Verse 4. Sing unto God, sing praises to his name. To time and tune, with order and care, celebrate the character and deeds of God, the God of his people. Do it again and again; and let the praise, with resolution of heart, be all directed to him. Sing not for ostentation, but devotion; not to be heard of men, but of the Lord himself. Sing not to the congregation, but "unto God,"
Extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH. Remember his most great, incomprehensible, and awful name; reflect upon his self existence and absolute dominion, rise to the highest pitch of joyful reverence in adoring him. Heaven beholds him riding on the clouds in storm, and earth has seen him marching over its plains with majesty. The Hebrew seems to be: "Cast up a highway for him who marches through the wilderness," in allusion to the wanderings of the tribes in the desert. The marches of God were in the waste howling wilderness. His eternal power and Godhead were there displayed in his feeding, ruling, and protecting the vast hosts which he had brought out of Egypt. The ark brought all this to remembrance, and suggested it as a theme for song. The name JAH is an abbreviation of the name Jehovah; it is not a diminution of that name, but an intensified word, containing in it the essence of the longer, august title. It only occurs here in our version of Scripture, except in connection with other words such as Hallelujah.
And rejoice before him. In the presence of him who marched so gloriously at the head of the elect nation, it is most fitting that all his people should display a holy delight. We ought to avoid dulness in our worship. Our songs should be weighty with solemnity, but not heavy with sadness. Angels are nearer the throne than we, but their deepest awe is consonant with the purest bliss; our sense of divine greatness must not minister terror but gladness to our souls; we should rejoice before him. It should be our wish and prayer, that in this wilderness world, a highway may be prepared for the God of grace. "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God," is the cry of gospel heralds, and we must all zealously aim at obedience thereto; for where the God of the mercyseat comes, blessings innumerable are given to the sons of men.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 4. Extol him that rideth upon the heavens. Or, as Symmachus, Jerome, Bishop Lowth, Merrick, and others render, "Prepare the way for him who rideth through the deserts": twbr[ aravoth; i.e., who rode through the wilderness on the cherubim; alluding to the passage of the ark. "Comprehensive Bible."
Verse 4. Rideth. Said, perhaps, with allusion to the cherubim on which Jehovah was borne ( Psalms 18:10 ), God himself being the Leader and Captain of his people, riding as it were at their head as an earthly captain might lead his army, riding on a war horse. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Verse 4. Upon the heavens. The ancient versions in general render the word twkr[k super occasus, or occasum. The desert or solitude is the proper and general meaning of it, and there is no authority to render it by the heavens, but that of the Rabbins, which, indeed, is little or none; and of the Chaldee paraphrase which gives it twbr[k hyrqy hysrwk super thronam gloriae ejus in nono caelo who sits upon the throne of his glory in the ninth heaven. The psalmist here alludes, as I apprehend, to the passage of the Israelites through the deserts in their way to the promised land, and describes it in many of the principal circumstances of it in the following verses; and God is said to ride, or be carried through the deserts, as the ark of his presence was carried through them, and accompanied the Israelites in all their various stages during their continuance and pilgrimage in them. Samuel Chandler.
Verse 4. God always goes at the head of his people through the deserts of suffering and need; in the deserts of trouble they find in him a true leader. E. W. Hengstenberg.
Verse 4. His name JAH. JAH, as the concentration of Jehovah, is the more emphatic term (Stier). It occurs for the first time in Exodus 15:2 . Frederic Fysh, in "A Lyrical Literary Version of the Psalms," 1850.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- The name that inspires the song: Jah.
- Self existent.
- The song inspired by that name.
- Of exultation.
- Of confidence.
- Of joy. G. R.