We are here most earnestly pressed to praise God, and to sing his praises; so backward are we to this duty that we have need to be urged to it by precept upon precept, and line upon line; so we are here (Ps. 47:6): Sing praises to God, and again, Sing praises, Sing praises to our King, and again, Sing praises. This intimates that it is a very necessary and excellent duty, that it is a duty we ought to be frequent and abundant in; we may sing praises again and again in the same words, and it is no vain repetition if it be done with new affections. Should not a people praise their God? Dan. 5:4. Should not subjects praise their king? God is our God, our King, and therefore we must praise him; we must sing his praises, as those that are pleased with them and that are not ashamed of them. But here is a needful rule subjoined (Ps. 47:7): Sing you praises with understanding, with Maschil. 1. “Intelligently; as those that do yourselves understand why and for what reasons you praise God and what is the meaning of the service.” This is the gospel-rule (1 Cor. 14:15), to sing with the spirit and with the understanding also; it is only with the heart that we make melody to the Lord, Eph. 5:19. It is not an acceptable service if it be not a reasonable service. 2. “Instructively, as those that desire to make others understand God’s glorious perfections, and to teach them to praise him.” Three things are mentioned in these verses as just matter for our praises, and each of them will admit of a double sense:—
I. We must praise God going up (Ps. 47:5): God has gone up with a shout, which may refer, 1. To the carrying up of the ark to the hill of Zion, which was done with great solemnity, David himself dancing before it, the priests, it is likely, blowing the trumpets, and the people following with their loud huzzas. The ark being the instituted token of God’s special presence with them, when that was brought up by warrant from him he might be said to go up. The emerging of God’s ordinances out of obscurity, in order to the more public and solemn administration of them, is a great favour to any people, which they have reason to rejoice in and give thanks for. 2. To the ascension of our Lord Jesus into heaven, when he had finished his work on earth, Acts 1:9. Then God went up with a shout, the shout of a King, of a conqueror, as one who, having spoiled principalities and powers, then led captivity captive, Ps. 68:18. He went up as a Mediator, typified by the ark and the mercy-seat over it, and was brought as the ark was into the most holy place, into heaven itself; see Heb. 9:24. We read not of a shout, or of the sound of a trumpet, at the ascension of Christ, but they were the inhabitants of the upper world, those sons of God, that then shouted for joy, Job 38:7. He shall come again in the same manner as he went (Acts 1:11) and we are sure that he shall come again with a shout and the sound of a trumpet.
II. We must praise God reigning, Ps. 47:7, 8. God is not only our King, and therefore we owe our homage to him, but he is King of all the earth (Ps. 47:7), over all the kings of the earth, and therefore in every place the incense of praise is to be offered up to him. Now this may be understood, 1. Of the kingdom of providence. God, as Creator, and the God of nature, reigns over the heathen, disposes of them and all their affairs, as he pleases, though they know him not, nor have any regard to him: He sits upon the throne of his holiness, which he has prepared in the heavens, and there he rules over all, even over the heathen, serving his own purposes by them and upon them. See here the extent of God’s government; all are born within his allegiance; even the heathen that serve other gods are ruled by the true God, our God, whether they will or no. See the equity of his government; it is a throne of holiness, on which he sits, whence he gives warrants, orders, and judgment, in which we are sure there is no iniquity. 2. Of the kingdom of the Messiah. Jesus Christ, who is God, and whose throne is for ever and ever reigns over the heathen; not only he is entrusted with the administration of the providential kingdom, but he shall set up the kingdom of his grace in the Gentile world, and rule in the hearts of multitudes that were bred up in heathenism, Eph. 2:12, 13. This the apostle speaks of as a great mystery that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, Eph. 3:6. Christ sits upon the throne of his holiness, his throne in the heavens, where all the administrations of his government are intended to show forth God’s holiness and to advance holiness among the children of men.
III. We must praise God as attended and honoured by the princes of the people, Ps. 47:9. This may be understood, 1. Of the congress or convention of the states of Israel, the heads and rulers of the several tribes, at the solemn feasts, or to despatch the public business of the nation. It was the honour of Israel that they were the people of the God of Abraham, as they were Abraham’s seed and taken into his covenant; and, thanks be to God, this blessing of Abraham has come upon the isles of the Gentiles, Gal. 3:14. It was their happiness that they had a settled government, princes of their people, who were the shields of their land. Magistracy is the shield of a nation, and it is a great mercy to any people to have this shield, especially when their princes, their shields, belong unto the Lord, are devoted to his honour, and their power is employed in his service, for then he is greatly exalted. It is likewise the honour of God that, in another sense, the shields of the earth do belong to him; magistracy is his institution, and he serves his own purposes by it in the government of the world, turning the hearts of kings as the rivers of water, which way soever he pleases. It was well with Israel when the princes of their people were gathered together to consult for the public welfare. The unanimous agreement of the great ones of a nation in the things that belong to its peace is a very happy omen, which promises abundance of blessings. 2. It may be applied to the calling of the Gentiles into the church of Christ, and taken as a prophecy that in the days of the Messiah the kings of the earth and their people should join themselves to the church, and bring their glory and power into the New Jerusalem, that they should all become the people of the God of Abraham, to whom it was promised that he should be the father of many nations. The volunteers of the people (so it may be read); it is the same word that is used in Ps. 110:3; Thy people shall be willing; for those that are gathered to Christ are not forced, but made freely willing, to be his. When the shields of the earth, the ensigns of royal dignity (1 Kgs. 14:27, 28), are surrendered to the Lord Jesus, as the keys of a city are presented to the conqueror or sovereign, when princes use their power for the advancement of the interests of religion, then Christ is greatly exalted.
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