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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Psalms 97:11



Light is sown like seed for the righteous And gladness for the upright in heart.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Light is sown for the righteous - The Divine light in the soul of man is a seed which takes root, and springs up and increases thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold. Gladness is also a seed: it is sown, and, if carefully improved and cultivated, will also multiply itself into thousands. Every grace of God is a seed which he intends should produce a thousand fold in the hearts of genuine believers. We do not so much require more grace from God, as the cultivation of what we have received. God will not give more, unless we improve what we have got. Remember the parable of the talents. Let the light and gladness be faithfully cultivated, and they will multiply themselves till the whole body shall be full of light, and the whole soul full of happiness. But it is the righteous only for whom the light is sown; and the upright in heart alone for whom the gladness is sown.

The words may also signify that, however distressed or persecuted the righteous and the upright may be, it shall not be always so. As surely as the grain that is sown in the earth shall vegetate, and bring forth its proper fruit in its season, so surely shall light - prosperity, and gladness - comfort and peace, be communicated to them. They also will spring up in due time.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 97:11". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Light is sown for the righteous - That is, There is light for the righteous; or, they shall be brought into light, though they may be for a time in darkness. The word rendered “sown” - זרע zâra‛ - is from a verb which properly denotes to scatter, to disperse - as seed is scattered or dispersed when sown in a field. It is hence used with reference to moral subjects, as to sow righteousness, Proverbs 11:18; to sow iniquity, Proverbs 22:8; to sow mischief, Job 4:8; that is, these things are scattered or sown, as seed is in a field, and produce a corresponding harvest. Thus light is scattered abroad, and will produce an appropriate harvest - a harvest of joy. It will spring up around the righteous, and he shall reap that which light tends to produce - happiness, intelligence, and peace. The figure of sowing light is an unusual one, but the meaning is plain. It is, that the righteous will not always be in darkness; that there is in preparation for him a harvest of joy; that it will as certainly be produced as a harvest will from grain that is sown; that though there may be present calamities, there will be ultimate peace and triumph.

And gladness for the upright in heart - The word gladness here - joy, or rejoicing - is parallel to the word light. Joy or gladness is sown for the righteous; that is, arrangements are made for producing joy, as preparations are made by sowing seed for a harvest. The world is full of arrangements for conferring happiness on the righteous.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 97:11". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Psalms 97:11

Light is sown for the righteous.

Seed from God’s storehouse

I. The seen, “light.”

1. The preciousness of this figure is seen as we reflect upon

2. Through the entire field of probation, from the gate of responsible action, in every direction, clear back to the river of death that rolls at the extreme end, “light is sown.”

II. The sowers, implied in the fact, “Light is sown.”

1. God was the first being to scatter this precious seed. Dwelling in the midst of the unlocked granaries of “light” in regard to Himself, and the universe, and especially in regard to the great scheme of salvation, He soon commenced to scatter the seed, which was caught up and disseminated by “holy men of old who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

2. “Light is sown by the righteous”--

Sometimes we have got to sow our own “light.” Little irregularities, follies, or besetments may be persisted in till we are made to see, by the light of experience, that they are deceptive and damaging.

3. Light is sown for the righteous by the wicked.

III. The persons for whom the sowing is done. “The righteous,” not the half-hearted, worldly, or hypocritical professor, but the man whose purpose in the right is a whole purpose, and who stands before his own conscience and his God in the full honours of rectitude. Such a man, no matter where he may be, is surrounded with growing light. (T. Kelly.)

Sown light

I. The metaphor is a rather singular one, and yet full of poetry--light is sown. We can very soon catch the idea if we follow Milton in his speaking of the morning,

“Now morn, her rosy steps in th’ eastern clime

Advancing, sowed the earth with orient pearl.”

The sun, like a sower, scatters broadcast his beams of light upon the once dark earth. Look up at night upon the sky bespangled with stars, and it seemeth as though God scattered them like gold-dust upon the floor of heaven in picturesque irregularity, thereby sowing light. Or if you want a fact which comes nearer to the sowing of light literally than anything which our poets have written, think of our vast coal-beds, which are literally so much sown light. The sun shone upon primeval forests, and the monstrous ferns grew and expanded under the quickening influence. They fell, as fall the leaves of chestnut and of oak in these autumns of our latter days, and there they lie stored deep down in the great cellars of nature for man’s use; so much sown light, I say, which springs up beneath the hand of man in harvests of flame, which flood our streets with light, and cheer our hearts with heat. Understand then that happiness, joy, gladness, symbolized by light, have been sown by God in fields that will surely yield their harvest for all those whom by His grace He has made upright in heart.

1. Sown light signifies, first, that light has been diffused. That which is sown is scattered. Before sowing, it was in the bag, or stored up in the granary, but the sowing scatters it along the furrows. Thank God, you who love Jesus and are resting upon His atonement, that God’s happiness is not kept to Himself, but is diffused for you and the whole company of His elect; and that the pleasures which are at God’s right hand for evermore are not kept within their secret springs, but made to flow like a river; that you with all the blood-bought may drink thereof to the full.

2. Seed that is sown is not in hand. After the husbandman has scattered his wheat he cannot say, “Here it is.” It is out of sight; gone from him. So the gladness which belongs go the righteous is not to be regarded as a thing of the present. Their great store of pleasure is yet to come; it is light that is sown, not light that now gleams upon their eyes; it is a gladness that has been buried beneath the clods for a special purpose, not a gladness which is now spread upon the table as bread that has been baked in the oven. Let us remember that this world is not our rest.

3. As seed sown is not visible, so it is not expected that it shall be seen or enjoyed to-morrow. It was said of the northern nations, near the Pole, and said truthfully, that they sowed their barley in the morning and reaped it at night, because the sun goes not down for four months at a time; but in sober truth we must not expect to have the rewards of grace given to us immediately we believe. There must be a trial of our patience and our faith.

4. But while seed sown is not in sight, and is not expected to be seen to-morrow, yet it is not lost. The husbandman counts it gain to have sown his corn. He has transferred his treasure from one bank to another. He does not reckon that any of it has been lost. So with the happiness of a Christian. Lost, the happiness of a single hour in which we have wept for sin! Lost, the happiness of a single moment in which we have suffered affliction for Christ’s sake, through persecution and slander! Nay, verily, it is put to our account, and the record of it remains in the eternal archives, against the day when the Judge of all the earth shall measure out the portions of His people.

5. Corn sown is not lost, but is actually in possession still. If a farmer had to sell his field, he would of course ask much more for that in which the seed was sown than for one which was remaining fallow, because he counts that seed sown is still his own property. Even so you may reckon the joys of the hereafter as your own, and you ought so to reckon them; they are the best part of your estate; they are yours, though you do not enjoy them. Yours to-day the seraph’s wing and the angel’s harp, yours to-day the cherubic song and the bliss of the immortals, the presence of the Lord, and the vision of His face.

6. Sown seed is in the custody of God. You merchants may fancy you can do without the Lord, but the man who has to till the soil is obliged to feel, if he hath any sensibility, his entire dependence upon the God of the rain-cloud and the Lord of the sun. So, beloved, here is our comfort. The light that is sown for the righteous is in the custody of God. Our future happiness, our eternal bliss, are kept by the great Guardian of Israel, who doth neither slumber nor sleep. Be not afraid, therefore, that you shall lose your heaven, for Christ keeps it for you.

7. A thing that is sown is not only put into God’s custody, but it is put there with a purpose, that it may come hack to us greatly multiplied. The believer gives up in this life his self-seeking; he suffers some degree of self-denial; he yields up his own boastings to trust in Christ’s righteousness; and he makes a good bargain thereby. We shall get back the seed-corn multiplied ten thousand times ten thousand, and we shall bless and magnify for ever and ever the glorious Sower who sowed such a harvest for us.

II. Having opened the metaphor of sown light, let us now speak of the sowing itself. When were the happiness and security of the righteous sown for them? Answer: there are three great Sowers, the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, and all these have sown light for the chosen people.

1. First, the Father. Long ages past, or ever the world was, it was in the Eternal mind to ordain unto Himself a people who should show forth His praise. Now, all those great decrees of God, of which He has revealed some inklings in His Word, were so much sowing of light for the righteous, so much provision of gladness in the future for the upright in heart.

2. A second great Sower was God the Son. He sowed happiness for His people when He joined with the Father in covenant and promised to be the substitute for His saints. But the actual sowing took place when He came on earth and sowed Himself in death’s dark sepulchre for us. He dropped Himself like a priceless seed-corn into the tomb, and what fruit He has brought forth let heaven and all the blood-washed company declare. The flower that springs from His root is immortality and life.

3. The Holy Spirit is a third great Sower, sowing in another sense, sowing in a sense that comes nearer home to our experience. Light is sown for the righteous by the Holy Spirit. In the hour when He brought the law home with its terrors, and laid us, broken, at the feet of Moses, He was sowing light for us. Our humbling was the preface to our exultation; and we have already proved it so. In that moment when we were subdued, humbled, made to loathe our own righteousness, trampled into the very mire under a sense of weakness and death, He was sowing light for us. It needed that we should be weaned from self; it was necessary that we should make the terrible discovery of our soul’s depravity. To-day that Blessed Spirit continues His sowing in us. Every gracious thought; every stroke from the whip of affliction when sanctified; every down-casting of our proud looks; every discovery of our utter insignificance, worthlessness, and death; everything in us that harrows us, cuts us to the quick and wounds us, but yet brings us to the Good Physician that He may exercise His healing art; all these are sowing for us a blessed harvest of light for which we must wait a little while. Be thankful for painful inward experiences; when they are most severe they are often most beneficial. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Joy peculiar to religion

Joy is here represented under a double metaphor; one of light, and another of seed. This seed is said to be sown; and sown in a faithful soil, that will be sure to preserve it, and send it forth for those who are to possess it. The people for whom this joy and comfort are thus said to be prepared are described by a principal feature of their character--that of righteousness. Behold the characters for whom God is here said to have made abundant provision of joy and comfort. How does this appear?

I. He has furnished ample materials or causes for this joy and comfort in them.

1. One is the knowledge of Himself and His real character.

2. They alone are capable of deriving the full benefit of Scripture. What developments of principle, for their guidance or warning, do they perceive in its histories; what correspondence between the workings of good men’s hearts, there delineated, and their own: these produce a kind of glad surprise and pleasing wonder!

3. Materials for joy are provided for believers in the very workings and exercises of piety. As in the material constitution, where every act of life and motion gives pleasure, so in the spiritual. Every grace of the Spirit gives pleasure in its operation.

II. God has not only provided materials for the happiness of His people, but means for the removal, in their case, of the several impediments to its enjoyment.

1. He opposes, for this purpose, their inordinate cares and anxieties about the things of this life, chastening their mind, by a variety of means and considerations, to get rid of this weight upon its energies, this cloud upon its views and prospects.

2. He prohibits the indulgence of the irascible tempers, and the vexation of the passions. He imparts, also, the influence of His dove-like Spirit, forming the graces of meekness and humility in the heart, guiding it, as the rudder the vessel, smoothly and peacefully through all the commotions of life.

3. He divests their minds of dread from guilt, adversity, Satan, and death.

III. God sometimes, by the immediate operations of His Spirit, produces the emotions of joy in their souls, from their appropriate sources.

1. Sometimes it is by the outward objects and exercises of piety. The work of the Spirit then consists in adapting the state of the mind to these objects. He softens the wax to receive the impression of the seal, or moistens and loosens the soil towards the sun that is ready to pour upon it his full beams. Hence the delight sometimes communicated to the mind in the reading of the Scriptures. The portions that at other times produced little or no emotion, now excite, gladden, and transport us. The same spots of landscape, invisible before, or but half revealed, are seen in a light that imparts an interest to them, and reveals beauties in them altogether new.

2. But there are times when the Spirit produces these emotions in the soul, by opening sources of joy that lie nearer to it, and within itself, apart from externally favourable objects, and even in the presence of circumstances and objects most unfavourable. In order, indeed, to render His work more evident and more conspicuous, as well as more illustrious, from the effect of contrast, He seems to prefer the seasons of deep surrounding gloom and agony for these his gladdening and transporting emotions. This explains the paradoxes of Scripture (2 Corinthians 1:5; 2 Corinthians 6:10; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Romans 5:3). (J. Leifchild.)

The seed of light

Light and gladness. It is natural to desire them, and God does not crucify nature. He only trains and corrects it. This text tells us that light and gladness are for the upright, and the next verse bids the righteous rejoice. An eagle desires the air, and a fish the water. Is it strange? A child of God is a child of light, begotten of Him who is light and in whom is no darkness at all. If he longs for the light, is that strange? But what about the peculiar way in which this promise of light and gladness is put? Light and gladness are “sown.” A startling figure that, and a grand one too. God gives light and gladness to His children just as He does other things, germinally, in the seed form; not all at once, in floods, but with a large reserve into which the man is to work his way. As life moves toward God, it unfolds this seed and lets out more and more light, until eternity develops the full harvest of light. With this figure of sowing seed are naturally associated two thoughts--hiding and diffusion: and the two inevitably run together, because, in the natural process, hiding is with a view to diffusion. The process of growth is distributive, not only in the final scattering of the seed, but in that, in the unfolding of the seed, something beautiful and promising is developed at every successive stage, in the blade and in the ear, no less than in the full corn.

I. If, then, light and gladness are to be looked for in Christian life, it is important to remember that they are growths, and that, as such, they carry with them a certain amount of concealment and delay. Let us consider some illustrations of this. God hides away light and gladness in certain things which, for the time, give no hint of what is within, even as the rough acorn gives no visible promise of the grandeur and leafage of the oak. And here be very careful to note that when God gives us these seeds, He expects us to look for our light in them. None the less, because the acorn is hard and rough, must you look for your oak in your acorn. You will not find it by turning away to something smoother and softer. One of the very first things to which God introduces us on our entrance into His kingdom is duty. God knows that in all duty there is light which faithful doing will bring out. Often, however, He shows us very little or none of the light and promise, but only the dark furrows of duty in which the light is sown: and He says to us, “Your work lies up and down along those furrows, to keep them free from weeds, to drive away the birds, to keep the earth loose, and to watch and wait until the light shall appear.” The same truth appears in the providences of God. They are full of light, but it is sown light. We understand well enough how God hides the diamond and the topaz in the dark and overlays them with hard and coarse crusts; how He shuts up the crystal in the heart of the rough geode; and we doubt not that human skill and labour can bring them forth from their wrappings and make them blaze in the coronets of kings. Why will we limit these facts to nature merely, to God’s economy on its lower side, and not see that God carries up the same facts to a higher level, and applies the same method in His spiritual economy, and conceals light and joy beneath the hard incrustations of sorrow and pain? All of you remember the story so graphically told by the Scottish poet, of the wizard buried in the abbey aisles with a lamp upon his breast; and how, when the stone was removed after many years, the light from that lamp blazed up and lighted the tomb and the magic volume in the dead hand. So it is that sometimes we go back after many days to the grave when we buried, as we thought, all the gladness and light of our lives, to find in the hand of the dead a lamp and a lesson-book. A hard providence of God is a seed with a rough and prickly husk, but it is a seed of light, sown by Him who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, and who will shine in His people’s hearts to give the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The truth applies equally to the process of winning Christian knowledge and faith. We are like children at school. Study and thought and books are full of light to you now; but when you were a child, light came to you under cover of duty, by way of rules and formulas; through labour when you saw more gladness in sport; through strict discipline when you thought that complete freedom would be perfect gladness. Would it be strange if God should deal with you in similar wise in acquiring the knowledge of His truth and will?

II. But let us look at the other thought--that of diffusion or distribution. Concealment or reserve in God’s economy is with a view to revelation. Christ said, “There is nothing hidden but in order that it should be revealed,” and though, as we have seen, God’s revelations unfold gradually, that very fact results in the distribution of His revelations along the whole line of an individual life or of a nation’s history. That is one aspect of the truth. A grain of wheat is wheat, not only in the full corn, but in the blade and in the ear likewise, and in the growth of the seeds of light they unfold into light all along the way of the upright. Though something is hidden, though all godly living includes patient waiting, yet God does not condemn His children to walk in darkness all their days, and only then let in upon them the light of heaven in one overwhelming flood. The perfect day is at the end, it is true, but still the path of the just shineth more and more. The word is a lamp unto the feet in their daily walk. And therefore the hard duties and the hard providences, while they hide light, yet do not keep in all the light. There is self-denial, for instance. No doubt it will be a good while before it will cease to be hard, or will bring its full reward: but meanwhile the practice of it is not without its gladness and light. Take the grace of Hope. Hope has a hard fight for life in some natures; and the climb to even low slope of hopefulness is a distressing one. Yet when one of God’s desponding children does manfully grapple with his despondency and resolutely work his way upward, saying, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Hope thou in God. I shall yet praise Him”--light breaks in along the line of that struggle. Some of you have stood on a rocky platform among the high Alps and watched the coming of dawn. You saw the saffron light deepen behind some monster peak, and soon the first sunbeam appeared above the crest; and as it darted forth, it struck and was flashed back from a great snow-field which blushed and kindled under its touch. Another beam shot over to a cluster of ice-needles, and each one of them became a point of dazzling light. Then a long ray leaped over to that peak, far up in the calm ether, awful in the loneliness of its virgin snow, and the great cone glistened and sparkled over its whole surface, and threw back the light to another peak, and flash answered flash, and the threads of light crossed and twined until the heaving sea of hills was bathed in glory. So every Christlike effort, every Christian grace resolutely carried into practice, not only emits light, but multiplies the light at every point where it touches. Faith nerves itself for a timid venture and throws out its one feeble ray toward a hard task or a hard trial or a hard problem; and behold the thing brightens, and in its own brightening throws light on some other duty or trial, on some great snow-field of lonely sacrifice and patience. In short, the more faithfully and persistently one addresses himself to doing God’s will, the more points his experience affords from which the goodness and love and faithfulness and power of God are reflected. And these points enlighten each other. Each experience takes up the light furnished by the smallest, and reflects and helps to distribute it over the whole area. Righteousness is light and gladness though its way lie through sorrow and sacrifice: and you who are pursuing that road in faith and hope may take this for your comfort that you are going forward to inevitable gladness. God has already wrought out great goodness before your eyes; but that is nothing to the goodness which He has laid up for them that fear Him. (M. R. Vincent, D.D.)

The future happiness of the righteous

I. The character that is here given of good men. They are righteous and upright. Which words may stand--

1. As terms of the same import and signification. Every righteous man is an upright man; and the upright man is the only righteous man. Or--

2. They may be put as explanative of each other. The righteous and the upright man is the sincerely righteous man. Not one who is so in reputation and appearance only, but in deed and in truth; who takes more care to be good than appear so; who is not only righteous in life, but upright in heart.

II. The present state of good men implied, viz. Darkness and Sorrow.

1. Darkness denotes either ignorance, or a state of doubts and fears. In either sense it may be here applied.

2. Their ignorance and doubts produce much sorrow.

III. The happiness of the righteous and upright man’s state in the other world, expressed in the text by light and gladness.

1. Heaven is a state of light.

(a) Their intellectual powers will then be very much strengthened and enlarged.

(b) A great variety of new and unthought of objects will be continually offering themselves.

We shall then have a much more plain and perfect conception of those things which we now think we do know. The facility with which this knowledge shall be acquired will add not a little to the pleasure of the acquisition. Our knowledge then will be perpetually progressive, or for ever increasing.

2. Illustrate the other branch of the saint’s blessedness in heaven denoted by the word gladness.

IV. The metaphor. “Light is sown,” etc. This implies--

1. Something must be done by the righteous now, in order to their being partakers of that happiness which is prepared for them in heaven.

2. Though the future blessedness of the righteous must now be sown by themselves, yet it is nevertheless the free gift of God.

3. The saints on earth should patiently wait for their glory in heaven (James 5:7).

4. They should encourage themselves with the hopes and prospects of it, and thankfully acknowledge those providences and dispensations which tend to prepare and fit them for it; as the husbandman does those fruitful and suitable seasons which raise his hopes of a plentiful harvest. (J. Mason, M.A.)

Light sown for the righteous

The text evidently teaches that light is sown by the righteous, and not only for them, yet forasmuch as good and evil work together in spiritual things, we may fairly regard the righteous as having to do with both. If they themselves are in one sense the ground, they themselves are in another the mere tillers and cultivators of the ground. It is important to observe this twofold character, if you would enter fully into the metaphor of the text. The husbandman must have in the springtime a certain portion of that very grain from which he hopes for an abundance in the bright days of harvest; he must have seed for the sowing; otherwise, there can never be the reaping. The same holds good in regard to the righteous, who are taught they must sow light, and they shall also reap light. We have “light,” but we have it as the husbandman, when he sows rather than when he reaps. But to every one who receives the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, that gospel is light which shineth in a dark place--the day-spring from on high visits him--the word becomes his candle searching the heart and the spirit, as a lantern guiding his feet. We have light; we know God’s light shineth in darkness--that light which is a celestial effulgence of the happiness of heaven. And the light of God already possessed has in it the elements of the knowledge and glory which shall constitute a higher state of being. The knowledge in that state shall not be partial, but, nevertheless, it shall be only our present knowledge completed. Our gladness shall be uninterrupted; but, nevertheless, it shall be only what I now feel, perfected. The future, as compared with the present, is the harvest time, as compared with the seed time. But whilst it has been necessary that we should remark on the text upon the supposition, that by man light is sown, the more interesting trains of thought suggested by the passage follow from the supposition that God Himself is the sower. God can hide light in darkness. It is light when thus sepulchred. It is the special prerogative of God to bring good out of evil, to give “the valley of Achor for a door of hope,” to make the despondency of death productive of the happiness of life. It is plain that from the first God has been acting on the principle of sowing light for the righteous. What is all prophecy, but an illustration of this principle? Who knows not how God sows light for the righteous in the dealings of providence? What darkness is there often around these dealings--what mysteriousness? The Christian can find nothing in them but gloom and perplexity, when they seem clothed with an impenetrable blackness; but they are germs in which, though buried, there is light. A voice is often heard from among the tombs, and as the Christian goes forward in life, is he not enabled to derive profit from that which he had counted but loss? He is not thrown exclusively on his faith; he is not without present evidence that God is furthering His own purposes; he is sometimes permitted to see that what appeared against him has been for him, and that he has derived benefit where, from the aspect of God’s dealings, he might have thought himself injured; and thus the whole field of his pilgrimage is sown with light; but he must wait till that fervent heat, through which the elements shall be dissolved, shall have brought up the harvest. There are now occasional springings up of luminous shoots; and these serve him as “ first fruit.” There is another and a very inter-eating view under which these words may be surveyed. The psalmist, you observe, does not limit the “sowing” to any particular season. As though the seed of light were always being deposited in the ground, he uses language which may denote that there is continually a fresh harvest in preparation for the righteous. He says nothing as to time; but leaves it to be inferred that the sheaves would be gathered in due season. But by making sowing continual, he seems to imply that one crop will succeed another, so that as fast as one is reaped another will be ready to be swept into the granary. And the truth figuratively taught by such a representation is that there shall be no standing still in the attainments of the righteous. The righteous shall be always in progress; one harvest of light furnishing, so to speak, seed for another. It ought to alarm us, and therefore suggest doubts as to the genuineness of our faith, if we find no advance in spiritual things, if we do not grow in acquaintance with ourselves, with God, with eternity--if as we draw near to death there is not apparently greater fitness for heaven, Now let us draw in conclusion some practical lessons from this subject. There are two prominent lessons--one to the righteous, and the other to the wicked. To the righteous we would say, be not dismayed or disquieted if God’s dealings seem mysterious, and if you are met often by obstructions. In seasons of anxiety and doubt a helper shall arise; in “wiping away all tears,” God shall scatter all clouds, and your exulting confession shall be--“He hath done all things well.” But what have we to say to the wicked, to those who care nothing for the soul, but who “love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil”? God soweth no light for you; but nevertheless you are sowing light for yourselves. You shall not be always in darkness; you shall not be always able to hide the truth from yourselves. You must wake at last to the fearful discovery, that you have been your own destroyers, that you have bartered immortality for a bauble, and purchased a momentary gratification with everlasting anguish. Oh, that you would make the discovery now!--the discovery that such must be the confession of all who close their eyes against the light, till that light gleam from the great white throne. (H. Melvill, B.D.)

Light sown for the righteous

(Easter Sermon):--Each Easter morning is a signal for fresh joy: and on each Lord s Day we celebrate our Easter festival afresh. It is an old story, this tale of Christ’s Resurrection; but it is so full of meaning, has such a depth of comfort, such a largeness of joy, that we can never take it all in at once. The aspect of the Resurrection set before us in my text is that it was joyful in itself, and, moreover, a preparation for more perfect joy. “Light,” says the psalmist, “is sown for the righteous.” Now, we have here a beautiful metaphor, not uncommon in ancient writers, by which the dawn is said to scatter the beams of light upon the earth. It is God drawing near to man: God approaching, bearing with Him every blessing: and as He comes within our view He sows and scatters light upon the inhabitants of the earth. The words thus refer to the rising of the Sun of Righteousness, with healing in His wings. But in the next place, they suggest that this sowing is a preparation. If the morning is beautiful, still it is but the beauty of promise. At the dawn man goes forth to labour in the path of duty and of active service; but as the sun rises towards the zenith, each hour it sheds upon earth a brighter radiance. And then, if God’s work has been done earnestly and truly, even if feebly and with human imperfection, there follow softer and gentler hours, till at evening the sky is reddened with bright hopes of a future rising, and the sun sets in a bath of glory. Yet all upon earth is but a sowing; the fruit ripens not in the cold regions of this world. It is in the world to come that the fruit is gathered. So said our Lord: “He that reapeth gathereth fruit unto life eternal.” But the great central thought of the text is that the blessing which God so bountifully sows upon the earth is “light.” The psalmist sees the world lying in darkness. Men grope about, and examine the things around them; but it is a mere feeling with the hands. They have no real knowledge, and all that they do is wrought uncertainly. No work of much value can be done in the dark; and least of all can men set out in gloom and obscurity on a distant journey to an unknown land. And until the day of Christ’s Resurrection this was the state of mankind. The darkness was that of ignorance in all that concerns the destiny of the soul and its relations to God. If you had asked the wisest heathen how this world came into being, he could not have told you. Heathen sages and philosophers had no certainty that there was but one God. Most of them had lost all belief in the numerous gods of their mythology: many even felt that there must be, and was, some one Central power behind the many gods of the poets, which controlled the gods themselves: but they regarded this power only as a blind fate, or destiny. They had no certainty of there being but one God, and still less had they the idea of that God concerning Himself with the affairs of men, loving them, caring for them, and full for them of mercy and kindness. And thus such knowledge as is given to us in the very first verse of the Bible, that “in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” contains more than one truth beyond the utmost range of heathen philosophy: for it tells us that there is but one God, that He created matter, and that this world is His workmanship. And if they knew nothing about the world, so equally they knew nothing about man. But now, if God made the world, and placed man upon it, with all that preparation of which we read in the first chapter of Genesis, we at once gather that in man this world finds the cause of its being; or in other words, that this world was made for man’s sake. Though cloud and gloom may cover the face of the sky, yet behind them we know that the sun of God’s goodness and love ever shines in all its glory. But Christ’s Resurrection triumph gives us more than general lessons and assurances, such as follow from the doctrine that one God made the world. It tells us that God so loved the world as to give us His Son to die for us: and that God the Son has accomplished the work He consented to do and has risen triumphant from the grave. Our enemies are sin and death. But sin is forgiven in Christ, and His Resurrection proves that He has vanquished the grim tyrant Satan, whose power over us is caused entirely by sin; and Death is vanquished too. The heathen knew nothing of the bright side of life. They knew nothing of the prize that may be won: of the peace that may be enjoyed here: of the happiness in store for those who bravely fight the battle of life. They saw only too clearly the dark side of life: its sorrows and troubles, its vices and crimes, its sad disasters and the changes of fickle fortune. They saw, too, old age ever creeping nearer and nearer, and if they asked themselves, “What next? What is there after old age and death?” no one could answer. It was all a region of mist and darkness, and they knew of no light there. But we have hope. That future land is our Master’s Kingdom. It is our true, our real home. Old age has no terrors for us. We are only getting nearer home. As we look up, we see a loving Father waiting to welcome us home for Christ’s sake. And if Christ by His Resurrection has thus shed upon this world the bright light of hope, so has He made plain before our face the pathway of duty. The heathen had nothing to work for in this world: and if the Christian’s hope were destroyed we should have nothing worth working for. For money, and pleasure, and earthly goods cannot satisfy an immortal soul. Christ came to do His Father’s will; and He has set before us the same pathway of duty: namely, to do God’s will, and labour earnestly for the glory of God and the good of man. True, He describes it as a strait, narrow, and uphill path. But what has He placed at the end? He has placed there a great light. We see the portals of the heavenly city bright and resplendent with glory. We see the myriads of the redeemed saints waiting to welcome us: angels with crowns of joy ready to be placed upon our heads. And within that heavenly city God is seated upon His throne, with all joy and happiness in His hand for the eternal blessedness of His people. And that light there is no more sowing; it is the full harvest of light: its perfect and complete realization. And that which gives us the certainty of this hope, and light, and glory is the risen Saviour. (Dean Payne Smith.)

Fields sown with light for the righteous

Where are the fields that we may well say are sown by God’s grace with happiness for us? Here is one field--the field of His Word. Ah! you may almost see the happiness here. Every promise of God has a secret meaning beyond what we as yet have learnt, and that hidden sense is full of happiness for the children of God. So it is with providence. Every event which can occur is sown with light for the faithful. It does not so appear; far rather the fields just now are very unpleasant to look upon; the water stands deep in those broad furrows; you cannot imagine there will ever be a harvest in a land so flooded with trouble, but wait a while. There is not a dying child or aa ailing wife, there is not a dishonoured bill, there is not a wrecked vessel, there is not a burnt house, there is not a single diseased bullock but what you shall see at the last, and perhaps before then, to have been full of real blessedness for you. There is not only mercy in God’s dealings with His people in the gross, but in the detail. All the providence of God, far-reaching as it is, and extending from our cradle to our tomb, is full of the Divine intent that His children shall be blessed, and blessed they shall be. There is one little field called “God’s Acre,” which to some appears to be sown with much darkness, but is really sown with light--that sleeping place, the cemetery, where your loved ones lie beneath the sod. Yes, but they shall rise again, and so light is sown for you, even in the mouldering bones of your beloved children and friends. You would not have it otherwise, would you? Would you lose that seed? Imagine for a moment that it should never come up again from the sepulchre! Would not that grieve you beyond measure? It is your comfort to feel that these dry bones shall live, and all the band of those you loved so dearly who have gone from you for a while are not lost, but gone before. “Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.” And what a happy meeting, what joyous greetings, what blessed reunions, when they meet to part no more! In that “God’s Acre,” then, in the many burials we have attended, light is sown for the righteous. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Sown light

“If the different objects which treasure up and reflect the sunlight in their different ways could speak, it seems that their utterances would be something as follows. The coals would say, “I treasured up the sun’s light and warmth”: the plants would testify of its attraction in causing them to bud and blossom; the fruits would whisper that they owe their ripeness and bloom to its kisses; the flowers would exclaim, “We obtained our colours from its artistic touches”; the doctor tells us of its beneficent and healing properties; the astronomer unfolds to us its influence and heat; the photographer speaks of his dependence upon its rays for the reproduction of his pictures; yea, the whole creation is indebted to its presence and power for warmth, colour, and brightness. (F. E. Marsh.)

Gladness for the upright in heart.--

The joy which attends godliness

I. Good and righteous men, and only they, are the possessors of true joy. This appears from--

1. The true nature and quality of joy, which may not unfitly be defined that pleasant and ravishing affection whereby the mind wonderfully delights itself, and acquiesces in the fruition of something that is good and beloved. New the righteous and holy man resteth with an unspeakable delight and complacency in Him, who is the chiefest Being, and the chiefest good, and the most worthy of love, and therefore is the firmest basis of joy. God only, of all beings, is immediately, directly, originally, and necessarily good: and no being can have the denomination of being good, but from this fountain and everlasting source of goodness. Nothing is good, but aa it brings and unites us to this best of Beings, to this original of all perfection and excellency. He then that entirely loves God, and rejoiceth in Him, is in the possession and fruition of all good; and whatever he enjoys carries pleasure and delectation with it.

2. The nature of true righteousness, which always carries joy and gladness with it. For first, all virtuous actions and exercises of righteousness are in themselves agreeable to our rational nature, they are fitted to our faculties, as we are men and reasonable creatures: He that commits any vice doth violence to his own mind, and he that sins against God rebels against himself. Again, as all holy actions are agreeable to our rational and regenerate nature (and consequently to the nature of God and His will), so they agree most friendly with themselves. All moral virtues and graces are of a knot, and are tied to one another. They are all of a piece, and hold together.

3. The great benefits which the righteous man is possessor of, purchased for him by Christ.

II. The excellent properties of the righteous man’s joy.

1. It is vast and ample, its object being infinite, and therefore most comprehensive; whereas the pleasures and delights of sense are short and shallow, narrow and contracted, their objects being of that nature.

2. It is not precarious, or dependent on things outside him.

3. Though inward and retired, yet it is also visible and operative. Who can lodge in his heart an entire love and complacency in God and goodness, who can nourish that holy fire there, and not discover it to others by some eruptions and flashes of joy?

4. It is constant and durable, perpetual and inexhaustible (Psalms 36:8-9). They are at the Fountain; a continual spring feeds and supplies their joy, so that it cannot be dried up. This spring is the kindness and favour of the God of heaven, the free bounty and goodness of that great Benefactor whose gifts and graces are without repentance, who perseveres in His love, if we do so in our duty, whose promises are all Yea and Amen, and whose faithfulness is as immutable as Himself.

III. It will be objected that in the observation and experience of the world things are far different from what i have represented them. Nothing is more ordinary and obvious than this, that the best men are sad and sorrowful, and spend their days in pensive thoughts and penitential tears: they mortify their bodies and chastise their souls, and discover little of joy all their lives long. I answer--

1. It is true righteous men retain a deep sorrow and regret upon their minds for their sins, but even this is pleasant to them, it being their duty, and urged upon them by the command of Heaven. Even the austerities and mortifications which holy men exercise are productive of the highest solace and rejoicing.

2. I answer that the joys of devout and holy men being not the same with those of the corrupted world, there may thence arise a mistake, and it may be thought by some that good men are sad heavy when indeed they are nothing so. For I do not mean by this gladness any such thing as the jollity and laughter of the world. Every faithful follower of Christ, like his Master, hath meat to eat which the world knows not of, he hath pleasures and delights which they are unacquainted with. It is promised to the Christian champion that fights the good fight of faith, and overcomes the world, that he shall eat of the hidden manna, the delicacies of which are wholly concealed from vulgar palates (Revelation 1:7). A good conscience is a continual feast.

IV. Inferences.

1. It is a false report and a slander raised against religion and the sincere professors of it, that there is no content and complacency, no delight and pleasure in a virtuous life, but that they who resolve to become Christians indeed, must bid farewell to all mirth, they must not expect to see any more pleasant days, but bury themselves in darkness and melancholy.

2. This great privilege and blessing in the text ought to be a prevalent motive to virtue, a powerful persuasive to a godly life. The joys and pleasures of Christians are not all in reversion. Such is the infinite goodness and bounty of God, that although He hath made heaven to be the place of complete joy and rest, yet He is pleased to reward a holy life with present joys and pleasures in this world. Righteous men taste enough of these here to make them amends for all the difficulties and troubles they meet with in this life.

3. Let the proposition which I have treated of be copied out in the practice and behaviour of all good Christians. Let those of you who have sincerely devoted yourselves to the service of God, and have faithfully discharged your duty according to your power, lay aside the mourning-weeds, and clothe yourselves with the garment of joy. Dry up your tears, and silence your sighs, put on a joyful look, and let not sadness and pensiveness dwell on your faces any longer. Let the world see and be convinced that you do not serve a hard master, and that the yoke of Christ is not difficult and insupportable.

4. Would you know how you may attain to the practice of it, and experimentally find this doctrine true, that Christianity is attended with solid joy and gladness; then--

Joyful gladness for such as are true-hearted

(P.B.V.):--Surely there is a great deal of meaning wrapped up in this word, “true-hearted.” Reality, loyalty, courage, in all dealings with God and man: not one of the three here and another there; for indeed they may be separated, sadly to the hurt of the man who loses hold of the bond that unites them; a man may be real and yet selfish, loyal and yet cowardly, courageous and yet neither faithful nor sincere--not one of the three here and another there, but the three together. The union of the three in the Christian character seems to be the first and most direct of the effects of faith; and, indeed, faith itself, in its normal aspect, may be defined, or rather described, as the true-heartedness that unites the three characteristics I have marked: faith, the substance of the things hoped for; faith, that though He slay me yet will I trust in Him; faith, which is the victory that overeometh the world. You ask me what I mean by Reality. We know well enough what we mean by unreality, something less wicked than hypocrisy and less excusable than mere weakness: the acceptance of principles without testing them or the authority that presents them, the profession of beliefs without experimental maintenance of them; enthusiasms caught by infection from the enthusiasm of those around you; mechanical observance of rites and usages which have no meaning to you, but which, because you have been trained in them, are easy to you, and which, when you have misgivings about them, you are too careless or indolent to cast off; the disposition to be satisfied with the easiest solution of hard questions; for the mere saving of trouble, to shirk responsibilities, whilst you confess to feeling them; to join in the upholding of institutions simply because they are institutions; to profess general good-will without doing anything to prove it; to advocate rash changes simply because they are changes; the superficiality of a whole life that has neither interest in the lot of other men nor conviction of the majesty of truth, nor the sense of responsibility for the work which the Master, by way of privilege, sets before each one of His own to do. All and each of these things is unreality, and there is much besides. But we cannot define the word by the mere exclusion of its opposites, at least in the close and near interests of which I am speaking now. “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest and art dead:” God help us, and say not that of us; but judge yourselves, and apply true-heartedness to judgment. In the reality of religious true-heartedness, in this its first aspect, there is a single mind and honest openness, veracity to oneself and to God, which is indispensable to the very first idea of either righteousness or repentance; love without dissimulation, obedience without selfish consideration, faith without wavering. And second: loyalty is an element in the true heart; faithfulness to the cause or person, realized by the single mind. The devotion of affection, the identification of oneself with the cause. I said that this is separable from the other, in idea; it is so in fact also, a man will be loyal to a cause which he has not proved, zealous for an institution which he neither understands nor cares for, in any other sense than that it is somehow connected with the line that he has chosen for himself. And such loyalty is but a glorified form of self-will; and where self-will has opened the way, how does it cover and disguise all sorts of still inferior motives--self-interests and aggrandizement, party spirit and jealousy, misrepresentation justified by antipathy which denies the sincerity and honesty of opponents; persecution, all the poison of controversy, all the self-righteousness of vulgar ambition. Here again it is not enough to say that true loyalty can be defined by the exclusion of the false. It sacrifices and effaces self, or merges it in devotion: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to Thy word.” But more; the self is effaced not for the sake of affacement, but that the devotion may be entirely practical. The hermit of the Thebaid, the votary of Nirwana, effaces himself, and does no more; he is loyal to an idea that contents itself with absorption; the loyal Christian, in the reality of his affection, girds up his loins with faithfulness to do his Lord’s will; to minister to his Lord’s people; as a true and living member of His body, to diffuse through every joint the life supplied from the head, that the whole may increase of itself in love. But trueheartedness has one feature more: it has the courage of its convictions, the courage not of pertinacious, desperate determination, but of convictions based on reality and developed in loyal faithfulness. This courage is a courage of patience and of struggle, of attack as well as of defence; it is one that realizes danger and realizes duty; that watches in no morbid, sensitive apprehension, but in manly facing of the occasions, be they of difficulty, doubt, temptation, or over assurance of safety. The soldier of Christ cannot fight with the world’s weapons, the advocate of Christ cannot argue with the finesse or the virulence or the captiousness of the adversary. It is no small exercise of moral courage in which the truehearted refuses to meet sneer with sneer, or sharp saying with cutting retort; or where he is lashed into impatience by the persistent utterance of half truths, or by misrepresentations intended to confuse, or by accusations so wild and wanton that he cannot see which is to be first met without risking the imputation that, by defending one point, he surrenders the rest. The true-hearted who can face all this has the very truest courage, the ghostly strength with which the Lord has anointed those that, with their eyes open and heart set, have taken up their cross to follow Him. It is not so with us all! It should be, by the very condition of our sonship; His grace shall work even this in us. Two thoughts arise in conclusion: First, how does all this apply? The cause of Christ, the cause of our salvation, is not a mere abstraction; our soldiership involves a real struggle, our advocacy real argument, our service real labour. The Church of the living God is to us presented in the flesh and blood of those with whom and for whom we are called on to fulfil our duty as members of the body of Christ. As men, as Englishmen, as Churchmen, our true-heartedness is being tried every day. And then, secondly, how about the joyful gladness? Is it the answer of a good conscience towards God--I have done what I can, surely He must see to the doing of the rest? Scarcely that, I think; although He does sometimes give His beloved such sleep, even with the knowledge that they shall be satisfied when they wake up after His likeness. But for it to come day by day; for the weary man to be able to say when he lies down to sleep, that there are no arrears to be made up, no post unguarded, no part of the day’s work left for to-morrow; to be able to say, I sleep but my heart waketh; if He come at the second watch or at the third watch, I am ready: joyful gladness it would be indeed, but it can scarcely be. Can it be anything else than that loving meeting of our faith with a certain conviction and manifestation of His faithfulness, the strengthening and refreshing of the light of His countenance vouchsafed to those who, in answer to His “Seek ye My face,” reply with life and courage and true heart, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek”? The joyful gladness to the true-hearted comes in the experience of the loving-kindness of the Lord, the increase of faith, the clearness of hope, the fuller realizing of that likeness, which by the name of Charity He sets before each of us, and begins to work in each of us, the instalment of the glory that shall be. Will He not increase it more and more? Trust ye in the Lord for ever! (Bishop Stubbs.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 97:11". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Light is sown for the righteous,.... Who are made righteous by the obedience of Christ, and live soberly and righteously; the light of joy and gladness, as it is explained in the next clause; see Esther 8:16 so, φοως, "light", is frequently used by HomerF24Iliad 6. v. 6. & 8. v. 282. & 16. v. 39. for joy and gladness: these sometimes are without it, through the hidings of God's face, the prevalence of corruptions, the force of Satan's temptations, and the many afflictions they meet with; but joy and gladness, peace and comfort, are sown for them in the counsels and purposes of God, in his covenant, in the Scriptures, in the Gospel, and in the promises of it; and, though at present hidden, will spring up in God's due time, Psalm 112:4, and which also may be interpreted of the light of glory, which at present does not appear; but it is prepared in the purpose of God, and in his promise, and shall be enjoyed by the heirs of it. The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and all the Oriental versions, render it, "light is risen for the righteous"; and so the Targum,

"light is risen and prepared for the righteous;'

Christ, the light of the world, the sun of righteousness, is risen for them, and upon them, with healing in his wings, which bring joy and comfort to them:

and gladness for the upright in heart; such as have new hearts and right spirits formed in them, and are Israelites indeed, that have the truth of grace and the root of the matter in them: gladness is prepared, provided, and promised to them, and sooner or later they shall have it; the seed of it is sown, and it will spring up, and a large crop shall be enjoyed. Kimchi's note is,

"light is sown for the righteous in this world, and they shall reap light and joy in time to come, in the days of the Messiah.'

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Gill, John. "Commentary on Psalms 97:11". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

i Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.

(i) Though God's deliverance does not appear suddenly, yet it is sown and laid up in store for them.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Psalms 97:11". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

sown — to spring forth abundantly for such, who alone can and well may rejoice in the holy government of their sovereign Lord (compare Psalm 30:4; Psalm 32:11).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 97:11". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.

Light — Joy and happiness.

Sown — Is laid up for them.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Psalms 97:11". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

11.Light has been sown for the righteous He confirms the truth just advanced, and anticipates an objection which might be brought against it. We have seen that the Lord’s people are often treated with the utmost cruelty and injustice, and would seem to be abandoned to the fury of their enemies. The Psalmist reminds us for our encouragement that God, even when he does not immediately deliver his children, upholds them by his secret power. (104) In the first clause of the verse there is a double metaphor. By light is meant joy, or a prosperous issue, (according to a phraseology which is common in Scripture,) as darkness denotes adversity. The latter metaphor of sowing is rather more difficult to understand. (105) Some think that gladness is sown for the just, as seed which, when cast into the ground, dies or lies buried in the earth a considerable time before it germinates. This idea may be a good one; but, perhaps, the simplest meaning of the words is the following, that though the righteous may be almost banished out of the world, and unable to venture themselves forth in public, and hidden from view, God will spread abroad their joy like seed, or bring forth to notice the light of their joy which had been shut up. The second clause of the verse is an exegesis of the first — light being interpreted to mean joy, and the righteous such as are upright in heart This definition of righteousness is worthy of notice, That it does not consist in a mere outward appearance, but comprehends integrity of heart, more being required to constitute us righteous in God’s sight than that we simply keep our tongue, hands, or feet, from wickedness. In the concluding verse he exhorts the Lord’s people to gratitude, that looking upon God as their Redeemer, they should lead a life corresponding to the mercy they have received, and rest contented under all the evils they encounter, with the consciousness that they enjoy his protection.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Psalms 97:11". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Psalms 97:11 Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.

Ver. 11. Light is sown for the righteous] The righteous is haeres crucis, the heir of the cross; and many are his troubles. A child of light may walk in darkness and have no light, Isaiah 50:10, yet Christ will not leave him comfortless, John 14:16, light is sown for him. It is yet seeding time, and that is usually wet and dropping; and the seed must have a time to lie, and then to grow, ere a crop can be expected; there must be also weeding and clodding, &c. "Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it. Be ye also patient, stablish your heart," &c., James 5:7-8. We look not to sow and reap in a day, as he saith of the Hyperborean people far north, that they sow shortly after the sunrising with them, and reap before the sunset, sc. because the whole half year is one continual day with them (Heresbach de re Rust.). Deliverance will come in God’s good time; and as before the morning light is the thickest darkness, as the seed that lieth longest underground cometh up at length with greatest increase, so here. Semen modicum, sed messis foecunda, saith Aben Ezra on the text.

And gladness for the upright] This clause expoundeth the former.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 97:11". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Psalms 97:11


I. That the present life is but a sowing-time to the righteous. (1) Now the text evidently teaches that light is sown by the righteous, and not only for them; yet, forasmuch as evil and good work together in spiritual things, we may fairly regard the righteous as having to do with both. If they themselves are in one sense the ground, they themselves are in another the mere tillers and cultivators of the ground. They must sow light, and they shall also reap light. (2) It cannot justly be said that a man has light unless there has passed over him the great moral change of conversion. When, through the workings of the Spirit of God, a man is renewed, made to feel himself a sinner and to flee to Christ as a Saviour, he may justly be described as translated "out of darkness into marvellous light." The light falls on himself, on God, on the present and on the future. (3) Is this light perfect? It is thoroughly correct as far as it goes. It requires to be expanded, and is defective in nothing but compass. The future, as compared with the present, is the harvest-time as compared with the seedtime.

II. The more interesting trains of thought suggested by the passage follow from the supposition that God Himself is the Sower. We feel at once that there is something like a contradiction in this simile of the psalmist, because it would seem that light would cease to be light in being sown or hidden in the ground. But God can hide light in darkness. It is light when thus sepulchred. From the first God has been acting on the principle of sowing light for the righteous. He has sown light for the righteous in the dealings of Providence, in the passages of the Bible, in the whole pathway of life.

III. The psalmist does not limit the "sowing" to any particular season. As though the seed of life were always being deposited in the ground, he uses language which may denote that there is continually a fresh harvest in preparation for the righteous. The righteous shall always be in progress, one harvest of light furnishing, so to speak, seed for another. (1) The lesson to the righteous is to hold hopefully on, determining in the name of the Lord and staying on his God. (2) The lesson to the wicked is that, though God is sowing no light for them, they are sowing light for themselves. They must wake at last to the fearful discovery that they have been their own destroyers. "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."

H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2164.

References: Psalms 97:11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv., No. 836. Psalms 98:1.—Ibid., vol. ix., No. 496. Psalms 98:1-8.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 221.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Psalms 97:11". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 97:11. Light is sown for the righteous Light and gladness are sown for the righteous, the righteous nation, in opposition to the wicked mentioned just before: victory and every kind of blessing God has wrought into the very nature of things for their benefit. In Psalms 126 there is reaping, and sheaves of joy. Houbigant, however, translates it in the same manner as our old version, is sprung up.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The Lord reigneth. This is the glorious subject; all power in heaven and earth is committed into his hands.

1. It should be matter of joy to all. Let the earth rejoice in the blessings which attend his government: let the multitude of the isles be glad thereof; and among the rest especially our own, so highly favoured with the light of his glorious gospel: though sometimes, as to us it appears, clouds and darkness are round about him, and his dispensations of providence or grace are dark and mysterious; yet, notwithstanding, righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne, the basis and support of it, and all his decisions most indisputably equitable.

2. His wrath will be terrible to those who refuse obedience to his government. A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about; which was seen in the vengeance executed on the Jewish people, who would not have him to rule over them; and will more eminently appear when he shall be revealed at the last day from heaven in flaming fire, and the breath of his mouth shall slay the wicked, 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:12. His lightnings enlightened the world; and, struck with terror at the judgments which, swift and irresistible as the flash of lightning, fell upon his murderers, the earth saw and trembled. The hills, his mighty opposers, proud of their strength, and immovable in their obstinacy, melted like wax at the presence of the Lord: at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. Thus the Jewish nation were consumed before the Roman sword; and thus the powers of Antichrist shall be dissolved, when he ariseth in the latter day to shake terribly the earth. Note; However secure and confident sinners are at present, the day is near when their stout hearts shall melt, and their knees tremble before the eternal Judge and King.

3. His judgments, executed on the ungodly, will be acknowledged as altogether righteous. The heavens declare his righteousness; the lightning and thunder, employed as instruments of his vengeance; or the angelic hosts, who laud and praise him for the justice executed on the wicked: and all his faithful people see and acknowledge his glory, manifested in their salvation, and in the destruction of the impenitent. Confounded be all they, or they shall be confounded, that serve graven images, whether heathen or popish idolaters; which may be considered as a prophecy of the ruin they will bring upon themselves by such abominations; and that boast themselves of idols, which is remarkably verified in the Papists, who glory in their pictures and images of the Virgin Mary and their saints, and place such confidence in them, with a folly equal to their wickedness, and which at last will be manifest to all men: worship him, all ye gods; the angels, so called, who adore him for all his works of righteous judgment. Note; (1.) Jesus is very God; the angels worship him, and teach us where to pay our adorations. (2.) If they are our fellow-servants, and fellow-worshippers, what folly, as well as profaneness, would it argue to make them the objects of our devotions.

2nd, It was commanded, that the whole earth should rejoice in the establishment of Christ's kingdom on the ruin of his enemies; and, however others may be affected, his Zion, his church, and the daughters of Judah, all faithful souls, cannot but be glad.

1. They have abundant cause to be so.

(1.) Because of the dignity of their Redeemer's person. For thou, Lord, art high above all the earth; the name of Jesus is above every name, not only on earth but in heaven, and all power is given him over them both: thou art exalted far above all gods; not only the fictitious deities of men; but the angels, principalities and powers, are all subject to him.

(2.) Because he preserveth the souls of his saints. This is their character: they are separated by his grace from a world which lieth in wickedness; they are justified through his merit, and upright in heart by the power of the Divine Spirit, renewing their minds in true holiness; they love the Lord, unfeignedly make him the object of their affections, and cleave to him alone. Such souls are precious in his sight; he preserves them from the power of sin, and strengthens them against every temptation: he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked, of wicked men, or wicked devils, who seek to seduce and destroy them, but cannot, for God is their refuge and strength; and therefore they are bound to praise him.

(3.) Because light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. Whatever darkness may at times surround the providential path of the faithful, at even-tide it shall be light, and the brightness of eternal glory awaits them. Though for a moment they may be now in heaviness through manifold temptations, yet even in the midst of their sorrows God's comforts do refresh their souls, and quickly every tear shall be wiped from their eyes; and joy and gladness, eternal and uninterrupted, be their happy portion.

(4.) Because of his judgments. The justice of God magnified in the damnation of the wicked, as well as the mercy of God exalted in the salvation of the righteous, affords just matter for his faithful people's everlasting praise.

2. The manner in which they must express their joy and gratitude is described. (1.) Rejoice in the Lord, in Christ Jesus, not in ourselves, our own doings, or deserts, but in his promises and grace. (2.) Give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness, with our lips we must speak to his honour, and his holiness be especially the theme, at which sinners tremble, and saints rejoice. (3.) Hate evil: our lives as well as lips must shew forth his praise; without which all the offerings of the tongue and knee are unacceptable, and hypocritical. Note; (1.) The love of God, where genuine, cannot but produce hatred of sin. (2.) The more we keep in mind God's holiness, the more we shall be deterred from approaching whatever is offensive to him.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 97:11". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

This is a proper thought to be kept alive in the mind of a believer. Light is sown, not gathered, nor reaped, though sure. Hence the patience of the husbandman is recommended in waiting for it, James 5:7; Galatians 6:9; Psalms 27:14.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Psalms 97:11". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae



Psalms 97:11. Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness far the upright in heart.

THIS psalm, whatever was the particular occasion on which it was written, undoubtedly refers to the kingdom of the Messiah, in which the whole creation has abundant reason to rejoice [Note: ver. 1.]. To him it is expressly applied in the Epistle to the Hebrews, even to his incarnation: “When Jehovah bringeth in the First-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him [Note: Compare ver. 7. with Hebrews 1:6.].” But it is not to rejoice in him merely that the saints are called: they are to love him, to serve him, to honour him, to trust in him, and to expect at his hands the blessedness which he himself, in his exalted state, enjoys. He suffered indeed before he entered into his glory; and so likewise must they: but, for their consolation under their sufferings, let them know that joy is treasured up for them: for “light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart:” and, if only they maintain their integrity, they shall assuredly reap their reward.

In discoursing on these words, I shall open to you,

I. The character here described—

Instead of entering into a general description of “the righteous,” I shall take that particular representation here given of them, “the upright in heart:” for this is peculiar to the righteous, and to them alone; and at the same time there is not a righteous person in the universe whom it does not accurately depict.

Now, uprightness of heart necessarily includes,

1. A mind open to the reception of truth—

[The mind of a natural man is closed against divine truth: he hates the light, and will not come to it: and if it be obtruded upon him, he shuts his eyes against it, lest it should discover to him his corruptions. But a man that is upright in heart will come to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest. He desires to know the whole mind of God; and is as thankful for the light which opens to him his sins, as for that which brings to his view the Saviour of the world. He is conscious that there is a film upon his eyes: but he begs of God to remove it: he is sensible that, through the weakness of his vision, the very light itself will blind him: and therefore he entreats of God to send his Holy Spirit into his soul, to “open the eyes of his understanding,” and to “guide him into all truth.” Whilst “his eye was evil, he was in total darkness:” but having attained “a single eye, his whole body is full of light [Note: Matthew 6:22-23.].”]

2. A will determined to follow the truth as far as it is discovered—

[He complains of no doctrine as “an hard saying,” nor of any “commandment as grievous.” When he goes to the Lord for instruction, he says with Paul, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” ‘Only declare to me thy blessed will, and I am ready, and determined, through grace, to execute it.’ As to consequences, he will not regard them. What is duty? will be his only inquiry. He will expect to have his conduct disapproved by an ignorant ungodly world; but “he confers not with flesh and blood.” It is a settled principle in his mind, “If I please men, I cannot be a servant of Jesus Christ [Note: Galatians 1:10.].” He will give his whole soul to God, to “be poured into the mould of the Gospel,” and to be employed in “magnifying the Lord, whether by life or death [Note: Philippians 1:20.].”]

3. A conscience faithfully inspecting the whole conduct, and bringing it to the test of God’s word—

[Conscience in the natural man is partial. Indeed, in multitudes who profess religion, it is far from being a faithful monitor: it will deny in practice what it admits in principle, and allow in ourselves what it condemns in others. But where the heart is truly upright, conscience will act, not according to any selfish views or principles, but with strict equity, according to the unerring standard of the Gospel. This is essential to real integrity: and, when God has “put truth in our inward parts,” and “renewed a right spirit within us,” such will assuredly be the effects: conscience will be a light within us: it will be like a compass, that will guide us in the darkest night: it will be God’s vicegerent in the soul, acquitting or condemning according to truth, even as God himself will do in the day of judgment. It will summon the whole man to give account of himself from day to day: it will cause all the actions, words, and thoughts to pass in review before it: in short, it will suffer no disposition, no habit, no inclination, to exist in the soul, without comparing it with the written word, and having reason to believe that it will be approved of the Lord.]

4. A life in habitual accordance with these principles—

[After all, “the tree must be known by its fruit.” We can know nothing with certainty respecting the heart, but by the life. God sees it as it is in itself: we can discover it only by its acts. Behold then the upright man in his daily walk. See him searching with all humility the word of truth, and imploring direction from God, that he may understand it aright. Behold him giving up himself, in body, soul, and spirit, to the Lord from day to day; and rising, above all earthly considerations, to the contemplation and execution of God’s blessed will. Behold his searchings of heart also, and holy fear lest any hidden abomination should lurk within him. Hear him crying to God for his effectual aid: “Search me, O Lord, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting [Note: Psalms 139:23-24.].” Then compare with this, his temper, his spirit, his conduct: and then you will see, though doubtless with manifold imperfections, “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile.”]

Here is real uprightness of heart. Let us next contemplate,

II. The blessedness that awaits it—

A person possessed of this character will have much to bear—

[We greatly mistake if we think that such a person will be approved of all; or that he will have no trials within his own soul. No, indeed: he will, like Paul himself, have “fightings without and fears within.” Much as such a character is admired in theory, it never is really exhibited before men without exciting great offence. From the days of Abel to the present moment, have “those who were born after the flesh hated and persecuted those who were born after the Spirit:” and for the most part has that been found true, that “the greatest foes have been those of a man’s own household,” If infallible wisdom, unbounded love, and sinless perfection could have obtained an exemption from the common lot, our blessed Lord would have passed without offence: but He, who was the most perfect of the human race, was pursued with more bitter acrimony than any other from the foundation of the world: and if they so hated him, they will hate us also: “if they called the Master of the house Beelzebub, much more will they those of his household.”

In his own soul, too, the saint feels much to humble and to try him. He still has a carnal principle within him, and is only renewed in part: “the flesh still lusteth against the Spirit, so that he cannot do the things that he would.” The Apostle Paul himself “groaned within himself, being burthened;” and, under a distressing sense of his in-dwelling corruptions, cried, “O wretched man that I am; who shall deliver me from this body of sin and death?” It may be, too, that he is assaulted with violent temptations, and that the fiery darts of Satan are permitted to pierce his soul. At such a season as this he may be ready to write bitter things against himself, and to call in question all that he has ever experienced of the grace of God.]

But, whatever be his trials, a happy issue of them most assuredly awaits him—

[“Light and gladness are sown for him;” and, though he may wait long for the harvest, “he shall surely reap, if he faint not.”

There is in the purposes of God a harvest of happiness secured to him. The trials of Joseph appeared, for a season, to defeat all the expectations which his dreams had excited; but they led, all of them in succession, to the accomplishment of his predestined elevation. Our blessed Lord, if viewed in the garden, on the cross, and in the grave, seemed to have been utterly defeated; but these were the forerunners of his glory: his resurrection soon changed the scene; his ascension speedily followed; and his sending of the Holy Spirit shewed, that all which had been ordained respecting him was fulfilled, and that he was invested with all power to save a ruined world. Thus shall God’s purposes be accomplished in the final salvation of all his people. They may be tried, and sorely too, for a season: but they may adopt the language of the Church of old, under her deepest afflictions, and say, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness [Note: Micah 7:8-9.].”

In the promises of God, also, is the same blessed issue secured. “If we suffer with Christ, God engages that we shall also reign with him,” and “be glorified together.” “The trial of our faith, from whatever quarter it may come, is precious, yea, more precious than gold itself; because it will be to our praise and honour and glory, as well as to the glory of our Lord and Saviour, in the great day of his appearing [Note: 1 Peter 1:7.].” Hear how fully our blessed Lord declared this to his weeping and disconsolate disciples: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful; but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow because her hour is come; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again; and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you [Note: John 16:20-22.].” So our “weeping may endure for a night; but joy shall most assuredly come in the morning [Note: Psalms 30:5.].”

But even in the very experience of the upright is there a pledge of future glory. His tears are the seed of joy: and, “as surely as he goes on his way, bearing this precious seed-basket, so surely shall he come again with joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” See this described, in its process, by St. Paul: “We glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed.” Here tribulation is the seed; patience the blade; experience the ear; hope the full corn in the ear; and the completion of that hope in heaven, the ingathering of the harvest into the garner. In truth, “the light and momentary afflictions of the righteous actually work out for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

Thus is every upright soul rendered conformable to his Divine Master: he first” drinks of the brook in the way, and then, like him, has the happiness to lift up his head [Note: Psalms 110:7.].”]


1. Seek real integrity—

[This is universally held in high estimation: at least, men universally profess so to regard it: and therefore, waving at present all consideration of the peculiarities of religion, I say, seek an honest and an upright heart. Let your minds be open to the reception of truth, and your wills be determined to embrace it. Let conscience act its part, and execute the office of a faithful monitor within you; and let your lives be regulated altogether by its dictates. Let not prejudice or passion or interest blind you: let not the whole world cause you to swerve from the path of duty. Be bold for God; and “serve him, without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all your days.” In a word, “Quit yourselves like men,” and “be faithful unto death.” Like Moses, be ready to suffer affliction with the people of God; and in due season you shall, like him, receive an ample recompence of reward.]

2. Seek real happiness—

[This also is an object of universal desire. But be sure to seek it in the way in which alone it can be found. If you “sow iniquity, you can reap nothing but vanity:” if you “sow the wind, you must reap the whirlwind.” God has determined, that “whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap: he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption: but he who soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting [Note: Galatians 6:7-8.].” It is the harvest which repays the husbandman for all his labours. Look ye to that: and know, that “the sufferings of this present life, however great or numerous they may be, are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” As for appearances of integrity, be not satisfied with them: they cannot but issue ill at the last. “Knowest thou not,” says Zophar, “since man was placed upon the earth, that the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment? Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds, yet he shall perish for ever, like his own dung; and they that have seen him shall say, Where is he [Note: Job 20:4-7.]?” “Seek, then, the honour that cometh of God,” and the happiness that will endure. Then, when those who laughed now shall weep, you who wept now shall laugh and sing for joy to all eternity [Note: Luke 6:21; Luke 6:25.].]

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 97:11". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Light, i.e. joy and felicity, as this word is used, Esther 8:16 Psalms 112:4, and oft elsewhere.

Is sown; is prepared or laid up for them, and shall in due time be reaped by them, possibly in this life, but undoubtedly in the next. And therefore bear your afflictions for Christ with patience and cheerfulness.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 97:11". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

11. Light is sown—Prosperity and hope are diffused. Psalms 1:6; Proverbs 2:8.

For the righteous—And for none other. The discriminating qualification excludes the opposite character, and proves that for them there is no hope, while for the righteous there is assured blessedness. All such passages contain the germ of immortality and future judgment.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 97:11". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

righteous = a righteous one (singular)

upright (plural)

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Psalms 97:11". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(11) Light is sown—i.e., scattered. The metaphor must not be pressed so as to think of a harvest to come. The image is an obvious and common one.

“Sol etiam summo de vertice dissipat omnes

Ardorem in partes, et lumine consent arva.”


And Milton, while enriching its metaphor, doubless had the psalm in his mind:—

“Now morn, her rosy steps in the Eastern clime

Advancing, sow’d the earth with orient pearl.”

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Psalms 97:11". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.
18:28; 112:4; Esther 8:16; Job 22:28; Proverbs 4:18; Isaiah 60:1,2; 62:1; Micah 7:9; John 12:46; Revelation 21:23; 22:5
126:5,6; Galatians 6:8; James 5:7-11

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Psalms 97:11". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

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