His marvelous works that He has done; His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth; O seed of Abraham His servant, you children of Jacob His chosen. He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth."
Memory is a precious gift. It places past events in vivid light. Let our minds be as a well-written narrative of Israel's story. The especial call here is to the lineal seed of Abraham. But if we are Christ's, then we are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. In His dealings with the fathers of the Church we may trace our interest in His care.
8-12. "He has remembered His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations; which covenant He made with Abraham, and His oath unto Isaac; and confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant; saying, To you will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance; when they were but a few men in number; yes, very few, and strangers in it."
In the plenitude of His grace He called Abraham from the land of idolatry to be the progenitor of a mighty nation. He blessed him with rich and large promises, and He solemnly confirmed the same to the son in whom his seed was called. He decreed that His covenant should endure from age to age. He especially declared that a lovely portion of this earth should be their abode; Free grace alone was the moving motive of this favor. At that time Abraham's household was but a little band, small and homeless. In the promised Canaan we may behold our heavenly rest. Let faith clasp the assurance that in due time this rest shall be our everlasting portion.
13-15. "When they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people, He permitted no man to do them wrong; yes, He reproved kings for their sakes; saying, Touch not My anointed, and do My prophets no harm."
The early story shows them strangers and pilgrims upon earth. They wandered from place to place. They were regarded with jealousy by the potentates of this world. Constant perils threatened their destruction. But God was their shield. He permitted no violence to injure.
16-22. "Moreover, He called for a famine upon the land; He broke the whole staff of bread. He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant; whose feet they hurt with fetters; he was laid in iron; until the time that His word came; the word of the Lord tried him. The king sent and loosed him; even the ruler of the people, and let him go free. He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance; to bind his princes at his pleasure, and teach his senators wisdom."
They were cradled and nurtured in perilous providences. Famine oppressed them. A favorite son was carried as a slave to Egypt. He was immured in prison and shackled in galling chains. But he emerged to sit beside the monarch on his throne, and to guide the rulers with wise counsels. At every point in this story let us pause and marvel; but at no pause let praise be silent. For love to His chosen is preeminently shown. The sun at times might be obscured; but soon the rays resumed their power. Let, then, the truth delight our hearts, I have loved you with an everlasting love therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn you.
23-24. "Israel also came into Egypt; and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. And He increased His people greatly, and made them stronger than their enemies."
Constraining circumstances brought Jacob and his household into Egypt. Here God's smile crowned them with prosperity. Their numbers rapidly increased. The surrounding natives witnessed their growing power. Jealousy was quick to see where strength resided.
25. "He turned their heart to hate His people, to deal subtly with His servants."
God allowed the vile passions to intensify. The king's heart was hardened and his eyes were blinded. He did not see the all-directing hand of God. Crafty schemes were devised to extirpate. Impiety strove by subtle arts to keep them low.
26. "He sent Moses His servant, and Aaron whom He had chosen."
When God has a purpose to accomplish He raises suitable instruments. His work can never fail because means are insufficient. Is it not written, that of the very stones He can raise up children unto Abraham! So He called Moses and Aaron to their destined posts. They came forth fearless of the tyrant, and exhibited credentials that they were sent of heaven.
27-36. "They showed His signs among them, and wonders in the land of Ham. He sent darkness, and made it dark; and they rebelled not against His word. He turned their waters into blood, and slew their fish. Their land brought forth frogs in abundance in the chambers of their kings. He spoke, and there came different sorts of flies, and lice in all their coasts. He gave them hail for rain, and flaming fire in their land. He smote their vines also and their fig-trees, and broke the trees of their coasts. He spoke, and the locusts came, and caterpillars, and them without number, and ate up all the herbs in their land, and devoured the fruit of their ground. He smote also all the first-born in their land, the chief of all their strength."
Terrible plagues afflicted the persecuting land. With appalling deeds God showed His wrath. The sun concealed its light. Darkness spread its thickest pall around. The trembling people sat in more than midnight gloom. The waters of their noble river flowed in blood and poison. All nature warred against them, and encircled them in hopeless ruin. Noisome reptiles filled their houses with distress. There was no escape. Herbage withered. The fruits of the field were blasted. Death entered into every dwelling, and loud cries bewailed the smitten first-born. God, who never lacks means to save, now sent forth instruments to destroy.
37-38. "He brought them forth also with silver and gold; and there was not one feeble person among their tribes. Egypt was glad when they departed; for the fear of them fell upon them."
His chosen people left their bondage enriched with treasures and invigorated with health. Egypt, which had exulted in oppression, was more delighted to witness their departure.
39-45. "He spread a cloud for a covering, and fire to give light in the night. The people asked, and He brought quails, and satisfied them with the bread of heaven. He opened the rock, and the waters gushed out; they ran in the dry places like a river. For He remembered His holy promise, and Abraham His servant. And He brought forth His people with joy, and His chosen with gladness; and gave them the lands of the heathen; and they inherited the labor of the people; that they might observe His statutes, and keep His laws. Praise the Lord."
It is sweet profit to contemplate God's gracious care of Israel in the wilderness, and the power with which He planted them triumphant in the promised land. There can be no limits to the praise thus swelling in the heart. By day a cloudy covering was their screen; by night it brightened into a vast luminary. At their request fowls fell in abundance round the camp. Water from the smitten rock flowed for them. Not one word of promise failed. Goodness and mercy followed their advancing steps, until they reaped the plenty of their promised home. Hallelujah. Praise the Lord.