We continue with our catena of Reformed commentary on Psalm 148:11-12 (so far, Calvin and Musculus), and we are perhaps starting to see something of a consensus emerge. Those we have looked at so far interpret the fact that certain types of people are singled out for special exhortation as bearing special significance. In other words, the Reformed exegetes we have surveyed so far do not think that this catalog is simply a rhetorical device to say “everyone should praise God [which is of course true]; here are some examples,” 1 such that the psalmist could just as easily have substituted bakers and candlestick-makers with no change in the meaning of the text.
Rather, these exegetes believe that kings, for instance, are singled out as such and are to render praise and service to God as such. This point is clear from our selection from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible below (see the second portion in bold). One must grant that this is Henry’s position, and one might accept the first part of his reasoning (those whom God has specially honored must use that honor to honor God) even if he is not convinced (as I am not) that such people can bring God more glory and do him more service than others.
II. Much more those creatures that are dignified with the powers of reason ought to employ them in praising God: Kings of the earth and all people, v. 11, 12. 1. God is to be glorified in and for these, as in and for the inferior creatures, for their hearts are in the hand of the Lord and he makes what use he pleases of them. God is to be praised in the order and constitution of kingdoms, the pars imperans—the part that commands, and the pars subdita—the part that is subject: Kings of the earth and all people. It is by him that kings reign, and people are subject to them; the princes and judges of the earth have their wisdom and their commission from him, and we, to whom they are blessings, ought to bless God for them. God is to be praised also in the constitution of families, for he is the founder of them; and for all the comfort of relations, the comfort that parents and children, brothers and sisters, have in each other, God is to be praised. 2. God is to be glorified by these. Let all manner of persons praise God. (1.) Those of each rank, high and low. The praises of kings, and princes, and judges, are demanded; those on whom God has put honour must honour him with it, and the power they are entrusted with, and the figure they make in the world, put them in a capacity of bringing more glory to God and doing him more service than others. Yet the praises of the people are expected also, and God will graciously accept of them; Christ despised not the hosannas of the multitude. (2.) Those of each sex,young men and maidens, who are accustomed to make merry together; let them turn their mirth into this channel; let it be sacred, that it may be pure. (3.) Those of each age. Old men must still bring forth this fruit in old age, and not think that either the gravity or the infirmity of their age will excuse them from it; and children too must begin betimes to praise God; even out of the mouth of babes and sucklings this good work is perfected. A good reason is given (v. 13) why all these should praise the name of the Lord, because his name alone is excellent and worthy to be praised; it is a name above every name, no name, no nature, but his, has in it all excellency. His glory is above both the earth and the heaven, and let all inhabitants both of earth and heaven praise him and yet acknowledge his name to be exalted far above all blessing and praise.
E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.
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