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Commentary On Psalms Volume 4 by Jean Calvin

Psalm 99:1-4

1. Jehovah reigns; let the people tremble: he dwells between the cherubim; let the earth be moved.2. Jehovah is great in Zion; and he is high above all nations.3. They shall acknowledge thy great and terrible name; it is holy.4. The king's strength also loves judgment; thou hast established equity, thou hast done judgment and righteousness in Jacob.

1 Jehovah reigns The people, who were formerly called upon to rejoice, are now commanded to tremble. For as the Jews were encompassed by enemies, it was of the utmost importance that God's power should be magnified among them, that they might know that, while under his guardianship, they would be constantly and completely safe from the hatred and fury of every foe. The Hebrew word rgz, ragaz, as we have elsewhere seen, sometimes signifies to tremble, at other times, to be angry, and, in short, denotes any strong emotion arising either from anger or fear. Accordingly, the prophet here intends that God, in the emancipation of his chosen people, should give such a palpable display of his power, as would strike all the nations with dismay, and make them feel how madly they had rushed upon their own destruction. For it is with regard to men that God is said to reign, when he exalts himself by the magnificent displays which he gives of his power; because, while the aid which he gives to them remains invisible, unbelievers act a more presumptuous part, just as if there were no God.

2 Jehovah in Zion It is proper that we should not forget the antithesis I formerly mentioned, namely, that God is great in Zion to destroy and annihilate all the enemies of his Church; and that, when the Psalmist goes on to say, he is high above all nations, his meaning is, not that he presides over them to promote their welfare, but to disconcert their counsels, to baffle their designs, and to subvert all their power. That which immediately follows about the praising of God's name, refers not to the nations at large, but in my opinion to the faithful, from whom alone the prophet demands a tribute of gratitude. For although God compels his vanquished enemies to acknowledge him, yet as they do not cease from speaking against his glory, and blaspheming his holy name, it cannot be to them that the exhortation is addressed, Praise the name of God, for it is holy; but to the faithful, who, from their knowledge of God's holy name, very cordially engage in the celebration of its praises.

4 The king's strength also loves judgment This may be viewed as a threatening designed to fill his enemies with dismay; as if he should say, such is God's regard for righteousness and equity, that he hath clothed himself with power to avenge the injuries which his enemies have done to him. I think it preferable, however, to apply it to the Church, because she is under the government of God for the express purpose of practicing righteousness and holiness. There is another interpretation which is by no means objectionable, namely, that which does not associate ideas of tyranny with the government of God, because there is constant concord between his power and justice. But when I consider the whole context, I have no doubt, that the prophet, after having introduced God as established upon his royal throne, now speaks of the manner in which he governs his kingdom; for he adds, thou hast established equity and righteousness. This clause is susceptible of two interpretations; either that God in his law has commanded his people to practice perfect equity, or that, in supporting and defending them, he has uniformly testified his great regard for his justice and equity. It is most true that the highest equity has always characterized the works and judgments of God, yet it appears more probable that it refers to that system, that form of government which God, who loves justice, appointed among the people of Israel, and which was the best rule for leading a life of honesty and integrity. And hence the word to do is improperly taken to signify to order or command. Should any one choose to consider this last clause as relating to God's government, I am by no means disposed to disagree with him. For there is nothing that more animates and encourages the faithful to render obedience to God, or inspires them with greater zeal to observe his law, than to find in this course of action that they are the objects of his paternal care, and that the righteousness, which he requires from his own people in words, is on his part reciprocated by kind deeds.

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