George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 5

Psalm 149

This psalm should be read, firstly, with reference to Hezekiah and his times; and secondly, as a prophecy of the Messianic kingdom.

1. Hezekiah reference

Sing unto the Lord a new song. Every “new song” in Scripture has resurrection and the “New Creation” as its origin and theme (Psa. 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; Isa. 42:10). This psalm, like 96:1 and 98:1 (and Isa. 42:10), describes the “resurrection” of the nation, brought about through the destruction of Sennacherib’s army. Then 200,000 captives (Taylor prism) rose to new life from their “graves” in Babylon (Mic. 4:10). Contrast Psa. 137:3, which refers to this very captivity.

And his praise (sing unto Him) in the congregation of the saints. “Saints” can be either angels or Israel or Christ’s redeemed. Here, certainly, the second of these (cp. v. 2).
Let Israel rejoice in him that made him. Or, as in Hebrew, “in those who made him”; that is, the angels whose salvation (Isa. 37:36) had made Israel into a “new creation” (as in Gen. 1:26). Compare Isa. 65:17,18 — where “a new heavens and a new earth” = “Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy”.

Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. What “King”? In this place, surely the Lord of hosts (Isa. 6:5)!
Let them praise his name in the dance, as did David (2 Sam. 6:14; cp. Exod. 15:20; Psa. 30:11; 87:7; Psa. 150:4, note). So why is there such a strange lack of apparent joy in our worship? Are we really so afraid that our worship will be confused with the frenzied foolishness of the “Pentecostals”?
Let the saints be joyful in glory, i.e., glorying in the Glory of the Lord, manifested for their salvation (Isa. 4:5; 10:16).

But why do they sing aloud upon their beds? There are three possibilities:

(a) Hezekiah’s bed of sickness (Psa. 77:2-6; Isa. 57:1,2);

(b) Reclining upon “couches” (RSV) at a festal meal, such as the Passover (cp. Matt. 26:30; Mark 14:26); or — less likely —

(c) A reference to a “palanquin”, “litter”, or chariot of war (cp. context here; Song 3:7 has a different Hebrew word for “bed” which is so used).
Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand. Quite literally this was so in Hezekiah’s day, as also may be seen in vv. 7-9. Isa. 49:2 (about Hezekiah, primarily) and Heb. 4:12 (about Christ, the “Word”!) suggest that this meting out of retribution is in fulfillment of a divine mandate. There is no lack of evidence that in Sennacherib’s campaign neighboring nations — especially Tyre, Edom and other Arab peoples — were willing enough to be drafted into the invading Assyrian army for a chance to vent pent-up hatred upon Israel. Now that the Assyrians were cowed and driven away home — the few at least that survived the invasion (Isa. 37:37) — it was not unfitting that the indignation of the Lord be measured out against these others (see Isa. 11:14,15).
To execute vengeance upon the heathen. The last duty of Moses was to pronounce the vengeance of the Lord upon Midian (Num. 31:1-3).

And punishment upon the people. “Punishment” is s.w. Isa. 37:3, “rebuke the people”. The Hebrew l’umim, in an appreciable number of passages, applies particularly to Arab peoples (Gen. 25:3; 27:29; Psa. 47:3; 108:3,9,10; Isa. 17:12,13; 34:1; 60:2,6,7).
To bind their kings with chains. The s.w. occurs in Isa. 45:14 — regarding Arabs!
To execute upon them the judgment written. Written where? In Isa. 34 and 63:1-6. The first of these was a prophecy already uttered and written by Isaiah even before God came to the help of beleaguered Jerusalem.

This honour have all the saints (vv. 1,5). The vengeance and judgment are God’s, but to participate therein reflects something of His honor upon the people who bear His Name.

2. Messianic application

This psalm is quoted fully a dozen times in Eureka (by contrast, Psalm 1 is quoted only once, Psalm 8 twice, Psalm 23 once, and Psalm 119 — with all of its 176 verses — only twice!). It might be concluded that John Thomas relished a bit too much the prospect of executing God’s vengeance upon the heathen — but then such judgment (no matter how or by whom executed) is in fact a central feature of the Apocalypse, and a necessity for the Kingdom to be established. So perhaps a slight excess of zeal in this particular may be overlooked!

Saints now means the “New Israel”. And congregation = ekklesia (the Greek for “church”) in the LXX.

A new song. In Psa. 40:3, this describes Messiah’s resurrection. And in Rev. 5:9; 14:3, his saints glory in this. The context of Psa. 33:3 suggests a New Creation surpassing all the wonder of that described in Genesis 1 and 2.
Their King is, now, the Messiah himself.
For the Lord... will beautify the meek with salvation. “Will beautify” is translated “crowns” in NIV! (cp. Psa. 142:7). Everyone, therefore, who is interested in salvation should be just as interested in meekness. Is this so?
Now, more than ever, the saints are joyful in the Glory of the Lord.
The two-edged sword is clearly not literal regarding the Messiah, since such a “sword” proceeds out of his mouth (Isa. 49:2; Matt. 10:34; Rev. 1:16; 2:12,16; 19:15). The point is: when Christ speaks, it is done — surely and without delay — whether it be blessing or judgment:

“Those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me” (Luke 19:27).

So, as regards the saints, the two-edged sword is a vivid figure for their declared message of the Word of God (Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:12, 17; 1 Cor. 1:26-29; 2 Cor. 6:7). With a declaration of God’s word and power in their lips, they will begin to pull down every stronghold of men’s minds which they have set up as defenses against the truth and reality of God (2 Cor. 10:4-6). Thus they will conquer the world, not so much by swords, as “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” (Rev. 12:11). (Is such a sword “two-edged” because it contains both Old Testament and New Testament? Or because it can either convert or condemn?)
To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron (Rev. 2:25-27; 19:15,16; 2 Thes. 1:7,8). These are judgments especially upon the Arab nations for the “holocaust” they have perpetrated against Jewry.

“Fetters of iron” is surely figurative in Psa. 105:22, where “binding” may possibly mean “instructing” — such an interpretation would not be out of place here.
To execute upon them the judgments written. Isaiah 34 and 63:1-6, and not a few other prophecies, will surely find a second and greater fulfillment in this assertion of divine authority.

3. Postscript

In the pages of The Christadelphian for 1892 there was proposed a new “National Anthem” — English, of course! — based on this Psalm 149:

God send forth Zion’s King,
Make now our hearts to sing:
        God send thy King!
Send him victorious,
Life-giving glorious,
Our great Head o’er us:
        God send thy King!

O Lord our God arise,
Scatter thy enemies,
        And make them fall!
Judah thy battle bow,
Lay thou the nations low,
Thy presence make them know,
        Ruler of all!

Thy choicest gifts in store,
Through him be pleased to pour;
        Make thy truth plain!
Send forth now Zion’s laws,
Plead thou thine own great cause,
While to Earth’s utmost shores
        Jesus shall reign!
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