Of the Messiah’s Exaltation.
To the chief musician, a psalm or song of David, the event which was the immediate cause for writing this powerful hymn, according to most commentators. being the placing of the Ark of the Covenant in the tent of David on Mount Zion, 2 Sam. 6, the general thought of the psalm being the celebration of God’s entrance into His Sanctuary on Zion and His rule over the whole world. But the entire psalm is typical of the Messianic victories, certain sections being even directly prophetic, as Paul shows, Eph. 4, 8. References to contemporary history only are both forced and feeble. While it is true that the opening words of the psalm echo an exclamation from the early history of Israel, yet the expansion of the fundamental thought shows that a glorious victory of the Lord Jehovah over all His enemies and the establishment of His Kingdom of Grace is the fact which the inspired singer celebrates. Add to this the fact that the Lord is represented as blessing His people, as imparting spiritual benefits also to the heathen, a standing characteristic of Messianic prophecy, and the trend of the psalm must be admitted without question.
THE VICTORIES OF JEHOVAH. — V. 1. Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered, the ancient exclamation which signaled the departure of the Ark of the Covenant from a camp in the wilderness, Num. 10, 35, the prayer receiving its real significance in the application of its contents to the mighty leadership of Jehovah in the New Testament; let them also that hate Him flee before Him, as His countenance is directed against them in anger. V. 2. As smoke is driven away, vanishing into nothing, so drive them away; as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God, the very strongest pictures of human weakness and puny evanescence being used to show their helplessness before the face of the Lord. V. 3. But let the righteous be glad, since they, clothed with the righteousness of God, have every reason to rejoice before Him always; let them rejoice before God, since they can freely stand before His face by virtue of the redemption of Christ; yea, let them exceedingly rejoice. Note the heaping of synonymous expressions to indicate the exceeding exuberance of the happiness of faith. V. 4. Sing unto God, sing praises to His name, extolling His divine essence and attributes, as revealed in His Word; extol Him that rideth upon the heavens, rather, cast up a road for Him who driveth along through the steppes, the picture being taken from the custom of Oriental monarchs to have all obstructions removed from the route which they intended to follow, the filling up of low places being included in such preparations, by His name JAH, His name is Jehovah, for by this name He reveals Himself as the God of salvation, who manifests the power of His mercy toward all those who accept Him in faith, and rejoice before Him, since this name is for His people of all times a source of the greatest happiness. V. 5. A Father of the fatherless, taking care of orphans as their true Father, and a Judge of the widows, the mighty Advocate of those who have lost their natural protector on earth, is God in His holy habitation, both His holy justice and His almighty power coming into consideration in their defense. V. 6. God setteth the solitary in families, the forsaken will have a home given to them, Is. 58, 7; He bringeth out those which are bound with chains, liberating those who are bound, both expressions finding their fulfillment in the miraculous effect of the Gospel proclamation on the hearts of men, Is. 49, 8-10; 61, 1-3; Luke 4, 21. But the rebellious dwell in a dry land, where the parching heat of the sun torments them, where they are far from the land which is made fruitful by the waters of God’s grace. The poet now refers to some examples of the miraculous leading of God, in order to emphasize His mercy toward His people in the Messianic period. V. 7. O God, when Thou wentest forth before Thy people, in the pillar of fire, when He led them through the wilderness, when Thou didst march through the wilderness; Selah: v. 8. the earth shook, in a mighty earthquake, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God, their heavy storm-clouds coming down to rest upon the mountain; even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel, Ex. 19, 16-19. The name “God of Israel” is most fitting in this connection, for from the event at Sinai dates the position of Israel as the covenant people. V. 9. Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, said of the rich bestowal of spiritual gifts as experienced by Israel, the covenant nation, whereby Thou didst confirm Thine inheritance when it was weary, reviving them when they were parched with thirst, even as the mercy of God in the Gospel sustains the languishing at all times. V. 10. Thy congregation hath dwelt therein, in the inheritance, in the Land of Promise, like a herd of sheep under the gentle leadership of a good shepherd; Thou, O God, hast prepared of Thy goodness for the poor, as a Host liberal with His spiritual gifts and blessings toward the needy of the earth. V. 11. The Lord gave the word, that of authority, with which He intended to come to the aid of His people, the Word of Salvation. Great was the company of those that published it, the reference being to the choruses of women who usually celebrated the victories of Israel, Ex. 15, 20. 21; Judg. 11, 34. Even so in our days the victories of the Cross are celebrated in hymns sung by man and woman, young and old, all Christians joining in the choruses of thanksgiving in honor of the great blessings of God. V. 12. Kings of armies, hosts being mentioned in ironical contrast to Jehovah Sabaoth, did flee apace, in utter rout; and she that tarried at home, the woman in the tent, the mistress of the house, in this case the congregation, the Church of Christ, divided the spoil, dealing out richly to all her children the gifts of God’s mercy, as assured by Messiah’s victory. V. 13. Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver and her feathers with yellow gold, literally, “If you are encamped between cattle pens, the wings of the dove are covered with silver, and her pinions with iridescent sheen of gold”; that is, the period of the Messiah is one of great spiritual prosperity, combined with a peaceful enjoyment of God’s blessings, the riches granted by the Gospel being compared with the wonderful play of colors on the feathers of the dove as she preens them in the sun. V. 14. When the Almighty scattered kings in it, dispersing the attacking hosts of princes, it was white as snow in Salmon, the agreeable whiteness of the snow on the dark mountain picturing the relief which comes to the spiritual Israel with the victory over the enemies. V. 15. The hill of God, the abode of His Church, is as the hill of Bashan; an high hill, a mount full of peaks, as the hill of Bashan. V. 16. Why leap ye, ye high hills? the other many-peaked mountains looking with envy upon this abode of the Lord and His Church. This is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the Lord will dwell in it forever, and all the powers of darkness will not be able to overthrow the spiritual Zion. V. 17. The chariots of God are twenty thousand, many myriads, even thousands of angels, the innumerable hosts of the angels of God; the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the Holy Place, Deut. 33, 2. Thus the victorious might of Jehovah is set forth over against all the puny power of the kings of hosts, whose efforts to overthrow the Church of God are invariably frustrated, Matt. 16, 18.
THE EXALTATION AND REIGN OF MESSIAH. — V. 18. Thou hast ascended on high, to the height, referred by Paul to the ascension of Christ, Eph. 4, 8; for the Champion of His Church, having overcome all His enemies, now gives visible evidence of His victory by ascending in triumph to heaven; Thou hast led captivity captive, Satan and his hosts, who formerly held all mankind captive, now himself being bound with everlasting chains of darkness. Thou hast received gifts for men, among men, consisting of men, the reference being to the fact that the exalted Christ has chosen certain members of the human race as His own, men who are now subject to Him in the obedience of faith; yea, for the rebellious also, for even such as were formerly rebellious, unwilling to submit to the gentle rule of Messiah, are finally overcome by His mercy, that the Lord God might dwell among them, establishing His Church among the Gentiles also. For this establishment of the Messianic kingdom the psalmist now gives praise. V. 19. Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation, or, “Are we burdened, He, God, is our Help, He burdens Himself for us,” thus helping us to bear the load which often seems too heavy for us. Selah. V. 20. He that is our God, again the language of trusting faith, is the God of salvation, of the many acts of deliverance which we experience in our lives; and unto God the Lord belong the issues from death, He has outlets, ways of escape, from death, He alone is able to rescue us from eternal death and to grant us the gift of eternal life; that is the privilege, the wonderful, mighty prerogative, of the exalted Christ. V. 21. But God shall wound the head of His enemies, break it to pieces, utterly destroy them, and the hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in his trespasses, whose defiant wildness refuses to bow to the authority of God. V. 22. The Lord said, I will bring again from Bashan, the wild fastnesses of the mountainous region east of Jordan, I will bring My people, rather, “the enemies,” again from the depths of the sea; for whether they were hiding in the mountain forests or in the abysses of the Salt Sea, the Lord would search them out to mete out judgment to them; v. 23. that thy foot, that of the Church personified as one individual, may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies, which would flow copiously as the Lord struck them down in punishment, and the tongue of thy dogs in the same, the picture being taken from Oriental conditions, where the dogs licked up the blood of the slain, 1 Kings 22, 38. V. 24. They, the members of the Church of God, have seen Thy goings, O God, His triumphal march; even the goings of my God, my King, in the Sanctuary, as His procession moves on in holiness. V. 25. The singers went before, leading the triumphal procession, the players on instruments followed after; among them were the damsels, the virgins, playing with timbrels, moving along on either side, their hymns proclaiming the victory of the Messiah. V. 26. Bless ye God in the congregations, wherever the believers meet for worship, even the Lord, from the fountain of Israel, all the spiritual descendants of Abraham. V. 27. There is little Benjamin with their ruler, the conqueror of the enemies mentioned before, the princes of Judah and their council, the band of the leaders in Israel, the princes of Zebulon, and the princes of Naphtali, apparently a motley crowd, a great mass, but all united in the praise of the exalted Messiah; for in the spiritual Israel the high and the lowly, the rich and the poor, unite their voices in exalting the Lord, their King. V. 28. Thy God hath commanded Thy strength, giving to the Messiah, the exalted Christ, unlimited authority in His kingdom. Strengthen, O God, that which Thou hast wrought for us, so that His Church may have the benefit of His achievements. V. 29. Because of Thy Temple at Jerusalem shall kings bring presents unto Thee, pledging the Messiah their obedience and allegiance, the prophet here looking forward to the spread of the Messianic kingdom among the Gentiles. V. 30. Rebuke the company of spearmen, the beast of the reed, the alligator, used as a symbol of Egypt and all heathendom, the multitude of the bulls, with the calves of the people, the entire hosts of enemy forces everywhere, till everyone submit himself with pieces of silver, bringing tribute to the Messiah, unwilling though it may be, Phil. 2, 9-11. Scatter Thou the people that delight in war, their object being to make war on the Church. V. 31. Princes shall come out of Egypt, magnates submitting themselves to the rule of the Messiah. Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God, offering tribute to the King of grace. V. 32. Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord, the All-powerful, Selah, all nations giving Him the honor due His mighty name; v. 33. to Him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens, which were of old, the primeval or ancient heaven being thought of as the seat of God’s majesty. Lo, He doth send out His voice, and that a mighty voice, sounding in a revelation of His almighty power. V. 34. Ascribe ye strength unto God, acknowledging the exalted Messiah as the almighty Ruler; His excellency is over Israel, the glory of His mercy upon His Church, and His strength is in the clouds, far above and beyond any possible interference on the part of puny men. V. 35. O God, Thou art terrible out of Thy holy places, to be regarded with fear and reverence; the God of Israel is He that giveth strength and power unto His people, to the assembly of believers in Him, to His Church on earth. Blessed be God, all glory due to Him alone for the marvelous revelation of the meaning and the fruit of Christ’s exaltation. It is the Son of Man, elevated to the right hand of the eternal Father, to whom the Church, consisting of members both of Jew and Gentile nations, gives praise and glory as the eternal King of grace and glory.