“Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.”
The joyful sound!
As the psalmist knew it, it was the sound of the trumpets.
Those silver trumpets, which Moses already commanded the children of Israel to make at the very beginning of their wilderness journey. Two of them. Made whole of one piece. Which the sons of Aaron were to blow, for the calling of assemblies, and for the journeying of the camp.
Trumpets to sound the alarm. For when the enemy approached, the people were to be warned of threatening danger. It was the call to arms!
Trumpets for the calling of assemblies. When the congregation must come to sacrifice and to worship. At morning and at evening, at the time when in holy convocation the offerings were brought. And on feast days, the Passover, Unleavened Bread, The First Fruits, Pentecost, Tabernacles, Lights, and the Great Day of Atonement.
Throughout their generations, and always at the appointed time, were these sons of Aaron to blow on these silver trumpets. So it had been throughout the long wilderness journey to the time of David, when Israel carried the tabernacle. And so it was at the time of Solomon and Rehoboam, when the temple had been constructed. And no different was it at the time of the poet, who was probably Ethan, the Ezrahite, one of the generations of Aaron, of the family of Merari. Him had David appointed, along with the sons of Kohath and Gershom to have charge of the music. Surely he would know the sound of the trumpet and its significance!
The joyful sound!
No matter how you looked at it, the sound was joyful!
Whether it was the sound of warning, of alarm, then it was a symbol of the fact that Jehovah guarded His people. He had called them to war His warfare. And no one could, deny that that sound was indeed joyful to the faithful in Israel.
Or, whether that sound called the people of God to holy convocations, then it was always the symbol of the call of Jehovah to His people to come unto Him, and to be partaker of the blessings the feast day prefigured. And who of the guileless children of God would not count that joyful?
O, indeed, it was a joyful sound! For the significance of that sound lay, first of all, in the fact that God was calling His people. Jehovah, the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God! And secondly, the significance of that sound lay in the symbolism of that of which the people were called to partake, namely, of the sure mercies of David!
Of this beautiful symbolism, we have the fulfillment!
We hear that joyful sound in the Gospel!
The days of the shadows have ended in fulfillment, in reality! The temple at Jerusalem lies in heaps. The altar has ceased to send up its sweet incense. The mantle of Aaron’s sons was torn forever in the attire of Caiaphas, the high priest. The sound of the silver trumpets no longer is heard.
Yet, the very essence of the shadows remained, and appeared in much more glorious beauty! There is still the holy temple of the Lord, not made with hands, but eternal in the heavens. There is still the High Priest, now no longer of the order of Aaron, but in the order of Melchizedek. Now the lamb and the priest are one, in the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, Jesus, the Great High Priest, who made the atonement for our sins, and ever liveth to make intercession for us. And still the sound significantly rings in our ears: I am Jehovah your covenant God. In Christ Jesus, My Son, Anointed Servant, I am reconciling the world unto Myself!
O glorious, beautiful, joyful sound! Which comes to us every Sabbath in the preaching of the Gospel! Through God-appointed ministers, who have no other business than to sound the joyful sound! Divinely ordained means of Grace! For such is the preaching of the Gospel, without which the Sacraments have no significance.
The contents of that Word is always joyous. For it speaks of salvation from misery and death. It speaks of life out of death. It gives light in our sin-darkened world. It is the promise of the covenant God to His covenant people. It is a savor of life unto them: while it is a savor of death unto the wicked.
Joyous that sound is in distinction from many other sounds! Many other sounds there are in the world: the sounds of misery and war, the sounds of feasting and merry-making: But the distinguishing element of them all is the ground tone in them all, namely, death. But in the midst of all these sounds is the joyful one! It is unique and melodious, because it is heavenly. It is as different as eternity is to time, as light to darkness, as life to death, as heaven to hell. The one, unique, living Word of God it is which speaks to us of atonement, which declares a righteousness wherewith we may appear before God, which proclaims a peace which surpasseth understanding, which tells of mercies of the Lord.
There is a people! A people who know that joyful sound!
The psalmist does not speak of himself, or of an individual. Though surely he, too, and perhaps most of all, knew the joyfulness of that sound. But he does not speak here of his own knowledge or blessedness. Nor does he say: Blessed is the man who knows the joyful sound. But he speaks of a people! He points to an organism, a commonwealth, an united whole. A people that is characterized by one tongue, with one aim and purpose. A people having a common origin and a common destiny. Hence, a very particular people! Chosen of God and precious! To whom God in sovereign mercy condescends, and calls them “My people,” and that people respond: “Our God!”
To them only is the sound joyful!
O, certainly, the sound is directed to more than this people, When the silver trumpets blasted from before the sanctuary in the wilderness, and from the temple hill, all who were in and about the city of God heard the sound of the trumpet. Syrians and Greeks, Edomites and Moabites, Romans and Barbarians, they all heard the sound if they were in proximity to the tabernacle or temple. They all knew in a measure what the sound meant. They knew it meant that the God of Israel was calling His people to worship. So, too, today, the sound of the Gospel goes out to all to whom God in His good pleasure sends it. And these include many more than the people of God.
But the sound of the Gospel is not joyful to all! Nor do all know, in the strict sense of the word, the joyful sound! To many the very sound is repulsive. Many would silence that sound. Nor does that sound of the Gospel efficaciously call all men into the blessed fellowship of the Covenant God, but it efficaciously works in the hearts of many who hear it hardening and rebellion. The Word of God has a twofold effect: it hardens those who reject it and evokes wrath and bitterness in them; while it mellows those whom it efficaciously calls. It evokes in them a hunger and a thirst after righteousness. It places in their hearts and on their lips paeans of praise. They know the sound, and to them it is joyful! Not only do they hear it, but they know it. There may be many children who hear the voice of a father calling his child, but really only the child hears and knows the voice of his father. Also there may be the sounds of many voices that fall upon the ear of the child, but the voice of his father he distinguishes because he knows it and to him it is joyful. So, too, there are many who hear the sound of the Gospel, but it is only the child of God who knows it. And there may be many sounds that fall on the ear of the child of God, but there is one he distinguishes from them all as the voice of Jesus, calling him to come unto Him for rest.
Blessed is that people!
The psalmist is enthralled with their blessedness!
Verily he says: O the blessedness of that people knowing the joyful sound! And he turns, as it were, to the God of that people, and says unto Him: O Lord, they shall walk in the light of Thy countenance!
You see, that people is not blessed apart from their God. All their blessedness is from Him. It was He who loved that people, and therefore chose them in sovereign grace. There was nothing in them that moved God to love and choose them. One time they were not a people of God. They were children of darkness and of wrath. They were like the children of this world, depraved in nature, haters of God and of one another. Incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all evil they were. Dead they were in trespasses and sins. Their mouth was an open sepulchre. Their feet were swift to shed blood. The way of peace they did not know. And the Lord God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them had gone back: they were altogether filthy. There was none that did any good, no, not one.
But God loved them, and He purposed to bless them, and make them blessed as He is blessed. So He came in the Person of His Son into their nature and redeemed them. He bore the burden of His own wrath to mitigate and atone for their sin and guilt. He merited righteousness for them and imputed that righteousness unto them. He gave unto them the Spirit of His Son our Lord Jesus Christ. He raised them from their spiritual death, renewing their hearts with the Spirit of regeneration. He justified them in their own consciences, and removed all bitterness and enmity, so giving to them His peace. He forgave all their sins, and laid in their hearts the Spirit of adoption, so that now they could respond, saying: Abba Father! And He called them efficaciously out of darkness into -His marvelous light. So they came to know the joyful sound that calls them, keeps on calling them, until they come to stand and to walk before His face, and bathe in the light of His countenance!
O indeed, that people is blessed, because their God has blessed them with all the riches of grace. To be blessed, is to be full, to lack nothing. This people lacks nothing. They are filled with all the fulness of grace in Christ Jesus!
No wonder the psalmist turns not to that people, but to their God!
Not they are to be thanked because they know the joyful sound. Not they are to be praised because they respond to that sound, and turn their faces once more in the direction of their God. Not they are to be lauded because they will walk in the light of God’s countenance.
But to God, Jehovah, their covenant God, be the praise and the thanksgiving, because He it is, and He alone, that makes that people to come and to walk in His presence!
Blessed God is the God of that people that is so blessed that they shall walk eternally before His face!
Blessed is the people now in principle, according to the measure that they know the joyful sound. For, according to that principle, they walk already in the light of God’s countenance. For they taste His favor. They enjoy His fellowship. They walk with Him and talk with Him, and they are not consumed.
The light of Jehovah’s face is terrible, it is a consuming fire over against all the workers of iniquity. Yea, our God is a consuming fire! But, behold, this people walk in His presence and are not consumed. In His presence they live! In that presence they behold all the radiation of His virtues.
Presently they shall experience this blessedness in eternal perfection! Then they shall know, even as they are known. Then they shall see His face perfectly, which now they see as in a darkened glass. When He shall appear, then they shall be like Him, for they shall see Him as He is.