The kingdom of the Messiah, like the pillar of cloud and fire, as it has a dark side towards the Egyptians, so it has a bright side towards the Israel of God. It is set up in spite of opposition; and then the earth saw and trembled (Ps. 97:4), but Zion heard and was glad, very glad, to hear of the conversion of some and of the confusion of others, that is, the conquest of all that stood it out against Christ. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! for behold thy king comes unto thee, Zech. 9:9. And not Zion only, where the temple was, but even the daughters of Judah, rejoiced; the common people, the inhabitants of the villages, they shall triumph in Christ’s victories. The command (Ps. 97:1) is, Let the earth rejoice; but it is only the sons of Zion and the daughters of Judah that do rejoice. All should bid the kingdom of the Messiah welcome, but few do. Now here observe,
I. The reasons that are given for Zion’s joy in the government of the Redeemer. The faithful servants of God may well rejoice and be glad, 1. Because God is glorified, and whatever redounds to his honour is very much his people’s pleasure. They rejoice because of thy judgments, O Lord! which may take in both the judgments of his mouth and the judgments of his hand, the word of his gospel and his works wrought for the propagating of it, miracles and marvellous providences; for in these we must own, “Thou, Lord, art high above all the earth (Ps. 97:9); thou hast manifested thy sovereignty in the kingdom of nature, and thy command of all its powers, and thy dominion over all nations, over all hearts; thou art exalted far above all gods”—all deputed gods, that is, princes—all counterfeit gods, that is, idols. The exaltation of Christ, and the advancement of God’s glory among men thereby, are the rejoicing of all the saints. 2. Because care is taken for their safety. Those that pay allegiance to Christ as a King shall be sure of his protection. Princes are the shields of the earth; Christ is so to his subjects; they may put their trust under his shadow and rejoice in it, for (Ps. 97:10) He preserves the souls of the saints; he preserves their lives as long as he has any work for them to do, and wonderfully delivers them many a time out of the hand of the wicked, their persecutors that thirst after their blood; for precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. But something more is meant than their lives; for those that will be his disciples must be willing to lay down their lives, and not indent for the securing of them. It is the immortal soul that Christ preserves, the inward man, which may be renewed more and more when the outward man decays. He will preserve the souls of his saints from sin, from apostasy, and despair, under their greatest trials; he will deliver them out of the hands of the wicked one that seeks to devour them; he will preserve them safely to his heavenly kingdom, 2 Tim. 4:18. They have therefore reason to be glad, being thus safe. 3. Because provision is made for their comfort. Those that rejoice in Christ Jesus, and in his exaltation, have fountains of joy treasured up for them, which will be opened sooner or later (Ps. 97:11): Light is sown for the righteous, that is, gladness for the upright in heart. The subjects of Christ’s kingdom are told to expect tribulation in the world. They must suffer by its malice, and must not share in its mirth; yet let them know, to their comfort, that light is sown for them; it is designed and prepared for them. What is sown will come up again in due time; though, like a winter seedness, it may lie long under the clods, and seem to be lost and buried, yet it will return in a rich and plentiful increase. God’s goodness shall be sure of a harvest in the appointed weeks. Those that sow in tears shall, without fail, reap in joy, Ps. 126:5, 6. Christ told his disciples, at parting (John 16:20), You shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. Gladness is sure to the upright in heart, to those only that are sincere in religion. The joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment. There is no serenity without a lasting sincerity,
II. The rules that are given for Zion’s joy. 1. Let it be a pure and holy joy. “You that love the Lord Jesus, that love his appearing and kingdom, that love his word and his exaltation, see that you hate evil, the evil of sin, every thing that is offensive to him and will throw you out of his favour.” Note, A true love to God will show itself in a real hatred of all sin, as that abominable thing which he hates. The joy of the saints should likewise confirm their antipathy to sin and divine comforts should put their mouths out of taste for sensual pleasures. 2. Let the joy terminate in God (Ps. 97:12): Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous. Let all the streams of comfort, which flow to us in the channel of Christ’s kingdom, lead us to the fountain, and oblige us to rejoice in the Lord. All the lines of joy must meet in him as in the centre. See Phil. 3:3; 4:4. 3. Let it express itself in praise and thanksgiving: Give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. Whatever is the matter of our rejoicing ought to be the matter of our thanksgiving, and particularly the holiness of God. Those that hate sin themselves are glad that God does so, in hopes that therefore he will not suffer it to have dominion over them. Note, (1.) We ought to be much in the remembrance of God’s holiness, the infinite purity, rectitude, and perfection of the divine nature. We must be ever mindful of his holy covenant, which he has confirmed with an oath by his holiness. (2.) We ought to give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness, not only give him the glory of it as it is an honour to him, but give him thanks for it as it is a favour to us; and an unspeakable favour it will be if, through grace, we are partakers of his holiness. It is God’s holiness which, above all his attributes, the angels celebrate. Isa. 6:3; Holy, holy, holy. Sinners tremble, but saints rejoice, at the remembrance of God’s holiness, Ps. 30:4.