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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Psalms 99

 

 

Verses 1-9

Psalms 99:1-9

The Lord reigneth.

The rulership of God over the world

I. As seen in symbol. “He sitteth between the cherubim.” This reference to the Shekinah teaches us that His reign is--

1. Moral.

2. Merciful.

3. Glorious. The ark is a humble emblem of that throne which is invisible in its nature, and universal in its authority, and withal characterized by the sublimely moral, merciful, and redemptive.

II. As extolled in language (Psalms 99:2-4). He is extolled--

1. Because He is supreme. “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

2. Because He is holy. His throne has never been stained with wrong, it is a “great white throne.”

3. Because it is mighty in rectitude (Psalms 99:4). God’s throne is morally omnipotent because it is infinitely just.

III. As recalled in memory (Psalms 99:6-8). His reign as here brought to the memory of the author of this poem taught two things.

1. That His reign had respect to human prayer. Moses and Aaron prayed and they were answered, Samuel prayed and he was answered, and so ever it was with the pious Hebrew. He recognized the duty and power of human prayer. Prayer is an element of the Divine Government.

2. That His reign had respect to human forgiveness. How frequently did He forgive His people of old; He forgave Moses, Samuel, Aaron, David, etc. Thus under God’s reign on earth forgiveness is dispensed, dispensed to all true penitents. “Let the wicked forsake his way,” etc.

IV. As felt in conscience (Psalms 99:5; Psalms 99:9). Here the sublime sense of moral obligation in the author is touched, excited and speaks with an ill-imperial voice. “Exalt ye.” It is at once the supreme interest and duty of every man to give Him in all things the pre-eminence in thought, sympathy, volition, aim. (Homilist.)

The supreme dominion of God

The text states not only a truth, but a necessity also. It is not only absolutely true--that is, true without any restriction whatever--that God reigns; but it is also equally true, that He must reign; and that He must reign everywhere--throughout His entire universe, and over all His creatures.

I. Consider the fact, that “the Lord reigneth.”

1. And in doing so, let it be understood, that nothing whatever is intended to be said by way of proof. That would be both useless and impertinent; for God has declared the fact. And when God speaks, it is the duty of men to believe, not to dispute or argue.

2. But though it is not necessary to prove the truth of what God has said, or to explain its reasonableness, ere we receive it, it is of the utmost advantage to obtain suitable illustrations; as thereby, not only is a more sensible impression made upon the mind, but our faith also is greatly strengthened.

3. The first idea suggested arises from a consideration of the person who is said to reign--“The Lord reigneth”--that is, the Almighty, Omniscient, Omnipresent God. Now, if such attributes belong to God, then all difficulties as to the ability of God to reign supremely at once vanish.

4. Having thus glanced at some of the attributes of God, we next observe that the idea of “reigning” implies permission of every thing which occurs. We must not, therefore, be staggered at those strange transactions, which ever and anon fill the world with wonder and alarm, as though they indicated the absence of a supreme sovereignty.

5. But this idea of “permission,” when applied to God, necessitates the thought of control also. For to say that He permits only because He cannot resist is to deny His power altogether.

6. But if God reigns supremely, then all things must be reader His direction, as well as control. Otherwise, there may be another will in operation before the will of God, and independent of Him.

7. But, in thus endeavouring to show the absolute supremacy of God, we may not forget that His glory will be the sure result of His reign, whatever efforts may be made by men or others to frustrate it.

8. It has sometimes been argued, that as no creature can do anything except by the permission of God, add as the glory of God is the necessary result of whatever He permits, so men are justified in all their actions; and the well-known sentiment “whatever is, is right,” has become a very favourite maxim with many, who plead for a licentious and irresponsible course of life. Such reasoning, however, is of no weight, since it totally overlooks the Word of God, which is our only rule of action.

II. Consider the duty of those who believe that “the Lord reigneth.” “Let the people tremble.”

1. It is a fearfully solemn and overwhelming thought, that an almighty and infinitely holy God is the ruler of this ungodly world, and that “ He has appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31). Surely, then, those who believe the Word of God ought to take every opportunity to “let their light shine”; not only that they may bear a testimony in favour of His truth, but likewise that, “knowing the terror of the Lord,” they may persuade men to “flee from the wrath to come.”

2. This consideration is strengthened by remembering, how utterly impotent and vain are all our efforts to withstand the Most High.

3. It is not a man that reigns, nor any creature, however great in intelligence or power. It is the eternal God, “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” However much men may repine at His dispensations and strive to alter His purposes, and whatever wickedness may fill the earth while the nations are resisting His authority and His laws, the wisdom of His government is unimpeachable, and demands our unreserved and cheerful submission.

4. But not less are we called to rejoice in the goodness, than in the wisdom of God. Is the law to be vindicated? Is justice to be satisfied? Is holiness to be enforced? All this is done, so as clearly to discover that “God is love.”

5. But are not other duties imperative, besides those already referred to? It is not enough that we should “tremble” and “rejoice,” while we remember that God reigns. He requires us also to be co-workers with Him in establishing His kingdom. (T. Woolmer.)

The great King

We have here a contrast between the omnipotence of God and the impotence of man:--We see the great King sitting on His throne, raised up far above all the changes of time and sense; we see the people raging, discontented, contending one with another, but all their fury in no way affects the calm majesty of the great King. The picture is an impressive one. Power, solemnity, grandeur, on the one hand; paltriness, meanness, pretence on the other.

I. Let it teach us our own insignificance. We make among ourselves lords many and gods many. Our little sphere is exalted and magnified, but how ridiculous are our pretensions!

II. Let it teach us our dependence. All we can do cannot alter or change our condition. We must be dependent on the sovereign power of the Almighty.

III. Let it teach us patience. The restless wave is hurled back upon itself broken in pieces from the granite rock. Our greenings and discontent recoil upon our own heads when we attempt to murmur against Omnipotence.

IV. Let it teach us reverence We cannot but honour One so great. Our own insignificance should teach us the folly of setting up ourselves as a model of perfection. (Homilist.)

Signs of God’s kingdom

Among these are--

I. Greater honesty of thought. Professor Huxley, when he set himself to number the triumphs of scientific work during the reign of Victoria, did not put so high the inventions which have yoked steam and electricity to man’s service as he put the more general habit of scientific thinking. The man in the street takes fewer statements on faith, and popular literature offers more reasons for actions. Old customs and old beliefs are tried in a court where the question is, “Does this custom express present belief? Does this belief express truth?” Positions of great attraction are now often considered, not only in relation to the pay or the power they offer, but the further question is asked, “Can I take this post and be honest? Can I, having my views, serve in this leader’s party? Can I, with my opinions, take orders?” Men of high intelligence and goodness who would to-day be preaching and teaching in the Church, are doing work they like less because they will not be untrue. Justice to the individual is now often regarded as of greater obligation than expediency. The value set on thinking has brought out the value of the man; each one would live his own life and would let his neighbour live his life. Never before was there so much care that the weak and the wicked should have fair treatment.

II. A larger human spirit. Each morning’s news takes in the history of the world, and sympathy from English breakfast-tables reaches out to the needs of the sick, the plague-stricken, the wrecked, and the oppressed in all parts of the world. People watch with anxiety the movement of ideas, and without an eye to their own profit give their time and money to forward or hinder the spread of ideas. Societies for relief, for giving knowledge, for passing on discoveries and inventions increase daily.

III. A more general historic sense. This is shown in the new interest taken in the characters of old times, in the many books and essays written out of much study to throw light on men who hitherto have been but names. It is shown in the interest taken in old forms, in the revival of ritual and pageantry, and in the popularity of romantic literature, in the care and restoration of old monuments. It is shown in the judgments now passed on the manners and morals of other ages. Acts wrong in the present society are seen to be right in another environment. The same principle has been discovered in martyrs and persecutors, in those who kill prophets and in those who build their sepulchres. The seeds of institutions now admired have been sown in deeds now condemned. The past and present are parts of one whole. Unity is seen to be in diversity rather than in uniformity, and a care for beauty, which is the expression of the unity of diversity, has thus been developed. Religion, which I have been trying to show is the thought about God, is, if we will only open our eyes, being worked into the actions and feelings of modern life. God is King, and His kingdom comes. (Canon Barnett.)

Christ’s reign over men

Quoting the words “God reigneth” of the forty-seventh Psalm, the Church Father, Justin Martyr, added, by way of explanation, “from the wood.” He meant from the wood of the Cross: Christ being lifted up on the Cross reigneth over all whom He draws to Him. We are reminded of Napoleon’s saying that Charlemagne himself, who conquered and ruled by force, will soon be forgotten; but that Jesus Christ will reign for ever in the hearts of men by loving them.


Verses 1-9

Psalms 99:1-9

The Lord reigneth.

The rulership of God over the world

I. As seen in symbol. “He sitteth between the cherubim.” This reference to the Shekinah teaches us that His reign is--

1. Moral.

2. Merciful.

3. Glorious. The ark is a humble emblem of that throne which is invisible in its nature, and universal in its authority, and withal characterized by the sublimely moral, merciful, and redemptive.

II. As extolled in language (Psalms 99:2-4). He is extolled--

1. Because He is supreme. “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

2. Because He is holy. His throne has never been stained with wrong, it is a “great white throne.”

3. Because it is mighty in rectitude (Psalms 99:4). God’s throne is morally omnipotent because it is infinitely just.

III. As recalled in memory (Psalms 99:6-8). His reign as here brought to the memory of the author of this poem taught two things.

1. That His reign had respect to human prayer. Moses and Aaron prayed and they were answered, Samuel prayed and he was answered, and so ever it was with the pious Hebrew. He recognized the duty and power of human prayer. Prayer is an element of the Divine Government.

2. That His reign had respect to human forgiveness. How frequently did He forgive His people of old; He forgave Moses, Samuel, Aaron, David, etc. Thus under God’s reign on earth forgiveness is dispensed, dispensed to all true penitents. “Let the wicked forsake his way,” etc.

IV. As felt in conscience (Psalms 99:5; Psalms 99:9). Here the sublime sense of moral obligation in the author is touched, excited and speaks with an ill-imperial voice. “Exalt ye.” It is at once the supreme interest and duty of every man to give Him in all things the pre-eminence in thought, sympathy, volition, aim. (Homilist.)

The supreme dominion of God

The text states not only a truth, but a necessity also. It is not only absolutely true--that is, true without any restriction whatever--that God reigns; but it is also equally true, that He must reign; and that He must reign everywhere--throughout His entire universe, and over all His creatures.

I. Consider the fact, that “the Lord reigneth.”

1. And in doing so, let it be understood, that nothing whatever is intended to be said by way of proof. That would be both useless and impertinent; for God has declared the fact. And when God speaks, it is the duty of men to believe, not to dispute or argue.

2. But though it is not necessary to prove the truth of what God has said, or to explain its reasonableness, ere we receive it, it is of the utmost advantage to obtain suitable illustrations; as thereby, not only is a more sensible impression made upon the mind, but our faith also is greatly strengthened.

3. The first idea suggested arises from a consideration of the person who is said to reign--“The Lord reigneth”--that is, the Almighty, Omniscient, Omnipresent God. Now, if such attributes belong to God, then all difficulties as to the ability of God to reign supremely at once vanish.

4. Having thus glanced at some of the attributes of God, we next observe that the idea of “reigning” implies permission of every thing which occurs. We must not, therefore, be staggered at those strange transactions, which ever and anon fill the world with wonder and alarm, as though they indicated the absence of a supreme sovereignty.

5. But this idea of “permission,” when applied to God, necessitates the thought of control also. For to say that He permits only because He cannot resist is to deny His power altogether.

6. But if God reigns supremely, then all things must be reader His direction, as well as control. Otherwise, there may be another will in operation before the will of God, and independent of Him.

7. But, in thus endeavouring to show the absolute supremacy of God, we may not forget that His glory will be the sure result of His reign, whatever efforts may be made by men or others to frustrate it.

8. It has sometimes been argued, that as no creature can do anything except by the permission of God, add as the glory of God is the necessary result of whatever He permits, so men are justified in all their actions; and the well-known sentiment “whatever is, is right,” has become a very favourite maxim with many, who plead for a licentious and irresponsible course of life. Such reasoning, however, is of no weight, since it totally overlooks the Word of God, which is our only rule of action.

II. Consider the duty of those who believe that “the Lord reigneth.” “Let the people tremble.”

1. It is a fearfully solemn and overwhelming thought, that an almighty and infinitely holy God is the ruler of this ungodly world, and that “ He has appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31). Surely, then, those who believe the Word of God ought to take every opportunity to “let their light shine”; not only that they may bear a testimony in favour of His truth, but likewise that, “knowing the terror of the Lord,” they may persuade men to “flee from the wrath to come.”

2. This consideration is strengthened by remembering, how utterly impotent and vain are all our efforts to withstand the Most High.

3. It is not a man that reigns, nor any creature, however great in intelligence or power. It is the eternal God, “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” However much men may repine at His dispensations and strive to alter His purposes, and whatever wickedness may fill the earth while the nations are resisting His authority and His laws, the wisdom of His government is unimpeachable, and demands our unreserved and cheerful submission.

4. But not less are we called to rejoice in the goodness, than in the wisdom of God. Is the law to be vindicated? Is justice to be satisfied? Is holiness to be enforced? All this is done, so as clearly to discover that “God is love.”

5. But are not other duties imperative, besides those already referred to? It is not enough that we should “tremble” and “rejoice,” while we remember that God reigns. He requires us also to be co-workers with Him in establishing His kingdom. (T. Woolmer.)

The great King

We have here a contrast between the omnipotence of God and the impotence of man:--We see the great King sitting on His throne, raised up far above all the changes of time and sense; we see the people raging, discontented, contending one with another, but all their fury in no way affects the calm majesty of the great King. The picture is an impressive one. Power, solemnity, grandeur, on the one hand; paltriness, meanness, pretence on the other.

I. Let it teach us our own insignificance. We make among ourselves lords many and gods many. Our little sphere is exalted and magnified, but how ridiculous are our pretensions!

II. Let it teach us our dependence. All we can do cannot alter or change our condition. We must be dependent on the sovereign power of the Almighty.

III. Let it teach us patience. The restless wave is hurled back upon itself broken in pieces from the granite rock. Our greenings and discontent recoil upon our own heads when we attempt to murmur against Omnipotence.

IV. Let it teach us reverence We cannot but honour One so great. Our own insignificance should teach us the folly of setting up ourselves as a model of perfection. (Homilist.)

Signs of God’s kingdom

Among these are--

I. Greater honesty of thought. Professor Huxley, when he set himself to number the triumphs of scientific work during the reign of Victoria, did not put so high the inventions which have yoked steam and electricity to man’s service as he put the more general habit of scientific thinking. The man in the street takes fewer statements on faith, and popular literature offers more reasons for actions. Old customs and old beliefs are tried in a court where the question is, “Does this custom express present belief? Does this belief express truth?” Positions of great attraction are now often considered, not only in relation to the pay or the power they offer, but the further question is asked, “Can I take this post and be honest? Can I, having my views, serve in this leader’s party? Can I, with my opinions, take orders?” Men of high intelligence and goodness who would to-day be preaching and teaching in the Church, are doing work they like less because they will not be untrue. Justice to the individual is now often regarded as of greater obligation than expediency. The value set on thinking has brought out the value of the man; each one would live his own life and would let his neighbour live his life. Never before was there so much care that the weak and the wicked should have fair treatment.

II. A larger human spirit. Each morning’s news takes in the history of the world, and sympathy from English breakfast-tables reaches out to the needs of the sick, the plague-stricken, the wrecked, and the oppressed in all parts of the world. People watch with anxiety the movement of ideas, and without an eye to their own profit give their time and money to forward or hinder the spread of ideas. Societies for relief, for giving knowledge, for passing on discoveries and inventions increase daily.

III. A more general historic sense. This is shown in the new interest taken in the characters of old times, in the many books and essays written out of much study to throw light on men who hitherto have been but names. It is shown in the interest taken in old forms, in the revival of ritual and pageantry, and in the popularity of romantic literature, in the care and restoration of old monuments. It is shown in the judgments now passed on the manners and morals of other ages. Acts wrong in the present society are seen to be right in another environment. The same principle has been discovered in martyrs and persecutors, in those who kill prophets and in those who build their sepulchres. The seeds of institutions now admired have been sown in deeds now condemned. The past and present are parts of one whole. Unity is seen to be in diversity rather than in uniformity, and a care for beauty, which is the expression of the unity of diversity, has thus been developed. Religion, which I have been trying to show is the thought about God, is, if we will only open our eyes, being worked into the actions and feelings of modern life. God is King, and His kingdom comes. (Canon Barnett.)

Christ’s reign over men

Quoting the words “God reigneth” of the forty-seventh Psalm, the Church Father, Justin Martyr, added, by way of explanation, “from the wood.” He meant from the wood of the Cross: Christ being lifted up on the Cross reigneth over all whom He draws to Him. We are reminded of Napoleon’s saying that Charlemagne himself, who conquered and ruled by force, will soon be forgotten; but that Jesus Christ will reign for ever in the hearts of men by loving them.


Verse 2

Psalms 99:2

The Lord is great in Zion.

God great in His Church

God is ever within the Church. Therefore the greatness of the Church is God. Not her wealth, prestige, orthodoxy, culture, or intelligence, but His inhabitation.

I. He is her greatness as a living force--attracting, new-creating, enlightening, and teaching men; as her Vital Energy moving and moulding individual character and national life (where it is allowed free course) to the high ideal of the Perfect Life. Gold, like steam in the locomotive, rightly used and directed, is a power for good. Without it the machinery will be idle. It is indispensable to the aggressive activity and beneficent service of the Church, to the carrying out of her plans of operation, and for the accomplishment of her benignant purposes. “Bring the tithes into the storehouse,” saith the Lord of Hosts. But let the Church try to draw her life from her wealth, and she will be strangled in the very attempt. God is her life--not national approbation and prestige. What the soul is to the body, He is to the Church. Her organization may be complete; on her roll of membership she may count the names of millions. She may look upon the nations as her friends. She may have the most stately buildings, the most exquisite architecture, music, and ritual; wealth may fill her coffers, eloquence may flow from her pulpits, scholarship, literature, and the sciences may flourish in her soil. She may spread herself until the melody of her bells shall tremble in the breeze of every clime, and the music of her songs and psalms shall be heard wherever man is found; yet, if God be not great in the midst of her, statue-like she is beautiful, but dead! All her action will be forced and mechanical, not the spontaneous outflow of life. “The Lord is great in Zion.”

II. God in the midst of His Church is the greatness of her moral excellence. Apart from Him humanity has no moral excellence, as apart from the sun there can be no vegetable life and fruitfulness, and no floral beauty. Every man is therefore morally excellent to the extent that he thinks, and feels, and acts like God. The true Church is in all her action consistent, dignified, noble. Her obedience is filial and faithful, and the glory of her supreme Head is her single and constant aim.

III. God is great in the Church as her infallible teacher. The two books--Nature and Revelation--which He has put into her hands, with reverent intellect and devout heart she studies, seeking from Him the right interpretation thereof. She finds “tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.” She finds no contradiction between the two volumes. And when “things hard to be understood” present themselves--seeming antagonisms and contradictions--she does not doubt, or dispute, or discard, but waits for “more light,” knowing that the defect is in the reader, in the student, and not in the book.

IV. God in the Church is the source and secret of her strength. Every man is strong to the extent that he incarnates the Divine. God’s thoughts actualized in man give sturdiness to moral muscle, firmness to the moral step, fixedness to moral purpose, a triumphing power to moral effort. Filled with God, omnipotence is man’s strength. Therefore, as the individual soul’s strength is proportionate to the measure of the Divine he incarnates, so is the strength of the Church. Her language has always been (Isaiah 12:2). The power which has sustained her hitherto shall not fail her in days to come. No weapon formed against her shall prosper. She shall never fail. The end of time and the destruction of earth will be but the dawning of her day--the beginning of her life in heaven. Ever closer will be her connection with the Infinite Father.

V. God being great in His Church, He is the motive power of her action--the highest reason for all she does. (J. O. Keen, D.D.)

The greatness of God in Zion

“The Lord is great” in--

I. Supremacy. He is over all and above all. Then let us serve Him with reverence and gladness.

II. Power. Creation--the creation of heaven and earth; of angels and men; of suns, moons, stars, mountains, and seas; of blooming flowers and cedars of Lebanon; of all that is, seen and unseen, known and unknown--was easy and facile to Him, to whom belongeth power for evermore.

III. Faithfulness. He never falsifies His precious promises, never violates His covenant, never forsakes His people.

IV. Mercy. It endureth for ever. (G. W. McCree.)


Verse 5

Psalms 99:5

Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool; for He is holy.

Jehovah exalted

The grand distinction between real godliness and every description of its counterfeit lies in this one point; all counterfeit professions tend to exalt the creature, and all real godliness aims at exalting God alone.

I. The first principle of Christianity is the exalting of Jehovah. “Exalt ye the Lord our God,” by ascribing to Him the plan of salvation whereby millions upon millions of ruined sinners shall be brought home to glory.

II. The order of worship which exalts Jehovah, and which we are called on to do personally. “Worship at His footstool.”

1. Mark the position, and say, have you ever been there, so low at the footstool of Divine mercy as to be ashamed and confounded before God, respecting all that we find and feel in ourselves, and yet favoured with a glimpse of Divine glory in the face of Jesus Christ by a supernatural aid? Oh, wondrous position! Then, indeed, we may look on the world, with all its toys and trifles, as utterly contemptible. This is not only compatible with, but the true consequence of, the highest attainments a Christian can make.

2. Now what shall we say about the worship? The two prominent acts of worship are prayer and praise; and I do not know if they may not be said to include everything. But they must be “in spirit and in truth”; and if our offering of prayer is a mere ceremony, a mere repetition of words, a mere display of talent, it is rather mockery than worship.

III. The reason assigned. “For He is holy.” All the persons and perfections of Deity are our inheritance, to be enjoyed personally as long as eternity shall endure. And then mark, that this inherent holiness is in Him, not in us. The man who possesses real holiness has it imparted to him; and hence the exhortation, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” A solemn command, and a gift with it; so that Jehovah the Spirit imparts a holy nature, and a holy life to the soul of the real believer, to make him like God, that he may grow up into Christ Jesus and perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. Follow on to mark, that it is an official holiness, which is given as the reason why we should exalt Him. The Father is so holy in His covenant engagements of an official kind that He cannot withhold any good thing from the objects of His love who walk uprightly. The Son is so holy in His mediatorial character, that He cannot allow it to be tarnished by the failure of any one part of the work He undertook to perform. The Holy Ghost is so holy, as Comforter, over and above the inherent holiness on which I have been dwelling, that He cannot allow a sanctified vessel to be polluted; but will cleanse it thoroughly from every sin. Moreover, it must be a national holiness that we derive from our God, and on account of which we exalt Him (1 Peter 2:9). (J. Irons.)

On public worship

I. The duty and propriety of public worship.

1. The universal homage which under various forms is paid to the Deity, is a proof that it is founded in human nature, and is, consequently, of moral and perpetual obligation.

2. Public worship is a duty of positive institution, and being expressly enjoined by Divine authority, involves an obligation which will not surely be called in question.

3. The great and beneficial consequences with which its due and regular observance is attended.

II. The effects of public worship upon our moral conduct. Suppose that the solemn observance of the Sabbath was no more; that the altar and its worship were abandoned; that all days and seasons were alike; and that the business and bustle of the world knew no pause; what would be the dreadful result? The depravity of the human heart, already too general, would be universal; science and the elegant arts would languish; men would revert to a state of barbarity, without government, law or control; and unheard of crimes would follow the destruction of those sacred piles, which the approved wisdom and piety of ages had consecrated to religion. (A. Stirling, LL. D.)

How to determine whether our love is selfish

I. Certain principles in natural men which prepare them to relish a false or defective image of God under the name of the true God. Here are five of these principles: selfishness, which delights in a benefactor and a friend; humanity, which, when self-interest does not too strongly oppose, is affected with kindness to men in general; conscience and the love of natural fitness, which, with the aid of self-love and humanity, are pleased with a good government and social order, when personal interest does not stand in the way; and sympathy, by which the soul, in view of moving grief or the tenderness of love, is melted into compassion or tenderness. All these are found to a high degree in many infidels.

II. There is a false or defective image of God which natural men often form, and which they love from no higher principles than those which have been stated. Among the great variety of natural men I will select two classes.

1. Those who think superficially, have little to do with the moral character of God as exhibited in a moral government. The order of their thoughts is somewhat as follows. First they contemplate Him as a benefactor to themselves; as the one who preserves their lives, who sends them rain and fruitful seasons, who sent His Son to save them, and has filled their lives with mercies. This is pleasing to their selfishness. They next consider His kindness to the world, and contemplate the generous being who pours His bounty upon all nations. This gratifies their humanity; and it does not disturb their selfishness, pride, or love of the creature. But His moral character, as manifested in a moral government, is still out of view.

2. But there is another class of natural men who think more deeply and systematically.

III. Some ways by which we may test the genuineness of our love.

1. Is the Divine love in view of which we are affected, the mere fondness of creature love, fitted only to melt the animal affections? Or is it that holy love which, under the guidance of infinite wisdom, hates and punishes sin, which maintains a vigorous moral government, requiring all to be holy under penalty of eternal death?

2. If it is the true God you love, you will love all the essential truths which relate to Him, as comprehended in the doctrines of the Gospel.

3. Does your love, as far as it goes, subdue your selfishness, pride, and love of the world? This is an infallible test.

4. If you have no genuine love to man, you have no sincere love to God. But all love to man is not genuine. To say nothing of the domestic affections, humanity wishes well to mankind where no self-interest is in the way, and therefore almost always is gratified with the prosperity of distant nations. But try your love to man by something nearer home,--something that comes most in competition with selfishness. Select your rival in business or honour; select your greatest enemy. Do you, in any sense or degree, love him as yourself?

5. Do you conscientiously and habitually obey God? I do not ask whether you are what the world calls moral. This you may be from the mere influence of natural principles. I ask whether you habitually act, from hour to hour, with a sensible reference to God’s authority,--often asking yourselves, How would God have me do in this thing? Do you cheerfully perform the most self-denying duties from a sacred regard to His authority? (E. D. Griffin, D.D.)


Verse 8

Psalms 99:8

Thou wast a God that forgavest them, though Thou tookest vengeance of their inventions.

Pardon with punishment

A very great and grave mistake about the whole relations of forgiveness and retribution, and about the whole character of that Divine nature from which they both flow is implied in that word “though”; what the psalm really says is, “Thou wast a God who forgavest them, and Thou tookest vengeance,” etc. No antagonism between pardon and retribution; both are regarded as parts of one great whole, and as flowing from the holy love of God.

I. Forgiveness is, at bottom, the undisturbed communication of the love of God to sinful men. We are far too apt to think that God pardons men in the fashion in which the sovereign pardons a culprit who has been sentenced to be hanged. Such pardon implies nothing as to the feelings of either the criminal or the monarch. The forgiveness of God is over and over again set forth in Scripture as being a father’s forgiveness. Indeed, I do not remember that we ever read of the pardon of our Judge or of our King, but we read “Your heavenly Father will forgive you your trespasses.” Let us keep fast by that. And then, let us remember our own childhood. What makes the little face fall, and the tears come to the eyes? Is it your taking down the rod from behind the door, or the grave disapprobation in your face, and the rebuke in your eyes? It is not only the buffet from the father’s hand that makes the punishment, but still more the displeasure of the father’s heart that makes the child’s punishment. And forgiveness is not complete when the father says, “Well, go away, I will not hurt you,” but when he says, “Well, come, I am not angry with you, and I love you still.” Not putting up the rod, but taking your child to your heart is your forgiveness.

II. Such pardon does necessarily sweep away the one true penalty of sin. What is the penalty of sin? “The wages of sin is death.” What is “death”? The wrenching away of a dependent soul from God. How is that penalty ended? When the soul is united to God in the threefold bond of trust, love, and obedience. The two statements that forgiveness is the communication of the love of God unhindered by man’s sin, and that forgiveness is the removal of the punishment of sin, are really but two ways of saying the same thing.

III. The pardoning mercy of God leaves many penalties unremoved. If you waste your youth, no repentance will send the shadow back upon the dial, or recover the ground lost by idleness, or restore the constitution shattered by dissipation, or give again the resources wasted upon vice, or bring back the fleeting opportunities. If you forget God and live without Him in the world, fancying that it is time enough to become “religious” when you “have had your fling”--even were you to come back at last--and remember how few do--you could not obliterate the remembrance of misused years, nor the deep marks which they had left upon imagination and thought, and taste, and habit. The wounds can all be healed indeed; for the Good Physician, blessed be His name, has lancets and bandages, and balm and anodynes for the deadliest, but scars remain even when the gash is closed.

IV. Pardoning love so modifies the punishment that it becomes an occasion for solemn thankfulness. The outward act remaining the same, its whole aspect to us, the object of it, is changed, when we think of it as flowing from the same love which pardons. It is no harsh--no, nor even only a righteous Judge, who deals with us. We are not crushed between the insensate wheels of a dead machine, nor smitten by the blow of an inflexible fate, but we are chastened by a Father’s hand, who loves us too well to do by us that which He forbids us to do by one another,--suffer sin upon our brother. “When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned.” The stroke of condemnation will never fall upon our pardoned hearts. That it may not, the loving strokes of His discipline must needs accompany the embrace of His forgiveness. And so the pains change their character, and become things to be desired, to be humbly welcomed, to be patiently borne and used, and even to be woven into our hymns of praise. (A. Maclaren, D.D.)

Believers pardoned, yet chastened

Here we see, as in a glass, how God deals with His people. Toward their persons He acts in grace, answering their prayers and forgiving their trespasses--towards their sins, in justice, taking vengeance on their inventions. The allusion is to Moses, who must die in the wilderness because he sanctified not the Lord at the waters of strife; to Aaron, who joined with Miriam in murmuring; and to Samuel, who was partial to his sons whom he appointed judges over Israel.

I. The most faithful to God have committed some sins which need His pardon. These may be--

1. Concerning His worship. This was Aaron’s sin (Deuteronomy 9:20). Uzziah only puts forth his hand to steady the ark, and he dies. God’s order of worship must be observed. Holy acts require holy frames. “The fear of the Lord” ever attends on the “comforts of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 9:31).

2. Neglecting to give God glory before men (Numbers 20:10). God’s glory is very dear to Him, it is the end of all His purposes and dispensations (Malachi 1:16). It is very great attainment to say continually, “Let God be magnified.”

3. Want of humiliation because of our and other’s sins. We are more proud of our graces than ashamed of our sins. Jeshurun (Deuteronomy 32:15), Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:16), David prays (Psalms 25:5), Job complains (13:26).The sins of youth, if not confessed, will be the sufferings of age. A believer has his sweetest joys with his deepest wounds, his greatest exaltation when most truly humbled. In all our sufferings and joys, sin and grace should never be forgotten. Samuel was faithful to God, but too favourable to his sons (1 Samuel 8:3). what a commendation it was to Levi (Deuteronomy 33:9).

II. Why does God take vengeance on their inventions, while He pardons their sins?

1. To prevent the abuse of His mercy. Samson profaned God’s ordinance and fell into the hands of his enemies; Peter, etc. If Christians, like the men of Bethshemesh, pry unwarrantably into the ark, they must like them suffer (Jeremiah 2:19).

2. To manifest the holiness of God and His law. Our sins are known, our repentings and pardon unknown, therefore God publicly vindicates His holy name by a public reproof. He pardoned David, yet the child died.

3. To secure our watchfulness. A believer’s very life lies in heart holiness, and when he is chastened for sin, he prays, “Cleanse me from secret faults,” searches out earnestly his besetting sin, and walks more closely with God.

4. To warn the impenitent. If the son be scourged, surely the servant more.

III. Why does God answer and forgive while He chastens His saints?

1. From the relation He sustains to them. The covenant remains firm, while its dispensations vary. Though He hide His face, yet not his heart.

2. Because of the ransom which the surety has paid. Christ has more to say for us than our sins can say against us.

3. It is one of His titles. “Thou are a God of pardons,” “a just God, yet a Saviour.”

4. If He will not pardon, then we must all perish. The Canaanite is left in the land to prove, not to destroy us. Grace and mercy are for a time of need. (Homiletic Review.)

Suffering after forgiveness

I. Why suffering to one forgiven.

1. Discipline (John 15:2).

2. Warning. For the security of society and morality; to restrain men (Hebrews 11:36-38; 1 Peter 4:17-18).

3. To teach the distinction between forgiveness and escaping the consequences of sin. Whoever seeks only the latter deserves not the former.

II. Repentance and forgiveness remove a large share of evil consequences.

1. Evil habits are stopped which otherwise would grow continueally worse.

2. The penitent secures peace.

3. He secures God’s help to overcome evil and improve.

4. He avoids death, and secures life eternal.

5. He hastens towards the home where suffering ceases.

III. Observations.

1. True penitence seeks chiefly God’s love, not escape from punishment.

2. Think not God has not forgiven because you still suffer. (Homiletic Review.)
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Psalms 100:1-5

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 99:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/psalms-99.html. 1905-1909. New York.

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