Psalm 113:5

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 5. Who is like unto the LORD our God? The challenge will never be answered. None can be compared with him for an instant; Israel's God is without parallel; our own God in covenant stands alone, and none can be likened unto him. Even those whom he has made like himself in some respects are not like him in godhead, for his divine attributes are many of them incommunicable and inimitable. None of the metaphors and figures by which the Lord is set forth in the Scriptures can give us a complete idea of him; his full resemblance is borne by nothing in earth or in heaven. Only in Jesus is the Godhead seen, but he unhesitatingly declared "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father."

Who dwelleth on high. In the height of his abode none can be like him. His throne, his whole character, his person, his being, everything about him, is lofty, and infinitely majestic, so that none can be likened unto him. His serene mind abides in the most elevated condition, he is never dishonoured, nor does he stoop from the pure holiness and absolute perfection of his character. His saints are said to dwell on high, and in this they are the reflection of his glory; but as for himself, the height of his dwelling place surpasses thought, and he rises far above the most exalted of his glorified people.

"Eternal Power! whose high abode
Becomes the grandeur of a God:
Infinite lengths beyond the bounds
Where stars revolve their little rounds."
"The lowest step around thy seat
Rises too high for Gabriel's feet;
In vain the tall archangel tries
To reach thine height with wondering eyes."
"Lord, what shall earth and ashes do?
We would adore our Maker too;
From sin and dust to thee we cry,
The Great, the Holy, and the High!"

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 5. Who is like unto the LORD our God? It is the nature of love, that the one whom we love we prefer to all others, and we ask, Who is like my beloved? The world has not his like. Thus love thinks ever of one, who in many things is inferior to many others; for in human affairs the judgment of love is blind. But those who love the Lord their God, though they should glow with more ardent love for him, and should ask, Who is as the Lord our God? in this matter would not be mistaken, but would think altogether most correctly. For there is no being, either in heaven or in earth, who can be in any way likened unto the Lord God. Even love itself cannot conceive, think, speak concerning God whom we love as he really is. -- Wolfgang Musculus.

Verse 5. Who is like unto the LORD our God, etc. Among the gods of the nations as Kimchi; or among the angels of heaven, or among any of the mighty monarchs on earth; there is none like him for the perfections of his nature, for his wisdom, power, truth, and faithfulness; for his holiness, justice, goodness, grace, and mercy. Who is eternal, unchangeable, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent? Nor for the works of his hands, his works of creation, providence, and grace; none ever did the like. What makes this reflection the more delightful to truly good men is, that this God is their God; and all this is true of our Immanuel, God with us, who is God over all, and the only Saviour and Redeemer; and there is none in heaven and earth like him, or to be desired beside him. -- John Gill.

Verse 5. The Lord our God who dwelleth on high. God is on high in respect of place or dwelling. It is true he is in the aerial and starry heaven by his essence and power; but the heaven of the blessed is his throne: not as if he were so confined to that place as to be excluded from others, for "the heaven of heavens cannot contain him"; but in respect of manifestation he is said to be there, because in that place he chiefly manifests his glory and goodness. In respect of his essence he is high indeed, inexpressibly high in excellency above all beings, not only in Abraham's phrase, "The High God," but in David's, "The Lord most High." Alas! what are all created beings in respect of him, with all their excellences, but nothing and vanity? ... For these excellences are divers things in the creatures, but one in God; they are accidents in the creatures, but essence in God; they are in the creature with some alloy or other, they are like the moon when they shine brightest, yet are spots of imperfection to be found in them. In respect to measure, he is infinitely above them all. Alas, they possess some small drops in respect to the fountain, some poor glimmering rays in respect to this glorious sun: in a word, he is an infinite ocean of perfection, without either brink or bottom. --Thomas Hedges, in a Sermon preached before the House of Commons, 1642.

Verse 5. God is said not only to be on high, but to "dwell" on high; this intimates calm and composed operation, and it is proper for us to take this view of the character of God's administration. You recollect that in all ages unbelief has been in some respect rendered plausible by the delays of God in the accomplishment of his designs. So, in St. Peter's time, it would seem that because the apostles and preachers of Christianity had dwelt much on Christ's coming to judgment, they cried out, "Where is the promise of his coming, for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation?" What is the apostle's answer to this? His first answer, I grant, is, that all things have not continued as they were from the creation, for there was a flood of waters, and those who said, Where is the promise of his coming? in the days of Noah were at last answered by the bursting earth and the breaking heavens ... That was his first answer; but his second answer contains the principle that, "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." The Being who is from everlasting to everlasting is under no necessity to hurry his plans; therefore he hath fixed the times and the seasons -- they are all with him, and he dwelleth on high. --Richard Watson, 1831.

Verse 5-6. The philosophy of the world, even in the present day, has its elevated and magnificent views of the Divine Being; yet it would seem uniform, whether among the sages of the heathen world or among the philosophers of the present day, that the loftier their views are even of the Divine nature, the more they tend to distrust and unbelief; and that, just in proportion as they have thought nobly of God, so the impression has deepened -- that, with respect to individuals at least, they were not the subjects of His immediate care. The doctrine of a particular providence, and the doctrine of direct divine influence upon the heart of man, have by them always been considered absurd and fanatical. Now, when I turn to the sages of inspiration -- to the holy men of old, who thought and spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, I find quite a different result -- that in proportion to the views they had of the glory of God, so was their confidence and hope.

That two such opposite results should spring from the same order of thoughts with respect to the Divine Being, is a singular fact, which demands and deserves some enquiry. How is it that, among the men of the world, wise as they are, in proportion as they have had high and exalted views of God, those lofty ideas tend to distrust; while just in proportion as we are enlightened on the very same subjects by the Scriptures of truth, rightly and spiritually understood, that we as well as the authors of these sacred books, in proportion as we see the glory and the grandeur of God, are excited to a filial and comforting trust? There are two propositions in the text which human reason could never unite. Who dwelleth on high -- but yet he humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth. And the reason why the mere unassisted human faculties could never unite these two ideas is, that they could not, in the nature of things, be united, but by a third discovery, which must have come from God himself, and show the two in perfect harmony -- the discovery that "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." --Richard Watson, 1831.

Verse 5-6. The structure of this passage in the original is singular, and is thus stated and commented on by Bp. Lowth, in his 19th Praelection:

Who is like Jehovah our God?
Who dwelleth on high.
Who looketh below.
In heaven and in earth.

The latter member is to be divided, and assigned in its two divisions to the two former members; so that the sense may be, "who dwelleth on high in heaven, and looketh below on the things which are in earth." --Richard Mant.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 5-6.

  1. The greatness of God as viewed from below, ver. 5.
  2. The condescension of God as viewed from above, ver. 6.

    1. In creation.
    2. In the Incarnation.
    3. In redemption. --G. R.

Verse 5-6. The unparalleled condescension of God.

  1. None are so great, and therefore able to stoop so low.
  2. None are so good, and therefore so willing to stoop.
  3. None are so wise, and therefore so able to "behold" or know the needs of little things.
  4. None are infinite, and therefore able to enter into minutiae and sympathize with the smallest grief: Infinity is seen in the minute as truly as in the immense.