By Henry Law
Praise opens and concludes this instructive Psalm. The context is dark in frightful displays of the rebellion and ingratitude of God's people. Bright manifestations of sparing and forgiving grace finally appear.
1-2. "Praise the Lord. O give thanks to the Lord; for He is good; for His mercy endures forever. Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? who can show forth all His praise?"
By precept and by example we should strive to awaken songs of thanksgiving. A glorious theme animates our minds. Goodness and mercy invite attention. This goodness is unsearchable. This mercy swells as an ocean without shore. Vain, then, are our utmost efforts to lift up adequate strains. If we possessed all the powers of all the angelic hosts, and all the tongues of all who ever breathed, and if they were expanded in one perpetual utterance, they could not measure the due expanse. But the more we strive the more we shall succeed.
3. "Blessed are those who keep judgment, and he who does righteousness at all times."
There is no blessedness apart from walking in the fear of God. Let our feet ever traverse this righteous path.
4-5. "Remember me, O Lord, with the favor that You bear to Your people; O visit me with Your salvation; that I may see the good of Your chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation, that I may glory with Your inheritance."
This aspiration is offspring of heaven. Let us ever look to God to raise us to this height of blessedness. The terms exhort us to fix our delighted gaze on the happiness of God's chosen. Salvation is their property. They realize the pledged enjoyment. But still the blessedness and glory of this inheritance exceed all thought. God, who gave the heirs of salvation to His dear Son, and who gave His Son for them, will with Him also freely give them all things. They are the true inheritors of earth. They soon shall be the inhabitants of celestial homes, and eternity will not exhaust their bliss.
6-7. "We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly. Our fathers understood not Your wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of Your mercies; but provoked Him at the sea, even at the Red Sea."
This salvation springs from grace. No merit wins it. We are poor sinners, even as our fathers were. Look back to the deliverance from Egypt. All the tokens of love and tender compassion destroyed not the seeds of iniquity in the favored nation. Marvelously brought through the Red Sea, they showed proofs that evil still rankled in their hearts.
8-11. "Nevertheless He saved them for His name's sake, that He might make His mighty power to be known. He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it was dried up; so He led them through the depths, as through the wilderness. And He saved them from the hand of him who hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. And the waters covered their enemies; there was not one of them left."
Patience still endured. Mercy held back the arm of vengeance. Support and deliverance still magnified His glorious name. They were led safely through the depths of the sea. They were rescued from the cruelty of their enemies, while the returning waters overwhelmed the foes. Every child of Israel was saved; every child of Egypt died.
12-15. "Then believed they His words; they sang His praise. They soon forgot His works; they waited not for His counsel; but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul."
Such lovingkindness for a moment melted them; hymns of praise resounded. But their goodness was like the morning cloud, as the early dew it passed away. In the wilderness they murmured, because their lust for food was not indulged. They impiously tempted God. He granted their desire, but the food in their mouths was impoverishment in their hearts.
16-18. "They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the Lord. The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram. And a fire was kindled in their company; the flame burned up the wicked."
They treated their appointed leaders with contempt, and scoffed at their authority. Terrible punishment ensued. The gaping earth swallowed up the rebels. Devouring flames consumed their substance.
19-22. "They made a calf in Horeb, and worshiped the molten image. Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt; wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red Sea."
At Horeb they dethroned Jehovah, and exalted as their god the image of a calf. Their hearts relapsed into the idolatry of Egypt. The mighty wonders which marked their deliverance from that tyrannic sway were as a forgotten tale. Let us chide our souls to treasure up the memory of all His benefits.
23. "Therefore He said that He would destroy them, had not Moses His chosen stood before Him in the breach, to turn away His wrath, lest He should destroy them."
God's patience had been tried to the extremest point. Just vengeance reared its head. But Moses interposed. He sought the Lord. He humbled himself in dust and ashes, and prayed that mercy might still be glorified. The prayer of faith is heard, and longer space is given to the rebellious host. Let us learn in faith to cry for others. Such sympathy is welcomed in the courts above. God turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends.
24-27. "Yes, they despised the pleasant land; they believed not His word; but murmured in their tents, and hearkened not to the voice of the Lord. Therefore He lifted up His hand against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness; to overthrow their seed also among the nations, and to scatter them in the lands."
Reports were brought of the luxuriant beauty of their future home. But incredulity derided, and haughty scoffs sneered. The promise which secured this great inheritance was treated as an empty word. We see an dreadful picture of the terrible evil which by nature depraves man's heart.
28-31. "They joined themselves also to Baal-Peor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead. Thus they provoked Him to anger with their inventions; and the plague broke in upon them. Then Phinehas stood up, and executed judgment; and so the plague was stayed. And that was counted to him for righteousness unto all generations forevermore."
The filthy pleasures of idolatry enticed them. They reveled in guilty scenes of impurity, and feasted on the idol-offerings. Unblushing iniquity shunned not the light. Phinehas in holy zeal rushed to vindicate God's honor. He hastened to deal extraordinary punishment. Thus he gave evidence that faith was the inhabitant of his heart. By this righteous act he obtained acknowledgment that he was a Spirit-taught believer. Let us be diligent to give evidence that faith is our living principle.
32-33. "They angered Him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes; because they provoked his spirit, so that he spoke unadvisedly with his lips."
When water failed again their provocation so exceeded that even the meek spirit of Moses was ruffled. He spoke in petulance, and for a moment yielded to temptation. Sin in God's most faithful servants is sin still, and calls for tokens of displeasure. Moses suffered keenly. The decree went forth that his feet should never tread the longed-for Canaan.
34-39. "They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom the Lord commanded them; but were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works. And they served their idols; which were a snare to them. Yes, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters to devils, and shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood. Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions."
Surely when they rested in all the comforts of their desired abode their walk would be undeviating obedience. Surely happiness and love would be the inhabitants of their dwellings. Alas! what is man? They spared the idolaters whom they were commanded to destroy. They intermingled with their services, and adopted their abominable vices. They devoted their own children to accursed devils. The blood of impious sacrifices stained their hands. No sin appalled them.
40-46. "Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled against His people, insomuch that He abhorred His own inheritance. And He gave them into the hand of the heathen; and those who hated them ruled over them. Their enemies also oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their hand. Many times He delivered them; but they provoked Him with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity. Nevertheless He regarded their affliction when He heard their cry; and He remembered for them His covenant, and repented according to the multitude of His mercies. He made them also to be pitied of all those that carried them captives."
Extraordinary judgments followed. Invaders subjugated their land. Oppressed, they cried again, and were delivered only to sin more.
47-48. "Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks to Your holy name, and to triumph in Your praise. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting; and let all the people say, Amen. Praise the Lord."
The result should stimulate us to be more diligent in prayer and praise. Let all within us cry, Save us, good Lord, and we will bless Your name. Dangers are always near. Sacred records warn us. Our experience confirms the truth. It is madness to hope for safety from our own vigilance or strength. They fall who trust in such unstable ground. Let our eyes be ever on the Lord, so shall we triumph in His praise.