1 O come, let us sing unto the Yahweh: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.
"By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth."
Let us open our minds to this great idea. It lies at the very root of the truth. It is the beginning of the gospel, the ground of our hope, the source of all true consolation. It is the end of salvation: for what do we find in all the delineations of the perfected state but praise as the foremost occupation-the highest delight of those who have part in it?
Of the apocalyptic four beasts, symbolic of Israel redeemed (and if we are saved we shall be incorporate with them), it is testified that-
"They rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created."
How reasonable is praise to God. He made us, and not we ourselves. He made all things. Do we admire the stupendous and well-ordered movements of the universe? Are we impressed with the beneficent march of the seasons? See we anything in the poise of the elements and the inimitable adjustment of the intricate forces of nature? Or are we struck with the exquisite skill exhibited in the construction of the minutest fibre in plant or animal? To man we can attribute nothing of all this power and all this wisdom.
Man himself is a product of it. He is a helpless, if not an admiring, spectator. He cannot modify the fundamental laws around him, if he appreciate ever so little or desire ever so much. He can but manipulate (and that on a very small scale) the materials brought to his hand; and these he can only use in subjection to already established laws and affinities which he is powerless to touch.
To God we look with ascription of all this wealth of wisdom and power, and the contemplation of Him generates praise. If He fill heaven and earth by His Spirit-if thus He is near to every one of us - if all this mighty frame-work of visible existence around us is the concretion of the invisible energy of His Spirit-if every faculty we possess, and every idea we conceive, and every beauty we admire in the great work around us are traceable to the impress of His eternal wisdom on the materials He has provided and employed in the construction of heaven and earth, is it not reasonable we should, like David, call upon all that is within us to bless His holy name?
An apparently curious theme of adoration is furnished in the psalm:
"In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land."
Why should "the deep places of the earth" be mentioned more than the flat places or the wide places? There seems to me a reason. If there is one time more than another when we are enabled to feel our own absolute insignificance, or tempted to doubt the power of God, it is when we have to do with the deep places of the earth.
On the iron-bound coast, you peep over the mighty crags into the dizzy depths below, where ships are specks, and great rocks like very small stones on the strand; or from a mountain side, you gaze down into a yawning gorge into which a single false step would precipitate you to destruction; or in the mammoth underground caves of the American Continent, you wander with lantern light in miles of mazy darkness till at the end you come to a fathomless deep into which you throw stones that never reach the bottom, so far as you can make out from the sound-in such places and at such times there is a world of meaning in the words:
"In his hand are the deep places of the earth."
If in His hand are the deep places of the earth, we powerfully feel how great is He and how entirely and implicitly we are in His hand. So also with the strength of the hills. The great mountains overwhelm us with the idea of stupendous power; if this strength is "His," how strong is He, as well as wise and kind. It is not without a meaning that the Scriptures speak of Him as "the great and dreadful God." His greatness is unsearchable. It is staggering to our poor capacities. We can but recognise it and yield the feeble tribute of our praise.
3 For Yahweh is a great El, and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also.
5 The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.
6 O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Yahweh our maker.
7 For he is our Elohim; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice,
8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.
10 Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:
11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.
The apostle, commenting upon this passage about one thousand years after it was written, says, "exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day; " and, "labour, to enter into the rest that remaineth for the people of God" (Heb. 3:13; 4:9-11). Thus, it was called "to-day," when David wrote; and "to-day," when Paul commented upon it. This was a long day; but one, however, which is not yet finished; and will continue unclosed until the manifestation of the rest in the Paradise of God.
Elpis Israel 1.2.
The reader's attention is particularly requested to this passage of Jewish history. The apostle, in commenting upon these incidents, says that the gospel was preached to them on this occasion; and that the land spied out was connected with God's rest. His words are these -- "They could not enter into His rest because of unbelief:" then addressing his brethren, be says, "Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached as well as unto them; but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it" (Heb. 3:18, 19; 4:1,2).
In the context of this passage the apostle had been speaking of Moses and Christ, the former, as a faithful servant in another's house; and the latter as a son over his own house: whose house the believers in the things spoken of the land are, "if they hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end."
He then introduces the case of the fourth generation as a warning of the fatal consequences of letting go the hope of the promise. He quotes from a scripture written in the fourteenth generation, in which the Holy Spirit repeats the sentence upon them, and upon all like them, who harden their hearts, saying, "They shall not enter into my rest" (Psalm 95:7).
What rest is here spoken of? The peaceable possession and enjoyment of the land so highly commended by Caleb. They did not enter in, but were turned back towards the Red Sea, and wandered in the wilderness for forty years until the carcasses of all the rebels above twenty years old fell to their lowest estate.
But the fifth generation obtained the rest under Joshua when they possessed the land. No, says the apostle, they did not; "for if Joshua had given them rest, then would God not have spoken afterward by David of another day," The rest which Joshua gave the nation was only transitory. When he and his associates of the fifth generation died, the nations which God had not driven out, were as thorns in their sides which gave them but little rest in after years. "There remaineth then," saith he, "a rest for the people of God;" even Canaan in the age to come, under Shiloh, the Prince of Peace, whose ''rest shall be glorious" (Psalm 132:11-18), and undisturbed by war's alarms.
Now this rest under Shiloh was preached unto them. The possession under Joshua was the first step to the full accomplishment of the covenant. Had the nation continued to obey the Lord's voice and to keep the covenant, and when Christ came received him as king on the proclamation of the gospel, they would doubtless have been in Canaan until now; and he might have come ere this, and be now reigning in Jerusalem, King of the Jews and Lord of the nations.
But had this been the case, we Gentiles would have had no part in the kingdom. We might attain to eternal life at the end of the reign; but in the glory of the kingdom, and in the administration of its affairs, as heirs of the world with Abraharn and his seed, we should have had no part; for it was the unbelief of the forty-second generation of Israel that became the riches of the Gentiles.
The fourth generation "could not enter in because of unbelief." Neither can we unless we also believe what they rejected; for the same gospel that was preached to them, was preached by the apostles to the forty-second generation; but cannot be said to be preached to us of this century. I am endeavouring, however, to set it before the people in this book; though I feel it a difficult work, seeing that men's minds are so mystified, and preoccupied, with the jargon of the schools.
God's rest in Canaan -- by which is not meant that all his saints will be living there, though all that abide there will be a righteous people; the things which belong to Canaan will overspread the world; and where there are nations to be governed there will there be saints to rule -- but this rest, I say, is the great theme of the gospel whether preached by Moses, by Jesus, or by the apostles. The rest and the kingdom are but different terms, though substantially the same. They will both be of Canaan, and are both the subject of the promise made of God to Abraham and his seed for ever.
Elpis Israel 2.4.