In these verses the psalmist calls upon God’s people in a special manner to praise him. Let all lands do it, but Israel’s land particularly. Bless our God; bless him as ours, a God in covenant with us, and that takes care of us as his own. Let them make the voice of his praise to be heard (Ps. 66:8); for from whom should it be heard but from those who are his peculiar favourites and select attendants? Two things we have reason to bless God for:—
I. Common protection (Ps. 66:9): He holdeth our soul in life, that it may not drop away of itself; for, being continually in our hands, it is apt to slip through our fingers. We must own that it is the good providence of God that keeps life and soul together and his visitation that preserves our spirit. He puts our soul in life, so the word is. He that gave us our being, by a constant renewed act upholds us in our being, and his providence is a continued creation. When we are ready to faint and perish he restores our soul, and so puts it, as it were, into a new life, giving new comforts. Non est vivere, sed valere, vita—It is not existence, but happiness, that deserves the name of life. But we are apt to stumble and fall, and are exposed to many destructive accidents, killing disasters as well as killing diseases, and therefore as to these also we are guarded by the divine power. He suffers not our feet to be moved, preventing many unforeseen evils, which we ourselves were not aware of our danger from. To him we owe it that we have not, long ere this, fallen into endless ruin. He will keep the feet of his saints.
II. Special deliverance from great distress. Observe,
1. How grievous the distress and danger were, Ps. 66:11, 12. What particular trouble of the church this refers to does not appear; it might be the trouble of some private persons or families only. But, whatever it was, they were surprised with it as a bird with a snare, enclosed and entangled in it as a fish in a net; they were pressed down with it, and kept under as with a load upon their loins, Ps. 66:11. But they owned the hand of God in it. We are never in the net but God brings us into it, never under affliction but God lays it upon us. Isa. any thing more dangerous than fire and water? We went through both, that is, afflictions of different kinds; the end of one trouble was the beginning of another; when we had got clear of one sort of dangers we found ourselves involved in dangers of another sort. Such may be the troubles of the best of God’s saints, but he has promised, When thou passest through the waters, through the fire, I will be with thee, Isa. 43:1. Yet proud and cruel men may be as dangerous as fire and water, and more so. Beware of men, Matt. 10:17. When men rose up against us, that was fire and water, and all that is threatening (Ps. 124:2, 3, 4), and that was the case here: “Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads, to trample upon us and insult over us, to hector and abuse us, nay, and to make perfect slaves of us; they have said to our souls, Bow down, that we may go over,” Isa. 51:23. While it is the pleasure of good princes to rule in the hearts of their subjects it is the pride of tyrants to ride over their heads; yet the afflicted church in this also owns the hand of God: “Thou hast caused them thus to abuse us;” for the most furious oppressor has no power but what is given him from above.
2. How gracious God’s design was in bringing them into this distress and danger. See what the meaning of it is (Ps. 66:10): Thou, O God! hast proved us, and tried us. Then we are likely to get good by our afflictions, when we look upon them under this notion, for then we may see God’s grace and love at the bottom of them and our own honour and benefit in the end of them. By afflictions we are proved as silver in the fire. (1.) That our graces, by being tried, may be made more evident and so we may be approved, as silver, when it is touched and marked sterling, and this will be to our praise at the appearing of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:7) and perhaps in this world. Job’s integrity and constancy were manifested by his afflictions. (2.) That our graces, by being exercised, may be made more strong and active, and so we may be improved, as silver when it is refined by the fire and made more clear from its dross; and this will be to our unspeakable advantage, for thus we are made partakers of God’s holiness, Heb. 12:10. Public troubles are for the purifying of the church, Dan. 11:35; Rev. 2:10; Deut. 8:2.
3. How glorious the issue was at last. The troubles of the church will certainly end well; these do so, for (1.) The outlet of the trouble is happy. They are in fire and water, but they get through them: “We went through fire and water, and did not perish in the flames or floods.” Whatever the troubles of the saints are, blessed be God, there is a way through them. (2.) The inlet to a better state is much more happy: Thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place, into a well-watered place (so the word is), like the gardens of the Lord, and therefore fruitful. God brings his people into trouble that their comforts afterwards may be the sweeter and that their affliction may thus yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness, which will make the poorest place in the world a wealthy place.