For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David.
The words of our text are the very last we should expect to find in a psalm of praise and adoration. What had thrones of judgment, the place where disputes were settled, and deeds justified or condemned, to do with pilgrims who hungered for the living God? But a little reflection leads us to see that it was a true spiritual instinct that connects the sanctuary with the judgment-seat and worship with the criticism of life. Maybe there was a geographical proximity between the temple and the civil court, but we would fain believe that it was a much deeper connection, a spiritual association, that dictated the words of our text. For, as a matter of fact, we cannot prostrate ourselves before God without seeing all the facts of life in their true light and estimate all our thoughts and deeds at their true value, for "there are set thrones of judgment."
1. True worship leads to just valuation and correct thinking. In the hurry of life God becomes a shadow, and in the controversies of thought He becomes a symbol; but when we bow our heads with adoration and awe, we place ourselves in an attitude to see the King in His beauty; and all the time we are engaged in worship, God is quietly reasserting His supremacy over our lives. In industry and commerce we are daily tempted to consider our fellow-men as means towards an end, bound to us by the cold relationship of a cash nexus or a business transaction. As we move in the social life around us we are tempted to group our fellows according to caste and class, to clique and circle, but when we escape to the sanctuary and turn to the great sacrifice of Christ for forgiveness, we see our fellow-man as he is, a fellow-sinner for whom Jesus died, a brother saint, heir of God and joint-heir of Jesus Christ. The sanctuary corrects the estimates of the world, and the thrones of judgment modify the rules and maxims of men. Outside the sanctuary property assumes vast dimensions, inside it dwindles into an incident of life. Outside sin is an inevitable trifle, inside it is the one tragedy of the world, crucifying Christ and wounding God. Outside, eternity is a guess and a chance, a dream and a shadow, but inside it is the great reality, the place of adjustment, reunion, and satisfaction. As men in a mist see every object disfigured and exaggerated, so in the atmosphere of worldliness we see everything out of its true shape and perspective, but in the sanctuary there are thrones of judgment. In worship we unconsciously escape from the dominion of maxims and thoughts that are merely worldly and material.
2. The reasons for this beneficent effect are not far to seek.
(1) Worship brings a man to the right standpoint. Vision is so often a matter of position. To learn how to see is to learn where to stand. The attitude of worship is a vantage ground which commands spiritual prospects and unseen landscapes, the land that is very far off, the world in its need, and the King in His beauty.
(2) Worship removes the disturbing element. Inaccurate judgments are due to passion and prejudice, to interest and greed, and all these are forms and modifications of selfishness. It is self that spoils the vision and upsets the balances. But worship is the surrender of the self, the renunciation of the great obstacle and the solemn repetition of our Saviour's words — "Not My will but Thine be done." Self is displaced and God is enthroned, and as the result the worshipper thinks as his Lord thinks, and his judgment is just and his valuation accurate.
(3) Worship quickens all the faculties of a man's life. We often see amiss because we do not see with the whole soul. Our judgments are wrong because they are partially made. It takes a man in the full totality of his gifts to see God and to understand God's world. But there are many influences which rob us of this full-orbed activity. First of all there is sin. The man that has sinned away his purity has not only spoiled his character, he has mutilated his soul and robbed himself of the power of seeing God; and it is the same with the man who has become material, cynical, pessimistic, or self-sufficient. Then there is specialism. The age is more and more an age of specialization. Men are simply compelled to throw their whole energy into certain lines and to neglect certain parts of their nature altogether. You all remember the lament of Charles Darwin that he had lost the taste which once he had for music and poetry, and had become a mere machine for observing facts and grinding laws out of them. It is an undisputed fact that many men are in a parallel condition to-day, and to be in this state is to look at God and the world with half an eye and half a soul. The corrective for all this is worship, for reverence is the highest activity of the soul. Like the fly-wheel in a factory, it calls into movement all the multitudinous wheels of man's complex personality. Worship steadies the reason, chastens the emotions, vivifies the imagination, braces the will, spurs the spirit of inquiry, and gives unto man the full and free possession of all his faculties vitalized and alert.
(4) Worship gives to the soul that hospitality which saves it from being deluded by dogmatism and self-sufficiency. There is more light to break forth from God's world and God's Word, and our hardest task is to keep our eyes open and our hearts hospitable towards the dawn. But this is the attitude of worship, for, as the shell on the shore is open to the waves of the sea, as the bud on the tree is open to the rays of the light, so is the soul of the worshipper open to the mysterious influences that perennially stream from the unseen and the unknown.
(T. Phillips, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David.
WEB: For there are set thrones for judgment, the thrones of David's house.