If we may be allowed to compare this Psalm with the former ones, and the next, which is the last, the only difference is, that while the author of the Psalm, whoever he was, has hitherto spoken of God's special care and protection of his Church in connection with the common providential government of the world, here he speaks of his benefits to the Church exclusively. In the next Psalm mention is only made of the power of God in general.
1. Sing ye to Jehovah a new song: his praise is in the congregation of the merciful. 2. Let Israel rejoice in his Maker: let the sons of Zion rejoice their king.1 3. Let them praise his name on the pipe,2 on the timbrel3 and the harp let them sing psalms to him. 4. Because Jehovah hath taken pleasure in his people; he will glorify the poor unto salvation.
1. Sing to Jehovah a new song. This exordium proves what I have just said, that the exhortation now given is addressed only to God's people; for the singular goodness which is particularly extended to them affords more ample matter of praise. The probable conjecture is, that the Psalm was composed at the time when the people were begun to rejoice, or after they had returned to their native country from the Babylonish captivity. We will see from the context that a promise is given of recovery from their ruined condition. The object, I think, of the Psalmist, is to encourage them to expect the full and complete deliverance, some prelude of which had been suddenly and unexpectedly given in the permission to return. As the Church was not fully restored at once, but was with difficulty and only after a long period brought to a state of vigor, comfort such as this was much needed. The Spirit of God would also furnish a remedy for evils which were afterwards to break out; for the Church had scarcely begun to respire when it was again harassed with various evils, and oppressed by the cruel tyranny of Antiochus, which was followed up by a dreadful dispersion. The Psalmist had good reason therefore for animating the godly to look forward for the full accomplishment of the mercy of God, that they might be persuaded of divine protection until such time as the Messiah should arise who would gather all Israel. He calls this a new song, as we have noticed elsewhere, to distinguish it from those with which the saints commonly and daily praised God, for praise is their continued exercise. It follows that he speaks of some rare and unusual benefit, demanding signal and particular thanksgiving. And I am disposed to think that whoever may have been the author of the Psalm, he alludes to that passage in Isaiah, (Isaiah 42:10,) "Sing unto the Lord a new song," when he speaks of the future restoration of the Church, and the eternal kingdom of Christ. In the second clause of the verse there is a promise implied. For though he proceeds to exhort the Lord's people to sing God's praises together, he hints along with this that the Church would coalesce again into one body, so as to celebrate God's praises in the solemn assembly. We know that so scattered were the Israelites, that the sacred songs ceased to be sung, as elsewhere they complain of being called upon to sing --
"How shall we sing the songs of the Lord in a strange land?" (Psalm 137:4.)
He bids them prepare therefore after this sad dispersion for holding their sacred assemblies again.
2. Let Israel rejoice in his Maker. He insists upon the same point, that the Lord's people should rest firmly persuaded that their family had not been chosen out in vain from the rest of the world, but that God would be mindful of his covenant, and not allow the mercies which he had extended to them to fail or become extinct. Although they had been temporarily deprived of the inheritance of the land of Canaan, which was the pledge of their adoption, the Psalmist calls God their Maker, and king of the sons of Zion, to remind them that when adopted to a pre-eminency above other nations, this was a species of new creation. So in Psalm 45:6, the Israelites are called "the work of God's hands," not merely because they were like other men created by him, but because he had formed them anew, and distinguished them with a new honor, that, of being separated front the whole human race. The name king has a wider signification, intimating that as this people was at first formed by God, so it was with the view of their being ever governed by his power. The musical instruments he mentions were peculiar to this infancy of the Church, nor should we foolishly imitate a practice which was intended only for God's ancient people. But the Psalmist confirms what has been already mentioned, that their religious assemblies which had been for a time interrupted would soon be restored, and they would call upon the name of the Lord in the due order of his worship.
4. For God hath taken pleasure in his people. We have spoken elsewhere of the verb hur, ratsah here it means free favor, the Psalmist saying that it was entirely of his good pleasure that God had chosen this people to himself. From this source flows what is added in the second clause, that God would give a new glory of deliverance to the afflicted. In the Hebrew Mywne, anavim, means poor and afflicted ones, but the term came afterwards to be applied to merciful persons, as bodily afflictions have a tendency to subdue pride, while abundance begets cruelty. The Psalmist accordingly mitigates the sadness of present evils by administering seasonable consolation, that God's people, when oppressed by troubles, might look forward with hope to the glorious deliverance which was yet unseen. The sum of the passage is -- that God, who had fixed his love upon his chosen people, could not possibly abandon them to such miseries as they now suffered under.