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3. They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones. 4. They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.
The combination, so much dreaded, is described as having been formed upon the best principles of secular policy, with much subtilty, and the most determinate malice, against the “people” of God, and his " hidden ones;" that is, his peculiar nation, separated from the world, and taken under the cover and protection of his wings. To root up the plantations of paradise, to extirpate the holy seed, 10 extinguish the very name of Israel," was the scheme intended by these associated adversaries of Sion. Such are our spiritual enemies; such is their cunning, their rage, and their resolution: what prudence, what vigilance, what courage are necessary, that we may oppose
them with success ! 5. For they have consulted together with one consent ; they are confederate against thee.
When Christ was about to be crucified, it is observed by St. Luke that “the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together; for before they were at enmity between themselves.” Luke, xxiii
. 12. And however the enemies of the church may quarrel with one another, when they have nothing else to do, yet if a favourable opportunity offer itself for making an attack upon her, they lay aside their differences, and unite as one man; by no means refusing the friendly aid even of infidels and atheists, who are always ready to join in carrying on the war against the common adversary.
6. The tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites : of Moab, and the Hag. arenes ; 7. Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek ; the Philistines, with the inhabitants of Tyre : 8. Assur also is joined with them; they have holpen the children of Lot.
These are the names of the confederates. The Edomites were descended from Esau, that old original enemy of Jacob; the Ishmaelites from Ishmael, the son of the bond-woman, and sworn foe to Isaac, heir of the promises; the Moabites sprang from Moab, one of the incestuous children of Lot ; the Hagarenes were other descendants of Hagar; who the Gebalites were is uncertain ; the Ammonites came from Ammon, the son of Lot, and incestuous brother of Moab;' the Amalekites were the progeny of Amalek, the grandson of Esau ; Gen. xxvi. 16. The Philistines and Tyrians are well known ; and to complete all, Assur, or the power of Assyria
, was called in by the children of Lot, the Moabites and Ammonites
, to assist in the great work of exterminating Israel from the face of the earth. These were the ten nations banded together, by a solemn league and covenant, against the people of God. And as Israel was the grand figure of the Christian church, which is now " the Israel of God,” so her enemies are often represented by the above-recited nations, and in prophetical language are called by their names. Every age has its Edomites, and its Ishmaelites, &c. &c. The actors are changed, and the scenes are shifted ; but the stage and the drama continue the same.
9. Do unto them as unto the Midianites: as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook of Kison : 10. Which perished at Endor; they became as dung for the earth. 11. Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb : yea, all their princes as Zeba and Zalmunna : 12. Who said, Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession.
The church, having recounted the enemies which compassed her about on every side, looks up for succour to that Almighty power which had of old so graciously interposed on her behalf, and rescued her from her persecutors, in the days of Deborah, Barak, and Gideon. See Judg. iv. viii. Fully sensible that those deliverances were wrought by the immediate hand of Jehovah, she offers the prayer of faith for a like manifestation of his glory, and a like victory over those who intended, in the same manner, to seize and devour his inheritance. Of how great use and comfort are the Old Testament histories to us in all our aMictions !
13. O my God, make them like a wheel; or, like thistle-down ; as the stubble before the wind. 14. As the fire burneth a wood, and as the flame setteth the mountains on fire; 15. So persecute, or, thou shalt pursue, them with thy tempest, and make, or, thou shalt make, them afraid with thy storm.
The fate of those is here predicted who invade the inheritance of Jehovah, and say, “Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession.” The inconstancy and mutability of their fortunes is resembled to "thistle-down," or some such light revolving body, and to “stubble” or chaff
, whirled about and dissipated by the “wind :" the suddenness, horror, and universality of their destruction are set forth by the similitude of a "fire" consuming the dry trees in a “ forest,” or some combustible matter on the "mountains.” Such is the storm and tempest of God's indignation, which pursues and terrifies the sacrilegious and ungodly.
16. Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name, O Lord. 17. Let them, or, they shall, be confounded and troubled for ever; yea, let them, or, they shall, be put to shame and perish. 18. That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the Most High over all the earth.
The punishments inflicted by heaven upon wicked men are primarily intended to humble and convert them. If they continue incorrigible under every dispensation of merciful severity, they are at last cut off, and finally destroyed; that others, admonished by their example, may repent and return, and give glory to God. Salutary are the afflictions which bring men, and happy the men who are brought by them, to an acknowledgment of "Jehovah our Righteousness," our exalted and glorified Redeemer, “the Most High over all the earth;" whom all must acknowledge, and before whom all must appear to be judged, in the great and terrible day.
ARGUMENT –This Psalm, for the subject-matter of it, bears a resemblance to the
sixty-second. Under the figure of an Israelite, deprived of all access to Jerusalem and the sanctuary, (whether it were David when driven away by Absalom, or any
other person in like circumstances at a different time, we are presented with, 1, 2. the earnest longing of a devout soul after the house and presence of God; 3–7. a beautiful and passionate eulogy on the blessedness of his ininisters and servants ; 8–10.a fervent prayer for a participation of that blessedness; and, 11, 12. an act of faith in his power and goodness, which render him both able and willing to grant requests of this nature.
1. How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts ! Thus ardently doth a banished Israelite express his love for Sion, his admiration of the beauty of holiness. Nay, Balaam himself
, when from the top of Peor he saw the children of Israel abiding in their tents, with the glory in the midst of them, could not help exclaiming, "How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel!” Numb. xxiv. 5. “How amiable," then, may the Christian say, are those eternal mansions from whence sin and sorrow are excluded; how goodly that camp of the saints, and that beloved city, where righteousness and joy reign triumphant, and peace and unity are violated no more; where thou, O blessed Jesu, “Lord of hosts,” King of men and angels, dwellest in glorious majesty, constituting by thy presence the felicity of thy chosen ! 2. My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord: my
heart and my flesh crieth out, or, shouteth, for the living God.
It is said of the Queen of Sheba, that upon beholding the pleasantness of Jerusalem, the splendour of Solomon's court, and, above all, the magnificence of the temple, with the services therein performed, “there was no more spirit in her.” 1 Kings x. 5. What wonder, therefore, if the soul should be affected, even to sickness and fainting, while, from this land of her captivity, she beholdeth by faith the heavenly Jerusalem, the city and court of the great King, with all the transporting glories of the church triumphant; wbile, in her meditations, she draweth the comparison between her wretched state of exile upon earth, and the unspeakable blessedness of being delivered from temptation and affliction, and admitted into the everlasting “courts of Jehovah ?" Whose “heart and flesh” doth not exult, and "shout” aloud for joy, at a prospect of rising from the bed of death, to dwell with the living God;" to see the face of him, " in whom is life, and the life is the light of men ?" John i. 4. Did the Israelites, from all parts of Judea, go up, with the voice of jubilee, to keep a feast at Jerusalem; and shall Christians grieve, when the time is come for them to ascend, and to celebrate an eternal festival in heaven?
3. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swalloro, or, ringdove, a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
The Psalmist is generally supposed, in this verse, to lament his unhappiness, in being deprived of all access to the tabernacle, or temple, a privilege enjoyed even by the birds, who were allowed to build their nests in the neighbourhood of the sanctuary. It is evidently the design of this passage to intimate to us, that in the house
, and at the altar of God, a faithful soul findeth freedom froin care
and sorrow, quiet of mind, and gladness of spirit; like a bird that had secured a little mansion for the reception and education of her young. And there is no heart, endued with sensibility, which doth not bear its testimony to the exquisite beauty and propriety of this affecting image.
4. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be, or, are, still praising thee.
Here the metaphor is dropped, and the former sentiment expressed in plain language. “Blessed are” not the mighty and opulent of the earth, but they that dwell in thy house," the ministers of the eternal temple in heaven, the angels and the spirits of just men made perfect; there every passion is resolved into love, every duty into prajse ; hallelujah succeeds hallelujah ; "they are still,” still for ever,“ praising thee." And blessed, next to them, are those ministers and members of the church here below who, in disposition as well as employment, do most resemble them.
5. Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee: in whose heart are the ways of them; Heb. the ways are in the heart of thom.
Not only they are pronounced blessed who " dwell” in the temple, but all they also who are travelling thitherward, (as the whole Jewish nation was wont to do three times in a year,) and who are therefore meditating on their journey," and on the way” which leadeth to the holy city, trusting in God to “strengthen,” and prosper, and conduct them to the house of his habitation, the place where bis glory dwelleth. Such a company of sojourners are Christians, going up to the heavenly Jerusalem; such ought to be their trust in God, and such the subject of their thoughts.
6. Who, passing through the valley of Baca, make it a well : the rain also filleth the pools. 7. They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God; or, the God of gods appeareth, i. e. 1 them in Zion.
After numberless uncertain conjectures offered by commentators upon the construction of these two verses, it seems impossible for us to attain to any other than a general idea of their true import; which is this, that the Israelites, or some of them, passed, in their way to Jerusalem, through a valley that had the name of “ Baca,” a noun derived from a verb which signifies to “weep;" that in this valley they were refreshed by plenty of water ; that with renewed vigour they proceeded from stage to stage, until they presented themselves before God in Zion. The present world is to us this valley of weeping; in our passage through it we are refreshed by the streams of divine grace, flowing down from the great fountain of consolation ; and thus are we enabled to proceed from one degree of holiness to another, until we come to the glorified vision of God in heaven itself. Mr. Merrick's poetical version of this passage is extremely beautiful, and applies at once to the case of the Israelite, and to that of the Christian :
* In ejus animo versantur semitæ ferentes ad templum quo properat. Morali sensu ; quicunque sanctus est, quotidie in priora extenditur, et præteritorum obliviscitur, cum Paulo, Phil. iii. 13.-Bossuet. Jerusalem is represented in the New Testament as a type of heaven. I see nothing irrational, therefore, in supposing that the inspired writer, in describing the ascent to Jerusalem, might have in view also that spiritual progress leading to the city which is above, the mother of us all. The words before us are certainly very applicable to the advances made in this progress, from strength to strength, from one stage of Christian perfection to another.-Merrick.
Blest who, their strength on thee reclined,
Adore the Majesty divine. 8. O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer : give ear, O God of Jacob. 9. Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed. After extolling the happiness of those who dwelt in the temple
, and of those who had access to it, the Psalmist breaks forth into a most ardent prayer to his God, for a share in that happiness. He addresseth him as “the Lord of hosts," almighty in power; as "the God of Jacob,” infinite in mercy and goodness to his people; as their “shield,” the object of all their trust for defence and protection; and beseecheth him to “ look upon the face of his anointed," that is, of David, if he were king of Israel when this Psalın was written ;) or rather of Messiah,* in whom God is always well pleased; for whose sake he hath mercy upon us, through whose name and merits our prayers are accepted, and the kingdom of heaven is opened to all believers.
10. For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand : I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wicked
One day spent in meditation and devotion, affordeth a pleasure far, far superior to that which an age of worldly prosperity could give. Happier is the least and lowest of the servants of Jesus, than the greatest and most exalted potentate who knoweth him not. And he is no proper judge of blessedness, who hesitates a moment to prefer the condition of a penitent in the porch, to that of a sinner on the throne. If this be the case upon earth, how much more in'heaven ? O come that one glorious day, whose sun shall never go down, nor any cloud obscure the lustre of his beams; that day when the temple of God shall be opened in heaven, and we shall be admitted to serve him for ever therein !
*" Christi tui ;” regis, qui figura.-Bossuet.