Psalm 92/It is Good to Give Thanks

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The enemies of God are primarily the enemies of God, and only derivatively ours. The principal contrast is between the futility of their rebellion, as over against the constant life of the everlasting one. They perish, and He remains forever. And then, as a result of that, a secondary contrast is set up—between the flourishing of “future hay” and the flourishing of cedar beams destined for the house of God. There is first the Creator/rebellious creature distinction followed by the obedient creature/rebellious creature distinction.

The Text:

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, And to sing praises unto thy name, O most High: To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night, Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; Upon the harp with a solemn sound. For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands. O Lord, how great are thy works! And thy thoughts are very deep . . .” (Psalm 92:1-15)

Summary of the Text:

Praising God, giving thanks to God, is a good thing (v. 1). This happens when we declare His lovingkindness in the morning, and His faithfulness in the evening (v. 2). It is done with three kinds of stringed instruments (v. 3). God’s work makes us glad; we will triumph through the work of His hands (v. 4).

When we triumph in the works of God, we are not triumphing in trifles. His works are great; His thoughts are deep (v. 5)—and we are talking about infinite depths. A brutish man doesn’t get it; a fool doesn’t comprehend it (v. 6). He doesn’t comprehend the previous statement, the one about the greatness of God’s works, and he doesn’t understand the following contrast. The wicked spring up like thick green grass, they appear to flourish—but they will be destroyed forever (v. 7). They are but hay. But God does not wax and wane, grow and die. God is most high forever (v. 8). The enemies of God will perish, and the workers of iniquity will be scattered (v. 9).

This has an effect on the one who trusts in God. His horn will be exalted like the horn of a unicorn; he will be anointed with oil (v. 10). We could talk about what the unicorn is, but keep in mind we don’t have all day. Just remember Ambrose Bierce’s definition of mythology: “The body of a primitive people’s beliefs concerning its origin, early history, heroes, deities and so forth, as distinguished from the true accounts which it invents later.” Just beware of convenient reconstructions (e.g. translating it as ox) that render certain biblical questions ridiculous. “Can you plow with an ox?” (Job 39:9-10). “Yeah, actually. I have three in the barn.”

The righteous will also will see his enemies (liers-in-wait) get their comeuppance (v. 11). The righteous will flourish like trees, in contrast to the grass earlier (v. 12). In order for these trees to flourish, they have to be planted in the right kind of soil; they must be planted in the right place. And where is that? In the house of the Lord, in the courts of our God (v. 13). They will still be fruit-bearing in old age; they will be fat and flourishing (v. 14, same word as v. 7). What will this show? What will it demonstrate? That the Lord is upright, that the Lord is our rock, that the Lord has no unrighteousness in Him. How could He? His righteousness is as immovable as a great rock.

Good to Give Thanks:

Gratitude is the path to wisdom, but we can’t be thankful to God for everything (Eph. 5:20) unless we believe that all things whatsoever come to us from His hand. We are not just to thank Him in all circumstances, but also for all circumstances. We would not be rebuked by Job for speaking like the foolish women speak. Shall we receive God from the hand of God and not evil?

And when this kind of gratitude has taken up residence in our hearts, what is the result? The result is musical gratitude. The result is lots of strings. But beware. The normal pattern is for this to be a musical overflow; this is pursuit of the headwaters, not pursuit of the delta—the source, not the result. As the old Mahalia Jackson spiritual put it, “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free.” You don’t sing to get happy—you sing to keep from bursting. We are not supposed to sing because we are talented or trained.

Of course there will be times when you are in a blue funk, and you sing a hymn of thanksgiving to God by faith. That’s different. But those who pursue fine music as an end in itself are, to use Spurgeon’s comparison, like this: “Fine music without devotion is but a splendid garment upon a corpse.” Or to reapply an image taken from Thomas Watson: To adorn a bad attitude with beautiful music is like dealing with a broken leg by putting a silk stocking on it. God is far more pleased with a jubilant squawk than with music that is refined and sour. Fortunately, we are not forced to choose: we can have merry hearts and we can match pitch. That is in fact allowed.

So shall the mountains sing (Is. 44:23), the valleys sing (Ps. 65:13), the forests sing (1 Chron. 16:33), the stars sing (Job 38:7), while we men, women and children not sing? Shall the only ones with lungs be silent?

His Thoughts are Very Deep:

The brutish man is blinkered and cannot see that he is standing under a cataract of glories. That’s just “the world,” he thinks. Just the way things are—atoms crashing around, and science has shown us how that imbecile natural selection can just pop out one exquisite engineering design after another. Nothing to be thankful about. No one to be thankful to. Nothing to mark as remarkable.

I recently saw an astoundingly beautiful, intricately-designed pattern—and it was a microscopic photograph of a beetle’s foot. Consider, think, reflect, if you would not be a brutish man, how butterflies can just know the way to Mexico, how an owl’s feathers just sweep together seamlessly, how insects use their antennae for taste, smell, and touch, and dragonflies use them as speedometers, and how an octopus has three hearts. Keep in mind that, according to the secular evolutionist, the genes that code for sight are blind, the genes that code for hearing are deaf, and the genes that code for speech are dumb. Not only can they not do what they are coding for, they don’t even know what they are. They don’t know anything. The most amazing library you can imagine is totally and completely ignorant.

Finishing Strong:

We see from this psalm that there is such a thing as finishing strong. We have already considered that God’s promises are not vending machine promises—not at all. But they are not crap shoot promises either. The world we live in is an intelligible world, and it is governed by a personal God. Talk to Him. And talk to Him about how the remainder of your life is going to go. When you are old, may your trunk be full of sap, enough for the outer branches. May you be like a palm tree, which Solomon used as a model for decorating the Temple. May you produce hundreds of pounds of dates annually. May you be like a cedar on the mountain of God.

May Christ be your immoveable rock.