August 29, 2014

Tom Lowe


Title: From Everlasting Thou Art God

A psalm of David.


Psalm 33 (KJV)

1 Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright.

2 Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.

3 Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.

4 For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth.

5 He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.

6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

7 He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses.

8 Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.

9 For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.

10 The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect.

11 The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.

12Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.

13 The LORD looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men.

14 From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth.

15 He fashioneth their hearts alike; he considereth all their works.

16 There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength.

17 An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength.

18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;

19 To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield.

21 For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name.

22 Let thy mercy, O LORD, be upon us, according as we hope in thee.



Psalm 33 is a call to lively and joyous praise to God for His glorious attributes and works, as displayed in creation, and His general and special providence, in view of which, the Psalmist, for all the pious, professes trust and joy and invokes God's mercy.




1 Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright.


Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous

“Rejoice” means “to shout,” or “sing for joy.” “Rejoice in the Lord”—Joy is the soul of praise. To delight ourselves in God is truly to praise Him, even if no notes of song proceed from our lips. The knowledge that God is an awesome God, and that He is our God for ever and ever, should awaken within us an unceasing and overflowing joy. To rejoice in all temporal comforts is dangerous, to rejoice in self is foolish, to rejoice in sin is fatal, but to rejoice in God is heavenly. He who would one day live in heaven must begin below to rejoice like those above.


His excellence is manifested in His works, and should be the substance of your praise. “Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous”is almost a repetition of the first clause of Psalm 32:11—“Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, you righteous: and shout for joy, all you that are upright in heart” (Psalm 32:11). Also compare:


  • Psalm 68:3: “But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yes, let them exceedingly rejoice.”
  • Psalm 97:12: “Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.”


“O ye righteous,”it is chiefly your duty to “Rejoice in the LORD,” because your obligations are greater, and your spiritual nature better adapted to the work—so be consistent and vigorous in this happy service. Even the righteous are not always glad, and may need to be stirred up to enjoy their privileges.


For praise is comely for the upright

It is the righteous and the upright, the true Israelites, who are addressed here. Praise becomes them; it is their duty; they are bound to do it by the mercies and blessings they have received; if they were not to give praise to God, the stones of the wall would cry out and rebuke them for their ingratitude. Praise is beautiful, and looks lovely in them; it is an ornament they wear, and has great esteem in the eyes of God: it is very acceptable to Him, and when grace is being exercised, and their hearts in tune, being sensibly touched and impressed with the goodness of God, it is desirable by them, and is pleasant and delightful to them to praise their God.


“For praise is comely for the upright.” God has an eye for things which are attractive, suitable, and delightful. When saints wear their choir robes, they look wonderful in the Lord's sight. A piano goes well with blood-washed hands. No jewel looks more attractive on a holy face than sacred praise. But praise is not pretty when it comes from an unpardoned sinner; it is like a jewel of gold in a pig’s snout. Twisted hearts make bad music. Ungodly men do indeed disparage and pollute the holy name of God while they pretend to praise it; and therefore God rejects their praises and prayers; but the upright are the Lord's delight. Praise is the covering of saints in heaven, it is good that they find it appropriate to wear it here below. “Praise the LORD. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!” (Psalm 147.1).


The upright—the righteous—have plenty of cause for praise, and it is for them a suitable service, or one which becomes them. A man who is upright, or who is a righteous man, has in this very fact much which lays a foundation for praise, for the fact that he has such a character is to be traced to the grace of God, and this in itself is a more valuable possession than gold or kingly crowns would be.That he is not an open violator of the law of God; that he does not use alcohol; that he is not the victim of raging lusts and passions; that he is not a dishonest man; that he is not blasphemous; that he is not an infidel or a scoffer; that he is a pious man—a redeemed man—a man of good character—an heir of heaven—is the greatest blessing that could be conferred on him; and he who has been saved from a life of transgression and crime in a world like this, and has been enabled to live an upright life, has plenty of reasons to praise and bless God. Surely for such a man praise is an appropriate service, for such a man; it is "comely.”



2 Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.


Praise the Lord with harp

The harp is mentioned here for the first time in the Psalms. Reference, however, had been made to it previously in Genesis, Job, and the First Book of Samuel. There is reason to believe that the harp used by the Hebrews, was a simple one, consisting of a nearly triangular framework of wood, crossed by seven strings. The Egyptians were known from early times to possess a much more elaborate instrument—harps which stood six feet high upon a broad base of their own, and had as many as twenty-two strings. The harp was regarded by the Hebrews as especially well-suited for playing sacred music (see 1 Samuel 10:52 Samuel 6:51 Chronicles 15:161 Chronicles 25:1, 3, 62 Chronicles 5:122 Chronicles 29:25Nehemiah 12:27, etc.). It was an instrument which David was expert in the use of; the inventor of the harp was Jubal, according to Genesis 4:21And his brother's name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.” 


Sing unto him with the psaltery

The name of this instrument, in the Hebrew language, is "nebel.” The account which Josephus gives of this, and of the harp, is almost identical: "the harp is extended with ten strings, and is plucked with a quill; the "nabla", or psaltery, has twelve sounds, and is played upon with the fingers.” Some believe the psaltery and the harp are one and the same. 


“Sing unto Him with the psaltery,” rather, sing unto him with the lute of ten strings. One instrument only is mentioned here—a lute or psaltery (nebel), having ten strings (compare: Psalm 92:3Psalm 144:9). The nebel was an instrument differing from the harp chiefly in the arrangement of the strings. It appears to have been used in the temple service, from what we gather from 1 Chronicles 15:6, 281 Chronicles 25:1, 62 Chronicles 5:122 Chronicles 29:25, etc. 


And an instrument of ten strings

And an instrument of ten strings—the word "And" is supplied by the translators, which makes it seem like a third instrument was referred to, distinct from the harp and the psaltery. The more correct rendering, however, would be, "a psaltery (or lyre) of ten strings." The same construction occurs in Psalm 144:9I will sing a new song to you, O God: on a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises to you.”   In Psalm 92:3, however, the two words are usedseparately, denoting different instruments—“On an instrument of ten strings, and on the psaltery; on the harp with a solemn sound.”    The "lyre" or psaltery was probably not always made with the same number of strings, and it would seem that the one that was made of "ten" strings had something special about it as an instrument of uncommon sweetness or power. Hence, it is mentioned here for the reason that the instruments of special power and sweetness should be employed in the service of God.



3 Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.


Sing unto him a new song

“A new song”—This expression occurs in Psalm 96:1Psalm 98:1Psalm 149:1, and Isaiah 42:10 and was adopted in Revelation 5:9, and Revelation 14:3. The term apparently marked the revival of national psalmody[i] after the Captivity. “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare . . . Sing unto the Lord a new song” (Isaiah 42:9-10).


A new song is either:

(1)   Newly composed. Since God gives you fresh blessings, do not content yourselves with the old songs or psalms made by the holy men of God, but make new ones suitable to the occasions. But, it is a fact that not all the righteous, to whom he speaks (v. 1), had the gift of composing songs; then again, it was not necessary or important that they compose new songs with which to praise God, at least for the works mentioned here, because David and other holy prophets, had written so many for the use of God’s church and people, when they had any occasion to praise and worship God. Or, 

(2)  Renewed, or repeated, or sung again; in which sense Job said His glory was new, or fresh in him (Job 29:20), that is, renewed or continued from day to day; and the command of love is called new—“A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34)—because it was renewed and reinforced by Christ. So here, this song is called new, not so much from the substance of it, as from the singing of it; because it was sung afresh, or again.


Why sing a new song? Because fresh mercies demand a fresh expression of gratitude. (See Psalm 40:3; and compare Psalm 96:1Psalm 98:1Psalm 149:1Isaiah 42:10;Revelation 5:9. Notice that Psalm 144:9 reproduces verses 2b, and 3a of this psalm.

 Sing unto the Lord a new song; not necessarily a song never heard before, but one fresh from the singer's heart. 


Play skillfully with a loud voice

“Play skillfully,” either with the quill upon the harp, and the instrument of ten strings; or with the fingers upon the psaltery, while at the same time, expressing the new songvocally, and loud.

“With a loud noise is a common Hebrew expression in the psalms referring either to the music itself, or to the accompanying shouts of joy; and describing the full choral effect when instruments and voices were combined in the service of the sanctuary (See Psalm 95:1; Psalm 100:1).

“Play skillfully with a loud noise”—literally, "Do well to play;" or, "do well in playing." That is, do the work well, or with all the musical skill you possess. The word rendered "loud noise," or “loud voice,” means "a shout of joy" or "rejoicing"—“Till he fill your mouth with laughing, and your lips with rejoicing” (Job 8:21; compare 1 Samuel 4:5). It is especially applied to the sound or ringing of trumpets (Leviticus 25:9Leviticus 23:24Numbers 29:1). There is the idea of "rejoicing," more than of "noise" in the word. The meaning is that the music should express the highest joy.



4 For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth.


For the word of the LORD is right

“For the word of the Lord is right,” that is, the revealed word of God is right; the law of God is right; its precepts are holy, just, and good; its sanction or penalty is righteous; it is applied to all impartially; it is just in condemning the wicked, and in acquitting believers on the account of Christ's perfect righteousness, by which it is magnified and made honorable. The Gospel part of the word is right; it announces truth and good things; it directs men to the right way to heaven and happiness; it makes men right when it works effectively in them; it persuades them to walk in right ways; and its doctrines are right or readily understood by those who have been given spiritual understanding; and all of this is a matter of joy and praise.


The psalmist goes on to give reasons why God is to be praised, and puts in the forefront this reason: “For the word of the Lord is right;” that is, the revealed will of God is exactly in accord with the eternal rule of right. We cannot imagine it otherwise, for God would contradict His own nature, if he ordained by a positive law anything contrary to that rule. But still we may be thankful that there is no such contradiction—that "the Law is holy, just, and good" (Romans 7:12); and grounds for thanksgiving. The word of the LORD is not only right, it is much, much more:

(1)   The first inspiring cause of praise for a faithful Israelite is the righteousness of the God of the Covenant. But the weighty expression, “word of the LORD,” naturally leads him on from the thought of its truth to the thought of its power, and in verses 6 and 7 we have praise of the creative acts of the Almighty.

(2)  All God’s counsels and commands, whether contained in the Scriptures, or given through His providence, for the purpose of governing the world, are wise, and just, and good, without deceit or defect. 

(3)  The commandments; the Law; the promises of God— whatever He "says" is right and true. It is worthy of universal belief; and should, therefore, be a reason for praise. The fact that God says a thing is the highest proof that it is true.

(4)  His ordinances—natural, moral, and spiritual—are right, and especially His incarnate Word, who is the Lord our righteousness. Whatever God has ordained must be good, and just, and excellent. There are no malfunctions in God's universe, except what sin has created; His word of command made all things good. When we look at His word of promise, and remember its faithfulness, we have plenty of reasons for joy and thankfulness!


"Why should I complain of want or distress,

Affliction or pain? he told me no less;

The heirs of salvation, I know from his word,

Through much tribulation must follow their Lord."


God writes with a pen that never blots, speaks with a tongue that never slips, acts with a hand which never fails. Bless His name!


And all his works are done in truth

“And all his works are done in truth”—His works of creation are done in the truth, with the utmost exactness and accuracy, and are a wonderful display of His power, wisdom, and goodness. His works of providence are according to the counsel of His own will, and are done in the wisest and best manner; and His work of redemption is a proof of His devotion to the truth and faithfulness to His covenant oath and promise; and His work of grace upon the hearts of His people is truth in the inward parts; and which, as he has promised to carry on and finish, he is faithful and will do it. His work in general is the outflow of His word, and it is true to it. He never says anything unkind, harmful, or wicked; in deed and speech He agrees with Himself. There is no lie in God's word, and nothing phony in His works; in creation, providence, and revelation, unadulterated truth abounds. To act truth as well as to utter it is divine. WHAT A GOD WE SERVE! The more we know about Him, the more our better our natures approve of His surpassing excellence; even His afflicting works are according to His truthful word.


And all His works are done "in faithfulness;" or rather, all that He does is executed faithfully. He does all that he promises, and all that He does inspires universal confidence in Him. Whatever he does is, from the very fact that He does it, worthy of the confidence of all His creatures. None, however they may be affected by what he does, have any reason to doubt that it is perfectly right. All God's working, all His dealings with His creatures have truth and equity and faithfulness for their basis. He can be thoroughly trusted. God is the only Being of whom we have any knowledge, toward whom we can feel this certain assurance.


In short, His way of acting both towards the godly and ungodly agrees with His promises to the one and His threatenings to the other, and so is done in truth; and all of this is a reason why the saints should praise the Lord.



5 He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.


He loveth righteousness and judgment

 “He loveth”For the righteous LORD loves righteousness. . .” (Psalm 11:7).

“Righteousness” is the wellspring of justice—“Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep” (Psalm 36.6).

Judgment (justice), that is, just judgment, relates to the sentence; to the execution of it. He not only does justice to all men, which was implied in verse 4, but, even more, He loves it, and delights in it—“The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed” (Psalm 103:6).


“He loveth righteousness and judgment,” or "righteous judgment;” He delights in His administration of it—But let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD which exercise loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, said the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:24). Acts of righteousness done by others give Him pleasure, when done according to His word, out of love for Him, by faith in Him, and with a desire to give Him glory. He especially loves the righteousness of His Son, since it satisfies His Law and justice, as does His people, who are clothed with it; and he delights in the condemnation of sin in the flesh of Christ, and in the righteous judgment of the world, and the prince of it: Jesus Christ.“For the righteous LORD loves righteousness; his countenance does behold the upright” (Psalm 11:7). The world, however, judges God's works, yet He does all things according to justice and mercy


The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord

“The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord,” of which all creatures partake; and of the special goodness or grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ; it was full of it mainly when Christ, who is full of grace and truth, was here on earth; and when the Gospel of the grace of God was preached everywhere by His apostles, according to His command, and appeared to all men; and so it will be even more so in the latter day, when multitudes will be called by grace and converted, and when the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord; and still more when it will become a new earth, where only righteous men will dwell.


It is because of “the goodness (mercy) of the Lord” that he not only does no man wrong, but he is very kind and merciful to all men in the world, to whom he gives many blessings and invitations to His love and service—“that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).


“The earth is full of the goodness(or, loving-kindness) of the Lord.” Every part of the earth bears witness that He is good. The earth, O Jehovah, is full of thy loving-kindness”(Psalm 119:64). The earth is full, not only of God's glory (Isaiah 6:3) and of His riches (Psalm 104:24), but also of His mercy, or loving-kindness, which is a ground for thankfulness that all will acknowledge.



6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.


By the word of the Lord were the heavens made

The starry heavens on high, and the heaven of heavens, the third heaven, the seat of the divine Majesty, and the habitation of angels and glorified saints; these were "made" out of nothing, not out of any pre-existent matter, nor were they eternal; and He made the creatures, so they are not to be worshipped, neither are the hosts mentioned in the next clause—angels, sun, moon, and stars. These were made by the Word of God, the essential Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who often goes by this name—“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1); it is a very fitting name for Him, who spoke for all His people in the covenant of grace, and undertook to be their surety (guarantee). He is the Word spoken of by all the holy prophets since the beginning of the world; the interpreter of His Father's mind and will, of which He must be capable of doing, since he lay in His bosom; and now He speaks for His saints in heaven, whose advocate He is. He may especially be called the Word of God because he frequently spoke on the six days of creation, and said, let this and the other thing be, and it was so; and to Him, as the Word of God, is the creation of all things frequently ascribed—“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:3). God is to be praised, not only for His goodness, but also for His greatness, and especially for His greatness in creation (see Psalm 19:1-6). The heavens were made "by His word" in a double sense—by the Word, who is the Second Person of the Trinity (John 1:3Hebrews 1:2, 10), and by a mere utterance, without the employment of any mechanical means, as we learn from Genesis 1:6-8. This is a proof of the deity of Christ, and of the dignity of His person; and shows how fit He is to be the Saviour of men; how safe the saints are in His hands; and that He ought to be trusted in, adored, and worshipped.


God made the heavens and earth with the sun and moon, and all its glorious stars, not with great pains and over time, and the help of many artists and instruments, as men do for lowlier works; but with one single word, or, with as much ease as men speak a word, merely by commanding them to be: a consideration, which wonderfully illustrates the power and glory of the Creator. For what cannot that power do which with a word made a world? 


And all the host of them by the breath of his mouth

By "the host" of the heavens are meant the angels of heaven, who dwell in the third heaven, and are the militia of it; they are called the heavenly host (Luke 2:13); they are under Jehovah, their Lord and King, and are the army He uses to accomplish His will (1 Kings 22:19); they accompanied Him whenever He has made any remarkable appearance; and they have been employed by Him against His enemies, and in defense of His people, about whom they encamp according to 2 Kings 19:35. The sun, moon, and stars, are the host of the next heaven, and they have been put in their proper place by the Lord, and he keeps an eye on them and is in control of them—“Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who has created these things, that brings out their host by number: he calls them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one fails” (Isaiah 40:26).


The sun, moon, and stars—the host of heavenly bodies were made "by the breath of God's mouth," that is, by the simple utterance of His word or command—"Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven, to divide the day from the night" (Genesis 1:14). By the breath of his mouth”—by His word or command—like our words which come out of our mouths along with our breath. The idea here is that God is the Creator of all things; and, as such, has a claim to praise; or, that as Creator he is entitled to adoration. To this he is entitled from the fact that he has made all things, and from the "manner" in which it has been done—the wisdom, power, goodness, skill, with which it has been accomplished.


It is interesting to note the mention of the Spirit in this clause, "the breath of his mouth;" the word "breath" is the same as that rendered Spirit, elsewhere. Thus the three persons of the Godhead unite in creating all things. How easy it is for the Lord to make the most ponderous celestial bodies, and the most glorious angels! A word, a breath could do it. It is as easy for God to create the universe as it is for a man to breathe, no, far easier, for man does not breathe independently, but borrows the breath in his nostrils from his Maker. It may be gathered from this verse that the “infinite wisdom” is the creator of all things, for a wise and merciful Word has arranged, and a living Spirit sustains all the creation of Jehovah.

7 He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses.


He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap

On the third day of the creation, “He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap,” which was the means by which the dry land appeared—“And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together to one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so” (Genesis 1:9)—when the waters of the sea were piled up as an heap, and stood higher than the earth, as they donow; and which is a wonderful instance of the power and providence of God, to contain them, and preserve the earth from being overflowed by them. But if he is not speaking of the creation, he must have alluded to the passage of the Israelites through the Red sea, when the waters were like a wall to them on the right hand and on the left. 


The comparison of the waters of the sea to an heap probably refers to how the sea appears from the shore, and may have been derived from Exodus 15:8—“And with the blast of your nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.” (Compare: Joshua 3:13, 16; Psalm 78:13.) The aim is to represent this as a continuous act; an act not merely of the original creation, but constantly occurring. The reference is to the power by which the waters are gathered and kept together; the continual power which prevents their overspreading the earth. The word rendered "heap," means a “pile” or "mound," and is applied to the waves of the sea heaped up together like mounds. He collected those waters, and kept them in their places, as if they were solid matter. This indicates the absolute control which God has over the waters, and is a most striking illustration of his power.


He layeth up the depth in storehouses

He layeth up the depth in store-houses,”that is, large quantities of water, either in the clouds of heaven above, or the vast masses of water stored away in subterranean abysses (Genesis 7:11Psalm 78:15), which the Lord opens and shuts up at His pleasure (Genesis 7:11).  The waters of the great deep are regarded as stored up by the Almighty in the huge cavities of the ocean bed, where He can draw them forth at some time or other, when he sees fit to use them in carrying out His purposes (compare Genesis 7:11; Job 38:22, 23). He has His treasure houses for the wind—“He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; he makes lightning for the rain; he brings the wind out of his treasuries. (Psalm 135:7).(Compare Jeremiah 10:13) And He has treasure houses for hail and snow—Have you entered into the treasures of the snow? or have you seen the treasures of the hail, (Job 38:22); and these are the clouds of heaven above. He places storehouses where he pleases; he disposes of them as the farmer does his grain, or the rich man his treasures. The caverns of the ocean - the ocean-beds - are vast reservoirs or treasure-houses for the reception of the waters which God has chosen to deposit there. All this is proof of His amazing power, and all this lays a proper foundation for praise. Grounds for gratitude to Him may be found in every world that He has made; in every object that has come from His hand; and nothing more "obviously" suggests this than His wondrous power over the waters of the ocean - collecting them, restraining them, controlling them, as he pleases



8 Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.


Let all the earth fear the Lord

“Let all the earth fear the Lord,” that is, all the people that dwell upon the face of the earth, as the next clause expands on this; not only Jews, but also Gentiles, who equally enjoy the benefit of this great and glorious work of God. The Psalmist was not a man blinded by national prejudice, he did not desire to restrict the worship of Jehovah to the seed of Abraham. He looks for homage even from far-off nations. If they are not well enough instructed to be able to praise at least let them fear. There is an inferior kind of worship in the fearful trembling which involuntarily acknowledges the boundless power of the thundering God. A defiant blasphemer is out of place in a world covered with tokens of the divine power and Godhead; the whole earth cannot afford to erect a synagogue of Atheism, nor a man in whom it is becoming to profane the name of God.


From the exhortation in verse 1, to praise the Lord, which was addressed to the righteous, the psalmist moves now to a second exhortation, addressed to all mankind, to fear the Lord.” And, as before in verses 4-7, so it is now in verses 9-11, he gives the reasons why God is to be feared:

(1)   On account of the power which he showed in creation (v. 9).

(2)  On account of His ability to baffle all human counsellors that are opposed to Him (v. 10).

(3)  On account of the unchangeableness and permanence of His own counsels, which nothing can alter (v. 11). 


Only the righteous have a right to "praise" God (see ver. 1), but "all the earth," that is, all mankind—may be called upon to "fear" Him. He is an object of awe and true "godly fear" to godly men; to the ungodly he is an object of terror and servile fear.


Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him

“Stand in awe of him” means to reverence and adore Him, or to respect and love Him. The expression is equivalent to "worship Him," and fear or reverence enters into the act of worship. "Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him." Let them forsake their idols, and reverently worship the only living God. What is placed here as a wish may also be read as a prophecy: the adoration of God will eventually become universal.


Fear and awe suggest a reverence of the divine Majesty, whose divine perfections are so obvious in the works of creation; and a carefulness not to offend Him, into whose hands it must be a fearful thing to fall. The whole worship of Him, which is often expressed in Scripture by “the fear of him:” but here it is to be understood either as:

(1)   the duty of all men; for to "fear God, and keep his commandments, is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13); and which is mandatory for all men, in consideration of His being their Creator; and the obligation to worship Him is increased through His providential care of them and goodness to them. But there is still more that can be found in them, since he will be their Judge, and has a dictatorial and irresistible power over them; and is there anything He cannot do, seeing that He has done everything related in the preceding verses, though none can fear Him properly, unless they have the grace of fear put into their hearts by the Spirit of God. Or,

(2)  a prophetic statement of how it will be in the last days, when not only the Jews will fear the Lord and His goodness—Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days” (Hosea 3:5), but when the last of the Gentiles have been brought into the church, all nations shall fear the Lord and glorify His name, and come and worship before Him—“Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come” (Isaiah 60:5).



9 For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.


For he spake, and it was done

“For he spake (literally, "said"), and it was done;” BETTER, “and it was;” the thing of which he spoke came into existence at once—“And God said, Let there be light; and there was light" (Genesis 1:8). (Compare Genesis 1:3-10) It came into being because the words were accompanied by almighty power.


He commanded, and it stood fast

“He commanded, and it stood fast;” literally, “and it stood;” like a servant does at his master’s command. God's gentlest word, once uttered, is a standing law, to which nature absolutely conforms, and man ought to conform (Compare Psalm 119:90, 91). HE commanded and it stood; came into existence and stood there before Him ready to obey His commands; or simply, stood firm. (Compare Psalm 148:5; Isaiah 48:13)


“And it stood fast;” every created thing continued to live on; not only all the things that were brought into being by His all commanding word and power; and by the same power, all things are maintained—“The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:3).The poet uses the same word of God to describe the creation of things; or this may refer to the implantation of the grace of fear in the hearts of His people; for as he speaks life into them in regeneration, commands light to shine in their dark heart, and says to them, when in their blood, Live; so by the mighty power of His word he commands the fear of Him in them, and it continues. 



10 The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect.


The Lord bringeth the counsel of the Heathen to nought

“The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought;” literally, frustrates the plans of the heathen, and causes them to fail (see 2 Kings 6:8-12Daniel 6:5-28). The word rendered here as "heathen" means "nations;" and the idea is that God, by His own overruling purpose and providence, frustrates the plans of the nations of the earth; that he advances His own plans and purposes in spite of theirs; their plans avail nothing when they come in competition with His—their purposes must yield to His purpose.


“The Lord bringeth”—the idea now moves on to the irresistible rule of Jehovah. His counsel stands for all generations, and since it is righteous as well as eternal, it frustrates the counsel and thoughts of the heathen, while His chosen people (v. 12) rest in enduring peace under the Theocracy[ii]. (Compare Acts 5:38.) Though nations combine their forces and their intelligence together, and plan wickedness against the Lord's people, His cause and interest, and so they plot against the Lord Himself; and yet, He defeats them whenever He pleases. And though their schemes are formed and contrived with a great deal of subtlety, yet they are commonly blown away; whether laid by particular persons, such as Ahithophel against David; or by nations, whole legions of men, like the Egyptians and Assyrians against Israel; and of Jews and Gentiles against Christ and His cause. All the plans and purposes of the nations of the earth that conflict with the purposes of God will be futile; all those plans, whatever they may be, will be made subservient under His providence to the promotion of His great purposes and plans.“Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give earall ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in piecesgird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces. Take counsel together, and it shall come to noughtspeak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us” (Isaiah 8:9-10).


He maketh the devices of the people of none effect

The same thing is expressed here as in the previous clause (Another instance of the repetition of a thought), but in different words, in order to provide additional confirmation of it, and that it might be kept on your mind. This is the Lord's doing, he is omniscient, and knows all the secret plots and plans of men; and He is omnipotent, and renders them vain, unsuccessful, and ineffective—He spoils their plans, and confounds them in all their goings-on formed against Him; and is faithful to His people, cause, and interest.


The word "people" as it is used here is tantamount to "nations," and the idea is that whatever may be the thoughts and purposes of human beings, if they are opposed to the plans of God, or if they do not tend to promote His glory, they will be rendered futile or vain. God is a great and glorious Sovereign over all, and He will make everything subordinate to the promotion of His own great plans.



11 The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.


The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever

“The counsel of the Lord (The purpose of the Lord.)standeth for ever does not mean “the doctrines of the Gospel,” nor “the ordinances of it;” though these will stand firm, and remain to the end of the world; but what is meant is the purposes and decrees of God, which He has wisely formed in Himself, for they are eternal and cannot be frustrated, and relate to all things in providence and grace. The Lord does all things according to the counsel of His will in the government of the world, and in the salvation of men: the choice of persons to everlasting life is according to it; and so are their redemption, effectual calling, and glorification; 


The contrast between the counsels of God and man is made as complete as possible. Human counsels and devices fail and come to nought (v. 10), but the Divine counsels and devices abide, stand fast, and remain firm for ever—“There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand” (Proverbs 19:21). “The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever”—it will be carried out, and will never be changed. There can be no "superior" counsel or will that can change it, as is the case with the plans of men; and no purposes of any beings "inferior" to Himself—angels, men, or devils—can affect, defeat, or modify His eternal plans. No changes in human affairs can impede His plans; no opposition can defeat them; no progress can displace them.All His purposes and designs, and especially those which concern His chosen people, of whom he speaks in the next verse, are always successful and irresistible.


The thoughts of his heart to all generations

“The thoughts of his heart”—the things which he has planned," or which He intends to accomplish for His own people, are thoughts of peace, grace, and mercy; these are many, and within Himself; came very early, even from all eternity, and have had their sure and certain effect—“The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand” (Isaiah 14:24).


“To all generations” means "to generation upon generation." That is, from one generation of men to another; or, to all time. The plans of God are not changed by the passing off of one generation and the coming on of another; by new dynasties of kings, or by the revolutions that may occur in countries. Men can seldom cause their plans to be carried forward beyond the generation in which they live; and they can have no security that coming generations, with their own plans, will not abolish or change all that has been devised or purposed before. No man can make it certain that his own will, even in regard to "property," will be carried out in the generation that succeeds him. No monarch can make it certain that his plans will be completed by his successors. Schemes devised with the profoundest care and the highest wisdom may be set aside by those who do not have sufficient interest in him or his memory to carry on with his plans. Who feels now any obligation to carry out the projects of Caesar or Alexander? How long since have all their plans passed away! So it will be with all who are now playing their parts on the earth! But none of these things affect the purposes of Him who will continue to live and to carry out His own designs when all the generations of human beings shall have passed away.



12Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.


Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord

“Blessed is the nation whose God is”such a wonder working God, both in creation and in providence, and especially in grace: which, though it may have had its principal connection with the nation of Israel, whose God He was in a very distinctive manner, yet He must not be limited to them; for He is the God of the Gentiles also. The church of Jesus Christ is the chosen generation, the holy nation and peculiar people, both among Jews and Gentiles; and the Lord is their God; not only as the God of nature and providence, but as the God of all grace; who must be happy, since he is their portion and exceeding great reward; nor shall they want for any good thing, nor do they need to fear any evil; they are on the heart of God, and cannot be separated from His love. They are engraved on the palms of His hands, and shall be helped, strengthened, and upheld with the right hand of His righteousness; all things work together for their good; and this God of theirs will be their God and guide unto death; they may expect every needful good thing now, and all glory and happiness hereafter. The idea here is that the nation referred to is happy, or that its condition is desirable. What is true of a nation is just as true of an individual.


“Blessed is the nation”—Seeing that the Lord is so great and glorious in wisdom, and power, and goodness, those who are either strangers or enemies to Him must be very miserable; but, the people of Israel must be very happy, for though they may be despised by the Gentiles, they have been chosen by this almighty God to be his peculiar portion, friends and servants. Israel was happy in the worship of the only true God. It was the blessedness of the chosen nation to have received a revelation from Jehovah. While others groveled before their idols, the chosen people were elevated by a spiritual religion which introduced them to the invisible God, and led them to trust in Him. All who confide in the Lord are blessed in the largest and deepest sense, and none can reverse the blessing.


“Whose God is the Lord” (Whose God is Yahweh, in the original Hebrew.)—that is, the nation which worships Yahweh, and is under His protection. This is evidently said to distinguish such a nation from those which worshipped false gods or idols. Such a nation is blessed or happy, because:

(1)   He is a real God, the true God, and not the product of somebody’s imagination.

(2)  His laws are just and good, and their observance will always tend to promote the public welfare and prosperity.

(3)  His protection will be granted to such a nation.

(4)  His worship, and the influence of His religion, will tend to spread virtue, intelligence, purity, and truth, over a land, and thus will promote its welfare.

(5)  The people of Israel are blessed. Other nations did not know God as Jehovah—the Self-existent One—or, as a general rule, recognize any one and only God.

(6)  All our happiness stands in this, that the Lord is our God—Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yes, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 144:15).


And the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance

“And the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance,” that is, chosen to be "His;" or, His portion. The primary reference here is undoubtedly to the Hebrew people, called His "inheritance"—“But the LORD has taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be to him a people of inheritance, as you are this day” (Deuteronomy 4:20: Compare Deuteronomy 9:26Deuteronomy 32:9;Psalm 74:2Psalm 78:62Psalm 78:71)—or "heritage," Psalm 94:5Jeremiah 12:7,Jeremiah 12:9; but what is said here of the Hebrew people is also true of all other people who worship the true God: not Israel only, but the Gentiles also; not all mankind, but a peculiar people, whom the Lord has chosen out of the world to be His possession, and who are His jewels and peculiar treasure; these are happy being the Lord's portion, and the measure of His inheritance; and he chooses an inheritance for them, adopts and begets them unto it, and makes them fit to be partakers of it.


Election is at the bottom of it all. The divine choice rules the day; none take Jehovah to be their God until He takes them to be His people. What a noble choice this is! We are selected to no lowly estate, and for no shameful purpose: we are made the peculiar disciples and delight of the Lord our God. Being so blessed, let us rejoice in our portion, and show the world by our lives that we serve a glorious Master. We are "blessed" in two respects: first, because we know God as Jehovah; and secondly, because he has chosen us out of all the nations of the earth to be His "peculiar people" (see Exodus 19:5Deuteronomy 4:20Deuteronomy 7:6Deuteronomy 14:21 Kings 8:53; Psalm 135:4, etc.).

13 The LORD looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men.


The Lord looketh from heaven

“The Lord looketh from heaven,” where His throne and temple are, upon men, the earth, and things in it.The Lord is represented as dwelling above and looking down below; seeing all things, but particularly observing and caring for those who trust in Him. It is one of our choicest privileges to always be under our Father's eye, and to never be out of sight of our best Friend.


The meaning here is that He sees all that dwell upon the earth, and therefore, all that worship Him are under His eye. He knows their wants, and He will watch over them and protect them. The psalmist does not merely mean to say that God sees all who dwell upon the earth; but that those who are His friends, or who worship Him, are all under His eye, and can enjoy His watchful care and attention.He proves that all things are governed by God's providence and not by chance or luck.


He beholdeth all the sons of men

The Lord sees the evil and the good; which is contrary to what many wicked men believe, who imagine that He pays no attention to what is done here below; but His eye is upon everything; upon all the workers of iniquity, regardless of how secretive they may be; and not only His eye of Providence is upon good men, but His eye of love, grace, and mercy; and he has a special and distinct knowledge of them. Some expressions of Heathen writers seem to bear this out: for example, one says “the eye of God sees all things;” and another, "there is a great God in heaven who sees all things, and governs.” Certainly, all of Adam's sons are as well watched as Adam himself was, their lone ancestor in the garden. Ranging from the frozen pole to the scorching equator, dwelling in hills and valleys, in huts and palaces alike—the divine eye observes all the members of the family of man.Although he had a special relationship with Israel, yet he provides for the general care of all mankind, all whose hearts and ways he observes.



14 From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth. (A repetition of the thought expressed in verse 13 for the sake of emphasis.)


From the place of his habitation

“From the place of his habitation,” which is heaven, the habitation (His dwelling-heaven) of His holiness, and of His glory—Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of your holiness and of your glory: where is your zeal and your strength, the sounding of your bowels and of your mercies toward me? are they restrained?” (Isaiah 63:15).In this excellent and pious prayer in which they entreat God, for His grace and mercy, and to behold them with an eye of compassion, they argue both from the goodness of His nature, and from the greatness of the works which He had formerly done for them. God sees everywhere and everything; but He is said to look down from heaven, because His throne is there, on which He reigns in majesty.


He looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth

“He looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth” is a repetition of the thought expressed in verse 13 for the sake of emphasis.“He looketh upon”—He continually sees. The sentiment is repeated here to show that no one can escape His eye; that the condition, the characters, the wants of all are intimately known to Him, and that thus He watches over His people—all that love and serve Him—and He can protect them from danger (See verses 18-19.). He watches the good and bad; and not those of the nation of Israel only, but the Gentile world, whom in former times he overlooked, but under the Gospel dispensation He has shown them the way of mercy; by sending His son to die for them, by spreading His Gospel among them, by calling them by His grace, by planting churches in the midst of them, and by continuing His word and ordinances with them.



15 He fashioneth their hearts alike; he considereth all their works.


He fashioneth their hearts alike

“Fashioneth,” or fashioned, or made, or formed. He fashioneth their hearts “alike;” rather, he molds the hearts of them all;and hence knows and controls them—“The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). The hearts of all men are in God's keeping, and His gracious influences are exerted to "mold" them properly. Some hearts are too stubborn to yield themselves to His fashioning, and refuse to accept the influence which He desires to impart; but all, or almost all, owe it to Him that they are not worse than they are. 


“He fashioneth their hearts alike”—no one is exempt from His control, or from all that is implied in the word "fashioneth." The meaning is not that their hearts are made to "resemble" each other, or to be "like" each other, whether in goodness or in wickedness—but that all are alike in that they are made by Him. “Alike,” or equal; whether they are Jews or Gentiles, bond or free, princes or peasants; all are alike, in that they are subject to His jurisdiction. The Lord is the former and fashioner of the heart, spirit, or soul of man, even of all hearts and spirits; hence He is called the Father of spirits (See Hebrews 12:9; Zechariah 12:1), which seems to suggest that all souls were alike, since they are all made by the Lord; and it may be that the difference that appears between them afterwards, may be due to the make-up and constitution of their bodies, to their education, and different situations, circumstances, and advantages in life, whereby the hearts of some may be more opened and enlarged than others. Souls are created, not generated; they are produced out of nothing, and not out of pre-existent matter, as our bodies are; parents contribute something to the bodies of their children, but not anything to their souls. God only "is the God of the spirits of all flesh" (Numbers 16:22). He continues to fashion them, and is always doing it—The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, said the LORD, which stretches forth the heavens, and lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him” (Zechariah 12:1). And He forms the hearts of His own people anew for Himself, for His own glory; He forms Christ in them, and every grace of His Spirit; He forms them into one, and knits and unites them together in love, and makes them like one another; He does all this alone; and since He fashions the hearts of all men in every sense, He must know them; He knows the hearts of wicked men, and all the wickedness that is in them; he knows the hearts of good men, the worst that is in them, and also the best, which He Himself has put there.


The idea in the word "fashioneth," as it is used here, is not that of "creating," in the sense that He "makes" the heart what it is by His own power, whether good or bad; but that, inasmuch as He has "formed" the hearts of all people, He must see what is in the heart, or must behold all the purposes and thoughts of people. The Maker of the human heart must understand what is in it; and, therefore, He must have a clear understanding of the purposes and designs of human beings. This idea is carried out in the last part of the sentence, "He considereth all their works," and is substantially the same as expressed in Psalm 94:9, "He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see?"


He considereth all their works

“He considereth all their works;” rather, he understands all their works. He understands all that they do; He knows the true nature of each act, its motive, aim, essence. God knows men's motives; He knows the works of evil men, not only their more open ones, but their more secret ones, and will bring them into judgment; and He knows the works of good men, even their good works, which He will remember and reward by the means of grace. 


 The purpose here is to state the universal sovereignty of God. He made all things; He presides over all things; He sees all things; He is the source of safety and protection for all. He who created man must know man’s heart (Psalm 94:9). As God ‘formed’ man originally (Genesis 2:7-8), so He continues to ‘form the hearts’ of individuals and of races (Zechariah 12:1). All are in some sense subservient to His plan and purpose.



16 There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength.


There is no king saved by the multitude of an host

“There is no king saved by the multitude of an host”better, “The king does not triumph because of the enormity of his force.” His safety, regardless of how numerous and mighty his forces may be, is found in God alone. He is the great Protector, in spite of the means men may use to defend themselves. The most numerous and the best organized armies cannot always obtain a victory. It is, after all, entirely in the hands of God. A debilitating sickness in a camp may defeat all the plans of war; or success in battle may depend on eventualities which no commander could anticipate or prepare for. A mutiny in a camp, or a panic on the battlefield, may frustrate and spoil the best-laid plans; or forces may encounter an army that was unexpected; or violent thunder storms and high winds may cancel or frustrate the entire plan of the campaign. He may be at the head of a large army, and yet not get the victory over a lesser one, or escape out of harm's way, but be seized by it: there have been such occasions; but, if he is saved, or gets the victory, it is not due to the multitude with him, but to the Lord, who gives salvation to kings, “It is he that gives salvation to kings: who delivers David his servant from the hurtful sword. (Psalm 144:10). Hence it appears that even kings need salvation, and cannot save themselves, though they have ever so many at their command, and therefore are not to be relied on, for salvation is only of the Lord. It follows then that if kings and the mighty of the world cannot be saved by worldly means, but only by God's providence, what do others have to trust in, who do not have Him as their Lord and Savior. “And Asa cried to the LORD his God, and said, LORD, it is nothing with you to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O LORD our God; for we rest on you, and in your name we go against this multitude. O LORD, you are our God; let no man prevail against you” (2 Chronicles 14:11).


A mighty man is not delivered by much strength

David uses kings and mighty men, as examples of the most uncontrollable persons in the world, and most confident in themselves; by which he clearly proves his general proposition of God’s powerful providence over all men—for example, even Goliath of Gath., a giant with great strength, could not deliver himself out of the hands of David, a youth; hence the mighty man should not glory in his might. “And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hands” (1 Samuel 17:47)."Strength" is not the only thing necessary to secure a victory.Other things are needed to ensure success; and God has the power to arrange events, so that mere strength shall be of no avail.



17 An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength.


A horse is a vain thing for safety

A better understanding of this clause will come from recognizing what the poet has in view with the three terms—“a horse,” “a vain thing,” and “for safety.”


“A horse”—the reference here to ‘a horse” is undoubtedly to the war-horse (See Job 39:19-25). “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7).“A horse” is not to be depended on for safety, because it is "a futile thing," quite unable to secure victory, or even escape to those who are its friends. The use of the horse in war seems to be implied here and was certainly familiar to the writer, hence it is correctly concluded that he must have lived later than the time of David. Solomon was the first Israelite king who made use of a chariot and a cavalry force—Solomon accumulated chariots and horses; he had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses, which he kept in the chariot cities and also with him in Jerusalem” (1 Kings 10:26). 


Though “a horse” is fitted with armor and is prepared for the day of battle, and is a very warlike creature, and of great service in war, yet safety is of the Lord only—“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD” (Proverbs 21:3). The horse is used here to signify all kinds of military preparations which men are apt to trust in, but should not do so, for they are "a lie,” as the horse is said to be here; that is, when trusted for safety, it deceives and disappoints. A horse”—to the Israelite’s cavalry seemed the most formidable part of an army—but is a vain thing—literally, “a lie,” and “a delusion”—when trusted for safety, and for victory.


“A vain thing” - literally, is a "lie,"which deceives us. That is, he cannot be trusted.


“For safety”—better, for victory—Were you angry with the rivers, LORD? Was your wrath against the streams? Did you rage against the sea when you rode your horses and your chariots to victory? (Habakkuk 3:8). The reference is to the war-horse as a source of safety in battle. He is liable to be struck down by an enemy’s arrow or lance, or to become wild and enraged so that he is beyond the control of his rider; and regardless of how strong or fast he may be, or however well he may be "broken," yet none of these things make it certain that the rider will be safe. God is the only being in whom perfect confidence can be placed.


Neither shall he deliver any by his great strength

“Neither shall he deliver any by his great strength” in the time of battle; either by fighting for him, or fleeing with him.It cannot even secure its rider’s escape in case of defeat—His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior” (Psalms 147:10).Safety cannot be found in a horse’s "strength," however great that may be. These illustrations are all designed to lead the mind to the great idea that safety is to be found in God alone (See verses 18 and 19).



18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;


Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him

The “fear,” in this case, is not dread of His wrath, or distrust of His grace, nor is it for sinister ends and selfish urges, but rather a godly fear (reverential awe, respectreverenceveneration.); by which men come to hate evil, depart from it, are careful not to offend God by it, but to serve and worship Him.On men like these he not only has His eye of Providence to protect from danger, to supply with the necessities of life, but the eye of love and grace. He looks upon them with delight and pleasure; His eye is upon them to watch over them for good, to guard them from every enemy, and from all evil, and to communicate to them every measure of grace they need. Their security is in the fact that the eye of God is upon them; that he knows their wants; that he sees their dangers; that he has ample ability to deliver and save them. The eye of the Lord,” in a certain sense, is upon everyone (vs. 13, 14), but it rests principally upon the righteous. He takes note of how all men act, but carefully watches over the safety and prosperity of His faithful ones—these are the chief objects of His care and blessings. Therefore, anybody who desires safety and deliverance, must seek and expect it only from the watchful eye and almighty hand of God. 


Upon them that hope in his mercy

Not His customary “mercy,” which is shared by all (light, air, food, shelter, etc.), but His special mercy in Christ; which appears in the provision of Him as a Saviour, in the mission He has in this world, and redemption which comes by faith in Him; and is displayed in regeneration, the pardon of sin, and eternal life: and those that hope and seek for it, see themselves as miserable creatures, and in need of it; and they are encouraged to hope for it by the abundance of it in the heart of God; and from the many occurrences of it among men, and even some of the chief sinners; and they do hope in it for their happiness, the forgiveness of their sins, and for salvation and eternal glory; and on these the eye of the Lord is, “upon them.”


“Upon them that hope in his mercy,” that is, upon the pious; upon His friends and all who wait for His loving-kindness—“Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD” (Psalm 31:24).The expression is a very beautiful one. It describes the true state of a pious heart; it in fact characterizes the whole of religion, for we imply all that there is in religion on earth when we say of a man, that though conscious of his weakness and sinfulness; "He hopes in the mercy of God."


Them that hope in His mercies; that place their hope, and trust, and happiness not in any creature, but only in God, and in His mercy and blessings, will have what they hope for. The conjunction and order of these two qualifications of the person whom God careth for is observable here, they must be such as fear God, and so make a conscience decision to keep His commands (Ecclesiastes 12:13), and then they may and must hope in or rely upon His mercy for their safety and happiness.



19 To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.


To deliver their soul from death

“To deliver their soul from death”—violent death by war or pestilence is meant, as the next clause shows—famine was a common scourge in Palestine (Psalm 37:19). The poet is NOT speaking of a physical death, for the soul does not die, and is never in any danger of death; and should live forever, or the whole man may be intended here, yet those that fear the Lord, and hope in His mercy, are not exempted and secured from a physical death, but die like other men; though sometimes they are remarkably preserved from death, and even in a time of general calamity; but a spiritual death is meant, which, they are under while in the natural state; but, being quickened at conversion, they live spiritually, and are preserved from dying any more in this sense. And they are also kept from an eternal death, which shall never harm them, nor have any power over them; but not from physical death, though the Lord has given meat to them that fear Him, and sometimes provides for themin a miraculous way; such as by sending ravens to feed them, and by increasing the cruse of oil (See Isaiah 41:17). The idea is, to keep them alive. That is, God is their Protector; He guards and defends them when in danger. He provides the protection and deliverance, which a man's own strength cannot give, which no army, regardless of its size, can afford (ver. 16), which cannot be obtained from the largest chariot or cavalry force (ver. 17).  God can, and He will freely furnish the protection needed, for He alone keeps souls from death, and "delivers" those who are in peril. 


And to keep them alive in famine

“And to keep them alive in famine,” or rather, in times of need—“In famine he shall redeem you from death: and in war from the power of the sword” (Job 5:20). He can provide for them when the harvests fail. Famine was one of the evils to which the inhabitants of Palestine, and of Oriental countries in general, were particularly exposed, and it is often referred to in the Scriptures. (see Genesis 12:10Genesis 26:1;Genesis 42:5Ruth 1:12 Samuel 21:11 Kings 18:52 Kings 8:1, etc.). The righteous were sometimes "kept alive"through a time of famine by miraculous means—“And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook. . . And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah” (1 Kings 17:6, 16).



20 Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield.


Our soul waiteth for the Lord

“Our soul waiteth for the Lord”—this and the following verses to the end of the psalm refer to the people of God, expressing their faith in Him in regard to the considerations suggested in the previous part of the psalm. The language is expressive of the general character of piety. True piety leads people to wait on the Lord; to depend on Him; to look to His intervention in times of danger, sickness, poverty, want; to rely upon Him for all that is hoped for in this life, and for salvation in the life to come. Compare: 

  • Psalm 62:1: “Truly my soul waits on God: from him comes my salvation.” My soul is still (calm) in God.
  • Psalm 25:3: “Yes, let none that wait on you be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause. To "wait on the Lord" is an expression denoting true piety, and indicates our dependence on Him, and implies that we look to Him for the command that is to regulate our conduct and for the grace needed to protect and save us.


Here the godly declare their reliance upon Him whom the Psalm exalts. Waiting is a great lesson. To be quiet in expectation, patient in hope, confident of God’s saving grace, is one of the happy attainments of a Christian. Our soul, our life, must hang upon God; we are not to trust Him with a few words of praise, but with all we have and are.


This, and what follows, are the words of the church, which depends on God's providence, expressing her expectation, faith, and joy, in response to what is suggested in the preceding verses. She shows her expectation of good by waiting for the Lord; either for His coming in the flesh, and salvation by Him; for which the patriarchs, prophets, and all the Old Testament saints, waited—“I have waited for your salvation, O LORD (Genesis 49:18); or for His spiritual coming, His appearance to them, and gracious presence with them; and it is right and good to do so, in view of the fact that He has been absent for some time; and because this is soul waiting, it denotes the heartiness, sincerity, and earnestness of it. Confident in God's good will, and in His power to help us, we wait patiently and cheerfully for Him to manifest Himself in His own good time. 


He is our help and our shield

“He is our help”that is, the help of His true Israel, to whom He has made many promises and glorious discoveries of His goodness. He is our help— our aid, and our helper. (Compare Psalm 10:14Psalm 22:11Psalm 30:10.)


He is also the help of us Israelites, to whom He has made many promises and glorious discoveries of His goodness. The Lord is the help of His people in times of trouble, when no one else is or can be; and he is a present one, and helps early on, and at the best time. And He is their shield, who surrounds them with His love and blessings, and keeps them in the greatest safety by His power; all of which encourages their waiting upon Him, and expectation of good things from Him.


“And our shield”—For you, LORD, will bless the righteous; with favor will you compass him as with a shield” (Psalm 5:12). That is, He will defend us from our enemies, as if He threw His shield between us and them.


"He is our help and our shield." Our help in our work, our shield in danger. He is their all in all to His people. Note the three "ours" in the text. These words are precious. Personal possession (of Christ) makes the Christian man; all else is mere talk. He is our Help and our Shield. We trust in no one and nothing but Him - not in armies (v. 16), not in horses (v. 17), not in our own strength (v. 16). We depend on God alone.


21 For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name.


For our heart shall rejoice in him

“For our heart shall rejoice in him,” not in sin, nor in themselves or in their boasting, for all such rejoicing is evil; but we shall rejoice in the Lord, in His Word; in JesusChrist; in His person, righteousness, and salvation; and this joy is heart joy, inward joy, real joy, joy in the Holy Ghost; and it is unspeakable and full of glory. This is what the psalmist calls upon the saints to do, in the beginning of the psalm. The psalmist said something similar in Psalm 13:5: But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.” Trust in God secures His help, and this brings the deliverance that the heart rejoices in.


Because we have trusted in his holy name

“Because we have trusted in his holy name,” that is, in Himself, who is holy, just, and good; and so faithful to every word of promise, to every commitment of His, and therefore to be trusted in: and hence it appears that the joy spoken of in the first clause is the joy of faith. It will always, and in all circumstances, be a source of joy for anyone that has put his trust in the name of God.


“His holy name” is the same as “In him;" the "name" is often used for the person himself: for example—“May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you” (Psalm 20:1).The idea presented in this verse is:

a)    That the fact of our having put our trust in God is in itself an occasion of joy or rejoicing.

b)   That the result of having done (a) will be joy, for we shall never be disappointed.



22 Let thy mercy, O LORD, be upon us, according as we hope in thee.


Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us

“Let thy mercy (or, “thy loving-kindness”) O Lord, be upon us,” that is, let us find or obtain thy mercy or thy blessings; or the effects of an application of thy mercy. It is a prayer for a transmission of grace and mercy to help in a time of need; and for a discovery of pardoning grace and mercy; and it is a prayer of faith; for the mercy of the Lord is upon His people in great abundance, and they have reason to believe it will continue (v. 17). Compare:

  • Psalm 33:5:“The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.” 
  • Psalm 33:18: “Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy.”


According as we hope in thee

According as we have hoped in thee (or, waited for thee),” not according to any merits of their own, but according to the quantity of grace, (the grace of hope), which God had bestowed on them, and encouraged them to exercise on Him, in expectation of finding grace and mercy with Him.“And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:4-5).The measure of men's hope and trust in God is the measure of His mercy and goodness to them. Those who are assured that they have a full trust in Him may confidently expect a full and complete deliverance. It may be observed in regard to this clause:

  1. It is only "reasonable" that we should look for the blessings of God only if we trust in Him, for we should not expect His blessings beyond the extent of our confidence in Him.
  2. This may be regarded as the most that we are entitled to hope to receive from God. We have no reason to suppose that He will go beyond our wishes and prayers, or that He will confer blessings on us which we neither expect nor desire.
  3. One of the reasons why the people of God are not blessed more than they are, or why they receive no more blessings from Him, may be found in what is suggestedhere. Because they expect little, they obtain little; since they have no intense, burning, lofty desire for the blessings of God, either for themselves personally, or for their families, or for the world, consequently they obtain only slight tokens of His blessings.
  4. The true principle, therefore, upon which God is willing to bestow His blessings, and which will be the rule that He will observe, is, that if people desire much, they will obtain much; that if they have big expectations, they will not be disappointed; and that God is willing to bestow His mercies upon His people and upon the world to the magnitude of their desires and hopes. Compare:
  • Psalm 81:10: "For it was I, the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things.” To pray for mercies—Ask freely, and abundantly, and boldly, for whatever you need, or desire (within reason); and I will fill it, that is, I will give or grant them all, upon the condition of your obedience.
  • Psalm 37:4: Delight yourself also in the LORD: and he shall give you the desires of your heart.—literally, the "requests" of thy heart. What you really "desire" will be granted to you.


How intense and fervent, then, should be the prayers and the petitions of the people of God! How earnest the supplications of sinners that God would have mercy on them!


[i] The act, practice, or art of setting psalms to music; psalms or hymns collectively, or the act, practice, or art of singing psalms.


[ii] Government of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided.