In these verses we have two great doctrines laid down and two good inferences drawn from them, for the confirmation of what he had before said.
I. Here are two great truths laid down concerning God’s government of the world, which we ought to mix faith with, both pertinent to the occasion:—
1. That from God alone kings receive their power (Ps. 75:6, 7), and therefore to God alone David would give the praise of his advancement; having his power from God he would use it for him, and therefore those were fools that lifted up the horn against him. We see strange revolutions in states and kingdoms, and are surprised at the sudden disgrace of some and elevation of others; we are all full of such changes, when they happen; but here we are directed to look at the author of them, and are taught where the original of power is, and whence promotion comes. Whence comes preferment to kingdoms, to the sovereignty of them? And whence come preferments in kingdoms, to places of power and trust in them? The former depends not upon the will of the people, nor the latter on the will of the prince, but both on the will of God, who has all hearts in his hands; to him therefore those must look who are in pursuit of preferment, and then they begin aright. We are here told, (1.) Negatively, which way we are not to look for the fountain of power: Promotion comes not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert, that is, neither from the desert on the north of Jerusalem nor from that on the south; so that the fair gale of preferment is not to be expected to blow from any point of the compass, but only from above, directly thence. Men cannot gain promotion either by the wisdom or wealth of the children of the east, nor by the numerous forces of the isles of the Gentiles, that lay westward, nor those of Egypt or Arabia, that lay south; no concurring smiles of second causes will raise men to preferment without the first cause. The learned bishop Lloyd (Serm. in loc.) gives this gloss upon it: “All men took the original of power to be from heaven, but from whom there many knew not; the eastern nations, who were generally given to astrology, took it to come from their stars, especially the sun, their god. No, says David, it comes neither from the east nor from the west, neither from the rising nor from the setting of such a planet, or such a constellation, nor from the south, nor from the exaltation of the sun or any star in the mid-heaven.” He mentions not the north, because none supposed it to come thence; or because the same word that signifies the north signifies the secret place, and from the secret of God’s counsel it does come, or from the oracle in Zion, which lay on the north side of Jerusalem. Note, No wind is so good as to blow promotion, but as he directs who has the winds in his fists. (2.) Positively: God is the judge, the governor or umpire. When parties contend for the prize, he puts down one and sets up another as he sees fit, so as to serve his own purposes and bring to pass his own counsels. Herein he acts by prerogative, and is not accountable to us for any of these matters; nor is it any damage, danger, or disgrace that he, who is infinitely wise, holy, and good, has an arbitrary and despotic power to set up and put down whom, and when, and how he pleases. This is a good reason why magistrates should rule for God as those that must give account to him, because it is by him that kings reign.
2. That from God alone all must receive their doom (Ps. 75:8): In the hand of the Lord there is a cup, which he puts into the hands of the children of men, a cup of providence, mixed up (as he thinks fit) of many ingredients, a cup of affliction. The sufferings of Christ are called a cup, Matt. 20:22; John 18:11. The judgments of God upon sinners are the cup of the Lord’s right hand, Hab. 2:16. The wine is red, denoting the wrath of God, which is infused into the judgments executed on sinners, and is the wormwood and the gall in the affliction and the misery. It is read as fire, red as blood, for it burns, it kills. It is full of mixture, prepared in wisdom, so as to answer the end. There are mixtures of mercy and grace in the cup of affliction when it is put into the hands of God’s own people, mixtures of the curse when it is put into the hands of the wicked; it is wine mingled with gall. These vials, (1.) Are poured out upon all; see Rev. 15:7; 16:1; where we read of the angels pouring out the vials of God’s wrath upon the earth. Some drops of this wrath may light on good people; when God’s judgments are abroad, they have their share in common calamities; but, (2.) The dregs of the cup are reserved for the wicked. The calamity itself is but the vehicle into which the wrath and curse is infused, the top of which has little of the infusion; but the sediment is pure wrath, and that shall fall to the share of sinners; they have the dregs of the cup now in the terrors of conscience, and hereafter in the torments of hell. They shall wring them out, that not a drop of the wrath may be left behind, and they shall drink them, for the curse shall enter into their bowels like water and like oil into their bones. The cup of the Lord’s indignation will be to them a cup of trembling, everlasting trembling, Rev. 14:10. The wicked man’s cup, while he prospers in the world, is full of mixture, but the worst is at the bottom. The wicked are reserved unto the day of judgment.
II. Here are two good practical inferences drawn from these great truths, and they are the same purposes of duty that he began the psalm with. This being so, 1. He will praise God, and give him glory, for the power to which he has advanced him (Ps. 75:9): I will declare for ever that which thy wondrous works declare, Ps. 75:1. He will praise God for his elevation, not only at first, while the mercy was fresh, but for ever, so long as he lives. The exaltation of the Son of David will be the subject of the saints’ everlasting praises. He will give glory to God, not only as his God, but as the God of Jacob, knowing it was for Jacob his servant’s sake, and because he loved his people Israel, that he made him king over them. 2. He will use the power with which he is entrusted for the great ends for which it was put into his hands, Ps. 75:10; as before, Ps. 75:2, 4. According to the duty of the higher powers, (1.) He resolves to be a terror to evildoers, to humble their pride and break their power: “Though not all the heads, yet all the horns, of the wicked will I cut off, with which they push their poor neighbours; I will disable them to do mischief.” Thus God promises to raise up carpenters who should fray the horns of the Gentiles that had scattered Judah and Israel, Zech. 1:18-21. (2.) He resolves to be a protection and praise to those that do well: The horns of the righteous shall be exalted; they shall be preferred and be put into places of power; and those that are good, and have hearts to do good, shall not want ability and opportunity for it. This agrees with David’s resolutions, Ps. 101:3 Herein David was a type of Christ, who with the breath of his mouth shall slay the wicked, but shall exalt with honour the horn of the righteous, Ps. 112:9.