PSALM 97 OVERVIEW
Subject. As the fast Psalm sung the praises of the Lord in connection with the proclamation of the gospel among the Gentiles, so this appears to foreshadow the mighty working of the Holy Ghost in subduing the colossal systems of error, and casting down the idol gods. Across the sea to maritime regions a voice cries for rejoicing at the reign of Jesus ( Psalms 97:1 ), the sacred fire descends ( Psalms 97:3 ), like lightning the gospel flames forth ( Psalms 97:4 ), difficulties vanish ( Psalms 97:5 ), and all the nations see the glory of God ( Psalms 97:6 ). The idols are confounded ( Psalms 97:7 ), the church rejoices ( Psalms 98:8 ), the Lord is exalted (Ps 98:9). The Psalm closes with an exhortation to holy steadfastness under the persecution which would follow, and bids the saints rejoice that their path is bright, and their reward glorious and certain. Modern critics, always intent upon ascribing the psalms to anybody rather than to David, count themselves successful in dating this song further on than the captivity, because it contains passages similar to those which occur in the later prophets; but we venture to assert theft it is quite as probable that the prophets adopted the language of David as that some unknown writer borrowed from them. One psalm in this series is said to be "in David", and we believe that the rest are in the same place, and by the same author. The matter is not important, and we only mention it because it seems to be the pride of certain critics to set up new theories; and there are readers who imagine this to be a sure proof of prodigious learning. We do not believe that their theories are worth the paper they are written upon.
Division. The psalm divides itself into four portions, each containing three verses. The coming of the Lord is described ( Psalms 97:1-3 ); its effect upon the earth is declared ( Psalms 97:4 - 6); and then its influence upon the heathen and the people of God ( Psalms 97:7-9 ). The last part contains both exhortation and encouragement, urging to holiness and inculcating happiness ( Psalms 97:10-12 ).
Verse 1. The Lord reigneth. This is the watchword of the psalm -- Jehovah reigns. It is also the essence of the gospel proclamation, and the foundation of the gospel kingdom. Jesus has come, and all power is given unto him in heaven and in earth, therefore men are bidden to yield him their obedient faith. Saints draw comfort from these words, and only rebels cavil at them.
Let the earth rejoice, for there is cause for joy. Other reigns have produced injustice, oppression, bloodshed, terror; the reign of the infinitely gracious Jehovah is the hope of mankind, and when they all yield to it the race will have its paradise restored. The very globe itself may well be glad that its Maker and liege Lord has come to his own, and the whole race of man may also be glad, since to every willing subject Jesus brings untold blessings.
Let the multitude of isles be glad thereof. To the ancient Israelites all places beyond the seas were isles, and the phrase is equivalent to all lands which are reached by ships. It is remarkable, however, that upon actual islands some of the greatest victories of the Cross have been achieved. Our own favoured land is a case in point, and not less so the islands of Polynesia and the kingdom of Madagascar. Islands are very numerous; may they all become Holy Islands, and Isles of Saints, then will they all be Fortunate Islands, and true Formosas. Many a land owes its peace to the sea; if it had not been isolated it would have been desolated, and therefore the inhabitants should praise the Lord who has moated them about, and given them a defence more available than bars of brass. Jesus deserves to be Lord of the Isles, and to have his praises sounded along every sea beaten shore. Amen, so let it be.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. The two preceding psalms are songs of joy and thanksgiving, in which the gladness of Christ's people is poured forth as they go to meet their triumphant Lord at his second advent, and to bring him back in glory to assume his kingdom. The present psalm, in language sufficiently explicit, describes the completion of this great event, "the Lord reigneth"; Messiah is on his throne, and now the words of Psalms 2:6 , are fulfilled, "I have set my king upon my holy hill of Sion." Messiah's first act of sovereignty is judgment. Scriptures bearing upon that event are 2 Thessalonians 1:7 Jude 1:14 Isaiah 66:15 . The character of these judgments is given in the psalm: clouds and darkness encircling his throne, where, however, righteousness and mercy dwell; a fire which burns up his enemies round about; lightnings flashing upon the world, the earth trembling, and the hills melting like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. Peter, in his second Epistle, and third chapter, evidently refers to these events as yet future in his day. --R.H. Ryland.
Verse 1. The LORD reigneth. Here's good news, glad tidings: "The Lord reigneth." It cannot be published without praise, without rejoicing, without singing, without blessing. We should dishonour this truth if we did not publish it; if we should with silence suppress it; if we should not speak well of it. It is so sweet and comfortable, that it fills the whole world with joy; and calls on every ear, and every tongue, and every heart, to be glad, to rejoice, and to praise God.
Let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad. As though he should say, Let nothing fear but hell: let nothing be disquieted but devils. Let the lowest, the poorest of the people of God, though but earth, yet let them rejoice in this, "The LORD reigneth"...
Here are two things of very sweet consideration,
- The reign of the Lord; and,
- The reign of the Lord in the saints. First, This kingdom that God is now setting up is his everlasting kingdom. It will not be administered by the weakness of man, but by the power of God; not by the folly of man, but by the judgment of God. God will, in this kingdom, nakedly manifest his own righteousness, his own compassion and pity; his own love, his own peace: he will do all things immediately by his own self. And therefore all the pride and ambition, all the oppression and tyranny, and miscarriages that have been in the government of men, shall be wholly taken away. Pure righteousness and judgment and equity shall be infallibly dispensed; and infinite power, strength, holiness, goodness, and authority shall shine forth nakedly in the face of God; and that shall be the judge of all men. We shall no longer be abused and oppressed by the will of men, by the lusts of men. The poor people shall no longer groan under the burden of men's lusts, nor sweat for the pleasure and contents of men; nor their faces any longer be ground by the hardness of the spirit of men; but they shall be under the protection of God. The great cry now of the people is, "Let's have a King!" Ye shall have one, one that will "reign in righteousness", the LORD himself.
Secondly, And this reign of the LORD shall be in his saints; according to that in Daniel 7:27 . "And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him." As this kingdom shall be administered in the glory of God; so also in the sweetness and gentleness of man, by brethren, by friends, by the saints of the Most High. God lifting up himself in the saints will administer this reign; and as he will do it by the saints, so he will do it by the softness and tenderness of the saints; "The kingdom and dominion under the whole earth shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High." It's now doing; that ye shall obey none but the Lord; ye shall know no other laws but the law of God; ye shall know no other
master but Jehovah. He hath made us priests and kings, and we shall reign with him on the earth. This nature of ours, this body of ours, shall reign with Christ, with God, and that upon earth.
The Lord reigns. The Lord hath served, hath been hitherto much, yea, mostly, "in the form of a servant." It hath been, as it were, the business of the Lord, whilst this world stood, to give supplies to men; to serve men; to give men strength, and wisdom, and riches, and authority, and power; that men might be great and happy, with the goodness of God: and (in this) God hath been King too, but in an under way; as saith the Lord, "I have served with your sins" and lusts: now he will no longer serve, but reign; God will take all the power and authority into his own hands. He will not be any longer under men, but above all men. It's time He should be so; it's reason He should be so; it's just He should be so. Everything now must bow, stoop, and submit to the law, and rule, and will of God. No man shall any longer say, it shall be so, because it is my will to have it so: there shall not be found an heart, or tongue, that shall move against the dominion of the Lord.
Satan hath been a prince; he hath made laws of your captivity and misery; he hath kept you to his task, to do him service. He hath said, Be angry, and then you have been full of rage. He hath said, Be covetous, and then you have been full of covetousness. He hath said, Be dark, and then you have been full of blindness. He hath said, Be proud, and then ye have been full of haughtiness. And so he hath, as a monstrous tyrant, tormented the world. The sting of Satan's whips is in your consciences, I know. Your errors and mistakes have been through the kingdom of darkness in you, that you do not know God, or his holy hill. You would come into the enjoyment of God; Satan will not let you: you would know God; he will not suffer you: you would be wise unto salvation; he will not permit you. He hath fettered you with his chains of darkness; he hath captivated your judgments; he hath made you to grind at his mill and to drudge in his service; and hath made you to cry out, "O when will the Lord come!" But now his wicked reign is at an end: what ye had, ye shall want, and what ye want, ye shall have; what hath been shall not be; that which shall be, must be, and cannot choose but be: ye shall have love, because the law of God is love; and ye shall have peace, because the kingdom of God is peace; and ye shall have light, because the inheritance is marvellous light; ye shall have righteousness, because this state is true holiness; ye shall have liberty, settledness, stability, and every good thing in this kingdom of God. It's always ill with us while Satan reigns. It's always well with us while God reigns; when our Husband is King we shall have preferment, and honour, and riches, and greatness, and power, and authority, because our God reigns. "The Lord reigns", for us; the Lord takes his kingdom, and it is for us: the Lord hath reigned in himself all this while; now he reigns by us: the Lord counts himself not to have a kingdom, till we have it with him: the Lord thinks himself mean and despised, till we are exalted. He is poor without us. He is weak, while absent from us. He is not himself unless he enjoys us. "Thou art my excellency, my firstborn." The power of God is in weakness, till we become mighty. The kingdom of God is in darkness, till we shine forth. The treasures of God were of no worth to him, if we were not his richest jewels.
The Lord doth reign. This is not to be passed by; it's in the present tense. This is the song that we hear and see angels sing. The elders and saints in heaven sing it perpetually; we daily hear it. Hallelujah, Hallelujah, the Lord reigneth! There is administered into our hearts and ears an hallelujah; the Lord reigneth; indeed every creature speaks it, all in heaven and earth.
"THE LORD doth reign", and saith, "I am upon my throne. I am great; none is great but myself. I am King; I have the sceptre in my hand. I am powerful; none is powerful but I." All the power of men is broken. All the thrones of men are shattered into dust. All the wisdom of men is turned into folly. All the strength of men s melted into weakness and water. The melting and mouldering away of the powers and dignities of the world, speak it aloud, The LORD reigns. -- William Sedgwick, in "Some Flashes of Lightnings of the Son of Man", 1648.
Verse 1. The LORD reigneth. He who stood before the judge, he who received the blows, he who was scourged, he who was spit upon, he who was crowned with thorns, he who was struck with fists, he who hung upon the cross, he who as he hung upon the wood was mocked, he who died upon the cross, he who was pierced with the spear, he who was buried, himself arose from the dead. "The Lord reigneth." Let kingdoms rage as much as they can; what can they do to the King of kingdoms, the Lord of all kings, the Creator of all worlds? --Augustine.
Verse 1. The LORD reigneth. I am glad that Christ is Lord of all, for otherwise I should utterly have been out of hope, saith Miconius in an epistle to Calvin, upon a view of the church's enemies. --John Trapp.
Verse 1. The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice. Consider the divine government in various views, as legislative, providential, mediatorial, and judicial, and in each of these views the divine government is matter of universal joy.
- The Lord reigneth upon a throne of legislation, "let the earth rejoice." He is the one supreme law giver and is perfectly qualified for that important trust. Nothing tends more to the advantage of civil society than to have good laws established, according to which mankind are to conduct themselves, and according to which their rulers will deal with them. Now the supreme and universal King has enacted and published the best laws for the government of the moral world, and of the human race in particular. Let the earth then rejoice that God has clearly revealed his will to us and not left us in inextricable perplexities about our duty to him and mankind ... Again, "Let the earth rejoice" that these laws are suitably enforced with proper sanctions. The sanctions are such as become a God of infinite wisdom, almighty power, inexorable justice, untainted holiness, and unbounded goodness and grace, and such as are agreeable to the nature of reasonable creatures formed for an immortal duration. Let the earth rejoice that the divine laws reach the inner man, and have power upon the hearts and consciences of men. Human laws can only smooth our external conduct at best, but the heart in the mean time may be disloyal and wicked. Now this defect is supplied by the laws of the King of Heaven, which are spiritual. They require a complete uniformity and self consistency in us that heart and life may agree, and therefore they are wisely framed to make us entirely good.
- The Lord reigneth by his providence, "let the earth rejoice." The providence of God is well described in our shorter catechism, "It is his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions."
"The Lord reigneth" over the kingdoms of the earth, and manages all their affairs according to his sovereign and wise pleasure, and he doth the same for his church. He can reduce confusion into order, make the wrath of man to praise him, and restrain the remainder of it.
- "The Lord reigneth" upon a throne of grace! "let the earth rejoice." It is the mediatorial government of the Messiah which the Psalmist had more immediately in view, and this is the principal cause of joy to the earth and its guilty inhabitants.
- And, lastly, the Lord will reign ere long upon a throne of universal judgment conspicuous to the assembled universe, "let the earth therefore rejoice, and the multitude of the isles be glad." -- Condensed from a Sermon by Samuel Davies, 1724-1761.
Verse 1. Let the earth rejoice. The earth is called upon to rejoice because the Lord reigneth; and well it may, on the day of its enlargement and final emancipation from evil, which seems to be here set forth -- a day of
judgment, and so also a day of terror and destruction to the enemies of God and goodness -- a day when at his presence "the elements shall melt with fervent heat"; but his own righteousness and glory shall be manifested in the sight of all people. Then will the worldly, who serve idols in loving the creature more than the Creator, be confounded and overthrown; but then, too, will the righteous lift up their heads and rejoice because of God's judgments. --Thomas Chalmers.
Verse 1. The multitude of the isles. In Poole's Synopsis we find from the various interpretations of different authors that the word may mean maritime regions, places beyond sea usually reached in ships, and all countries bordering on the ocean. -- C.H.S.
Verse 1. The isles. Figuratively the isles may be taken for all the churches. Why isles? because the waves of all temptations roar around them. But as an isle may be beaten by the waves which on every side dash around it, yet cannot be broken, and rather itself doth break the advancing waves, than by them is broken: so also the churches of God, springing up throughout the world, have suffered the persecutions of the ungodly, who roar around them on every side; and behold the isles stand fixed, and at last the sea is calmed. --Augustine.
Verse 1. When Bulstrode Whitelock was embarked as Cromwell's envoy to Sweden, in 1653, he was much disturbed in mind, as he rested at Harwich the preceding night, which was very stormy, as he thought upon the distracted state of the nation. It happened that a confidential servant slept in an adjacent bed, who, finding that his master could not sleep, at length said: --
"Pray, sir, will you give me leave to ask you a question?"
"Pray, sir, do you think God governed the world very well before you came into it?"
"And pray, sir, do you think that He will govern it quite as well when you are gone out of it?"
"Then pray, sir, excuse me, but do not you think you may trust him to govern it quite as well as long as you live?"
To this question Whitelock had nothing to reply; but turning about, soon fell fast asleep, till he was summoned to embark. --G.S. Bowes, in "Illustrative Gatherings." 1862.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. The sovereignty of God a theme for joy in many respects and to many persons, especially when exhibited in a reign of grace.