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Not only they are pronounced blessed, who "dwell" in the temple, but all they also who are " travelling" thitherward, (as the whole Jewish nation was wont to do three times in a year) and who are therefore meditating on their "journey," and on the
way" which leadeth to the holy city, trusting in God to "strengthen," and prosper, and conduct them to the house of his habitation, the place where his glory dwelleth. Such a company of sojourners are Christians, going up to the heavenly Jerusalem; such ought to be their trust in God, and such the subject of their thoughts.*
6. Who passing through the valley of Baca, make it a well: the rain also filleth the pools. 7. They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God: or, the God of gods appeareth, i. e. to them in Zion.
After numberless uncertain conjectures offered by commentators upon the construction of these two verses, it seemeth impossible for us to attain to any other than a general idea of their true import; which is this, that the Israelites, or some of them, passed in their way to Jerusalem, through a valley that had the name of "Baca," a noun derived from a verb which signifies to
weep;" that in this valley they were refreshed by plenty of water; that with renewed vigour they proceeded from stage to stage, until they presented themselves before God in Zion. The present world is to us this valley of weeping: in our passage through it, we are refreshed by the streams of divine grace, flowing down from the great fountain of consolation; and thus are we enabled to proceed from one degree of holiness to another, until we come to the glorified vision of God in heaven itself. Mr. Merrick's poetical version of this passage is extremely beautiful, and applies at once to the case of the Israelite, and to that of the Christian.
Blest, who their strength on thee reclin'd
* In ejus animo versantur semitæ ferentes ad templum quo properat. Morali sensu; Quicunque sanctus est, quotidie in priora extenditur, et præteritorum oblivisciture, cum Paulo, Phil. iii. 13. Bossuet. Jerusalem is represented in the New Testament as a type of heaven. I see nothing irrational therefore, in supposing, that the inspired writer, in describing the ascent to Jerusalem, might have in view also that spiritual progress, leading to the city which is above, the mother if us all. The words before us are certainly very applicable to the advances made, in this progress, from strength to strength, from one stage of Christian perfection to another. Merrick.
And, Salem's distant tow'rs in view,
8. O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob. 9. Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.
After extolling the happiness of those who dwelt in the temple, and of those who had access to it, the Psalmist breaks forth into a most ardent prayer to his God, for a share in that happiness. He addresseth him as "the Lord of hosts," Almighty in power; as "the God of Jacob," infinite in mercy and goodness to his people; as their" shield," the object of all their trust, for defence and protection; and beseecheth him to" look upon the face of his Anointed," that is, of David, if he were king of Israel when this Psalm was written; or rather of Messiah,* in whom God is always well pleased; for whose sake he hath mercy upon us; through whose name and merits our prayers are accepted, and the kingdom of heaven is opened to all believers.
10. For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand : I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.
One day, spent in meditation and devotion, affordeth a pleasure, far, far superior to that which an age of worldly prosperity could give. Happier is the least and lowest of the servants of Jesus, than the greatest and most exalted potentate, who knoweth him not. And he is no proper judge of blessedness, who hesitates a moment to prefer the condition of a penitent in the porch, to that of a sinner on the throne. If this be the case upon earth, how much more in heaven? O come that one glorious day, whose sun shall never go down, nor any cloud obscure the lustre of his beams; that day, when the temple of God shall be opened in heaven, and we shall be admitted to serve him for ever therein!
11. For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
*“Christi tui ;” Regis, qui Christi figura. Bossuet.
Jesus Christ is our "Lord," and our "God;" he is a "sun," to enlighten and direct us in the way, and a "shield," to protect us against the enemies of our salvation; he will give “grace” to carry us on "from strength to strength," and "glory" to crown us when we "appear before him in Zion; he will "withhold" nothing that is "good" and profitable for us in the course of our journey, and will himself be our reward, when we come to the end of it.
12. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee. While, therefore, we are strangers and sojourners here below, far from that heavenly country where we would be, in whom should we trust, to bring us to the holy city, new Jerusalem, of which the Lord God and the Lamb are the temple, but in thee, O Saviour and Redeemer, who art the Head of every creature, the Captain of the armies of heaven and earth, the Lord of hosts, and King of glory? "Blessed," thrice blessed, is the man that trusteth in thee."
This Psalm, appointed by the church to be used on Christmas day, 1-3. celebrateth the redemption of the Israel of God from their spiritual captivity under sin and death; 4-7. teacheth us to pray for the full accomplisment of that redemption in ourselves; 8-11. describeth the incarnation of Christ, with the joyful meeting of Mercy and Truth, Righteousness and Peace, at his birth, and, 12, 13. the blessed effects of his advent. 1. LORD, thou hast been favourable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob. 2. Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. 3. Though hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger.
These three verses speak of the deliverance from captivity, as already brought about; whereas, in the subsequent parts of the Psalm, it is prayed for and predicted, as a thing future. To account for this, some suppose that the Psalmist first returns thanks for a temporal redemption, and then prophesies of the spiritual salvation by Messiah. Others are of opinion, that the same eternal redemption is spoken of throughout, but represented, in the beginning of the Psalm, as already accomplished in the divine decree, though the eventual completion was yet to come. The difficulty, perhaps, may be removed, by rendering these three first verses in the present time; "LORD, thou art favourable to thy land, thon bringest back the captivity of thy people;" &c. that is.
Thou art the God whose property it is to do this, and to show such mercy to thy people, who therefore call upon thee for the same. But, indeed, to us Christians, who now use the Psalm, the difference is not material: since a part of our redemption is past, and a part of it is yet to come, for the hastening of which latter we daily pray. God hath already been exceedingly gracious and "favourable" to the whole "earth," in "bringing back," by the resurrection of Jesus, the spiritual "captivity of" his people: he hath himself, in Christ, "borne," and so taken away, "the iniquity of his people;" he hath "covered all their sins," that they should no more appear in judgment against them: propitiated by the Son of his love, he hath removed his "wrath," and " turned himself from the fierceness of his anger." So exactly and literally do these words describe the means and method of Gospel salvation, that a Christian can hardly affix any other ideas to them.
4. Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger towards us to cease. 5. Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? Wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations? 6. Wilt thou not revive us again, that thy people may rejoice in thee? 7. Show us thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation.
The ancient church is here introduced as petitioning for the continuation and completion of those blessings which had been mentioned in the foregoing verses, namely, that God would" turn” his people from their captivity, "and cause his anger towards them to cease;" that he would "revive" them from sin and sorrow, and give them occasion to "rejoice in him," their mighty deliverer; that he would "show them" openly that "mercy" of which they had so often heard, and "grant them that salvation," or that "Saviour," that JESUS, who had been so long promised to mankind. And although it be true, that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, and hath virtually procured all these blessings for the church, yet do "we" still continue to pray, in the same words, for the actual application of them all to ourselves, by the conver sion of our hearts, the justification of our persons, the sanctification of our souls, and the glorification of our bodies. For this last blessing of redemption, "the whole creation waiteth, groaning and travailing in pain together, UNTIL NOW," Rom. viii. 22.
8. I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints; but let them not turn again to folly; or, that they may not turn again to folly.
The prophet having prayed, in the name of the church, that Jehovah would "show them his mercy, and grant them his salvation," declares himself resolved, concerning this "salvation, te
inquire and search diligently, what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in him did signify, when it testified before-hand the coming of Christ, and the glory that should follow" See 1 Pet. i. 10. he would attend to "what God the LORD should say," and report it to the world. Now, what was the message which the prophets had commission to deliver from God, but that he would "speak peace," or reconciliation through a Saviour, "to his people, and to his saints?" The Gospel is accordingly styled by St. Peter, "the word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ," Acts x. 36. And what was the end of this reconciliation between God and men, but that men should become, and continue the servants of God; that, being washed from their sins by the blood of Christ, and renewed in their minds by the grace of Christ, they should walk in the paths of wisdom and holiness, and "turn not again to the folly" they had renounced.
9. Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.
God, who calleth things that be not as though they were," teacheth his prophets to do likewise. The Psalmist therefore speaks with assurance of the "Saviour," as if he then saw him before his eyes, healing, by the word of his power, the bodies and the souls of men upon earth, and manifesting forth his “glory," in human nature, to all such as with an holy "fear," and filial reverence, believe on him. St. John himself hardly useth plainer language when he saith, The Word was made flesh, and dwelt, or tabernacled, among us and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth," John i. 14. The body of Christ was the true "tabernacle, or temple;" his Divinity was the GLORY which resided there, and filled that holy place. The church is his mystical "body;" by his Spirit he now and ever "dwelleth in our land; and his salvation is always nigh them that fear him :" as saith the holy virgin in her song, "His mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations."
10. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. 11. Truth shall spring out of the earth : and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
These four divine attributes parted at the fall of Adam, and met again at the birth of Christ. Mercy was ever inclined to serve man, and peace could not be his enemy; but truth exacted the performance of God's threat, "The soul that sinneth it shall die;" and Righteousness could not but give to every one his due