Psalms 33

PSALM XXXIII

The Lord is praised for his works of creation, 1-9;

and for the stability of his own counsels, 10, 11.

The blessedness of the people who have the knowledge of the

true God, his grace, and providence, 12-15.

The vanity of all earthly dependence, 16, 17.

The happiness of them that fear God, and trust in his mercy,

18-22.

NOTES ON PSALM XXXIII

This Psalm has no title in the Hebrew and it was probably

written on no particular occasion, but was intended as a hymn of

praise in order to celebrate the power, wisdom, and mercy of God.

Creation and providence are its principal subjects; and these lead

the psalmist to glance at different parts of the ancient Jewish

history. In eight of Kennicott's MSS., this Psalm is written as a

part of the preceding.

Verse 1. Rejoice in the Lord] It is very likely that the last

verse of the preceding Psalm was formerly the first verse of this.

As this Psalm has no title, the verse was the more easily

separated. In the preceding Psalm we have an account of the

happiness of the justified man: in this, such are taught how to

glorify God, and to praise him for the great things he had done

for them.

Praise is comely for the upright.] It is right they should give

thanks to Him, who is the fountain whence they have received all

the good they possess and thankfulness becomes the lips of the

upright.

Verse 2. Praise the Lord with harp] kinnor; probably

something like our harp: but Calmet thinks it the ancient testudo,

or lyre with three strings.

The psalter] nebel. Our translation seems to make a third

instrument in this place, by rendering asor, an instrument of

ten strings; whereas they should both be joined together, for

nebel-asor signifies the nebal, or nabla, with ten

strings, or holes. Calmet supposes this to have resembled our

harp. In one of Kennicott's MSS., this Psalm begins with the

second verse.

Verse 3. Sing unto him a new song] Do not wear out the old

forms: fresh mercies call for new songs of praise and gratitude.

Play skilfully with a loud noise.] Let sense and sound

accompany each other; let the style of the music be suited to the

words. This skill is possessed by few singers. They can make a

loud noise, but they cannot adapt sound to sense.

Verse 4. The word of the Lord is right] He is infinitely wise,

and can make no mistakes; and all his works are done in truth. All

the words, laws, promises, and threatenings of God are perfectly

true and just. The dispensations of his providence and mercy are

equally so. When he rewards or punishes, it is according to truth

and justice.

Verse 5. He loveth righteousness] What he delights in himself,

he loves to see in his followers.

The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.] To hear its

worthless inhabitants complain, one would think that God dispensed

evil, not good. To examine the operation of his hand, every thing

is marked with mercy and there is no place where his goodness does

not appear. The overflowing kindness of God fills the earth. Even

the iniquities of men are rarely a bar to his goodness: he causes

his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends his rain upon

the just and the unjust.

Verse 6. By the word of the Lord were the heavens made] This is

illustrated in the 9th verse: "He spake, and it was done; he

commanded, and it stood fast." This evidently refers to the

account of the creation, as it stands in the first chapter of

Genesis.

Verse 7. He gathereth the waters of the sea together] He

separated the water from the earth and, while the latter was

collected into continents, islands, mountains, hills, and valleys,

the former was collected into one place, and called seas; and by

his all-controlling power and providence the waters have been

retained in their place, so that they have not returned to drown

the earth: and he has so adapted the solar and lunar influence

exerted on the waters, that the tides are only raised to certain

heights, so that they cannot overflow the shores, nor become

dissipated in the atmospheric regions. In this one economy there

is a whole circle of science. The quantity of matter in the sun,

moon, and in the earth, are all adjusted to each other in this

astonishing provision: the course of the moon, and the diurnal

and annual revolutions of the earth, are all concerned here; and

so concerned, that it requires some of the nicest of the Newtonian

calculations to ascertain the laws by which the whole is affected.

Verse 8. Let all the earth fear the Lord] He who has thus bound,

can unloose; he who has created, can destroy. He has promised

life and prosperity only to the godly; let the ungodly stand in

awe of him.

Verse 10. The counsel of the heathen to naught] This appears to

be similar to what is mentioned in the second Psalm; the useless

attempts of the Gentiles to prevent the extension of the kingdom

of Christ in the earth: and it may refer to similar attempts of

ungodly nations or men to prevent the promulgation of the Gospel,

and the universal dissemination of truth in the world.

Verse 11. The counsel of the Lord] What he has determined shall

be done. He determined to make a world, and he made it; to create

man, and he created him. He determined that at a certain period

God should be manifested in the flesh, and it was so; that he

should taste death for every man, and he did so; that his Gospel

should be preached in all the world; and behold it has already

nearly overrun the whole earth. All his other counsels and

thoughts, which refer to the future, shall be accomplished in

their times.

Verse 12. Blessed is the nation] O how happy is that nation

which has Jehovah for its Elohim; the

self-existent and eternal Lord for its covenant God; one who

should unite himself to it by connections and ties the most

powerful and endearing! The word Elohim, which we translate

GOD, refers to that economy in which God is manifested in the

flesh.

The people whom he hath chosen] The Jews, who were elected

to be his heritage, whom he preserved as such for two thousand

years, and whom he has reprobated because of their unbelief and

rebellion, and elected the Gentiles in their place.

Verse 13. The Lord looketh from heaven] This and the following

verse seem to refer to God's providence. He sees all that is done

in the earth, and his eye is on all the children of men.

Verse 15. He fashioneth their hearts alike] He forms their

hearts in unity; he has formed them alike; they are all the works

of his hands: and he has formed them with the same powers,

faculties, passions, &c.; body and spirit having the same

essential properties in every human being.

Verse 16. There is no king saved by the multitude of a host]

Even in the midst of the most powerful and numerous army, no king

is in safety unless he have God's protection. A king is but a man,

and may as easily lose his life as one of his common soldiers.

A mighty man is not delivered by much strength.] There are times

in which his might can be of no avail to him: and unless the

mighty, the wise, the honorable, &c., have the protection of

God, there is no time in which their might may not be turned into

weakness, their wisdom into folly, and their dignity into

disgrace.

Verse 17. A horse is a vain thing for safety] Even the horse,

with all his fleetness, is no sure means of escape from danger:

the lion or the tiger can overtake him or he may stumble, fall,

and destroy his rider.

Verse 18. Behold, the eye of the Lord] Though all the above are

unavailing, yet here is one thing that can never fail; "the eye of

the Lord"-the watchful providence of the Most High, "is upon them

that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy."

Verse 19. To deliver their soul frown death] To watch over and

protect them in all sudden dangers and emergencies, so that they

shall not lose their LIVES by any accident.

And to keep them alive in famine.] Not only prevent sudden death

by an instantaneous interposition of my power, but keep them from

a lingering death, by extraordinary supplies granted them in an

extraordinary manner; because I am all in all, and all

everywhere.

Verse 20. Our soul waiteth] Our whole life is employed in this

blessed work; we trust in nothing but him; neither in multitudes

of armed men, nor in natural strength, nor in the fleetest

animals, nor in any thing human: we trust in Him alone "who is our

help and our shield."

Verse 21. For our heart shall rejoice in him] Here is the fruit

of our confidence: our souls are always happy, because we have

taken God for our portion.

Verse 22. Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us] We cannot abide in

this state unless upheld by thee; and, as we disclaim all merit,

we seek for a continuance of thy mercy, and this we cannot expect

but in a continual dependence on thee. "Let thy mercy, O Lord be

upon us, according as we hope in thee."

ANALYSIS OF THE THIRTY-THIRD PSALM

This Psalm is eucharistic: the contents are-

I. An exhortation to praise God, Ps 33:1-3.

II. The arguments he uses to enforce the duty, Ps 33:4-19.

III. The confidence of God's people in his name. Their

happiness, and petition, Ps 33:20-22.

I. In the three first verses he exhorts men to praise God: but

whom?

1. The upright; those who are not upright, cannot praise God.

2. That it be done with zeal and affection; with singing, with

voice, and the instruments then in use; with some new song,

composed on the occasion, for some new mercy; and that the whole

be skilfully expressed.

II. This he urges on several good grounds:-

1. The first argument, in general drawn from the truth, the

faithfulness, the justice, and goodness of God: 1. "For the word

of the Lord is right." 2. "All his works are done in truth." 3.

"He loveth righteousness and judgment." 4. "The earth is full of

his goodness."

2. His second argument is drawn from God's power in the creation

of all things, and that by his word alone, Ps 33:6-9; and upon it

introduces, "Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the

inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him."

3. His third argument is drawn from God's providence in

governing the world, which may easily be discerned by those who

will diligently consider his ways and proceedings, both to other

people and to his Church.

1. He makes void all enterprises undertaken against his will,

not only of single men, but of whole nations. "The Lord bringeth

the counsel of the heathen to naught; he maketh the devices of the

people of none effect."

2. Whereas, on the contrary, what he hath decreed shall be done.

"The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever; the thoughts of his

heart to all generations." On the consideration of which he breaks

out into this epiphonema, or joyous reflection: "Blessed is the

nation whose God is the Lord! and the people whom he hath chosen

for his own inheritance!"

After which he returns to his discourse on God's providence, and

by a hypotyposis, or splendid imagery, amplifies his former

argument. For he sets God before us, as some great king on his

throne, providing for all the parts of his empire, examining all

causes, and doing justice to every one.

1. "The Lord looks from heaven, and beholds all the sons of

men."

2. "From the place of his habitation he looks upon all the

inhabitants of the earth."

3. And he is not an idle spectator: "He sees and considers their

hearts and their works."

And he sees in what they put their confidence; in their armies,

their strength, their horse, but not in him. But all in vain;

for "there is no king saved by the multitude of a host: a mighty

man is not delivered by much strength. A horse is a vain thing for

safety." Multitude, strength, &c., without God, are useless.

Hitherto he had given a proof of God's providence towards all

men, but now he descends to a particular proof of it, by his care

over his Church, which he wonderfully guides, defends, and

protects, in all dangers and assaults: and that notice may be

taken of it, he begins with, Behold!

1. "Behold, the eye of the Lord," his tenderest care, "is over

them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy."

2. "To deliver their soul from death, and keep them alive in

famine."

III. The three last verses contain the acclamation of God's

people, who place all their hope and trust in him; for, being

stimulated by the former arguments, they do three things:-

1. They profess and express their faith and dependence on God:

"Our soul waiteth on God, he is our help and our shield."

2. They declare the hope by which they are upheld, and how

comforted: "For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have

trusted in his holy name."

3. Upon this hope they commend themselves by prayer to God; "Let

thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in thee."

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