Verses 12–20

Jerusalem, and Zion, the holy city, the holy hill, are here called upon to praise God, Ps. 147:12. For where should praise be offered up to God but where his altar is? Where may we expect that glory should be given to him but in the beauty of holiness? Let the inhabitants of Jerusalem praise the Lord in their own houses; let the priests and Levites, who attend in Zion, the city of their solemnities, in a special manner praise the Lord. They have more cause to do it than others, and they lie under greater obligations to do it than others; for it is their business, it is their profession. “Praise thy God, O Zion! he is thine, and therefore thou art bound to praise him; his being thine includes all happiness, so that thou canst never want matter for praise.” Jerusalem and Zion must praise God,

I. For the prosperity and flourishing state of their civil interests, Ps. 147:13, 14. 1. For their common safety. They had gates, and kept their gates barred in times of danger; but that would not have been an effectual security to them if God had not strengthened the bars of their gates and fortified their fortifications. The most probable means we can devise for our own preservation will not answer the end, unless God give his blessing with them; we must therefore in the careful and diligent use of those means, depend upon him for that blessing, and attribute the undisturbed repose of our land more to the wall of fire than to the wall of water round about us, Zech. 2:5. 2. For the increase of their people. This strengthens the bars of the gates as much as any thing: He hath blessed thy children within thee, with that first and great blessing, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the land. It is a comfort to parents to see their children blessed of the Lord (Isa. 61:9), and a comfort to the generation that is going off to see the rising generation numerous and hopeful, for which blessing God must be blessed. 3. For the public tranquillity, that they were delivered from the terrors and desolations of war: He makes peace in thy borders, by putting an end to the wars that were, and preventing the wars that were threatened and feared. He makes peace within thy borders, that is, in all parts of the country, by composing differences among neighbours, that there may be no intestine broils and animosities, and upon thy borders, that they may not be attacked by invasions from abroad. If there be trouble any where, it is in the borders, the marches of a country; the frontier-towns lie most exposed, so that, if there be peace in the borders, there is a universal peace, a mercy we can never be sufficiently thankful for. 4. For great plenty, the common effect of peace: He filleth thee with the finest of the wheat—wheat, the most valuable grain, the fat, the finest of that, and a fulness thereof. What would they more? Canaan abounded with the best wheat (Deut. 32:14) and exported it to the countries abroad, as appears, Ezek. 27:17. The land of Israel was not enriched with precious stones nor spices, but with the finest of the wheat, with bread, which strengthens man’s heart. This made it the glory of all lands, and for this God was praised in Zion.

II. For the wonderful instances of his power in the weather, particularly the winter-weather. He that protects Zion and Jerusalem is that God of power from whom all the powers of nature are derived and on whom they depend, and who produces all the changes of the seasons, which, if they were not common, would astonish us.

1. In general, whatever alterations there are in this lower world (and it is that world that is subject to continual changes) they are produced by the will, and power, and providence of God (Ps. 147:15): He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth, as one that has an incontestable authority to give orders, and innumerable attendants ready to carry his orders and put them in execution. As the world was at first made, so it is still upheld and governed, by a word of almighty power. God speaks and it is done, for all are his servants. That word takes effect, not only surely, but speedily. His word runneth very swiftly, for nothing can oppose or retard it. As the lightning, which passes through the air in an instant, such is the word of God’s providence, and such the word of his grace, when it is sent forth with commission, Luke 17:24. Angels, who carry his word and fulfil it, fly swiftly, Dan. 9:21.

2. In particular, frosts and thaws are both of them wonderful changes, and in both we must acknowledge the word of his power.

(1.) Frosts are from God. With him are the treasures of the snow and the hail (Job 38:22, 23), and out of these treasures he draws as he pleases. [1.] He giveth snow like wool. It is compared to wool for its whiteness (Isa. 1:18), and its softness; it falls silently, and makes no more noise than the fall of a lock of wool; it covers the earth, and keeps it warm like a fleece of wool, and so promotes its fruitfulness. See how God can work by contraries, and bring meat out of the eater, can warm the earth with cold snow. [2.] He scatters the hoar-frost, which is dew congealed, as the snow and hail are rain congealed. This looks like ashes scattered upon the grass, and is sometimes prejudicial to the products of the earth and blasts them as if it were hot ashes, Ps. 78:47. [3.] He casts forth his ice like morsels, which may be understood either of large hail-stones, which are as ice in the air, or of the ice which covers the face of the waters, and when it is broken, though naturally it was as drops of drink, it is as morsels of meat, or crusts of bread. [4.] When we see the frost, and snow, and ice, we feel it in the air: Who can stand before his cold? The beasts cannot; they retire into dens (Job 37:8); they are easily conquered then, 2 Sam. 23:20. Men cannot, but are forced to protect themselves by fires, or furs, or both, and all little enough where and when the cold is in extremity. We see not the causes when we feel the effects; and therefore we must call it his cold; it is of his sending, and therefore we must bear it patiently, and be thankful for warm houses, and clothes, and beds, to relieve us against the rigour of the season, and must give him the glory of his wisdom and sovereignty, his power and faithfulness, which shall not cease any more than summer, Gen. 8:22. And let us also infer from it, If we cannot stand before the cold of his frosts, how can we stand before the heat of his wrath?

(2.) Thaws are from God. When he pleases (Ps. 147:18) he sends out his word and melts them; the frost, the snow, the ice, are all dissolved quickly, in order to which he causes the wind, the south wind, to blow, and the waters, which were frozen, flow again as they did before. We are soon sensible of the change, but we see not the causes of it, but must resolve it into the will of the First Cause. And in it we must take notice not only of the power of God, that he can so suddenly, so insensibly, make such a great and universal alteration in the temper of the air and the face of the earth (what cannot he do that does this every winter, perhaps often every winter?) but also of the goodness of God. Hard weather does not always continue; it would be sad if it should. He does not contend for ever, but renews the face of the earth. As he remembered Noah, and released him (Gen. 8:1), so he remembers the earth, and his covenant with the earth, Song 2:11, 12. This thawing word may represent the gospel of Christ, and this thawing wind the Spirit of Christ (for the Spirit is compared to the wind, John 3:8); both are sent for the melting of frozen souls. Converting grace, like the thaw, softens the heart that was hard, moistens it, and melts it into tears of repentance; it warms good affections, and makes them to flow, which, before, were chilled and stopped up. The change which the thaw makes is universal and yet gradual; it is very evident, and yet how it is done is unaccountable: such is the change wrought in the conversion of a soul, when God’s word and Spirit are sent to melt it and restore it to itself.

III. For his distinguishing favour to Israel, in giving them his word and ordinances, a much more valuable blessing than their peace and plenty (Ps. 147:14), as much as the soul is more excellent than the body. Jacob and Israel had God’s statutes and judgments among them. They were under his peculiar government; the municipal laws of their nation were of his framing and enacting, and their constitution was a theocracy. They had the benefit of divine revelation; the great things of God’s law were written to them. They had a priesthood of divine institution for all things pertaining to God, and prophets for all extraordinary occasions. No people besides went upon sure grounds in their religion. Now this was, 1. A preventing mercy. They did not find out God’s statutes and judgments of themselves, but God showed his word unto Jacob, and by that word he made known to them his statutes and judgments. It is a great mercy to any people to have the word of God among them; for faith comes by hearing and reading that word, that faith without which it is impossible to please God. 2. A distinguishing mercy, and upon that account the more obliging: “He hath not dealt so with every nation, not with any nation; and, as for his judgments, they have not known them, nor are likely to know them till the Messiah shall come and take down the partition-wall between Jew and Gentile, that the gospel may be preached to every creature.” Other nations had plenty of outward good things; some nations were very rich, others had pompous powerful princes and polite literature, but none were blessed with God’s statutes and judgments as Israel were. Let Israel therefore praise the Lord in the observance of these statutes. Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself to us, and not to the world! Even so, Father, because it seemed good in thy eyes.