1 The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that
2 For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.
3 Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? and who shall stand in his holy
4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart;
Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
This is a Psalm of the advent of Christ, most aptly following that in which the believer had extolled His felt benefits. Its subject is the glory of the Lord, and His claim upon universal and devout recognition. The ' Shepherd' of Israel, the Host of His people, is also 'the King of Glory,' 'Jehovah of hosts,' 'Jehovahstrong and mighty,' 'Jehovah mightyin battle.' What therefore He is to us, He ought to be to all. Again, and in connexion with it, the question: 'Who are His true subjects?' is answered, 'Verily they are not all Israel who are of Israel.' The 'Israel of God,' the true seed of Jacob, are they who, washed in His precious blood, and renewed by His Holy Spirit, for ever 'stand in His holy place.' Their desires and aims correspond to their character and profession (ver. 6). And far and wide proclaim they—nay, proclaim all—the advent of this heavenly King, calling upon ' the everlasting doors' to be flung wide open for the welcome and reception of their King.
It has been suggested that this Psalm was composed on the transference of the ark of the covenant to Mount Zion, and that most significantly it determined the spiritual principles of the kingdom of Jehovah,—as if at the initiation of the gorgeous Temple ritual, a warning against its carnal misapprehension were to be uttered. But ancient interpreters have rightly applied it to the advent of the Lord. It referred to the proclamation of Wis first coming, and may be regarded as the song of which the preaching of John was the application. And truly, if we consider what this event was both to Israel and to the whole world, the expressions seem only all too feeble to convey its import. Nor is it without deep significance that creation is made the preface to redemption, not only from their internal connexion, but as showing the infinite condescension of Him who has entered Zion as its King. Again, it may be regarded as a call really addressed to our hearts, which are destined to be 'temples of the Holy Ghost,' to receive their Lord and King, and in that sense the imperative necessity of holiness in the first part corresponds with the invitation to welcome Him in the second. Lastly, it may have formed not only a song of angels in that starlit night on the plains of Bethlehem, but also their welcome and that of the Church on His resurrection and ascension into heaven—as it is the cry of the Church in all ages, alike expressed in prayer, hope, joy, and deed,' Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.' Thus is it a true Advent Psalm.
It is a very significant coincidence that this Psalm was sung in the Temple service on the first day of the week, or the Lord's day. On Monday, Psalm xlviii.; on Tuesday, Psalm lxxxii.; on Wednesday, Psalm xciv.; on Thursday, Psalm Ixxxi. ; on Friday, Psalm xciii.; on Saturday (or the Jewish Sabbath), Psalm xcii., and on the Lord's day our Psalm was sung while the priests in their daily ministrations poured out the drink-offering unto the Lord. And so still, as we pour forth our drink-offerings, do we gratefully sing, and believingly and hopefully pray this Psalm of His advent. Wide and deep lays He the foundation on which the kingdom of God is to be reared. 'The earth is Jehovah's and the fulness thereof; the world' (literally, 'the fruit-bearing world') 'and they that dwell therein.' Look abroad-—all this great and mighty world, all its riches and beauty, all its fruitfulness and people, are the property and dominion of our covenant God. Though now in rebellion against Him, the world is none the less His, alike by creation and redemption. Not Israel only, not even the Church alone, but all belongeth unto Him. And this conveys the pledge of its final subjection to His sway. When Jesus rose from the grave, when that Almighty hand rolled away the stone from the tomb, as He stood forth in the morning air on that soil Himself had consecrated, all creation greeted Him as its Lord. Two angels left He in the empty tomb to guard the bands of death in which He had been wrapped; angels which still guard the cerements of those who sleep in Jesus. But the stone has been rolled away; the tomb is empty of its prey (' not dead, but sleepeth'); and angels'guard the precious dust till the resurrection morning—for the earth is Jehovah's and
the fulness thereof; and forth from their graves come they who have been intrusted to earth's keeping, when she giveth up her treasures to Him who rightfully owns them.
Let our vision range wide over the inhabited world. These teeming multitudes are Christ's. When we preach the gospel, we proclaim 'liberty to the captives' by publishing a fact which alike constitutes the glory and the happiness of nations. 'He is thy Lord, and worship thou Him!' One aptly records several applications of the first verse. Thus the apostle rests the doctrine of our Christian liberty upon it (1 Cor. x. 26). Call nothing common or unclean. It has the impress of the Lord's propriety upon it; it belongs to Him, and may be used for Him. Another and yet higher liberty has also been founded upon it, when the Christian witness answered the threats of an emperor to silence him by banishment, by referring to this verse. For what matters it whether we are rich, or what are our apparent outward circumstances, since 'the earth is Jehovah's and the fulness thereof,' and this God is our Father in Christ? And even a Jewish Rabbi has not missed its spirit, when he derived from it the duty of prayer at table, and declared that to partake of its blessings without giving thanks, was to be guilty of sacrilege; for 'the earth is Jehovah's and the fulness thereof And, therefore, may we always pray for all things needful, and in accordance with His glory. How easy is it for Him to open His treasury, and to dispense to us out of its fulness! Accordingly, regarding God as our treasurer, and receiving all as part of His property, we live upon Him day by day. And thus are we really happy.
Such a view of the world gives not only intense calm but intense joy. It was falsehood as well as blasphemy when Satan claimed all the kingdoms of this world as his own, in virtue of his desolation of the earth, and of his limited tenure in it. But God has not forsaken His earth. His purpose of love has been realized by the redemption of the world through Christ. Earth belongs as little to Satan as the dead belong to death. 'The earth is Jehovah's,' is the jubilant song of the second creation, by which the purposes of the first have been fully accomplished. And as at His first coming the angels, and at His resurrection the Church ; so at His second coming, shall earth itself, 'the world and they that dwell therein,' welcome Him with this song of acknowledgment and praise.
Irrespective of the internal accord which will be found to exist between the Biblical account of creation and the correct results of science (ver. 2), it is most comforting here to trace God's claim upon the world, first, to its creation and constant preservation: 'For He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.' The great MasterBuilder, who has hung the earth upon nothing, has laid its foundations upon the seas. He has designed it for Himself, and given it to us to tenant, and to hold for Him. And as He has founded it most firmly, yet upon such unstable materials, so 'He establisheth' it in face of equal dangers. He has set a bound to the waters that they cannot overflow. And if He has not only originally founded, but by His constant Providence still preserveth it, can we doubt that He claims it as His own? And so may we also comfort ourselves, and from our own creation and preservation infer His purposes of love toward us. Yet all the more awful is the guilt of our apostasy, and all the more solemn the question of ver. 3 : 'Who shall ascend into the mountain of Jehovah, and who shall stand in His holy place?' A twofold meaning attaches to this. Though Jehovah be thus high and exalted, yet calleth He a chosen people into His 'mountain,' and causeth them to dwell in His presence. Again, since it is His mountain, and 'His holy place,' what manner of men ought they to be who hope to enjoy such fellowship! In reference to this, Luther rightly remarks : 'To this question, all proud saints, and especially the Jews, answer unhesitatingly, We are this people. For, from the commencement of the world, there have been, and are still, and will continue to the end of time, two generations of those who ask after God. The first consists of those who did, and still do, serve God without heart, without grace, without understanding, and only by outward works, ordinances, sacrifices, and ceremonies. Just as Cain brought his offering, but withheld his heart and person.' Of such empty professors, whose zeal and seeming devotion often seems to outrun those of God's children, there are many in all ages and circumstances of the Church. Yet not to judge others, only to avoid their 'evil communications,' and to examine ourselves on this allimportant matter, do we put this question. Remember that the verse conjoins the ascending into the mountain, with dwelling or abiding there, and that it furnishes the needful cautions by designating it as Jehovah's mountain, and ' His holy place.' Thus we conclude with Luther: 'Not he who saith or sings so many Psalms, nor he who fasteth or watcheth for so many days; nor he who preacheth to others, nor he who is gentle, upright, and kind; in short, not he who understandeth all arts, languages, and has all virtues and good works which have ever been written or spoken about; but he only who has this one qualification—that he is inwardly and outwardly clean.' Therefore we pray: ' Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.' 'Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.'
1. The earth and its fulness belongeth unto Jehovah. This is enough, so far as our reception of all as from His hand is concerned, and our dedication of all as unto Him. What we enjoy, we have received; what we have received, we bring and devote unto Him. We cannot want when such stores are laid up; we possess all things, and yet we possess nothing; for all belongeth unto Him. 'All things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee.' 'O Jehovah our God, all this store that we have prepared' 'cometh of Thine hand, and is all Thine own. I know also, my God, that Thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness.' Therefore, so far as dedicating our time, our talents, our means, and our influence is concerned, we only offer what is rightfully His. The evangelical part of our service consists in our recognition of this fact, and our loving, grateful, and joyous acquiescence in it. As for our enjoyments, we are like the priests who ate the shewbread which had been laid up before the Lord. As for our services, we 'offer willingly unto Thee.' 'The love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that, if One died for all, then were all dead; and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again.' And this truth let us ever seek to keep before our minds, lest we either claim righteousness, or become ' weary in welldoing.' As much and more than under the old dispensation we can lay our gifts upon the altar. Still more fully does all this apply to the dedication of our hearts unto the Lord. They are His, and we willingly give them to Him, 'whom having not seen' we love,'in whom, though now' we 'see him not, yet believing,' we'rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.' 2. We may safely commit the keeping of all unto the Lord as unto a faithful Creator. To Him we would intrust, not only the keeping of our souls, but of our bodies also, and of those whom we love. It was a beautiful saying of one of the Fathers that the Lord designedly said to the daughter of Jairus: 'Maid, arise!' For had He simply said 'Arise!' forthwith all the dead would have sprung from their graves. So, as with one touch can He wake up earth and its fulness. Of this have we pledge (as has rightly been observed) in the three narratives of His raising the dead furnished in the Gospels, in which every age (the maid, the youth at Nain, and the man Lazarus) and every mode in which death can hold us, were represented: the maid on her deathbed, the youth on the bier, and Lazarus in his grave, as also every manner of application to Him. 'Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.' 'Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him.'
3. O Lord, how often have I doubted and feared, instead of looking joyously out of myself, and considering all things as Thine!' And when Thou gavest me richly and undeservedly, how prone have I been to claim it as mine own, and to use it as mine own. Yet bitterness and disappointment have attended this. O teach me henceforth to devote all, by first giving myself up unto Thee; and by Thy grace let me ascend into Thy mountain, and dwell in Thy holy place for ever!
Thou King of Light! our deepest longing
Is shallow to Thy depths of grace;
Deep are the woes to us belonging,
But deeper far Thy joy to bless.
Teach us to trust the Father's love,
Still looking to the Son above;
Blest Spirit! through our spirits pour
True prayers and praises evermore.
Jesus, Thine own with rich grace filling,
Thy mighty blessing on us shed,—
New life through every member thrilling,
Diffused from Thee, the living Head.
Show us how light Thy mild yoke is,
And how from self's hard yoke it frees.
If Thou wilt teach Thy household so,
The works the Master's hand shall show.
(The Voice of Christian Life in Song.)