“Bless ye God in the congregations, even the Lord, from the fountain of Israel. There is little Benjamin with their ruler, the princes of Judah and their council, the princes of Zebulun, and the princes of Naphtali. Thy God hath commanded thy strength: strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us.”—Psal. 68:26–28.
This Psalm was sung, it is probable, on the removal of the ark into the city of David, Numb. 10. It was now that the ark had rest, and the tribes assembled three times a year at Jerusalem, the place that God had chosen.
The text is a lively description of their worship.
I. Offer a few remarks by way of expounding the passage. 1. Israel had their lesser congregations in ordinary every sabbath day, and their national ones three times a year. Their business in all was to bless God. 2. This business was to be carried on by all Israel, beginning at the fountain-head, and proceeding through all its streams. God had blessed Israel; let Israel bless God. 3. All the tribes are supposed to be present; four are mentioned in the name of the whole as inhabiting the confines of the land. Their union was a source of joy; they had been divided by civil wars, but now they are met together. 4. Those tribes which are named had each something particular attending it. Little Benjamin (see Judg. 21) had nearly been a tribe lacking in Israel, but now appears with its ruler. Judah had been at war with Benjamin: Saul was a Benjamite; David was of Judah: yet they happily lost their antipathies in the worship of God. Zebulun and Naphtali were distant tribes, yet they were there! dark too—yet there. 5. The princes and the people were all together. 6. They were supposed to be strong, but were reminded that what they had of strength was of God’s commanding. Their union and success, as well as that degree of righteousness among them which exalted the nation, was of God. 7. They are not so strong but that they need strengthening, and are directed to pray as well as praise. “Strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us.”
II. Apply the subject. Two things are here exemplified, namely, diligence and brotherly union; and three things recommended, namely, united praise—united acknowledgment that, for what they are, they are indebted to God—and united prayer for future mercies. Each of these affords a rule for us.
1. The worship of God must be attended with diligence. There are the princes of Zebulun and Naphtali. They had to travel about 200 miles three times a year, thither and back again, that is, 1200 in a year, twenty-four miles a week. Those who neglect the worship of God for little difficulties show that their heart is not in it; and when they do attend, cannot expect to profit: “they have snuffed at it.” Those whose hearts are in it often reap great advantage. God blessed the Israelites in their journeys, as well as when there, Psal. 84:6, “the rain filleth the pools;” and so Christians. There is a peculiar promise to those that seek him early.
2. The worship of God must be attended to with brotherly love. All the tribes must go up together. It is a kind law that enjoins social worship; we need each other to stimulate. “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” God has made us so that we shall be greatly influenced by each other, both to good and evil. It greatly concerns us to cultivate such a spirit; to this end we must cherish an affectionate behaviour in our common intercourse—bear, forbear, and forgive; and whatever differences we may have, not suffer them to hinder our worship. The tribes, as we have seen, had their differences, yet they were there. When all Israel met at Hebron to anoint David king, what should we have said if some had kept away because others went?
3. Our business, when assembled, must be to bless God in our congregations; and a pleasant work this is. Israel had reasons, and great reasons—and Christians more. Thank him for his unspeakable gift—bless him for the means of grace and the hopes of glory. Bless him—he “healeth all thy diseases,” &c., Psal. 103. This is an employment that fits for heaven. The tears of a mourner in God’s house were supposed to defile his altar. We may mourn for sin; but a fretful, discontented, and unthankful spirit defiles God’s altar still.
4. Another part of our business is to unite in acknowledging that, whatever we are, we owe it to God alone: “Thy God hath commanded thy strength.” We possess a degree of strength both individually and socially. Art thou strong in faith, in hope, in zeal? It is in Him thou art strong. Are we strong as a society? It is God that increased us with men like a flock; it is he that keeps us in union, gives us success, &c.
5. Another part of our business must be to unite in prayer for future mercies. We are not so strong, either as individuals or societies, but that there is room for increase, and this is the proper object of prayer. God has wrought a great work for us in regeneration. God has wrought much for us as a church in giving us increase, respect, and room in the earth. Pray that each may be increased; or, in the words of the text, “Strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us.”
Are there none who are strangers to all this?
Fuller, A. G. (1988). “Public Worship,” Sermon XLVIII. Sermons and Sketches. The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.; Vol. 1, pp. 443–444). Sprinkle Publications.