Category Archives: Book of Psalms

“The heaven of grace prevails and rules” by Martin Luther

“The psalmist uses the word ‘prevail’ (Ps. 117:2); that is, God’s grace ‘rules’ over us. It is a kingdom of grace that is more powerful in and over us than all anger, sin, and evil. ‘Prevail,’ גָּבַר in Hebrew, means to be supreme, to be great.

You must think of the kingdom of grace as a child might, in this way: God, through the Gospel, has set a new and great heaven over us who believe, and this is called the heaven of grace. It is far, far more immense and beautiful than this visible heaven; and it is eternal, certain, and indestructible as well.

Although sin makes itself felt, death bares its teeth, and the devil frightens us, still there is far more grace to prevail over all sin, far more life to prevail over death, and far more God to prevail over all devils.

In this kingdom sin, death, and the devil are nothing more than the black clouds of the material heaven. For a time they may well conceal heaven, but they cannot prevail. They must stay beneath the heavens and suffer it to remain, prevail, and rule over them; and at last they must pass away.

Therefore although sin bites us, death frightens us, and the devil throws his weight around with temptation, these are still only clouds. The heaven of grace prevails and rules; in the end they must remain below and surrender.

This cannot come through works, but only through the faith which is certain that such a heaven of grace is above it, without works, and which looks to this heaven as often as it sins or feels sin, comforting itself without merit or works.”

–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 14: Selected Psalms III (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 14; Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 14: 27. Luther is commenting on Psalm 117.

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“Other Psalms have been mere lakes, but this is the main ocean” by Charles Spurgeon

“I have been all the longer over this portion of my task because I have been bewildered in the expanse of the One Hundred and Nineteenth Psalm, which makes up the bulk of this volume. Its dimensions and its depth alike overcame me.

It spread itself out before me like a vast, rolling prairie, to which I could see no bound, and this alone created a feeling of dismay. Its expanse was unbroken by a bluff or headland, and hence it threatened a monotonous task, although the fear has not been realized.

This marvelous poem seemed to me a great sea of holy teaching, moving, in its many verses, wave upon wave; altogether without an island of special and remarkable statement to break it up.

I confess I hesitated to launch upon it. Other Psalms have been mere lakes, but this is the main ocean. It is a continent of sacred thought, every inch of which is fertile as the garden of the Lord: it is an amazing level of abundance, a mighty stretch of harvest-fields.

I have now crossed the great plain for myself, but not without persevering, and, I will add, pleasurable, toil. Several great authors have traversed this region and left their tracks behind them, and so far the journey has been all the easier for me; but yet to me and to my helpers it has been no mean feat of patient authorship and research.

This great Psalm is a book in itself: instead of being one among many Psalms, it is worthy to be set forth by itself as a poem of surpassing excellence.

Those who have never studied it may pronounce it commonplace, and complain of its repetitions; but to the thoughtful student it is like the great deep, full, so as never to be measured; and varied, so as never to weary the eye.

Its depth is as great as its length; it is mystery, not set forth as mystery, but concealed beneath the simplest statements.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David: Psalms 111-119, Volume 5 (London: Marshall Brothers, 1882), 5: v.

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“They knew the whole Psalter by heart” by Charles Spurgeon

“The Book of Psalms has been a royal banquet to me, and in feasting upon its contents I have seemed to eat angels’ food. It is no wonder that old writers should call it,—the school of patience, the soul’s soliloquies, the little Bible, the anatomy of conscience, the rose garden, the pearl island, and the like.

It is the Paradise of devotion, the Holy Land of poetry, the heart of Scripture, the map of experience, and the tongue of saints. It is the spokesman of feelings which else had found no utterance.

Does it not say just what we wished to say? Are not its prayers and praises exactly such as our hearts delight in?

No man needs better company than the Psalms; therein he may read and commune with friends human and divine; friends who know the heart of man towards God and the heart of God towards man; friends who perfectly sympathize with us and our sorrows, friends who never betray or forsake.

Oh, to be shut up in a cave with David, with no other occupation but to hear him sing, and to sing with him! Well might a Christian monarch lay aside his crown for such enjoyment, and a believing pauper find a crown in such felicity.

It is to be feared that the Psalms are by no means so prized as in earlier ages of the Church. Time was when the Psalms were not only rehearsed in all the churches from day to day, but they were so universally sung that the common people knew them, even if they did not know the letters in which they were written.

Time was when bishops would ordain no man to the ministry unless he knew ‘David’ from end to end, and could repeat each Psalm correctly; even Councils of the Church have decreed that none should hold ecclesiastical office unless they knew the whole Psalter by heart.

Other practices of those ages had better be forgotten, but to this memory accords an honourable record. Then, as Jerome tells us, the labourer, while he held the plough, sang Hallelujah; the tired reaper refreshed himself with the Psalms, and the vinedresser, while trimming the vines with his curved hook, sang something of David.

He tells us that in his part of the world, Psalms were the Christian’s ballads; could they have had better? They were the love-songs of the people of God; could any others be so pure and heavenly?

These sacred hymns express all modes of holy feeling; they are fit both for childhood and old age; they furnish maxims for the entrance of life, and serve as watchwords at the gates of death.

The battle of life, the repose of the Sabbath, the ward of the hospital, the guest-chamber of the mansion the church, the oratory, yea, even heaven itself may be entered with Psalms.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David: Psalms 111-119, Volume 5 (London: Marshall Brothers, 1882), 5: vi–vii.

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“We are fascinated with ourselves but the Psalms are fascinated with God” by C. Richard Wells

“Apart from biblical illiteracy, there are special reasons for neglect of the Psalms. The language of poetry doesn’t easily connect in a sound-byte culture.

The Psalms call for time, not tweets– time to read, ponder, pray, digest. It’s easy to be too busy for the Psalms.

Then again, the strong emotions of the Psalms make many modern people uncomfortable– which is ironic since our culture seems to feed on feelings.

On top of everything else, strange to say, the Psalms are just so… well… God intoxicated. We are fascinated with ourselves; the Psalms are fascinated with God.”

–C. Richard Wells, Forgotten Songs: Reclaiming the Psalms for Christian Worship (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2012), 203-204.

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“A Bridegroom who is beautiful wherever He is” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness more powerful than human strength. Let us who believe, therefore, run to meet a Bridegroom who is beautiful wherever He is.

Beautiful as God, as the Word who is with God, He is beautiful in the Virgin’s womb, where He did not lose His Godhead but assumed our humanity.

Beautiful He is as a baby, as the Word unable to speak, because while He was still without speech, still a baby in arms and nourished at His mother’s breast, the heavens spoke for Him, a star guided the Magi, and He was adored in the manger as food for the humble.

He was beautiful in heaven, then, and beautiful on earth: beautiful in the womb, and beautiful in His parents’ arms.

He was beautiful in His miracles but just as beautiful under the scourges.

Beautiful as He invited us to life, but beautiful too in not shrinking from death.

Beautiful in laying down His life and beautiful in taking it up again.

Beautiful on the cross, beautiful in the tomb, and beautiful in heaven.

Listen to this song (i.e. Psalm 45) to further your understanding, and do not allow the weakness of His flesh to blind you to the splendor of His beauty.

He is lovely in all respects.”

–Augustine of Hippo, Exposition of Psalm 44, in Expositions of the Psalms, 33–50, ed. John E. Rotelle, trans. Maria Boulding (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2000), 283.

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“Measure the height of His love by the depth of His grief” by Charles Spurgeon

‘There was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.’ This cry came out of that darkness. Expect not to see through its every word, as though it came from on high as a beam from the unclouded Sun of Righteousness.

There is light in it, bright, flashing light; but there is a centre of impenetrable gloom, where the soul is ready to faint because of the terrible darkness.

Our Lord was then in the darkest part of His way. He had trodden the winepress now for hours, and the work was almost finished. He had reached the culminating point of His anguish. This is His dolorous lament from the lowest pit of misery— ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’

I do not think that the records of time, or even of eternity, contain a sentence more full of anguish. Here the wormwood and the gall, and all the other bitternesses, are outdone.

Here you may look as into a vast abyss; and though you strain your eyes, and gaze till sight fails you, yet you perceive no bottom; it is measureless, unfathomable, inconceivable.

This anguish of the Saviour on your behalf and mine is no more to be measured and weighed than the sin which needed it, or the love which endured it. We will adore where we cannot comprehend.

I have chosen this subject that it may help the children of God to understand a little of their infinite obligations to their redeeming Lord.

You shall measure the height of His love, if it be ever measured, by the depth of His grief, if that can ever be known.

See with what a price he hath redeemed us from the curse of the law! As you see this, say to yourselves: What manner of people ought we to be!

What measure of love ought we to return to one who bore the utmost penalty, that we might be delivered from the wrath to come?

I do not profess that I can dive into this deep. I will only venture to the edge of the precipice, and bid you look down, and pray the Spirit of God to concentrate your mind upon this lamentation of our dying Lord, as it rises up through the thick darkness— ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, ‘“‘Lama Sabachtani?’’ in Majesty in Misery, Volume 3: Calvary’s Mournful Mountain (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2005), 153-154. (MPTS: 36: 133-134)

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“While immortality endures we shall not be done giving thanks” by William Plumer

“While life lasts, we shall not be done praying. But while immortality endures, we shall not be done giving thanks (Ps. 136:1, 2, 3, 26). The cause for this delightful branch of worship will continue forever. And the heart of the pious will always be actuated by love. They will carry on this blessed service in the finest style long after the sun shall cease to rise and set.”

–William Plumer, Studies in the Book of Psalms: A Critical and Expository Commentary With Doctrinal and Practical Remarks (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1867/2016), 1152. Plumer is commenting on Psalm 136.

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