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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 5–14
Verses 5–14

These verses are full of the praises of God. Observe,

I. Where, and by whom, God is to be praised. 1. God is praised by the angels above: The heavens shall praise thy wonders, O Lord! Ps. 89:5; that is, “the glorious inhabitants of the upper world continually celebrate thy praises.” Bless the Lord, you his angels, Ps. 103:20. The works of God are wonders even to those that are best acquainted and most intimately conversant with them; the more God’s works are known the more they are admired and praised. This should make us love heaven, and long to be there, that there we shall have nothing else to do but to praise God and his wonders. 2. God is praised by the assemblies of his saints on earth (praise waits for him in Zion); and, though their praises fall so far short of the praises of angels, yet God is pleased to take notice of them, and accept of them, and reckon himself honoured by them. “Thy faithfulness and the truth of thy promise, that rock on which the church is built, shall be praised in the congregation of the saints, who owe their all to that faithfulness, and whose constant comfort it is that there is a promise, and that he is faithful who has promised.” It is expected from God’s saints on earth that they praise him; who should, if they do not? Let every saint praise him, but especially the congregation of saints; when they come together, let them join in praising God. The more the better; it is the more like heaven. Of the honour done to God by the assembly of the saints he speaks again (Ps. 89:7): God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints. Saints should assemble for religious worship, that they may publicly own their relation to God and may stir up one another to give honour to him, and, in keeping up communion with God, may likewise maintain the communion of saints. In religious assemblies God has promised the presence of his grace, but we must also, in them, have an eye to his glorious presence, that the familiarity we are admitted to may not breed the least contempt; for he is terrible in his holy places, and therefore greatly to be feared. A holy awe of God must fall upon us, and fill us, in all our approaches to God, even in secret, to which something may very well be added by the solemnity of public assemblies. God must be had in reverence of all that are about him, that attend him continually as his servants or approach him upon any particular errand. See Lev. 10:3. Those only serve God acceptably who serve him with reverence and godly fear, Heb. 12:28.

II. What it is to praise God; it is to acknowledge him to be a being of unparalleled perfection, such a one that there is none like him, nor any to be compared with him, Ps. 89:6. If there be any beings that can pretend to vie with God, surely they must be found among the angels; but they are all infinitely short of him: Who in the heaven can be compared with the Lord, so as to challenge any share of the reverence and adoration which are due to him only, or to set up in rivalship with him for the homage of the children of men? They are sons of the mighty, but which of them can be likened unto the Lord? Nobles are princes’ peers; some parity there is between them. But there is none between God and the angels; they are not his peers. To whom will you liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One, Isa. 40:25. This is insisted on again (Ps. 89:8): Who is a strong Lord like unto thee? No angel, no earthly potentate, whatsoever, is comparable to God, or has an arm like him, or can thunder with a voice like him. Thy faithfulness is round about thee; that is, “thy angels who are round about thee, attending thee with their praises and ready to go on thy errands, are all faithful.” Or, rather, “In every thing thou doest, on all sides, thou approvest thyself faithful to thy word, above whatever prince or potentate was.” Among men it is too often found that those who are most able to break their word are least careful to keep it; but God is both strong and faithful; he can do every thing, and yet will never do an unjust thing.

III. What we ought, in our praises, to give God the glory of. Several things are here mentioned. 1. The command God has of the most ungovernable creatures (Ps. 89:9): Thou rulest the raging of the sea, than which nothing is more frightful or threatening, nor more out of the power of man to give check to; it can swell no higher, roll no further, beat no harder, continue no longer, nor do any more hurt, than God suffers it. “When the waves thereof arise thou canst immediately hush them asleep, still them, and make them quiet, and turn the storm into a calm.” This coming in here as an act of omnipotence, what manner of man then was the Lord Jesus, whom the winds and seas obeyed? 2. The victories God has obtained over the enemies of his church. His ruling the raging of the sea and quelling its billows was an emblem of this (Ps. 89:10): Thou hast broken Rahab, many a proud enemy (so it signifies), Egypt in particular, which is sometimes called Rahab, broken it in pieces, as one that is slain and utterly unable to make head again. “The head being broken, thou hast scattered the remainder with the arm of thy strength.” God has more ways than one to deal with his and his church’s enemies. We think he should slay them immediately, but sometimes he scatters them, that he may send them abroad to be monuments of his justice, Ps. 59:11. The remembrance of the breaking of Egypt in pieces is a comfort to the church, in reference to the present power of Babylon; for God is still the same. 3. The incontestable property he has in all the creatures of the upper and lower world (Ps. 89:11, 12): “Men are honoured for their large possessions; but the heavens are thine, O Lord! the earth also is thine; therefore we praise thee, therefore we trust in thee, therefore we will not fear what man can do against us. The world and the fulness thereof, all the riches contained in it, all the inhabitants of it, both the tenements and the tenants, are all thine; for thou hast founded them,” and the founder may justly claim to be the owner. He specifies, (1.) The remotest parts of the world, the north and south, the countries that lie under the two poles, which are uninhabited and little known: “Thou hast created them, and therefore knowest them, takest care of them, and hast tributes of praise from them.” The north is said to be hung over the empty place; yet what fulness there is there God is the owner of it. (2.) The highest parts of the world. He mentions the two highest hills in Canaan—“Tabor and Hermon” (one lying to the west, the other to the east); “these shall rejoice in thy name, for they are under the care of thy providence, and they produce offerings for thy altar.” The little hills are said to rejoice in their own fruitfulness, Ps. 65:12. Tabor is commonly supposed to be that high mountain in Galilee on the top of which Christ was transfigured; and then indeed it might be said to rejoice in that voice which was there heard, This is my beloved Son. 4. The power and justice, the mercy and truth, with which he governs the world and rules in the affairs of the children of men, Ps. 89:13, 14. (1.) God is able to do every thing; for his is the Lord God Almighty. His arm, his hand, is mighty and strong, both to save his people and to destroy his and their enemies; none can either resist the force or bear the weight of his mighty hand. High is his right hand, to reach the highest, even those that set their nests among the stars (Amos 9:2, 3; Obad. 1:4); his right hand is exalted in what he has done, for in thousands of instances he has signalized his power, Ps. 118:16. (2.) He never did, nor ever will do, any thing that is either unjust or unwise; for righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. None of all his dictates or decrees ever varied from the rules of equity and wisdom, nor could ever any charge God with unrighteousness or folly. Justice and judgment are the preparing of his throne (so some), the establishment of it, so others. The preparations for his government in his counsels from eternity, and the establishment of it in its consequences to eternity, are all justice and judgment. (3.) He always does that which is kind to his people and consonant to the word which he has spoken: “Mercy and truth shall go before thy face, to prepare thy way, as harbingers to make room for thee—mercy in promising, truth in performing—truth in being as good as thy word, mercy in being better.” How praiseworthy are these in great men, much more in the great God, in whom they are in perfection!