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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–5
Verses 1–5

In these verses,

I. The psalmist gives to God the praise of his advancement to honour and power, and the other great things he had done for him and for his people Israel (Ps. 75:1): Unto thee, O God! do we give thanks for all the favours thou hast bestowed upon us; and again, unto thee do we give thanks; for our thanksgivings must be often repeated. Did not we often pray for mercy when we were in pursuit of it; and shall we think it will suffice once or twice to give thanks when we have obtained it? Not only I do give thanks, but we do, and I and all my friends. If we share with others in their mercies, we must join with them in their praises. “Unto thee, O God! the author of our mercies (and we will not give that glory to the instruments which is due to thee only), we give thanks; for that thy name is near (that the complete accomplishment of thy promise made to David is not far off) thy wondrous works, which thou hast already done for him, declare.” Note, 1. There are many works which God does for his people that may truly be called wondrous works, out of the common course of providence and quite beyond our expectation. 2. These wondrous works declare the nearness of his name; they show that he himself is at hand, nigh to us in what we call upon him for, and that he is about to do some great things for his people, in pursuance of his purpose and promise. 3. When God’s wondrous works declare the nearness of his name it is our duty to give him thanks, again and again to give him thanks.

II. He lays himself under an obligation to use his power well, pursuant to the great trust reposed in him (Ps. 75:2): When I shall receive the congregation I will judge uprightly. Here he takes it for granted that God would, in due time, perfect that which concerned him, that though the congregation was very slow in gathering to him, and great opposition was made to it, yet, at length, he should receive it; for what God has spoken in his holiness he will perform by his wisdom and power. Being thus in expectation of the mercy, he promises to make conscience of his duty: “When I am a judge I will judge, and judge uprightly; not as those that went before me, who either neglected judgment or, which was worse, perverted it, either did no good with their power or did hurt.” Note, 1. Those that are advanced to posts of honour must remember they are posts of service, and must set themselves with diligence and application of mind to do the work to which they are called. He does not say, “When I shall receive the congregation I will take my ease, and take state upon me, and leave the public business to others;” but, “I will mind it myself.” 2. Public trusts are to be managed with great integrity; those that judge must judge uprightly, according to the rules of justice, without respect of persons.

III. He promises himself that his government would be a public blessing to Israel, Ps. 75:3. The present state of the kingdom was very bad: The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved; and no marvel, when the former reign was so dissolute that all went to wrack and ruin. There was a general corruption of manners, for want of putting the laws in execution against vice and profaneness. They were divided one from another for want of centering, as they ought to have done, in the government God had appointed. They were all to pieces, two against three and three against two, crumbled into factions and parties, which was likely to issue in their ruin; but I bear up the pillars of it. Even in Saul’s time David did what he could for the public welfare; but he hoped that when he had himself received the congregation he should do much more, and should not only prevent the public ruin, but recover the public strength and beauty. Now, 1. See the mischief of parties; they melt and dissolve a land and the inhabitants of it. 2. See how much one head frequently holds up. The fabric would have sunk if David had not held up the pillars of it. This may well be applied to Christ and his government. The world and all the inhabitants of it were dissolved by sin; man’s apostasy threatened the destruction of the whole creation. But Christ bore up the pillars of it; he saved the whole world from utter ruin by saving his people from their sins, and into his hand the administration of the kingdom of Providence is committed, for he upholds all things by the word of his power, Heb. 1:3.

IV. He checks those that opposed his government, that were against his accession to it and obstructed the administration of it, striving to keep up that vice and profaneness which he had made it his business to suppress (Ps. 75:4, 5): I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly. He had said so to them in Saul’s time. When he had not power to restrain them, yet he had wisdom and grace to reprove them, and to give them good counsel; though they bore themselves high, upon the favour of that unhappy prince, he cautioned them not to be too presumptuous. Or, rather, he does now say so to them. As soon as he came to the crown he issued out a proclamation against vice and profaneness, and here we have the contents of it. 1. To the simple sneaking sinners, the fools in Israel, that corrupted themselves, to them he said, “Deal not foolishly; do not act so directly contrary both to your reason and to your interest as you do while you walk contrary to the laws God has given to Israel and the promises he has made to David.” Christ, the son of David, gives us this counsel, issues out this edict, Deal not foolishly. He who is made of God to us wisdom bids us be wise for ourselves, and not make fools of ourselves. 2. To the proud daring sinners, the wicked, that set God himself at defiance, he says, “Lift not up the horn; boast not of your power and prerogatives; persist not in your contumacy and contempt of the government set over you; lift not up your horn on high, as though you could have what you will and do what you will; speak not with a stiff neck, in which is an iron sinew, that will never bend to the will of God in the government; for those that will not bend shall break; those whose necks are stiffened are so to their own destruction.” This is Christ’s word of command in his gospel, that every mountain will be brought low before him, Isa. 40:4. Let not the anti-christian power, with its heads and horns, lift up itself against him, for it shall certainly be broken to pieces; what is said with a stiff neck must be unsaid again with a broken heart, or we are undone. Pharaoh said with a stiff neck, Who is the Lord? But God made him know to his cost.