PSALM 96 OVERVIEW.
Subject. -- This Psalm is evidently taken from that sacred song which was composed by David at the time when "the ark of God was set in the midst of the tent which David had prepared for it, and they offered burnt sacrifices and peace offerings before God." See the sixteenth chapter of the first book of the Chronicles. The former part of that sacred song was probably omitted in this place because it referred to Israel, and the design of the Holy Ghost in this psalm was to give forth a song for the Gentiles, a triumphant hymn wherewith to celebrate the conversion of the nations to Jehovah in gospel times. It follows fitly upon the last Psalm, which describes the obstinacy of Israel, and the consequent taking of the gospel from them that it might be preached among the nations who would receive it, and in due time be fully won to Christ by its power. It thus makes a pair with the Ninety-fifth Psalm. It is a grand MISSIONARY HYMN, and it is a wonder that Jeers can read it and yet remain exclusive. If blindness in part had not happened unto Israel, they might have seen long ago, and would now see, that their God always had designs of love for all the families of men, and never intended that his grace and his covenant should relate only to the seed of Abraham after the flesh. We do not wonder that the large hearted David rejoiced and danced before the ark, while he saw in vision all the earth turning from idols to the one living and true God. Had Michal, Saul's daughter, only been able to enter into his delight, she would not have reproached him, and if the Jews at this day could only be enlarged in heart to feel sympathy with all mankind, they also would sing for joy at the great prophecy that all the earth shall be fitted with the glory of the Lord.
Divisions. -- We will make none, for the song is one and indivisible, a garment of praise without seam, woven from the top throughout.
Verse 1. O sing unto the Lord a new song. New joys are filling the hearts of men, for the glad tidings of blessing to all people are proclaimed, therefore let them sing a new song. Angels inaugurated the new dispensation with new songs, and shall not we take up the strain? The song is for Jehovah alone, the hymns which chanted the praises of Jupiter and Neptune, Vishnoo and Siva are hushed for ever; Bacchanalian shouts are silenced, lascivious sonnets are no more. Unto the one only God all music is to be dedicated. Mourning is over, and the time of singing of hearts has come. No dismal rites are celebrated, no bloody sacrifices of human beings are presented, no cutting with knives, and outcries of lamentation are presented by deluded votaries. Joy is in the ascendant, and singing has become the universal expression of love, the fitting voice of reverent adoration. Men are made new creatures, and their song is new also. The names of Baalim are no more on their lips, the wanton music of Ashtaroth ceaseth; the foolish ditty and the cruel war song are alike forgotten; the song is holy, heavenly, pure, and pleasant. The psalmist speaks as if he would lead the strain and be the chief musician, he invites, he incites, he persuades to sacred worship, and cries with all his heart, "O sing unto Jehovah a new song."
Sing unto the Lord, all the earth. -- National jealousies are dead; a Jew invites the Gentiles to adore, and joins with them, so that all the earth may lift up one common psalm as with one heart and voice unto Jehovah, who hath visited it with his salvation. No corner of the world is to be discordant, no race of heathen to be dumb. All the earth Jehovah made, and all the earth must sing to him. As the sun shines on all lands, so are all lands to delight in the light of the Sun of Righteousness. E Pluribus Unum, out of many one song shall come forth. The multitudinous languages of the sons of Adam, who were scattered at Babel, will blend in the same song when the people are gathered at Zion. Nor men alone, but the earth itself is to praise its Maker. Made subject to vanity for a while by a sad necessity, the creation itself also is to be delivered from the bondage of corruption, and brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God, so that sea and forest, field and flood, are to be joyful before the Lord. Is this a dream? then let us dream again. Blessed are the eyes which shall see the kingdom, and the ears which shall hear its songs. Hasten thine advent, good Lord! Yea, send forth speedily the rod of thy strength out of Zion, that the nations may bow before the Lord and his Anointed.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. -- What has been said of Psalm 67 may be fitly applied to the present psalm. We need not hesitate to add that it is a millennial anthem. It accords with the condition of the world when Christ shall sit enthroned in the willing loyalty of our race. The nations join in an acclaim of praise to him as their rightful Judge and King. There is a unanimity in the song, as if it ascended from a world purged into a temple of holiness, and whose inhabitants were indeed a royal priesthood, with one heart to make Jesus king, with one voice to sound forth one peal of melody in praise of the name above every name.
Fix the eye for a moment on the precious vision of which we thus catch a glimpse. It holds true to the deepest principles of our nature, that what we contemplate as possible, much more what we anticipate as ceertain, lends us the very hope and energy conducive to its realisation. On the contrary, despair paralyses effort. Is it on this account that everywhere in prophecy, old and new, there floats before us the ideal of a recovered and rejoicing world, at times transfigured into a loftier scene, the new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness? So largely did this thought imbue the prophetic mind, that the language of Paul warms into the animation of poetry, when even "the creature itself," according to his own vivid personification, like some noble bird, drooping under the weight of its chain, with neck outstretched and eyeball distended, is described as looking down into the vista of coming time for its deliverance from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God ( Romans 8:19 ). He hastens to add, that "we are saved by hope." It is true of the soul individually, we are saved by hope. It is true of our race collectively, if ever a millennium is to dawn upon it, we are saved by such a hope. Our earth may be in ruins meanwhile, blackness on the sky, barrenness on the soil, because sin is everywhere; but a change is promised. What we hope for, we labour for all the more that our hope is no dream of fancy, but has its basis in the science and certainty of absolute truth. "For as the earth hinges forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations." ( Isaiah 61:11 ) The tuning of the instrument is sometimes heard before the music comes. The mother teaches her child to lisp a hymn before he comprehends its full scope and meaning. And so here, in this holy psalm, the Jerusalem from above, the mother of us all, trains us to the utterance of a song suitable to seasons of millennial glory, when the Moloch of oppression, the Mammon of our avarice, the Ashtaroth of fiery lust, every erring creed, every false religion, shall have given place to the worship of the one true and living God -- to the faith and love of Christ. "Let the peoples praise thee, O God; let all the peoples praise thee." W.H. Gould, in "The Mission Hymn of the Hebrew Church: a Sermon." 1865.
Whole Psalm. This psalm is entitled in the Septuagint, "A Hymn of David; when the Temple was rebuilt after the Captivity," and this appears to be a true description of it; for the substance of it is found in 1 Chronicles 16:23-33 , where it is described as having been delivered by David into the hand of Asaph and his brethren, to thank the Lord when the Ark was brought up to Zion. David's Psalm here receives a new name, and is called a new song (sir chadash), because new mercies of God were now to be celebrated; mercies greater than David had ever received, even when he brought the Ark to Zion. They who now sang the old song, which had thus become a new song, identified themselves with David, and identified him with themselves. Chr. Wordsworth.
Whole Psalm. Subject. -- Call to praise, in view of Christ's second advent and glorious reign. -- To apply it. -- Look forward to the glorious day of the Lord's coming; and realize its approach that you may prepare for it. A. R. C. Dallas.
Verse 1. 0 sing unto the LORD a new song, etc. "A new song," unknown to you before. Come, all ye nations of the wide earth, who, up to this hour, have been giving your worship to dead gods that were no gods at all; come and give your hearts to the true and only God in this new song! Henry Cowles.
Verse 1. A new song. It must be "a new canticle," a beautiful canticle, and elegantly composed; also a canticle for fresh favours: in like manner, a canticle befitting men who have been regenerated, in whom avarice has been supplanted by charity; and finally, a canticle not like that of Moses, or Deborah, or any of the old canticles that could not be sung outside the land of promise, according to Psalms 137:4 ; "How shall we sing the LORD'S song in a strange land?" but a new canticle that may be sung all over the world; and he, therefore, adds, Sing unto the LORD, all the earth, not only Judea, but the whole world. Bellarmine.
Verse 1. New. The word is used to describe that which is delightful, exquisite, precious, etc. Martin Geier.
Verse 1. New. New things are generally most approved, and especially in songs; for Pindar praises old wine and new songs. John Cocceius, 1603- 1669.
Verse 1. A new song. Our old songs were those of pride, of gluttony, of luxury, in hope of gain, prosperity, or harm to others; our "new song" is of praise, reverence, and obedience, and love to God, in newness of life, in the Spirit that quickeneth, no longer in the letter that killeth, but keepeth that new commandment, that we love one another, not with the narrow patriotism and fellow feeling of a small tribe, or a mere national church, but with a citizenship which embraces all the whole earth. Neale and Littledale.
Verse 1. Sing unto the LORD. We find it thrice said, sing unto the Lord, that we may understand that we are to sing unto Him with mind, and tongue, and deed. For all these things must be joined together, and the life ought to correspond with the mouth and mind. As Abbot Absalom says, When the speech does not jar with the life, there is sweet harmony. Le Blanc.
Verse 1. All the earth. It is a missionary hymn for all ages of the church; and it becomes more and more appropriate to our times in proportion as the heathen begin to respond to the call, "Sing unto the Lord a new song," and in proportion as we find in the melancholy condition of the church at home occasion to look with a hopeful eye towards the heathen world. E. W. Hengstenberg.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. The novelties of grace.
- A new salvation.
- Creates a new heart.
- Suggests a new song.
- Secures new testimonies, and these,
- Produce new converts.
- The end desired -- to see the earth singing unto the Lord, and blessing his name.
- The means suggested -- the showing forth his salvation from day to day; declaring his glory, etc.
- The certainly of its accomplishment. The Lord hath said it. "O sing," etc. When he commands earth must obey. G. R.
Verse 1-3. The progress of zeal.
The spring of expansive desire, Psalms 96:1 .
Verse 1-9. We are to honour God.