A Reading on the Psalms: Book 1

Psalm 1‑41  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Listen from:
In the Psalms you will find that which is a common principle of prophecy:—The writer expresses his own circumstances and feelings, and yet the prophecy reaches beyond to the future. Just as in Isaiah, where Sennacherib’s invasion is recorded, you find what really goes on to the invasion of the Assyrian in the last days.
The First and Second Psalms are part of a series ending with the Eighth; but they are distinct in themselves, and give the general idea of the whole book, so that they form a kind of preface or introduction to the whole Book of Psalms.
The difference between these Psalms is taken up in the second part of Isaiah’s prophecy, after the typical history of Hezekiah in chs. 36-39. The First Psalm answers to Isaiah, chs. 40-48; the Second Psalm to Isa. 49-57 Both series in Isaiah go on the ground that it is only a remnant of the people whom God would recognize; and both end with the blessing of this remnant, and with the declaration that “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”
The former division in Isaiah takes up the question of Jehovah and Idols, and the remnant’s obedience to the law and trust in Jehovah. This answers to Psa. 1
In the latter division, commencing at ch. 49, Christ takes the place of Israel as Jehovah’s servant, and the remnant is distinguished by their reception of Christ. This answers to Psa. 2.
In Psa. 1 it is the description of the remnant’s character, and so we have them meditating in the law of Jehovah. In Psa. 2 it is Christ, and we have the nation rejecting Him. Is it the crucifixion in Psa. 2?
We are really in the last days. Peter quotes its beginning (Acts 4), and applies it to Israel for their rejection of Christ; but in the Old Testament Church—time is dropped out—thus from the fourth verse the Psalm leaps over all the time from the crucifixion to the Millennium. There we have the Adonai sitting in the heavens. He shall laugh at them, and have them in derision.
It is the same principle as we see in Luke 4, where the Lord quotes Isa. 61:1,2. He stops in the middle of the verse, because the end is vengeance at the second coming. In ch. 1 of John’s Gospel we see Nathanael owning the Lord as Son of God, and King of Israel, according to His Messianic glory in Psa. 2; and the Lord says, “You shall see greater things than these;” and in the last verse He takes the glory of the Son of Man, according to Psa. 8. It should be “Henceforth ye shall see, Him; not hereafter. The moment Christ was on earth, there was an adequate object for heaven to open upon; the angels ascend and descend upon the Son of Man. The Eighth Psalms is quoted by Paul in Eph. 1, 1 Cor. 15, and Heb. 2, to show that He, as “Son of Man,” is set over all things which God has made. “Son of Man” is a wider title than “Christ.” You will find in Matt. 16 that the Lord tells His disciples not to say He is “The Christ,” for He was about to suffer as “Son of Man.” (See Luke 9:20-22.)
After having the preface to the whole book in Psa. 1 we have, from Psa. 3-8, the position of the godly remnant consequent thereon, and their different exercises in sorrow and suffering while the Messiah is rejected.
Who are the wicked in Psa. 1?
The ungodly Jews.
In Psa. 3-7 you see the godly remnant in three distinguishing characters or positions; Confidence; Personal righteousness; and Guilty, though obeying the word all the time.
1. You get confidence in God through all their trials, as in Psa. 3
2. Personal righteousness, so that they can appeal to God as the God of my righteousness, as in Psa. 4
3. Guilty, and so deprecating God’s anger, as in Psa. 6, “O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger,” for they know they deserve it. But sins are not acknowledged and confessed until Ps. 25, when atonement has come in and laid the ground for it in Psa. 22
Psa. 8 doses the series: and the Son of Man is set over all the works of God’s hands. It is the language of the now delivered remnant.
What is the difference between Jehovah and Adonai?
Adonai is Lordship; Jehovah is perpetuity, the covenant name with Israel The One who was, and is, and is to come. The Originator and the Fulfiller of the promises.
In Psa. 9,10. we have the historical statements of the circumstances of the Remnant in the last days in the land. Here we find the judgment of the heathen and God is known in Israel by the judgment He executes. In Psa. 10 we have the description of the wicked, “Lurking in the secret places of the villages,” &c. The wicked man is the character of Antichrist. Sometimes in the Psalms it is plural, and sometimes it is characteristic, and sometimes it rises up to Antichrist personally. In Psa. 10:18 it is characteristic.
From Psa. 11-15 we have the thoughts and feelings of the Remnant, when in the circumstances of Psa. 9 and 10. This is a general principle in the Psalms. We have a Psalm or Psalms describing a certain condition of things, and then a series of Psalms following, which bring out the feelings and exercises of the Remnant consequent thereon.
In Psa. 14 we have the Atheist. Here the evil has reached its climax in God’s sight. Psa. 15 is the character of the righteous, and describes who the person is who shall ascend into the Hill of the Lord, when the Lord shall have established the seat of His righteous power in Zion,
In Psa. 16 and 17, we have the two great principles that characterize the remnant: confidence and personal righteousness. Here we have Christ Himself. These Psalms form part of a series, but the distinction between this series and the previous one is that here we have the connection of Christ Himself with the remnant. Ps. 17 is Christ’s confidence in God as man: “In thee do I put my trust;” the Psalm closes with the fruit of trust, in enjoying God Himself: “In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Psa. 16 is personal righteousness, and it ends with the fruit of righteousness in being like Him: “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” Christians are like Him now (1 John 4:17), also they shall be when they see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). They have both.
What does Hades mean in Psa. 16?
Hades means anything you please out of this world. In Greek it means “unseen.” Heaven was not revealed until Christ went there, though the existence of the soul after death was known. David says of his child, “I shall go to him,” It is he and the separate soul together. Samuel says to Saul, “Thou shalt be with me,” but as to where they went, all was unknown, invisible, dark. They did not know where they went. The thief on the cross first threw light upon it. Christ revealed the happy state in which he should be with Him, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” In Psa. 16:10, we see that the soul and the body go to different and distinct places.1
In Psa. 17 we see the world given to the wicked. It is the principle brought out and answered in Dives and Lazarus in a future state. “Thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and thou art tormented.”
Psa. 18. We have here the sufferings of the Messiah the central ground of all the history of Israel from Egypt to the glory in the Millennium. His death is the ground for God’s dealings in grace with them. They were delivered from Egypt on the ground of Christ’s sufferings. The Passover, the Red Sea, &c., were all figures of it. And this principle is true of every saved soul from Abel downwards. No doubt, when David wrote the Psalm, he was feeling it all in his own circumstances; but this is, as we have seen, a common principle in prophecy, and especially so in the Psalms.
This Psalm celebrates especially Jehovah Himself, the Deliverer, and still declares the speaker’s dependence on Him. This is the thesis of the Psalm. It then, as is the usual form of the Psalms, goes through all the circumstances, which lead the soul up to what is celebrated in the first verse or verses. In vv. 4, 5, Christ is seen, the sorrows of death compassing Him, and the floods of ungodly men besetting Him. In v. 6 you have the cry to Jehovah; then in vv. 7-16 you get Israel delivered from Egypt, and brought through the Red Sea, through Messiah’s sufferings, though doubtless these are spoken of in a mysterious form. In vv. 17-27 we have Christ as God’s Israel, perfect in trial, and the value of this towards the remnant’s godliness; and then from v. 28, to the end, the coming in of power in deliverance to Christ, and through Him to Israel in the last days. In v. 43, He is the Head of the heathen, so that we get to the Millennium. In v. 44, all come and submit, “yield feigned obedience,” as in the margin, they tell lies; it is power subduing, but not faith.
Who speaks in ver. 20?
The language is only true essentially of Christ; and yet from the last verse we know it is David who speaks, as also from 2 Sam. 22:1, where we find the occasion on which it was composed.
Psa. 19 takes up the two testimonies of God. His works in Creation, and His Word:2 Creation is a witness to God; only as sin has come in and marred the earth, we have only the heavens mentioned as declaring the glory of God. The law is a witness to Jehovah.
Psa. 20 We have the third testimony here, in Christ, who is God’s witness, in the day of His distress, the object of the remnant’s sympathy as the dependent One, and of their trust as the exalted King.
Psa. 21 We have an exalted Christ, the answer to Psa. 20 in terms. Thus we have had the testimony of Creation, of the Law, and of Israel, and now the testimony of Christ completes all the testimonies of God.
Up till now we have men against Him in His sufferings, but in Psa. 22 we have God judging sin in His Person in atonement; consequently we have no judgment on man, but a tide of blessing flowing out, first to the remnant, then to all Israel, then to the ends of the earth, and lastly to those born in the Millennium. In v. 22 you have John 20, when Christ declares His Father’s name to His brethren; and then you have Him in v. 25, praising in the great congregation of Israel.
Psa. 23 The result of Psa. 22 is that the sheep are taken care of.
Can we look upon Christ here as one of the sheep?
No; but He goes before them in the path of dependence and confidence in Jehovah, and thus He puts Himself among them. But the Psalm speaks of the remnant, though
Christ entered into their place of dependence, taking Jehovah as the Shepherd.
In Psalms 24 we have Christ taking His place of glory in the temple on earth, and owned there as. Jehovah.
In Psa. 25-34 Christ having made atonement, we have the state and feelings of the remnant in respect of this work and its results, which have been brought out in Psalms.
Is Psa. 40 the same view of the sufferings as Psa. 23
It takes in a wider range, and shows the root of it all in the eternal counsels. “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.”
In Psa. 25 Israel can confess their sins, because atonement has been made. Here it is the general truth of their sinfulness. In Psa. 51 it is the confession of blood-guiltiness, owning their guilt in the rejection and death of Christ. It is not that they know atonement for their deliverance and peace; this will not be, till they see Him, and look upon Him whom they have pierced; but they can confess sins, because atonement has been made, without the personal comfort resulting from the fact of its application to themselves being known. But Psa. 40 is Christ Himself in the most distinct way. It is taken up in Heb. 10 here it is not the fact of His sufferings in atonement that is before us, but the counsel and will of God which He has accomplished therein.
In Psa. 41 “Blessed is the man that understandeth (not considereth) the poor,” in contrast with the pretensions of the proud. Christ takes this place of the poor and, needy in v. 17 of Psa. 40 Christ is really the poor man here, but not exclusively. In Psa. 41, blessed is the one who recognizes those in such a state. In Amos 2:6, the judgment falls upon Israel, because of their conduct towards the poor, Zech. 11 takes this up definitely, and Christ takes up the poor of the flock. It is our place. I don’t know how far we realize it, though we have hymns written for the poor of the flock. It is just what it ought to be with us: 9 is true of Christ. There it is speaking practically of Judas, but not only of him, for in the Psalms we are in the last days so in v. 1, it is not only Christ, but all the poor of the flock.
In the first Psalm it is, Blessed is the man who keeps the law; this book ends with “Blessed is he that understandeth the poor!” The two things that characterize Israel. They are blessed in doing it.
In Psa. 1 we have the blessing in loving God. Psa. 41 in loving one’s neighbor. In this book, it is the remnant and Christ both rejected, but the remnant is not cast out of Jerusalem. It is only the Jews in this book, and not Israel. The ten tribes do not come in till the Third book. The two sticks in Ezekiel represent—the one, the house of Judah and the children of Israel his companions; the other, the stick of Ephraim, and all the house of Israel, his companions. So that the Jewish remnant includes the children of Israel, who came up with the two tribes at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. We find, in Luke 2, Anna was of the tribe of Asher, and Elizabeth was of the daughters of Aaron.
We have now come to the end of the first Book of Psalms.
1. Till the Resurrection—Ed.
2. The “Law” or “Doctrine of Jehovah.”-ED.