Verse 4. For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people; and therefore they should take pleasure in him. If our joy be pleasing to him let us make it full. What condescension is this on Jehovah's part, to notice, to love, and to delight in his chosen! Surely there is nothing in our persons, or our actions, which could cause pleasure to the Ever blessed One, were it not that he condescends to men of low estate. The thought of the Lord's taking pleasure in us is a mine of joy never to be exhausted.
He will beautify the meek with salvation. They are humble, and feel their need of salvation; he is gracious, and bestows it upon them. They lament their deformity, and he puts a beauty upon them of the choicest sort. He saves them by sanctifying them, and thus they wear the beauty of holiness, and the beauty of a joy which springs out of full salvation. He makes his people meek, and then makes the meek beautiful. Herein is grand argument for worshipping the Lord with the utmost exultation: he who takes such a pleasure in us must be approached with every token of exceeding joy.
God taketh pleasure in all his children as Jacob loved all his sons; but the meek are his Josephs, and upon these he puts the coat of many colours, beautifying them with peace, content, joy, holiness, and influence. A meek and quiet spirit is called "an ornament", and certainly it is "the beauty of holiness." When God himself beautifies a man, he becomes beautiful indeed and beautiful for ever.
The verse may be read, "He shall beautify the meek with salvation", or "He shall beautify the afflicted with deliverance", or, "He shall beautify the meek with victory"; and each of these readings gives a new shade of meaning, well worthy of quiet consideration. Each reading also suggests new cause for joyful adoration. "O come, let us sing unto the Lord."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 4. For the Lord taketh pleasure in his people. In the text there are two causes assigned why the saints should be excited to praise the Lord, and to be joyful in their King.
- The delight which the LORD has in the saints. "He taketh pleasure in his people." In this statement there are three subjects for inquiry, namely:
- Who are the Lord's people?
- Why he takes pleasure in them?
- In what respects he takes pleasure in them?
- Who are the Lord's people? Many are the names and titles given to them in Scripture. We find one in the second clause of the text; but it equally belongs to the first. "He will beautify the meek." The scriptural term "meekness" is one which singularly characterizes and distinguishes the true Christian. It, in fact, contains in itself a combination of graces, which are most evidently the fruit of the Spirit, and can grow on no other tree than on the Christian vine. Meekness, as a Christian grace, may be considered as it respects both God and man. As it respects God, it implies poverty of spirit; humiliation of heart arising from a sense of guilt and a feeling of corruption; submission to God's will; silence and patience under his rod; acquiescence with his dispensations; and a surrender of our own natural desires and inclinations to his overruling appointments. As it respects man, meekness comprehends lowliness of mind, and a readiness to prefer others before ourselves; gentleness of disposition and behaviour; forbearance under provocations; forgiveness of injuries; quietness of spirit, and moderation in pushing forward our own interest and benefit. These are the qualities which distinguish "the meek." Are not these, my brethren, the graces and tempers and dispositions which characterize and adorn true Christians? They are, in an especial manner, "the meek upon earth." In fact, there are, and can be, no others to whom this title really belongs. No man in his natural state can be meek, in the Scriptural sense of the word.
- But why does the Lord "take pleasure" in them? Is there anything in them of their own, which he can regard with complacency and delight? No: they know and feel that they have no pretensions of this kind. It is not for their sake, but for his own sake; for his name's, His truth's, and his mercy's sake, that he has now a favour unto them. The Lord "taketh pleasure in his people", because they are his people; those whom he has purchased by his blood, renewed by his Spirit, and redeemed by his power. He "taketh pleasure in them", because in them he is himself honoured and glorified; because he sees in them the travail of his soul, the fruit of his suffering and mediation; because of the work which he has already begun in them; because they already exhibit some traces of his own image, some transcript of that mind which was in him, who was "meek and lowly in heart."
- In what respects the Lord takes pleasure in his people. First: the Lord takes pleasure in them, inasmuch as he delights in the exercise of their graces towards him. They all believe in him, and have faith in his word and promises; they rely on his truth and power; they hope in his mercy; they fear his displeasure; they love his person and name. Secondly: the Lord hath pleasure in the services of his people. It is true, that they can do but little for him, and that little is nothing worth. At the best they can but render to him of his own again. But he regards their services, not with an eye to their intrinsic value in themselves, but for the sake of the willing mind from which they flow. He takes pleasure in their poor attempts to please him, because they are attempts. He weighs not the worth or merit of the action, but the principle and motive from which it springs. Thirdly: the Lord hath pleasure in the prosperity of his people. His name is love; his nature is goodness; and can we doubt but that he loves to see his people happy? Nay, we are expressly told that "he rejoiceth over them with joy"; that "he rejoiceth over them to do them good." Even in those dispensations which in themselves are grievous and painful he is seeking their good, and in the end promoting their happiness. What consolations do these reflections furnish to the meek and suffering servants of the Lord!
- Let us now consider the LORD'S gracious designs concerning his people: He will beautify them with salvation. He designs not only to save, but to adorn and honour his people. Those "whom he justifies, them he also glorifies." He "will beautify them with salvation"; a promise relating both to the present life and to the future one.
- To the present life. It is the purpose of God to beautify his people with salvation in this world. There are many passages in the Scripture which intimate this purpose, and lead us to this view of the happy effects of religion, even in the present life. When the prodigal returned home to his father's house, contrite, penitent, and reformed, he was not only received with kindness, assured of forgiveness, and welcomed as a son, but he was adorned and beautified ( Luke 15:22 ). So in the forty-fifth Psalm, the church, the bride of Christ, is thus described: "The king's daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework." "So shall he greatly desire thy beauty." See also Ephesians 5:25-27 .
But what is the glory, the beauty, which is here meant in these passages, with which Christ will adorn and beautify his people? It is "the beauty of holiness." We have already seen that the meek and quiet spirit by which the Christian is distinguished is an "ornament" to him; and we read in another place that he is "adorned" with good works. It is the great object of the gospel to sanctify all who embrace it, to restore them to the image of God which they have lost through sin.
- We may now consider this promise as it relates to the future world. Lovely and glorious as are the saints on earth, their beauty falls far short of the perfection to which it will attain hereafter. They are "predestinated to be conformed to the image of the Son"; and when they awake up in another world, it will be after his likeness, without any remaining blemish, defect, or spot. Carry forward your thoughts to the morning of the resurrection, when this corruption shall have put on incorruption, this mortal immortality; when the body, raised in honour and glory, shall be clothed in its beauteous apparel, and being made like unto Christ's glorious body, shall shine as the sun in the firmament; when now, once more united to its kindred and sanctified spirit, it shall no longer be a weight, and a clog, and a hindrance, but become a furtherer of its joy, and a sharer and a helper in its spiritual happiness. This is the meaning of the text, this is the beauty which he has designed for his people, and for which he is now preparing them. In the contemplation of these, with reason may it be said to them, "Praise ye the Lord." --Condensed from a Sermon by Edward Cooper, 1826.
Verse 4. Here is ratio propositionis, the important reason of the proposed praising of the Lord. Those who know that they are objects of Divine complacency are likely to act on the principle of reciprocity. God takes pleasure in sanctifying, justifying and glorifying them; they must surely take pleasure in extolling him as Friend, Protector, Law giver, Leader, King, God! --Simon de Muis.
Verse 4. He will beautify the meek with salvation. Meekness not only gives great peace of mind, but often adds a lustre to the countenance. We only read of three in Scripture whose faces shone remarkably -- viz., Christ, Moses, and Stephen -- and they were eminent for meekness. --Matthew Henry.
Verse 4. The meek. In the Hebrew ~ywg[, anavim, means poor and afflicted ones; but the term came afterwards to be applied to merciful persons, as bodily afflictions have a tendency to subdue pride, while abundance begets cruelty. --John Calvin.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 4. The text bears other renderings. Read as in Authorized Version.
- The character to be aimed at -- the meek.
- Submissive to God. To his truth. To his dealings.
- Gentle towards men. Bearing with patience. Forgiving with heartiness. Loving with perseverance.
- Lowly in ourselves.
- The favour to be enjoyed -- beautify.
- The beauty of gentleness.
- The beauty of peace.
- The beauty of content.
- The beauty of joy.
- The beauty of holiness.
- The beauty of respect and influence.
- The good results to be expected.
- God will be glorified and Christ manifested.
- Men will be attracted.
- Heaven will be anticipated.
Verse 4. (first clause). The Lord's taking pleasure in his people is,
- A wonderful evidence of his grace.
- The highest honour they can desire.
- Their security for time and eternity. --J.F.