Verse 15. Happy is that people that is in such a case. Such things are not to be overlooked. Temporal blessings are not trifles, for the miss of them would be a dire calamity. It is a great happiness to belong to a people so highly favoured.
Yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD. This comes in as an explanation of their prosperity. Under the Old Testament Israel had present earthly rewards for obedience: when Jehovah was their God they were a nation enriched and flourishing. This sentence is also a sort of correction of all that had gone before; as if the poet would say -- all these temporal gifts are a part of happiness, but still the heart and soul of happiness lies in the people being right with God, and having a full possession of him. Those who worship the happy God become a happy people. Then if we have not temporal mercies literally we have something better: if we have not the silver of earth we have the gold of heaven, which is better still.
In this psalm David ascribes his own power over the people, and the prosperity which attended his reign, to the Lord himself. Happy was the nation which he ruled; happy in its king, in its families, in its prosperity, and in the possession of peace; but yet more in enjoying true religion and worshipping Jehovah, the only living and true God.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 15. Happy is that people, etc. We have in the text happiness with an echo, or ingemination; "happy" and "happy." From this ingemination arise the parts of the text; the same which are the parts both of the greater world and the less. As the heaven and earth in the one, and the body and soul in the other; so are the passages of this Scripture in the two veins of happiness. We may range them as Isaac does the two parts of his blessing ( Genesis 27:28 ); the vein of civil happiness, in "the fatness of the earth"; and the vein of Divine happiness, in "the fatness of heaven." Or (if you will have it out of the gospel), here's Martha's portion in the "many things" of the body; and Mary's better part in the unum necessarium of the soul. To give it yet more concisely, here's the path of prosperity in outward comforts, "Happy is that people that is in such a case"; and the path of piety in comforts spiritual: Yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.
In the handling of the first, without any further subdivision, I will only show what it is the Psalmist treats of; and that shall be by way of gradation, in these three particulars. It is De Felicitate; De Felicitate Populi; De Hac Felicitate Populi: of happiness; of the people's happiness; of the people's happiness, as in such a case.
Happiness is the general, and the first: a noble argument, and worthy of an inspired pen, especially the Psalmist's. Of all other there can be none better to speak of popular happiness than such a king; nor of celestial, than such a prophet. Yet I mean not to discourse of it in the full latitude, but only as it hath a peculiar posture in this psalm, very various and different from the order of other psalms. In this psalm it is reserved to the end, as the close of the foregoing meditations. In other psalms it is set in the front, or first place of all; as in Psalms 32:1 - 11, in Psalms 112:1-10 , in Psalms 119:1-176 , and in the Psalms 128:1-6 . Again, in this the Psalmist ends with our happiness and begins with God's. "Blessed be the LORD my strength." In Ps 41:1-13, contrary, he makes his exordium from man's; "Blessed is he that considereth the poor"; his conclusion with God's; "Blessed be the Lend God of Israel." I therefore observe these variations, because they are helpful to the understanding both of the essence and splendour of true happiness. To the knowledge of the essence they help, because they demonstrate how our own happiness is enfolded in the glory of God, and subordinate unto it. As we cannot begin with beatus unless we end with benedictus: so we must begin with benedictus that we may end with beatus. The reason is this, -- because the glory of God is as well the consummation as the introduction to a Christian's happiness. Therefore as in the other psalm he begins below and ends upwards; so in this, having begun from above with that which is principal, "Blessed be the LORD"; he fixes his second thoughts upon the subordinate, "Blessed, or happy, are the people." He could not proceed in a better order: he first looks up to God's kingdom, then reflects upon his own, as not meaning to take blessedness before he had given it. -- Richard Holdsworth.
Verse 15. Happy is that people, that is in such a case, etc. The first part of this text hath relation to temporal blessings, "Blessed is the people that be so": the second to spiritual, "Yea, blessed is the people while God is the LORD." "His left hand is under my head", saith the spouse ( Song of Solomon 2:6 ); that sustains me from falling into murmuring, or diffidence of his providence, because out of his left hand he hath given me a competency of his temporal blessings; "But his right hand doth embrace me", saith the spouse there; his spiritual blessings fill me, possess me so that no rebellious fire breaks out within me, no outward temptation breaks in upon me. So also Solomon says again, "In her left hand is riches and glory" (temporal blessings) "and in her right hand length of days" ( Proverbs 3:16 ), all that accomplishes and fulfils the eternal joys of the saints of heaven. The person to whom Solomon attributes this right and left hand is Wisdom; and a wise man may reach out his right and left hand, to receive the blessings of both sorts. And the person whom Solomon represents by Wisdom there, is Christ himself. So that not only a worldly wise man, but a Christian wise man may reach out both hands, to both kinds of blessings, right and left, spiritual and temporal.
Now, for this first blessedness, as no philosophers could ever tell us amongst the Gentiles what true blessedness was, so no grammarian amongst the Jews, amongst the Hebrews, could ever tell us what the right signification of this word is, in which David expresses blessedness here; whether asherei, which is the word, be a plural noun, and signify beatitudines, blessednesses in the plural, and intimate thus much, that blessedness consists not in any one thing, but in a harmony and consent of many; or whether this asherei be an adverb, and signify beate, and so be an acclamation, O how happily, how blessedly are such men provided for that are so; they cannot tell. Whatsoever it be, it is the very first word with which David begins his Book of Psalms; beatus vir; as the last word of that book is, laudate Dominum; to show that all that passes between God and man, from first to last, is blessings from God to man, and praises from man to God; and that the first degree of blessedness is to find the print of the hand of God even in his temporal blessednesses, and to praise and glorify him for them in the right use of them. A man that hath no land to hold by it, nor title to recover by it, is never the better for finding, or buying, or having a fair piece of evidence, a fair instrument, fairly written, duly sealed, authentically testified; a man that hath not the grace of God, and spiritual blessings too, is never the nearer happiness, for all his abundances of temporal blessedness. Evidences are evidences to them who have title. Temporal blessings are evidences to them who have a testimony of God's spiritual blessings in the temporal. Otherwise, as in his hands who hath no title, it is a suspicious thing to find evidences, and he will be thought to have embezzled and purloined them, he will be thought to have forged and counterfeited them, and he will be called to an account for them, how he came by them, and what he meant to do with them: so to them who have temporal blessings without spiritual, they are but useless blessings, they are but counterfeit blessings, they shall not purchase a minute's peace here, nor a minute's refreshing to the soul hereafter; and there must be a heavy account made for them, both how they were got, and how they were employed. -- John Donne.
Verse 15. Happy is that people, etc. It is only a narrow and one sided religion that can see anything out of place in this beatitude of plenty and peace. If we could rejoice with the psalms fully and without misgiving, in the temporal blessings bestowed by heaven, we should the more readily and sincerely enter into the depths of their spiritual experience. And the secret of this lies in the full comprehension and contemplation of the beautiful and pleasant as the gift of God. --A.S. Aglen.
Verse 15. Yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD. "Yea, happy." This is the best wine, kept to the last, though all men be not of this opinion. You shall hardly bring a worldly man to think so. The world is willing enough to misconstrue the order of the words, and to give the priority to civil happiness, as if it were first in dignity, because 'tis first named: they like better to hear of the cui sic than the cui Dominus. To prevent this folly, the Psalmist interposes a caution in this corrective particle, "yea, happy." It hath the force of a revocation, whereby he seems to retract what went before, not simply and absolutely, but in a certain degree, lest worldly men should wrest it to a misinterpretation. It is not an absolute revocation, but a comparative; it doth not simply deny that there is some part of popular happiness in these outward things, but it prefers the spirituals before them: "Yea", that is, Yea more, or, Yea rather; like that of Christ in the Gospel, when one in the company blessed the womb that bare him, he presently replies, "Yea, rather blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it": Luke 11:28 . In like manner, the prophet David, having first premised the inferior part and outside of a happy condition; fearing lest any should of purpose mistake his meaning, and, hearing the first proposition, should either there set up their rest, and not at all take up the second; or if they take it in, do it preposterously, and give it the precedence before the second, according to the world's order, Virtus post nummos. In this respect he puts in the clause of revocation, whereby he shows that these outward things, though named first, yet they are not to be reputed first. The particle "Yea" removes them to the second place; it tacitly transposes the order; and the path of piety, which was locally after, it places virtually before. 'Tis as if he had said, Did I call them happy who are in such a case? Nay, miserable are they if they be only in such a case: the temporal part cannot make them so without the spiritual. Admit the windows of the visible heaven were opened, and all outward blessings poured down upon us; admit we did perfectly enjoy whatsoever the vastness of the earth contains in it; tell me, What will it profit to gain all and lose God? If the earth be bestowed upon us, and not heaven; or the material heaven be opened, and not the beatifical; or the whole world made ours, and God not ours; we do not arrive at happiness. All that is in the first proposition is nothing unless this be added, "Yea, happy are the people which have the Lord for their God." -- Richard Holdsworth.
Thrice happy nations, where with look benign
Thine aspect bends; beneath thy smile divine
The fields are with increasing harvests crown'd,
The flocks grow fast, and plenty reigns around,
Nor sire, nor infant son, black death shall crave,
Till ripe with age they drop into the grave;
Nor fell suspicion, nor relentless care,
Nor peace destroying discord enter there,
But friends and brothers, wives and sisters, join
The feast in concord and in love divine. --Callimachus.
Verse 15. David having prayed for many temporal blessings in the behalf of the people from Psalms 144:12-15 , at last concludes, Blessed are the people that are in such a case; but presently he checks and corrects himself, and eats, as it were, his own words, but rather, happy is that people whose God is the Lord. The Syriac rendereth it question wise, "Is not the people (happy) that is in such a case?" The answer is, "No", except they have God to boot: Psalms 146:5 . Nothing can make that man truly miserable that hath God for his portion, and nothing can make that man truly happy that wants God for his portion. God is the author of all true happiness; he is the donor of all true happiness; he is the maintainer of all true happiness, and he is the centre of all true happiness; and, therefore, he that hath him for his God, and for his portion, is the only happy man in the world. --Thomas Brooks.
Verse 15. Whose God is JEHOVAH. A word or name well known to us English, by our translators now often retaining that name in the mention of God in our English Bible, and therefore we shall do well to retain it. Lord was a lower word, in common acceptation, than God. But JEHOVAH is a higher name than either, and more peculiar, incommunicable, and comprehensive. Exodus 6:3 : "I appeared" (saith the Lord) "unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them."
To have God to be our Jehovah is the insurance of happiness to us. For of many, observe but these two things in the name Jehovah: First, God's absolute independency -- that he is of himself omnipotent, Exodus 3:14 : "And God said, I AM THAT I AM." Secondly, God's faithfulness, that he cannot but be as good as his word, Exodus 6:2-4 , 6: "And I have also established my covenant with them; wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am JEHOVAH (so in the Hebrew), and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians." So that this name is our security of God's performance. Examine we therefore our bonds, and bills, that is, his promises to us; behold, they are all the promises of Jehovah; they must stand good, for they bear his name; they must reflect his name, and promote both our good and God's grand design. --Nathanael Homes, 1678.
With this prayer of Jehovah's anointed One end the prayers of the Book of Psalms. The remaining six psalms consist exclusively of praise and high Hallelujahs. --Lord Congleton, in "The Psalms: a new Version, with Notes", 1875.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 15. The peculiar happiness of those whose God is the Lord.