Verse 17. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us. Even upon us who must not see thy glory in the land of Canaan; it shall suffice us if in our characters the holiness of God is reflected, and if over all our camp the lovely excellences of our God shall cast a sacred beauty. Sanctification should be the daily object of our petitions.
And establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it. Let what we do be done in truth, and last when we are in the grave; may the work of the present generation minister permanently to the building tip of the nation. Good men are anxious not to work in vain. They know that without the Lord they can do nothing, and therefore they cry to him for help in the work, for acceptance of their efforts, and for the establishment of their designs. The church as a whole earnestly desires that the hand of the Lord may so work with the hand of his people, that a substantial, yea, an eternal edifice to the praise and glory of God may be the result. We come and go, but the Lord's work abides. We are content to die so long as Jesus lives and his kingdom grows. Since the Lord abides for ever the same, we trust our work in his hands, and feel that since it is far more his work than ours he will secure it immortality. When we have withered like grass our holy service, like gold, silver, and precious stones, will survive the fire.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 17. Let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, etc. Let us try to look at our life's work in relation to the Lord's beauty. Our work and Divine Beauty, at first sight, how different; yet, on deeper insight, how truly one, how inseparably united.
There is light so beauty giving, that nothing it touches is positively ugly. In our sea girt island, with our fickle climate and grey atmosphere, we can only rarely imagine what magic power the serene skies, the balmy air, the sunny atmosphere of the South have over even the least interesting object in nature; but from certain hours, in certain places, I think we may form an idea of the transforming faculty of light.
There is also spiritual light, so beauty inspiring, that the plainest face within which it is born is illumined with singular loveliness, which wins its way into many a heart. Who of us has not marvelled at an unexpected light, in what we had always thought an uninteresting face? Who has not beheld a light divine irradiate the human countenance, giving joy, and prophesying perfection, where we had least thought to find beauty? May we not take these facts as emblems, albeit faint and imperfect, of what the "Beauty of the Lord" does for us, and our work? You know what the natural light can do for material objects; you know what mental and moral light can work for human faces; rise from these, and know what spiritual light, Divine Light, can do for immortal beings and immortal works. --Jessie Coombs, in "Thoughts for the Inner Life", 1867.
Verse 17. The beauty of the Lord. In the word ~[n (beauty) there is something like a deluge of grace. Thus far, he says, we have sought thy work, O Lord. There we do nothing, but are only spectators and recipients of thy gifts, we are merely passive. There thou showest thyself to us, and makest us safe, by thy work alone, which thou doest, when thou dost liberate us from that disease which Satan inflicted on the whole human race in Adam, to wit, Sin and Eternal death. --Martin Luther.
Verse 17. God is glorified and his work advances when his church is beautiful. The beauty of the Lord is the beauty of holiness, -- that beauty which in the Lord Jesus himself shone with lustre so resplendent, and which ought to be repeated or reflected by every disciple. And it is towards this that all amongst us who love the Saviour, and who long for the extension of his Kingdom, should very mainly direct their endeavours. Nothing can be sadder than when preaching or personal effort is contradicted and neutralized by the low or unlovely lives of those who pass for Christians; and nothing can go further to insure success than when prayer is carried out and preaching is seconded by the pure, holy, and benevolent lives of those who seek to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. -- James Hamilton.
Verse 17. The work of our hands. Jarchi interprets this of the work of the Tabernacle, in which the hands of the Israelites were employed in the wilderness; so Arama of the Tabernacle of Bezaleel. --John Gill.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 17. The Right Establishment, or the work which will endure -- why it will endure and should endure. Why we wish our work to be of such a nature, and whether there are enduring elements in it.
WORKS ON THE NINETIETH PSALM
Enarratio Psalmi 90. Per D. Doctorem Martinum Luth. In Schola Vuittembergensi, Anno, 1534, publice absoluta, edita vers Anno MD. 41. (In Vol. 4 of the Jena edition of Luther's Works, 1712 and other years, folio.)
A Meditation of Man's Mortalitie. Containing an Exposition of the Ninetieth Psalme. By that Reverend and Religious Servant of God Mr. William Bradshaw, sometime Fellow of Sidney Colledge in Cambridge. Published since his decease by Thomas Gataker B. of D. and Pastor of Rotherhith. London ... 1621.
Moses his Prayer. Or, An Exposition of the Ninetieth Psalme. In which is set forth, the Frailty and Misery of Mankind: most needful for these Times.
By Samuel Smith, Minister of the Gospel, Author of David's Repentance and the Great Assize, and yet Living ... 1656.