The psalmist here, as often elsewhere, stirs up himself and others to praise God; for it is a duty which ought to be performed with the most lively affections, and which we have great need to be excited to, being very often backward to it and cold in it. Observe,
I. How God is to be praised. 1. With holy joy and delight in him. The praising song must be a joyful noise, Ps. 95:1 and again Ps. 95:2. Spiritual joy is the heart and soul of thankful praise. It is the will of God (such is the condescension of his grace) that when we give glory to him as a being infinitely perfect and blessed we should, at the same time, rejoice in him as our Father and King, and a God in covenant with us. 2. With humble reverence, and a holy awe of him (Ps. 95:6): “Let us worship, and bow down, and kneel before him, as becomes those who know what an infinite distance there is between us and God, how much we are in danger of his wrath and in need of his mercy.” Though bodily exercise, alone, profits little, yet certainly it is our duty to glorify God with our bodies by the outward expressions of reverence, seriousness, and humility, in the duties of religious worship. 3. We must praise God with our voice; we must speak forth, sing forth, his praises out of the abundance of a heart filled with love, and joy, and thankfulness—Sing to the Lord; make a noise, a joyful noise to him, with psalms—as those who are ourselves much affected with his greatness and goodness, are forward to own ourselves so, are desirous to be more and more affected therewith, and would willingly be instrumental to kindle and inflame the same pious and devout affection in others also. 4. We must praise God in concert, in the solemn assemblies: “Come, let us sing; let us join in singing to the Lord; not others without me, nor I alone, but others with me. Let us come together before his presence, in the courts of his house, where his people are wont to attend him and to expect his manifestations of himself.” Whenever we come into God’s presence we must come with thanksgiving that we are admitted to such a favour; and, whenever we have thanks to give, we must come before God’s presence, set ourselves before him, and present ourselves to him in the ordinances which he has appointed.
II. Why God is to be praised and what must be the matter of our praise. We do not want matter; it were well if we did not want a heart. We must praise God,
1. Because he is a great God, and sovereign Lord of all, Ps. 95:3. He is great, and therefore greatly to be praised. He is infinite and immense, and has all perfection in himself. (1.) He has great power: He is a great King above all gods, above all deputed deities, all magistrates, to whom he said, You are gods (he manages them all, and serves his own purposes by them, and to him they are all accountable), above all counterfeit deities, all pretenders, all usurpers; he can do that which none of them can do; he can, and will, famish and vanquish them all. (2.) He has great possessions. This lower world is here particularly specified. We reckon those great men who have large territories, which they call their own against all the world, which yet are a very inconsiderable part of the universe: how great then is that God whose the whole earth is, and the fulness thereof, not only under whose feet it is, as he has an incontestable dominion over all the creatures and a propriety in them, but in whose hand it is, as he has the actual directing and disposing of all (Ps. 95:4); even the deep places of the earth, which are out of our sight, subterraneous springs and mines, are in his hand; and the height of the hills which are out of our reach, whatever grows or feeds upon them, is his also. This may be taken figuratively: the meanest of the children of men, who are as the low places of the earth, are not beneath his cognizance; and the greatest, who are as the strength of the hills, are not above his control. Whatever strength is in any creature it is derived from God and employed for him (Ps. 95:5): The sea is his, and all that is in it (the waves fulfil his word); it is his, for he made it, gathered its waters and fixed its shores; the dry land, though given to the children of men, is his too, for he still reserved the property to himself; it is his, for his hands formed it, when his word made the dry land appear. His being the Creator of all makes him, without dispute, the owner of all. This being a gospel psalm, we may very well suppose that it is the Lord Jesus whom we are here taught to praise. He is a great God; the mighty God is one of his titles, and God over all, blessed for evermore. As Mediator, he is a great King above all gods; by him kings reign; and angels, principalities, and powers, are subject to him; by him, as the eternal Word, all things were made (John 1:3), and it was fit he should be the restorer and reconciler of all who was the Creator of all, Col. 1:16, 20. To him all power is given both in heaven and in earth, and into his hand all things are delivered. It is he that sets one foot on the sea and the other on the earth, as sovereign Lord of both (Rev. 10:2), and therefore to him we must sing our songs of praise, and before him we must worship and bow down.
2. Because he is our God, not only has a dominion over us, as he has over all the creatures, but stands in special relation to us (Ps. 95:7): He is our God, and therefore it is expected we should praise him; who will, if we do not? What else did he make us for but that we should be to him for a name and a praise? (1.) He is our Creator, and the author of our being; we must kneel before the Lord our Maker, Ps. 95:6. Idolaters kneel before gods which they themselves made; we kneel before a God who made us and all the world and who is therefore our rightful proprietor; for his we are, and not our own. (2.) He is our Saviour, and the author of our blessedness. He is here called the rock of our salvation (Ps. 95:1), not only the founder, but the very foundation, of that work of wonder, on whom it is built. That rock is Christ; to him therefore we must sing our songs of praises, to him that sits upon the throne and to the Lamb. (3.) We are therefore his, under all possible obligations: We are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. All the children of men are so; they are fed and led by his Providence, which cares for them, and conducts them, as the shepherd the sheep. We must praise him, not only because he made us, but because he preserves and maintains us, and our breath and ways are in his hand. All the church’s children are in a special manner so; Israel are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand; and therefore he demands their homage in a special manner. The gospel church is his flock. Christ is the great and good Shepherd of it. We, as Christians, are led by his hand into the green pastures, by him we are protected and well provided for, to his honour and service we are entirely devoted as a peculiar people, and therefore to him must be glory in the churches (whether it be in the world or no) throughout all ages, Eph. 3:21.
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