Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee - The rage of Sennacherib shall only serve to manifest thy glory. The stronger he is, and the more he threatens, and the weaker thy people, the more shall thy majesty and mercy appear in his destruction and their support.
The remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain - The Hebrew gives rather a different sense: "Thou shalt gird thyself with the remainder of wrath." Even after thou hast sent this signal destruction upon Sennacherib and his army, thou wilt continue to pursue the remnant of the persecutors of thy people; their wrath shall be the cause of the excitement of thy justice to destroy them. As a man girds himself with his girdle, that he may the better perform his work, so thou wilt gird thyself with wrath, that thou mayest destroy thy enemies. A good maxim has been taken from this verse: "God often so counterworks the evil designs of men against his cause and followers, that it turns out to their advantage and his glory; nor does he permit them to go to the extent of what they have purposed, and of what they are able to perform. He suffers them to do some mischief, but not all they would or can do." But how different is the reading of the Vulgate! Quoniam cogitatio hominis confitebitur tibi: et reliquiae cogitationis diem festum agent tibi: "The thought of man shall praise thee; and the remains of thought shall celebrate a feast day to thee." The Septuagint and the Ethiopic have understood the text in the same way. Some translate thus: "Certainly, the ferocity of the man (Sennacherib) shall praise thee: and thou shalt gird thyself with the spoils of the furious." The spoils of this great army shall be a booty for thy people. Probably this is the true notion of the place. The old Psalter renders it thus: For thoght of man sal schrife (confess) to the, and levyngs (remains) of thoght a feste day till the sal wirk. The paraphrase is curious, of which this is the substance: "When man forsakes perfitly his synne, and sithen (afterwards) rightwisness werks; it is a feste day; whenne the conscience is clered, and makes feste with the swetnes of goddes lufe, restand fra besynes of any creatur in erth: Than is God at hame with his spouse dwelland."
Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee - It shall be the occasion of praise; or, honor shall accrue to thee from it, “as if” it were employed in thy praise, and “as if” it were voluntarily engaged in promoting thy glory. The deliverance of the people by the direct interposition of God in the case referred to in the psalm, the sudden and entire overthrow of the invading forces by his power, led to this reflection. The overruling power of God was displayed. The “wrath” of the invading host had given occasion for this manifestation of the divine perfections; or, in other words, his character would not have been displayed in this manner if it had not been for these wicked purposes of people. It is not that there was anything in the wrath itself, or in their plans or intentions, that was in itself “adapted” to honor God; but that it was overruled by him, so that he took “occasion” from it to display his own character.
The wicked conduct of a child is an “occasion” for the display of the just character and the wise administration of a parent; the act of a pirate, a rebel, a murderer, furnishes an “occasion” for the display of the just principles of law, and the stability and power of a government. In like manner, the sins of the wicked are made an occasion for the display of the divine perfections in maintaining law; in the administering of justice; in preserving order. But there is another sense, also, in which the wrath of man is made the occasion for glorifying God. It is, that since there is such wrath, or since there are such wicked purposes, God makes use of that wrath, or of those wicked purposes, as he does of the powers of nature - of pestilence, disease, and storms, as instruments to accomplish his own designs, or to bring about great results. Thus he made use of the treasonable purpose of Judas, and the mad passions and the angry feelings of the Jews, in bringing about the work of redemption by the death of his Son; thus be made use of the purposes of Sennacherib in order to punish his own people (see the notes at Isaiah 10:5-7); thus he employed Cyrus to “execute his counsel” Isaiah 46:10; and thus he made use of the wrath evinced in persecuting the church to secure its permanent establishment in the world. Whether these things could be accomplished “without” that wrath, is a question which is too high for man to determine. It is certain, also, that the fact that God overrules the wrath of people does not justify that wrath. The purposes of people are, like the pestilence and the storm, what they are in themselves; and the nature of their conduct is not affected by any use that God may make of it. People must be judged according to their own deeds, not for what God does through their wickedness.
The remainder of wrath - The word “remainder” here - שׁארית she'êrı̂yth - means properly “part;” what remains, especially after a defeat or slaughter - the “survivors” of a battle, Jeremiah 11:23; Jeremiah 44:14; Micah 7:18; Zephaniah 2:7. Gesenius renders it here (Lexicon) “extreme wrath,” retained even in extremity. The Septuagint, ἐγκατάλειμμα engkataleimma - “the things which are left.” So the Vulgate, “reliquice.” Luther, “When men rage against thee, thou turnest it to honor; and when they rage yet more, thou art yet prepared.” Venema supposes that the meaning is the whole wrath. As in Arabic the word used here means “wholeness,” or the whole of anything; and according to this, the idea would be that it was not merely wrath in general, or in a general sense, that would be made use of, but all that there was in wrath; it would all be made use of in advancing the divine purposes. The allusion seems to be to something that had been laid up in a magazine - as provision or arms, when the soldier went forth to war - which he would make use of if necessary, so that “all” might be ultimately consumed or employed. The control of God was over “this” as well as over that which was actually employed; he could overrule that which was employed. He could restrain people from at all using this that was kept in reserve. The idea seems to be that all the “wrath” which is “manifested” among people would be made to praise God, or would be overruled for his glory - and “all” which would “not” contribute to this end he would keep back, he would check; he would prevent its being put forth - so that “all” should be under his control, and “all” disposed of as he should will. There was nothing in the heart or the purposes of man that was beyond his jurisdiction or control; man could do nothing in his wrathful plans that God could not dispose of in his own way, and for his own honor.
Shalt thou restrain - The word used here - חגר châgar - means literally to bind around; to gird; to gird up, as of a garment or sword that is girded on, 1 Samuel 17:39; 1 Samuel 25:13; Psalm 45:3; or sackcloth, Isaiah 15:3; Jeremiah 49:3. The Septuagint renders this, “and the remainder of wrath shall make a feast to thee,” ἐορτάσει σοί heortasei soi - that is, it shall praise or honor thee as in a festival. So the Vulgate. Prof. Alexander renders it, “Shalt thou gird about thee;” that is, God would gird it on as a sword, and would make use of it as a weapon for executing his own purposes. So DeWette, “And with the last wrath thou shalt gird thyself.” Others render it, “Thou restrainest the remainder of thy wrath” - that is, punishment - “when the wrath of man will not promote the knowledge of thyself” It seems to me, however, that our translators have expressed the exact idea in the psalm; and the meaning is, that the whole of the wrath of man is under the control of God, and that whatever there is, or would be, in the manifestation of that wrath, or in carrying out the purposes of the heart, which could not, in the circumstances, be made to promote his glory, or which would do injury, he would check and restrain. He would suffer it to proceed no further than he chose, and would make it certain that there should be no exhibition of wrathful feelings on the part of man which would not, in some way, be made to promote his honor, and to advance his own great purposes. He has absolute control over the passions of people, as he has over the pestilence, over earthquakes, and over storms, and can make all tributary to his glory, and executioners of his will.
When the monarch heard these words, he saw at once the snare that had been set for his faithful servant. He saw that it was not zeal for kingly glory and honor, but jealousy against Daniel, that had led to the proposal for a royal decree. “Sore displeased with himself” for his part in the evil that had been wrought, he “labored till the going down of the sun” to deliver his friend. The princes, anticipating this effort on the part of the king, came to him with the words, “Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, that no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed.” The decree, though rashly made, was unalterable and must be carried into effect. PK 543.1
“Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, He will deliver thee.” A stone was laid on the mouth of the den, and the king himself “sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of music brought before him: and his sleep went from him.” PK 543.2
God did not prevent Daniel's enemies from casting him into the lions’ den; He permitted evil angels and wicked men thus far to accomplish their purpose; but it was that He might make the deliverance of His servant more marked, and the defeat of the enemies of truth and righteousness more complete. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee” (Psalm 76:10), the psalmist has testified. Through the courage of this one man who chose to follow right rather than policy, Satan was to be defeated, and the name of God was to be exalted and honored. PK 543.3Read in context »
“The wrath of man shall praise Thee,” says the psalmist; “the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain.” God means that testing truth shall be brought to the front and become a subject of examination and discussion, even if it is through the contempt placed upon it. The minds of the people must be agitated. Every controversy, every reproach, every slander, will be God's means of provoking inquiry and awakening minds that otherwise would slumber. 5T 453.1
Thus it has been in the past history of God's people. For refusing to worship the great golden image which Nebuchadnezzar had set up, the three Hebrews were cast into the fiery furnace. But God preserved His servants in the midst of the flames, and the attempt to enforce idolatry resulted in bringing the knowledge of the true God before the assembled princes and great men of the vast kingdom of Babylon. 5T 453.2
So when the decree went forth forbidding prayer to any God save the king. As Daniel, according to his custom, made his supplications three times a day to the God of heaven, the attention of the princes and rulers was called to his case. He had an opportunity to speak for himself, to show who is the true God, and to present the reason why He alone should receive worship, and the duty of rendering Him praise and homage. And the deliverance of Daniel from the den of lions was another evidence that the Being whom he worshiped was the true and living God. 5T 453.3Read in context »
“In Judah is God known:
His name is great in Israel.
In Salem also is His tabernacle,
And His dwelling place in Zion.
There brake He the arrows of the bow,
The shield, and the sword, and the battle. PK 362.1
“Thou art more glorious and excellent
Than the mountains of prey.
The stouthearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep:
And none of the men of might have found their hands.
At Thy rebuke, O God of Jacob,
Both the chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep. PK 362.2
“Thou, even Thou, art to be feared:
And who may stand in Thy sight when once Thou art angry?
Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven;
The earth feared, and was still,
When God arose to judgment,
To save all the meek of the earth. PK 362.3