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Commentary On Psalms Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Psalm 47:5-9

5. God is gone up with triumph, Jehovah with the sound of a trumpet.6. Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises to our King, sing praises.7. For God is King of all the earth: sing praises every one who understandeth.8. He hath obtained the kingdom over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.9. The princes of the peoples [or nations] are assembled together to the people of the God of Abraham: for the shields of the earth are God's: he is greatly exalted.

5. God is gone up with triumph There is here an allusion to the ancient ceremony which was observed under the Law. As the sound of trumpets was wont to be used in solemnising the holy assemblies, the prophet says that God goes up, when the trumpets encourage and stir up the people to magnify and extol his power. When this ceremony was performed in old time, it was just as if a king, making his entrance among his subjects, presented himself to them in magnificent attire and great splendor, by which he gained their admiration and reverence. At the same time, the sacred writer, under that shadowy ceremony, doubtless intended to lead us to consider another kind of going up more triumphant -- that of Christ when he |ascended up far above all heavens,| (Ephesians 4:10) and obtained the empire of the whole world, and armed with his celestial power, subdued all pride and loftiness. You must remember what I have adverted to before, that the name Jehovah is here applied to the ark; for although the essence or majesty of God was not shut up in it, nor his power and operation fixed to it, yet it was not a vain and idle symbol of his presence. God had promised that he would dwell in the midst of the people so long as the Jews worshipped him according to the rule which he had prescribed in the Law; and he actually showed that he was truly present with them, and that it was not in vain that he was called upon among them. What is here stated, however, applies more properly to the manifestation of the glory which at length shone forth in the person of Christ. In short, the import of the Psalmist's language is, When the trumpets sounded among the Jews, according to the appointment of the Law, that was not a mere empty sound which vanished away in the air; for God, who intended the ark of the covenant to be a pledge and token of his presence, truly presided in that assembly. From this the prophet draws an argument for enforcing on the faithful the duty of singing praises to God He argues, that by engaging in this exercise they will not be acting blindly or at random, as the superstitious, who, having no certainty in their false systems of religion, lament and howl in vain before their idols. He shows that the faithful have just ground for celebrating with their mouths and with a cheerful heart the praises of God; since they certainly know that he is as present with them, as if he had visibly established his royal throne among them.

7. For God is King of all the earth The Psalmist, having called God in the close of the preceding verse King of the chosen people, now calls him King of all the earth; and thus, while he claims to the Jews the right and honor of primogeniture, he at the same time joins to them the Gentiles as associates and partakers with them of the same blessing. By these words he intimates that the kingdom of God would be much more magnificent and glorious at the coming of the Messiah, than it was under the shadowy dispensation of the Law, inasmuch as it would be extended to the utmost boundaries of the earth. To show the greater earnestness in his exhortation, he repeats the words, Sing praises to God, five times. The word mmkyl, maskil, is put in the singular number instead of the plural; for he invites to this exercise all who are skillful in singing. He, no doubt, speaks of knowledge in the art of music; but he requires, at the same time, the worshippers of God to sing the praises of God intelligently, that there may not be the mere sound of tongues, as we know to be the case among the Papists. Knowledge of what is sung is required in order to engage in a proper manner in the singing of psalms, that the name of God may not be profaned, as it would certainly be, were there nothing more but the voice which melts away or is dissolved in the air.

8. He hath obtained the kingdom over the heathen Literally it is, He hath reigned; but as the verb mlk, malach, is in the past tense, which in Hebrew denotes a continued act, we have translated it, He hath obtained the kingdom The prophet repeatedly informs us that God reigns over the Gentiles; and from this it is easy to gather that he here treats of a new and a previously unheard of manner of reigning. There is an implied contrast between the time of the Law, when God confined his empire, or kingdom, within the boundaries of Judea, and the coming of Christ, when he extended it far and wide, so as to occupy the whole world from one end to the other. The majesty of God sent forth some sparks of its brightness among the heathen nations, when David made them tributary; but the prophet could not, on that account, have properly said that God reigned among them, since they both contemned his worship and the true religion, and also wished to see the Church completely extinguished. To find the fulfillment of this prophecy, we must, therefore, necessarily come to Christ. What is added in the second clause of the verse, God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness, may be taken in a twofold sense. By this form of expression is often to be understood the tabernacle, or the temple; but it also sometimes signifies heaven. If any are inclined to explain it of the temple, the meaning will be, That while God reigned over the whole world, and comprehended all nations under his dominion, he had established his chief seat at Jerusalem; and it was from thence that the doctrine of the gospel, by which he has brought under his dominion all people, flowed. We may, however, very properly take this expression as spoken of heaven; and thus the sense will be, That God, in stretching forth his hand to subdue men, and bring them to submit to his authority, evidently shows that, from his heavenly throne, he reigns over men. Unless he show men his power and working by signs manifest and near at hand, he is not acknowledged as Governor of the world.

9 The princes of the peoples are gathered together. The Psalmist enriches and amplifies by various expressions the preceding sentence. He again declares that the way in which God obtained dominion over the Gentiles was, that those who before were aliens united in the adoption of the same faith with the Jews; and thus different nations, from a state of miserable dispersion, were gathered together into one body. When the doctrine of the Gospel was manifested and shone forth, it did not remove the Jews from the covenant which God had long before made with them. On the contrary, it has rather joined us to them. As then the calling of the Gentiles was nothing else than the means by which they were grafted and incorporated into the family of Abraham, the prophet justly states, that strangers or aliens from every direction were gathered together to the chosen people, that by such an increase the kingdom of God might be extended through all quarters of the globe. On this account Paul says, (Ephesians 3:6,) that the Gentiles were made one body with the Jews, that they might be partakers of the everlasting inheritance. By the abolition of the ceremonies of the Mosaic economy, |the middle wall of partitions| which made a separation between the Jews and the Gentiles, is now removed, (Ephesians 2:14;) but it nevertheless remains true, that we are not accounted among the children of God unless we have been grafted into the stock of Abraham. The prophet does not merely speak of the common people: he also tells us that princes themselves will regard it as the height of their felicity to be gathered together with the Jews; as we shall see in another psalm, (Psalm 87:5,)

|And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her.|

Farther, it is said that this gathering together will be to the people of the God of Abraham, to teach us that it is not here meant to attribute to the Jews any superiority which they naturally possess above others, but that all their excellence depends upon this, that the pure worship of God flourishes among them, and that they hold heavenly doctrine in high estimation. This, therefore, is not spoken of the bastard or cast-off Jews, whom their own unbelief has cut off from the Church. But as, according to the statement of the Apostle Paul, (Romans 11:16,) the root being holy, the branches are also holy, it follows that the falling away of the greater part does not prevent this honor from continuing to belong to the rest. Accordingly, the |consumption| which, as is stated in the prophecy of Isaiah, overflowed the whole earth, is called the people of the God of Abraham, (chapter 10:22, 23.) This passage contains two very important and instructive truths. In the first place, we learn from it, that all who would be reckoned among the children of God ought to seek to have a place in the Church, and to join themselves to it, that they may maintain fraternal unity with all the godly; and, secondly, that when the unity of the Church is spoken of, it is to be considered as consisting in nothing else but an unfeigned agreement to yield obedience to the word of God, that there may be one sheepfold and one Shepherd. Moreover, those who are exalted in the world in respect of honors and riches, are here admonished to divest themselves of all pride, and willingly and submissively to bear the yoke in common with others, that they may show themselves the obedient children of the Church.

What follows immediately after, The shields of the earth are God's, is understood by many as spoken of princes. I admit that this metaphor is of frequent occurrence in Scripture, nor does this sense seem to be unsuitable to the scope of the passage. It is as if the prophet had said, It is in the power of God to ingraft into his Church the great ones of the world whenever he pleases; for he reigns over them also. Yet the sense will be more simple if we explain the words thus: That, as it is God alone who defends and preserves the world, the high and supreme majesty, which is sufficient for so exalted and difficult a work as the preservation of the world, is justly looked upon with admiration. The sacred writer expressly uses the word shields in the plural number, for, considering the various and almost innumerable dangers which unceasingly threaten every part of the world, the providence of God must necessarily interpose in many ways, and make use, as it were, of many bucklers.

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