We know not by whom this Psalm was written, but we do know that it was sung in Solomon's temple (2 Chronicles 7:3; 2 Chronicles 7:6), and by the armies of Jehoshaphat when they sang themselves into victory in the wilderness of Tekoa. From the striking form of it we should infer that it was a popular hymn among the Lord's ancient people. Most hymns with a solid, simple chorus become favourites with congregations, and this is sure to have been one of the best beloved. It contains nothing but praise. It is tuned to rapture, and can only be fully enjoyed by a devoutly grateful heart.
It commences with a threefold praise to the Triune Lord (Psalms 136:1-3), then it gives us six notes of praise to the Creator (Psalms 136:4-9), six more upon deliverance from Egypt (Ps 134:10-15), and seven upon the journey through the wilderness and the entrance into Canaan. Then we have two happy verses of personal gratitude for present mercy (Ps 134:23-24), one (Ps 134:25) to tell of the Lord's universal providence, and a closing verse to excite to never ending praise.
Ver. 1. O give thanks unto the LORD. The exhortation is intensely earnest: the Psalmist pleads with the Lord's people with an "O", three times repeated. Thanks are the least that we can offer, and these we ought freely to give. The inspired writer calls us to praise Jehovah for all his goodness to us, and all the greatness of his power in blessing his chosen. We thank our parents, let us praise our heavenly Father; we are grateful to our benefactors, let us give thanks unto the Giver of all good.
For he is good. Essentially he is goodness itself, practically all that he does is good, relatively he is good to his creatures. Let us thank him that we have seen, proved, and tasted that he is good. He is good beyond all others: indeed, he alone is good in the highest sense; he is the source of good, the good of all good, the sustainer of good, the perfecter of good, and the rewarder of good. For this he deserves the constant gratitude of his people.
For his mercy endureth for ever. We shall have this repeated in every verse of this song, but not once too often. It is the sweetest stanza that a man can sing. What joy that there is mercy, mercy with Jehovah, enduring mercy, mercy enduring for ever. We are ever needing it, trying it, praying for it, receiving it: therefore let us for ever sing of it.
"When all else is changing within and around,
In God and his mercy no change can be found."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Whole Psalm. This Psalm was very probably composed by David, and given to the Levites to sing every day: 1 Chronicles 16:41. Solomon his son followed his example, and made use of it in singing at the dedication of the Temple (2 Chronicles 7:3-6); as Jehoshaphat seems to have done when he went out to war against his enemies (2 Chronicles 20:21). â€”John Gill.
Whole Psalm. The grand peculiarity of form in this Psalm...is the regular recurrence, at the close of every verse, of a burden or refrain ...It has been a favourite idea with interpreters that such repetitions necessarily imply alternate or responsive choirs. But the other indications of this usage in the Psalter are extremely doubtful, and every exegetical condition may be satisfied by simply supposing that the singers, in some cases, answered their own questions, and that in others, as in that before us, the people united in the burden or chorus, as they were wont to do in the Amen. â€”Joseph Addison Alexander.
Whole Psalm. The Psalm is called by the Greek church Polyeleos, from its continual mention of the mercy of God. â€”Neale and Littledale.
Whole Psalm. In the liturgical language this Psalm is called par excellence the great Hallel, for according to its broadest compass the great Hallel comprehends Psalms 120:1-7; Psalms 121:1-8; Psalms 122:1-9; Psalms 123:1-4; Psalms 124:1-8; Psalms 125:1-5; Psalms 126:1-6; Psalms 127:1-5; Psalms 128:1-6; Psalms 129:1-8; Psalms 130:1-8; Psalms 131:1-3; Psalms 132:1-18; Psalms 133:1-3; Psalms 134:1-3; Psalms 135:1-21; Psalms 136:1-26, whilst the Hallel which is absolutely so called extends from Psalms 113:1-9; Psalms 114:1-8; Psalms 115:1-18; Psalms 116:1-19; Psalms 117:1-2; Psalms 118:1-29. â€”Franz Delitzsch.
Whole Psalm. Praise ye (wdwh) Jehovah; not as in Psalms 135:1, "Hallelujah", but varying the words, "Be ye Judeahs to the Lord!"
Praise him for what he is (Psalms 136:1-3).
Praise him for what he is able to do (Psalms 136:4).
Praise him for what he has done in creation
Praise him for what he did in redeeming Israel from bondage
Praise him for what he did in his providence toward them
Praise him for his grace in times of calamity
Praise him for his grace to the world at large
Praise him at the remembrance that this God is the God of
heaven (Psalms 136:26). â€”Andrew A. Bonar.
Whole Psalm. When, in the time of the Emperor Constantius, S. Athanasius was assaulted by night in his church at Alexandria by Syrianus and his troops, and many were wounded and murdered, the Bishop of Alexandria sat still in his chair, and ordered the deacon to begin this Psalm, and the people answered in prompt alternation, For his mercy endureth for ever. â€”Christopher Wordsworth.
Ver. 1. O give thanks unto the LORD. When we have praised God for reasons offered unto us in one Psalm, we must begin again, and praise him for other reasons; and even when we have done this, we have not overtaken our task, the duty lieth still at our door, to be discharged afresh, as this Psalm doth show. â€”David Dickson.
Ver. 1. For he is good. Observe what we must give thanks for not as the Pharisee that made all his thanksgivings terminate in his own goodnessâ€”"God, I thank thee" that I am so and soâ€”but directing them all to God's glory: "for he is good." â€”Matthew Heary.
Ver. 1. His mercy endureth forever. This appears four times in Psalms 118:1-4. This sentence is the wonder of Moses, the sum of revelation, and the hope of man. â€”James G. Murphy.
Ver. 1. His mercy. Many sweet things are in the word of God, but the name of mercy is the sweetest word in all the Scriptures, which made David harp upon it twenty-six times in this Psalm: "For his mercy endureth for ever:" It was such a cheerful note in his ears when he struck upon mercy, that, like a bird that is taught to pipe, when he had sung it, he sang it again, and when he had sung it again, he recorded it again, and made it the burden of his song: "For his mercy endureth for ever." Like a nightingale which, when she is in a pleasant vein, quavers and capers, and trebles upon it, so did David upon his mercy: "For his mercy endureth for ever." â€”Henry Smith.
Ver. 1. Mercy. By "mercy" we understand the Lord's disposition to compassionate and relieve those whom sin has rendered miserable and base; his readiness to forgive and to be reconciled to the most provoking of transgressors, and to bestow all blessings upon them; together with all the provision which he has made for the honour of his name, in the redemption of sinners by Jesus Christ. â€”Thomas Scott.
Ver. 1. His mercy endureth for ever. It is everlasting. Everlastingness, or eternity, is a perfect possession, all at once, of an endless life (saith Boethius). Everlasting mercy, then, is perfect mercy, which shuts out all the imperfections of time, beginning, end, succession, and such is God's mercy. First, his essential mercy is eternity itself; for it is himself, and God hath not, but is, things. He is beginning, end, being; and that which is of himself and even himself is eternity itself. Secondly, his relative mercy (which respects us, and makes impression on us), is everlasting, too, in a sense; for the creatures, ever since they had being in him, or existence in their natural causes, ever did and ever will need mercy, either preserving or conserving. Preventing or continuing mercy in the first sense is negatively endless, that is, incapable of end, because unboundable for being: in the second sense, it is privatively endless, it shall never actually take end, though in itself it may be, and in some ways is, bounded; the first is included in the latter, but the latter is chiefly here intended; and therefore the point arises to be this, â€”God's mercy (chiefly to his church) is an endless mercy; it knows no end, receives no interruption. Reasons hereof from the word are these (for as touching testimony this Psalm shall be our security), first, from God's nature, "he is good". Mercy pleaseth him. It is no trouble for him to exercise mercy. It is his delight: we are never weary of receiving, therefore he cannot be of giving; for it is a more blessed thing to give than to receive; so God takes more content in the one than we in the other. â€”Robert Harris, 1578-1658.
Ver. 1. His mercy endureth for ever. God's goodness is a fountain; it is never dry. As grace is from the world's beginning (Psalms 25:6), so it is to the world's end, Ã seculo in seculum, from one generation to another. Salvation is no termer; grace ties not itself to times. Noah as well as Abel, Moses as well as Jacob, Jeremy as well as David, Paul as well as Simeon hath part in this salvation. God's gracious purpose the Flood drowned not, the smoke of Sinai smothered not, the Captivity ended not, the ends of the world (Saint Paul calls them so) determined not. For Christ, by whom it is, was slain from the beginning, â€”Saint John saith so. He was before Abraham, he himself saith so. And Clemens Alexandrinus (tom. 5. page 233) doth Marcion wrong, though otherwise an heretic, in blaming him for holding that Christ saved those also that believed in him before his incarnation. The blood of the beasts under the law was a type of his. And the scars of his wounds appear yet still, and will for ever, till he cometh to judgment. The Apostle shall end this: he is heri, and hodi, and semper idem: Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. â€”Richard Clerke, 1634.
Ver. 1-3. The three first verses of this Psalm contain the three several names of the Deity, which are commonly rendered Jehovah, God, and Lord, respectively; the first having reference to his essence as self existent, and being his proper name; the second designating him under the character of a judge or of an all powerful being, if Aleim be derived from Al; and the third, Adoni, representing him as exercising rule. â€”Daniel Cresswell.
Ver. 1-3. O give thanks.
What! give God thanks for everything,
Whatever may befallâ€”
Whatever the dark clouds may bring?
Yes, give God thanks for all;
For safe he leads thee, hand in hand,
To thy blessed Fatherland.
What! thank him for the lonely way
He to me hath givenâ€”
For the path which, day by day
Seems farther off from heaven?
Yes, thank him, for he holds thy hand
And leads thee to thy Fatherland.
Close, close he shields thee from all harm;
And if the road be steep,
Thou know'st his everlasting arm
In safety doth thee keep,
Although thou canst not understand
The windings to thy Fatherland.
What blessing, thinkest thou, will he,
Who knows the good and ill,
Keep back, if it is good for thee,
While climbing up the hill?
Then trust him, and keep fast his hand,
He leads thee to thy Fatherland. â€”B.S., in "The Christian Treasury", 1865.
Ver. 1-9. Like the preceding Psalm, this Psalm allies itself to the Book of Deuteronomy. The first clauses of Psalms 136:2-3 (God of gods and Lord of Lords) are taken from De 10:17; Psalms 136:12, first clause (with a strong hand and stretched out arm) from De 4:34, and De 5:15. Psalms 136:16, first clause, is like De 8:15 (cf. Jeremiah 2:6). â€”Franz Delitzsch.
Ver. 1-26. All repetitions are not vain, nor is all length in prayer to be accounted babbling. For repetitions may be used, 1. When they express fervency and zeal: and so we read, Christ prayed over the same prayer thrice (Matthew 26:44); "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." And another evangelist showeth that he did this out of special fervency of spirit (Lu 22:44); "Being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly." 2. This repetition is not to be disapproved when there is a special emphasis, and spiritual elegancy in it, as in Psalms 136:1-26 you have it twenty-six times repeated, For his mercy endureth for ever, because there was a special reason in it, the Psalmist's purpose there being to show the unweariedness, and the unexhausted riches of God's free grace; that notwithstanding all the former experiences they had had, God is where he was at first. We waste by giving, our drop is soon spent; but God is not wasted by bestowing, but hath the same mercy to do good to his creatures, as before. Though he had done all those wonders for them, yet his mercy was as ready to do good to them still. All along God saved and blessed his people, "For his mercy endureth for ever." â€”Thomas Manton.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
1. Consider his nameâ€”"Jehovah."
2. Carry out your joyful duty: "O give thanks."
3. Contemplate the two reasons givenâ€”goodness and enduring mercy.
1. Many subjects for praise.
a) For the goodness of God: "He is good" (Psalms 136:1).
b) For his supremacy: "God of gods; Lord of lords" (Psalms 136:2-3).
c) For his works in general (Psalms 136:4).
d) For his works of creation in particular (Psalms 136:5-9).
e) For his works of Providence (Psalms 136:10-26).
2. The chief subject for praise: For his mercy endureth for ever.
a) For mercy. This is the sinner's principal need.
b) For mercy in God. This is the sinner's attribute, and is as essential to God as justice.
c) For mercy enduring for ever. If they who have sinned need mercy for ever, they must exist for ever; and their guilt must be for ever. â€”G. R.
Ver. 1. The Lord is good. God is originally goodâ€”good of himself. He is infinitely good. He is perfectly good, because infinitely good. He is immutably good. â€”Charnock.
1. The triplet of names: "Jehovah", "the God of gods", "the Lord of lords."
2. The threefold adjuration, "O give thanks."
3. The irrepressible attribute and argument "for his mercy", etc. â€”W.B.H.
Ver. 1-26. For his mercy endureth for ever. See "Spurgeon's Sermons", No. 787: "A Song, a Solace, a Sermon, and a Summons."
Ver. 2. O give thanks unto the God of gods. If there be powers in heaven or on earth worthy of the name of gods he is the God of them; from him their dominion comes, their authority is derived from him, and their very existence is dependent upon his will. Moreover, for the moment assuming that the deities of the heathen were gods, yet none of them could be compared with our Elohim, who is infinitely beyond what they are fabled to be. Jehovah is our God, to be worshipped and adored, and he is worthy of our reverence to the highest degree. If the heathen cultivate the worship of their gods with zeal, how much more intently should we seek the glory of the God of godsâ€”the only true and real God. Foolish persons have gathered from this verse that the Israelites believed in the existence of many gods, at the same time believing that their Jehovah was the chief among them; but this is an absurd inference, since gods who have a God over them cannot possibly be gods themselves. The words are to be understood after the usual manner of human speech, in which things are often spoken of not as they really are, but as they profess to be. God as God is worthy of our warmest thanks,
for his mercy endureth for ever. Imagine supreme Godhead without everlasting mercy! It would then have been as fruitful a source of terror as it is now a fountain of thanksgiving. Let the Highest be praised in the highest style, for right well do his nature and his acts deserve the gratitude of all his creatures.
Praise your God with right good will,
For his love endureth still.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 2. The God of gods. "God of gods" is an Hebrew superlative, because he is far above all gods, whether they be so reputed or deputed. â€”Robert Harris.
Ver. 2. The God of gods. One, as being Creator, infinitely higher than all others, his creatures, who have at any time been regarded as gods. â€”Freneh and Skinner, 1842.
Ver. 2-3. Before proceeding to recite God's works, the Psalmist declares his supreme Deity, and dominion: not that such comparative language implies that there is anything approaching Deity besides him, but there is a disposition in men, whenever they see any part of his glory displayed, to conceive of a God separate from him, thus impiously dividing the Godhead into parts, and even proceeding so far as to frame gods of wood and stone. There is a depraved tendency in all to take delight in a multiplicity of gods. For this reason, apparently, the Psalmist uses the plural number not only in the word Elohim but in the word Adonim, so that it reads literally, Praise ye the Lords of lords: he would intimate, that the fullest perfection of all dominion is to be found in the one God. â€”John Calvin.
Ver. 3. O give thanks to the Lord of lords. There are lords many, but Jehovah is the Lord of them. All lordship is vested in the Eternal. He makes and administers law, he rules and governs mind and matter, he possesses in himself all sovereignty and power. All lords in the plural are summed up in this Lord in the singular; he is more lordly than all emperors and kings condensed into one. For this we may well be thankful, for we know the superior Sovereign will rectify the abuses of the underlings who now lord it over mankind. He will call these lords to his bar, and reckon with them for every oppression and injustice. He is as truly the Lord of lords as he is Lord over the meanest of the land, and he rules with a strict impartiality, for which every just man should give heartiest thanks.
For his mercy endureth for ever. Yes, he mingles mercy with his justice, and reigns for the benefit of his subjects. He pities the sorrowful, protects the helpless, provides for the needy, and pardons the guilty; and this he does from generation to generation, never wearying of his grace, "because he delighteth in mercy." Let us arouse ourselves to laud our glorious Lord! A third time let us thank him who is our Jehovah, our God, and our Lord; and let this one reason suffice us for three thanksgivings, or for three thousandâ€”
"For his mercy shall endure,
Ever faithful, ever sure."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 3. The Lord of lords. The meaning of the title "Lord", as distinct from "Jehovah" and "God", is "Governor." And in this view also he is eminently entitled to praise and thanksgiving, in that his rule and government of the world are also eminently marked by "mercy" and "goodness": not the display of power only, but of power declared chiefly in showing mercy and pity: as again all subject to that rule are witnesses. Such is God in himself. Nor is it without intention that the doxology is threefold, indicating, doubtless, like the threefold invocation of the Name of the Lord in the blessing of the people (Numbers 6:24-26) God in Trinity, "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost", as now fully revealed. â€”William De Burgh.
Ver. 4. To him who alone doeth great wonders. Jehovah is the great Thaumaturge, the unrivalled Wonder worker. None can be likened unto him, he is alone in wonderland, the Creator and Worker of true marvels, compared with which all other remarkable things are as child's play. His works are all great in wonder even when they are not great in size; in fact, in the minute objects of the microscope we behold as great wonders as even the telescope can reveal. All the works of his unrivalled skill are wrought by him alone and unaided, and to him, therefore, must be undivided honour. None of the gods or the lords helped Jehovah in creation, or in the redemption of his people: his own right hand and his holy arm have wrought for him these great deeds. What have the gods of the heathen done? If the question be settled by doings, Jehovah is indeed "alone." It is exceedingly wonderful that men should worship gods who can do nothing, and forget the Lord who alone doeth great wonders. Even when the Lord uses men as his instruments, yet the wonder of the work is his alone; therefore let us not trust in men, or idolize them, or tremble before them. Praise is to be rendered to Jehovah,
for his mercy endureth for ever. The mercy of the wonder is the wonder of the mercy; and the enduring nature of that mercy is the central wonder of that wonder. The Lord causes us often to sit down in amazement as we see what his mercy has wrought out and prepared for us: "wonders of grace to God belong", yea, great wonders and unsearchable. Oh the depth! Glory be to his name world without end!
Doing wondrous deeds alone,
Mercy sits upon his throne.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 4. To him who alone doeth great wonders. God hath preserved to himself the power of miracles, as his prerogative: for the devil does no miracles; the devil and his instruments do but hasten nature or hinder nature, antedate nature or postdate nature, bring things sooner to pass or retard them; and however they pretend to oppose nature, yet still it is but upon nature and by natural means that they work. Only God shakes the whole frame of nature in pieces, and in a miracle proceeds so, as if there were no creation yet accomplished, no course of nature yet established. Facit mirabilia magna solus, says David here. There are mirabilia parva, some lesser wonders, that the devil and his instruments, Pharaoh's sorcerers can do; but when it comes to mirabilias magna, great wonders, so great that they amount to the nature of a miracle, facit solus, God and God only does them. â€”Abraham Wright.
Ver. 4. To him who alone doeth great wonders. Does he "alone" do great wonders? That means, he does so by himself, unaided, needing nothing from others, asking no help from his creatures. As the Nile from Nubia to the Mediterranean rolls on 1,300 miles in solitary grandeur, receiving not one tributary, but itself alone dispensing fertility and fatness wherever it comes; so our God "alone" does wonders. (See De 32:12, Psalms 72:18, etc.) No prompter, no helper; spontaneously he goes forth to work, and all he works is worthy of God. Then we have no need of any other; we are independent of all others; all our springs are in him. â€”Andrew A. Bonar.
Ver 4. Who alone doeth great wonders. There are three things here declared of God; that he doeth wonders, that the wonders he doeth are great; that he only doeth them. â€”Augustine, in Neale and Littledale.
Ver. 4. Who alone doeth great wonders. Whatsoever instruments the Lord is pleased to use in any of his wonderful works, he alone is the worker, and will not share the glory of the work with any creature. â€”David Dickson.
Ver. 4. It becomes the great God to grant great things. To him who alone doeth great wonders. When you ask great things, you ask such as it becomes God to give, "whose mercy is great above the heavens!" Nothing under heaven can be too great for him to give. The greater things he bestows, the greater glory redounds to his Name. â€”David Clarkson, 1622-1686.
Ver. 4. Christians should not be ashamed of the mysteries and miracles of their religion. Sometimes of late years there has been manifested a disposition to recede from the defence of the supernatural in religion. This is a great mistake. Give up all that is miraculous in true religion and there is nothing left of power sufficient to move any heart to worship or adore; and without worship there is no piety. â€”William Swan Plumer.
Ver. 4. The longer I live, O my God, the more do I wonder at all the works of thy hands. I see such admirable artifice in the very least and most despicable of all thy creatures, as doth every day more and more astonish my observation. I need not look so far as heaven for matter of marvel, though therein thou art infinitely glorious; while I have but a spider in my window, or a bee in my garden, or a worm under my foot: every one of these overcomes me with a just amazement: yet can I see no more than their very outsides; their inward form, which gives their being and operations, I cannot pierce into. The less I can know, O Lord, the more let me wonder; and the less I can satisfy myself with marvelling at thy works, the more let me adore the majesty and omnipotence of thee, that wroughtest them. â€”Joseph Hall.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
1. The Lord does great wonders of mercy.
2. He does them unaided.
3. He does them as none else can do.
4. He should have unique praise.
Ver. 4. The great lone Wonder worker.
1. God was alone in the wonderwork of Creation: Genesis 1:1-31.
2. Alone in the wonderwork of Redemption: Isaiah 63:5.
3. Is alone in the wonderwork of Providence: Psalms 104:27-28.
4. Alone in the wonderwork of Sanctification: 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24.
5. Will be alone in the wonderwork of Universal Triumph: 1 Corinthians 15:25. â€”C.A.D.
Ver. 4. The merciful in the wonderful. The wonderful in the merciful.
Ver. 5. To him that by wisdom made the heavens. His goodness appears in creating the upper regions. He set his wisdom to the task of fashioning a firmament, or an atmosphere suitable for a world upon which mortal men should dwell. What a mass of wisdom lies hidden in this one creating act! The discoveries of our keenest observers have never searched out all the evidences of design which are crowded together in this work of God's hands. The lives of plants, animals, and men are dependent upon the fashioning of our heavens: had the skies been other than they are we had not been here to praise God. Divine foresight planned the air and the clouds, with a view to the human race.
For his mercy endureth for ever. The Psalmist's details of mercy begin in the loftiest regions, and gradually descend from the heavens to "our low estate" (Ps 134:23); and this is an ascent, for mercy becomes greater as its objects become less worthy. Mercy is far reaching, long enduring, all encompassing. Nothing is too high for its reach, as nothing is beneath its stoop.
High as heaven his wisdom reigns,
Mercy on the throne remains.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 5. To him that by wisdom made the heavens. We find that God has built the heavens in wisdom, to declare his glory, and to show forth his handiwork. There are no iron tracks, with bars and bolts, to hold the planets in their orbits. Freely in space they move, ever changing, but never changed; poised and balancing; swaying and swayed; disturbing and disturbed, onward they fly, fulfilling with unerring certainty their mighty cycles. The entire system forms one grand complicated piece of celestial machinery; circle within circle, wheel within wheel, cycle within cycle; revolutions go swift as to be completed in a few hours; movements so slow, that their mighty periods are only counted by millions of years. â€”From "The Orbs of Heaven", 1859.
Ver. 5. To him that by wisdom made the heavens. Not only the firmament, but the third heavens, too, where all is felicity, where is the throne of glory. Then, I infer, that if the mercy which visits earth is from the same Jehovah who built that heaven and filled it with glory, there must be in his mercy something of the same "understanding" or "wisdom." It is wise, prudent mercy; not rashly given forth; and it is the mercy of him whose love has filled that heaven with bliss. The same architect, the same skill, the same love! â€”Andrew A. Bonar.
Ver. 6. To him that stretched out the earth above the waters. Lifting it up from the mingled mass, the dank morass, the bottomless bog, of mixed land and sea; and so fitting it to be the abode of man. Who but the Lord could have wrought this marvel? Few even think of the divine wisdom and power which performed all this of old; yet, if a continent can be proved to have risen or fallen an inch within historic memory, the fact is recorded in the "transactions" of learned societies, and discussed at every gathering of philosophers.
For his mercy endureth for ever, as is seen in the original upheaval and perpetual upstanding of the habitable land, so that no deluge drowns the race. By his strength he sets fast the mountains and consolidates the land upon which we sojourn.
From the flood he lifts the land:
Firm his mercies ever stand.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 6. Stretched out the earth above the waters. The waters of the great deep (Genesis 7:11) are meant; above which the crust of the earth is outspread. In Proverbs 8:27 the great deep encircles the earth. â€”Speaker's Commentary.
Ver. 7. To him that made great lights. This also is a creating miracle worthy of our loudest thanks. What could men have done without light? Though they had the heavens above them, and dry land to move upon, yet what could they see, and where could they go without light? Thanks be to the Lord, who has not consigned us to darkness. In great mercy he has not left us to an uncertain, indistinct light, floating about fitfully, and without order; but he has concentrated light upon two grand luminaries, which, as far as we are concerned, are to us "great lights." The Psalmist is making a song for common people, not for your critical savans, â€”and so he sings of the sun and moon as they appear to us, â€”the greatest of lights. These the Lord created in the beginning; and for the present age of man made or constituted them light bearers for the world.
For his mercy endureth for ever. Mercy gleams in every ray of light, and it is most clearly seen in the arrangement by which it is distributed with order and regularity from the sun and moon.
Lamps he lit in heaven's heights,
For in mercy he delights.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 7. Great lights. The luminaries of heaven are unspeakable blessings to the children of men. The sun, in the greatness of his strength, measures their day, and exerts an influence over animal and vegetable life, which surrounds them with innumerable comforts; and the moon and stars walking forth in their brightness, give direction to them amidst the sable hours of night, and both by land and sea proclaim the wisdom, and benignity, and gracious arrangement of the adorable Creator. By these luminaries, day and night, heat and cold, summer and winter are continually regulated: so that God's covenant with the earth is maintained through their medium. How truly, then, may we exclaim, "His mercy endureth for ever!" â€”John Morison.
Ver. 7. To him that made great lights. Light is the life and soul of the universe, the noblest emblem of the power and glory of God, who, in the night season, leaves not himself without witness, but gives us some portion of that light reflected, which by day we behold flowing from its great fountain in the heart of heaven. Thy church and thy saints, O Lord, "are the moon and the stars", which, by the communication of doctrine, and the splendour of example, guide our feet, while we travel on in the night that hath overtaken us, waiting for the dawn of everlasting day. Then we shall behold thy glory, and see thee as thou art. â€”George Horne.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 7. The mercy which dwells in the creation and distribution of light.
1. The constancy of rule.
2. The association of light with rule.
3. The perpetuity of mercy in this matter.
Ver. 8. The sun to rule by day. We cannot be too specific in our praises; after mentioning great lights, we may sing of each of them, and yet not outwear our theme. The influences of the sun are too many for us to enumerate them all, but untold benefits come to all orders of beings by its light, warmth, and other operations. Whenever we sit in the sunshine, our gratitude should be kindled. The sun is a great ruler, and his government is pure beneficence, because by God's mercy it is moderated to our feebleness; let all who rule take lessons from the sun which rules to bless. By day we may well give thanks, for God gives cheer. The sun rules because God rules; it is not the sun which we should worship, like the Parsees; but the Creator of the sun, as he did who wrote this sacred song.
For his mercy endureth for ever. Day unto day uttereth speech concerning the mercy of the Lord; every sunbeam is a mercy, for it falls on undeserving sinners who else would sit in doleful darkness, and find earth a hell. Milton puts it well:
"He, the golden tressed sun
Caused all day his course to run;
For his mercy shall endure
Ever faithful, ever sure."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 8. The sun to rule by day. This verse showeth that the sun shineth in the day, by the order which God hath set, and not for any natural cause alone, as some imagine and conjecture. â€”Thomas Wilcocks.
Ver. 8. The sun. The lantern of the world (lucerna Mundi), as Copernicus names the sun, enthroned in the centreâ€”according to Theon of Smyrna, the all vivifying, pulsating heart of the universe, is the primary source of light and of radiating heat, and the generator of numerous terrestrial, electromagnetic processes, and indeed of the greater part of the organic vital activity upon our planet, more especially that of the vegetable kingdom. In considering the expression of solar force, in its widest generality, we find that it gives rise to alterations on the surface of the earth, â€”partly by gravitative attraction, â€”as in the ebb and flow of the ocean (if we except the share taken in the phenomenon by lunar attraction), partly by light and heat generating transverse vibrations of ether, as in the fructifying admixture of the aerial and aqueous envelopes of our planet, from the contact of the atmosphere with the vaporizing fluid element in seas, lakes, and rivers. The solar action operates, moreover, by differences of heat, in exciting atmospheric and oceanic currents; the latter of which have continued for thousands of years (though in an inconsiderable degree) to accumulate or waste away alluvial strata, and thus change the surface of the inundated land; it operates in the generation and maintenance of the electromagnetic activity of the earth's crust, and that of the oxygen contained in the atmosphere; at one time calling forth calm and gentle forces of chemical attraction, and variously determining organic life in the endosmose of cell walls and in tissue of muscular and nervous fibres; at another time evoking light processes in the atmosphere, such as the coloured coruscations of the polar light, thunder and lightning, hurricanes and waterspouts.
Our object in endeavouring to compress in one picture the influences of solar action, in as far as they are independent of the orbit and the position of the axis of our globe, has been clearly to demonstrate, by an exposition of the connection existing between great, and at first sight heterogeneous, phenomena, how physical nature may be depicted in the History of the Cosmos as a whole, moved and animated by internal and frequently self adjusting forces. But the waves of light not only exert a decomposing and combining action on the corporeal world; they not only call forth the tender germs of plants from the earth, generate the green colouring matter (chlorophyll) within the leaf, and give colour to the fragrant blossom â€”they not only produce myriads of reflected images of the Sun in the graceful play of the waves, as in the moving grass of the fieldâ€”but the rays of celestial light, in the varied gradations of their intensity and duration, are also mysteriously connected with the inner life of man, his intellectual susceptibilities, and the melancholy or cheerful tone of his feelings. This is what Pliny the elder referred to in these words, "Caeli tristram discutit sol, et humani nubila animi serenat." ("The sun chases sadness from the sky, and dissipates the clouds which darken the human heart.") â€”F.H. Alexandar Von Humboldt (1769-1859), "Cosmos."
Ver. 8. The sun.
O sun! what makes thy beams so bright?
The word that said, "Let there be light." â€”James Montgomery.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
1. The glory of the day of joy.
2. The comforts of the night of sorrow.
3. The hand of God in each.
Ver. 9. The moon and stars to rule by night. No hour is left without rule. Blessed be God, he leaves us never to the doom of anarchy. The rule is one of light and benediction. The moon with her charming changes, and the stars in their fixed spheres gladden the night. When the season would be dark and dreary because of the absence of the sun, forth come the many minor comforters. The sun is enough alone; but when he is gone a numerous band cannot suffice to give more than a humble imitation of his radiance. Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness, alone, can do more for us than all his servants put together. He makes our day. When he is hidden, it is night, and remains night, let our human comforters shine at their full. What mercy is seen in the lamps of heaven gladdening our landscape at night! What equal mercy in all the influences of the moon upon the tides, those life floods of the earth! The Lord is the Maker of every star, be the stars what they may; he calleth them all by their names, and at his bidding each messenger with his torch enlightens our darkness.
For his mercy endureth for ever. Let our thanks be as many as the stars, and let our lives reflect the goodness of the Lord, even as the moon reflects the light of the sun. The nightly guides and illuminators of men on land and sea are not for now and then, but for all time.
They shone on Adam, and they shine on us. Thus they are tokens and pledges of undying grace to men; and we may sing with our Scotch friendsâ€”
His mercies dure
Most firm and sure
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 9. The moon and stars to rule by night. While the apparent revolution of the sun marks out the year and the course of the seasons, the revolution of the moon round the heavens marks out our months; and by regularly changing its figure at the four quarters of its course, subdivides the months into two periods of weeks, and thus exhibits to all the nations of the earth a "watch light", or signal, which every seven days presents a form entirely new, for marking out the shorter periods of duration. By its nearness to the earth, and the consequent increase of its gravitating power, it produces currents in the atmosphere, which direct the course of the winds, and purify the aerial fluid from noxious exhalations; it raises the waters of the ocean, and perpetuates the regular returns of ebb and flow, by which the liquid element is preserved from filth and putrefaction. It extends its sway even over the human frame, and our health and disorders are sometimes partially dependent on its influence. Even its eclipses, and those it produces of the sun, are not without their use. They tend to arouse mankind to the study of astronomy, and the wonders of the firmament; they serve to confirm the deductions of chronology, to direct the navigator, and to settle the geographical position of towns and countries; they assist the astronomer in his celestial investigations, and exhibit an agreeable variety of phenomena in the scenery of the heavens. In short, there are terrestrial scenes presented in moonlight, which, in point of solemnity, grandeur, and picturesque beauty, far surpass in interest, to a poetic imagination, all the brilliancy and splendours of noonday. Hence, in all ages, a moonlight scene has been regarded, by all ranks of men, with feelings of joy and sentiments of admiration. The following description of Homer, translated into English verse by Pope, has been esteemed one of the finest night pieces in poetry: â€”
"Behold the moon, refulgent lamp of night,
O'er Heaven's clear azure spreads her sacred light,
When not a breath disturbs the deep serene,
And not a cloud o'ercasts the solemn scene;
Around her throne the vivid planets roll,
And stars unnumbered gild the glowing pole;
O'er the dark trees a yellower verdure shed,
And tip with silver every mountain's head;
Then shine the vales; the rocks in prospect rise;
A flood of glory bursts from all the skies;
The conscious swains, rejoicing in the sight,
Eye the blue vault, and bless the useful light."
Without the light of the moon, the inhabitants of the polar regions would be for weeks and months immersed in darkness. But the moon, like a kindly visitant, returns at short intervals, in the absence of the sun, and cheers them with her beams for days and weeks together. So that, in this nocturnal luminary, as in all the other arrangements of nature, we behold a display of the paternal care and beneficence of that Almighty Being who ordained "the moon and the stars to rule by night", as an evidence of his superabundant goodness, and of "his mercy which endureth for ever." â€”Thomas Dick (1774-1857), in "Celestial Scenery."
Ver. 9. Stars to rule by night. The purpose of the sacred narrative being to describe the adaption of the earth to the use of man, no account is taken of the nature of the stars, as suns or planets, but merely as signs in the heavens. â€”"Speaker's Commentary."
Ver. 9. Stars. The stars not only adorn the roof of our sublunary mansion, they are also in many respects useful to man. Their influences are placid and gentle. Their rays, being dispersed through spaces so vast and immense, are entirely destitute of heat by the time they arrive at our abode; so that we enjoy the view of a numerous assemblage of luminous globes without any danger of their destroying the coolness of the night or the quiet of our repose. They serve to guide the traveller both by sea and land; they direct the navigator in tracing his course from one continent to another through the pathless ocean. They serve "for signs and for seasons, and for days and years." They direct the labours of the husbandman, and determine the return and conclusion of the seasons. They serve as a magnificent "time piece", to determine the true length of the day and of the year, and to mark with accuracy all their subordinate divisions. They assist us in our commerce, and in endeavouring to propagate religion among the nations, by showing us our path to every region of the earth. They have enabled us to measure the circumference of the globe, to ascertain the density of the materials of which it is composed, and to determine the exact position of all places upon its surface. They cheer the long nights of several months in the polar regions, which would otherwise be overspread with impenetrable darkness. Above all, they open a prospect into the regions of other worlds, and tend to amplify our views of the Almighty Being who brought them into existence by his power, and "whose kingdom ruleth over all." In these arrangements of the stars in reference to our globe, the Divine wisdom and goodness may be clearly perceived. We enjoy all the advantages to which we have alluded as much as if the stars had been created solely for the use of our world, while, at the same time, they serve to diversify the nocturnal sky of other planets, and to diffuse their light and influence over ten thousands of other worlds with which they are more immediately connected, so that, in this respect, as well as in every other, the Almighty produces the most sublime and diversified effects by means the most simple and economical, and renders every part of the universe subservient to another, and to the good of the whole. â€”Thomas Dick.
Ver. 9. Stars. When the First Consul crossed the Mediterranean on his Egyptian expedition, he carried with him a cohort of savans, who ultimately did good service in many ways. Among them, however, as might be expected at that era, were not a few philosophers of the Voltaire Diderot school. Napoleon, for his own instruction and amusement on shipboard, encouraged disputation among these gentlemen; and on one occasion they undertook to show, and, according to their own account, did demonstrate, by infallible logic and metaphysic, that there is no God. Bonaparte, who hated all idealogists, abstract reasoners, and logical demonstrators, no matter what they were demonstrating, would not fence with these subtle dialecticians, but had them immediately on deck, and, pointing to the stars in the clear sky, replied, by way of counter argument, "Very good, messieurs! But who made all these?" â€”George Wilson, in "Religio Chemici", 1862.
Ver. 10. We have heard of the glory of the world's creation, we are now to praise the Lord for the creation of his favoured nation by their Exodus from Egypt. Because the monarch of Egypt stood in the way of the Lord's gracious purposes it became needful for the Lord to deal with him in justice; but the great design was mercy to Israel, and through Israel mercy to succeeding ages, and to all the world.
To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn. The last and greatest of the plagues struck all Egypt to the heart. The sorrow and the terror which it caused throughout the nation it is hardly possible to exaggerate. From king to slave each one was wounded in the most tender point. The joy and hope of every household was struck down in one moment, and each family had its own wailing. The former blows had missed their aim compared with the last; but that "smote Egypt." The Lord's firstborn had been oppressed by Egypt, and at last the Lord fulfilled his threatening, "I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn." Justice lingered but it struck home at last. "For his mercy endureth for ever." Yes, even to the extremity of vengeance upon a whole nation the Lord's mercy to his people endured. He is slow to anger, and judgment is his strange work; but when mercy to men demands severe punishments he will not hold back his hand from the needful surgery. What were all the firstborn of Egypt compared with those divine purposes of mercy to all generations of men which were wrapped up in the deliverance of the elect people? Let us even when the Lord's judgments are abroad in the earth continue to sing of his unfailing grace.
"For evermore his love shall last,
For ever sure, for ever fast."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 10. To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn. The Egyptians are well said to have been smitten in their firstborn; because they continued in their outrageous obstinacy under the other plagues, though occasionally terrified by them, but were broken and subdued by this last plague, and submitted. â€”John Calvin.
Ver. 10. To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn, for his mercy, etc. Remember his sovereign grace, when righteousness would show itself upon the guilty. There was mercy even then to Israel â€”drops of that mercy that for ever endurethâ€”at the very time when judgment fell on others. Should not this give emphasis to our praises? The dark background makes the figures in the foreground more prominent. â€”Andrew A. Bonar.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 10. Mercy and judgment. In the stroke that filled Egypt with anguish there was conspicuous mercy.
1. Even to Egypt; the sharp stroke should have wrought repentance. So God still strives with men.
2. Evidently to Israel; they being thus delivered; their firstborn saved.
3. Emphatically to the who world: power made known, Christ foreshadowed, an important link in the chain of redemption. â€”W.B.H.
Ver. 11. And brought out Israel from among them. Scattered as the tribes were up and down the country, and apparently held in a grasp which would never be relaxed, the Lord wrought their deliverance, and severed them from their idolatrous task masters. None of them remained in bondage. The Lord brought them out; brought them all out; brought them out at the very hour when his promise was due; brought them out despite their being mingled among the Egyptians; brought them out never to return. Unto his name let us give thanks for this further proof of his favour to the chosen ones,
For his mercy endureth for ever. Once the Israelites did not care to go out, but preferred to bear the ills they had rather than risk they knew not what; but the Lord's mercy endured that test also, and ceased not to stir up the nest till the birds were glad to take to their wings. He turned the land of plenty into a house of bondage, and the persecuted nation was glad to escape from slavery. The unfailing mercy of the Lord is gloriously seen in his separating his elect from the world. He brings out his redeemed and they are henceforth a people who show forth his praise.
"For God doth prove
Our constant friend;
His boundless love
Shall never end."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 11. And brought out Israel from among them. Such an emigration as this the world never saw. On the lowest computation, the entire multitude must have been above two millions, and in all probability the number exceeded three millions. Is the magnitude of this movement usually apprehended? Do we think of the emigration of the Israelites from Egypt as of the emigration of a number of families twice as numerous as the population of the principality of Wales, or considerably more than the whole population of the British Metropolis (in 1841), with all their goods, property, and cattle? The collecting together of so immense a multitudeâ€”the arranging the order of their marchâ€”the provision of the requisite food even for a few days, must, under the circumstances, have been utterly impossible, unless a very special and overruling Providence had graciously interfered to obviate the difficulties of the case. To the most superficial observer it must be evident, that no man, or number of men, having nothing but human resources, could have ventured to undertake this journey. Scarcely any wonder, wrought by Divine power in Egypt, appears greater than this emigration of a nation, when fairly and fully considered. â€”George Smith, in "Sacred Annals", 1850.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 11. The bringing out of God's people from their natural state, from their misery, and from association with the ungodly, a great marvel of everlasting mercy.
Ver. 11. Effectual calling; the intervention at the determined moment of the mercy of infinite ages. â€”W.B.H.
Ver. 12. With a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm. Not only the matter but the manner