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Psalm 144:12

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 12. God's blessing works wonders for a people.

That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth. Our sons are of first importance to the state, since men take a leading part in its affairs; and that the young men are the older men will be. He desires that they may be like strong, well rooted, young trees, which promise great things. If they do not grow in their youth, when will they grow? If in their opening manhood they are dwarfed, they will never get over it. O the joys which we may have through our sons! And, on the other hand, what misery they may cause us! Plants may grow crooked, or in some other way disappoint the planter, and so may our sons. But when we see them developed in holiness, what joy we have of them!

That our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace. We desire a blessing for our whole family, daughters as well as sons. For the girls to be left out of the circle of blessing would be unhappy indeed. Daughters unite families as corner stones join walls together, and at the same time they adorn them as polished stones garnish the structure into which they are builded. Home becomes a palace when the daughters are maids of honour, and the sons are nobles in spirit; then the father is a king, and the mother a queen, and royal residences are more than outdone. A city built up of such dwellings is a city of palaces, and a state composed of such cities is a republic of princes.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 12. The reminiscences or imitations of Psalms 18:1-50 , suddenly cease here, and are followed by a series of original, peculiar, and for the most part or no doubt antique expressions. Oil the supposition that the title is correct in making David the author, this is natural enough. On any other supposition it is unaccountable, unless by the gratuitous assumption, that this is a fragment of an older composition, a mode of reasoning by which anything may be either proved or disproved. --Joseph Addison Alexander.

Verse 12. That our sons may be as plants, etc. They who have ever been employed in the cultivation of plants of any kind, are continually tempted to wish that the human objects of their care and culture would grow up as rapidly, as straight, as flourishing, would as uniformly fulfil their specific idea and purpose, as abundantly reward the labour bestowed on them ... If our sons are indeed to grow up as young plants, like our English oaks, which according to the analogies of Nature, furnish no inappropriate type of our national character, they must not be stunted or dwarfed or pollarded, for the sake of being kept under the shade of a stranger. They should grow up straight toward heaven, as God had ordained them to grow ... There is something so palpable and striking in this type, that twenty-five years ago, in speaking of the gentlemanly character, I was led to say, "If a gentleman is to grow up he must grow like a tree: there must be nothing between him and heaven." --Julius Charles Hare, in a Sermon entitled "Education the Necessity of Mankind", 1851.

Verse 12. That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth, etc. Thus David prays for the rising generation. Metaphors seem generally unsuitable to prayer, but they do not wear this aspect in the prayers recorded in the Scriptures. The language of the text is tropical, but the metaphors are suitable and seasonable. Roots of vegetables are necessarily invisible. Tender plants are insignificant. A plant grown up, having height in its stem, width in its branches, abundance in its foliage, and fulness in its bloom, is conspicuous. David prays that the sons of that generation might be in their youth "as plants grown up", that is, that their piety might not only live, but that their godliness might be fully expressed. The stones of a foundation are concealed. The stones in the mid wall of a building are also necessarily hid. The stones on the surface of a wall are visible, but they are not distinguished. The cornerstone of buildings in that day was prominent and eminent. Placed at the angle of the structure, where two walls met, on the top of the walls, and being richly ornamented and polished, it attracted attention. David prays that the daughters of that day might make an open and lovely profession of religion -- that both sons and daughters might not only have piety but show it. - -Samuel Martin, in "Cares of Youth."

Verse 12. "Plants grown up" "Corner stones polished." These processes of growth and polish can be carried on in one place only, the church of Christ. --Neale and Littledale.

Verse 12. That our daughters may be as corner stones, etc. "The polished corners of the temple", rather "the sculptured angles, the ornament, of a palace." Great care and much ornament were bestowed by the ancients upon the angles of their splendid palaces. It is remarkable that the Greeks made use of pilasters, called Caryatides (carved after the figure of a woman dressed in long robes), to support the entablatures of their buildings. --Daniel Cresswell.

Verse 12. That our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace or temple. By daughters families are united and connected to their mutual strength, as the parts of a building are by the cornerstones; and when they are graceful and beautiful both in body and mind, they are then polished after the similitude of a nice and curious structure. When we see our daughters well established, and stayed with wisdom and discretion, as cornerstones are fastened in the building; when we see them by faith united to Christ, as the chief cornerstone, adorned with the graces of God's Spirit, which are the polishing of that which is naturally rough, and "become women professing godliness"; when we see them purified and consecrated to God as living temples, we think ourselves happy in them. --Matthew Henry.

Verse 12. That our daughters may be as corner stones, etc. One might perhaps at the first glance have expected that the daughters of a household would be as the graceful ornament of the clustering foliage or the fruit bearing tree, and the sons as the cornerstones upholding the weight and burden of the building, and yet it is the reverse here. And I think one may read the love and tenderness of the Lord in this apparently casual but intended expression, and that he meant the nations of the earth to know and understand how much of their happiness, their strength, and their security was dependent on the female children of a family. It has not been so considered in many a nation that knew not God: in polished Greece in times of old, and in some heathen nations even to this day, the female children of a family have been cruelly destroyed, as adding to the burdens and diminishing the resources of a household; and alas! too, even in Christian countries, if not destroyed, they are with equal pitiless and remorseless cruelty cut off from all the solace and ties and endearments of life, and immured in that living mockery of a grave, the cloister, that they may not prove incumbrances and hindrances to others! How contrary all this to the loving purpose of our loving God! whose Holy Spirit has written for our learning that sons and daughters are alike intended to be the ornament and grace, the happiness and blessing of every household. --Barton Bouchier.

Verse 12. After the similitude of a palace. Most interpreters give the last word the vague sense of "a palace." There is something, however, far more striking in the translation temple, found in the Prayer Book and the ancient versions. The omission of the article is a poetic license of perpetual occurrence. The temple was the great architectural model and standard of comparison, and particularly remarkable for the great size and skilful elaboration of its foundation stones, some of which, there is reason to believe, have remained undisturbed since the time of Solomon. --Joseph Addison Alexander.

Verse 12-15. In the former part of the psalm he speaks of such things as concern his own happiness: "Blessed be the Lord my strength" ( Psalms 144:1 ); "Send thine hand from above; and deliver me out of great waters" ( Psalms 144:7 ); "Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children" ( Psalms 144:11 ). And he might as easily have continued the same strain in the clauses following: "That my sons may grow up as plants, my daughters may be as the polished corners of the temple, my sheep fruitful, my oxen strong, my garners full and plenteous"; and accordingly he might have concluded it also -- "Happy shall I be, if I be in such a case." This, I say, he might have done; nay, this he would have done, if his desires had reflected only upon himself. But being of a diffusive heart, and knowing what belonged to the neighbourhoods of piety, as loath to enjoy this happiness alone, he alters his style, and (being in the height of well wishes to himself) he turns the singular into a plural -- our sheep, our oxen, our garners, our sons and daughters, that he might compendiate all in this, -- Happy are the people. Here is a true testimony both of a religious and generous mind, who knew in his most retired thoughts to look out of himself, and to be mindful of the public welfare in his most private meditations. S. Ambrose observes it as a clear character of a noble spirit, to do what tends to the public good, though to his own disadvantage. --Richard Holdsworth (1590-1649), in "The Valley of Vision."

Verse 12-15. These words contain a striking picture of a prosperous and happy nation. We are presented with a view of the masculine youth of the nation by the oaks of the forest, become great in the early period of the vigour and excellency of the soil. They are represented in the distinguishing character of their sex, standing abroad the strength of the nation, whence its resources for action must be derived. On the other hand, the young females of a nation are exhibited under an equally just and proper representation of their position and distinguishing character. They are not exhibited by a metaphor derived from the hardier tenants of the forest, but they are shown to us by a representation taken from the perpetual accompaniments of the dwelling; they are the supports and the ornaments of domestic life. Plenty of every kind is represented to us in possession and in reasonable expectation. No breaking in, no invasion by a furious foe, oppresses the inhabitants of this happy country with terror; neither is there any going out. The barbarous practice employed by Sennacherib, and other ancient conquerors, of transporting the inhabitants of a vanquished country to some distant, unfriendly, and hated land, -- the practice at this moment employed, to the scandal of the name and the sorrow of Europe -- they dread not: they fear no "going out." Under circumstances of such a nature causes of distress or complaint exist not; or, if they do, they are capable of being so modified, and alleviated, and remedied, that there is no complaining in the streets. "Happy, then, is that people, that is in such a case." --John Pye Smith, 1775-1851.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 12. Youth attended with development, stability, usefulness, and spiritual health.

Verse 12. (first clause). To Young Men. Consider,

  1. What is desired on your behalf: "Sons may be as plants", etc.

    1. That you may be respected and valued.
    2. That you may have settled principles and virtues. Plants are not blown hither and thither.
    3. That you may be vigorous and strong in moral power.
  2. What is requisite on your part to the accomplishment of this desire.

    1. A good rooting in Christ.
    2. Constant nourishment from the word of God.
    3. The dews of divine grace obtained by prayer.
    4. A resolute tendency within to answer the God appointed purpose of your existence. --J.F.

Verse 12. (second clause). To Young Women. Consider,

  1. The important position you may occupy in the social fabric: "As cornerstones."

    1. The moral and religious tone of society is determined more by your character and influence than by those of men.
    2. The complexion of home life will be a reflex of your conduct and character, either as daughters, sisters, or wives.
    3. The moulding of the character of the next generation, remember, begins with the mother's influence.
    4. Let these facts weigh with you as a motive in seeking the grace of God, without which you can never fulfil your mission worthily.
  2. The beauty which ought to belong to you in your position. "Polished after", etc. The beauty of,

    1. Heart purity: "The King's daughter is all glorious within."
    2. A noble and modest conduct: "wrought gold", no imitation; real gold.
    3. Gracious and gentle demeanour.
  3. How both the right position and right beauty are obtained.

    1. By yielding yourselves to God.
    2. By Christ dwelling in your heart.
    3. By becoming living stones and polished stones under the workmanship of the Holy Spirit. --J.F.
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