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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Psalm 68:1-6

Commentary On Psalms Volume 3 by Jean Calvin

Psalm 68:1-6

1. God shall arise: his enemies shall be scattered; and they who hate him shall flee before him.2. As smoke is driven away, thou shalt drive them away; as wax melteth before the fire, the wicked shall perish from the presence of God.3. But the righteous shall be glad; they shall rejoice before God, and leap for exultation.4. Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: exalt him that rideth upon the clouds in Jah his name, [or, in his name Jah,] and rejoice before him.5. A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in the habitation of his holiness.6. God who setteth the solitary in families, who bringeth, out those who are bound with chains; but the rebellious shall dwell in a dry land.

1. God shall arise: his enemies shall be scattered In this verse the Psalmist intimates, as it were by way of preface, the subject which he proposed to treat in the psalm, and which related to the truth that God, however long he may seem to connive at the audacity and cruelty of the enemies of his Church, will eventually arise to avenge it, and will prove himself able to protect it by the mere forth-putting of his hand. I agree with other interpreters in thinking that the sentiment is borrowed from Moses, (Numbers 10:35) There can be little doubt that in dictating the form of prayer there referred to, he had an eye to the instruction and comfort of all succeeding ages, and would teach the Lord's people confidently to rely for safety upon the ark of the covenant, which was the visible symbol of the Divine presence. We may notice this difference, however, that Moses addressed the words to God as a prayer, while David rather expresses his satisfaction and delight in what he saw daily fulfilling before his own eyes. Some indeed read, Let God arise; but they appear to misapprehend the scope of the Psalmist. He means to say that observation attested the truth which Moses had declared of God's needing only to rise up that all his enemies might be scattered before his irresistible power. Yet I see no objections to the other reading, provided the idea now mentioned be retained, and the words be considered as intimating that God needs no array of preparation in overthrowing his enemies, and can dissipate them with a breath. We are left to infer, that when his enemies at any time obtain an ascendancy, it is owing to an exercise of Divine forbearance, and that rage as they may, it is only with his permission; the time being not yet come for his rising. There is much comfort to be derived from the circumstance, that those who persecute the Church are here spoken of as God's enemies. When he undertakes our defense, he looks upon the injuries done to us as dishonors cast upon his Divine Majesty. The Psalmist adds a striking figure to illustrate how easily God can overthrow the machinations of our enemies, comparing them to smoke which vanishes when blown upon by the wind, or wax which melts before the fire We consider it utterly incredible that such a formidable array of opposition should be made to disappear in a moment. But the Spirit takes this method of chiding the fearfulness of our carnal minds, and teaching us that there is no such strength in our enemies as we suppose, -- that we allow the smoke of them to blind our eyes, and the solid mass of resistance which they present to deceive us into a forgetfulness of the truth, that the mountains themselves flow down at the presence of the Lord.

3 But the righteous shall be glad It is here intimated by David, that when God shows himself formidable to the wicked, this is with the design of securing the deliverance of his Church. He would seem indirectly to contrast the joy of which he now speaks with the depression and grief felt by well affected men under the reign of Saul -- suggesting, that God succeeds a season of temporary trouble with returns of comfort, to prevent his people from being overwhelmed by despondency. He leaves us also to infer, that one reason of that joy which they experience is derived from knowing that God is propitious to them, and interests himself in their safety. The Hebrew words, mphny, mipne, and lphny, liphne, admit of the same meaning; but I think that the Psalmist intended to note a distinction. The wicked flee from the presence of God, as what inspires them with terror; the righteous again rejoice in it, because nothing delights them more than to think that God is near them. When commenting upon the passage, Psalm 18:26, we saw why the Divine presence terrifies some and comforts others; for |with the pure he will show himself pure, and with the froward he will show himself froward.| One expression is heaped by the Psalmist upon another, to show how great the joy of the Lord's people is, and how entirely it possesses and occupies their affections.

4 Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: exalt him that rideth, etc. He now proceeds to call upon the Lord's people to praise God. And he begins by pointing out the grounds in general, as I have already hinted, which they have for this exercise, because he comprehends the whole world under his power and government, adding, that he condescends to take the poorest and the most wretched of our family under his protection. His infinite power is commended, when it is said that he rides upon the clouds, or the heavens, for this proves that he sits superior over all things. The Holy Spirit may signify by the expression, that we should exclude from our minds every thing gross and earthly in the conceptions we form of him; but he would, doubtless, impress us chiefly with an idea of his great power, to produce in us a due reverence, and make us feel how far short all our praises must come of his glory. We would attempt in vain to comprehend heaven and earth; but his glory is greater than both. As to the expression which follows, in Jah, his name, there has been some difference of opinion. The Hebrew preposition v, beth, may here, as sometimes it is, be a mere expletive, and we may read, Jah is his name Others read, in Jah is his name; and I have no objection to this, though I prefer the translation which I have adopted. It is of less consequence how we construe the words, as the meaning of the Psalmist is obvious. The whole world was at that time filled with the vain idols of superstition, and he would assert the claim of God, and set them aside when he brought forward the God of Israel. But it is not enough that the Lord's people should bow before him with suppliant spirits. Even the wicked, while they fear and tremble before him, are forced to yield him reverence. David would have them draw near to him with cheerfulness and alacrity; and, accordingly, proceeds to insist upon his transcendent goodness shown in condescending to the orphans and widows. The incomprehensible glory of God does not induce him to remove himself to a distance from us, or prevent him from stooping to us in our lowest depths of wretchedness. There can be no doubt that orphans and widows are named to indicate in general all such as the world are disposed to overlook as unworthy of their regard. Generally we distribute our attentions where we expect some return. We give the preference to rank and splendor, and despise or neglect the poor. When it is said, God is in the habitation of his holiness, this may refer either to heaven or to the temple, for either sense will suit the connection. God does not dwell in heaven to indulge his own ease, but heaven is, as it were, his throne, from which he judges the world. On the other hand, the fact of his having chosen to take up his residence with men, and inviting them familiarly to himself there, is one well fitted to encourage the poor, who are cheered to think that he is not far off from them. In the next verse, other instances of the Divine goodness are mentioned -- that he gives the bereaved and solitary a numerous offspring, and releases the bonds of the captive. In the last clause of the verse, he denounces the judgment of God against those who impiously despise him, and this that he might show the Lord's people the folly of envying their lot as well as strike terror into their minds. The sense of the words is, That we ought to comfort ourselves under the worst afflictions, by reflecting that we are in God's hand, who can mitigate all our griefs and remove all our burdens. The wicked, on the other hand, may congratulate themselves for a time upon their prosperity, but eventually it will fare ill with them. By dwelling in a dry land, is meant being banished, as it were, to a wilderness, and deprived of the benefits of that fatherly kindness which they had so criminally abused.

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