1 O ClAP your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of
2 For the Lord most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.
3 He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet.
4 He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob, whom He
5 God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet!
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises ; sing praises unto our King, sing praises.
7 For God is the King of all the earth; sing ye praises with understanding.
8 God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of His holiness.
9 The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of the God
of Abraham; For the shields of the earth belong unto God : he is greatly exalted.
This is another sweet hymn of the sons of Korah, celebrating the triumphs of Israel's King. For the Israel of God ever recognised only one King,—the Son of David. And each victory achieved by Israel's King, through whatever instrumentality and at whatever time, pointed forwards to that great victory achieved in 'the resurrection from the dead.' Here the true application of this Psalm is to the ascension of Christ, and to His consequent reign (Col. ii. 15 compared with Eph. iv.). Thus, when the Venerable Bede breathed his last on the anniversary of Christ's ascension, he prayed: 'O King of glory, Lord of power, who this day hast triumphant gone up above all heavens' (compare ver. 5). And Luther designates it, briefly but comprehensively, the 'Psalm of the Sons of Korah: Christ has ascended into heaven.'
Whatever victory may have been its immediate typical occasion, we note that the Psalm calls upon 'all nations' to 'clap' their hands. Every triumph of God is in reality that of 'all nations.' And the ultimate victory of Jehovah will result not merely in the subjection, but in the transformation of the Gentiles, who will hail their Conqueror as their King. Hence also His proclamation as 'Jehovah the most high and terrible,' and 'a great King over all the earth.' The manifestation of His royalty is twofold: the subdual of the nations, and the allotment of Israel's portion (vers. 3, 4). The people return to Zion, and Jehovah their leader, who had descended to give victory to His people, to His throne of glory, amid the acclamation and the praises of the saints (vers. 5, 6). Once more and louder than ever is the herald voice heard, this time of His actual reign among the heathen, and of His executing judgment in holiness (ver. 8, comp. Rev. xi. 15 to end). And now 'the princes of the people' are gathered around Him,1 'the shields of the earth,' along with His chosen people, one assemblage in heart and soul ; and Jehovah-Jesus, with His many crowns, upborne by saints' and angels' praises, stands forth, God's own beloved Son, the Saviour of the Church; He who manifested God and glorified God; He who sought us and bought us—' greatly,' eternally, unspeakably ' exalted.'
1 Bakius makes the following apt play upon the words :—' Magnates magnetes sunt, multos ad se attrahunt, vel recte credentes vel errantes etiam.'
Viewed in this light, this hymn of the sons of Korah is, in its fullest and truest sense, a song of Messiah's reign. As such, let us, for instruction and edification, mark the various elements which it embodies. Ransomed earth takes up the hymn of praise (vers. 1-4), and redeemed Israel answers 'with understanding' (vers. 5 to end). The sum and the reason of this joy is, that Jehovah is enthroned and acknowledged as 'the King of all the earth.' Oh, how one longs for the setting right of things! Amidst the apparent disorder—the prevalence of sin, of unbelief, idolatry, and ignorance—we turn to these songs of deliverance, to comfort and uphold during the long, dreary night-season. Yet, as the Spirit of God at first brooded over the waste, chaotic deep, so He is still present with and overshadowing the new creation. Over against the present state of seeming confusion and lawlessness, we write the blessed assurance, conveyed to faith (which is the evidence of things unseen), that 'Jehovah is a great King over all the earth' (ver. 2). In answer to the rebellious tumult of the nations, we repeat to ourselves the precious promises received by faith (which is the substance of things hoped for), of which this is a summary: 'He shall subdue the people under us' (ver. 3). What a change when He shall come, attended by His joyous and acknowledged saints, and welcomed by longgroaning earth! (ver. 1.) But let us, who are His people, beware of unbelief. The lying message of the prince of this world, ' The Lord delayeth His coming,' tends to lull asleep
not only the foolish, but also the wise virgins. Granted that ours may be the decay, and not the absence of faith. Yet what grief, perplexity, and weakness are connected with such a state! It needs close walking with the Lord, constantly and unweariedly, to look for the fulfilment of the promises, irrespective of passing events ; to anticipate them, and to live with our hearts in them. Thus our views and feelings with regard to the promises may serve as a test of our spirituality. And what consolation in the thought that He loveth this 'excellency of Jacob!' His delight is with the children of men. He that has been once offered up for sin shall come a second time, without sin, unto salvation. 'We would see Jesus'— 'the King in His beauty.' And what applies to the world in general, holds true of our personal experience. All deliverances are interpositions of ' the King of saints;' they always cause the shout of triumph—joy, confidence, thanksgiving; and they are all typical and anticipatory of the great deliverance both of ourselves and of the world (2 Cor. v. 4, 5). Faith rests on two pillars—the character of God (ver. 2), and the promises of God (ver. 3). It is of the nature of faith that it makes special and personal application of the revelation which God has made of Himself in Christ Jesus (ver. 4). To what God saith, faith responds with an Amen ; on what God is and doeth, faith resteth. Faith is the personal application of the gospel. When the Holy Spirit saith that Jehovah is 'most high' and 'terrible,' 'King over all the earth,' and 'shall subdue the people under us,' faith responds by making personal application of this in the covenant of grace: 'He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom He loved.' Oh, what an assurance is this! How completely it meets our wants for the future; how satisfactorily it answers our questions; how fully it removes our doubts! The reason of all this is evident. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is alike His victory and ours (ver. 5). He has 'led captivity captive,' and 'received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.' This is a subject for unceasing praise; for this King is 'our King,' and the ' King of all the earth' (vers. 6, 7). Then, what joy, when, with princes and peoples, with the long-wandering prodigal, the elder brother will be brought in—' the people of the God of A braham'—and thus the covenant, in all its fulness, established in the earth!
1. What are my feelings with reference to the coming of the Lord and to His promises generally? Do I take a believing survey of the world—both in reference to the present and the future? Too often have I looked on men and matters in a carnal manner, judging of results from what is seen and temporal. Let me consider men as in Christ or out of Christ, and all events as really, though not apparently, part of that great scheme of which the end is the enthronement of our Saviour-King. If these things be so, what manner of men ought we to be! What should be the effect of these convictions on my heart this day? Let me plead His promises, let me long for their fulfilment, let me earnestly labour in view of them. How must they pray and work who know that ' the Lord is at hand!'
2. I dread the want of practical application. Whatever the Lord has said I can and must make my own, by faith. Faith looks wholly away from the creature, and up to God. I must do so in reference to Israel, in reference to the heathen, and in reference to my own soul. Wherever I have the Word, I have standing-ground. And how firm is that foundation of which Christ Himself is the chief corner-stone! Rejoice, O my soul, in going out of thyself to Him. Triumph, for the Lord is King of all the earth. Lay hold on these promises, trust, and look up expectant. This day let me come with boldness, making known my requests. He is able and willing to save unto the uttermost who is exalted to the right hand of the Father, and to whom all power is given in heaven and on earth.
3. To 'sing praises with understanding/' Let me seek spiritual understanding—to penetrate beyond the seeming to the real, beyond the effect to the cause, beyond the event to the Lord! I would seek to understand Thy Word, Thy ways, Thy promises—above all, the revelation of Thyself in the face of Jesus Christ, Thine Anointed. Lord, grant me understanding, day by day, and in all matters, that I may follow Thee—the heart-simplicity of a child, and the understanding of a child of Thine, taught of Thy Spirit, that I may praise Thee, who sittest upon the throne of Thy holiness.
The Lord shall come in dead of night,
When all is stillness round;
How happy they whose lamps are bright,
Who hail the trumpet's sound!
How blind and dead the earth appears,
How deep her slumbers are;
Still dreaming that the day she fears
Is distant and afar ! —Hymnologia Christiana.