Psalm 99:3

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 3. Let them praise thy great and terrible name: let all the dwellers in Zion and all the nations upon the earth praise the Lord, or "acknowledge thankfully" the goodness of his divine nature, albeit that there is so much in it which must inspire their awe. Under the most terrible aspect the Lord is still to be praised. Many profess to admire the milder beams of the sun of righteousness, but burn with rebellion against its more flaming radiance: so it ought not to be: we are bound to praise a terrible, God and worship him who casts the wicked down to hell. Did not Israel praise him "who overthrew Pharaoh and his hosts in tile Red Sea, for his mercy endureth for ever." The terrible Avenger is to be praised, as well as the loving Redeemer. Against this the sympathy of man's evil heart with sin rebels; it cries out for an effeminate God in whom pity has strangled justice. The well-instructed servants of Jehovah praise him in all the aspects of his character, whether terrible or tender. Grace streaming from the mercy-seat can alone work in us this admirable frame of mind.

For it is holy, or He is holy. In him is no flaw or fault, excess or deficiency, error or iniquity. He is wholly excellent, and is therefore called holy. In his words, thoughts, acts, and revelations as well as in himself, he is perfection itself. O come let us worship and bow down before him.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 3. Let them praise thy great and terrible name, etc. Although the enemies of the Church of God are in a tumult, and the whole earth is moved, do you nevertheless with joyful spirit entrust your salvation to him, and acknowledge and diligently celebrate his power displayed in the defence of his people and the overthrow of his foes. Mollerus.

Verse 3. Thy great and terrible name; for it is holy. The FATHER'S name is "great," for he is the source, the Creator, the Lord of all; the SON'S name is "terrible," for he is to be our judge; the name of the HOLY GHOST is "holy," for he it is who bestows hallowing and sanctification. The Hebrew commentators see here the mystic Tetragrammaton hwhy, whose true pronunciation was kept a profound secret by the Rabbins, owing to a feeling of awful reverence; while the Greeks are precise in bidding us take it of that name, which is "terrible" to God's enemies, "holy" to his friends, and "great" to both, the name of JESUS. Hugo Cardinalis, Genebrardus, and Balthazar Corderius, in Neale's Commentary.

Verse 3. Let them praise thy terrible name. What force the experience of a burdened conscience attaches to the expression, "Thy great and terrible name; for it is holy!" The misery of sin consists not merely in its consequences, but in its very nature, which is to separate between God and our souls, and to shut us out from God, and God from us. Yet the Spirit of God indicates, in the covenant of grace, a threefold practical influence of his holiness upon us, of which the issue is the opposite of despair. The various steps are marked as praise, exaltation, and worship ( Psalms 99:3 Psalms 99:5 , 9). Of these the last seems by far the most difficult to realise. For it is in the nature of conscious sin to prevent even our approaches to God, to keep us from all comfortable fellowship with God, and to fill us with a heavy sense of our infinite and almost hopeless distance from him. Yet we will "praise thy great and terrible name; for it is holy." Great it is; most glorious and high; far above all human conceptions. Viewed in this light, even the fact otherwise so consoling, "The Lord reigneth," leads only to the inference, "Let the people tremble;" and "He sitteth between the cherubim" (or manifesteth himself as the covenant God) to the conclusion, "Let the earth be moved," or stagger. But his name is not only great and terrible in its manifestations, "it is holy," and therefore we "praise" it. His greatness is all arrayed on the side of goodness, his power on that of righteousness and truth. Alfred Edersheim, in "The Golden Diary of Heart Converse with Jesus in the Book of Psalms," 1873.

Verse 3. Thy terrible name... holy. In acts of man's vindictive justice, there is something of impurity, perturbation, passion, some mixture of cruelty; but none of these fall upon God in the several acts of wrath. When God appears to Ezekiel in the resemblance of fire, to signify his anger against the house of Judah for their idolatry, "from his loins downward there was the appearance of fire, but from the loins upward the appearance of brightness, as the colour of amber." Ezekiel 8:2 . His heart is clean in his most terrible acts of vengeance; it is a pure flame wherewith he scorcheth and burns his enemies. He is holy in the most fiery appearance. Stephen Charnock.

Verse 3. It is holy. No attribute is sounded out so loftily, with such solenmity, and so frequently by angels that stand before his throne, as this. Where do you find any other attribute trebled in the praises of it as this? Isaiah 6:3 : "Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory;" and Revelation 4:8 : "The four living creatures rest not day and night saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty," &c. His power of sovereignty as Lord of hosts is but once mentioned, but with a ternal repetition of his holiness. Do you hear in any evangelical song any other perfection of the divine nature thrice repeated? Where do we read of the crying out, Eternal, eternal, eternal; or Faithful, faithful, faithful, Lord God of hosts! Whatsoever other attribute is left out, this God would have to fill the mouths of angels and blessed spirits for ever in heaven... As it seems to challenge an excellence above all his other perfections, so it is the glory of all the rest; as it is the glory of the Godhead, so it is the glory of every perfection in the Godhead; as his power is the strength of them, so his holiness is the beauty of them; as all would be weak without almightiness to back them, so all would be uncomely without holiness to adorn them: should this be sullied all the rest would lose their honour and their comfortable efficacy; as at the same instant that the sun should lose its light, it would lose its heat, its strength, its generative and quickening virtue. As sincerity is the lustre of every grace in a Christian, so is purity the splendour of every attribute in the Godhead. His justice is a holy justice, his wisdom a holy wisdom, his arm of power a "holy arm," Psalms 98:1 ; his truth or promise a "holy promise," Psalms 105:42 . Holy and true go hand and hand, Re 6:10. "His name," which signifies all his attributes in conjunction, "is holy." Stephen Charnock.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 3. The terrors of the Lord, connected with holiness, and worthy of praise.