Tom Lowe

Psalm 97

(A Messianic Psalm of David)


Title: The Crowning day That’s Coming

Theme: Songs of Joy


Scripture (Psalm 97)

1 The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.

2 Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.

3 A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about.

4 His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled.

5 The hills melted like wax at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

6 The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory.

7 Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods.

8 Zion heard, and was glad; and the daughters of Judah rejoiced because of thy judgments, O LORD.

9 For thou, LORD, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods.

10 Ye that love the LORD, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.

11 Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.

12 Rejoice in the LORD, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.



Some of the opening words of this psalm were quoted by James A. Garfield on that night when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, as Garfield sought to quiet a restless mob on Wall Street, New York City. He concluded his remarks by saying, “God reigns, and the government in Washington still stands.”

God as Creator and the source of all righteousness and truth is again emphasized and amplified in Psalms 97. Here God is described: (1) as the Supreme One before whom creation itself is always on the verge of annihilation; and (2) then as the Faithful One whose goodness and holiness are always being disclosed to all peoples through Zion.{1]

The dissolution of the earth mentioned here (97:5), is possibly a reference to both the First and Second Advents of Jesus Christ, a figurative reference to the First, and a literal reference to the Second, when "Every mountain and every island shall be moved out of its place" (Revelation 6:14).

Most authorities assign this psalm to David, but it is not clear what induced him to write it. The Syriac version has “A Psalm of David in which he predicts the advent of Christ (i.e., in the flesh) and through it, his last appearing (i.e., in judgment).” These evidences of Davidic authorship are certainly worthy of consideration, although, again, the name of the author remains uncertain. Much of this psalm is in the Spirit of David's finest compositions, and yet many learned men suppose it was written to celebrate the Lord’s power and goodness in the restoration of the Jews from their Babylonian captivity.

[1} Zion is often used as a synonym for Jerusalem.  It commonly referred to a specific hill in Jerusalem (Mount Zion), on which stood a Jebusite fortress of the same name that was conquered by David and was named the City of David.



1 The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.

THE LORD REIGNETH (“Jehovah reigneth”—this is the Lord Jesus.)

“The Lord reigneth” is an expression of the full sovereignty of God.  It is expressing not just a fact, but an act.  God has visibly stepped down into the arena of human affairs in the person of the Lord Jesus and deliberately taken the administration of earth’s affairs into His own hands.  At a time when men and nations looked upon His cause as languishing in defeat through the Exile{2], the Lord asserted His power to bring a remnant back to their promised land again. 

 Next to the existence of God there is nothing that we are more anxious to believe and contemplate than God’s dominion, that Jehovah is God, and that this God reigns. He is King of all creation, and is the owner and proprietor of all persons and things; He is King in fact, and does direct and dispose of all the creatures and all their actions according to the counsel of His own will.  This is celebrated here, and in many other psalms: THE LORD REIGNS!  It is the song of the gospel church, of the glorified church“And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (Revelation 19:6); Hallelujah; the Lord God omnipotent reigns. 

One of these days JESUS IS COMING AGAIN!  He is going to overthrow what is left of the great world revolution and its monstrous tyrant, the beast; by sovereign right, He will proclaim Himself King and robe Himself with majesty.  The Lord wears the garb of royalty because He is, and intends to act as, king.  He will do that because He owes His world empire to nobody but Himself, and because no human authority can be set over Him to crown Him.  He will crown Himself and robe Himself, then turn to His beloved, the Church, and invest her with the rank and robes of royalty, as well. 

This is the general fact to be dwelt upon; this is the foundation of joy and praise. The universe is not without a sovereign. It is not the abode of anarchy. It is not the production of chance. It is not subject to mere physical laws. It is not under the control of evil. It is under the government of a God: a wise, holy, intelligent, just, benevolent Being, who rules it well, and who presides over all its affairs. If there is anything for which we should rejoice, it is that there is One Mind, everlasting and most glorious, who presides over the universe, and conducts all things according to his own wise and eternal plan.


“The earth” itself has good reasons for universal joy; all parts of it; all that live upon it. For the earth everywhere derives whatever it has of fertility, beauty, grandeur, or stability, from God. He has diffused order, beauty, and productiveness everywhere over it; and it has received many proofs of the divine generosity toward it.

When Almighty God condescends to come to earth, the earth is bound to rejoice. This, of course concerns the First Advent, when God's visitation of our sinful earth was indeed a matter of good news and universal rejoicing. It will not be that way when He comes for the Second time, because then, "All the tribes of the earth will mourn over him" (Revelation 1:7). The greatest glory of the human race is simply this: “Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, To guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).


The eye of the psalmist is evidently fixed on the numerous islands which are scattered over the sea, for it is not merely the continents that have cause for joy, but the beautiful islands―the places on earth which are entirely surrounded by water and which are covered with fruits and flowers―these, too, have cause to rejoice: to rejoice that God has never forgotten His creation; that He keeps them from being overflowed with water, or washed away by waves; that He clothes them with beauty; that He makes them the habitat of happy life; that He places them in the unexploited parts of the ocean as He does the stars in the vacant places in the sky, to beautify the universe. The idea in the verse is that all the earth has cause to rejoice that Yahweh reigns.

[2} The Babylonian captivity or Babylonian exile is the period in Jewish history during which a number of people from the ancient Kingdom of Judah were captives in Babylonia. After the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BCE [BCE (Before Common Era) and BC (Before Christ) mean the same thing―previous to year 1 CE (Common Era). This is the same as the year AD 1], Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, besieged Jerusalem, resulting in tribute being paid by King Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim refused to pay tribute in Nebuchadnezzar's fourth year, which led to another siege in Nebuchadnezzar's seventh year, culminating with the death of Jehoiakim and the exile of King Jeconiah, his court and many others; Jeconiah's successor Zedekiah and others were exiled in Nebuchadnezzar's eighteenth year; a later deportation occurred in Nebuchadnezzar's twenty-third year. The dates, numbers of deportations, and numbers of deportees given in the biblical accounts vary. These deportations are dated to 597 BCE for the first, with others dated at 587/586 BCE, and 582/581 BCE respectively.  After the fall of Babylon to the Persian king Cyrus the Great in 539 BCE, exiled Judeans were permitted to return to Judah.  According to the biblical book of Ezra, construction of the second temple in Jerusalem began around 537 BCE. All these events are considered significant in Jewish history and culture, and had a far-reaching impact on the development of Judaism.

2 Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne


This is a description of the majesty of God, derived probably from the manner in which He revealed himself at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16-19). On that occasion, He was surrounded by darkness. He had, so to speak, wrapped himself in night, and made his abode in the gloom of the storm. God is often represented as concealed with clouds (Psalm 104:3; Daniel 7:13; Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7). The word rendered “clouds” is the common word to denote a cloud; the word translated “darkness” means “thick clouds, cloudy darkness, gloom.” It would refer to a cloud considered as dark, and as casting a gloom (shadow) over the world. Jehovah is pictured in a secret place where He is hidden by wrapping Himself in darkness or in dark clouds; there He lies; not so that He cannot see what is done by others, as wicked men imagine (Job 22:13); but so that He cannot be seen by others. When executing His judgments He did not allow himself to be seen. God's actions are always secret and mysterious. But there is no reference here to the fact that the dealings of God are dark, mysterious, and incomprehensible, as if He were surrounded by clouds and darkness. This is indeed often true; but that is not the truth taught here. The meaning here is, that the character of God is suited to fill the mind with solemn awe, or with emotions of sublimity.

RIGHTEOUSNESS AND JUDGMENT ARE THE HABITATION OF HIS THRONE [i.e. righteous judgment, or righteousness in judgment.] 

He is a righteous God; He is a God who will execute just judgment. Though He is encompassed with clouds, yet He is a just God; and this is enough to impress the mind with sincere reverence. We may be assured that He will do right, even when He covers Himself with clouds. The fact that He will do right is capable of calming the minds of those who love and obey Him, and at the same time to fill the minds of the wicked with alarm.  All His decrees and administrations are grounded upon and managed with righteousness.

“The habitation [Heb. “place”]; of His throne,” that is, the foundation, or establishment of it; for the throne is established by righteousnessKings detest wrongdoing, for a throne is established through righteousness” (Proverbs 16:12). The word rendered here as “habitation” means “place;” the place where one stands, or where one abides; a habitation, or a dwelling. It then means a foundation or basis (Psalm 89:14; Psalm 104:5). This would seem to be the idea here. His throne rests upon, or is sustained by, justice and righteousness. Nothing else would uphold the government of the universe; nothing else will sustain any government. All His laws, decrees, and administrations, are grounded upon and managed with justice and equity. Therefore his throne is for ever and ever, because his sceptre is a right scepter (Psalms 45:6).

3 A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about.


This passage is a prophecy of the Second Advent of Christ to judge the whole earth. An apostle has warned us that, “The heavens and the earth which now are, are stored up for fire against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7).

He doesn’t mean the fiery law, which went forth from His right hand on Mount Sinai; but rather His Gospel, which, as it enlightens, warms, comforts, and refreshes His people, searches for, torments, and destroys His enemies. To them it is the aroma of death unto death (Jeremiah 23:29). Some apply this to the gifts of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, signified by cloven tongues of fire; but then no such effect followed like that mentioned in the next clause. It seems best to apply it to His wrath, which, like fire, was poured out on the Jews, for their disbelief and rejection of Him; they would not have Him to reign over them; they despised His Gospel, and slew His servants; therefore He sent the Roman armies against them, who destroyed those murderers, and burnt down their city (Matthew 22:7). This will also be verified by the Second Coming of Christ, who will descend in flaming fire, and the earth will be burnt up, and all that is therein (2 Thessalonians 1:7). Some Jewish writers take this to mean the war of Gog and Magog, in Ezekiel, which they suppose is still in the future (Ezekiel 38:22), but it may be better applied to the Gog and Magog in Revelation 20:8.


This is especially directed against His foes. That is, he manifests Himself as a just God, inflicting vengeance on His enemies. He comes to reign, and in His reign all His foes will be destroyed, so that none can escape. This was true of the Jewish nation, who were burnt up; so that there was not left root or branch in it―“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire," says the LORD Almighty. "Not a root or a branch will be left to them.”(Malachi 4:1)―and it will be true of the wicked, at the worldwide destruction by fire, upon Christ's second coming; and of the Gog and Magog army, after the resurrection.

4 His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled.


The meaning of this is either:

(1) The doctrines of the Gospel are compared to “lightning,” because of the rapid progress they made, and the large number of them that came into the world in a very short time. They were published in all nations by the apostles, and were the means of enlightening them in the true knowledge of themselves, and of the way of salvation by Christ: hence they are called the “lights of the world” in Matthew 5:14, just as the coming of Christ, in His kingdom and power, is compared to lightning, and so are the arrows of His word (Matthew 24:27).

(2) His judgments on the Jewish nation are meant, which were manifest and clear and obvious to all the world (Psalm 18:14).

(3) Some writers say this is no more than a majestic description of the coming of the Lord, to confound His enemies and succor His followers, yet some spiritualize the passage, and say, the “lightnings” signify the apostles, who enlightened the world by their heavenly doctrine.


The earth is represented as a conscious being. It saw the terrible majesty of God, and trembled through terror, fearing it would be destroyed on account of the wickedness of its inhabitants. The inhabitants of the earth, of the Gentile world, saw the judgments of God upon the Jews, and were amazed by them (Deuteronomy 29:24). It is usual for lightnings and earthquakes to exist together (Revelation 11:19).

5 The hills melted like wax at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.


The prophet wrote: “The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart, like wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope” (Micah 1:4). These words of Micah are applied to the judgment of God, which was about to fall on the people of the covenant [Israel]: here it is applied to the judgment on the God-opposed world. The fact that “judgment has begun at the house of God” is an indication that judgments of a far more destructive kind will overtake “the [openly,] ungodly and sinners” (1 Peter 4:17). The “hills” symbolize the heights of man's self-exalting pride of intellect, wealth, and power. They seemed to flow down as if they were made of wax and were melting from the presence of the Son: that is, they could not stand before Him. The most firm, solid, lofty things were like nothing in His presence. (Compare Revelation 20:11; Judges 5:5; Micah 1:4; Nahum 1:5.) The object here is to describe the awe-inspiring greatness and majesty of God; as if nothing could stand before Him and everything ran away when He approached. There is perhaps a general allusion to His glory and power as manifested at Sinai.


He is the Creator and Ruler of the entire world. The God who manifested himself is not a local Deity, or the God of a particular nation or country, but the God of the whole world, before whom all created things are like nothing.

“The Lord of the whole earth” is an expression that first appeared in Joshua 3:11-13, though Abraham speaks of God as judge of the whole earth (Genesis 18:25). (Comp. Micah 4:13; Zechariah 4:10; Zechariah 6:5.) Though Jehovah was the tribal God, yet in marked distinction to surrounding tribes Israel regarded Him as having universal dominion.

6 The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory.


It is as conspicuous and illustrious as the angels or the heavens themselves; God himself testifies from heaven to the righteousness of Christ (Psalms 50:6). His righteousness is obvious in giving men their due, one at a time: to His people salvation, to His and their enemies destruction. The heavens, or skies, declared His righteousness when "the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven"(Genesis 19:24).


Here “His glory” concerns His justice in the destruction of His enemies; the glory of His power and grace in the salvation of His chosen; the glory of God in the face of Christ; the glory of Christ Himself, as the only begotten of the Father; the glory of His person, office, grace, and righteousness, in the message of the Gospel; the glory and honor he is now crowned with in heaven. All the people, even all the chosen, redeemed, and called people, shall behold His glory for all eternity: it seems chiefly to regard the revelation of His glory, and His people's view of it.

So, in Psalms 97:4 we read, the “earth saw, and trembled.” The “glory” of the Lord is not only the power and majesty which attend His appearance, but especially the purity and righteousness of all His acts, whether of law or grace, judgment or mercy. The nations of the world―All the people, both Jews and Gentiles shall partake of the glorious fruits and benefits of His coming―shall see this and confess, whether they obey or rebel.

7 Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods.

I’ll believe I can explain this verse with an example from the New Testament. The Apostle Paul addressed this same issue with the Galatians, when he wrote:Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods” (Galatians 4:8). As a missionary for Christ, Paul continued the battle which the synagogues had been waging for centuries. The Jews never ceased to ridicule idols and denounce idolaters.

Paul is reminding the Galatians that they had been idolaters before coming to Christ. Prior to their conversion they had been ignorant concerning the one true God, and they were in bondage to false gods such as Zeus and Hermes (Acts 14.11-1). But a great change took place and they came to know God [salvation from the perspective of man], or to be known by God [salvation according to God’s perspective]. They did not at first know and love God, until He first loved them and called them to become His dear children. However, even though they had come to know the true God, the Galatians were turning back. Paul was amazed and dismayed. Did they understand they would be going back to a state of religious slavery?

Paul describes their idols of wood and stone as “no gods”—nothings. In 1 Corinthians 12.2, he called them “dumb idols.” They were nothing; they could say nothing and they could do nothing. He is telling them that idols are not real, they are made by men, and therefore they cannot make themselves real to those who worship them.

What really happened when the Galatians turned from grace to Law? To begin with, they traded liberty for bondage. When they were ignorant sinners, they had served their false gods and had experienced the tragedy of such pagan slavery. But then they had trusted Christ and been delivered from superstition and slavery. Now they were abandoning their liberty in Christ and going back into bondage. They were “dropping out” of the school of grace and enrolling in the kindergarten of the Law! They were destroying all the good work the Lord had done in them through Paul’s ministry. They must not bring into the church of Christ the old paraphernalia of magic and superstition, nor could they imagine that the laws and customs of Moses would add to their assurance of salvation in Christ.

The word then means here “the time when they were servants” (Gal. 4.7). And the phrase ye knew not God refers to the time before coming to faith in Jesus Christ when they did not know Him as far as His eternity, His power as Creator, and His holiness are concerned. No unsaved person can really know God. Before they were saved they worshipped the Greco-Roman pantheon of nonexistent deities.


That is, Let them be ashamed of their former foolishness, and be caused to detest and forsake their idols. This interpretation makes the words a prayer for the conversion of the Gentiles, that those who had been serving dumb idols for so long might be convinced of their error, ashamed of their folly, and might be brought, by the power of Christ’s gospel, to serve the only living and true God, and be as much ashamed of their idols as ever they were proud of them (Isaiah 2:20-21). Or, they shall be confounded. And so this is a prophecy, predicting the ruin of those that would not be reclaimed from their idolatry; they shall be confounded by the destruction of paganism in the Roman empire, which was fulfilled about three hundred years after Christ, so much to the terror of idolaters that even the mighty men among them are represented (Revelation 6:15-16) as saying to the rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne. This prayer and prophecy are still in force against anti-Christian idolaters, who may read their doom here.


That worship idols, and glory in them as if they could be their saviors and deliverers; or, that glory in their own idol-gods as if they were more powerful than those of other people. It would not be unnatural for nations which worshipped idols to glory in them, or that one people should boast of their gods as more powerful and more worthy to be trusted, than those which were worshipped in other lands. But it is only foolish boasting because they are nothing and can do nothing―nothing can be a greater instance of folly and madness than to praise and extol them


“Gods,” here, is, in Hebrew, Elohim, the name of the one living and true God, which generally occurs in the plural form. It is sometimes applied to kings and magistrates, on account of their office as representatives of God (Psalms 8:5), and the psalmist calls on such to abandon their “idols” and worship Him who is “over all, God blessed for ever.” In Hebrews 1:6, the apostle quotes from the Septuagint, and applies it to Christ, “And let all the angels of God worship him,” which is generally admitted to refer to these words of the psalmist. The original word Elohiym is that which is commonly applied to the true God (Genesis 1:1), though it may be applied to angels, or to magistrates. (See Psalm 82:1, 82:6). On the general meaning of this passage, and the question respecting its reference to the Messiah, see Hebrews 1:6. The reference here, according to the quotation in Hebrews 1:6, is to the angels. The original word will allow this interpretation, and the entire structure of the psalm will justify its application to the Messiah.

8 Zion heard, and was glad; and the daughters of Judah rejoiced because of thy judgments, O LORD.


The good news [the judgments which God had executed among the enemies of His people] came to Zion [see introduction, note 1] that all the idols of the pagan were confounded or were overcome: that is, that the Lord reigned. There was joy in Zion [all the land of Israel], because the evils and abominations of idolatry were at an end, and that the worship of Yahweh had taken the place of idol-worship. The idea is that the displacement of idols, or the fact that they had ceased to be worshipped, was a cause for joy to the worshippers of the true God. Whatever tends to remove the worship of idols from the world, and to extend and establish the worship of the living God, is an occasion of gladness.

This psalm is considered, (1) Messianic prophesy of the first Advent of Jesus Christ; or, (2) prophesy concerning the congregation of Zion; the church of Christ, and the members of it, called Zion, in allusion to the mountain of that name, in which the temple stood; a type of the church (Hebrews 12:22). These heard the Gospel, the good news and glad tidings of good things; they heard that Zion's King reigned, and that His kingdom was enlarged, and interest in it increased; they heard the heavenly men declare His righteousness, by which they are justified from all things; they heard of the conversion of the Gentiles, and the embarrassment of idolaters; of the incarnation of Christ, and of His being worshipped by angels; all which filled them with joy and gladness:


“The daughters of Judah” (Psalm 48:11) stands for the other and lesser cities and towns or villages (i.e., all the people) of Judah. Such places are commonly called daughters out of respect for the mother city, to which they are subjects (Joshua 15:45; 17:16; Psalm 45:12; 137:8). 

And let the women sing their songs and dance, as they usually do on occasions of public rejoicing, and celebrate with thankfulness the great salvation which God has wrought for us. Women have special motivation to rejoice in the spread of the true religion. It is that alone which has lifted her from a state of deep degradation; which has elevated her to be a companion instead of a slave; which has made her the intelligent wife and mother, rather than the mere inmate of a harem.


Meaning either the doctrines of the Gospel, which come from the God of judgment, and are according to His justice and holiness; and are a matter of joy and gladness when they are spread in the world, and succeed in the conversion of sinners, the comfort of saints and the glory of Christ―“The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous”(Psalm 19:9); or His judgments upon His enemies, and the enemies of His church and people; which is yet another occasion for rejoicing, because Christ is thereby glorified in His power, justice, truth, and faithfulness: “After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God” (Revelation 19:1). God is to be praised because now men recognize His salvation, glory, and power.  Salvation belongs to God; man does not earn or possess it; man enters God’s salvation by faith.  Salvation is more than the deliverance of the saints; it includes God’s safeguarding them and bringing them and His whole cause to final victory.

My friend, this is that great day which is coming.  The earth will be released from the bondage of sin.  In the meantime it groans.  And we groan.  I don’t know about you, but I groan.  When I was a young man my goal in life was to become a competitive weightlifter.  I could lift some pretty impressive weights, and I used to come bounding down the stairs.  But now, when I come down the stairs, I groan with every step.  My wife says, “You should not groan so much.” I tell her that groaning is scriptural.  We groan within these bodies as the scripture says.  I’m all for groaning when we are here.  But one day the groaning will be changed to hallelujahs, and that is what John is talking about here.

9 For thou, LORD, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods.


The Lord is above all the inhabitants of the earth; He is highly exalted above every name, and above men of the greatest fame, and above everyone that is named in the world. He is made higher than the heavens, and the inhabitants of it; and has all power in heaven and earth, as Mediator; and, as a Divine Person, He is the most high God, as the word “Elion”, which is used here, signifies. All this lays a foundation for joy and gladness in the saints, as does the majesty of Christ's person, and the exaltation of Him in the human nature: Thou art infinitely exalted above men and angels.  Jesus Christ is “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4).


“Thou art exalted far above,” not only the fictitious deities of the Gentiles, or the greatest potentates upon earth, for “Thou art” made higher than the kings of the earth, who are called gods; but also higher than the angels in heaven; where He sits at the right hand of God, where they are not, and never were, nor shall be; angels, authorities, and powers are subject to Him. The writer of Hebrews asked, “. . . to which of the angels has He ever said: “Sit at My right hand . . .?” (Hebrews 1:13). The apostle described Christ’s rank to the Ephesians this way in Ephesians 1:21: He is "Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." 

10 Ye that love the LORD, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.


Show your “love for the Lord” by hating all that is evil; that is, all that He hates, or that is evil in His sight. There can be no true love for God where evil is not hated in all its forms, since it is the object of the divine loathing. We cannot be like God unless we love what He loves, and “hate” what He “hates.” There is nothing more clearly stated in the Scriptures than that in order to love God there must be the hatred of all that is wrong, and that where there is the love of sin in the heart, there can be no true religion.

We should “hate evil” because of its evil consequences:

  • It brings with it death, ruin, and destruction to the souls of men, unless grace prevents it.
  • It brings anxiety, distress, and trouble to the saints.
  • It is hateful to God, for it is contrary to His nature, will, and law.
  • It is hated by Christ; and therefore those that love Him should hate that, shun it, avoid it, run from it, and abstain from all appearance of it.

Ask yourself, “Do I love Him?. . . ”

  • With sincerity above all persons and things.
  • All of Him.
  • And belong to Him, His people, ways, worship, truths, and ordinances.
  • And know His love, and have had it shed abroad in my heart.

If you answer “yes,” you will not only hate the evil of sin, but evil men; not them personally, but their actions and conversations; and you will avoid them, and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.


“His Saints” are those that are set apart by Him, and chosen in Him to be holy; that are sanctified by His blood, and by His Spirit and grace, and to whom He is made sanctification. He is protective of the "souls" of these, for they are dear to Him, and He has redeemed and saved them by His blood. He “preserves” them from the evil of sin, from its governing and damning power, from the final and total apostasy it produces, from ruin and destruction by way of it, from being hurt by the second death; and He preserves them from all their enemies, sin, Satan, and the world, from being destroyed by them; then He takes them safely to His kingdom and glory; therefore he is to be loved, and sin to be hated.

Since salvation belongs to Him (Ps. 3:8), He is the perennial Source of it: “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken” (Psalms 62:1-2). The very character and continuance of God’s throne is ultimately at stake in this issue. God would have to cease to be God, cease to be righteous and just, holy and true if He failed to come through fully, finally, and forever on behalf of the righteous man. That is a point the wicked man has forgotten.

The salvation of the righteous will be the Lord’s doing. He will help them to do their duties, to bear their burdens; help them to bear their troubles well, and obtain “good” from them, and, in due time, will deliver them out of their troubles. Let sinners then depart from evil, and do good; repent and forsake sin, and trust in the mercy of God through Jesus Christ. Let them take His yolk upon them, and learn of Him, that they may dwell for evermore in heaven. Let us always depend on God’s mercy.


That is, he often does this, so they may expect that he will do it again. He does not always deliver them from the earthly calamities which wicked people bring upon them―for they are not infrequently persecuted and wronged―but ultimately He will deliver them altogether from the power of the wicked. In heaven none of the intrigues of wicked people can reach them. At the same time it is also true that God often intervenes on behalf of His people, and delivers them from the schemes of the wicked: that is, He delivers them because they are righteous, or because they are His friends.

11 Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.


There is “light for the righteous”; or, they shall be brought into light, though they may be in darkness for a time. The word rendered “sown” means to scatter, to disperse; similar to how seed is scattered when sown in a field. It is sometimes used in conjunction with moral subjects, such as to sow righteousness (Proverbs 11:18), to sow iniquity (Proverbs 22:8), to sow mischief (Job 4:8), that is, these things are scattered or sown, as seed is in a field, and produce a corresponding harvest. Likewise “light” is scattered abroad, and will produce an appropriate harvest―a harvest of joy. It will spring up around the righteous, and he shall reap that which light tends to produce―happiness, intelligence, and peace. The illustration of sowing light is an unusual one, but the meaning is simple. It is that the righteous will not always be in darkness; that there is prepared for him a harvest of joy; that it will produced a harvest as certainly as grain that is sown; that though there may be calamities present now, there will be ultimate peace and triumph.

A child of light may walk in darkness and have no light, Isaiah 50:10, yet Christ will not leave him there, John 14:16, for light has been sown for him. But the child of light must be patient because the seed must have a time to lie, and then to grow, before a crop can be expected; there must also be weeding and watering. “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near” (James 5:7-8). We cannot sow and reap in a day. Deliverance will come in God’s good time. Just as morning is the thickest darkness, so the seed that lays the longest underground does in time come up with the greatest increase.


The word “gladness” (joy, or rejoicing) is parallel to the word light. Joy or gladness is sown for the righteous; that is, arrangements are made for producing joy, as preparations are made by sowing seed for a harvest. The world is full of provisions for conferring happiness on the righteous.

“The upright in heart” have new hearts and right spirits formed in them, and are Israelites indeed. Gladness is prepared, provided, and promised to them, and sooner or later they shall have it; the seed of it is sown, and it will spring up, and they shall enjoy a large crop.

12 Rejoice in the LORD, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.


“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 forever 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.

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. It is your privilege to be happy. Revel in Him through whom you have received salvation. “Rejoice”; but let it be in the Lord. All other joy is the merriment of fools, which is like the crackling of kindling under a pot―it is a bright blaze for a moment, but leaves nothing but smoke and ashes behind

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.”



But why should you give thanks at the remembrance that God is holy? Because he has said, Be ye holy; for I am holy: and in holiness alone true happiness is to be found. As he, therefore, who hath called you is holy; so be ye holy in all manner of conversation. False Christians hate the doctrine of Christian holiness; they are willing to be holy in another, but not holy in themselves. There is too much cross-bearing and self-denial in the doctrine of holiness for them. They neither expect nor wish for a perfect heart.

Wicked people do not “rejoice” that there is a God at all, and especially that God is a “holy God;” but it is one of the characteristics of true piety to rejoice in the thought that there is a God, and that he is perfectly holy, and hence, to feel conscious happiness whenever his name is mentioned, and whenever his attributes are referred to. The highest source of joy for man is that there is a God, and that God is exactly what he is, pure and holy. It would be a source of deepest sorrow if there were no God, or if God were in any respect, even the slightest, a different being from what He is.