1 The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
2 for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 24:1–2). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
1–2 The opening verses begin the movement of the poem by asserting that the earth belongs to the Lord, because it was created by the Lord. The rhetorical point scored is that the earthly sphere—into which the Lord moves in this psalm—is already the Lord’s by virtue of the fact that he created it. The Lord’s coming is not the hostile act of an invader conquering that which properly belongs to another. Rather, the Lord comes precisely as the proper lord of earth. The verses contain two poetic pairs: the earth … and all that is in it and the world and those who dwell in it. What is significant about the earth/world is precisely that they form the environment for life. The earth is the ecology that contains life—all that is in it (melôʾāh) refers to all the nonhuman animal and plant life that fill the earth (note that ʾereṣ ûmelôʾāh [“earth and all that is in it”] forms a known pair in Hebrew [Jer. 8:16; 47:2]). Those who dwell in it refers to the human residents of the earth.
The second verse refers to the primitive cosmological view that the earth was founded on the chaotic waters that were hostile to life (cf. Gen. 1:1–13, etc.). The Lord’s act of creation was to transform a nonplace that was inhospitable to life (cf. Pss. 46:2–3; 65:7) into a place that is hospitable to life. God performs this transformation by imposing order onto chaos. The metaphor here is that God founded and established the earth on the waters (ʿal yammîm) and the rivers (ʿal neharôṯ). The metaphor cuts two ways. On the one hand, chaos remains an active element in creation. God has limited the reach of chaos (“thus far shall you come, and no farther,” Job 38:11), but chaos and randomness remain present. On the other hand, creation is secure, because of the Lord’s ongoing providence and stewardship of creation. Thus, the creation into which God is entering in the psalm needs God’s presence, because only God can hold chaos at bay and secure the environment for life.
The Lord of Creation (vv. 1–2)
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters (vv. 1–2). The opening words of this psalm are quoted by Paul (1 Cor. 10:26) to show that all foods can be eaten, because they all come from the Lord. The words were very familiar in Jewish circles because they were part of prayers said at mealtimes. Paul was clearly thinking of mealtimes when he uses this quotation as his later comment on partaking of a meal and giving thanks to God make evident (1 Cor. 10:30). He does not draw a conclusion from his use of the quotation, but the reader is expected to understand that even though meat may be offered to idols, because it comes from God, it may be eaten. Central to the psalm’s message is that the Lord is not only the God of Israel; he is the God of the whole world. To him it belongs, as well as all who live in it. It is his, because he is the creator of it. The founding of the earth is described in terms reminiscent of other ancient Near Eastern creation accounts. Other passages in the Old Testament use similar language (Pss. 104:5–6; 136:6; Job 38:4–11).
24:1–2 / Modern readers are bound to look at verse 2 as prescientific naïveté. But this reaction, in fact, reflects on our own naïveté regarding ancient imagery. This poem employs the ancient Near Eastern motif of the divine warrior who becomes king by virtue of his victory over chaotic waters (see the Introduction). This background helps us to make sense of the strange claim, he founded it upon the seas (Hb. yammîm) and established it upon the waters (lit. “rivers,” Hb. nehārôt). In the Canaanite epic the storm god, Baal, becomes king once he vanquishes Prince Sea (Yam)–Judge River (Nahar). His dual name contains the same word pair we see here. Thus, in language familiar to the ancients, Psalm 24 sings of Yahweh’s right to divine kingship.
We can now also understand the point of verse one. What may sound to modern readers like a confession of Yahweh’s possessiveness is, in fact, a proclamation of victory and of liberty for the world, and all who live in it. The point is not that “the earth belongs to Yahweh” but that “to Yahweh the earth belongs,” not to chaos (this is the word order in the Hb. text). The issue is not possession but who possesses it. These verses are no mere doctrinal confession; they are a victory shout. (This is similar to the point of the confession, “Jesus is lord.” He is lord, not death, human tyrants, principalities and powers, etc.)
Also contrary to the expectations of most modern readers, Yahweh’s kingship is not described as a static state but is portrayed as a dynamic victory. The ancient Near Eastern motif of divine kingship also helps us to make sense of the divine roles in verses 7–10. Because he had vanquished the seas (v. 2), “Yahweh of (the military) hosts” (niv “the Lord Almighty,” v. 10), “a warrior (Hb. gibbôr) mighty in battle” (v. 8), is now the King of glory (vv. 7–10) over all the world (v. 1). These verses alert us to the fact that creation order is not a given, rather Yahweh must continue to exert his heroic strength to maintain it. This is a message that we in the nuclear and environmentally critical age must take to heart.
24:1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it … and all who live in it. The theological truth behind the statement “the earth is the Lord’s” is based on the Pentateuch, found especially in Exodus 9:29 and Deuteronomy 10:14, and, of course, generally attested by the creation narrative of Genesis 1–2.
24:2 for he founded it … established it. The personal pronoun “he” comes before the verb to emphasize that it is God who did this (“for it is he who founded it”). The root word for “establish” (kun) means to “build” a house. Psalm 8:3 uses the same verb in the sense of “create” (NIV: “set in place”).
1–2. The sovereignty of Jehovah over the universe is here beautifully set forth by right of creation; and all the inhabitants, in like manner, are his by the same right, as their Author and Maker. And the sovereignty of the kingdom of grace is also as beautifully set forth, inasmuch as God hath created all things by Jesus Christ, so hath he redeemed his church and his people by him. Hence he hath given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as he hath given him. John 17:2.
Ver. 1.—The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. God’s glory was set forth in Ps. 19 from a consideration of the heavens (vers. 1–6); here it is manifested from the other half of creation—the earth. The whole earth, and all its fulness, is his. He made it, and he remains its sole Owner and Master. There is no inferior δημιουργός, as some believed, who framed it and governs it. All its marvels, all its beauty, all its richness, proceed from God alone. The world, and they that dwell therein. “The world” (תֵּבֵל) seems to be here synonymous with “the earth” (הָאָדֶץ). Not only do its material products belong to God, but its inhabitants also.
Ver. 2.—For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods (comp. Gen. 1:9). God has established the earth above the seas and floods, causing it to “appear,” and thus making it a fitting habitation for man. Hence his right of property in the earth and in all the dwellers on it. They exist through his providential care (comp. Ps. 104:6–9).
1. The earth is Jehovah’s. We will find in many other places the children of Abraham compared with all the rest of mankind, that the free goodness of God, in selecting them from all other nations, and in embracing them with his favour, may shine forth the more conspicuously. The object of the beginning of the psalm is to show that the Jews had nothing of themselves which could entitle them to approach nearer or more familiarly to God than the Gentiles. As God by his providence preserves the world, the power of his government is alike extended to all, so that he ought to be worshipped by all, even as he also shows to all men, without exception, the fatherly care he has about them. But since he preferred the Jews to all other nations, it was indispensably necessary that there should be some sacred bond of connection between him and them, which might distinguish them from the heathen nations. By this argument David invites and exhorts them to holiness. He tells them that it was reasonable that those whom God had adopted as his children, should bear certain marks peculiar to themselves, and not be altogether like strangers. Not that he incites them to endeavour to prejudice God against others, in order to gain his exclusive favour; but he teaches them, from the end or design of their election, that they shall then have secured to them the firm and peaceful possession of the honour which God had conferred upon them above other nations, when they devote themselves to an upright and holy life. In vain would they have been collected together into a distinct body, as the peculiar people of God, if they did not apply themselves to the cultivation of holiness. In short, the Psalmist pronounces God to be the King of the whole world, to let all men know that, even by the law of nature, they are bound to serve him. And by declaring that he made a covenant of salvation with a small portion of mankind, and by the erection of the tabernacle, gave the children of Abraham the symbol of his presence, thereby to assure them of his dwelling in the midst of them, he teaches them that they must endeavour to have purity of heart and of hands, if they would be accounted the members of his sacred family.
With respect to the word fulness, I admit that under it all the riches with which the earth is adorned are comprehended, as is proved by the authority of Paul; but I have no doubt that the Psalmist intends by the expression men themselves, who are the most illustrious ornament and glory of the earth. If they should fail, the earth would exhibit a scene of desolation and solitude, not less hideous than if God should despoil it of all its other riches. To what purpose are there produced so many kinds of fruit, and in so great abundance, and why are there so many pleasant and delightful countries, if it is not for the use and comfort of men? Accordingly, David explains, in the following clause, that it is principally of men that he speaks. It is his usual manner to repeat the same thing twice, and here the fulness of the earth, and the inhabitants of the world, have the same meaning. I do not, however, deny that the riches with which the earth abounds for the use of men, are comprehended under these expressions. Paul, therefore, (1 Cor. 10:26,) when discoursing concerning meats, justly quotes this passage in support of his argument, maintaining that no kind of food is unclean, because “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.”
- For he hath founded it upon the seas. The Psalmist here confirms the truth, that men are rightfully under the authority and power of God, so that in all places and countries they ought to acknowledge him as King. And he confirms it from the very order manifested in the creation; for the wonderful providence of God is clearly reflected in the whole face of the earth. In order to prove this, he brings forward the proof of it, which is most evident. How is it that the earth appears above the water, but because God purposely intended to prepare a habitation for men? Philosophers themselves admit, that as the element of the water is higher than the earth, it is contrary to the nature of the two elements, for any part of the earth to continue uncovered with the waters, and habitable. Accordingly, Job (chap. 28:11, 25) extols, in magnificent terms, that signal miracle by which God restrains the violent and tempestuous ragings of the sea, that it may not overwhelm the earth, which, if not thus restrained, it would immediately do, and produce horrible confusion. Nor does Moses forget to mention this in the history of the creation. After having narrated that the waters were spread abroad so as to cover the whole earth, he adds, that by an express command of God they retired into one place, in order to leave empty space for the living creatures which were afterwards to be created, (Gen. 1:9.) From that passage we learn that God had a care about men before they existed, inasmuch as he prepared for them a dwelling-place and other conveniences; and that he did not regard them as entire strangers, seeing he provided for their necessities, not less liberally than the father of a family does for his own children. David does not here dispute philosophically concerning the situation of the earth, when he says, that it has been founded upon the seas. He uses popular language, and adapts himself to the capacity of the unlearned. Yet this manner of speaking, which is taken from what may be judged of by the eye, is not without reason. The element of earth, it is true, in so far as it occupies the lowest place in the order of the sphere, is beneath the waters; but the habitable part of the earth is above the water, and how can we account for it, that this separation of the water from the earth remains stable, but because God has put the waters underneath, as it were for a foundation? Now, as from the creation of the world, God extended his fatherly care to all mankind, the prerogative of honour, by which the Jews excelled all other nations, proceeded only from the free and sovereign choice by which God distinguished them.
24:1, 2. The All-Creating
Characteristically, the first and emphatic Hebrew word is the Lord’s, in verse 1, and he in verse 2. To him as Creator and Sustainer (2), pictured as a city’s founder and establisher, belongs the earth in all its aspects: fruitful earth (1a), peopled earth (1b), solid earth (2). Fullness (translated in 98:7 as ‘all that fills it’) conjures up its wealth and fertility, seen here not as man’s, for exploitation, but, prior to that, as God’s, for his satisfaction and glory (cf. the same Heb. expression in Isa. 6:3). This view of it is not impoverishing but an enrichment: cf. 1 Corinthians 3:21b, 23, and (quoting our verse) 10:25f., 31.
- The Psalms claim the peopled earth (1b) for God as Creator (2), King and Judge (e.g. Ps. 9:7f). The New Testament goes further still (John 3:16f.).
- Upon could be translated ‘above’, as in 8:1 (Heb. 2), but the poetic image is of the solid earth rising out of the waters, and the allusion is to Genesis 1:9f.; cf. 2 Peter 3:5. rsv rightly has rivers rather than the older versions’ ‘floods’ or neb ‘waters beneath’. To the Old Testament, ‘the foam of perilous seas’ tends to dominate such a scene, making the deep a reminder of formlessness (Gen. 1:2), menace (Ps. 46:5) and restlessness (Isa. 57:20). But (against heathen belief) ‘the sea is his’, as surely as ‘the dry land’. See also on 46:2–4; 74:13; 96:11.
24:1–2. God the Creator
The psalmist begins with a hearty affirmation that everything, animate and inanimate, belongs to the Lord. He owns everything and everyone, and everything and everyone are completely dependent on him. After all, according to the psalmist in verse 2, God created everything and everyone. He thus has authority over all.
The earth was created by placing it on the primordial waters. While it is debated whether or not Genesis 1 assumes the existence of the waters when God began his acts of creation (implied in the translation of Gen. 1:1–2 in the nrsv) or whether the text describes the creation of the waters from nothing (so the niv), here the waters are pre-existent, and the creative act is the founding of the land. Contrary to ancient Mesopotamian creation accounts (Walton 2009 and 2011), though, there is not a hint of conflict between the Lord and the sea in the description of creation (but see Ps. 74:13–17).
Vers. 1, 2. The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.—The earth the Lord’s:—
So the Psalmist in this place speaks of the Divine sovereignty and of the Divine purpose and programme. The Divine sovereignty—the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. God stretches out His sceptre over all places, all peoples, all events. However you parcel the earth out, He is the great Landlord and the Sovereign Ruler doing according to His will amongst the inhabitants of the earth. And the Psalmist tells us in this place on what this rests. God created it, and He sustains it. What a great deal you see in the world that your ancestors did not see, and what a great deal your children will see in it that you do not see! It is a mysterious world, with the fulness thereof. How there is wrapped up in the world unknown possibilities to be manifested in due season. When God created the world He did not leave it; He lives in the midst of the splendour He first created. He is evermore active in all the things of nature and of history. You build a palace, and it comes to ruin, but the earth never comes to ruin. You never have to put an iron band round the firmament to hold up the dome as they have put an iron band upon the dome of St. Peter’s at Rome. Now, the Psalmist here tells how God seeks to accomplish His great purpose in the world that He created, the world that He maintains, the world that He redeemed. He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. What is that? That God, who is the Sovereign of this world, has a great purpose in its government, and He seeks to accomplish that purpose through endless mutability and conflict. Now, you see the very same thing when you look into nature. God has made this world in exactly the same way, and the tangible world, the planet itself, how has it come to pass? He called forth His Spirit, and His Spirit moved on the face of the waters. Movement, you see. So it was in that strange old world, out of movement, mutability, catastrophe, out of these seas and floods, that this lovely earth arose, as the Greeks fabled that Venus arose out of the foam of the sea. Why, you know the history of your planet now pretty well. You know, your fathers, when they wanted to explain the configuration of this planet, always used to talk about the flood and the deluge. Oh! the deluge explained a lot. But you know a great deal better. You have studied geology since then. Nowadays you do not talk about Noah’s deluge having made the planet what it is. You push it a great deal further back than that. For all that went on in these revolutions have left their signs on the rocks. What terrific floods, what mighty deluges, what burnings, what ages of frost and glaciers, and through all that God never lost sight of His final purpose to make this planet into what you see it to-day—music, colour, fragrance—a great and delightful theatre of intellectual and spiritual life. He hath founded it upon the seas and established it upon the floods, and out of movement, unsettlement, change, it arose, the lovely planet that you see it to-day. And mind, it is always going on just the same to-day. One would think sometimes, to look at the earth, that it was asleep. But make no mistake about that. The one thing nature never will stand is immovability. She won’t tolerate stagnation. They say that sometimes in the Pacific they have periods of absolute calm, and in a few days the very sea begins to rot, and the stench is insufferable. Nature won’t stand it, she is full of unsettlement, full of movement, full of catastrophe. That is the way you keep the ocean pure, the atmosphere sweet, and the earth full of vitality. Now, I want to say to you that that is all just as true in the history of ourselves. If you will look down the history you will find that God has ever been active in the midst of the nations, always overturning that He may introduce a civilisation that is a shade better than the civilisation that preceded it. You never can make a nation fixed and permanent. The world from the beginning amongst the nations has been in a state of unrestfulness and changefulness. But I believe there never has been a change in this world but it has been for the better. Mind you, it often seems to a careless eye as if the world were going back, but whenever the critical period comes the best is always on the top. You go back in history to the great conflict, say, between the Greeks and Orientals, when there seemed a time that the Oriental world was likely to swamp Europe, when it was likely to destroy the civilisation of Greece, which was the promise of all future civilisations. But when the critical battle came the Greek was master of the situation. It was just the same again when you come to the great conflicts between the Romans and the Phœnicians. As you know perfectly well, there seemed a day when the Phœnician, with his dark superstitions, his terrible practices, was going to triumph; but when the ultimate time came, when the final battle was fought, the Roman was at the top, with his wiser, healthier, and nobler conceptions, ideals, and strivings. It was just the same again a little later when Mohammedanism came into contact with Europe, and the Moor was at the very gate of Vienna. It seemed as if the inferior civilisation was going to swamp the nobler, but God, who sat upon the face of the waters, said, “Hitherto and no further,” and Mohammedanism was turned back, and it has been going back ever since. It has stopped a bit at Constantinople, but it will have to go. God has not made this world to go backwards. He has made it on the principle of a sure but ofttimes obscure development. Mind, I confess it looks as if it were not so. It seems sometimes as if we made a great deal of movement for positive retrogression. It looks so until we think about it. The world keeps going to pieces continually, and you never get anything fixed. But I am not going to lose sight of the fact that in the midst of instabilities and revolutions God is always quietly present. Always His end is to make men and nations pure and perfect. He has done it in the past; He will do it still. Why, you know well enough, in the fifth century—was it in the fifth or sixth?—a few fishermen laid the foundations of Venice in the slime of the lagoons. These men, with a few sticks and stones, began the creation, and as time went on there grew out of this slender and rude beginning the city of solemn temples, gorgeous palaces, the city of great painters, sculptors, and poets. And they built it out of the seas and established it upon the floods—the ideal city, the city dear to all lovers of the perfect. A few fishermen, in the first century, under the direction of the Master Builder, laid the foundations of a new world in the modern rottenness of the old civilisations, and now for 1900 years another building has been going on, the Church of Christ, the City of God, the Spiritual Venice. And mind, there is not a single movement in this world but aids it. There is no revolution but puts another bit of marble into it. He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the floods, and I can stand and see the whole world going to pieces with the utmost tranquillity, because I know that the destructive is also the constructive, and God never destroys unless He is going to build in its place something that is larger and more rational and more perfect. And all this is true of the individual life. Prepare yourselves for it. Just look at your lives. They have been one course of unsettlement, and it will be so until that man in white comes and reads over you that we never continue in one state. That is the way with us here. People imagine sometimes that they have got things pretty fairly square, that they have got things on a good basis, and that they are going to have a nice, tranquil time of it. Not a bit of it. He has built it upon the seas and founded it upon the floods. He will turn it over directly. You may be sure of that. When people marry and settle down, you sometimes hear people say, “Oh! they are married and settled now.” You fancy you have got things into shape. You don’t know where the next change is to come from. But it will come. There is no settlement; but mind this, every time God unsettles you it is for a great moral end. There ought to be no change in your life which does not leave you stronger and purer. So look up, the world is not purposeless: no man’s life is a chaos. With endless variation, contrast, conflict, and catastrophe God is with us, and He will bring it out well at last, because when I get to the last page of the Book I read, “And there shall be no more sea.” (W. L. Watkinson.)
God’s mundane property and man’s moral obligation:—
- His property.
- Its extent. The earth and its fulness (ver. 1).
- Its foundation—creatorship. “He hath founded it,” &c. (ver. 2).
- Man’s moral obligation.
- It urges him to be just. “Will a man rob God?”
- To be humble.
- To be thankful. It is God that has given us ourselves, with all our capacities and means of improvement and of pleasure.
- To be acquiescent. God has a right to do what He likes with His own. Let the text be written on our hearts. It is engraved on the front of the Royal Exchange, but how few pause to read it, and fewer still ponder it in their hearts. (D. Thomas, D.D.)
The earth and its fulness:—
There was a time when every separate department of nature was supposed to have a separate deity ruling over it. Every nation, every district, every sphere of life, every profession, every trade had a god of its own. There was a time when each race and tribe acknowledged no god but one. Then there comes the conviction that the Power which all are in some form seeking after is one and the same everywhere. We never can pass from His dominions.
- The Divine Presence in the world. It is His power and His presence which we behold around us. He hath created and preserveth all. The universe is itself a manifestation of Him; it is His garment, it is illuminated and aglow with the Divine presence. As with the earth, so with its fulness. Its products are irradiated with a heavenly glory. They, too, come from Him who is wise in counsel and excellent in working. The earth is given to the sons of men, that it may be subdued and cultivated, that its boundless treasures may be sought out and developed. There is no doubt a wrong way as well as a right way of availing ourselves of them.
- All things God’s good gifts. If this can be said of meats and drinks, how much more may it be said of the manifold gifts with which the earth is ripe; the means placed at our disposal for the amelioration of human suffering, the lessening of toil, the advancement of knowledge, the increase of well-being in every shape and form. There was recently brought to light in Cornwall an old picture of our blessed Lord, in which His precious blood is represented as flowing over the various implements of industry—the reaping-hook, the scythe, the shuttle, the cart—implying that by His incarnation all human labour has been sanctified, that everything wherewith we carry on the work of the home, or of the world, is cleansed and consecrated through the life and death of Christ; that in Him all things are gathered together in one, and are made meet to be laid upon the altar of God. (P. M‘Adam Muir, D.D.)
God’s claims upon men:—
There is a strong tendency in the present day to forget the immanence of God in creation. We do well to emphasise the constant dependence of the universe upon the preserving power of God. The Psalmist was wiser than the wisest atheistical philosopher when he declared that the earth is the Lord’s, for He hath founded it. The more we learn of the Creator and His works the more must we realise His infinite wisdom and almighty power. They tell us that the propositions of the evolutionist, if true, obviate all necessity for a personal Creator. But there must have been a great creative plan or this universe could not have come into being, and behind that plan there must have been an Omniscient Personal Intelligence. To what extent have men realised, and do men realise to-day, the conception of the text? How far have they grasped the thought that the earth is the Lord’s and they are His stewards? The Jew was vividly reminded of the truth by that strange institution, the “Year of Jubilee.” It served to remind the whole nation that “Jehovah was the Supreme Landlord under whom their tenure was held.” The Psalmist goes a step further when he declares not only that the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof, but also “the world and they that dwell therein.” Not merely because we are created beings do we belong to God. We have realised an immeasurably higher claim upon our service. It is created by His “inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ,”—in a word, by the mercies of Calvary. How many of you thus recognise God’s claim upon you in this definite manner? (Henry S. Lunn, M. D.)
The earth is the Lord’s:—
The best of God’s gifts are often those which are least valued. It is the same with truths as it is with things. Whenever a truth becomes very common, whenever, that is to say, it is put by Divine Providence into the minds of all, we begin to neglect it, and to forget that God should be praised for it. To one of these old and familiar, yet pre-eminently useful, truths attention is now directed. From the earliest dawn of our reason we were taught that God made us, that a Wise and Holy Being who loves us was our Creator and the Author of all that exists, and what we were taught we believed, and still believe. But while we may both know and believe this truth, nothing is more likely than that, owing to its very commonness and our familiarity with it, we may realise most inadequately the worth of it, and feel very little of that gratitude to God for the revelation of it which we ought to feel. It is not yet a truth known to all the peoples of the earth. It is not a truth which any man, if left to himself, would be sure or even likely to find out. Great men, giants in the intellectual world, have failed to attain to a clear knowledge of God as the alone Creator and Lord of nature. He who believes in God as the Creator and Ruler of the universe can be neither atheist, materialist, or pantheist. The faith in God as the Creator is the necessary basis of all higher spiritual faith.
- The world being recognised as the work and manifestation of God is thereby invested with a deep religious awe, a solemn religious significance.
- It is a source of pure and holy joy from which we may draw whenever we look upon anything in nature that is fair and well-fitted to fulfil the end of its creation.
- By thus sending men to nature as well as Scripture for their religion our text tends to give breadth and freedom to the religious character.
- Only through realising our relation to nature can we realise our relation to God Himself. We owe all to God, and nothing is our own. (Robert Flint, D.D.)
The truth of Divine providence:—
- Though this is generally acknowledged in principle, it is departed from in practice. Only casual and transient thought is given to the never-ceasing care and kindness of Divine providence.
- All the children of God have, in successive ages, proclaimed and deeply felt the truth of the providence of God. Many instances might be adduced from the lives and declarations of the patriarchs to prove that whether in prosperity or adversity the sense of God’s providence was ever present, and His right of possession and disposal ever uppermost in their minds.
- Practical reflections. The business of commercial life tends to corrupt the mind and the affections, to withdraw them from the Creator and to concentrate them on the creature. We learn the duty of gratitude for all those blessings which out of that fulness He has showered on us. Since the world and its fulness is God’s and not ours, as He can give so He can take away. As God has distributed to us some part of the world’s fulness, for the use and abuse of our trust we are responsible to Him. The text further declares that not only the “earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof,” but also “they that dwell therein.” “All souls are Mine,” saith the Lord. (Henry Clissold, M.A.)
The merchants of Britain:—
- Of the advantages of commerce.
- How vast it is. Its standard is planted upon the Andes and the Himalayas. The great Pacific and Atlantic seas are beaten white by our ships. From the ghauts of Malabar to the sands of Coromandel, from the steppes of the Cossack to the wilds of the Arab, from the Thames and the Mersey to the Mississippi and the Missouri, the commerce of Britain has extended its influence.
- This great commercial power has done some good. It has opened up new channels of intercourse with mankind. It has created links of sympathy and bonds of union where all was severance and estrangement before.
- It has gathered round it great homage and éclat.
- It is very successful.
- Of great importance to the State.
- Must ever be associated with agricultural power.
- Is one of the greatest securities against war.
- Its perils.
- Considering everything from the trade point of view.
- Absorbing care.
- Reckless speculation.
- Forgetfulness of God.
III. Its responsibilities.
- Merchants should acknowledge God.
- Seek to extend His kingdom.
- Remember they are but stewards of their wealth.
- Pity the poor.
- Spread the Gospel. (J. Cumming, D.D.)
The religiousness of secular learning:—
This title is not a happy one. “Religiousness” seems to indicate, according to the conventional usage, a flimsy, fussy attention to the externals of religion, rather than a participation in the essential spirit of it. By the use of the adjective “secular” you might suppose I draw the usual broad distinction between things sacred and profane. My question is this, What of religion—of the religious spirit—is there about that which is usually called secular learning? By all other kinds of knowledge than the theological? When a man is studying languages, literature, or science, what is the attitude of the soul towards God? My doctrine is founded upon the principle asserted in the text. “The fulness,” that is, all which makes it up, every particle and grain of which it is composed. All things are directly related to God as effects are to their cause, as phenomena to their basis, substance, or reality. They exist in Him and by Him.
- All secular learning is directly or indirectly religious, because it directly or indirectly brings us into contact with the mind of God as manifested in His works. When you have learned a fact in nature you have learned a thought of God.
- Secular learning is directly religious in its tendencies, because it trains and educates the mind for the clearer and fuller comprehension of theological truth. (J. Cranbrook.)
1. How very different is this from the ignorant Jewish notion of God which prevailed in our Saviour’s day. The Jews said, “The holy land is God’s, and the seed of Abraham are his only people;” but their great Monarch had long before instructed them,—“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” The whole round world is claimed for Jehovah, “and they that dwell therein” are declared to be his subjects. When we consider the bigotry of the Jewish people at the time of Christ, and how angry they were with our Lord for saying that many widows were in Israel, but unto none of them was the prophet sent, save only to the widow of Sarepta, and that there were many lepers in Israel, but none of them was healed except Naaman the Syrian,—when we recollect, too, how angry they were at the mention of Paul’s being sent to the Gentiles, we are amazed that they should have remained in such blindness, and yet have sung this Psalm, which shows so clearly that God is not the God of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles also. What a rebuke is this to those wiseacres who speak of the negro and other despised races as though they were not cared for by the God of heaven! If a man be but a man the Lord claims him, and who dares to brand him as a mere piece of merchandise! The meanest of men is a dweller in the world, and therefore belongs to Jehovah. Jesus Christ has made an end of the exclusiveness of nationalities. There is neither barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but we all are one in Christ Jesus.
Man lives upon “the earth,” and parcels out its soil among his mimic kings and autocrats; but the earth is not man’s. He is but a tenant at will, a leaseholder upon most precarious tenure, liable to instantaneous ejectment. The great Landowner and true Proprietor holds his court above the clouds and laughs at the title-deeds of worms of the dust. The fee-simple is not with the lord of the manor nor the freeholder, but with the Creator. The “fulness” of the earth may mean its harvests, its wealth, its life, or its worship; in all these senses the Most High God is Possessor of all. The earth is full of God; he made it full and he keeps it full, notwithstanding all the demands which living creatures make upon its stores. The sea is full, despite all the clouds which rise from it; the air is full, notwithstanding all the lives which breathe it; the soil is full, though millions of plants derive their nourishment from it. Under man’s tutored hand the world is coming to a greater fulness than ever, but it is all the Lord’s; the field and the fruit, the earth and all earth’s wonders are Jehovah’s. We look also for a sublimer fulness when the true ideal of a world for God shall have been reached in millennial glories, and then most clearly the earth will be the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. These words are now upon London’s Royal Exchange, they shall one day be written in letters of light across the sky.
The term “world” indicates the habitable regions, wherein Jehovah is especially to be acknowledged as Sovereign. He who rules the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air should not be disobeyed by man, his noblest creature. Jehovah is the Universal King, all nations are beneath his sway: true Autocrat of all the nations, emperors and czars are but his slaves. Men are not their own, nor may they call their lips, their hearts, or their substance their own; they are Jehovah’s rightful servants. This claim especially applies to us who are born from heaven. We do not belong to the world or to Satan, but by creation and redemption we are the peculiar portion of the Lord.
Paul uses this verse twice, to show that no food is unclean, and that nothing is really the property of false gods. All things are God’s; no ban is on the face of nature, nothing is common or unclean. The world is all God’s world, and the food which is sold in the shambles is sanctified by being my Father’s, and I need not scruple to eat thereof.
2. In the second verse we have the reason why the world belongs to God, namely, because he has created it, which is a title beyond all dispute. “For he hath founded it upon the seas.” It is God who lifts up the earth from out of the sea, so that the dry land, which otherwise might in a moment be submerged, as in the days of Noah, is kept from the floods. The hungry jaws of ocean would devour the dry land if a constant fiat of Omnipotence did not protect it. “He hath established it upon the floods.” The world is Jehovah’s, because from generation to generation he preserves and upholds it, having settled its foundations. Providence and Creation are the two legal seals upon the title-deeds of the great Owner of all things. He who built the house and bears up its foundation has surely a first claim upon it. Let it be noted, however, upon what insecure foundations all terrestrial things are founded. Founded on the seas! Established on the floods! Blessed be God the Christian has another world to look forward to, and rests his hopes upon a more stable foundation than this poor world affords. They who trust in worldly things build upon the sea; but we have laid our hopes, by God’s grace, upon the Rock of Ages; we are resting upon the promise of an immutable God, we are depending upon the constancy of a faithful Redeemer. Oh! ye worldlings, who have built your castles of confidence, your palaces of wealth, and your bowers of pleasure upon the seas, and established them upon the floods; how soon will your baseless fabrics melt, like foam upon the waters! Sand is treacherous enough, but what shall be said of the yet more unstable seas?
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 Hubbard, R. L. J., & Johnston, R. K. (2012). Foreword. In W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston (Eds.), Psalms (pp. 127–128). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
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