Psalm 92 – The Goodness of Giving Thanks to the LORD
This psalm is titled A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath day. It is the only psalm so titled and was perhaps a song to be sung and meditated on the Sabbath. Derek Kidner observed: “This Song for the Sabbath is proof enough, if such were needed, that the Old Testament sabbath was a day not only for rest but for corporate worship (‘a holy convocation,’ Lev. 23:3), and intended to be a delight rather than a burden.”
“The Jews have for a long while used this Psalm in the synagogue-worship on their Sabbath, and very suitable it is for the Sabbath-day; not so much in appearance, for there is little or no allusion to any Sabbatic rest in it, but because on that day above all others, our thoughts should be lifted up from all earthly things to God himself.” (Charles Spurgeon)
A. Giving thanks.
1. (1-3) The manner of giving thanks.
It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning,
And Your faithfulness every night,
On an instrument of ten strings,
On the lute,
And on the harp,
With harmonious sound.
a. It is good to give thanks to the LORD: This Sabbath psalm begins with a simple yet profound statement. It is a good thing to give thanks to Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel and the Maker of heaven and earth.
· It is good because thanks to our Creator is appropriate.
· It is good because thanks to our Covenant Redeemer is fitting.
· It is good because thanks to the One who blesses and delivers us is right.
· It is good because thanks to the One who is all-good is always good.
· It is good because thanks to God does us benefit.
· It is good because thanks to God sets an example for others to do the same.
· It is good because a mere attitude of thankfulness is not enough.
i. Giving thanks to God is more than right; it is also good: “…good, no doubt, in the sense that, in love, he values it, as he valued his creation; but also in the sense that it uplifts and liberates us.” (Kidner)
ii. “The statement seems an obvious one; no one will be inclined to contradict it. Yet how little we know of this highest function of worship, that of offering the pure sacrifice of praise.” (Morgan)
iii. “Go carefully and thoroughly through the ordinary services of our churches, whether the form be liturgical or what we designate free, or extempore, and note how small a part of them is devoted to the giving of thanks.” (Morgan)
iv. “The devout heart feels that worship is ‘good,’ not only as being acceptable to God and conformable to man’s highest duty, but as being the source of delight to the worshipper.” (Maclaren)
b. And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High: Hebrew poetry often uses parallelism, repeating an idea with similar words. This is an example of this, with the second phrase repeating the essential idea of the first. Therefore, for the psalmist, to sing praises to God’s name is very much like giving thanks to the LORD. Singing is a valid and wonderful expression of gratitude to God.
i. “It is good to give thanks in the form of vocal song. Nature itself teaches us thus to express our gratitude to God; do not the birds sing, and the brooks warble as they flow?” (Spurgeon)
ii. “Our personal experience has confirmed us in the belief that it is good to sing unto the Lord; we have often felt like Luther when he said, ‘Come, let us sing a Psalm, and drive away the devil.’” (Spurgeon)
c. To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning: Proclaiming God’s lovingkindness (hesed, the great word for God’s loyal, covenant love) and faithfulness is another way to give thanks to the LORD. This declaration is not only to be made on the good days or nights, but every night.
i. “The ‘mercy’ of God in promising salvation, and his ‘faithfulness’ in accomplishing it, are inexhaustible subjects for ‘morning and evening’ praises.” (Horne)
ii. “Eagerly and promptly should we magnify the Lord; we leave unpleasant tasks as long as we can, but our hearts are so engrossed with the adoration of God that we would rise betimes to attend to it. There is a peculiar freshness and charm about early morning praises; the day is loveliest when it first opens its eyelids, and God himself seems then to make distribution of the day’s manna, which tastes most sweetly if gathered ere the sun is hot.” (Spurgeon)
iii. This kind of heartfelt praise gives honor to God. “We talk as if, really, we were to be pitied for living, as if we were little better off than toads under a hallow, or snails in a tub of salt. We whine as if our lives were martyrdoms, and every breath a woe. But it is not so. Such conduct slanders the good Lord.” (Spurgeon)
iv. Your faithfulness every night: “We have a day’s more experience than we had in the morning; therefore we have more power to sing of God’s faithfulness.” (Spurgeon)
d. On an instrument: Worship and honor to God may be expressed in music, with a variety of instruments. However, it should be done with harmonious sound, meaning that those who dedicate their music to serving God and His people should endeavor to be harmonious and excellent in their presentation of the music.
i. “I know that there is a tradition in the church that opposes the use of musical instruments in worship, but I do not see how it can stand in the light of these and other Bible passages.” (Boice)
ii. The first three verses of this psalm show that worshipping and honoring God have many different aspects and expressions. We should worship God in any available and honoring way.
· It may be thanksgiving, singing, or declaration.
· It may be because of who He is (the LORD, Most High) or because of what He has done (expressed in acts of lovingkindness and faithfulness).
· It may be done at day or night.
· It may be done with singing and with instrumental music.
2. (4) The reason for giving thanks.
For You, LORD, have made me glad through Your work;
I will triumph in the works of Your hands.
a. For You, LORD: The emphasis is on God’s personal work. This is what He Himself has done.
b. Have made me glad through Your work: Sometimes God’s servants grumble about His works and ways. The way of the psalmist is far better, to be made glad through the work of God.
i. “The acts of God are not to be separated from his nature (‘love,’ ‘faithfulness’; cf. v. 2), because his “deeds” are expressive of his nature.” (VanGemeren)
c. I will triumph in the works of Your hands: The focus is entirely on God, and not on self. The triumph is found not in what we do for God, but on what God has done with His own hands.
B. God’s works for His people and His enemies.
1. (5-6) God’s great thoughts.
O LORD, how great are Your works!
Your thoughts are very deep.
A senseless man does not know,
Nor does a fool understand this.
a. How great are Your works: Having brought up the idea of God’s works in the previous lines, the psalmist now declares how great those works are.
i. How great are Your works: “They are multitudinous, stupendous, and splendid: and thy thoughts – thy designs and counsels, from which, by which, and in reference to which, they have been formed; are very deep – so profound as not to be fathomed by the comprehension of man.” (Clarke)
ii. “The struggles of faith with unbelief…are ended for this singer. He bows in trustful adoration before the greatness of the works and the unsearchable depth of the purpose of God which directs the works.” (Maclaren)
iii. “But how doth the regenerate soul exult and triumph, at beholding that ‘work’ of God’s ‘hand’ whereby he hath created all things anew in Christ Jesus!” (Horne)
b. Your thoughts are very deep: First among God’s works, the psalmist spoke of the great intelligence of God. God’s knowledge is not only broad, touching absolutely everything; it is also very deep, knowing all things about everything.
i. Your thoughts are very deep: “Verily, my brethren, there is no sea so deep as these thoughts of God, who maketh the wicked flourish, and the good suffer: nothing so profound, nothing so deep: therein every unbelieving soul is wrecked, in that depth, in that profundity. Dost thou wish to cross this depth? Remove not from the wood of Christ’s cross; and thou shalt not sink: hold thyself fast to Christ.” (Augustine, cited in Spurgeon)
c. A senseless man does not know: The senseless and the fool don’t understand that God is infinitely smarter and greater than they are. It’s very hard for some people to accept that God knows more than they do, and it can be even more difficult to really live as if that is true.
i. The senseless man doesn’t understand the greatness of God as described in Psalm 92:5. Nor does he understand the coming judgment (despite present prosperity) described in Psalm 92:7.
ii. A senseless man: “Ish baar, the human hog – the stupid bear – the boor; the man who is all flesh; in whom spirit or intellect neither seems to work nor exist. The brutish man, who never attempts to see God in his works.” (Clarke)
iii. “The word “senseless” (baʿar, v. 6; cf. 49:10; 73:22; Prov 12:1; 30:2) is expressive of animal-like behavior. As an animal shows no perception or analytic ability, so the fool has no common sense (cf. Isa 1:2).” (VanGemeren)
iv. Boice suggested a connection to Psalm 8: “By calling him ‘a little lower than the heavenly beings’ rather than ‘a little higher than the beasts,’ it indicates that it is man’s calling to look up to God and become like God, in whose image he is made. But if he will not look up, the only place he will be able to look is down, and he will begin to behave like an animal.” (Boice)
2. (7-9) God judges His enemies.
When the wicked spring up like grass,
And when all the workers of iniquity flourish,
It is that they may be destroyed forever.
But You, LORD, are on high forevermore.
For behold, Your enemies, O LORD,
For behold, Your enemies shall perish;
All the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.
a. When the wicked spring up like grass: The psalmist saw many times when the wicked seemed to prosper. They grew quickly like grass and seemed to flourish. Yet he also knew that their prosperity was only the prelude to their destruction (it is that they may be destroyed forever).
i. Spring up…flourish: “The apparent success of the wicked is as a pleasant slope that leads downward. The quicker the blossoming, the sooner the petals fall.” (Maclaren)
ii. “The favour of God towards man is not to be known by outward prosperity; nor is his disapprobation to be known by the adverse circumstances in which any person may be found. When, however, we see the wicked flourish, we may take for granted that their abuse of God’s mercies will cause him to cut them off as cumberers of the ground; and, dying in their sins, they are destroyed for ever.” (Clarke)
iii. Destroyed forever: “Destruction ‘for ever’ is a portion far too terrible for the mind to realise. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, the full terror of the wrath to come!” (Spurgeon)
iv. “Little do they think that they are suffered to prosper that like beasts they may be fitter for slaughter. The fatter they are, the fitter for slaughter, and the sooner slain.” (Bogan, cited in Spurgeon)
b. But You, LORD, are on high forevermore: In contrast to the wicked who have only temporary prosperity, God is set on high forevermore. His enemies shall perish and all the wicked shall be scattered.
c. For behold, Your enemies, O LORD: The phrase is repeated for emphasis. Those enemies of the LORD will be destroyed, and God’s people are called upon to behold this as another of God’s great works.
i. “The psalmist, by this demonstrative particle ‘lo,’ [behold] points to it as it were with the finger, as a thing most evident and undoubted.” (Trapp)
ii. In the end, God is determined to destroy those who make themselves His enemies. “That is a weak and perilous tenderness which permits evil to continue its work of destruction. That is a strong and tender pity which without relenting, smites evil, and destroys it.” (Morgan)
iii. Kidner on Psalm 92:9: “This verse, with its cumulative force, is noticeably similar to certain lines from Ugarit, written some centuries earlier. If these were well known, the present verse could be a pointed assertion that it is the Lord, not Baal, who will triumph, and that his victory will rid the world of evil, rather than relieve a mere nature-god of his rivals.” (Kidner)
3. (10-11) The psalmist’s experience of blessing and deliverance.
But my horn You have exalted like a wild ox;
I have been anointed with fresh oil.
My eye also has seen my desire on my enemies;
My ears hear my desire on the wicked
Who rise up against me.
a. My horn You have exalted like a wild ox: The horn was a symbol of strength and might. The wicked are destroyed (Psalm 92:7), but the righteous have their strength exalted.
i. A wild ox: The power and ferocity of this animal was proverbial.” (VanGemeren)
ii. “The imagery of ‘horn’ also evokes the metaphor of ‘oil,’ as oil was poured from a horn (cf. 1 Sam 16:13).” (VanGemeren)
b. I have been anointed with fresh oil: The anointing with fresh oil brought refreshment and honor: the blessing and power and enabling of God poured out upon the one anointed.
i. With fresh oil: “Each morning bend your heads, ye priests of the Most High, for the fresh anointing for the new ministries that await you. The former grace and strength will not suffice; old texts must be rejuvenated and reminted; old vows must be re-spoken; the infilling of the Holy Spirit must be as vivid, and may be as definite, as at the first.” (Meyer)
ii. “Sometimes, when we meet with believers who are full of grace, full of patience, full of courage, full of zeal, full of love, we say, ‘I can never get where they are.’ Yes, we can, for we shall be anointed with fresh oil, and if we obtain fresh grace there is no place of eminence we cannot reach.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “Fresh oil, in such a context, speaks eloquently of a renewed anointing…or consecration, to serve God. There may be the additional thought of preparing a ‘living sacrifice’, since the verb is used elsewhere not for anointing but for moistening the meal-offering with oil before presenting it at the altar (Exod. 29:40).” (Kidner)
c. My eye has also seen my desire on my enemies: The psalmist had the additional blessing of seeing his triumph over his enemies. Victory is assured for the people of God (Romans 8:37), but sometimes it is only understood by faith and not seen with the natural eye.
i. “It is intended to express an assurance of faith, a humble confidence in the promises of God, that our efforts shall at length be crowned with victory over every thing which reisteth and opposeth itself; and that the day is coming, when we shall view all the enemies of our salvation dead at our feet.” (Horne)
4. (12-15) God makes the righteous flourish.
The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Those who are planted in the house of the LORD
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing,
To declare that the LORD is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
a. The righteous shall flourish: The wicked have their season of flourishing (Psalm 92:7), but the righteous shall flourish like the ever-green palm tree. The wicked should understand that this world provides the best they will ever experience, and the righteous should know that this world provides the worst they will experience.
i. Like a palm tree: “When we see a noble palm standing erect, sending all its strength upward in one bold column, and growing amid the dearth and drought of the desert, we have a fine picture of the godly man, who in his uprightness aims alone at the glory of God; and, independent of outward circumstances, is made by divine grace to live and thrive where all things else perish.” (Spurgeon)
b. He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon: The cedar trees of Lebanon were known for their size, strength, durability, beauty, and usefulness. The blessings to come upon the righteous bring the same attributes.
i. “The cedar gives us the idea of majesty, stability, durableness, and incorruptibility.” (Clarke)
c. Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God: God’s house, the place of His presence, is the place where believers are both planted and where they continually live and flourish. One might say that they are in the presence of the LORD from beginning to end, and they still bear fruit in old age – even as Moses did (Deuteronomy 34:7).
i. Planted in the house of the LORD: “It is questionable whether there are trees planted in the courts of the Temple; but the psalmist’s thought is that the righteous will surely be found there, and that it is their native soil, in which rooted, they are permanent.” (Maclaren)
ii. Still bear fruit in old age: “It is not the greenness of perpetual youth, but the freshness of age without sterility, like that of Moses whose ‘eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated’ (Deut. 34:7); whose wisdom was mature and his memory invaluably rich.” (Trapp)
iii. As 2 Corinthians 4:16 indicates, it is possible to be outwardly wasting away, yet inwardly renewed day by day. “When their natural strength decayeth, it shall be renewed; their last days shall be their best days, wherein as they shall grow in grace, so they shall increase in comfort and blessedness.” (Meyer)
iv. “I once heard a good Christian man say that he was confessing a fault. He said, ‘I am afraid that the fruit of my old age is peevishness.’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘that is not a fruit of your old age; it is a fruit of your old nature.’ But the fruit of old age, where there is grace in old age, should be patience.” (Spurgeon)
d. To declare that the LORD is upright: This is why the people of God live in a blessed way that gives honor and attention to God (bear fruit). It isn’t to draw attention to themselves as wonderful people, but to shout out that the LORD is upright.
i. “‘That the Lord is upright.’ Well, how does the fruit-bearing of an aged Christian show that? Why, it shows that God has kept his promise. He has promised that he will never leave them nor forsake them. There you see it. He has promised that when they are weak they shall be strong. There you see it. He has promised that if they seek him they shall not lack any good thing. There you see it.” (Spurgeon)
e. He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him: This was the confident, proven experience of the psalmist. He knew from both understanding and life experience that God could be trusted and did all things in goodness.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org