Verse 32. He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth. The Lord who has graciously displayed his power in acts and works of goodness might, if he had seen fit, have overwhelmed us with the terrors of destruction, for even at a glance of his eye the solid earth rocks with fear.
He toucheth the hills, and they smoke. Sinai was altogether on a smoke when the Lord descended upon it. It was but a touch, but it sufficed to make the mountain dissolve in flame. Even our God is a consuming fire. Woe unto those who shall provoke him to frown upon them, they shall perish at the touch of his hand. If sinners were not altogether insensible a glance of the Lord's eye would make them tremble, and the touches of his hand in affliction would set their hearts on fire with repentance. "Of reason all things show some sign," except man's unfeeling heart.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 32. -- He looketh on the earth and it trembleth. As man can soon give a cast with his eye, so soon can God shake the earth, that is, either the whole mass of the earth, or the inferior sort of men on the earth when he "looketh," or casteth an angry eye "upon the earth it trembleth." "He toucheth the hills," (that is, the powers and principalities of the world), "and they smoke;" if he do but touch them they smoke, that is, the dreadful effects of the power and judgment of God are visible upon them. --Joseph Caryl.
Verse 32. -- No one save a photographer can sketch the desert around Sinai. Roberts' views are noble, and to a certain extent true; but they do not represent these desert cliffs and ravines. No artist can rightly do it. Only the photographer can pourtray the million of minute details that go to make up the bleakness, the wildness, the awfulness, and the dismal loneliness of these unearthly wastes.
About noon I went out and walked upon the convent roof. The star light over the mountain peaks was splendid, while the gloom that hung round these enormous precipices and Impenetrable ravines was quite oppressive to the spirit. This is the scene of which David spoke. "He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke." This is the mountain "that was touched, and that burned with fire" (Heb 7:18). Not the mount that "might be touched," as our translators have rendered it, but the mount "that was touched," yhla fwmena, -- the mount on which the finger of God rested.
We could imagine the black girdle of the thick darkness with which the mountain was surrounded, and the lightnings giving forth their quick fire through tiffs covering, making its blackness blacker. We could imagine, too, the supernatural blaze, kindled by no earthly hand, that shot up out of the midst of this, like a living column of fire, ascending, amid the sound of angelic trumpets and superangelic thunders, to the very heart of heaven. -- Horatius Bonar, in "The Desert of Sinai", 1858.
Verse 32. -- The philosopher labours to investigate the natural cause of earthquakes and volcanoes. Well, let him account as he will, still the immediate power of Jehovah is the true and ultimate cause. God works in these tremendous operations. "He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth; he toucheth the hills, and they smoke." This is the philosophy of Scripture: this, then, shall be my philosophy. Never was a sentence uttered by uninspired man so sublime as this sentence. The thought is grand beyond conception; and the expression clothes the thought with suitable external majesty. God needs no means by which to give effect to his purpose by his power, yet, in general, he has established means through which he acts. In conformity with this Divine plan, he created by means, and he governs by means. But the means which he has employed in creation, and the means which he employs in providence, are effectual only by his almighty power. The sublimity of the expression in this passage arises from the infinite disproportion between the means and the end. An earthly sovereign looks with anger, and his courtiers tremble. God looks on the earth, and it trembles to its foundation. He touches the mountains, and the volcano smokes, vomiting forth torrents of lava. Hills are said to melt at the presence of the Lord. "Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob." How chill and withering is the breath of that noxious philosophy, that would detach our minds from viewing God in his works of Providence! The Christian who lives in this atmosphere, or on the borders of it, will be unhealthy and unfruitful in true works of righteousness. This malaria destroys all spiritual life. --Alexander Carson.
Verse 32. -- He toucheth the hills, and they smoke. It's therefore ill falling into his hands, who can do such terrible things with his looks and touches. --John Trapp.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 32. --
- What there is in a Look of God. "He looketh," etc.
- What in a look of anger.
(b) What in a look of love. He looked out of the fiery pillar upon the Egyptians. "The Lord hath looked out from his pillar of glory," etc. He gave another look from the same pillar to Israel.
- What there is in a Touch of God: "He toucheth," etc. A touch of his may raise a soul to heaven, or sink a soul to hell. --G.R.