Psalms 97 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Psalm 97
Pulpit Commentary
The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.
Verse 1. - The Lord reigneth; or, the Lord has become King - has ascended his throne (comp. Psalm 93:1; Psalm 96:10). Let the earth rejoice. When God condescends to appear on earth, the earth is bound to rejoice. His coming cannot but improve the condition of affairs. Let the multitude of isles (literally, the many isles) be glad thereof. Even "the isles" - the abode of the Gentiles - are to feel joy, for they, too, at whatever cost (ver. 3), will be benefited.
Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.
Verse 2. - Clouds and darkness are round about him (comp. Exodus 19:16, 18; Deuteronomy 4:11; Deuteronomy 5:22:1 Kings 8:12). The "darkness" does not belong to the nature of God, who "is Light, and in him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5), but to the interrelationship between God and man, in which are involved problems that man cannot solve. Righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne; rather, the foundation of his throne - the firm basis on which it is immovably fixed.
A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about.
Verse 3. - A fire goeth before him. So long as there is evil in the world, the "fire" of God's wrath must necessarily "go before him" at each theophany, to sweep the evil from his path (see Isaiah 42:25). It is in this sense that "our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29). And burneth up his enemies round about (comp. Psalm 50:8; Matthew 13:30).
His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled.
Verse 4. - His lightnings enlightened the world. Here the tenses change from present to past - not, however, that any past event is alluded to, but merely to mark prophetic certainty. The psalmist, rapt in vision, sees the future as past. Lightnings play a part in almost' all theophanies (Exodus 19:16; Job 37:1-5; Psalm 18:13; Psalm 77:18, etc.). The earth saw, and trembled (comp. Judges 5:4; Psalm 68:8; Psalm 114:7).
The hills melted like wax at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
Verse 5. - The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord (comp. Judges 5:5; Isaiah 64:1; Micah 1:4). The earth itself is regarded as not only shaken (ver. 4), but as melting and crumbling away at the descent of God from heaven to earth (comp. 2 Peter 3:10). At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth (comp. Joshua 3:11, 13; Micah 4:13; Zechariah 4:14; Zechariah 6:5).
The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory.
Verse 6. - The heavens declare his righteousness (comp. Psalm 50:6; Matthew 24:29, 30). By signs in the heavens it is proclaimed that the Lord has come to judgment. And all the people see (rather, have seen) his glory; literally, all the peoples; i.e. all the nations of the earth (comp. ver. 1).
Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods.
Verse 7. - Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols. Professor Cheyne transposes this verse and the next, but without any necessity. It is quite natural that the effect of the theophany on God's enemies should be noted first. The effect is that they are "confounded," or rather, covered with shame. The display of real Divine power makes manifest the impotency of the idols, and puts their worshippers to the blush. Worship him, all ye gods. The theophany is a call on the false gods to worship the true God.
Zion heard, and was glad; and the daughters of Judah rejoiced because of thy judgments, O LORD.
Verse 8. - Zion heard, and was glad (comp. Psalm 48:11). To Zion, the Church of God, the company of his saints, the theophany brings, not shame, but rejoicing. The Lord comes for their relief, for their deliverance, for their exaltation. And the daughters of Judah rejoiced. The"daughters of Judah" are the other cities of Judaea besides Jerusalem. In a Christian sense, they may be taken to represent the irregularly organized Churches, which will participate in the general joy of the faithful at Christ's final coming. Because of thy judgments, O Lord. It does not show any vindictive feeling, if the saints, persecuted so long, "rejoice" when an end is put to their sufferings by the final judgment of the wicked.
For thou, LORD, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods.
Verse 9. - For thou, Lord, art high above all the earth; rather, art the Most High (eliun) above all the earth (see the Revised Version). Thou art exalted far above all gods (comp. ver. 7, and see also Psalm 83:18). No comparison can be made between Jehovah and the heathen gods. He is "exalted" far, far above them.
Ye that love the LORD, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.
Verse 10. - Ye that love the Lord, hate evil. The psalmist ends his strain with an exhortation to the faithful - an exhortation, first of all, to "hate evil." God hates evil (Psalm 45:7); evil will separate them from God, evil will be their destruction. Therefore let them hate and abhor it. It is indifference to evil, that, more than anything else, lays men open to the assaults of Satan. He preserveth the souls of his saints. He (i.e. Jehovah) watches tenderly over the souls of his saints - his holy loving ones, and preserves them in being, keeps them from destruction, and delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.
Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.
Verse 11. - Light is sown for the righteous (comp. Psalm 112:4, "Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness"). God sheds the rays of his grace on the path of the righteous man, enlightens his understanding, and illumines his spirit perpetually. And gladness for the upright in heart. Together with "light," he sheds abroad "gladness," the irrepressible joy which comes from a sense of his favour and protection.
Rejoice in the LORD, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
Verse 12. - Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous. Such being the blessedness of the righteous, they are finally exhorted to "rejoice in the Lord," i.e. to show forth their gratitude to God in psalms and hymns of joy (comp. Psalm 32:11; Psalm 33:1-3), and to give thanks to him at the remembrance of his holiness; or rather, to give thanks to his holy memorial, which is the same as giving thanks to his Name (comp. Psalm 30:4, and the comment ad loc.).

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