1 I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. 2 I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself. 3 You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, 4 ‘I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations.’”
Many psalms that begin with complaint and prayer end with joy and praise, but this begins with joy and praise and ends with sad complaints and petitions; for the psalmist first recounts God’s former favors, and then with the consideration of them aggravates the present grievances. It is uncertain when it was penned; only, in general, that it was at a time when the house of David was in decline.
The psalmist, in the joyful pleasant part of the psalm, gives glory to God, and takes comfort to himself and his friends. This he does more briefly, mentioning God’s mercy and truth (v. 1) and his covenant (v. 2-4), but more largely in the following verses, wherein, 1. He adores the glory and perfection of God (v. 5-14). He pleases himself in the happiness of those that are admitted into communion with him (v. 15-18). He builds all his hope upon God’s covenant with David, as a type of Christ (v. 19-37).
In the melancholy part of the psalm he laments the present calamitous state of the prince and royal family (v. 38-45), expostulates with God upon it (v. 46-49), and then concludes with prayer for redress (v. 50, v. 51). In singing this psalm we must have high thoughts of God, a lively faith in his covenant with the Redeemer, and a sympathy with the afflicted parts of the church.
The psalmist has a very sad complaint to make of the deplorable condition of the family of David at this time, and yet he begins the psalm with songs of praise; for we must, in everything, in every state, give thanks; thus we must glorify the Lord in the fire. We think, when we are in trouble, that we get ease by complaining; but we do more—we get joy, by praising. Let our complaints therefore be turned into thanksgivings; and in these verses we find that which will be matter of praise and thanksgiving for us in the worst of times, whether upon a personal or a public account,
However it be, the everlasting God is good and true, v. 1. Though we may find it hard to reconcile present dark providences with the goodness and truth of God, yet we must abide by this principle, That God’s mercies are inexhaustible and his truth is inviolable; and these must be the matter of our joy and praise: “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever, sing a praising song to God’s honor, a pleasant song for my own solace, and an instructive song, for the edification of others.’’ We may be forever singing God’s mercies, and yet the subject will not be drawn dry. We must sing of God’s mercies as long as we live, train up others to sing of them when we are gone, and hope to be singing them in heaven world without end.
With my mouth, and with my pen (for by that also do we speak), will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations, assuring posterity, from my own observation and experience, that God is true to every word that he has spoken, that they may learn to put their trust in God. However it be, the everlasting covenant is firm and sure.
Items for Discussion
- It has been said that before one dies, there are two questions a person must answer for themselves: Who is God? Who am I? How do these four verses help us to derive answers to those two questions?
- Why is it important to learn and remember God’s history?
- Why is it important for one’s faith walk to become a voice for God’s faithfulness?
- Is there any promise that God cannot make or keep?
- Why, then is it important to periodically reflect upon God’s Covenant?
- What are the benefits of reflecting upon Christmas once a year?
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
The Biblical translation that we are all so familiar with states that Mary and Joseph went back to Joseph’s home city, Bethlehem to register for the census. In one of the very first translation of the Greek text to English (the Geneva Bible of 1599) we have this translation:
“And it came to pass in those days, that there came a decree from Augustus Caesar, that all the world should be taxed. (This first taxing was made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) Therefore, went all to be taxed, every man to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee out of a city called Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house of David.) To be taxed with Mary that was given to him to wife, which was with child. And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first begotten son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a cratch , because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Because this story is so well known to all of us, the discussion below will consider some of the differences from modern day translations so that we may better understand what life was like during the first Christmas.
Items for Discussion
- Society has cleaned up the language, the trip to Bethlehem is for a census. What is it in the Geneva Bible that you notice about the purpose of the first trip?
- Besides the hardships of a journey while pregnant, what other hardships would a trip like this cause?1Note: the purpose of the counting of people when far beyond headcount. The Emperor wanted to know the names of every inhabitant within the reach of the Roman Empire, their goods rated at a certain value so the Emperor might understand how rich every country, city, family and house was.
- How would you contrast the kingdom at that time with the one the newborn Christ was about to bring into the world?
- Why was Christ’s kingdom going to be so much better?
- Are there similar declarations that we see today during the Christmas season?
- How is our society the same or different today from that of the time Christ was born?
- So why would you consider called Christ the hinge of history?
- What would our world be like without the first Christmas ever happening?
- 1Note: the purpose of the counting of people when far beyond headcount. The Emperor wanted to know the names of every inhabitant within the reach of the Roman Empire, their goods rated at a certain value so the Emperor might understand how rich every country, city, family and house was.