Psalm 97:1
The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.
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(1) The Lord reigneth.—For the thought and imagery comp. Psalm 96:10-11.

Multitude of the isles.—Literally, isles many. This wide glance to the westward embracing the isles and coasts of the Mediterranean (Psalm 72:10), possibly even more distant ones still, is characteristic of the literature of post-exile times. (Comp. Isaiah 42:10-11; Isaiah 51:15.)

Psalm 97:1. The Lord reigneth — He that made the world, governs it; he that called the universe into existence, upholds and presides over it; and he rules, judges, and rewards, or punishes his intelligent, free, and immortal creatures, whether men or angels. The Lord Jesus reigns; the providential kingdom is interwoven with the mediatorial, and the administration of both is in the hand of Christ; who is therefore both head of the church, and head over all things to the church: see on Psalm 93:1; Psalm 96:10. Let the earth rejoice — The inhabitants of the world everywhere; for hereby they are honoured and benefited unspeakably: they are blessed with sure protection, a wise and equitable government, holy, just, and salutary laws, and an ample provision for the supply of all their wants. Let the multitude of isles be glad thereof — Not only let the people of Israel rejoice in him, as king of the Jews, and the daughter of Zion, as her king, but let all the earth rejoice in his exaltation; for the kingdoms of the world shall, sooner or later, become his kingdoms. There is enough in Christ for the multitude of isles to rejoice in; for, though millions have been made happy in him, yet still there is room.

97:1-7 Though many have been made happy in Christ, still there is room. And all have reason to rejoice in Christ's government. There is a depth in his counsels, which we must not pretend to fathom; but still righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. Christ's government, though it might be matter of joy to all, will yet be matter of terror to some; but it is their own fault that it is so. The most resolute and daring opposition will be baffled at the presence of the Lord. And the Lord Jesus will ere long come, and put an end to idol worship of every kind.The Lord reigneth - See the notes at Psalm 93:1. This is the general fact to be dwelt upon; this is the foundation of joy and praise. The universe is not without a sovereign. It is not the abode of anarchy. It is not the production of chance. It is not subject to mere physical laws. It is not under the control of evil. It is under the government of a God: a wise, holy, intelligent, just, benevolent Being, who rules it well, and who presides over all its affairs. If there is anything for which we should rejoice, it is that there is One Mind, everlasting and most glorious, who presides over the universe, and conducts all things according to his own wise and eternal plan.

Let the earth rejoice - The earth itself; all parts of it; all that dwell upon it. As the earth everywhere derives whatever it has of fertility, beauty, grandeur, or stability, from God - as order, beauty, productiveness are diffused everywhere over it - as it has received so many proofs of the divine beneficence toward it, it has occasion for universal joy.

Let the multitude of isles be glad thereof - Margin, "Many, or great isles." The Hebrew is many. So the Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate, the Chaldee, and the Syriac. The eye of the psalmist is evidently on the many islands which are scattered over the sea. Not merely the continents - the extended countries where nations dwell - have occasion for joy, but the beautiful islands - the spots of earth which have risen from the deep, and which are covered with fruits and flowers - these, too, have occasion to rejoice: to rejoice that God has raised them from the waters; that he keeps them from being overflowed or washed away; that he clothes them with beauty; that he makes them the abode of happy life; that he places them in the wastes of the ocean as he does the stars in the wastes of the sky, to beautify the universe. The idea in the verse is, that all the earth has cause to rejoice that Yahweh reigns.


Ps 97:1-12. The writer celebrates the Lord's dominion over nations and nature, describes its effect on foes and friends, and exhorts and encourages the latter.

1, 2. This dominion is a cause of joy, because, even though our minds are oppressed with terror before the throne of the King of kings (Ex 19:16; De 5:22), we know it is based on righteous principles and judgments which are according to truth.

1 The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.

2 Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.

3 A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about.

Psalm 97:1

"The Lord reigneth." This is the watchword of the Psalm - Jehovah reigns. It is also the essence of the gospel proclamation, and the foundation of the gospel kingdom. Jesus has come, and all power is given unto him in heaven and in earth, therefore men are bidden to yield him their obedient faith. Saints draw comfort from these words, and only rebels cavil at them. "Let the earth rejoice," for there is cause for joy. Other reigns have produced injustice, oppression, bloodshed, terror; the reign of the infinitely gracious Jehovah is the hope of mankind, and when they all yield to it the race will have its paradise restored. The very globe itself may well be glad that its Maker and liege Lord has come to his own, and the whole race of man may also be glad, since to every willing subject Jesus brings untold blessings. "Let the multitude of isles be glad thereof." To the ancient Israelites all places beyond the seas were isles, and the phrase is equivalent to all lands which are reached by ships. It is remarkable, however, that upon actual islands some of the greatest victories of the Cross have been achieved. Our own favoured land is a case in point, and not less so the islands of Polynesia and the kingdom of Madagascar. Islands are very numerous; may they all become Holy Islands, and Isles of Saints, then will they all be Fortunate Islands, and true Formosas. Many a land owes its peace to the sea; if it had not been isolated it would have been desolated, and therefore the inhabitants should praise the Lord who has moated them about, and given them a defence more available than bars of brass. Jesus deserves to be Lord of the Isles, and to have his praises sounded along every sea-beaten shore. Amen, so let it be.

Psalm 97:2

"Clouds and darkness are round about him." So the Lord revealed himself at Sinai, so must he ever surround his essential Deity when he shows himself to the sons of men, or his excessive glory would destroy them. Every revelation of God must also be an obvelation; there must be a veiling of his infinite splendour if anything is to be seen by finite beings. It is often thus with the Lord in providence; when working out designs of unmingled love he conceals the purpose of his grace that it may be the more clearly discovered at the end. "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing." Around the history of his church dark clouds of persecution hover, and an awful gloom at times settles down, still the Lord is there; and though men for a while see not the bright light in the clouds, it bursts forth in due season to the confusion of the adversaries of the gospel. This passage should teach us the impertinence of attempting to pry into the essence of the Godhead, the vanity of all endeavours to understand the mystery of the Trinity in Unity, the arrogance of arraigning the Most High before the bar of human reason, the folly of dictating to the Eternal One the manner in which he should proceed. Wisdom veils her face and adores the mercy which conceals the divine purpose; folly rushes in and perishes, blinded first, and by-and-by consumed by the blaze of glory.

"Righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne." There he abides, he never departs from strict justice and right, his throne is fixed upon the rock of eternal holiness, righteousness is his immutable attribute, and judgment marks his every act. What though we cannot see or understand what he doeth, yet we are sure that he will do no wrong to us or any of his creatures. Is not this enough to make us rejoice in him and adore him? Divine sovereignty is never tyrannical. Jehovah is an autocrat, but not a despot. Absolute power is safe in the hands of him who cannot err, or act unrighteously. When the roll of the decrees, and the books of the divine providence shall be opened, no eye shall there discern one word that should be blotted out, one syllable of error, one line of injustice, one letter of un-holiness. Of none but the Lord of all can this be said.

Psalm 97:3

"A fire goeth before him." Like an advance guard clearing the way. So was it at Sinai, so must it be: the very Being of God is power, consuming all opposition; omnipotence is a devouring flame which "burneth up his enemies round about." God is longsuffering, but when he comes forth to judgment he will make short work with the unrighteous, they will be as chaff before the flame. Heading this verse in reference to the coming of Jesus, and the descent of the Spirit, we are reminded of the tongues of fire, and of the power which attended the gospel, so that all opposition was speedily overcome. Even now where the gospel is preached in faith, and in the power of the Spirit, it burns its own way, irresistibly destroying falsehood, superstition, unbelief, sin, indifference, and hardness of heart. In it the Lord reigneth, and because of it let the earth rejoice. THE ARGUMENT

This Psalm seems to have both the same author and the same scope with the former. And although the psalmist might take occasion to pen it from those signal manifestations of God’s power and righteousness on his behalf, and against his enemies, yet he had a further aim in it, even at the coming of the Messias, which he here describes. And whereas there are two comings of Christ plainly distinguished in the New Testament, these are but confusedly mentioned in the Old Testament; and the prophets sometimes speak of his first coming in words and phrases which seem more properly to agree to the second, as Malachi 3:1,2 4:1,2. But whatsoever the psalmist designed or understood, this is certain, that the Holy Ghost meant the last clause of Psalm 97:7 of Christ, as is affirmed, Hebrews 1:6, and therefore it is more than probable that all the rest of the Psalm is to be understood of him, and of his coming and kingdom.

A description of the majesty of God’s kingdom, Psalm 97:1-6. The church rejoiceth at his justice and judgment upon idolaters, Psalm 97:7-9, with an exhortation to godliness and spiritual rejoicing, Psalm 97:10-12.

The Lord reigneth; See Poole "Psalm 96:10".

The multitude of isles; the Gentile nations, as this word, being used Isaiah 42:4, is expounded Matthew 12:21, even those which are most remote from Judea, (then the only seat of God’s people and worship,) from which they were divided by the sea, or to which they usually went by sea; such places being commonly called

isles in Scripture, as Genesis 10:5 Isaiah 11:11 66:19; which being mentioned, because there might be some doubt about them, it is sufficiently implied that those countries which were nearer to them should unquestionably partake of the same privilege.

The Lord reigneth,.... He has reigned, now reigns, will and must reign until all enemies are made his footstool; See Gill on Psalm 93:1; see Gill on Psalm 96:10,

let the earth rejoice: not the land of Judea only, and the inhabitants of it, to whom the King Messiah came; for there were but few among them that received him, and rejoiced at his coming; but the whole earth, the vast continent, as distinguished from the isles after mentioned, and they that dwell upon it; the Gentiles, who had a concern in his coming, in whom they were to be blessed, to whom they were to be gathered, and in whom they should find a glorious rest; and therefore he is called

the desire of all nations: the first preaching of the Gospel was occasion and matter of great joy to them; not only the blessings contained in it of peace, pardon, righteousness, and salvation by Christ; but the effects of it, delivering them from the dominion of Satan, the god of this world; and from superstition, and idolatry, with which they were enslaved; and the bringing them into the glorious liberty of the children of God:

let the multitude of isles be glad thereof; the isles of the sea are many, even many thousands: Columbus, when he first discovered America, sailing by Cuba westward, gave names, as he passed along, to seven hundred islands, leaving three thousand more without names (r): Gejerus reports, from some writers, that an Indian king, in 1553, was converted to the Christian faith, that ruled over eleven thousand islands; and that in Maldivar there are reckoned to be sixteen thousand: well may the text speak of a multitude of them: or, "let the great islands", &c. such as ours of Great Britain and Ireland; these isles are said to wait for Christ and his doctrine, Isaiah 42:4 and therefore must be glad to hear of his coming and kingdom: the Gospel was very early sent to the isles, as to Cyprus, Crete, &c. see Acts 13:4 and to our northern isles likewise, who have great reason to be glad at its coming among us, continuance with us, and the success it has had; and that it is yet in the midst of us for further usefulness; and that Christ reigns, and will reign evermore.

(r) P. Martyr. Decad. 1. l. 3.

The {a} LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the {b} multitude of isles be glad thereof.

(a) He shows that where God reigns, there is all happiness and spiritual joy.

(b) For the gospel will not only be preached in Judea, but through all isles and countries.

1. The Lord reigneth] Jehovah hath proclaimed himself King. See note on Psalm 93:1. For the whole verse cp. Psalm 96:10-11; Isaiah 42:10-12; Isaiah 51:5.

the multitude of isles] Lit. many isles, or, coastlands; a favourite word in Isaiah 40-66; cp. Psalm 72:10. All the many islands and coastlands of the Mediterranean are meant, which have good cause to share Zion’s joy at the fall of the tyrant and the rise of the Divine kingdom of righteousness.

1–3. The proclamation of Jehovah’s kingdom of power and righteousness.

Verse 1. - The Lord reigneth; or, the Lord has become King - has ascended his throne (comp. Psalm 93:1; Psalm 96:10). Let the earth rejoice. When God condescends to appear on earth, the earth is bound to rejoice. His coming cannot but improve the condition of affairs. Let the multitude of isles (literally, the many isles) be glad thereof. Even "the isles" - the abode of the Gentiles - are to feel joy, for they, too, at whatever cost (ver. 3), will be benefited. Psalm 97:1We have here nothing but echoes of the older literature: Psalm 97:1, cf. Isaiah 42:10-12; Isaiah 51:5; Psalm 97:2, cf. Psalm 18:10, Psalm 18:12; Psalm 97:2 equals Psalm 89:15; Psalm 97:3, cf. Psalm 50:3; Psalm 18:9; Psalm 97:3, cf. Isaiah 42:25. Beginning with the visible coming of the kingdom of God in the present, with מלך ה the poet takes his stand upon the standpoint of the kingdom which is come. With it also comes rich material for universal joy. תּגל is indicative, as in Psalm 96:11 and frequently. רבּים are all, for all of them are in fact many (cf. Isaiah 52:15). The description of the theophany, for which the way is preparing in Psalm 97:2, also reminds one of Habakkuk 3. God's enshrouding Himself in darkness bears witness to His judicial earnestness. Because He comes as Judge, the basis of His royal throne and of His judgment-seat is also called to mind. His harbinger is fire, which consumes His adversaries on every side, as that which broke forth out of the pillar of cloud once consumed the Egyptians.
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