PSALM 99 OVERVIEW.
This may be called THE SANCTUS, or, THE HOLY, HOLY, HOLY PSALM, for the word "holy" is the conclusion and the refrain of its three main divisions. Its subject is the holiness of the divine government, the sanctity of the mediatorial reign. It seems to us to declare the holiness of Jehovah himself in Psalms 99:1-3 ; it mentions the equity of the king whom the Lord had appointed, as an illustration of the Lord's love of holiness, or more probably it describes the Lord as himself the king, in Psalms 99:4-5 , and it then sets forth the severely righteous character of God's dealings with those favoured persons whom in former times he had selected to approach him on behalf of the people, Psalms 99:6-9 . It is a hymn fitted for the cherubim who surround the throne, who are mentioned in Psalms 99:1 ; it is a Psalm most fitting for saints who dwell in Zion, the holy city, and especially worthy to be reverently sung by all who, like David the king, Moses the lawgiver, Aaron the priest, or Samuel the seer, are honoured to lead the church of God, and plead for her with her Lord.
Verse 1. The Lord reigneth. One of the most joyous utterances which ever leaped from mortal lip. The overthrow of the reign of evil and the setting up of Jehovah's kingdom of goodness, justice, and truth, is worthy to be hymned again and again, as we have it here for the third time in the psalms.
Let the people tremble. Let the chosen people feel a solemn yet joyful awe, which shall thrill their whole manhood. Saints quiver with devout emotion, and sinners quiver with terror when the rule of Jehovah is fully perceived and felt. It is not a light or trifling matter, it is a truth which, above all others, should stir the depths of our nature.
He sitteth between the cherubims. In grandeur of sublime glory, yet in nearness of mediatorial condescension, Jehovah revealed himself above the mercyseat, whereon stood the likeness of those flaming ones who gaze upon his glory, and for ever cry, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts." The Lord reigning on that throne of grace which is sprinkled with atoning blood, and veiled with the covering wings of mediatorial love, is above all other revelations wonderful, and fitted to excite emotion among all mankind, hence it is added,
Let the earth be moved. Not merely "the people," but the whole earth should feel a movement of adoring awe when it is known that on the mercyseat God sits as universal monarch. The pomp of heaven surrounds him, and is symbolised by the outstretched wings of waiting cherubs; let not the earth be less moved to adoration, rather let all her tribes bow before his infinite majesty, yea, let the solid earth itself with reverent tremor acknowledge his presence.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. This psalm has three parts, in which the Lord is celebrated as He who is to come, as He who is, and as he who was. John Albert Bengel, 1687-1752.
Whole Psalm. In each of the three strophes Jehovah is acknowledged in his peculiar covenant relation to his people. In the first he is "great in Zion" (Ps 99:2); in the second, he has "executed righteousness in Jacob" ( Psalms 99:4 ); and he is "Jehovah our God" ( Psalms 99:5 ); in the third, the great examples of this covenant relationship are cited from Israel's ancient history; and again God is twice claimed as "Jehovah our God" ( Psalms 99:8-9 ). J.J.S. Perowne.
Whole Psalm. There are three psalms which begin with the words, "The Lord (JEHOVAH) reigneth." (Psalms 93, 97, 99.) This is the third and last of these Psalms; and it is remarkable that in this Psalm the words He is holy are repeated three times ( Psalms 99:3 Psalms 99:5 Psalms 99:9 ). Thus this Psalm is one of the links in the chain which connects the first revelation of God in Genesis with the full manifestation of the doctrine of the blessed Trinity, which is revealed in the commission of the risen Saviour to his apostles: "Go ye, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," and which prepares the faithful to join in the heavenly Hallelujah of the church glorified, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come." The other links in this chain in the Old Testament are, the Aaronic benediction, in Numbers 6:24-27 ; and the Seraphic Trisagion, in Isaiah 6:1-3 . Christopher Wordsworth.
Whole Psalm. Many of the preceding Psalms, in extolling the Dominion and Supremacy of the Messiah, have spoken of him solely as the object of triumph and rejoicing. He has been represented in all the bounteousness of his mercy, and the excess of his lovingkindness; and the ideas of might and majesty, with which he has been accompanied, seem chiefly to have been regarded as the means by which these gracious designs will be carried into a sure effect. There is always a great danger in such a feeling, lest our reciprocal covenant should be too much forgotten; and we should rest on our privileges to the exclusion of our practice. This was a constant error to the Jews. "We have Abraham to our Father," was continually on their lips; as if the given promise to their nation had been inalienable for ever. Subsequent ages have shown the existence of the same false principle amongst the Gentiles. It is a part of the weakness of human nature; and hence was the prophet inspired to warn the world of the evil, and draw their minds to a just sense of the awfulness of the Redeemer's majesty. In this view, joined as it is throughout with assertions of his readiness at all times to listen to the believer and to grant his supplication, the Psalm is at once of great power and of an exceeding consolation. William Hill Tucker.
Verse 1. Let the people tremble... let the earth be moved. That fear which proceeds from simple reverence as well as that which arises from apprehension of evil, produces bodily shaking. Thus this exhortation may concern believing as well as unbelieving nations. Amyraldus.
Verse 1. Let the people tremble. He bids a defiance, as it were, to all his enemies, orgizesqwsan, irascantur, commoveantur, fremant populi; let the people be angry, fret, and be unquiet, as Psalms 2:1 . Let the earth, that is, the tyrants of the earth, be moved at it; yet let them know that all their endeavours are but vain. William Nicholson.
Verse 1. Let the people tremble. Jarchi refers this to the war of Gog and Magog. John Gill.
Verse 1. Let the people tremble. Albeit the church be compassed about with enemies, as the lily among the thorns, yet because her Lord reigneth in the midst of her, she hath reason not only to comfort herself in him, but also hath ground of defying her enemies, and boasting against them: "The LORD reigneth; let the people tremble." The Lord's people do not worship an unknown God, they know who he is, and where to find him; to wit, in his ordinances, on the throne of grace, reconciling himself to the world in Christ: He sitteth between the cherubims. David Dickson.
Verse 1. The cherubims. These were figures, or representations of angels, inclining their faces one towards the other, and touching one another with their wings. Exodus 25:18 . The use of these was to cover or overshadow the mercyseat with their wings, Ex 25:20, and from this seat God used to speak unto Moses, Exodus 25:22 ; Numbers 7:8-9 . Which may be applied unto Christ, whose mediation was signified by the mercyseat; whence it is said, that he is a propitiation or covering mercyseat, Romans 3:25 1 John 2:2 4:10, because by his obedience all our unrighteousness is covered. Thomas Wilson (-1621), in "A Complete Christian Dictionary," 1678.
Verse 1. He sitteth between the cherubims. Our friend Mr. Charles Stanford, in his delicious work, "Symbols of Christ," has beautifully brought out the connection between Matthew 23:37 and Matthew 23:38 . The house was left desolate because Christ, who was set forth by the symbol of shelter, was rejected by them, and was not permitted to cover them with his wings. It was customary for the Jews to say of a proselyte, "He has taken refuge under the wings of the Shekinah." We now see that to take shelter under the wings of the Shekinah is to hide beneath the wings of Christ. Beneath that living shield which beats back the destroying stroke, and is broad enough to canopy a fugitive world, we take shelter, and there the promise is fulfilled, "He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust."
Verse 1. He sitteth between the cherubims. The cherubim is the seat of God, as the scripture sheweth us, a certain exalted heavenly throne, which we see not; but the word of God knoweth it, knoweth it as his own seat: and the word of God and the Spirit of God hath itself revealed to the servants of God where God sitteth. Not that God doth sit, as doth man, but thou, if thou dost wish that God sit in thee, if thou wilt be good, shalt be the seat of God; for thus is it written, "The soul of the righteous is the seat of wisdom" Septuagint translation]. For a throne is in our language called a seat. For some, conversant with the Hebrew tongue, have interpreted cherubim in the Latin language (for it is a Hebrew term) by the words fulness of knowledge. Therefore, because God surpasses all knowledge, he is said to sit above the fulness of knowledge. Let there be therefore in thee fulness of knowledge, and even thou shalt be the throne of God. Augustine.
Verse 1. Let the earth be moved. Those that submit to him shall be established, and not "moved," Psalms 96:10 ; but they that oppose him will be moved. Heaven and earth shall be shaken, and all nations; but the kingdom of Christ cannot be moved. The "things which cannot be shaken shall remain," Hebrews 12:27 . Matthew Henry.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- The doctrine of divine sovereignty enunciated.
- The apprehension of divine sovereignty demanded. It ought to be spiritually apprehended. God wants to be King in the hearts of men. All mortals must tremble before the Immortal; especially the wicked.
- The accessories of divine sovereignty hinted at. Sovereignty never forsakes the mercyseat. Angels are represented on the mercyseat, the ministers of sovereignty,
- The effect of divine sovereignty described. Men should be "moved" to
fear and obey the King before whom angels bow. Men should be moved to seek the mercy which angels study. William Durban.
Verse 1. He sitteth between the cherubims, etc.
- Statement made; where God dwells, on the mercyseat. To hear prayer, and confession, and to grant salvation.
- Effect produced -- "Earth moved;" to admiration, to prayer, to sorrowful contrition, to draw near, etc. E. G. Gange.