Just a Bit O’ History…Psalm 92. A Psalm to be sung on the Day of the Sabbath.

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The Jews of old appropriated certain Psalms to particular days, and every day of the week had its allotted Psalms. The songs which the Levites formerly sang in the sanctuary are these…

On the first day, Psalm 24,
On the second day, Psalm 48,
On the third day, Psalm 82,
On the fourth day, Psalm 114,
On the fifth day, Psalm 81,
On the sixth day, Psalm 93,
On the seventh day, Psalm 92, based upon its title.

The Talmud confirms this saying that Psalm 92 was sung on the morning of the Sabbath at the drink offering which followed the sacrifice of the first lamb, –Numbers 28:9.

Some ancient writers thought perhaps that this last Psalm was composed by Adam as tribute to the seventh day of Creation, but dismissing such a contention as raving, Spurgeon says, “Adam in Paradise had neither harp to play on, nor wicked men to contend with.”  Although nameless, no one acquainted with David’s style in the Psalms credited to him, hesitates to ascribe to him authorship of this Divine, Sabbath Hymn. A notable feature in this Psalm is the sevenfold name of JEHOVAH in verses, 1, 4, 8, 13, 15. Seven times is the Sabbatical number.

Here again we have an admirable combination and composition, “A Psalm of Song,” or a Psalm to be sung upon the day of rest. Full of equal measure of solemnity and joy, its subject is the praise of God for all his work, and the joyful occupation of hearts resting in the Divine Worker.  If David wrote it, then the Holy Spirit certainly gave him utterance, for the style is worthy of the theme and of the day it is dedicated to.   The general theme is set forth in the first four verses. Ellicott’s introduction says, “In this Psalm we seem to have the Sabbath musings of one who had met the doubt born of the sight of successful wickedness, and struggled through it to a firm faith in “The Rock of Whom is no unrighteousness, though on earth iniquity seems to flourish and prevail.”

Upon an instrument of ten strings… the psaltery… the harp, 92:3.  We cannot agree with Chrysostom that “Instrumental music was only permitted to the Jews, as sacrifice was, for the heaviness and grossness of their souls….” Away back in the cradle of humanity we read of one Jubal –from which we have the term “jubilant,” we read that he was the father and originator of all who handle the harp and organ, Genesis 4:21.  Justin Martyr expressly says “that the use of singing with instrumental music was not received in Christian churches as it was among the Jews in their infant state, but only the use of plain song.”  The insistence of some writers is that instrumental music was not in use in the churches until about the fourth century. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, wrote of the inspiration he received by congregational singing by “clear voices and appropriate tunes.”  Isaac Watts would have us sing—

Oh may my heart in tune be found,
Like David’s harp of solemn sound.

The Psalmist felt that every sweet-sounding instrument should be consecrated in God, as General Booth believed, when he introduced band-music and tambourines to match his militant form of service and worship for his “soldiers.”   The wise observation of Spurgeon in this matter is of worthy note, “It is much to be feared of that attention to the mechanism of music, as in the mere noting keys and strings.  Fine music without devotion, which is the soul and essence of praise, is but a splendid garment upon a corpse.”

Eusebius, a prominent Biblical scholar of the 4th century, commenting on Psalm 92 says, “The Psaltery if ten strings is the worship of the Holy Spirit performed by means of the five senses of the body, and the five powers of the soul,” and in confirmation of his application goes on to quote 1 Corinthians 14:15. Carrying this application further, all who are the Lord’s can look upon the human frame made up of two eyes, two ears, two hands, two feet, one mouth and one heart—ten in all, as the instruments of ten strings with which to praise and magnify the Lord.  This is the truth that is embodied in Havergal’s searching hymn— “Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to thee.”

Thou hast made me glad through thy work, 92:4. Already we have seen how Dante made use of the Psalms (Purg. xxviii. 80, E Salmo Delectasti), both directly and symbolically, and in his Purgatorio we have further illustration of this use when he describes the beautiful form of Matilda. Wondering at the brightness of her smile, she tells him that she is gladdened by verse 4 of Psalm, beginning with, Delectasti, “Thou, God, had made me glad through thy work.” Is it not this delight in God’s service, and labor in his cause, that makes the perfect happiness of an active life on earth?

And then there is a story of Casaubon, who was one of the most learned men of his age, and truly devout. He was so humble and reticent, that some doubted his religious spirit; but there is an incident he records in his diary which reveals it, and which shows the hold the book of Psalms had on the hearts of Christians of that time. He and his wife, residing in Paris, wished to go to the Protestant Church of Charenton. There was only a frail old boat to take them up the Seine, but they ventured it rather than lose the service. ‘On embarking,’ he says, ‘my wife, as her custom was, began to sing the Psalms. We had finished Psalms 91 and had reached Psalms 92 verse 12, when the boat sank. With difficulty we saved our lives, but the psalm book, which had been a wedding gift to my wife twenty-two years before, was lost. We reached in time for the second service; and on looking into the book of a young man near me to see what was being sung, I found it was Psalms 86:13, “for great is thy mercy towards me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest grave.” I thought immediately of the word of St. Ambrose, that “those who listen to, or read the Psalms aright, may find it as if these Psalms had been written expressly for themselves.”

One last word…

They shall bring forth in old age, 92:14. In the garden of grace, plants weak in themselves because of natural, physical decay, are yet strong in the Lord and bear fruit acceptable to Him.  Even if bedridden, they bear the fruit of patience. Grinders (teeth) may fail, but the bread of heaven is to feed upon.  The literal translation of this verse reads— “Still shall they sprout in hoary age, sappy and green shall they be,” an allusion to the great fruitfulness of the date palm, and to the fact that to the very last, this fruitfulness continues. The aged, fruitful believer is a letter of commendation of the immutable fidelity of Jehovah as the Rock and as the Righteous One. Journeying on to the end, the godly, well-stricken in years, daily prove that God’s dispensations have no flaw in them, and can no more be moved than a rock can be dislodged from its age-long foundation. The Psalm, then presents a Divine climax, that the venerable godly, far from declining, climb higher and higher as they travel on to life’s last milestone.

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Taken adapted from, Psalms: A Devotional Commentary, written by Herbert Lockyer, Sr.
Taken from, “The Psalms in History and Biography,” written by John Ker,