Psalm 110:3

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 3. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. In consequence of the sending forth of the rod of strength, namely, the power of the gospel, out of Zion, converts will come forward in great numbers to enlist under the banner of the Priest King. Given to him of old, they are his people, and when his power is revealed, these hasten with cheerfulness to own his sway, appearing at the gospel call as it were spontaneously, even as the dew comes forth in the morning. This metaphor is further enlarged upon, for as the dew has a sparkling beauty, so these willing armies of converts have a holy excellence and charm about them; and as the dew is the lively emblem of freshness, so are these converts full of vivacity and youthful vigour, and the church is refreshed by them and made to flourish exceedingly. Let but the gospel be preached with divine unction, and the chosen of the Lord respond to it like troops in the day of the mustering of armies; they come arrayed by grace in shining uniforms of holiness, and for number, freshness, beauty, and purity, they are as the dewdrops which come mysteriously from the tooming's womb. Some refer this passage to the resurrection, but even if it be so, the work of grace in regeneration is equally well described by it, for it is a spiritual resurrection. Even as the holy dead rise gladly into the lovely image of their Lord, so do quickened souls put on the glorious righteousness of Christ, and stand forth to behold their Lord and serve him. How truly beautiful is holiness! God himself admires it. How wonderful also is the eternal youth of the mystical body of Christ! As the dew is new every morning, so is there a constant succession of converts to give to the church perpetual juvenility. Her young men have a dew from the Lord upon them, and arouse in her armies an undying enthusiasm for him whose "locks are bushy and black as a raven" with unfailing youth. Since Jesus ever lives, so shall his church ever flourish. As his strength never faileth, so shall the vigour of his true people be renewed day by day. As he is a Priest King, so are his people all priests and kings, and the beauties of holiness are their priestly dress, their garments for glory and for beauty; of these priests unto God there shall be an unbroken succession. The realization of this day of power during the time of the Lord's tarrying is that which we should constantly pray for; and we may legitimately expect it since he ever sits in the seat of honour and power, and puts forth his strength, according to his own word, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work."

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 3. -- Thy people. That is, those whom thou dost receive from thy Father, and, by setting up the standard and ensign of the Gospel, gather to thyself. "Shall be willing." The word is willingness, that is, a people of great willingness and devotion,, or (as the original word is elsewhere used, Psalms 119:108 ), shall be freewill offerings unto thee. The abstract being put for the concrete, and the plural for the singular, notes how exceeding forward and free they should be; as the Lord, to signify that his people were most rebellious, saith, that they were rebellion itself, Ezekiel 2:8 . So then the meaning is, thy people shall, with most ready and forward cheerfulness, devote, consecrate, and render up themselves to thy government as a reasonable sacrifice, shall be of a most liberal, free, noble, and unconstrained spirit in thy service, and shall be voluntaries in the wars of thy kingdom. -- Edward Reynolds.

Verse 3. -- Thy people, O Jesus Christ, which were given thee by the Father, purchased and redeemed by thee, who acknowledged thee for their Lord, and are bound to thee by a military oath, are extremely willing, being devoted to thy service with the greatest readiness of soul, alacrity, inclination, and voluntary obedience. Nor are they willing only, but willingness itself in the abstract; nay, willingness in the plural number, the highest and most excellent willingness, all which add an emphasis. This is seen to be so @lyh ~wyb "in the day of thy valour power," in which thy generous spirit laying hold of them, animates them to grand and bold enterprises. Then they go forth in the beauties of holiness, by which they are a terror to the devil, a delight to God and angels, and a mutual edification to one another. --Herman Witsius, 1636-1708.

Verse 3. -- Thy people shall be willing. Willing to do what? They shall be willing while others are unwilling. The simple term "willing," is very expressive. It denotes the beautiful condition of creatures who suffer themselves to be wrought upon, and moved, according to the will of God. They suffer God to work in them to will and to do. They are willing to die unto all sin, they are willing to crucify the old man, or self, in order that the new man, or Christ, may be formed in them. They are willing to be weaned from their own thoughts and purposes, that the thoughts and purposes of God may be fulfilled in them. They are willing to be transferred from nature's steps of human descent to God's steps of human ascent. Or, to abide by the simplicity of our text, God is Will, and they are "willing." God will beautify them with salvation, because there is nothing in them to hinder his working. They will be wise, they will be good, they will be lovely, they will be like God, for they are "willing"; and there proceeds from God a mighty spirit, the whole tendency of which is to make his creatures like himself. --John Pulsford, in "Quiet Hours", 1857.

Verse 3. -- Thy people shall be willing. They are willing in believing, loving, obeying, adhering, living piously and justly in this world; so that they do not need the constraints of laws or threats, because they are led by the Spirit of God, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there, also, is liberty. --Wolfgang Musculus.

Verse 3. -- Thy people shall be willing. Am I one of the "willing people" -- not only my obedience and allegiance secured from a conviction of the truth, but my heart inclined, and my will renewed? To do the will of God, to bear the will of God, to coincide with the will of God -- and that with calm if not cheerful consent of the heart, as seeing him who is invisible, and holding fast my living apprehensions of his person and character? All unwillingness, whether practical or lurking in the heart, springs from unbelief -- from a failure to realise him or his purposes. Were Jesus, as God become incarnate, and as giving himself for me, and his counsel of grace towards me, ever or even in any measure before my heart, how could I hesitate to yield myself, absolutely and implicitly, to him and his guidance? Again, this "willingness" is the essence of holiness; it constitutes "the beauties of holiness" -- the beauty of Christ cast over the soul. The cure, therefore, for all my misery and sin is more faith, more of Christ, and nearer to him. This let me seek and ask with ever increasing earnestness. --Alfred Edersheim.

Verse 3. -- Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, etc. The prophet here notes three things respecting the subjects of the kingdom of the Messiah:

  1. Their prompt obedience.
  2. Their attire or vesture.
  3. Their abundance, or multitude.

This representation admirably agrees with what precedes. He had said that the Messiah should reign in the midst of his enemies, but lest any one should think that he would reign only over enemies, unwilling and opposing, as the devils are made subject to Christ, now he lets us know that he will have a loyal people, and obedient subjects, for else there would be wanting that same glory of which Solomon speaks in Proverbs 14:28 , "In the multitude of people is the king's honour." He affirms also, that he would have his own people, who would recognise, receive, and serve him as King, with true obedience, nor would it be a small company, but like the dew, which waters the face of the whole earth. -- Rivetus.

Verse 3. -- Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power. It is power acted and executed with all sweetness, mildness, and gentleness. Here is "leading, but no force; conduct, but no compulsion," vehemence, inclination, non coactio: {1} the will is determined, but not the least violence is done to it, to the infringing of its liberty. How spontaneously does the person led follow him that leads him! So it is here. This and all other workings of the Spirit are admirably suited to the nature of reasonable and free agents. Efficacious grace does not at all destroy natural liberty. Where the spirit does not find sinners willing, by his sweet method he makes them willing: "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." A "day of power," yet "willing" Even the Spirit's drawing is managed with all consistency to the freedom of the will; elknei o qeost alla bonlomenon elknei {2}. He draws; "but it is one that he makes willing to follow." "Behold, I will allure her" ( Hosea 2:14 ): aye, there is the Spirit's leading! this being the constant and avowed doctrine of the Protestants, and particularly their explication of the Spirit's leading in the text Romans 8:14 ; how injurious and invidious are the Popish writers in their traducing and calumniating of them, as if they asserted the Spirit, in this or any other act, to work with compulsion, or in a way destructive to man's essential liberty! It is a vile scandal!

{1} Gorranus {2} Chrysostom

--Thomas Jacomb, in "The Morning Exercises".

Verse 3. -- In the day of thy power. In the day of thy strength, saith the Vulgate: of thy force and valour, say Tremellius and Junius: of the assemblies, say they of Geneva: of the armies, saith Munster; "at such times as thou shalt bring thy bands and join battle," so Vatablus, Castalio, and the Chaldee Paraphrase have it. All which the original @lyh mryp may bear without straining. --John Prideaux, 1578-1650.

Verse 3. -- The subjects of the Priest King are willing soldiers. In accordance with the warlike tone of the whole Psalm, our text describes the subjects as an army. That military metaphor comes out more closely when we attach the true meaning of the words, "in the day of thy power." The word rendered, and rightly rendered, "power," has the same ambiguity which that word has in the English of the date of our translation, and for a century later, as you may find in Shakespeare and Milton, who both used it in the sense of "army". Singularly enough we do not employ "powers" in that meaning, but we do another word which means the same thing -- and talk of "forces", meaning thereby "troops" ... "The day of thy power" is not a mere synonym for "the time of thy might", but means specifically "the day of thine army", that is, "the day when thou dost muster thy forces and set them in array for the war". The King is going forth to conquest. But he goes not alone. Behind him come his faithful followers, all pressing on with willing hearts and high courage. --Alexander McLaren, 1871.

Verse 3. -- In the day of thy power. This refers in a general way to the gospel dispensation, and in particular to the period of conversion. To the perishing sinner the gospel comes, "not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance." It is an arresting power; it meets the sinner, and stays his mad career, as in the case of Saul of Tarsus. It is a convincing power, it teaches the sinner that he is ruined in every respect, and leads him to cry out, "What shall I do to be saved?" ... It is a life giving power; it quickens dead souls, and will eventually bring the dead bodies from their graves; "all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God and shall live." This is the style of Jehovah, "it will, they shall"; none other dare speak thus. It is also liberating power; "if the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." --Theophilus Jones, in a Sermon preached at Surrey Chapel, 1823.

Verse 3. -- Thy people, etc. In homage, they shall be like a company of priests in sacred vestments, for they shall appear "in the beauties of holiness". In number, they shall be like the countless dewdrops "from the womb of the morning", sparkling in the rays of the rising sun, and reflecting his radiance. In glory they shall bear the likeness of Christ's resurrection in all its vernal freshness: "Thou hast the dew of thy youth". -- Benjamin Wildon Cart.

Verse 3. -- In the beauties of holiness. In holy vestments as priests. They are at once warriors and priests; meet for the service of Him who was King and Priest. Neander (Mem. of Chr. Life, ch. 4) remarks on the connection between these two sides of the Christian character. God's soldiers can only maintain their war by priestly self- consecration. Conversely: God's priests can only preserve their purity by unintermitted conflict. --William Kay.

Verse 3. -- In the beauties of holiness. This expression is usually read as if it belonged either to the words immediately preceding, or to those immediately following. But in either case the connection is somewhat difficult and obscure. It seems better regarded as a distinct and separate clause, adding a fresh trait to the description of the army. And what that is we need not find any difficulty in ascertaining. "The beauties of holiness" is a frequent phrase for the sacerdotal garments, the holy festal attire of the priests of the Lord. So considered, how beautifully it comes in here. The conquering King whom the psalm hymns is a Priest for ever; and he is followed by an army of priests. The soldiers are gathered in the day of the muster, with high courage and willing devotion, ready to fling away their lives; but they are clad not in mail, but in priestly robes; like those who wait before the altar rather than like those who plunge into the fight, like those who compassed Jericho with the ark for their standard and the trumpets tor all their weapons. We can scarcely fail to remember the words which echo these and interpret them. "The armies which were in heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean" -- a strange armour against sword cut and spear thrust. --Alexander McLaren.

Verse 3. -- The beauties of holiness. Godliness is our spiritual beauty. Godliness is to the soul as the light to the world, to illustrate and adorn it. It is not greatness that sets us off in God's eye, but goodness: what is the beauty of the angels but their sanctity? Godliness is the curious embroidery and workmanship of the Holy Ghost: a soul furnished with godliness is damasked with beauty, and enamelled with purity: this is the "clothing of wrought gold" which makes the King of heaven fall in love with us. Were there not an excellency in holiness, the hypocrite would never go about to paint it. Godliness sheds a glory and lustre upon the saints: what are the graces but the golden feathers in which Christ's dove shines? Psalms 68:13 . --Thomas Watson.

Verse 3. -- Thou hast the dew of thy youth. These words are often misunderstood, and taken to be a description of the fresh, youthful energy attributed by the Psalm to the Priest King of this nation of soldier priests. The misunderstanding, I suppose, has led to the common phrase, "the dew of one's youth". But the reference of the expression is to the army, not to its leader. "Youth" here is a collective noun, equivalent to "young men". The host of his soldier subjects is described as a band of young warriors, whom he leads, in their fresh strength and countless numbers and gleaming beauty like the dew of the morning... It is as a symbol of the refreshing which a weary world will receive from the conquests and presence of the King and his host, that they are likened to the glittering morning dew. Another prophetic Scripture gives us the same emblem when it speaks of Israel being "in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord". Such ought to be the effect of our presence. We are meant to gladden, to adorn, to refresh this parched, prosaic world, with a freshness brought from the chambers of the sunrise.

The dew, formed, in the silence of the darkness while men sleep, falling as willingly on a bit of dead wood as anywhere, hanging its pearls on every poor spike of grass, and dressing everything on which it lies with strange beauty, each separate globule tiny and evanescent, but each flashing back the light, and each a perfect sphere: feeble one by one, but united mighty to make the pastures of the wilderness rejoice -- so, created in silence by an unseen influence, feeble when taken in detail, but strong in their myriads, glad to occupy the lowliest place, and each "bright with something of celestial light", Christian men and women are to be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord. - -Alexander McLaren.

Verse 3. -- The dew of thy youth. There does not, indeed, appear to me any reason to doubt that, in this place, David extols the divine favour displayed in increasing the number of Christ's people; and hence, in consequence of their extraordinary increase, he compares the youth or race which would be born to him to the dew. As men are struck with astonishment at seeing the earth moistened and refreshed with dew, though its descent be imperceptible, even so, David declares that an innumerable offspring shall be born to Christ, who shall be spread over the whole earth. The youth, therefore, which, like the dewdrops, are innumerable, are here designated the dew of childhood, or of youth. --John Calvin.

Verse 3. -- From the womb of the morning is, with the utmost pertinency, applied to the conception and production of dews; agreeably to a delicate line in that great master of just description and lively painting, Mr. Thomson:

"The meek eyed morn appears, mother of dews."

We meet with a fine expression in the book of Job, which may serve to confirm this remark; and may illustrate the propriety of the phrase used in this connection: "Hath the rain a father, or who hath begot ten the drops of dew?" It seems, the oriental writers delighted to represent the dew as a kind of birth, as the offspring of the morning. And if so, surely there could be no image in the whole compass of the universe better adapted to the psalmist's purpose, or more strongly significant of those multitudes of proselytes, which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God; by the powerful energy of his word and Spirit. Upon this supposition, the whole verse describes the willing subjection, the gracious accomplishments, and the vast number of Christ's converts. --James Hervey (1713-14--1758), in "Meditations and contemplations."

Verse 3. -- The dew of thy youth. The most apparent reference is to multitude. Compare Ps 72:16, and the proverbial use of the dew together with the sand of the sea shore to express a vast number. The people of the Messiah are a great number that no man can number: Revelation 7:9 . But this is only the common enwraping veil of a further sense. We must further note, First, THE ORIGIN OF THE DEW. From what comes it? From earthly matter, vapour and mist, as the new born soldier of Christ comes from the confused, dark substance of the old nature. By what is it produced? Through the influence of the heavenly warmth of the beams of the morning sun: so the people of God owe themselves to the light from above. In the vivifying light of heaven, the dewdrops are begotten, and from it they come more properly than from the earth water. How are they produced? Invisibly, wonderfully, by the secret, incomprehensible influence of the divine power. We have by no means exhausted the figure, for we notice, Secondly, THE DESIGN OF THE DEW. It is for the fertilizing and refreshing of the earth. The spiritual Israel are a fructifying, quickening dew among men. It is also for the ornament of the earth, which the dew bestrews as with precious stones; and this beauty is caused because each little drop of dew reflects the morning sun and is an earthly reflection of the heavenly light. -- Condensed from Rudolph Stier.

Verse 3 (last clause). -- With singular beauty and propriety does the psalmist compare the first preachers of the gospel to dew. In the first place, they may be compared to the drops of dew on account of their multitude. But, in order to judge of the correctness of the comparison in this respect, we must consider, that, in the Holy Land, the dews are remarkably abundant. A French traveller, {1} has observed of Judea, that in the morning the ground is as much moistened by dew, as if it had rained. We are informed in the sacred history, that, when the Dayspring from on high visited the earth, many were the followers of Christ; and that very soon after his ascension into heaven, "multitudes both of men and women were added to the Lord". Justly then may those who hastened to the blessed Jesus, when the glorious light of his gospel first dawned upon the world, or immediately on the commencement of his mediatorial kingdom, be compared in number to the drops of dew, which at the dawn of day fall to the earth.

It is mentioned also in this verse, that the first subjects of the Messiah were to present themselves adorned "with the beauties of holiness"; frq yddhk in the splendours of holiness. In brightness, then, as well as in multitude, did they resemble the glittering drops of the morning dew. Our great poet has combined these two ideas in his beautiful comparison of an host innumerable to the

"Stars of morning, dewdrops which the sun impearls". {2}

The formation of the dew is represented in Scripture as the work of God, and not of man: and its descending to refresh and fertilize the earth is mentioned as his peculiar gift and in opposition to human means of rendering the earth more fruitful. "Who," saith Job, "hath begotten the drops of dew?" (ch. 38. 28) And the prophet Micah declares, that "the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the LORD, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men"

{1} Eugene Rogers.

{2} Milton's" Paradise Lost," Book v., line 745.

(ch. 5. 7). Well, then, might the term be applied by the Psalmist to those whom "God of his own will begat with the word of truth"; and who were his appointed instruments, by their preaching, to cause "the desert to rejoice and to blossom abundantly"; and "the wilderness to become a fruitful field".

Let it also be remembered, that those whom the Psalmist compares to dew are described under the image of young soldiers, going forth to fight the battles of a victorious prince. Now this comparison is used in 2 Samuel 17:11 2 Samuel 17:12 : "I counsel," said Hushai to Ahithophel, "that all Israel be generally gathered unto thee, from Dan even to Beersheba, as the sand that is by the sea for multitude; and that thou go to battle in thine own person. So shall we come upon him in some place where he shall be found, and we will light upon him as the dew falleth upon the ground". It is perhaps not undeserving of notice, that amongst the Romans those troops who first attacked the enemy, and who were composed of young men, were, from a supposed resemblance to dew, called Rorarii. It is not incumbent upon me to investigate the reason of their receiving that name; it is sufficient to point out its similarity with the expression of the psalmist, which is applied to those who were first to engage in the conflict with the enemies of the Gospel of Christ. -- Richard Dixon, 1811.

Verse 3. --

Thee, in thy power's triumphant day,
The willing nations shall obey;
And, when thy rising beams they view,
Shall all (redeemed from error's night)
Appear as numberless and bright
As crystal drops of morning dew. --N. Brady and N. Tate.

Verse 3. --

Lord, let thy day of power be known,
Thy people be confessed;
Eager and valiant -- priests each one,
In holy garments dressed.
Countless they shine, as dews from heaven
When eastern skies grow bright --
More glorious than those dews are given,
Sparkling in morning light. --George Rawson, in "Hymns, Verses, and Chants", 1876.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 3. -- A willing people and an immutable Leader.

  1. The promise made to Christ concerning his people: "Thy people shall be willing," etc.
    1. A promise of time: "In the day," etc.

(b) Of persons: "Thy people."

(c) Of disposition: "Shall be willing."

(d) Of character: "In the beauties of holiness."

(e) The majestic figure employed: "From the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth."

  1. The promise made to Christ concerning himself: "Thou hast the dew of thy youth." Jesus Christ has the dew of his youth personally, doctrinally, and mystically, being surrounded by new converts, who are as the early dew. -- Spurgeon's Sermons, No. 74.

Verse 3. -- This is a prophecy of the subjects of Christ's kingdom.

  1. Who they are; "Thy people".

    1. A people. This denotes distinction, separation, similarity, organization. They are not a confused rabble, but a united community.

(b) His people. By gift, by purchase, by effectual calling.

  1. What they are.

    1. A loyal people: "willing."

(b) A conquered people: "in the day of thy power."

(c) A holy people: "in the beauties of holiness."

(d) A numerous people: "from the womb of the morning," etc. The number of converts at the first proclamation of Christ's gospel was but the dew of his youth. --G.R.

Verse 3. -- First, the internal evidence of Christ's kingdom is in his people's willingness: "Thy people shall be willingness -- thy people shall bc a people all willing" -- all volunteers, not pressed men. Secondly, the external evidence of it lies in his people's holiness; "the beauties of holiness;" or as it may be rendered -- "in the magnificence of his sanctuary," for the ornaments of the sanctuary and the dress of the priests were very splendid. When you once give yourselves to God, you become temples of God; and sanctity must adorn that heart which is a living temple of the Holy Ghost. --J. Bennett, in a Sermon, 1829.

Verse 3. -- All true followers of Jesus are

  1. priests -- beauties of holiness are their sacerdotal robes;

(2) soldiers -- "in the day of thine armies";

(3) volunteers;

(4) benefactors -- as the dew. --Suggested by a paper in The Baptist Magazine.

Verse 3. -- Here we have a cluster of subjects: -- the willingness of the Lord's people, the beauty of holiness, young converts the life and glory of the church, the mystery of conversion, and so on.

Read Psalm 110:3