Book 1, Psalms 1- 41

Psalm 1‑41  •  6.4 hr. read  •  grade level: 11
Psalm 1
THAT this and the following Psalm are without any prefatory title is perhaps to be accounted for by a reference to the nature of their respective subjects. They differ from most of those which follow in this respect, that the things of which the Spirit here treats had had no earlier typical shadow or historical prefigurement.
This opening Psalm presents to us an estimate of perfect human character, when tried in the furnace of an evil world, and determinately ascertained in the pure light of the Divine presence. It describes the blessedness of the righteous Man; of one who is absolutely such, and therefore worthy of Divine honor and commendation, as having himself honored in his place the righteous God.
The outline which this Psalm displays is such as can be filled up adequately by the Person of the Christ alone. It is a sketch, if one may so speak, delineated by the Holy Ghost, as the Spirit of prophecy, of Jesus under His especial character of Jehovah's perfect servant.1 The Just One, found in fashion as a man, 2 is before us in this portrait. Let us notice some of its more prominent features.
Verses 1, 2. There is a twofold praise awarded in the blessing here pronounced upon the righteous Man. First, that of negative righteousness and purity of way: “that walketh not,"3 etc.; and, secondly that of positive obedience and entire devotedness to God: "his delight is in the law of Jehovah; and in His law doth he meditate day and night."
This description is true of Jesus in both its parts, and of Him alone. It is indeed true of every believer, that because he is himself “of God," he delights in the law of God in his inward man. But in every instance this principle of holiness is held, in afflictive and distressful bondage, in a body of sin and death. It is a thing not only foreign to his old nature, but directly opposed to it in every way. It is the result of his union with Him, who is made of God the Sanctification of every believer.4 Being such, it is practically maintainable only by the faith of Him.5 While, therefore, it is the privilege of every divinely-taught soul to rejoice with thanksgiving to God, who already gives us victory in Christ, the believer's experimental condition is one of necessary conflict. For there is a perpetually opposing principle of indwelling evil, which will cease to act only with the mortal pulse of this body of humiliation, in which we groan, as burdened, until the long-promised time of our change be come.6
Apart from the knowledge of completed deliverance in Christ, the desire of holiness in an awakened soul becomes an augmentation of personal wretchedness. For by the law is the knowledge of sin. The seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is deeply instructive as to this. Let us, however, carefully remark that such experience as is there described, though not infrequently for a time the bitter bread of an afflicted Christian's soul, is never rightly so. Christ is the life, and peace with God the settled portion, of the sinner once justified by faith. What he is in himself has come to its perpetual end in the cross of the Son of God. It is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, and not the law of sin and death in himself, which is now the true index of the believer's condition in the sight of God.7
The law works death to ruined nature. But to the Holy One it was the delight of His life while a stranger here below. He wrought its perfect righteousness in full, unqualified devotedness to the Father. Loving Him entirely, He delighted wholly in His will. This was His perpetual relation to Jehovah, as the born son of a woman. And now, having carried for our sakes His gracious obedience to the cross, He is become, by His resurrection from the dead, the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth. It is in the power of redemption, and by virtue only of his union with his risen Savior, that the believer finds morally and by imputation his own place in this Psa.8
Verse 3 expresses the result of this perfect righteousness, according to the just award of God. Already we see Jesus crowned with glory and honor.9 The Psalm which follows will open this more fully. We have here the indefinite, because absolute, promise of perpetual peace and blessing. Quietness and assurance for ever, with all prosperity, and comely and abundant praise, are the portion of sustained obedience. Blessing and being blessed is the abiding estate of the just Man, whom God honors with a worthy recompense.
But, Verses 4, 5 contrast with this a different scene. The crowning of the righteous is an act of the same judgment which likewise determines the portion of the ungodly. The solemn counterpart of the foregoing picture of righteous blessedness is now presented in general terms. “The ungodly are not so." The absolute negation of all that constitutes human happiness in the Divine presence, is the recorded lot of those whom Jehovah will punish, in the day of visitation, with everlasting destruction from His presence. They have no place in the assembly of the righteous. It is a solemn word, fitted to render yet more precious to the Christian the love of Him who is his Deliverer from this coming wrath. It may strike, on the other hand, as a note of warning on the ear of one who has yet to learn what it means to be at peace with God, that he may hasten, while yet the door of hope remains unclosed, to escape the fearful judgment of that day.
The concluding verse addresses itself comfortably to the hearts of all who bear in any measure the reproach of Christ. While proving the afflictions of the Gospel in any wise, they are cheered in the exercise of faith and patience by the sweet remembrance that the Lord has knowledge of His people's ways. His eyes, which scrutinize the hearts of men, are on them, for good, and not for evil. Their path of trial will be found to lead to the brightness of eternal glory, when the end of the ungodly is as the smoke of a perpetual flame.10
With respect to the full prophetic scope of this Psalm, it seems to extend to post-millennial times; to the time of the new heaven and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.11 Both the conduct and the rewards here reviewed are based upon those eternal principles which will have their complete, and tranquil, and permanently undisturbed results, only when God shall be all in all. There is a limit beyond which the dispensational mutations of Divine government do not extend. The Son, when He shall have accomplished His millennial reign, to the glory of the Father, will render back the kingdom, in order that a changeless eternity may succeed, in which He will rejoice to confess subjection to the Father, that God may be all in all.12
The new earth, which is to appear upon the vanishing of the old, will be the acceptable abode of God. His tabernacle will then be in continuance among men.13 Their ways, searched thoroughly, and altogether open to the Holy One, will be found to be only righteousness. Judgment will have clean gone by; and no offending thing will any more remain to pollute the presence and defile the rest of God. He will take a perpetual pleasure in His new and faultless work—a work which will await no time of change, but is the end and full perfection of His way.14
In the Millennium there will doubtless be a large and triumphant illustration of the doctrine of this Psalm. Israel will then be known and honored as the righteous nation of Jehovah—His elect.15 Their work will prosper, because they will themselves be standing in the full results of that which God had wrought for them, through the gracious obedience of the Just One unto death.16
This subject will be amply opened as we advance further in the Psalms. Meanwhile, in the expression, "whatsoever he doeth shall prosper," the Church already finds her blessed place as the first-fruits of the travail of Him who seemed to spend His strength for naught. Earthly rather than heavenly results are, however, here presented. The proper interest of the Church in these things, as the anointed bride of the Lamb, will appear more distinctly in the sequel.
It may be remarked, in conclusion, that in the creature, righteousness is obedience; just as sin is lawlessness.17 Jesus naturally delighted in the law of God. God was His exceeding joy. It is, on the other hand, the saving grace which, by the redeeming blood of Jesus, brings us nigh to God, and makes us personally acceptable in the Worthy One, that teaches the believer to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts.18
Psalm 2
THIS Psalm contains a solemn record, by the Spirit of prophecy, of the Divine counsels with respect to this earth and its inhabitants, as they stand related to the Person and manifested dominion of Messiah, the Son of God.
Its scope is limited. For although, as we shall presently see, the heavens are made mention of as the seat of Divine majesty in its excellent glory, the true sphere within which the action of the Psalm confines itself is exclusively the present earth.
It opens with a statement of the confederacy of human wickedness in rebellious counsel against Jehovah and His Christ (verses 1-3). The will of God and His commandments are evermore a grievance to corrupted nature. They are as bands and cords.
The quotation which is made elsewhere19 of the first two verses of this Psalm assures us plainly, that by the rejection of the holy child Jesus at His first advent, these words have been, in principle at least, fulfilled. This was manifested more especially in the resistance which was offered in Jerusalem to the Holy Ghost when, as the Spirit of grace, He first delivered there His testimony to them who had been the betrayers and murderers of that Jesus whom they then heard preached to them as an exalted Prince and Savior. There was, in truth, a strange and strong confederacy of sinners against their own souls at that time joined, in vain though hostile counsel, against Jehovah and His Christ. For “both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together." But although the passage has evidently received a partial accomplishment in those events, it is quite apparent, from subsequent testimonies of the same Spirit, that a fulfillment of these words, more awful and decisive still, has yet to take effect. There is a time at hand, when not a part only, but the whole of this remarkable Psalm will have its complete exhaustion, as a prophecy of the Messianic kingdom and the glory of the Son of God.
If we compare the verses now before us with the language of the prayer of the church in the passage already referred to, we find immediately an important variation. In the latter passage, “the people of Israel " are distinguished expressly from the Gentiles as parties in the same confederacy; but in the first verse of the present Psalm we meet with no such distinction. The word by which the nation of Israel is almost invariably described in the Old Testament is not used at all.20
The perfect wisdom of God is very discernible in the structure and verbal expression of the Spirit's testimonies. Numerous passages occur (especially in the prophetic scripture) which are so constructed as to be easily capable of being adduced in proof of historical "events, to which, as predictions, they immediately apply, while remaining still in their original and unaltered relation to the general prophetic strain of which they form a part, and which, as a whole, may remain still unfulfilled. The Spirit of God has frequently thus used, in the New Testament, detached portions of His more ancient testimonies, while a reference to the context shows immediately that the entire scope of the prophecy respects a state of things materially different from that to which it has, in the meantime, been thus partially applied.21
The present passage affords a striking example of the principle just stated. The scope of this Psalm is most clearly Messianic. We have seen it quoted by the Holy Ghost with immediate application to the times of the reproach of Christ; but it is manifestly to the kingdom and power of the reigning Christ that our thoughts are directed in the Psalm itself. Ruling power and apparent judicial action are its leading topics, which put it in plainest contrast with the existing dispensation of long-suffering and much abused grace. But this will become more evident on a closer examination of its language.
The first two verses have, as we have seen, received their primary fulfillment in the conspiracy of human wickedness, which blindly wrought for the accomplishing of the perfect counsel of the blessed and all-wise God of grace. But the Scriptures speak distinctly of a day when, in the valley of decision, there shall be gathered together another and more multitudinous league.22
The objects of this last confederacy will be identical with the former. It will be against Jehovah and His Christ that the heathen will again rage, and the people imagine a vain thing, when, under the guidance of the lawless one—the beast, the willful king, as he is variously described in the testimony of prophecy 23—the armies of the nations shall have formed their rendezvous of preparation in the place which, in the Hebrew tongue, is called Armageddon.24
A very important difference must, however, be remarked, which widely distinguishes the circumstances respectively of these two great crises in the history of human madness. In the former case, the rejection and crucifixion of the Lord of glory by the princes of this world was the preparation for the dispensation of that perfect grace which, in the gospel of Christ, has been preached to every creature under heaven.25
The immediate cause which turned the full stream of gracious promise towards the nations of the world was, in the wisdom of God, the enmity of Israel; who, after desiring a murderer instead of the Son of the Blessed, whom they slew and hanged upon a tree, had filled the measure of their sins by the persecution of those who preached remission through the blood which they had shed.26
But the latter crisis will arrive at the expiration of that unknown term of gracious long-suffering, during which the damnation of the apostate lingers not, though grace still tarries in the city of destruction until the full work of appointed mercy be complete.27 Moreover, on the former of these two occasions, the Jews were the real oppressors, the Gentiles acting only at their instigation, and consenting slowly to participate in a sin, the heavier guilt of which remains on those whose lie against the Divine glory deceived the rulers of the world. But when this last association of iniquity is formed, the immediate object of the oppressor's fury will be the city which, after long treading under Gentile feet,—in fulfillment of the burden of desolation once pronounced, not without tears of gracious sorrow by the Lord, whose prophets she had slain, and whose own Divine Person she was blindly bent upon refusing,—shall then be come to the bottom of that cup of trembling, whose dregs of judgment are ordained for other lips than hers.28
Verse 3 reveals the true aim of this counsel of wickedness. It is the self-declared emancipation of the natural will from all Divine control that will deliver up the banded nations to destruction. Firmly bound in the cords of their own iniquity, and held fast in the snare of the devil who deceives them, they will become the subjects of the righteous judgment of the Lord, for whose footstool Ms enemies must be prepared.29
Verse 4 contrasts the still security of Omnipotent Majesty in the heavens—hastening or retarding at His will the march of human events, which all concur to work His pleasure—with the futile purposes of infatuated human wickedness. The position which Christ now occupies is the right hand of the Majesty on high.30 He is sitting on a throne which, as it is the throne of God, was the proper resting-place of the Eternal Son from everlasting. But relatively to His mediatorial place and titles, it is not upon His own throne, but on that of the Father that He is now set. His own words31 of gracious promise to the suffering confessors of His name, distinguish explicitly between His own throne and that whereon as yet He waits, until His enemies be made His footstool.
This verse describes therefore the actual position of the exalted Christ, while it indicates prospectively an action yet to come.32 Already the brightness of that glory, with which He is there crowned, is the perfect expression of Divine scorn at the impotent madness of the sinners who rejected Him.33 It is, moreover, a solemn earnest of that coming day when every eye shall see Him. As yet, however, His presence with the Father is in gracious intercession for His people, as the great High Priest of their profession, and in still protracted long-suffering towards the world.
But the day is at hand when the fear of the wicked will indeed overtake them. Then He, who now entreats with fervent importunity poor self-destroying sinners to be reconciled to God, will mock in righteous derision at their calamity who would none of Him or His through the long day of patience and of grace.34 Thens35 (verse 5) shall He do what now, in mercy, He refrains from doing.
He will speak to them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure. Not thus is the power of Christ now exercised. The appeal of the first suffering witnesses for His name, already noticed, brought indeed, as its answer, a token of that power which is in readiness to shake, in a very little while, both earth and heaven.36 But the glory of that strength was then put forth to confirm their fainting hearts, and to fit them for a bold and patient testimony in the Gospel of the grace of God. The wrath of God is revealed, meanwhile, from heaven, and is declared in the same Gospel to be ready to descend upon the children of disobedience.37 But now His ministry is that of reconciliation; then, on the contrary, the ministry of vengeance will have its course. It will be the time of the Lamb's wrath. Divine displeasure and perfect hatred of sin will find then their fearful scope in the judgment of those vessels of wrath, which have been fitted to destruction by the perversion of their own ungodly will.38
Verse 6 declares the glory of Jehovah in the establishment of Jesus as His King upon Zion, the mountain of His holiness. The transition in this verse to the first person is strikingly solemn and impressive.
It was as God's earthly King that Jesus was disallowed and rejected in the days of His flesh39
“This is the King of the Jews “was the title of accusation placed over the head of the crucified Son of God. But they knew not that the Judge of Israel must be smitten first,40 and die by the grace of God, before He could, in the saving health of His own accomplished Redemption, be known in Zion as the reigning King of righteousness and peace.
Zion is in this passage, as elsewhere universally in Jewish Scripture, regarded as the center of God's earthly purposes. His controversy with man—with Satan, will have its eventual issue there. Now Messiah is God's King. It is His purpose to set up a kingdom under the whole heaven.41 Things in earth, as well as things in heaven, are to be gathered under the headship and dominion of the reigning Christ.42 With respect to the former of these, the center of the irremovable earthly dominion of God's Anointed is the city of His choice, the earthly Jerusalem. She is the place where Jehovah's name has been irrevocably set. As the city of acceptable solemnities, she will be known and delighted in by the nations in that day as the joy of the whole earth, when the presence of the Great King shall have again sanctified the place of His feet with the brightness of a glory which shall not again depart.43 This subject will further unfold itself as we proceed. Let us now confine our attention to the Psalm before us.44
Verse 7. The voice of the Spirit of Christ declares now the decree. In this publication of Messiah's title the believer finds the proper sanction of the countless blessings wherewith he is already blessed in Christ. For his life is the ascended Son of God.45 The Holy Ghost is now sent down from heaven to claim the allegiance of men to God, as the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to Him as the anointed Heir of all things. Jesus has been declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead,46 and the words of the present verse refer to that event. "This day have I begotten thee," is the solemn recognition by the Spirit of truth that the Man Jesus, whom God raised from the dead, is in very deed the Son of God. It is not the doctrine of Messiah's eternal Sonship that is here expressed. Were that the meaning of the passage, the words "this day" could have no place: It is rather the justification in the Spirit, according to the mystery of godliness,47 of Him whose title of Sonship had first been disallowed and dishonored in the flesh.
Verses 8, 9 present 'the ever-blessed, Lord as the receiver of the inheritance. In the present Psalm this is limited to earth, no mention being made of the heavenly portion. With reference to the Lord Jesus as the object of conferred blessing, it may be remarked that He owns in Scripture a two-fold subjection. First, He is, as the Son, in a natural subjection to the Father.48 Again, as God's anointed King, He honors Him who has exalted Him.49 Heavenly as well as earthly dominion is His, for He is appointed Heir of all things. But, speaking generally, the Psalms treat only of His earthly glory. The ninth verse has a peculiar importance from its bearing upon the relation in which the Christian stands towards the general subject of this Psalm. It is expressly quoted by the Lord to John,50 in special promise to those who, while their calling is to suffer with Him, are sustained in “the patience of Christ “by the hope of the kingdom which they are so soon to share. This consideration alone is quite sufficient to show conclusively that the action of the Psalm must in the main be referred to a future dispensation. As to the special import of the language of this verse, we shall have it more fully before us in some of the later Psalms.
Verses 10, 11. "Be wise, therefore," etc. The doctrine here expressed applies, in principle, at all times, and therefore in the present dispensation. But the full meaning of this exhortation will be known and exemplified only when the King is set upon His own throne; when Christ, that is, is manifestly revealed as the “Prince of the kings of the earth."51 Now, kings and judges are not addressed in the Gospel message as such,52 but as ruined sinners; to whom, as to others, is preached the free Gospel of the grace of God.
The benefits of the one mediation are open to them as men.53 They are called, as others, out of the world,' into the Church,—to go without the camp, bearing the reproach of Christ. Then there will be rendered the homage of earthly principalities and powers to the Person and scepter of the true Solomon. Kings of nations will then be called on to hold their thrones as vassals of Jehovah's Christ, who will in that day be known and honored as the God of all the earth.54 He will be owned, not only as the true Son and Heir of David, but likewise as the Son of God. As it is elsewhere written: “He shall be my Son."55
We have in the last verse a striking expression of the vigor and reality of the reign of Righteousness,56 coupled with a full declaration of the blessedness of all who find their refuge in the Person of Him who will thus reign.57 It is the Son who must receive this honor.
Such is the sure counsel of the Father.58 The believer, who has tasted that the Lord is gracious, now honors Him, in the spirit of a grateful and rejoicing confidence, without dread or suspicion of His wrath. For the shed blood of the Lamb is the eternal pledge of a perfected love, which neither the weakness of the creature nor Satanic malice can disturb.59
The concluding words of this verse find a present daily fulfillment in the fleeing of believing sinners to the Name of Jesus, the Son of God. A blessing is pronounced on every one who puts his trust in Him.60 The Psalm must, however, be regarded, 'on the whole, as a prophecy whose fulfillment is incomplete in fact, although faith descries, in the glorified Person of the exalted Christ, the living completion of all the promises of God.61
Psalm 3
AN appeal addressed to Jehovah, in the hour of secret peril and distress, by the man after His own heart. The name of Jehovah is the ground of this appeal; for David understood the mystery of the grace of God.
Accepting as authentic the title of this Psalm, it may be well to consider for a moment the circumstances under which it was composed. David was an outcast from the throne and city of his royalty, a fugitive from the face of his own son, who sought his life. Such was his position. But in this he was but realizing the effect of his own earlier sin. Absalom's rebellion had been predicted by the same messenger of God who had charged upon the conscience of the king the iniquity of his transgression. Yet the same mouth that in faithful testimony had brought his sins to mind, bore witness also to the grace which already had obliterated them from God's remembrance. “The Lord also hath put away thy sin," was the prophet's ready word of re-assurance to the conscience-stricken king.62 There had, therefore, been a complete restoring of his soul to God. His conscience had been clean purged from the defilement of his sin.63 Meanwhile, though many years had since passed tranquilly away, he had to keep in memory the recorded chastisement which the Lord had purposed, and which He would accomplish surely in its time. How far he did remember this is known to God alone. But when at length the stroke of this most sharp affliction came, we find him meeting it in the hopeful steadfastness of a heart that knew the secret of the Lord. Many might rise against him. Many might say of his soul, “There is no help for him in God" (verse 2). His present calamity might easily appear to those who only looked to facts to be a tardy yet surely retributive stroke of Divine judgment on the man of blood. But Jehovah was the trusted buckler of his soul (verse 3). He understood the blessedness of the man to whom the Lord will not impute transgression, though man might loudly and unsparingly condemn.64
The arrival of the trial served only to call yet more distinctly to David's soul a remembrance of the secret and pure ways of Him who had met him, at the hour of his deepest need, in the rich fullness of restoring mercy; though for His name's sake, and for the furtherance of His servant's profit, He would not spare the rod of necessary discipline. In very mercy God would chasten whom He loved.65
Viewed thus, in its first intention, the Psalm is full of deep and precious instruction of the most practical kind for the believer. Its great moral burden is the sufficiency and faithfulness of God as a Savior. Circumstances and events of no kind or order can frustrate the counsels of the God of all grace.66 His blessing is upon His people always. It does not remove from them, because it has been freely bestowed. Never having been attracted to them by their own intrinsic worthiness, it will never be withdrawn from them on account of their transgressions, although sore chastisements may remind a delinquent partaker of His mercy, that the God with whom he has to do is holy. But the continuance of His people's blessing is conditional upon nothing in themselves. It stands in God. And God is of single mind, and stable in His ways; not revoking nor repenting the gifts and callings of His own free choice. Christ, as the living fullness of the grace of God, is the lesson which is being taught to every disciple of the Comforter,67 through the varied experiences of his earthly course. Personal failure, or even sin, in the unworthy vessel of this grace, does not and cannot falsify God's covenant of life and peace.
God has often suffered, as in David's case, the soul of a Christian to taste, in a very painful way, the fruit of his own disobedience. For He is not mocked. A sowing to the flesh must produce inevitably a harvest of corruption in some shape.68
An erring saint will surely find a verification of this principle in his own experience. But the end of a believer is the God who has accepted him in Christ. It is salvation, therefore, and eternal blessing. To inherit a blessing is his calling.69 Intermediate sorrows, which he may too often have to refer to his own folly, act on him in the way of gracious discipline, that God's own gift of "precious faith" may have its fruitful exercise in the ways of righteousness. They are among the necessary means which the Father of spirits uses to make us partakers of His holiness. Full of profit as this Psalm is, when thus considered, it has a yet higher meaning and interest as a prophetic expression of the experience of the Holy One of God, when, amid the enemies who sought his life, He trusted in God as in One near both to justify and to deliver.70
Jesus was God's King-His Anointed; yet was He as an outcast and an alien in the midst of His own. The nation disallowed Him; its rulers abhorred Him.71 The hearts of the men of Israel had been stolen away by a lying phantom of their own invention. They desired a Messiah, but it was not the Anointed of Jehovah that was the object of their search. Themselves without the love of God,72 they could not recognize or honor God's elect. When the marred visage of the Man of sorrows presented itself to their view, and forced them to reflection on the cause of that close fellowship with grief which had graved such lines of care upon His face, they charged it altogether to His shame.
The last ignominy of His dishonored death was imputed by them to His personal worthiness to be numbered with transgressors. They esteemed Him smitten of God and afflicted. The troubles of Jesus were indeed enlarged! There were many that arose against the lonely Man of sorrows: Scribes, Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, Lawyers; the men of Nazareth, his reputed birthplace; priests and people alike: all set themselves in a discordant harmony of wickedness against the blessed Person and title of the Son of God. They disowned Him as Jehovah's Christ, the messenger of the Covenant, for whose arrival they professed to wait. Meanwhile, the Son of man, who had among His own no place of shelter for His head, found sweet repose in Him whose name He came to glorify, and for whose sake he endured reproach. He was not left alone.73 He lay down thus and slept in peace, behind the shield of His excellency whom He trusted; none making Him afraid, until the time of that fear came, to meet which, and by meeting to destroy it forever for His people's sake, He had come into the world.
It is in His connection with the nation of God's choice that the Lord is more especially discovered in this Psalm, and in the Psalms generally. Hence, in the latter verses, there appears to be a reference to that great deliverance wherein the ungodly aggressors upon Immanuel's title, and upon the suffering remnant of His love, will suddenly be broken in pieces at the advent of His power. The blessing of Jehovah will be upon His earthly people in the day when, having completed the separation of the silver from the dross, by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning,74 He shall bring near His righteousness to the remnant of His chosen, and shall place salvation in Zion for Israel His glory.75
Psalm 4
WE may at once pass by the son of Jesse in our consideration of this Psalm, in order to contemplate, through its medium, his Divine Antitype.
In its opening verse we hear the voice of Messiah's supplication to Jehovah as the God of His righteousness.76 Jesus stood ever, in a natural acceptance, before the righteous God. Because He was holy, harmless, and separate from sinners, He had always an immediate appeal to Him. His own words, “Righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee, but I have known Thee,"77 mark the essential separateness of the Just and Holy One from the surrounding evil of a world which still lies in the wicked one. In His poverty, and under the reproach of men, He found Jehovah evermore His refuge, and that because of righteousness. "He committed Himself unto Him that judgeth righteously.78
Verse 2. In the full consciousness of His own perfect title as the Holy One79 of God, to the homage both of Israel and of all mankind, He now apostrophizes the blindness and infatuated wickedness of those who turned His glory into shame.
“O ye sons of men," etc. He was despised and rejected of men. His own would none of Him. For their hearts were gone far astray from the truth of God. They loved vanity. They sought a lie. Their beloved was not God's beloved. They looked for a Messiah according to the lusts of their own hearts, and did the deeds of their father, the devil, in shaming and repudiating the name and title of Jehovah's Christ.80 Going about to establish their own righteousness, they stumbled at God's choice—at His elect and precious Stone—at JEHOVAH Himself, whom they falsely claimed to know, while HE passed before their face continually, and they discerned Him not.81
How must the soul of Jesus, knowing as God His own deep thoughts, while as man He entered perfectly into the gracious realities of the Father's love towards the world, have yearned and sickened at the spectacle of laborious and methodical madness which met His view on every side! They sought a sign, and demanded credentials from Him who was daily causing the goodness of Jehovah, the Shepherd and Healer of Israel, to pass before their eyes. But the whole heart was sick. The madness which had always lived, though latent, in the heart of man, and which had already testified its presence there by varied outward proofs,82 was now about to come forth in its full display, and to set up its imperishable monument in the cross of the rejected Son of God.
Verse 3. “But know," etc. The rejection of Jesus by His own shut Him up more emphatically into those deeper counsels which were by these means to be brought to pass, and made ready the way of Him whose footsteps are not known, to attain the end of His eternal purpose. He had purposed in Himself to lay the burden of all glory on His Christ-to shed all blessings on the head of Him who was forsaken of His brethren and rejected by the princes of this world. Messianic honor might be refused Him; and Israel, instead of being gathered under the promised blessings of the covenant, might have to be scattered to the four winds of heaven, because of their rejection of the Son of David. Still, this was all to work in furtherance of that deeper scheme of all-comprising blessing and glory, whereby, in the risen and ascended Son of God, there should be gathered together things in heaven as well as things on earth.83
Meanwhile, Jehovah sets apart His Holy One.84 The glory of the now exalted Christ declares this truth already to the Church. He is known through the Spirit, who reveals Him thus to faith, as "holy, harmless, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.85
Presented thus to faith, He is the joy of those who know, through grace, their union with Himself; and who, while awaiting the manifestation of this blessed mystery in the day of His appearing, rest trustingly upon His ever-saving intercession as the sustaining power of an unbroken fellowship with God. The shame of the Cross, once borne for our sakes, has now been changed to joy and endless honor in the Father's presence. He hath raised Him up and given Him glory; and (blessed and most wondrous truth!) that joy is even now shed abroad in the hearts of poor believing sinners by the power of the Holy Ghost. We joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.86
The remaining verses of this truly precious Psalm are full of value and comfort to an open ear, but cannot now be dwelt on in detail. They address themselves to the believer's heart and conscience, on the ground of his personal sanctification in the Lord. Fruits of that sanctifying by the Father which is through the truth87 are found to abound in the man of Jehovah's separation. Godly fear, self-judgment, spiritual worship; confidence and rejoicing in God in the hour of natural distress; patient waiting for Him, resting in hope, quietness, and abiding assurance; attach themselves as ornaments of grace to the expectant heir of God's salvation. Godliness, with contentment, is found to yield a richer revenue of gladness to the believer than corn and wine can furnish to the flesh. These things shine brightly for the counsel and comfort of the soul that turns to this Psalm for personal profit and refreshment. The apostle, by his quotation88 in Eph. 4:2626Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: (Ephesians 4:26), has led the way in this practical application.
Yet I do not doubt that the Jewish remnant89 of the last times are prophetically contemplated also in this Psalm. The change from singular to plural at verse 6 is not un-instructive as to this; we shall very frequently find similar transitions. Messiah in one part of a Psalm appears to speak in person; while in another part we have the expression of His Spirit, as in the sympathy of grace He appropriates the condition or circumstances of His earthly people.
Psalm 5
THE tone and general character of this Psalm are easily perceived. It is a prayer of faith, sent up from a heart in which the discernment of God as the shield and rewarder of them that seek Him, is found in union with a very deep sense of the prevailing evil and ungodliness which daily present themselves to the contemplation of the faithful man. Vexing of soul because of the abundance of iniquity90 is thus a leading feature in its general expression. This is accompanied by a strong tone of righteous testimony against the evil, rising, in the latter verses, into a direct imprecation of Divine vengeance upon the workers of iniquity.
A steady view is maintained throughout of God in the paramount and unchanging majesty of His truth and power. He shines cheeringly upon the soul of faith through tile mists of present evil and distress. Large entrance is enjoyed, moreover, into His counsels which respect the end. Hence, patience is wrought in tribulation, and joy abounds in the sure hope of a deliverance, which is deferred only by the counsels of unerring love. The soul is stayed on God; it is, therefore, full of His peace. The holiness of God is found to be the security both of ultimate and enduring blessing to the believer, and of eventual destruction to the evil-doer.
That this Psalm expresses prophetically the pleadings of the Spirit of Christ in the Jewish remnant of the latter day, I do not doubt. Jehovah seems to sleep; but faith, holding fast the sure word of promise, waits still in hopeful patience through the dark watches of the night of sorrow. The revelation of Him who is at once their God and their King91 is the true aim of the hope here expressed (verse 2).
The manifestation of Messiah is a Jewish expectation, as well as the blessed hope of the Church; but there is a wide difference between these things. By the remnant of Israel He will be looked for as the promised King, the Branch of Jehovah, beneath whose shade the united families of Judah and Ephraim may lie down and be at lasting rest. The Church, on the other hand, awaits the coming of the promised hour when, taken as in a moment to be forever with the Lord, she shall receive investment of that heavenly glory, in which she will be then arrayed, as the anointed bride and fellow-heir of Christ. In that brightness she will shine forth in the day when Israel's earthly hope, together with the general emancipation of the now groaning creature, shall be realized in the manifesting of the sons of God92, The reader can hardly be too frequently reminded that the Psalms are a part of Scripture primarily Jewish. They are, indeed, like all the other Scriptures, a portion of the word of Christ93 but it is in relation to Jewish, and therefore earthly, circumstances, and as the object of national hope, that He is usually there presented. On the other hand, as might have been expected, the testimony of the Spirit to the glory of His Person is often found to transcend the normal limits of proper Israelitish promise. There are general principles continually stated in this and in all the Psalms, which address themselves to the soul as direct expressions of the mind of God, with a force and distinctness quite independent of any specialties of circumstance in which they may, notwithstanding, be, intended to receive their final illustration.
Verses 4-6 are instances of this. The general application of these expressions is most obvious. But there is an especial crisis of human evil, towards which the prophetic testimonies of the Spirit are found constantly to point. That the foolish (or the proud)94 shall not be established in the sight of God, is a standing maxim of His government, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. But the grand fulfillment of this truth awaits the advent of the day of Christ.95
The awakening of Jehovah's arm will be the discomfiture of the proud in the imaginations of their heart. The King, who then Will have His seat upon the throne of judgment, will scatter away all evil with His eyes.96 The epiphany of Christ in power will be the destruction of the Wicked one, and of all who, through the judicial delusion which is poured upon them by the God whose saving truth they had despised, become partakers both of his iniquity and of his doom.97
The cry of God's elect goes up, meanwhile, to Him.98 He bears long, and for a season makes as if He heard them not. Yet is the set time near at hand, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh99 Until then, the patient possession of their souls in well-doing is the appointed lot of all who, as companions of the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ100 are called to suffer till their blessed Hope be come.101 But the experience of suffering faith, which the language of this Psalm describes, belongs rather to such as are said by the Spirit of prophecy to "walk in darkness, and have no light."102 This, though often circumstantially true of Christians, is not a just description of those who are characteristically the children of the light and of the day.103 But from numerous passages of Scripture it appears that such will be the moral position of that believing remnant of Israel, who, in the closing days of antichristian wickedness, will cleave with undivided heart to the covenant God of their salvation; and will cry the louder as the darkness thickens, until He rends the heavens and comes down.104 They will seek Jehovah, and David His anointed king; appealing in the day of Jacob's trouble to the ancient and sure mercies of the God of Abraham.
In verse 7, we find mention of the house and temple of Jehovah. The desire of God's Israel105 tends always to that place, and it is a desire which will surely have its realization in due time. The same faithful Witness who teaches the worshippers of the Father that local sanctity exists for them no longer upon earth,106 because their access is into the heavenly realities of which the visible ordinances were the figure and the shade, has spoken also of a day when the same Jerusalem which, by rejecting Him, has hid His presence from her sight, shall again behold Him, and shall welcome Him with blessings, as the One that cometh in Jehovah's name.107 Then shall his feet again stand on the mount of Olives, not as a patient outcast, but as the mighty One of Jacob, the wished-for Deliverer of Zion.108 Then, too, will the sweet fruits of Jehovah's kindness be tasted by her converts in the temple of His holiness, which shall be known among the nations as the place where His honor dwelleth, who is to be had in worship among the families of the Gentiles as the God of the whole earth, the Redeemer, and the Holy One of Israel109
Verse 8 contains a prayer which finds a ready echo in the heart of every godly man. It is the true pleading of the Spirit of godly fear, which, while it dreads the danger of the way, puts simple trust in Him who is alone the Shepherd and the Leader of His saints.
It is well for us to remember that the description given in the following verses (9, 10) of the moral condition of sinners when iniquity shall have come to its head and be ripe for judgment, is quoted in the New Testament,110 together with other similar passages, in order to characterize apostate nature generally, according to the verdict of the law. "They have rebelled against Thee," is the witness of the Spirit of truth and holiness, when calling for judgment to proceed against the workers of iniquity. And this describes the state, not of a part only, but of all whose personal condition is tested by the commandment.111 For the law entered that the offence might abound; by the law, therefore, is the knowledge, not of righteousness, but sin. Ordained to life, it is the minister of death; because the law through its transgression worketh wrath.112
It is apostate human character that is here depicted, the terms of description being according to the nature of the test employed. The principles of evil which will ultimately attain the appointed limit of their progress, work now, and have been working from the first. The tenth verse appears to point distinctly to the apostate nation in the last days, when the like counsel to that which led their fathers to accuse the Truth and kill the Prince of life, will persuade them to accept a lie instead of truth, and to persecute those who yet remain steadfast and unmoved in Israel's Hope.113
From verse 11 we have a happy contrast to the foregoing picture, in the celebration of Jehovah's name according to the blessed manifestations of His grace. He covers and defends. His name is the joyful boast of His saints, whose sanctification is Himself. His favor is about them forever, as a shield of sure deliverance. The Christian knows the meaning, and tastes in Jesus the sweet blessings of this confidence. Joy in the Holy Ghost is the portion of those who are washed, who are sanctified, and who are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.114 As it is again said, with especial reference to Israel's suffering remnant, "I will strengthen them in the Lord, and they shall walk up and down in His name." 115
It will have been remarked by the attentive reader, that there is in this Psalm a tone of imprecatory judgment which is quite at variance with the general language of the Holy Ghost in the New Testament. This will be found to be a marked feature in the Psalms as a whole, though it is by no means peculiar to that part of Scripture. The Christian is called to suffer the reproach of Christ; he is to recompense evil with-good. Grace is both the source of his own blessing as a child of mercy, and the measure of his walk as a follower of the Lamb. But in the Psalms we have the utterance of the Spirit of truth according to the righteous judgment of God in His estimate of human conduct. We shall find as we proceed a varied expression of this; according as the immediate subject of description is the ungodliness of the nation of Israel, or that of the Gentiles, who are viewed in diverse lights, with a closer or more remote relation to the chosen people of His name.
In connection with this, we should remember that the cry of the oppressed is often uttered in the Psalms on the part of those who stand associated, as the earthly people of Jehovah, with His recorded purposes of judgment as the Ruler of the nations. To be Jehovah's battle-axe and implements of war was, from the beginning, a part of Israel's vocation. Earthly supremacy has been the declared destiny of Jacob, from the time that heaven opened on him as a wanderer from his father's house, and Jehovah stood, to bless the dreaming vessel of His choice, above the ladder which connected earth with heaven.116 Moreover, He has marked out and allotted a land of inheritance for His people. The oppression, therefore, of that land, has always been a provocation of Jehovah's jealousy, albeit He might use the malice of the enemy as a rod for the correction of His people.117 The faith of a true Israelite would, of course, discern this. Accordingly, expressions are abundant in the Psalms, which seem suited in their full intention to no other experience than that of suffering Jewish hope.
These general remarks, together with others of a similar description in the foregoing pages, have been made thus early in the work, in order to avoid superfluous digression in the course of our examination of the Psalms which follow.
Psalm 6
THIS Psalm is the first of a rather numerous class of Messianic prophecies, in which the experience of the Lord Jesus is treated in especial connection with His relation to God as the appointed Captain of our salvation. I do not, indeed, believe this to be exclusively the subject of this remarkable Psalm. For it is capable of application, in another sense, to the afflicted people with whose afflictions the sympathies of Immanuel are ever present, and who, in the latter day, will make a like call upon the name of Jehovah for mercy and for vengeance, while appealing from His judicial visitations, because of their then acknowledged sins, to the ancient and un-repented mercies of His covenant.118
But it is the personal experience of the Man of sorrows, in prospective contemplation of the hour for the which He was born into the world, that seems to constitute the proper subject of the Psalm.
Verses 1-7. The strong crying and tears of Him who, though He was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which He suffered, are surely here audible to our hearts.119 The opening sentence of the Psalm suggests immediately the cross, as the point to which all these sufferings tended, and the anticipation of which could alone call forth from the soul of such a Sufferer such prayers as these. In the fifth verse, we have plain confirmation of this, in the mention which is there made of death as the object of dread to the soul of Him who offers up this supplication. Hence, although no reference is expressly made to sin, as that which brought the gracious Sufferer into the place where, as His people's substitute, He could take its fearful weight upon Himself, yet it is manifestly in immediate connection with the work of substitutional atonement that the experience here recorded must be viewed.
Wonderful, indeed, is the position in which the Son of God is presented to our faith, when He stands revealed in Scripture as a suppliant for deliverance from death. Nothing so strikingly exhibits the reality of His self-chosen and entire dependence upon God. It forms, perhaps, the profoundest topic in the mystery of godliness. Well is His name declared to be "Wonderful," in the prophetic testimonies of the Holy Ghost,120 of whom the same Spirit witnesses, in the passage above referred to, that "in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto Him that was able to save Him from death," He "was heard," etc. I cannot doubt that the Psalm now before us expresses this character of the Son's experience.
The language used by the Spirit with reference to this mystery is very wide. “In the days of His flesh."121 It is not the decisive act by which He terminated that obedience which was "unto death, even the death of the cross," that is described, but the marvelous preparation through which the Son of God, in the lowliness of His perfect grace, Son as He was,122 consented first to pass, in order that, when the hour should have fully come, He might put the finishing stroke to that work of salvation for the doing of which He had assumed the fashion of a man. No more should then be left to do, but that the ever-blessed God, whose will had seen its full accomplishment in the death of Jesus, should now, in raising Him from the dead and giving Him glory, proclaim, and set Him forth to believing sinners, as the perfected 123 Captain of their salvation. He has thus, to all them that obey Him, become the author of an eternal124 salvation.
It is, then, a portion of the sore amazement and distress of soul which, because of the baptism with which He was to be baptized, pertained to the only Just One, from the nature of that special relation to the Father which He had assumed when He took on Him a servant's form for our sakes, that is opened to us in the present Psalm.
But we must call to mind a little more distinctly the circumstances, from the midst of which these tearful supplications were sent up to God. We obtain a glimpse of these in the seventh verse. "Mine eye is consumed because of grief, it waxeth old because of all mine enemies." The daily contradiction of sinners against Himself was a part only of the patience of the Son of God. He stood as a mark for the reproach of the ungodly day by day, because, in perfect obedience, He bore as man continual testimony to the God whom, with outward seeming, they professed to know. The reproaches of them that reproached God fell on Him. Thus—hated in requital for His love; walking, in His devoted obedience to the Father's will, in a path where human companionship was impossible; perfectly susceptible of the comfort of love, and of the joys of pure and holy fellowship, yet finding none capable of sharing with Him any portion of the burden which He bare; weeping alone in Divine sorrow over the cureless breach of the daughter of His people; bearing about in Himself the pre-ordained sentence of death, which in due time He should accomplish at Jerusalem, amidst the last indignities which man could offer, and under the weight of that wrathful stroke which human sin alone could merit, and Divine holiness could alone inflict—He was, indeed, "a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." The relief and solace of His spirit, under the pressure of that blameless burden of affliction, was thus to give Himself to prayer to Him who was able righteously to save Him from His fear.
To penetrate the mystery of godliness is not among the things as yet conferred upon us by the grace of God. To trace, on the other hand, the testimony to the sufferings of Christ, which the Spirit has recorded in the word of truth, is one of the chief blessings of the child of God who knows his dear and holy interest in all these things. Richly, indeed, do many of these Psalms instruct us in this precious mystery, when pondered in the clear and steady light which is afforded by the Gospels. May they who seek, in reliance on the Comforter, to learn more of Jesus from the things written concerning Him in this portion of His word,125 be kept in their meditations within the limits where their faith can freely act.126
Verses 8-10 express the triumphant results of the acceptance of Messiah's prayers, who was heard "in that He feared." The resurrection of Jesus by the exceeding greatness of the power of God (Eph. 1:2020Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, (Ephesians 1:20)) was the answer of Jehovah to the cry of Him who had been “crucified in weakness."127 Ever separate, in the sanctity of His Person, from sinners, even when in grace He bore the reproach of receiving such, and eating with them, He is now in another sense separate. Having gone into death that He might glorify the Father in obedience, He has become the subject of a power which has sanctified Him in glory above every name. God hath highly exalted Him. He has raised Him up, and given Him glory. Angels, and principalities, and powers, are placed under Him. The enemies who so sorely vexed His righteous soul will have their recompense of sore vexation in due time.128
The general application of these latter verses is very plain. They seem, however, to refer more especially to the time and circumstances of the vindication of Messiah's name and glory in the same character in which He was rejected and disowned at His first appearing; in connection, that is to say, with the earthly nation of His choice.
Psalm 7
IF we accept the title of this Psalm, we must refer its composition to a particular event. It was sung to Jehovah by the afflicted and outcast king of Israel, concerning the words of Cush the Benjamite.129 It is from David's heart, indeed, that the strain is sent forth, but the Spirit which spake by him had One mightier than he in view, while singing thus, in clear prophetic notes, concerning things of which the personal experience of the son of Jesse could furnish but the feeblest type.
Let us not, however, lose sight of David while meditating on this Psalm, for of great price is the lesson which his conduct, as a tried vessel of the grace of God, in the circumstances to which allusion is here made, affords to the Christian, whose holy calling is to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing.130
The story of David and Shimei presents a lovely instance of the way in which the patience of faith, when working through the medium of a completely awakened conscience, finds in the bitterest circumstances of trial the means of personal blessing and more effectual stablishing of soul. Shimei curses David; not without a fleshly justification. But what urged him thus hotly against the Lord's anointed was the wrath of man, which worketh not the righteousness of God. His judgment was according to the seeing of his eyes, and his thoughts according to the cognizance of a heart that knew not, nor desired, the secret of Jehovah. That the unction of the God of Israel was upon the outcast king, was a fact of small interest to the son of Gera; he had no eye to see, nor heart to reverence, the Lord's anointed; being destitute of faith, he saw only in David that which stimulated the natural lusting of fleshly envy against Jehovah's choice.
On the other hand, David, while thoroughly conscious of his own deep guilt, which lay he well knew at the bottom of this grievous trouble, yet felt that in the matter of Shimei he could blamelessly lift up his face to God. He had been no oppressor of him or of his house; but had favored rather them that without cause were his adversaries. The same spirit of godly fear which so strikingly revives in David's conscience the remembrance of the past, so as to lead him to discern and acknowledge the hand of God in what he then suffered from the malicious anger of his enemy, enables him, at the same time, to interpose the God of his salvation as a shield of defense between his adversary and himself. With contrite spirit, but thoroughly confiding heart, he can commit himself to Him. He knew that grace had met already, in restoring power, the deep transgression of his soul. And now, with the unction of the Holy One still resting on him, while he hears the rod and who hath appointed it,131 he endures with patience what he recognizes as an effect of his long-forgiven sin, but now administered in wise and gracious discipline by the hand of Him who was the refuge of his soul.
This is always the way of the Spirit. Self-justification never meets the mind of God. The exercised believer knows this well; for no sinner saved by grace is ignorant that, although in the particular instance he may be calumniated, yet the harshest judgment that the world can pronounce upon him is far short of that estimate of perfect vileness which, in the secrecy of godly self-judgment, he has learned to place upon himself. This subject, which is one of high practical value, can only now be thus briefly noticed. Let us rather turn to view this Psalm a little as the prophetic language of the Spirit of Christ.
Verses 1-5 seem to express a personal prayer of Messiah to Jehovah, against the violent and deceitful man. The life of Jesus was ever in His hand.132
His persecutors were on every side. They watched for His words; they sought to take Him; they took up stones to cast at Him. The discovery of Divine power, working in the way of perfect truth and grace, and with apparent and irrefragable effect, in the person of one whom, as a man, they despised, drew out the latent madness of their hearts, and made manifest the native enmity of man to God. The Pharisees and their fellows envied Jesus. Power, arrayed with meekness and exercised in the perfection of obedient humility, was with Him; vain and impotent pretension, words and outward seeming, were with them. They sought to shelter themselves beneath the shadow of traditional authority and of self-imputed sanctity. Jesus, Himself the Truth and the Light of life, dissipated by His presence the darkness of Satanic counsel and the vanity of human doctrine, and laid men's consciences abruptly open in the sight of God. But it is this that ruined nature chiefly dreads and most bitterly resents; and so, the closing testimony of Him who went about doing good was, 1' they have both seen and hated both me and my Father.”133
There is in these verses, and in those which follow, a willing and perfect laying open before God of the spotless heart and conscience of the Holy One. It is according to His righteousness and to the integrity which is in Him (verse 8), that He appeals to the judgment of the righteous God.134
In verses 6, 7, and 9, the personal utterance of Messiah seems less distinctly marked than in those which precede. They appear rather to express the desires of His Spirit on behalf of the suffering people of Immanuel, whose ultimate blessing can only result from the arising of Jehovah to shake terribly the earth. Messiah is now at the right hand of God, expecting until His enemies be made His footstool.135 No truth is of more importance than this to the right understanding of the Psalms. Allusion is made in verse 6, first to these enemies, and secondly to the judgment which has been commanded on Immanuel's behalf.
The aspect under which the judgment which the Father has committed to the Son of man136 is here viewed 5 is exclusively earthly, and is immediately connected with the future destinies of the nations.137
The result of the judgment, in the universality of the world's submission to Jehovah and His Christ, is declared in verse 7,138 the language of which is susceptible also of a very rich and obvious evangelical application.139 The two verses immediately following may likewise be regarded, besides, their primary application to Messiah, as an intercession according to God on behalf of those who, though still, in darkness, are beloved for the fathers' sakes, and will know the light and glory of Jehovah's righteousness in their appointed time.140
In verses 10-13, there is a transition from the tone of supplication to an affirmative anticipation of believing confidence in God. The known and unalterable character of Jehovah, as the God of truth and righteousness, assures to the soul that tarries patiently His leisure, an ultimate triumph over the wicked one. Judgment is prepared according to truth against the evil doer.141 God's arrow is ordained to reach its mark, though the bow, long ready, be yet slowly drawn, because His long-suffering is great. In the meanwhile He judgeth now the righteous, according to the truth and holiness of His eternal Name.142
Verses 14-17 appear to relate more immediately to the Antichrist, and to the deliverance whereby the remnant of Israel will be rescued from his grasp, when Jehovah shall, by the blood of His Covenant, send His prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.143 But although the actual crisis is to be viewed in this connection, the passage itself sounds as a note of warning throughout the present dispensation. The revelation of the Antichrist—for already there are many144—is the result of the apostasy; while the apostasy itself is but the development, in its last form, of the mystery of iniquity, which has long been working, and which does not cease to work until its evil climax is attained.145 But the long-suffering goodness of God is calling still on all men to repent and turn to Him. Judgments, of partial extent and limited effect, have come from time to time, in aid of the gracious testimony of the Holy Ghost. God has not left Himself without witness, either to His grace or to His holiness. He will be clear, therefore, in the day which is at hand.146 He will be justified in His sayings, and will overcome when He is judged. It will be clearly seen in that day, that it is the cord of his own wickedness which binds the sinner for the pit, and that the wrathful indignation which will descend on the ungodly is the hard-earned fruit of their own laborious iniquity and steadfast hatred against God.
In the last verse, we seem to hear the voice of Jesus as Melchisedec, the King of righteousness and peace, and Priest of the Most High God.147 The coming dispensation, which is to be introduced by the destruction of the Antichristian confederacy and the binding of Satan for a thousand years,148 is the appointed sphere for the display of that peculiar character of Messiah's mediatorial glory, in which He will stand in manifested relation, on the one hand to the Most High Possessor of heaven and earth, and on the other to man, as the royal Minister of priestly mediation and blessing.149
Psalm 8
WITHOUT spending words on the disputed meaning of its title,150 we may prepare ourselves for the study of this Psalm by a solemn remembrance of its theme. It is Jehovah, in the excellency of His majesty and the mystery of redeeming love, as now made manifest in Christ-and that in an especial reference to this earth and its inhabitants-of whom the song of the sweet singer of Israel is here indicted by the Spirit.
Verse 1. "Jehovah our Lord," etc. Premising that for Christian faith the full glory of this very lovely strain is opened as a subject of present communion by the Comforter, who now reveals to it the person of the exalted Savior, I recognize especially in these words the voice of Israel, when with unveiled heart they shall have been led, according to the sure promise of the New Covenant,151 into the full intelligence of the mystery of godliness.152 Themselves brought under the power of the blood of sprinkling, and the promised unction of the Spirit, they will celebrate thus the glory of Jesus in its rich display, as it will then be manifested to them in the complete unfolding of the covenant Name of Jehovah. But while earth and earthly things—its fullness and its worship—are the more prominent objects of the Spirit's contemplation in the present Psalm, it is in the light of a glory which is set above the heavens that the fair scene of terrestrial blessedness is reviewed.
The name of JEHOVAH has become excellent in all the earth. This is the prime thesis of the Psalm. The undisputed sway of Divine government in the earth, as it will be held and administered in the hands of the Son of man, is its more immediate subject, but in its ultimate intention it compasses a much more extended range. Creation, in its unity and completeness, is the divinely-allotted sphere of the acceptable Man's dominion. All things are put under His feet. The apostle's quotation from this Psalm will presently be noticed. In the meanwhile, let us remark that it is in the latter clause of this verse that place is to be sought and found for the Church of the first-born ones, whose present calling is to suffer for the name of Christ. Glory is their expectation, even the eternal glory of the God of all grace.153 As the chosen bride of the Lamb, His portion is her own. His glory is her ornament, as His love is her eternal joy. Already she is led within the heavens by the Spirit, to view her blessings there. Far above all principality and power—above all heavens—is the Lord of her affections, and the faithful preparer of her destined place of rest; who now nourishes His Church, and cares for her as for His very flesh.154 She will share, moreover, as the second Eve—God's fitting partner for the second Man—the honor and blessing which belong to the appointed Heir of all things.155
Verse 2. We have now a lovely and most significant expression of the Divine secret of all true creature happiness and blessing. Strength is founded,156 praise is perfected, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings. Grace, producing in Divine power its new-born vessel of mercy, prepares pure strains of perfect praise, wherein the Lord alone is exalted, in the low abasement of all that would exalt itself. This is the truth which is yet to be taught to Israel's blinded heart for blessing in His time. It was opened once by night to Nicodemus,157 when Jesus, speaking things hard to know, though spoken to a master in Israel, shed beforehand upon his darkened heart a ray of that pure Sun of righteousness 158 which will presently arise upon the blinded nation with healing in His wings.159 It is this truth which, being ministered through the Gospel by the quickening Spirit of God, creates the living Church of Christ. From the lips of His believing people, one of whose characteristic descriptions is that they are "new-born babes," the fruit of perfect praise is now offered acceptably unto God.160 The Church gives thanks, through Jesus Christ, to God, who giveth us the victory in Him.161 The enemy and the avenger are stilled effectually to the faith of those who joy in God through Jesus Christ, and know their present seat to be in heavenly places in Him.162 The Christian stands, by the grace of God, in living union with Him who, in His first manifestation, and by means of death, destroyed both the devil and his works;163 and who, by His victory, has abolished death, and brought life and incorruptibility to light through the Gospel.164
Already, therefore, can the small and feeble things of this world—things base, and things despised of men,165 yet called of God, and precious in the eyes of Him who has redeemed them—give utterance to this praise in ascribing salvation to the Lamb, and strength and wisdom to the God of the Rock of their salvation.
But it is not the Church of the first-born that seems principally in the Spirit's contemplation here, but rather a generation which will yet be born.166 The appointed time is almost come at which the scene described by Matthew as having taken place in Jerusalem, when, at the first entrance of the King of Zion into the city of solemnities, the children cried, "Hosannah to the Son of David!" shall have its perfect and enduring counterpart. Fleshly excitement, echoed by the lisping ignorance of childhood, produced a momentary welcome of duteous homage, when, in fulfillment of the word of truth, the Son of God rode lowly amid joyful acclamations, and made His royal visit to Jerusalem as the Judge of Israel.167 Yet through the gate of that same city was He presently to pass, dishonored and condemned of men, to ignominious death. He must go forth to suffer, by the grace of God, without the gate, that He might sanctify, by His own blood, the people by whose suffrage He was numbered with transgressors.168 For He died for that same nation, though they wilt it not, nor even yet does Israel know.169
But there is an hour coming when the praise, which now waits in silent expectation for Jehovah in the deserted but not forgotten city of His choice,170 shall break forth in pure and grateful melody from lips whose uncleanness shall have then been purged away, and from hearts wherein the finger of God shall have written indelibly the everlasting law of His own righteousness.171
The newborn nation shall then be, though in a somewhat different acceptation, an “epistle of Christ," like the Church in the present dispensation, which though torn, alas and mutilated and defiled, yet, blessed be God, bears still the inseparable seal of His most holy Spirit of promise. Violence and destruction shall thenceforth be heard no more within the city of the Lord. For her promised bulwarks are salvation, and her gates shall be called praise.172
Nor is it in Jerusalem or in Immanuel's land alone that the voice of joy will then be heard. The breasts of Zion's consolations shall give suck to other children than her own.173 Gentiles shall freely rejoice in the fellowship of that grace with which Jehovah waits to visit in that day the people of His mercy.174 For from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, the name of Jehovah shall be great among the Gentiles,175 and in every place shall incense and a pure offering be offered to His name.
Verses 3, 4 express the solemn heart-musings of the child of God, when, in the contemplation of the beauty and unmeasured vastness of the firmament above him, and of the lustrous witnesses of Jehovah's power and Godhead which shine there, his thoughts flow back upon himself, and he appreciates, by an overwhelming force of contrast, the reality of his native insignificance.
There are compared together in this passage, the power of God as the Creator, and the riches of His perfect wisdom in setting man, as the vessel of His own pleasure, in the place of sovereign supremacy over all the varied workmanship of His hands. Thy heavens, the moon and the stars which Thou halt ordained, are measured in Divine comparison against another species of His handiwork. “What is man?"The ready answer of the Spirit to this question is “vanity!" when man in his fallen and mortal state is considered simply as he is. But it is the object of this Psalm to unfold the riches of the glory of the human name and destiny, according to man's proper title as the “image and glory of God,"176 a title which finds its perfect justification in the Person of the second Adam alone.
This subject is fully taken up in the verses which follow (5-8). The descriptive language here employed, while it is capable of a retrospective application to the first Adam and his blessings, is true in its full meaning of the Lord Jesus Christ alone.177 It is thus, accordingly, that the apostle applies it in the Epistle to the Hebrews. The world to come178 is to be put in subjection, not to angels, but to man.
The First-begotten is in due time to be again brought into the world.179 God's angels will then openly yield worship to Him whom, though known and adored of old as their Creator, they now recognize and honor as the Son of man. The Church confesses and rejoices in the exaltation, meanwhile, and the crowning with glory and honor, of the once-rejected Jesus. We see Him crowned. But we see not yet all things put under Him.180 The discernment of His Person in heavenly glory is the vision of delight which now draws forth the renewed affections and desires of the child of God, whose portion is in Him. Fullness of joy results already to the Christian, from his personal interest, through grace, in the Firstborn of those "many brethren" whom God is bringing unto glory.
But the several titles which the Spirit of revelation has applied to Christ are more than an unmeaning sound. Adamic title is to have in Him its perfect justification in the putting of all earthly things beneath His feet, to whom already the angels and authorities in heavenly places are content to bow.181 The Church now waits for this. Desiring to see and to have her destined share in the fulfillment of the promises, she looks for and hastens the advent of that day which is to display them in their manifested accomplishment at the revelation of the Lord from heaven.
The Scripture does not, I believe, in any single passage, present the Adamic Antitype in its simple and perfect form; for truth in its perfection must become its own exponent. The crowning feature in the picture of the first man's blessedness is his relation, not to the things placed under him, but to that which was above him—to God, in whose image he was made.182
The full vessel of Divine goodness, set with a meet companion of his joys in the midst of God's earthly paradise, is caused to appear for a moment to our view in the perfection of sublunary happiness, before the work of the Destroyer is allowed to take effect.183 There is thus shown forth in beauteous type the yet more rich and abiding blessedness of that second Man, of whom the first man was but the figure and the shade. Nor will the joys of God's true image be locked incommunicably within His own breast. They are to be shared to the full with that spouse of His Divine affections, to obtain whom He consented to the deep and strange sleep of judicial death; that at His awaking He might find the finished image and reflection of Himself in the faultless and unspotted beauty of the Church, which He owns for ever as His bone and flesh.184
But in the several quotations which are made from this Psalm in the New Testament, the manifest object of the Spirit's doctrine is to demonstrate the relation of the exalted Christ to the present earth and its fullness in the coming day of His dominion. Now the period to which reference is here made is called in Scripture a dispensation.185 It is, therefore, a limited thing. Accordingly, in another chapter,186 in which the true Adamic name and rights of Jesus as the first-fruits of resurrection are asserted, there is a passage in which mention is expressly made of the determined end of the kingdom of promise which is there assigned to Him.187
But that kingdom has likewise the time of its beginning most distinctly indicated in the same chapter. He, who is gone far away to receive His kingdom, begins it at His second coming.188 It is at the commencement of the reign of Christ that the resurrection of His sleeping saints, and the change from mortality to incorruption of those who are alive and remain, will take place as in the twinkling of an eye. It closes with the subjugation of the last enemy.189 For He must reign until all His enemies are subdued, when once that kingdom is begun; even as now He expects, while absent at the right hand of the Father, the putting of His enemies as a footstool for His feet, that in the power of His kingdom He may come forth to reign at the appointed time.190 It is at the coming of the Lord, too, for His Church, that the marriage of the Lamb will have its celebration. For His wife will have made herself ready at that time.191 The reign of Jesus jointly with His bride over the restored creation will follow; for it is in the manifestation of the sons of God that the groaning creature will forget its toil.192
In all the leading testimonies of the Spirit respecting things to come, so far as they relate to the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, we find the present' earth to be a prominent object of regard. There are, indeed, far higher things; heaven and things heavenly are the direct and immediate expectation of the Church. The believer, because he is united to the Lord of all, knows hopefully a destiny which makes even the rule of angels no incredible promise to those who are assured already that all things are theirs.193
The New Earth, which is not the subject of the present Psalm,194 but which stands prophetically revealed as a purposed creation of God in the day when He will again make all things new, may be rightly, perhaps, regarded as the sphere in which the typical scene of Eden's blessedness will receive eventually its perfect realization. But the Scripture has not disclosed to us the secrets of a world which as yet has no existence but in the declared counsel of its Maker. It is enough for the believer that he is able to speak of the untold blessings of an undiscovered future as entirely his own, because they as well as he pertain alike to Christ. Meanwhile, we are exhorted to look for and to hasten on195 that day when nothing shall remain of the old creation, but those who, having once been, as part and parcel of the first Adam, the guilty cause and wretched sharers of its ruin, shall survive, in everlasting newness of redemption-life, the dissolution of the former things, and be the pure inhabitants of a creation which shall be the acceptable and enduring rest of God.196
The subject of this Psalm is presented to the faith of the believer as a part of the mystery of that will of God which it is the especial privilege of the children of His love to know.197 The soul that truly enters into the groaning of the still travailing creation, and suffers daily in this mortal flesh, not only because of personal infirmities, but from witnessing and suffering from the effects of the Destroyer's work, must needs desire that the day of man should cease. Never, since the Holy Ghost indicted this sweet strain, has its opening verse been any other than a still deferred prophetic hope. Jehovah's name is not yet excellent in all the earth. He has His people whom He knows, and who both know and love His name. But the name of Jesus, instead of being excellent, is universally despised, save in those hearts wherein the quickening power of God has made that name manifest as the truth and saving power of the God of grace. But that which He instructed His disciples to pray for will be effected in due time. The will of God will be obeyed on earths as now and evermore it is in heaven. When the judgments of the Lord are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness,198 and not till then.
Verse 9 is a responsive echo to the strain with which the Psalm begins. May He who is thus lauded on the harp of prophecy, both multiply the joy and peace of those who by faith are emboldened to anticipate all promise in their thanksgivings to the Father,199 and hasten the time when in very deed His glory shall cover visibly the heavens, and the earth be full of His praise.200
Psalm 9
WE may trace easily a moral connection between this remarkable Psalm and the seventh. In the latter, the Most High is invoked in the prayer of Messiah to arise in judgment, as the righteous avenger of His wrong upon the head of the wicked. We have now a prophetic celebration of the faithfulness and power of Jehovah, under the same descriptive title, according to their manifest display in the judgment of the ungodly nations, and the deliverance, in saving mercy, of the city and people of His love. It is a song of mercy and of judgment, full of deep moral profit to one who wisely reads, as well as of direct prophetic teaching.
Verses 1-5. The Spirit of Immanuel recounts in these verses the faithfulness of Jehovah, who has maintained His cause in judgment by the blotting out of the Wicked One 201 and his hosts forever and ever. The scene of this destructive judgment is elsewhere stated to be the valley of Jehoshaphat.202
The immediate provocation of Divine wrath is the assembling of the nations, under the willful King, against the city of Jerusalem.
Jesus, who became a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers,203 is the security of Jacob's deliverance from the last day of his trouble; for He died for that nation. Israel is His own; and although rejected ignominiously, when He came among them in the strange guise of a servant, yet the bowels of His unrepentant mercy are toward them still. He is afflicted with the mourners in Zion, and will be a swift messenger of help and sure deliverance, when the rage of the enemy shall have stirred him to his last proud effort against the city of Messiah's love.204
Justice is the line of decision which destroys the heathen, while it saves Israel in the Lord. The smiting of the adversaries is the long-deferred vindication of Immanuel's claim. But He will be known in that day to the remnant of Jacob as the Lord their righteousness. It is the turning of Zion to Jehovah that calls up His indignation against the nations that oppress her, for in opposing her they declare themselves His adversaries. He is the help and the shield of the remnant of His people. Grace will then reign through righteousness over the people of His mercy, while justice takes its course in vengeance against the gainsayers of the Lord.
Verse 6 apostrophizes the vanquished Oppressor, now laid in the low deep of perdition, while the quieted and rejoicing land, whose cities had been wasted by the children of wickedness, now rests secure from all affliction beneath the enduring shelter of Jehovah's name.205
Verses 7-10, which treat the same subject in a wider scope, set in contrast with the now abased and dishonored throne of wickedness the righteous and almighty scepter of Jehovah. He will judge the world with equity; governing in righteousness the remnant of the heathen, who shall hear the rumor of His fame and listen to the recital of His might:, acts by those who then go forth from Zion to make His glory known among the nations of the earth.206 The immediate subjects of the ninth and tenth verses are, I doubt not, the believing remnant of Israel, who cleave still to Jehovah's name through the dark and cloudy day of Jacob's trouble. He is their refuge, not forsaking, but in grace preserving, the poor and tried confessors of His name.
Verses 11, 12. Praise now arises to the Lord who dwelleth in Zion. His doings are to be declared among the nations. The name of the city will in that day be “The Lord is there."207 It will be thus owned among the families of the earth, who will remember and turn unto the Lord. But the seat of Jehovah's government will be set upon the ruins of the throne of iniquity. Retributive judgment for the avenging of the blood of His saints will mark His promised return with mercies to Jerusalem. This is clearly intimated in the present passage. Although the language of verse 12 embodies a general principle,208 yet its application in this place is less to Christians generally, whose calling is to suffer, than to those who in the last days of antichristian blasphemy will be slain in Judea for the name's sake of Jehovah, when all the world besides shall be doing worship to the beast and to his image.209
Verses 13, 14 express the cry of the beloved out of the low dungeon of death. Israel must be brought to an acknowledgment of their condition as self-destroyed and appointed unto death, before their cry can enter into the ears of the Lord of Sabbath.210 But that cry will surely arise, and will be heard of Him who waiteth to be gracious, and in whom is their covenanted help. More precisely, it is the remnant of Judah, that is here contemplated. Israel, as distinguished from Judah, is separately dealt with. But inclusively, it is the nation for which Christ died, whose suffering condition is thus taken up in the pleadings of His own Divine and perfect sympathy. The spirit of praise will clothe the resuscitated nation in the day of the Lord's deliverance; for they will be Jehovah's people, and He will own them and will be their God.211 It is in Zion, the chosen city of solemnities, that will then be heard the glad notes of His perfect and enduring praise.
Verses 15, 16. In these verses the tone of triumph again succeeds to that of supplication. The heathen have sunk into the pit which they had made. They meditated the destruction of Jehovah's sanctuary; their thought had been, “Let her be deified, and let our eye look upon Zion." But the shame over which they trusted to exult had suddenly become their own abiding portion. The glory of Jehovah had declared itself in the visitation of His judgments—the Wicked was a captive in the snare of his own work.212
In verses 17, 18, we have a more general expression of the moral order of God's government. The judge of all the earth will do right.213 He will avenge His own name in holiness upon the gainsayers. He will glorify it in the rich fulfillment of His people's hope. It is, however, with immediate reference to what precedes it that this principle is now stated. The antinomian tendencies which are operating with a constantly increasing energy will reach their end, and God will be willingly forgotten by the nations which once had outwardly professed His worship, in their wonder after the beast.214 Unsparing destruction is the recorded portion of such.215 Meanwhile, the poor and needy, who think upon Jehovah's name, are written in the book of His remembrance, who is no careless listener to the speech of such as comfort one another in His fear, until the tyranny of wickedness be overpast.216
Verses 19, 20. The controversy is here reviewed in its prime elements: it is between Jehovah, the God to whom power belongeth, and feeble yet presumptuous man.217 The will of man, whose breath is in his nostrils, is at perpetual strife against the will and pleasure of his Maker. But God must be the winner in this contest. The principle of intrinsic variance which opposes flesh to Spirit is known to every Christian. Here, however, the question is with nations arrayed in anger against the few remaining confessors of the truth of God, when the world, which once professed that knowledge, will mistake a lie for truth. The work of Satan is to oppose things natural to things spiritual. To make man, excellent, whom God has judged, is his unceasing effort.
And the world is willingly his dupe, for nature loves itself, and seeks its own. Every step in the advancing progress of the age is a growth and furtherance of that lie against the glory of Christ, which by and by will terminate in the revelation of him who claims to be as God. But man may not prevail. The solemn invocation here expressed will be answered, with fearful demonstration of the creature's vanity, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, for vengeance upon them that know not God. The closing verse seems to indicate the effects of the judgment in making the surviving nations acquainted with themselves, that as suppliants they may learn His fear, who in that day shall be acknowledged as the God of the whole earth.218
Psalm 10
Tim Psalm, while of the widest moral bearing, has a definiteness, when considered as a prophetic testimony, which gives it a new and peculiar interest. The mention made of the Lord's land (verse 16) presents us with a key to the more precise meaning of the general language employed. A very plain affinity of subject, moreover, exists between this Psalm and the one immediately preceding.
Verses 1-11. The counsel and acts of prosperous human wickedness are recited with graphic solemnity in these verses. The hidden springs of ungodly action are laid open, and are found to have their common rise in that heart-atheism which soothes and countenances, in its desperate and suicidal course, the madness of a rebellious will. But under general expressions of the most extended practical application, the Spirit of God is evidently tracing in this Psalm the moral features and positive action of the Wicked One, as they discover themselves in his treatment of the faithful remnant of Israel, whose urgent cry it is that is heard in the opening verse.
If we examine the language of this passage a little more attentively, we shall find it in many ways remarkable. Opening with an expostulatory appeal to Him who seems to hide His eyes from the afflictions of His people, there is then (verse 2) a general statement of the pride of wickedness; and how its devices are to be frustrated in due time. Thus, while the word219 rendered “Wicked" is in the singular number, the subject is immediately afterwards presented in the plural: "let them be taken," etc. To this succeeds a particular description of him who is by pre-eminence “the Wicked One."
Accordingly, in the verses which follow, the same word is twice repeated with declarative additions, which vividly present an individual portrait to our view. Let us notice its leading features.
The third verse describes his covetousness, his blasphemy, and his boastful self-confidence. His atheistic pride is next noted (verse 4). "All his thoughts are, there is no God" (margin). The crookedness and defilement of his way, his arrogance and pride of place, are the subject of the next two verses (5, 6). Filled with the strong wine of Satanic delusion, he anticipates a perpetuity of life and power. He has founded for himself, in the imagination of his heart, a glory which shall not remove. In the remainder of the passage (verses 7-11), we have a further amplification of this description of the Wicked and his ways. In his proud pretensions, he is the ambitious rival of Jehovah's Christ, even as in the moral features of his character he presents the most revolting contrast to the spotless and perfect doer of the will of God. The prophets elsewhere describe the great Adversary of Jehovah's name and people in similar terms. Thus Daniel: "The king shall do according to his own, will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every God, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper, until the indignation be accomplished."220
The quotation which is made by the apostle from this passage221 in support of his special conviction of the Jew as under law, coupling withal, as he does, both Jew and Gentile in the same category, conveys a practical lesson of high value.
For our minds are often in danger, while considering objectively the great phenomena of human wickedness which are revealed in Scripture, of forgetting that what is presented to our contemplation when the Holy Ghost marks out the moral lineaments of Christ's chief adversary among men, is but the ripe development of what is in the human heart of every one of us. It is fallen and corrupted nature, matured to full grown wickedness under the allowed fostering of the devil, that produces “the Man of sin.”
The general language of this Psalm, compared with some other passages of prophetic Scripture, and especially with our Lord's words, "If another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive," suggests, as an obvious inference, that the Wicked One, when he appears, will be personally of Jewish origin.222 Certainty, however, on this point can hardly be affirmed. The remaining verses, to the eleventh inclusive, describe the combination of fraud and violence which, with prosperous result, will build the house of pride until it culminates for its destruction at the hand of the Avenger.
Verses 12-16. The work of the liar and the murderer having reached its height, the solemn call is now addressed to Jehovah to avenge His own cause in the deliverance of His afflicted people. He had seen all, though the proud heart of the Wicked had told him flatteringly that God had forgotten. This is the crowning misery of man, who, unless rescued by elective mercy, is in his boasted wisdom merely Satan's fool. He dreams of independent action while his will is absolutely swayed by the deceiver. But both the deceived and the deceiver are His, who directs the course of human evil through the channels of His own appointment, accomplishing the counsel of His praise by the blind instrumentality of the wrath and wickedness of man. Meanwhile, His ear is open to the cry of His distressed. He tries the faith He gives them for awhile, that patience may have her perfect work, and that His promises may be the more intelligently prized by those who cleave to them in the presence of the lying seductions and appalling threats of the Destroyer. But it is in his heart to deliver, and to avenge the cause of His elect. The land in which the Oppressor will practice finally his evil work is none other than Immanuel's inheritance. His controversy, therefore, is with God and not with man.
Poverty and affliction will be indeed the condition of Jehovah's remnant in that day; horses and chariots will have ceased. Jerusalem is under the heel of the enemy. Her children are brought very low, and speak as from the dust in the day of their distress. The thought, meanwhile, of the Wicked One is to establish himself as God, both in His temple and upon His earthly throne. He will think to plant enduringly the ensign of his power on the holy hill of Zion;223 but the counsel of Jehovah is not so.
Verses 16-18 express the bold anticipations of prophetic faith, which realizes beforehand the answer of righteous judgment to the cry sent up. Jehovah is king forever and ever.224 The heathen might arise and take strong counsel, yet He did not change. With Him is continuance,225 and salvation will be found there by the tried yet faithful remnant of His love, whose hearts He has prepared to trust in Him. His land shall yield its increase to the satisfying of His poor with bread. The foot of pride may haughtily invade its border, but as a wall of fire He will be about His own inheritance in the day of His arising. The Oppressor shall be broken in His time. The God of heaven will replace, in the full beneficence of His gracious sovereignty, the “Man of the earth "226 who has made the nations tremble. The fear of His people, whose covert and protection are the outspread wings of Israel's God and Bing, must pass away as a forgotten dream.
Psalm 11
To the tried believer, when allowed of God to suffer in any degree the afflictions of the Gospel,—to bear the reproach of Christ,—this most beautiful little Psalm is of richest practical value. It is the calm expression of one who had faith in God.227 Patience and quiet confidence are found in the steadfast spirit of the believer, who, because he has intelligence of the right ways of Jehovah, is in the secret of Him who trieth the righteous for their profit by the very things which are hastening on the destruction of the ungodly. Thus the principle illustrated is very broad.
Its perfect exemplification is to be found only in the Person of the obedient One, who trusted in God as none else trusted.228 His walk as a child of wisdom was under the unction and in the power of the Spirit of God. As one quick of understanding in the fear of Jehovah, He met and defeated all the methods of the devil. Acting and speaking as He heard from Him who opened every day the willing ear of His Beloved,229 He wrought righteousness with patient and long-suffering endurance, until the doctrine of the God of truth was perfectly adorned by His doing to the uttermost the Father's will. Yet His labor seemed to be in vain. The devotedness with which He still fulfilled the numbered hours of His day of toil230 exposed Him only to the fiercer contradiction of those who hated Him, because their deeds were evil. That day of gracious patience was ordained to have its setting in the black darkness of judicial death. Jesus became obedient unto death, the death of the cross; but the dawn of an everlasting day was presently to break that night. For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross.231 The study of the gospels opens to us wondrous traits of this hopeful devotedness of obedience in the self-emptied Son of God. Satan's aim was always to withstand Him in this—to deter or divert Him from the doing of the Father's will. “The Pharisees “(apt pupils of the arch-deceiver) "came saying, Get thee out and depart hence; for Herod will kill thee. And He said unto them, Go ye and tell that fox, Behold I cast out devils and do cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected."232
We have here an echo of the first verse of this Psalm.
The faithful remnant of the nation will, I doubt not, illustrate remarkably in their experience its principle; a more practical and immediate application of it, however, seems rather to claim our present attention.
The apparent indifference of God to the actual course of human events gives occasion for wickedness to thrive and prosper, and for the depression, meanwhile, of the truth of God, and of those who faithfully confess it. It is thus that the faith of God's elect is often tried. There is a heaviness which arises, not from inward, personal temptation, but from the pressure from without, which the believer has to experience while living through the evil day. The same word of grace that nourishes the child of God with Christ, as with the bread of heaven, has warned him not to count it strange if such a trial of his faith should come.233 It is a part of his present calling thus to suffer; the offence of the cross will never cease while man is as he is.234 But especially it is to those whose time of pilgrimage has been assigned them at the close of God's long day of patience, that such exhortations are most forcibly addressed. To stand fast in the evil day is the calling and glory of all whose conversation in the world is by the grace of God.235 To win Christ is the one purpose of the soul that truly knows Him. The security of this attainment is the faithfulness and power of Him who has apprehended for glory the prepared vessels of His mercy.236 Meanwhile, it fares now with the faithful follower of Jesus as it did with the Master in His day of gracious patience here below.237
The constant effort of the prince of this world is to counteract the power of Divine truth in a believer; to divert him, by presenting false attractions, from his proper aim; to keep him, if possible, below the full appreciation of his calling; to hinder thus his present enjoyment of that righteous blessing which, as a child of grace, pertains to him in Christ; to deaden, consequently, if he cannot wholly frustrate, his testimony as a child of light amid the darkness of the world. Close walking with God, not only discloses to the watchful saint the enemy's devices, but defeats them also, through the power of His might whose grace is proved by such to be the staff and shelter of their souls.238
The progress of evil is a fearful spectacle, when watched with sober-minded earnestness in the light of Divine truth. A Christian at the present day may feel, and, indeed, cannot but feel, if truly alive to the calling of the Church on the one hand, and its existing condition in the world on the other, that the foundations239 are in very deed removed (verse 3). What once stood conspicuous in its diversified unity, as the pillar and ground of the truth, has long ceased to exist in that character. Divine mercy has, indeed, gleamed brightly among the fragments of the ruined building. The members of Christ's body, though maimed and scattered, have not ceased to live. Nor will they cease; because He lives, they too shall live. Eternal life is theirs in Him.
They cannot die, though they may languish here in low and feeble plight; for they are preserved in Christ, and kept, until the hour come when they shall be manifested in the glorious fullness of that one body which will display the stature of the perfect Man, when the Lord shall be glorified in His saints, and marveled at in all who now believe.240
The soul, then, that with a godly sorrow bemoans the evil of a day in which earthly things instead of heavenly are, as a general rule, the things most eagerly pursued by such as name the name of Christ, may find in the succeeding verse (4) a sweet yet solemn word of comfort. Jehovah is in His temple. And there too, in the tabernacle which no human hands have pitched, is Jesus, the faithful and merciful High Priest of our profession.241 GOD, then, remains to faith, in undiminished fullness of grace, of mercy, and of peace, although the visible foundations may be clean dissolved. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever, abides continually as the sure foundation, the tried stone of God's election and the believing sinner's trust. And well He knows how, by the blessed Spirit, who reveals Him in us as the Hope of glory, to act with kindly power on the wearied heart, making His joy to be the strength of those who are content to fight on still the fight of faith, that they may know the joy of being crowned of Him whose coming draweth nigh.242
But reverence and godly fear are natural associates of true spiritual confidence. The latter verses of this Psalm are instructive in this respect. Judgment is found to have its beginning at the house of God. The Lord trieth, the righteous (verse 5), while the portion of the ungodly is wrath and fiery indignation.243
A foot shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace can walk safely, and will assuredly walk softly, in contemplation of the solemn future which awaits the world, out of which the dying love of Jesus has alone delivered those whom He is not ashamed to call His brethren. May our joy and strength be sought in Him whose pleasure is in righteousness, and whose countenance shines brightly in unclouded favor upon those whose hearts are set upon His ways.
Psalm 12
THE abundance of iniquity which immediately precedes the coming of the Son of man appears to be the subject of this Psalm. It is an appeal sent up into the ears of Jehovah from hearts ready to sink because of over-much affliction.244 But for the elect's sake those days of tribulation shall be shortened.245
Verses 1-4. A mournful view is here presented of fast ripening ungodliness, according to its active prevalence among the "children of men." As it is elsewhere written, "men246 shall be lovers of their own selves," etc.247 It is not natural apostasy merely (as in Rom. 1), but the deliberate abandonment of God once confessed in revelation, that is to characterize the evil of the last days. Grace and truth, tried, tasted, loathed, and finally abandoned by mankind, are God's witnesses against ungodly sinners in the day of their perdition. They will be convinced of their ungodly deeds,248 when the gainsayers of the Holy Ghost are stripped for ever of that mantle of convenient hypocrisy which is furnished by the outward form of godliness.
Insincerity is the leading moral feature of a Christ-less world. Self-interest is the bond of corruption which holds together the evil confederacy of man when in a state of alienation from God. Love is of God. Man's love is either for advantage' sake, or else is an imperious instinct of his nature which he obeys, as being natural. Sinners and publicans give love for love.249 The Spirit of Christ, marking these features of apostasy, and expressing them through the medium of His suffering people's experience, records against it the visitation of a wrath which slumbereth not.
There is a striking contrast presented in verse 4 to the saving confession of Christian faith. When rebellious nature shapes into utterance the folly of its secret thought, it thus delivers itself:—Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?" closing thus haughtily the gates of righteousness against itself.250 It is a fearful thing to read such language in the recorded testimony of the Spirit of prophecy. Yet thus it must be; and that Christian must be blind indeed who does not recognize in the boastful humanitarianism of our day an incipient fulfillment of this word. The fruit of those lips which was offered for a while in lying homage to the Lord, who never had their hearts, will be finally given by apostate sinners to the idol of their pride. Antichristian blasphemy is the tone of the passage just quoted., The distinct assertion of human independence of the Creator, who formed man as the work of His own hands, is that which seals the destruction of the lawless one and his associates in the day of wrath.'251
The present Psalm, while pointedly applicable to the closing days of our own dispensation, and furnishing a just expression of afflicted Christian faith, appears to relate rather, in its ultimate intention, to the sufferings of the godly remnant of Israel, which in the last times they endure at the hands of their unbelieving countrymen.252 The expression, "this generation" (verse 7), would describe the national apostasy rather than Gentile power generally. But it is often difficult to assign definitely the time and action of such Psalms, while their general drift is very clear.
Verses 5-8. The answer of God to the cry of His elect is now heard. They were needy and oppressed. The heel of pride had been raised against them. Their affliction was of man, not of God. Their consolations are of Him who comforteth them that are cast down. They did not resist the hand of the Oppressor, but committed themselves unto God who judgeth righteously. Such hat always been the fare of godliness in a world of sin. Contempt or oppression, or both, are the allotted portion of all who will walk godly in Christ Jesus.253 But in a more emphatic sense will the remnant of the latter day know, I believe, that experience both of sorrow and of joy which filled the cup once tasted by the prophets, who spake before of the coming of the Just One.
Much of what the Lord spake on the mount to the disciples in the audience of the multitude, while it pertained to those who were immediately addressed (and who, being Jews, were listening to one who, as a minister of the circumcision, spoke still of earthly things, while opening gradually to their view things heavenly and eternal), seems to have an especial application to the state of those suffering confessors of Messiah upon whom the tribulation of the last times is ordained to fall.254 That these last are also Jews is manifest from the Lord's words elsewhere spoken.255 They are in Judea. They keep the Sabbath. They regard the holy place.256 The book of Revelation opens to us a view of the interior of Jerusalem in the days immediately preceding the coming of the Son of man,257 at which time the city appears to be in willing subjection to the Man of sin.
The circumstances which eventually alter his relation to Jerusalem so entirely as to bring him and his power to beleaguer the city to their own destruction258 are not recorded in Scripture. But that he comes in at first by flatteries is expressly stated.259 Since his coming is after the working of Satan, with signs and lying wonders, there is no difficulty in our understanding that he will act like his master in his double character of deceiver and destroyer. But there is One that regardeth it, whose judgments remain far above out of his sight, until the moment when they will descend upon him as with the swoop of an eagle on its prey.260
Meanwhile faith's confidence is in the immutable counsel of Jehovah. His words are pure. Each several crisis in the trial of faith brings out in greater brightness and distinctness the fair promises of truth for the comfort of the afflicted soul. Brightest of all will they shine in the day of their fulfillment, in the light and glory of the revelation of Jesus Christ. The trial of His people's faith is precious. It has been variously tried, and will be tried yet more severely. The long delay of vengeance on the evil work is augmenting daily the strength of that fierce flame of human willfulness and Satanic effort, which seems in the hastening progress of events to be fast obliterating from the minds of men the remembrance of God's promises and threatenings alike.261 And thus the man of nature triumphs, sporting himself with his own deceivings, while he dreams of that peace and safety which can never be their portion who confess no ruler but their own hearts' lusts.
Faithful assertion of a better hope becomes less than ever tolerable in the ears of the world, when it is exulting, as it now is more than ever, in the progressive achievement of its aims. The way of Cain262 leads always to the slaughter of God's saints. The dragon and the beast make war on such.263 But the sight of evil serves only to bind the promises more closely to the hearts of those who truly trust in God. He will keep them forever from the hurtful generation; He will cause them to shine in the accomplished glory of His promise. The moral desolation produced by the supremacy of avowed ungodliness is strongly expressed in the concluding verse.
Psalm 13
THIS is a sweet and full outpouring of the secret soul of faith, while still under the cloud which hides from view the perfect light of the Lord. It is a very interesting Psalm in a practical point of view. As the peculiarity of its language cannot fail to strike the reader, it seems desirable to inquire, in the present article, how far the particular character of personal experience described, both here and in many other Psalms, differs from Christian experience in the just sense of that expression.
Verses 1-4. No Christian who knew the grace of God in truth could ever rightly utter the complaint with which this Psalm begins. For the standing of a Christian is a conscious acceptance in the Beloved. He is no more a stranger, but an heir of God. He is acknowledged by the Spirit as a saint, while his sins are forgotten of God through the one effectual atonement which has purged them all.264 He is kept in Christ before the Father's face for ever.265 The knowledge which believers have of God is through the Holy Ghost; but that blessed Spirit is the witness of their exaltation in Christ into heavenly places, far above harm from every hostile power.266 They have slept through their sleep of death in Him who died for them and rose again. They live now by the faith of Him; their life is hid with Christ in God.267 If, therefore, they are called to suffer, it is by virtue of that grace which has already anointed them in Christ for the kingdom and glory of God.268 Peace with God is the true condition of every believer in the Son of God; it is known and practically enjoyed by all who are walking in the light.269 The Light of life is in them as the Hope of glory.270 The excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord enables the simple believer, who tastes the sweetness of the love of Christ, to renounce willingly the pursuit of earthly things, and to glory even in tribulation, because he knows that such afflictions are a portion of that cup of gracious favor which, for Jesus' sake, it has been given him to drink, as it is ministered in wisdom by the Father's hand.271
For a Christian, then, to speak of God's forgetting him, would be to betray his own forgetfulness or ignorance of the grace in which he stands; for surely they whom He has brought nigh to Himself by the blood of His own Son are never out of the remembrance of His love: To think of God as hiding His face from him, would be to overlook the Mediator and great High Priest whom God has consecrated for the children's sakes, that by His ever-living intercession they might abide in an unchanged acceptance with Himself. It would be to mistake utterly the ground and principle on which alone God deals with those whom He has reconciled to Himself by the death of His own Son.
On the other hand, the Scripture contemplates a class of believers whose condition is to be seeking righteousness and waiting for light, but who are not in the possession of spiritual liberty and joy. Now as to this, it is certain that Christians, although they have assuredly in Christ, the righteousness, the sanctification, and the redemption, which establish them in Him before the face of God, in blameless meetness for the fellowship of the saints in light, are often, in their actual experience, far short of the enjoyment of their proper blessings. But this so sad an effect proceeds from a cause more evil than itself; for where God's children are not rejoicing in Christ Jesus, it is because the conditions of spiritual joy are not at the time existing in their souls. Unbelief, or ignorance, or a defiled conscience because of some allowed evil, or possibly all these combined (for low indeed may a believer fall whose vigilance is laid asleep, to the neglect of those additions to his faith on which all real enjoyment of spiritual things depends272), must be regarded as the true occasion of darkness in a Christian's soul.
For God is light. And faith, receiving this pure message, as from the Father of lights, according to its perfect exposition in the face of Jesus Christ, finds the fullness of its blessing to be there. We joy in God through Jesus Christ.273 The Psalm before us, with many others, contains expressions quite adapted to the state of one who, from a state of distance, is returning in spirit to the Lord. But while comfort in conflict may be drawn from it by such, a right division of the Word of truth is heedfully to be observed, that misapplied expressions of the Holy Ghost may not be used to justify a state of soul which is itself a contradiction of the finished grace of God.
But an experimental condition, which in a Christian is contrary to the very terms of his confession, may be quite consistent in the case of one not brought as yet within that marvelous light. A Jew, so long as he remained in ignorance of the finished deliverance of the cross, and the blessings of the heavenly calling, would have rightly and of necessity, if quickened of God, an experience resembling that which finds expression in this Psalm. That Jehovah should bide His face from His people under the old covenant was strictly in keeping with the terms of the covenant itself. Their disobedience would be a provocation of His anger. The effect of this would be a disciplinary course of dealing, the very edge of which was the withdrawal from them of that manifested favor without which they were as a defenseless prey before their adversaries. So that they should say when suffering thus: “Are not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?"274 The prophets who bore their testimony in the midst of Israel's declension continually recognize this moral position of the nation.
“I will wait upon the Lord who hideth His face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for Him,"275 is language which expresses the personal attitude of the faithful servant of the truth in the midst of general apostasy, while it intimates at the same time both the object and nature of that hope which sustained, meanwhile, the heart of the prophet of good things to come, as himself also a child of promise. It was to Jehovah as the personal Security of national blessing through the fulfillment of the covenanted promises once made to the fathers, that the suffering witnesses of God at all times looked. The Spirit of Christ was in the Jewish prophets. That Spirit spake beforehand of the sufferings of Christ, and of the glories276 which should follow.277 But although to some readers of this book the assertion will appear both new and questionable, yet I do not hesitate to express my firm belief, that the heavenly glory of Christ as the Son upon the Father's throne, and the wondrous blessedness now revealed by the Spirit of promise to the church, as the anointed co-heir with the First-born of the Father's house, its glory and delights, never came within the field of any Jewish prophet's view.278
The prophetic Scripture has been so constructed, in the wisdom of its Author, as to contain essential truths from which the Holy Ghost has subsequently demonstrated the things which are now ministered, as her seasonable portion, to the Church.279 But the glories which filled the eye of Jewish faith in connection with its Messianic expectation, were such as pertained primarily and especially to Jesus under His distinctive titles of Seed of Abraham, and Son of David,280 the long-promised messenger of the covenant of faithful promise. As Israel's King, His seat of dominion should be the throne of David, and His royal diadem of beauty the long afflicted and once desolate city of Jerusalem. The long and richly-varied strain of Jewish prophecy tends always to the establishment of Immanuel's earthly kingdom as its term and ultimate accomplishment.281
It has already been shown from Scripture in earlier pages of this work, and will, it is hoped, appear yet more manifestly as we proceed, that the present economy of Gentile mercy, during which the nation of Israel is disowned of God, is destined to give place to another dispensation which is yet to come. One leading feature of this future age is the complete national restoration of Israel according to the terms of the new covenant. With respect to the mode in which the now existing dispensation is to terminate, and the prospective one to begin, the testimony of Scripture is abundant and precise. The assumption of the elect Church of God into its promised glory;282 the judgment of the once professing but apostate Gentile body, upon proof of its utter departure from the ground of saving faith;283 the gathering of the powers of the wicked one into their last confederacy of atheistic madness 284 the revival of the Jewish name and nation in the very land of Judah, so that the city of Jerusalem becomes, eventually, the direct object of hostility to the willful king;285—these, and many other events, are expressly revealed in the word of God as having their place previously to, or at the very moment of the opening of the coming dispensation by the manifested advent of the Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.286
The order and mutual relation of these different events are not now in question. The single truth which claims our present attention is the scriptural certainty that a Divine deliverance is to be granted to the remnant of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who survive that fearful siege which is to be laid against the city of God's choice by the assembled armies of her foes!287
It is the spiritual condition of this remnant that appears to find such frequent expression in the prophets generally, but particularly in the Psalms. There are certain characteristic features which distinguish widely the tone of their experience from that of a believer now standing in the light and liberty of Christ.
The sense of desertion, mixed with a clear and strong expression of hope in the faithfulness of Jehovah, the covenant God and Deliverer of His people, is continually expressed. The invocation also of vengeance upon the oppressor has already been noticed as another distinctive trait. To state with precision the measure of their knowledge of truth is not attempted or desired by the writer of these Notes. But it seemed needful to present the more important and striking points of contrast which exist between the often dark-minded and always limited views and aspirations of the beloved though afflicted prisoners of hope, on the one hand,288 and that full and cloudless light of the Lord, which is the proper portion and joy of those who, while their temporal expectation is suffering and affliction, are able to glory in tribulations and to count themselves more than conquerors through Him whose love is already the assured possession of their souls.289
The verses, then, now under consideration may be regarded as the Spirit's utterance of an experience which, as it pertained to David personally in the day of his affliction, has likewise ever been the portion of oppressed Jewish faith, whose object of desire is the budding of the Branch of promise, and whose actual condition is that of distance from God because of national transgression. The Psalm is capable, in some degree, of a personal application to Messiah; but its general tone seems much more suited to His suffering brethren after the flesh, who bear His reproach as they await, in the closing darkness of this age, the long-promised rising of the Sun of righteousness.
Verses, 5, 6. The prayer of faith here turns to the anticipative celebration of triumph in the Lord's deliverance. The faith which trusts Jehovah's mercy will surely rejoice in His salvation. The Christian understands this, and already has the earnest of this joy. He can sing the Lord's song while still in a strange land, because of the abundance of grace with which in Christ Jesus he is blessed of God. Such an one may find, therefore, in these verses a happy expression of his heart's best joys. It is, however, the triumph of Immanuel in His earthly people—the bounteous blessing with which He will comfort her who was for a little forsaken—that seems here more especially in view.290
Psalm 14
IN the opening verse of this remarkable Psalm, the Spirit of God declares His moral estimate of the ripe and perfect growth of human iniquity.291 As we have in earlier Psalms seen the Man of sin and his associates reviewed in the work and counsel which declare them as the adversaries of Jehovah and His people, so now we have a contemptuous defacement of the crown of pride,' through the demonstrated folly of those whose way of unrighteousness had been governed by the bridle of error, which is placed by the only wise God in the jaws of the nations who willingly forget His name.292
It is plain from the language of verses 4 and 7, that the folly which is here reviewed will reach its crisis in the day when Jehovah will arise for the deliverance of His people. The day of the Lord's decision will adjust the respective claims of Divine wisdom and of human madness, as these principles are severally represented, on the one hand by Jehovah's Christ, the anointed King of righteousness, whose rule is for the Most High God and in His fear,293 and on the other by the lawless one, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, and whose heart, fostered and flattered by the lie of Satan, is uplifted to the imagined occupation of that seat of dominion which pertains by right to Him alone by the breath of whose lips the opposer is to be destroyed.294
But, though the wicked one himself is thus anew presented for our contemplation, it is important to remember that the judgment of the Spirit of God is pronounced in this Psalm, not upon an isolated specimen of human wickedness or some rare prodigy of atheistic folly, but on the moral value of human conduct generally, when its results are taken for examination into God's immediate view. The eye which looks down from heaven, in vain quest of goodness upon earth, regards as its objects the children of men295 at large, and not some limited number or peculiar instances. Hence, while there is plain evidence upon the face of the Psalm, that the demonstration of the master folly of the wicked one is reserved for the day of Jacob's final trouble, when the full measure of Gentile pride and blasphemy shall have been attained, yet the testimony here given to the depravity and ungodliness of fallen human nature is universal in its aspect, and of perpetual force.
There is no new thing beneath the sun. The root of all evil is in the heart of every man. Unhallowed combination brings it to its ripe results. The first great demonstration of this, since the drying up of the waters of judgment left the earth to be again the stage of human action, was the building of the tower of Babel.296 The next was the union of Jew and Gentile, in order to crucify the Lord of glory.297 Another, for which the human and Satanic energies already operating are constructing its appropriate stage, will be the assembling of the nations and their kings in hostile confederacy against the name and power of Jehovah, in preparation for the great day of decision.298 The time and scene of the last and greatest of these demonstrations are placed beyond the millennial reign of Christ.299 That era of triumphant righteousness, which will display the glory and disperse the lavish treasures of Divine goodness, to the abundant satisfying of the desire of every living thing, will prove as ineffectual to subdue the intrinsic badness of man's fallen nature, as is the present witness which is borne by the Spirit to the riches of God's grace and mercy in the preaching of the Gospel of His Son. Christ is now despised, where quickening power has not formed the soul anew. He will be feared and obeyed when the just scepter of His power is wielded in the coming age. But neither grace nor fear persuades the natural man to goodness.
The solemn truth of the utter depravity of fallen nature, of the intrinsic enmity of the human will against God, will be allowed its last and most decisive exemplification when the nations who had paid their homage to Messiah, while as the Prince of the kings of the earth He ruled the kingdoms of the world in the manifested glory of Divine dominion, will be seen once more in sudden and unanimous revolt against His people and His name.300
The cause of this last phenomenon of human madness will be the re-ascending of Satan from the limited durance of his millennial bondage, and his being once more suffered to act as the tempter upon the natural will of man. The ways of those who had yielded a reluctant obedience to the constraint of righteous government, and who had fed to the full upon God's bounties while still their hearts remained unaffected by His grace, will then be suddenly and fatally reversed. As it was in the beginning, when Satan's lie found readier acceptance than the truth of God, to the undoing of the first transgressor, who willingly learned sin amid the paradise of God,301 so will it be at the last close of this earth's most strange and solemn history. A dispensation of all-pervading temporal prosperity, and in palpable manifestation of Divine truth and glory,302 will leave the unchanged heart of the natural man, at the close of its appointed course, as accessible to the seductions of the devil as before its commencement. When loosed from the pit, he will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth. He will deceive them, for they will consent without reluctance to his counsel. In number as the sand of the sea, they will be found in last array against Jehovah and His Christ.
They will compass the camp of the saints, and the beloved city; and fire will come down from God out of heaven, and consume them all Such is the closing event of the counsel and action of "the children of men,"—the last display of the working of that flesh, which every Christian both knows from the word of truth, and feels in his own experience, to be in an essential and unceasing opposition to the Spirit.303
The use which the Holy Ghost has made of this Psalm, when summing up the leading evidences of human ruin as the effect of sin, is familiar to every attentive reader of the New Testament.304 It is there alleged more especially for the conviction of them that are under the law. But the Jew was Adam's flesh brought under particular responsibility, as the result of covenanted nearness to God. The failure therefore of the Jew is conclusive evidence, not only of his personal sin, but likewise of the moral condition of the species to which he belongs. It is a dreadful as well as a most humiliating truth, that the nearer fallen Adamic nature is brought to God, whether by means of ordinances, or by the positive action of Divine mercy in external deliverances, the more fearfully its corruption is displayed. Both these instances have been exemplified in Israel's national history. Grace brought them, by Divine power, out of Egypt. But murmuring and gainsaying marked their way, until the giving of the law.305
The acceptance of the covenant of works set the people on a new basis of conditional blessing, and gave them new and special opportunity of testifying in obedience that devotedness to the God of their salvation which they so readily and unanimously professed. But while the tables of the covenant were being committed to the hands of Moses in the mount, the people had already changed their glory into the likeness of an ox that eateth grass.306 Still more awfully has the former of these aspects of human evil been presented in the history of the professing Church. The mystery of iniquity, out of which the Man of sin must soon arise, had its beginning in the abuse and corruption of the doctrines of the grace of God.307
But, as it respects the nation of Israel, there is hope in their latter end. Jehovah is the God of Jacob. The day has been appointed, and is recorded in the sure word of prophecy, when the remnant of Jacob shall return unto the mighty God.308 Good things have been spoken concerning Israel, to the fulfillment of which the name of Israel's God stands surely pledged; nor will He utterly forsake the people of His covenant until His thoughts of peace toward them have attained their end.309
Perhaps the latter verses of this Psalm (4-7) apply more directly to the ungodly of the nation, who, as the receivers of the Antichrist, will oppress the faithful remnant of their brethren. That they "call not upon the name of Jehovah," is a charge which seems to imply an apostasy from their previous confession of that name. There is in this respect a difference between the language of this passage and that of Psa. 53 which, in its general expression, so closely resembles the one now before us. This difference, with some other points not now adverted to, will be noticed in our examination of the latter Psalm.
Psalm 15
THIS Psalm presents a complete contrast to the last. As the ripened folly of God-denying wickedness was there reviewed in its principles, and summed up in the person of the lawless one, so there is now presented to us a moral portraiture of the Perfect One,310 whose way was the delight of Jehovah whom He only lived on earth to serve.
The Psalm consists of two parts. The question is proposed in the opening verse, as to the qualification for human fellowship with Jehovah. His tabernacle and His holy hill are to be inhabited; but who shall ascend thither, and abide? The residue of the Psalm recites descriptively the moral traits of personal character and conduct which attach to the pure candidate for that reward.
It is a Psalm of David, but its subject is manifestly Christ. In Jesus, and in Him alone, were found the qualities which prove man's fitness for his Maker's presence. He wrought righteousness because He was the Just One. Walking in the perfectness of His own spotless nature, He chose continually the way of obedience to the Father's will. The master-thought in the fool's heart is “there is no God;" the delight of Jesus was to do the will of God. He was the true Child of wisdom. The Spirit that rested on Him was the welcome guide of all His steps.311
The law was within His heart. Truth was uttered only by His lips who is Himself the Truth. It was, indeed, a very Man, whose words and ways were daily seen and judged of men; but the deep and pure springs of eternal life, the proper glory of the Godhead, were hid beneath that outward veil of flesh. The glory of the only-begotten of the Father radiated from the Person of Jesus, as He fulfilled a course and wrought a work which nothing not Divine could compass or effect. Perfect holiness was the intrinsic moral quality which perpetually separated the Lord from those among whom, nevertheless, in perfect grace He went about doing good. He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, while speaking seasonable words of gracious tenderness in the ears of those weary souls whose moisture sin had dried. His thoughts were not as men's thoughts, either in measure or in kind. God was in all His thoughts.
The grace to usward which drew forth from the Father's bosom the only-begotten Son, and led Him into a world which denied Him a shelter for His head, found its expression and effected its mighty works in the form of Nazaritic devotedness and obedience.312 He came forth in our likeness under the willing obligation of the vows of our redemption. By the grace of God He was sent into the world to die. By a voluntary duty of entire love He took the hurtful burden of human sin and sorrow, to bear it to the grave and hide it there forever. By His own self-sacrifice He has abolished sin.313 It lies far hidden from His people's sight, who, seeing it by faith thus laid on Him in death, search vainly for it in the brightness of that Light of life which the risen Son of God is to the poor believing sinner, who knows both for what He died, and why He rose again.314
To the thoughtful reader of the Gospels, abundant illustration will present itself, from the very life, of the moral principles enumerated in this Psalm. "Behold an Israelite indeed,"315 was not only an expression of Divine omniscience which graciously recognized the faith which had been given by Himself. It was the honorable mention by the perfect Servant of Jehovah,—the Man wholly after His heart,—of one who in his measure was like-minded with Himself,—of one, that is, who feared the Lord (verse 4). His treatment of the hypocritical sinners, who vexed His righteous soul with their heartless and vain pretensions to godliness, expressed the contempt of the vile, which is in the same verse imputed to the Man whom God accepts.316
The practical bearing of this Psalm upon the Christian conscience is too clear to require separate notice in this place.317 It has, moreover, an obvious application to the faithful Jewish remnant, who walk wisely, as Jehovah's prisoners of hope, amid the moral darkness of the latter day.318
Psalm 16
WE listen in this most beautiful Psalm to the voice of Jesus, the author and finisher of faith. As Jehovah's Holy One 319He rejoices in the God in whom He trusted for the restoration, with eternal joy and honor, of the life which in the obedient devotedness of love He laid down at the good pleasure of the Father's will.320
It was as a corroborative testimony to the resurrection of the Lord, that a quotation from the present Psalm was furnished to Peter by the Holy Ghost, when first the ministry of reconciliation began its operation in Jerusalem.321 David had spoken such things. But he spake as a prophet, in whom the spirit of prophecy was the testimony of Jesus.322 It is a Psalm therefore full of precious matter for the soul that has tasted that the' Lord is gracious. Let us trace briefly its leading topics.
Verses 1-3. Two great principles find their expression in these verses. First, perfect reliance upon God; and secondly, entire devotedness in love to them that are owned of Him. These two principles were found, each in its own perfection, and both in harmonious combination, in Jesus, and in Him alone. Rich in Himself, He had become poor, in grace and love to our souls. Being thus found in fashion as a man, He would honor the only true God in His place. He trusted in God. He would honor, moreover, and beautify the form which He had taken, by perfectly accomplishing that which alone glorifies man, viz., entire subjection, in willing obedience, to God. Man shines in beauty, as the image and glory of God, only while his ways are a pure reflection of the will of God. For dependence upon the Creator is the only true position of the creature. The Son of God, having by the mystery of incarnation become in outward form and fashion as a Son of man—being, in Divine and ever-blessed truth, the woman's seed, by the overshadowing of the power of the Highest,—could take and did take this place of perfect dependence. But accompanying this, there was in Him the abiding consciousness of being the full vessel of goodness and blessing to the saints323 and to the excellent, in whom was all His delight.
The love of Jesus rested in undivided perfectness upon those whom the Father's grace and power drew to Him, in the confession of His blessed Person. All who came to Him He received into His love, as the welcome gift of the Father, casting such out in no wise, since His own descent from heaven was to do His will.324 Whom He thus received He loved as His own, loving them to the end; even to the death which closed the weary season of His earthly days. He loved them in that death which was tasted by Him for their sakes; and now that He has been declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead, He holds them everlastingly in the endless affection of One who does not change.325 Christ loved, and loves, and will forever love His Church.326 All His delight is in the Father's gift.327 Thus the believer finds his rich portion in feeding on that goodness which, as a branch of Divine fruitfulness and soul-satisfying favor, extends itself to all that are sanctified by faith in the risen Son of God.328
The fourth verse, while capable of far wider application, appears to relate more emphatically to the blinded and apostate nation of Israel In rejecting Jesus they refuse Jehovah. The Lord Himself was the rock of their offence.329 For Israel, so long as they remain in unbelief, Christ cannot act. He is no High Priest for an unbelieving generation, un-purged as yet in conscience by the precious blood of the cross.
He will not take their names in intercession on His lips, whose hearts continue strangers to the righteousness of God Meanwhile they hasten, though with staggering footsteps, in another path.330 Multiplied sorrows have befallen the peeled and scattered tribes; more still remain. The long-predicted wrath has come upon them; nor will its heavy visitation be removed, until the appointed measure of its fullness shall have been attained.331 The measure of that nation's guilt was filled when, under the guidance of that strange god who directed all their counsel, and whom, while they professed the knowledge of Jehovah, they were blindly serving through the lusts of their own hearts,332 they slew with wicked hands the Prince of Life. From the times of His prophetic messengers, the drink-offerings of Israel had been mixed with righteous blood.333 But now a blood-guiltiness of deeper and more awful dye is charged from heaven on the unrepentant nation. Jewish worship bears the stain of Jesus' blood, as an un-removed token of hopeless national guilt and defilement, until the hour shall have come for the veil to be taken from their hearts. Then shall they see out of their obscurity in the pure light of their Redeemer's presence, which will disclose to their astonished view that once despised blood as the opened fountain in which the iniquity of their sin must be forever purged away.334
Verses 5, 6. Although Israel be not gathered, yet is Messiah glorious in Jehovah's eyes, and His God is His strength.335 Jehovah is the portion of His inheritance and of His cup. The God of the Lord Jesus Christ hath raised Him from the dead, and given Him glory.336 Exalted now and crowned, He is declared to be the appointed Heir of all things, even as He had been the eternal Possessor, in the fellowship of filial love, of the glory which was His with the Father before the world began. There was set before the suffering Savior a joy, for the sake of which He endured the cross; and the verses now before us relate, I believe, in the first instance, to that joy. Jesus, as the winner of God's reward, is satisfied. Raised from His self-chosen poverty by the glory of the Father, He now rejoices in the wealth of that inheritance which, by His gracious humiliation, He had become enabled to receive. But the goodliness of the heritage, which is the proper portion of the First-born from the dead, is opened by the Holy Ghost to the believer as his own, because of his living union with the Heir—his complete acceptance in the. Beloved.337 For we are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.338 Faith, therefore, now takes up the language of these verses, as a just expression of the confidence and rejoicing which pertain to the believer as a partaker of Christ.339
The Lord is become his portion. His cup of refreshment and of joy, while on his pilgrim way, is that precious blood of Jesus which is drink indeed. Passing in spirit into heavenly places, whither the Forerunner is for us in person entered, and where the settled place of his eternal rest is already secured for him in Christ, the Christian has even now, in part, a knowledge of those things unspeakable which constitute the riches of that blessing which, as an heir of salvation, he is called to inherit. The work of the Spirit, as the Comforter, is to take the things of Jesus, and to show them to the saints. The sum of the believer's expectation, as an heir of promise, is not less than all. "All things are yours, and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's.”340 And again it is written for the sake of those who fight on still the fight of faith, “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son."341 This is an expectation which feeds no natural ambition; but it solaces and nerves with strength the tried spirit of the child of God, whose way lies through the wilderness of tribulation towards the rest into which they will surely enter who are kept of God. Our ability to enjoy, and therefore to speak worthily of this goodly heritage of hope, is by the present energy of the Holy Ghost, who breaks in pieces the obdurate heart of unbelief, that He may fill the humbled and contrite spirit with the true joy of the Lord. The soul that is resting in the love of Christ will need no prompting to enable it to use, with happy confidence, the language of those pleasant words.342
The seventh verse expresses that kind of experience,—so marvelous when recorded of Jesus; so needed, yet often, alas! so little valued on our parts,—which the soul that has to do with God acquires, as a learner whose lessons God Himself is pleased to set. Jesus knew this experience perfectly. He learned obedience.343 His ear was wakened morning by morning to hear as one taught.344 It was His glory as the obedient One to say, “I can of mine own self do nothing; as I hear I judge."345 The practical application of this verse to the Christian, as a child of the Father of spirits, is evident. In its latter clause we are taught the manner in which Jehovah is used to impart His counsel to those whom He instructs. Reading and meditating on the word of God are not themselves effectual for the believer's growth, unless, both heart and conscience are engaged with God. Obedience is His law of progress, and faith works by love. We must have to do with Him. Jesus was never alone. The Father was with as well as in Him. He lived—a Man among men—simply and wholly and naturally to God. In our case, continual vigilance is requisite to keep the soul in its only true and safe position. Distance of heart and conscience from God may, unhappily, be quite consistent with an habitual use of the word of God. Hence the need often of nocturnal visitations of a painful kind. God's chastening is a necessary safeguard of His children in this world. The reins of Jesus furnished nothing bitter to His thoughts, save as He might meditate the soon-coming hour of suffering and death; but how different with us!
Verses 8-11. Words which are here assigned prophetically to the Captain of salvation, now find an echo in the hearts of His believing people, to whom the Comforter reveals Him in His risen and ascended glory. Rejoicing in the completed joy of Jesus,346 we speak His language, in the power of a faith which makes us one with Him.
The triumphant knowledge of “the Resurrection and the Life" makes glad the heart, and frees the tongue of the believing sinner to magnify His praise, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.347
In the tenth verse, the Holy One remains alone. Only HE in death saw no corruption,348 because personally incorruptible. It was not possible that Jesus could be held of death, nor could the grave detain as lawful prey the body of the incarnate WORD. For by dying He abolished death, destroying him who, by the righteous judgment of God, had held till then its power in his hands.349 But what is here celebrated by the Spirit of prophecy is the greater marvel of the resurrection of Jesus as the act of God.350 That He who called Lazarus from corruption into life-evincing thus His glory as the Son of God, the resurrection and the life-should rise again, resuming at His will the life which He laid down, is less amazing than that, in the mystery of godliness, He who is eternally351 the quickening Spirit should Himself be quickened from the death to which He had willingly consented by the grace of God.352
Yet thus it was. He died for the love He bore the Father, all whose precious thoughts of grace and mercy to lost sinners hung suspended on the consenting obedience of the Lamb. Being slain, He lay, until again revived by the power of Him into whose hands He had commended His Spirit, alone and silent in the grave.353 It was at the Father's bidding that He resumed as well as gave His life.354 Having now become, in resurrection, the first-fruits of them that slept,355 He is, moreover, to the believer, the living Way, which already conducts him in spirit to that blessed presence, where soon, in bodies bright with His own glory, the many sons of God shall shine.356
Psalm 17
THIS Psalm is entitled "A prayer of David." It is truly the utterance of a man after God's heart, but far transcending in its expression the proper experience of the son of Jesse.
Verses 1-5. While there is that in the inner man of every child of God, which in principle and desire consents to the language of these verses, yet they could be taken, in their strict and full intention, into the mouth of Christ alone. The knowledge of imputed righteousness enables the believer, who through grace is conscious of his true standing in Christ, to use the first two verses of this passage in the sweet yet solemn assurance of justification by faith; while as an afflicted "servant of righteousness"357 he can look hopefully, for the decision of all controversies, to the day of God.
The tone also of holy confidence, while under the pure heart-seeing eye of God, which finds expression in verse 3, may also, and surely does, find its response in more or less distinctness from the soul whose conversation is in simplicity and godly sincerity.358 It is what is looked for by the Father of spirits on the part of those who are exhorted to walk as children of the light and of the day. But to the Just One alone, it either did or could pertain to urge originally the righteous pleas of this remarkable and very precious Psalm.
The verses now under our immediate view present a portion of that inward communion of Jesus with the Father which belonged to, and arose out of, the position which He took in grace as the obedient fulfiller of all righteousness. The heart into which Satan vainly sought, in quest of that God-refusing will which made each other man a ready captive to his snare, was willingly opened to the survey of the Father of lights. The Son of God, in taking His place in a ruined world Under the proper form and fashion of a man, had assumed a relation to the Father which placed Him ostensibly below the adversary; for the mastery of Adamic nature had been obtained already by the devil, who is for that reason called in Scripture, the prince and god of this world.359
Now it was in the likeness of sinful flesh, that the only-begotten of the Father has been sent and came,360 and this it was that inspired the tempter with his evil hope. He knew what was in fallen man; He looked to find the same in Him who, though just before proclaimed from heaven to be the Son of God, had been manifested as a Man indeed, when, to fulfill all righteousness in the perfection of Divine grace, He had accepted baptism from His own forerunner, in the company of sinners fleeing from the wrath to come.361 Accordingly, in the scene which followed, the point of Satan's temptation was addressed to that principle of self-dependence which he well knew to be the perpetual witness of his own work in the heart of every other human being, since first he had been suffered to corrupt God's primal earthy image of Himself.362
But the heart of Jesus contained nothing which the wicked one might call his own. The second Adam363 was no offspring of the first, save that in the mystery of godliness the holy Child of God was woman- born.
But as it was by the overshadowing power of the Highest that the Eternal Son became incarnate, so the will of Him who thus became "the Son of man," was as alien from that of fallen Adamic nature, as the latter is from the pure will of God. The manner in which the absolute dependence of Jesus upon God brings out into brightest moral display the glory of His Person, is strikingly shown in the Spirit's record of the temptation, but can only be thus briefly noticed in this place. It was the word of truth alone that the Perfect One would use for the effectual foiling of the destroyer.
The way of the Holy One is the pattern also for the steps of His redeemed.364 The passage, therefore, which we are examining bears immediately upon the Christian in his walk. Nor can too careful heed be given to the estimate which is here presented of the intrinsic value of the word of God. "By the word of thy lips," etc. The destroyer can be overcome by two means alone: by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of faithful testimony.365 But it is “concerning the works of men "that this reference to the word is made. The commandments of God are the counselors of His elect. To walk “as men" is, in the case of Christians, a reproach to them, and a grievance to that Holy Spirit of God, whereby they are sealed unto the day of redemption.366 For men walk, not in dependent subjection to the will of God, but according to the dictates of their own wills, which are wholly alien from His. But the calling of a Christian, as a child of hope, is to purify himself, even as Christ who is his hope is pure367 The knowledge, in obedience, of the will of God368 is the end of his practical attainment as a saint, even as the perception of the same blessed will, in its Divinely-perfect accomplishment through the dying love of Jesus, is the beginning and lasting continuance of his joyful confidence, and pure unspotted conscience in the Father's sight.369
The wiles of Satan are evermore about the path of those whom Jesus loves. His way is to corrupt and to destroy by lies. God saves by truth. Jesus, the Savior, is the Truth to guide His people, as well as the Way of their salvation and their Life. Moreover, the believer's practical sanctifying is by the word of God. Nothing can secure a Christian from the devices of the enemy but habitual subjection to the Scriptures. Perfection in the man of God is attached, as a conditional result, to his faithful observance of the inspired word.370 But the least step in this progress of practical sanctification discovers to the soul thus exercised, far more distinctly than before, its own intrinsic weakness. Hence the language of verse 5: "Hold up my goings in thy paths," etc. The grace of the Son of God brought Him into so real a position of dependence, that His characteristic description in the word of prophecy is, "Behold my servant, whom I uphold," etc.371 To Him who knew no sin, the alternative of slipping in the ways of Jehovah was impossible; the path of His obedience led Him in a way which was His natural delight. Yet would He learn obedience.372 By keeping the commandments of His Father, He would so continue in His love.373
On the other hand, in our case the sad but sure alternative of God's preventing grace is sinful failure. If spiritual energy does not prevail, its antagonist is flesh; and the carnal will is sin. Weakness, however, is the natural quality which is chiefly noticed here. This is often found in the believer, apart from error of the will. Yet our weakness, though not sin itself, is born of sin; and thus it is in the grace of Jesus Christ alone that the fainting spirit finds the renovation of its strength.374 The power of His might, who, after having been crucified in weakness for our sakes, now lives by the power of God, and lives for us for whom He tasted death, is the arm of ever-ready succor, and abidingly-sustaining strength, to the soul whose desire is to keep his way.375
Verses 6-15. The circumstances of affliction and distress which affect experimentally the man of God, because he is such, are here presented by the righteous Suppliant. Jesus made supplication to Jehovah as one who was oppressed, committing Himself in well-doing to Him that judgeth righteously.376 The general application of these verses to the Lord is plain. But in verse 11 we have a change to the plural number, the effect of which is to bring into more prominent distinctness the suffering people of Christ as its subject.377 Their calling is to suffer. Their blessing is to know the delivering power of God's right hand from every form of evil, though the adversary seem to triumph for a while.378 It is a God of salvations379 who is revealed to us in Christ. By His gracious obedience unto death, the Son of God commends to our souls the truth and power of Jehovah as a Savior. He had prayed, while in the days of His flesh, to Him who could deliver Him from death. He prayed thus when about to taste of death-to suffer the infliction of his power, who had received indeed a right to exercise authority of death on sin-corrupted man, but who held no claim against the Holy One of God. Thus, in the mystery of godliness, He who must presently be manifested as Himself the great God and the Savior, was first the subject of Divine salvation. God loosed the pains of death for Jesus.380 God saved His own Anointed—justly, because He knew no sin.
The same blessed God is the Savior, in a special sense, of those who now believe381justly also, because of the atonement for their sins in His most precious blood. Perfect in His work, as well as person, the risen Son of God is now the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him. Meanwhile, the condition of the heir of salvation, while in the present world, is danger and distress. But faith endures, as seeing Him who, though invisible to sight, is known as a preserver in the faithfulness of death-tried love, “Beware of men " was His word to the messengers whom He sent forth in person to preach the Gospel of the kingdom of God. "Fear not them which kill the body," and "Be faithful unto death, and I will give to thee a crown of life,"382 are His warning and encouragement to those who, for His name's sake, were to go in jeopardy of life, although no longer under bondage through the fear of death.
The men of the world (verse 14),383 whose portion is in this life, are in spirit and in principle opposed to such as dwell among them in the enjoyment of a hope and title of blessing which is founded upon a world-rejected Christ.
The prince of this world is not Christ, but Belial. A Christian, therefore, is to reckon it no marvel if he is hated of the world; for the world hates Christ. The demonstration of this hatred is exceedingly various, but as a sentiment it is as lasting as the sin that is its source. In close connection with this, there is a very important principle to be observed. Faith, which sees God in everything, will have to do with Him alone. Hence the wicked is here called His "sword," and men are acknowledged as His "hand." The history of Jehovah's dealings with Israel after the flesh is a large commentary upon this expression. But it has its application likewise to the Church of God.384 Persecution may be directed as an instrumental means of Divine chastisement, a process of judgment on the house of God; but the exercised believer, while discerning this, and bowing in submission to the rod of His appointment, abides in the sure fortress of His name, and hopes on with patience to the end. The deliverance expected by the spirit of faith is a final and complete deliverance (verse 15). Intermediate experiences of joy or sorrow vary the way of pilgrimage, but nothing will satisfy the new-born soul but that which is already the portion of Jesus, the forerunner of its hope. The once marred likeness of sinful flesh now shines in glory as the image of the invisible God. But the glorified Person of the first-begotten from the dead is the pattern, unto which must be conformed the many sons whom God is bringing unto glory. We know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.385
Psalm 18
A SONG of victory, having for its main burden the celebration of Jehovah's faithfulness and glory, according to the exceeding greatness of His power, as displayed in the just deliverance of His Anointed, when He raised up Jesus from the dead. Connected with this there is a recital of the mighty acts of Messiah, according to the mercy of the everlasting covenant, now grown to its ripe and full results of promised blessing towards the people of His mercy. It is a truly wonderful and magnificent Psalm, abounding in richest matter for godly meditation and comfort to the Christian. To expound it at length would be impracticable in this place; all that shall be attempted is to trace what seems to be its general historical outline as a Messianic Psalm.
Verses 1-6. The voice of Jesus is here heard showing forth the praises of Jehovah, the God of His salvation, when, as the seed of David, He had become capable of receiving in His own blessed Person the promised mercy of the covenant. There is a memorial of His passion (4, 5), of the hour of His trouble, when the sorrows of death compassed Him, and the overflowing of ungodliness386 made Him afraid. It is plainly the Cross that here appears, but under one of its aspects alone. God is seen only as the deliverer, in faithfulness and with power, of the righteous Sufferer. His own judicial infliction of the wrathful stroke upon the Bearer of our sins is not the Spirit's subject here; the powers of darkness are alone arrayed against the Holy One. His cry goes up in His distress with acceptance into the ears of Him that was able to deliver Him from death.
Verses 7-19. A sublime celebration is here made of the glory and omnipotent majesty of the God of the Lord Jesus Christ, as it was manifested in His resurrection from the dead in answer to His cry.387 "He sent from above," etc. But it is to be remarked, that we are presented in this Psalm with a prophetic description, not only of the personal triumph of Jesus in the fact of His resurrection, but also of the ultimate results of that great assertion of Jehovah's power, so far as they are compassed by the terms of proper Messianic promise. An earnest and specimen of what is here described was given, when at the descent of the angel of Jehovah the earth quaked, and the keepers of the grave, which had held till then the body of the now awakened Christ, shook and were as dead with fear.388 An antecedent token of the same mighty power had been felt in the rending of the rocks, and the opening of the graves, when Jesus, after uttering His last loud cry, had yielded up the ghost.389 But beyond these there has as yet been made no further demonstration, that the eye of nature can perceive, of the terrible majesty of Messiah's God.390 Jesus is now hidden (and with Him there is hidden also the life of those who live only by the faith of Him) in God, who raised Him from the dead.391
He is preached in the world as the wisdom and power of God unto salvation; He is perceived and delighted in by the faith of His elect; but the shaking of both earth and heaven, of which this passage speaks, is a thing not yet fulfilled.392 When it comes it will be accompanied by resistless and inevitable judgment on the adversaries of Jehovah's Christ (verse 14). But as yet the gainsayer may mock unmolested the sure testimonies of God, and despise the riches of His goodness, who endures with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath which are fitted to destruction. The resurrection of the Lord is viewed in this Psalm in its relation to the earthly people of Messiah —the nation for which He died,393 and which in due time will receive the once-rejected Jesus as the Anointed of Jehovah their King, confessed then as the root as well as offspring of David. This necessarily connects the subject with the coming day of Jacob's trouble, out of which he is to be delivered;394 with the raging, therefore, like the angry waters, of the many nations who will hem in, to their own undoing, the burdensome stone of Jehovah's indignation.395 But it is representatively only, in the person of Immanuel—the elect and well-beloved of Jehovah—that the nation whose name He bears396 can be regarded in this place.
Verses 20-26. The special grounds of Messiah's deliverance and exaltation are now stated. It was the righteous weed of an obedience which had wrought its final act in death. Jehovah had recompensed Him according to His righteousness, and according to the cleanness of His hands. He had been tried, and found faithful Jesus, in obedience, was the object of God's full delight: “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life," etc.397 Holy, harmless, and separate from sinners, He had consummated all devotedness by dying as the foreordained Lamb.
Glory and honor thus became the equal recompense398 with which Jehovah, whom He served so truly, had now graced Him in His sight. The title of Jesus in righteousness measures and is answered by the glory of God. Perfect obedience receives a recompense of perfect honor. And this is the title in which the poor believing sinner now stands in Christ, un-blamable and irreprovable and holy, in the sight of God.399
Verses 27-42. The rich abundance which these verses contain of experimental expression, well beseeming the lips of those who now rejoice in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, cannot be too much pondered by the soul that desires the sincere milk of the word. Continuing, however, our general outline, we seem to find in them a more distinct memorial of the faithfulness of Israel's covenant God, in His perfect accomplishment of the mercy promised to the fathers. Mention is first made of the “afflicted people,"400 as the immediate object of His saving deliverance; while the lofty looks are to be brought down (27). Light is thus found to be in God, who is proved to be the faithful accomplisher of His promise by those who now, after the dark night of their affliction, find victory and strength beneath the Divine buckler of their trust (28-30).401 "Our God" is celebrated as the incomparable Rock of salvation, with immediate reference to a judgment upon external enemies, which is effected by the might of those whom God had girded for the battle.402
There is a cry sent up to heaven by the terror-stricken hosts of wickedness, but there is none to answer. He who alone could save them is now urging His messengers of wrath to their destruction.403
It is the bringing in of the day of the Lord, by the second advent of Messiah, that is here presented. That day will indeed be ushered in after a fearful sort. But its dark dawn of judgment will open, for the remnant of His mercy, into the clear shining of the Sun of righteousness, when the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning shall have done their appointed work of purification.404 The people, then fully owned of the Lord, will be used by Him as His battle-axe and weapons of war,405 to smite down to the ground the crown of proud and ungodly oppression; the wicked being as ashes under the soles of their feet in that great day.406
The forty-third verse applies exclusively to Messiah Himself, and recites, first, His deliverance from the contradiction of sinners, the strivings of that people407 who, though called by His name, had sold themselves to work the iniquity of His rejection, when they smote the Judge of Israel on the cheek. His resurrection was the accomplishment of this. Secondly, His exaltation is declared as Head of the nations and Lord of all408
He is thus announced in the present testimony of the Gospel.409 The creatures of His power are now addressed in the message of His grace.410 But, thirdly, there seems to be indicated in the final clause of this verse, the returning obedience of Israel "A people whom I have not known411 shall serve me." Long disowned of Him who hides still His face from the house of Jacob,412 they will then find salvation by calling on His name.
Verses 44, 45 describe the dominion and fear which, in that day, will be before Him413 who is to be brought with angel-worship a second time into the world.414 All will fear Him. Everything which once had independent growth and power will decrease, and take a subject place in His apparent exaltation as the King of kings. The contrast which these verses present to the actual position of the ascended Christ, who now upon the Father's throne expects until His enemies be made His footstool, is quite clear. One expression deserves particular attention. It is said: "the strangers shall lie (margin) unto me."415 This implies that Christ's millennial rule, though sovereign and undisputed (or if disputed, vindicated straightway in the destruction of the gainsayer,416 will not be owned in the hearts and affections of all. Many, indeed, will flow to Jerusalem as to the throne of the Lord, with thirsting desire to hear the living word of salvation. But grace, though widely-spreading, will not prevail to subdue the universal heart of man, until the total sum of allowed human evil shall have been accomplished in that last rebellion of the nations which marks the close of the millennial age.417
Verses 46-48. The glory of the kingdom is to be displayed in the person of Messiah, but He will hold it in the confession of the Most High God. The enemies for whose subjection as His footstool the ascended Christ yet waits, will have been bowed before Him by the power of God (47). In the brightness of the glory which every eye shall see, there will be discerned the Person of the Son, of man. Messiah is God's King, and will exercise dominion in His fear.418 It is the Child of the, nation, the Seed of Abraham, as well as the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of peace,419 who has His seat of earthly rule prepared upon the throne of David. Praise,, therefore, in this passage is ascribed to God, as the avenger of Immanuel's title (47). He had subdued the nations under Him according to the decree which had aforetime been declared.420 "The violent man"421 describes the last Antichrist, the great opponent of the Prince of peace; the Oppressor, whose strength is in the golden city, but who will melt as wax before the presence of the Lord.422
The forty-ninth verse is well known in its application by the apostle to the existing dispensation of Gentile mercy.423 Jesus, now exalted at the right hand of God, is disclosed to Gentile faith in answer to that inquiry which would see Him even in the days of His flesh.424 He is preached to the Gentiles and believed on in the world.425 But in the present passage it is not the manifestation of Jesus to the faith of the elect Gentile church that is the subject, but the setting forth of the praises of Jehovah among the nations, through the medium of the full Messianic blessing of Israel. For it is they who in that day are to be His messengers, and the glad dispensers of His blessing to the Gentiles, whose call is to rejoice with the nation for which Jesus died, when He shall have avenged the blood of His servants, and returned with everlasting mercies to His own.426
In the concluding verse there is separate mention made of David and of David's seed. The original subject of the Psalm has been passed by in silence in the foregoing outline. Not because it is not full of profit in its place, but because the proper Messianic features of this most noble strain seemed chiefly to demand attention. To the Christian, as a fellow of the kingdom and patience of Christ, all the richness and blessing of this and other kindred Psalms is freely opened as his own. He is interested in it all. For the things of Christ already are his own in promise, and will presently be realized as such in fact. Meanwhile, his happy calling is to prove experimentally, by the faithful teaching of the Comforter, God's fullness in His Son, as the rich portion of his soul—to speak well of Him who is worthy to be praised, praising with lips made clean by the confession of the name of Jesus, and finding Him to be indeed the Rock, the Fortress, and the Tower of His people's strength.
Psalm 19
WE have, in this very beautiful Psalm, the meditation of one who entered with deep spiritual intelligence into the understanding of Jehovah's works and ways. Grace is the pure and solid ground which is occupied by the soul whose musings find here an expression so noble and so rich. Jehovah is his Rock and his Redeemer (verse 14). A sense of personal weakness and intrinsic sinfulness is ever present to the self-searching heart (verses 12, 13); but Jehovah is trusted and looked to with confidence, for protection and deliverance from the evil which is felt and feared. “Keep back thy servant," etc. Hence reverence and godly fear, the constant associates of a true heart-enjoyment of grace, form the prevailing tone of this wisely meditative strain; which celebrates as its double burden, first the power, and secondly the truth of God.
Verses 1, 6. The power and Godhead of Jehovah are displayed in the visible heavens. An all-pervading witness of His Divine majesty is present, and addresses itself to the eye and conscience equally, wherever human speech is heard. He is excellent in working; creation is the operation of His hands. Glory shines thus for the eye of the spiritual man, from the mute witnesses of God's eternal power. They are His creatures. Light and darkness alike reveal Him. His constant praise is uttered in the ceaseless regularity of the ordinances of the heavens. But the works of Jehovah are evermore the admiration and delight of the man after His own heart. The sun, which is the light and strength and joy of natural existence, shines for the believer with a splendor not its own. For by faith, he understands creation; seeing and tasting the Savior in the works of the Creator, and reading gospel even in the face of nature.427 The Father causeth His sun to arise upon the evil and the good, that the man of God may discover, in the fair though passing beauty of the flowers of the field, fresh testimony to the goodness and glory of Him who upholdeth all things by the word of His power; while the thankless seeker of himself—the lover of pleasure rather than of God—finds opportunity, while the season of long-suffering endures, for the abuse of that goodness which meanwhile daily fills his hardened heart with food and natural gladness.428
DIVINE LOVE shines for the believer in God's visible creation. For in all its parts it speaks of Him who, having originally made it, has likewise paid the price of its redemption in His precious blood. A Christian's power, therefore, of appreciating and enjoying external nature will always be according to his soul's intelligence of grace. It is remembered by the heart that wisely meditates God's works, that His hand, who hung in heaven the greater and the lesser lights, and who fashioned for Himself that wide and varied scene which the returning sun fills daily with its gladdening beams, and who clothes the heavens with sackcloth at His will, has been pierced in the reality of atoning death for his transgressions.429 The Lord of creation is the Redeemer of his soul.
Redemption must be known before creation can be rightly -understood. Science concerns itself with facts and laws, but faith only sees truth in its beauty. Order and harmony are things discernible by the natural intelligence; not to perceive these in the face of nature is to be blind indeed. But they alone who know the FATHER, as the Only-begotten has revealed Him,—themselves begotten as children of light by the effectual word of grace and truth,—are able, while passing through the present scene as through a wilderness, to use without abusing the abounding mercies of His hand, and to behold in each morning of the natural light, which makes the last night's darkness a forgotten thing, an earnest of that night-less and enduring day, whose living Sun of joy shall not go down. Jesus, when He looked upon the lilies thought upon the Father; and because His grace has put us in the place of sons, by accomplishing in dying love the Father's will, we now, because we have the mind of Christ, can look as He looked on the creature. One lasting and essential difference, indeed, remains. As vessels of pure mercy, we see in the creation the ever-present memorial of the Father, whose love in Christ is our refuge and eternal rest; while Jesus viewed and used the creature in the perfect and ineffable consciousness that what He thus beheld, and in gracious humiliation shared with men, He had Himself originally made.
Verses 7-11. Things visible declare the glory of God, and manifest His handiwork; but it is the word of His truth that alone reveals Himself. "The law of Jehovah," which to the regenerate man is known to be spiritual, and therefore imperishable,430 comes thus to be the delight of the soul that has tasted that He is gracious-of him, that is, whose heart has been purified by faith. The law, the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments of the Lord, are acceptable alike to the heart that is athirst for God as the true fountain of its joy.
Jesus consented naturally to the law; His heart was the true ark of God's election, wherein it was laid up in its completeness. But that which was hidden in the heart of the obedient One is now made manifest (no longer as an impassable barrier, or a threatening avenger, but as the smiling messenger of peace) in the person of the risen and ascended Christ, who is declared to be the end of the law for righteousness to every believer.431 The Christian now delights in the perfection of the law,432 because he rests in Jesus as the living and eternal righteousness of God. The sure testimonies of the Lord (verse 7) make wise unto salvation the heart of simple faith. Pureness and knowledge accompany the way of him whose walk is in Jehovah's fear. The light of the seeing eye are the commandments of the Lord, whom the heart of the believer has begun to love in truth.433
Full assurance of hope, grounded on a clear discernment of the one atonement in its lasting efficacy,434 is necessary to enable a believer to find a savor of sweetness in the righteous judgments of Jehovah. Every quickened soul perceives, indeed, the goodness and perfection of the law.
Personal wretchedness is, however, the only result of this discovery to one whose knowledge of God is below the measure of pure gospel truth. It is not until the heart has been established with grace, not with meats,435 that joyful progress can be made in the knowledge of God, in the way of willing devotedness.436 And well it is to bear always in our remembrance, that God is truly known and enjoyed by those only whose walk is that of obedient children. Abstract ideas of Divine perfection are dreams which fill the mind and exercise the imagination, but do not feed the soul. There is no honeycomb there (verse 10). For God can be tasted only in Jesus, as the Holy Ghost distils, from the pure word of grace, His sweetness on the hungering and thirsting soul.437 The way of wisdom is the way of pleasantness to those who believe that God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.438 It is association, through redemption, with the Source of truth and holiness, that makes the light which God is a grateful instead of a terrible contemplation to the heart of man. The remedy of conscious failure can then be 'sought in the very quarter from whence its discovery has been made.439 The word of holiness is the word also of grace. Meanwhile, Jehovah's sayings act, with a searching yet welcome efficacy of warning, on the man who, knowing well the Master whom he serves, has respect to the recompense of the reward.440
“The great transgression “(verse 13) is, undoubtedly, rebellion of the will. It is this that the believer, who is growing in the way of the Lord, learns most of all to dread. Man's capital sin has always been the endeavor to act and prosper independently of God. This is the very root and essence of all the varied forms of personal transgression. Jesus alone found joy unqualified in doing perfectly the will of God; and on them whose desire is to walk as He walked, keeping themselves in His name in the love of God, the tempter has no power. That wicked one toucheth them not, while all others are his prey.441 But the language of the soul that wisely judges itself in the sanctuary, will be found continually to resemble the expression of this and the preceding verse. An exercised conscience hates sin; yet a divinely-taught mind knows that what is its chief dread is its inseparable companion. Indwelling sin is a solemn thing to reflect on; but the believer knows his Maker as the faithful Preserver also of his soul. He is kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation. The sweet sense of security which flows from the knowledge of the finished grace of God in Christ, though capable of fleshly abuse, produces as its just effect a sensitive tenderness of heart and conscience, because the presence of the Holy One is a thing practically realized and enjoyed.442
The well-known quotation which is made in the New Testament from the present Psalm is worth attention.443
It is a beautiful adaptation of language, descriptive originally of the palpable and pervading evidences of Jehovah's power and Godhead, in order to set forth the boundless riches of a mercy which addresses itself, in the gospel of the grace of God, to every creature which is under heaven. Christ is now openly declared, by the testimony of the Spirit, to be the wisdom and the power of God. The brightness of the glory of the eternal and invisible God shines forth in the person of the Lamb once slain, and thus discovers Him to the believer as the God of all grace. But Israel stumbled at the revelation of grace, just as uncircumcised nature had slighted and dishonored the visible glory of the incorruptible God.444 The wisdom of their counsel gave sentence of death against the Prince of life. But this wisdom was the consummated foolishness of men who knew not what they did. They thus remain "a foolish nation and unwise," seeking still the living among the dead; and going about to establish their own righteousness, while they despise the testimony of Him who is gone to the Father.445 Israel has stumbled, and is fallen; until the same Jehovah who has been Himself, in His marvelous humiliation, their rock of offence,446 shall be recognized as the Deliverer, the stone of Israel, the head-stone of the corner. He will be so acknowledged when the veil shall have been taken from the nation's heart.
The tone of this Psalm is primarily Jewish; but, as we have seen, its basis is grace discerned by faith, while in its moral scope it leaves behind all dispensational distinctions. It is a Psalm of David, the man after Jehovah's heart. It does not seem to bear a distinctly prophetic character, though doubtless it will be sung, with a fuller and richer appreciation of its meaning, by those whose portion of earthly blessing will be enjoyed in the day when the glory of Jehovah shall overspread the heavens, and the whole earth be filled with His praise. The law, then written on the heart of Israel, will flow through their testimony to the utmost nations of the world.447
Psalm 20
THERE is a close moral connection between this Psalm and that which immediately follows. The King is the subject of them both. The one now before us is a prayer for Messiah, the messenger of Israel's covenant, and the royal branch of promise; the desired hope therefore of the faithful remnant of His kindred after the flesh;448 whose rising, as the Star of Jacob, is to shed victory and cloudless peace upon His chosen heritage. The Spirit gives expression in this Psalm to that longing desire after Christ, the salvation of Jehovah, which ever has been found in the hearts of those who, like Jacob, wait for the fulfillment of the promise in the midst of evil days449—weary and sore troubled, but strong in hope— holding fast the sure word of promise until the day of the Lord's power shall have come, when He will still the enemy and the avenger, and bless His people with abiding peace. It is the God of Jacob whose blessing is here invoked on His Anointed.
Messiah is viewed in the present Psalm, not in the majesty of His kingdom and glory, but as the dependent Servant of Jehovah. Mention is made of offerings and sacrifice, in connection with the sanctuary and the hill of promise (verses 2, 3). Desires and recorded petitions of the King are commended to the God of His defense, by those whose banners are set up in the name of their God, because of the joy of salvation with which the King of their desire is to be anointed (verses 4, 5).450 The defense of Messiah's title, as the Seed of promise, is the faithfulness of Jacob's God. Both the sufferings of Christ and the glories which were to follow, so far as they relate to earthly things, appear to be within the contemplation of the faith which finds so sweet and remarkable an utterance in this Psalm. "Ought not Christ to have suffered?" was the reproachful inquiry of the risen Lord, addressed to those who looked indeed for Israel's redemption, but whose faith came short of what was written in their scriptures concerning Himself.451 As a prophecy, this prayer seems suited to the lips of repentant Israel in the latter day, when, graciously received and freely forgiven, they shall once again erect their banner in the name (then truly learned and known) of Him who is their God. When with unveiled hearts they acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, they will glory in the God of Jacob as the strength of their salvation. "Jehovah-nissi" will be then their lasting watchword,452 and they will praise Him with understanding, as the God of His Anointed; whom their eyes will see, and their hearts then fully own as their King, and all their confidence and joy.
It is a commendatory prayer put by the Spirit of Christ into David's heart as the representative of all who waited for redemption, and conceived in terms strongly anticipative of triumphant results; those results being the hard-earned fruits of the travail of Jesus. The counsel of His heart, which was to do Jehovah's will, and which led Him to the acceptable sacrifice of Himself, in the devotedness of obedient love, forms the ground on which the pleading of this prayer is based (4). He was worthy whom Jehovah should thus honor. Meanwhile, horses and chariots are trusted no longer, but the name of their God is had in remembrance by His waiting people.453 They whose trust was in the creature had fallen, while the once prostrate suppliants of Jehovah had been lifted up and made to stand by the saving might of His power. The true King is now in Jeshurun, and the worship of salvation is prepared to greet Jehovah and His Christ in the land and sanctuary of His choice.454
Psalm 21
WE have now the counterpart of the foregoing strain. The full triumph and personal blessedness of Messiah, whose royal title has been affirmed and glorified effectually in Jehovah's strength, are the subjects of this most beautiful Psalm, which consists of two parts.
Verses 1-7 declare the consummation of His joy as the receiver of salvation in answer to His trust in God. Jehovah's praises are extolled according to the majesty of that mighty power which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in heavenly places.455 Jesus had asked life in the days of His flesh, and the resurrection was the answer to the request of His lips. Length of days forever and ever is the awarded portion of Him who commended His spirit in dying obedience to the Father's hands. It is not the intrinsic glory of the Son of God—Himself the Life, the true God and eternal Life456—that is here presented. It is a manifestation rather of that Messianic honor with which the guiltless Sufferer of death has been invested as the appointed Heir of all things.457 Especially, in the present case, this glory is viewed under the limited, earthly aspect of Jewish promise.458 But while we do well to note the true prophetic character of this Psalm, yet, inasmuch as its subject is Christ glorified, the eye of Christian faith finds set forth in these verses a rich and full pasture of immediate grace.
Jesus has now His heart's desire. For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. The joy of the Father's presence, and the brightness of that glory which He has received from Him, are now the recompense and solace of the world-rejected Christ. He is made most blessed forever. The blessings of goodness prevent with perfect favor the acceptable Man who rests upon the Father's throne. The grief which once filled until it broke the heart of the Man of sorrows, whose affliction was for our sakes, is now forgotten in the exceeding gladness of Jehovah's countenance. To know these things is the believer's chief delight. For it is his Savior and forerunner whom he sees thus crowned.
The prayer of Jesus to the Father, when His hour had arrived, was “Glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify Thee."459 In a former Psalms460 we have had presented to us the anticipative triumph of the leader of our faith, in the immediate prospect of the cross. In the passage we are now reviewing, the results of His gracious passion are expressed: “His glory is great in Thy salvation." Already this is perceptible to the faith of the spiritual man. "We see Jesus crowned with glory and honor."461 Great glory is His, whom God has made higher than the heavens. Angels and authorities, principalities and powers, are made subject to Him whose name is now and forever above every name. And while Jesus sits exalted in majesty and throned in joy (still waiting for the hour to arrive when He who already is worshipped on the Father's throne shall assume His own royal seat of manifested dominion),462 His thoughts are with the expectant heirs of salvation, who are to share with Him the glory of that reign. For them are now sent forth, at His instance and intercession, the angels, whose life and service are to do His will.463
Nor is this all. The place of the exalted Jesus is now also by the Spirit "the midst of the Church." Where two or three of those whom He is not ashamed to call His brethren are assembled in His name, there is the place where, as the teacher as well as object of Divine praises, He declares to His own that name which is the witness and secret of His own delight. “I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the Church will I sing praise unto thee."464 The joy of Jesus stands prominent among those "things" of His which the Comforter—Himself the unction of Divine gladness to the soul—delights to reveal to His disciples.
For in all that joy the Church has her own most rich and blessed share. The requests of Jesus were not for Himself alone. The heart that loves the Lord may indeed well mourn with shame, while pondering the wretched answer to His heart's desire465 that the sin of man has furnished, in the general failure of the Church to glorify Him worthily whilst here below. Still the Spirit, whose gracious presence has been grieved by the corruption of the holy temple of God's light and truth,466 remains in the believer the abiding witness and most sure earnest of the eventual realization in power of those pure desires.467 They are granted. The Holy Ghost is the present assurance to the believer of that which will, in a very little while, be openly verified by the appearing in glory of the Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.
The Christian's portion is indeed a rich one. God is for him. Christ is his. We have Him, whether as the Apostle or the High Priest of our profession.468
It is to meet the personal necessities of the soul that the blessed Lord has clothed Himself with the gracious offices which are the present expression of His love. His priestly intercession, His righteous advocacy, His perfect grace and unwearied patience as the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, are declared to us by the Spirit, for the maintenance and increase of our confidence and rejoicing as once-purged worshippers of God. But there is a yet fuller and more tender blessing—the crown and fruit of all the rest—which consists in the fellowship which is possessed by the believer in the Lord's own joys. Jesus declares the Father's name to His brethren. The sense of mediation, though never for a moment lost, is half forgotten in that blissful consciousness of union and companionship with the Mediator, which brings the vessels of redeeming grace so very near to God. For they are brought nigh in Him as well as by His precious blood.469 Known or unknown in the Christian's actual experience, his standing is that of filial acceptance with God. His level in the Divine presence is companionship with Christ!470 The mission of the Holy Ghost, as the Spirit of adoption, is to witness to him and in him this ineffable truth. It is because we are sons that God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.471The following Psalm will open to us more fully the mighty sources of this joy, in the discovery of the travailing of Divine love for our sakes, when death in its unqualified bitterness became the portion of Messiah's cup.
In the meanwhile, it is a rich view that here is opened to us of the rejoicing and triumphant King. “He liveth unto God."472 He is the Man of God's delight. Jesus enjoys God according to the capacities which pertain to His most real humanity, as well as in the incommunicable blessedness of His eternal Sonship. The fullness of the Godhead is indeed contained in His most blessed Person; it dwells bodily in Him who is the Head of all principality and power;473 yet Jesus knows Jehovah as the God of His mercy, the giver of His portion, the arbiter of His honor and reward, the object of His homage as He leads the adoring praises of His people.
He wears a crown of Divine bestowment. He receives a kingdom, which He will again restore, when the full cycle of its blessed and holy administration shall have been accomplished.474 Having fulfilled all righteousness in the days of His flesh, He still delights to own, and will presently again make open demonstration of subjection to Jehovah as the Most High God, when, as His Anointed, He shall bear upon His shoulder the government of the kingdoms of this world.475
Verses 8-13 describe some of the effects of Messiah's second advent in the majesty of that power and coming which, though now esteemed no better than a cunning fable by the world, will be presently revealed to sight. Having received the kingdom He will return.476 His enemies will be found in that dread day by the strong right hand of His most holy vengeance. Commencing His reign by the sudden destruction of the multitudes who gather themselves together as the armies of the Beast, He will hold the kingdom until He shall have subdued all enemies beneath His feet.477
In the present Psalm it is to the pre-millennial confederacy of those whose eyes will be set for evil on Immanuel's land that reference is immediately made. Retributive judgments must precede the revival of the Lord's song in the land of promise. Meanwhile, what Jewish faith might thus express, while joyfully anticipating the Messianic blessing which should fulfill with antitypical and enduring glory the Davidical pattern of Israel's kingdom, speaks plainly to the Christian of yet better things. For he views the coming blessings of Messiah's earthly reign, according to the interests and with the desire of one whose hope is laid up for him in heaven, and whose promised portion is to reign with Jesus when He comes to reign.478
Psalm 22
THE cross and its results, both heavenly and earthly (but especially the latter), is the general argument of this wonderful Psalm.
It is exceedingly full. For it opens with the crisis which brings together the two largest of all subjects; the grace of God and the wickedness of man find their point of contact here. Both have their full expression in the passion and death of the Son of God. More particularly this Psalm respects the sufferings of Christ and His after-glories, in their relation to Israel and the nations of the world. Millennial promise closes the scene, which opens with the fearful cry of Messiah's extremity, when realizing the bitterness of sacrificial death. Let us draw a little closer to this solemnly affecting subject.
Verses 1, 2. The consummation of the sufferings of Christ is expressed in the opening words. These sufferings were threefold. He was first despised of men. Secondly, He was rejected of the people.479 Thirdly, and especially, He was at the crisis of His sorrow, forsaken of God.
It pleased Jehovah to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief.480 It was in the acceptance by the Man of sorrows of that cup at the Father's hands, that Jehovah, as the God of holiness and truth, was perfectly glorified upon the earth. "I am not alone" had been the glad experience, as well as the good confession of the blessed Sufferer, while learning as a Son His life-long lesson of obedience to the Father's will.481 But an hour must arrive in which He would be left alone. While that hour was as yet but a prospective thing, the dread of it drew forth strong crying and tears from the afflicted yet steadfast Victim, for whom its unknown travail was ordained. The second verse applies more generally to this anticipative grief, which made bitter all the earthly days of the appointed Lamb of God. But it was out of the deep darkness of that hour itself, when the terrors of the Almighty had fallen in wrathful infliction on the pure and spotless Substitute for human guilt, that the heart-broken cry of utter desolation came. Jesus was left alone to bear the wrath of God. A cruel messenger was sent against the blameless and only righteous One-against God's own; for it was His own Son whom the Father did not spare.482 Hence the peculiar force of the appeal: "My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" But the sentence had proceeded from of old; it had been written in the volume of the Book. And now, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, the ready Victim offers Himself without spot to God.
But it is not the sacrificial aspect of the cross that is most conspicuously presented in this Psalm. It discloses rather the matchless grace of the rejected and dishonored Christ amid the unspeakable circumstances of His humiliation. The faith with which He trusted in God483 shines but the more brightly by reason of the horror of great darkness which surrounded Him on every side.
“My God." Even while enduring the cross, and finding His strange visitation to be death, and not life, because of the imputation of transgression to the appointed Lamb, the heart of the sufferer was yet with God. Man alone was visible and audible. Satan was perceptible in all the circumstances of the tremendous wickedness of which he was the instigator. Moreover and especially, it was in his hated hand that the power of death continued, until, by dying once, He who is personally "the Prince of life" should have made Himself the Lord likewise and owner both of death and of the dead.484 But while such was the apparent agency which wrought in that dread hour, it was God who still filled the thoughts of Jesus. For it was at the bidding of the Father that He undertook to die. Nor, though the decease which He should accomplish must come upon Him in the fearful form of the curse of the very law wherein His heart delighted, and which he held in that sanctuary of all holy affections,485 would He be deterred from thus fulfilling the good pleasure of the Father. His flesh shrank indeed, and His whole soul recoiled at the contemplation of that death.
“If it be possible, let this cup pass from me," was an utterance of the intense distress of soul which brought from the depth of His grief-laden heart that strong cry of agony; while great drops of blood rolled from a brow which rightly knew no sweat of labor, because untainted by the first man's sin. But for that hour had He come into the world. To do the will of God was the purpose of His gracious incarnation. That will He was content to do, even though the doing of it should extinguish for a season all the light and gladness of His life, by placing the veil of human sin between the Father and the Son.
Verses 3-5. The Lord here wonderfully identifies Himself, as a faithful Israelite—the only Israelite in whose mouth no guile in very deed was found 486—with the nation from which He sprang, as touching 'the flesh, and for which He died, to fulfill the covenanted truth of God. There is an indescribable beauty in the third verse, expressing as it does the perfect love of Messiah for His own, who rejected Him; a love which, while undergoing at their hands the extremity of ignominious suffering, yet pleaded for them as for men that knew not what they did.487 Jesus, while passively satisfying the claims of Divine holiness, could enter in spirit into those precious thoughts which were the active sympathies of an everlasting love488 He knew (for who should better know them than Himself?) Jehovah's thoughts of final peace towards the rebellious yet beloved people of His choice. And now, while consciously abolishing in His flesh the enmity, and removing far away the veil of darkness (though for a space that veil must yet continue on the heart of Israel) which had shrouded hitherto the glory of the God of grace, He thus anticipatively enthrones Jehovah amid Israel's praises. For praise will again be heard in Zion, which shall stand in blessed contrast to the execrations of maddened wickedness which filled the wearied ears of the expiring Lamb of God.489
The blinded eyes of Jacob will open in that day with astonishment and shame, but with yet more abundant joy, upon the brightness of His glory, who had once been hated of His brethren. It is most profitable, whilst meditating generally upon the subject of the Lord's passion, to notice thus the distinct Jewish traits, which are sufficiently apparent in the Gospels, but discover themselves far more abundantly and emphatically in the Psalms. “Our fathers trusted in thee," etc. The sufferings of Jesus were endured by Him under a Jewish character and relations. He was not only made of a woman, but made under the law;490 the Divine and ever-gracious endurer, meanwhile, of the contradiction of sinners against Himself.491
The sixth verse declares the sum of Messiah's ignominy: "I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men and despised of the people." He was despised of them whose fathers had received with contumely and dishonor the prophetic messengers of mercy, who spake before of the coming of the Just One; whose ancestors, in a yet earlier generation of that evil family, had changed their glory to the shameful image of Egyptian abomination. But He was, moreover, a reproach of men. The title of Jesus was disowned contemptuously by the ruling powers of this world. They crucified the Lord of glory, because God's wisdom was to them an unknown thing.492 He was mocked and set at naught by Herod and his men of war.493 The soldiers of Pilate robed Him in purple, in derision of His royal title, and placed in mockery upon His head the thorny semblance of the crown of David.494
“I will chastise Him and let Him go," was the conciliatory expression of Gentile contempt for the alleged rival of Caesar's throne, addressed to those who clamored for His blood, when Pilate, ill at ease within his own dark mind because of those unwonted words of living truth which made him fear before the presence of his prisoner, yet saw on Him no outward sign which seemed to justify His good confession as the Lord's anointed King. The pretensions of the Man of Nazareth to the title of Messiah appeared to the eye of natural sense entirely ridiculous. He was indeed a worm, and no man, in the esteem of those who would willingly have granted Him a scornful exemption from the pains of treason, because of the plain and palpable absurdity of such an arraignment against such a man!
Nor should the deep and sad meaning of this expression be lost sight of, in its reference to the sacrificial work of Jesus. His estimate among men here below was a shadow of truth's estimate of man in the judgment of the sanctuary. "A worm, and no man," is a just description of a sinner; for God gave the name of “man" to the upright creature of His hands: sin puts its victims in a lower place. In these words, therefore, of our ever-blessed Substitute, we discover something of the feeling which withered and oppressed His soul, when for our sakes He consented to be numbered with transgressors. Despising the shame of the cross, as only perfect righteousness could do, He tastes the full truth of its bitterness as the gratuitous confessor of all human sin.
It is when at the lowest pitch of human degradation, that the perfect moral glory of the Only-begotten of the Father shines most brightly forth. It was the Christ, the Son of the blessed, whose judgment was then taken away, that the Scriptures might be thus fulfilled. But the good confession which the captive and fettered Jesus witnessed before Pontius Pilate, He witnessed as the prisoner of God.
The truth which filled His blessed Person found its last expression out of the piteous (but there was none to pity) condition of lonely and unaided sorrow, into which His willing love had led Him as the doer of the Father's will. He had come into the world with forethought of His way and for a firmly purposed end. He came in order that the sheep which were His own, though numbered to the slaughter and as it were within the hungry reach of the destroyer, might live, and be borne safely upon the faithful shoulder of His love within the fold of everlasting peace. Therefore was His face set as a flint; though filled with shame He yet despised the shame. He knew Him near who was to justify Him. The Lord His God should help Him in due time.495 There was indeed no succor for the guiltless Sufferer at the hands of man. The children of those fathers who once rescued Jonathan from Saul’s perverse decree, because they owned his work to be of God,496 were willingly persuaded to demand the blood of One whom just before they had welcomed to the city as none other than the promised Hope of Israel.497 The scriptures of the prophets must be so fulfilled. But the voice of Jesus, which had uttered supplication to the Father for deliverance from death, would have its answer in His time. The resurrection was to be the full requital of those prayers. God would save His Beloved, not from His enemies, but by their means. He would make the malice and the cruel power of the evil one the instrumental means of loosing forever the burden of sin and death which His own hand had laid upon His Son.498
That weighty load was willingly received by Him who alone of all men could regard those things as alien to Himself, until in grace He took them on Himself for us. For Jesus knew no sin. The sins He bare were ours. The death which He instinctively abhorred, yet willingly endured, was also ours. But He made them both His own. Himself bare our sins in His own body on the tree. Himself also died; dying by His own power, who alone possessed a life to give, to which none other could lay claim;499 dying, moreover, by the grace of God, whose commandment of eternal life500 could be accomplished only by the shedding of the blood of His eternal Son.501
And thus would God—the Father of mercies, the blessed God—dissolve, through the death of His appointed Lamb, the curse which had turned the heaven where mercy has its secret dwelling place from the beginning502 into the hard brass of unsatisfied justice; and would make the very blackness of darkness to become the dawn and rising of the morning Star of life. And it was Man who thus should rise. The form and fashion under which the Son of God had tasted death, He would not cease to bear when risen from the dead. He died a Man; as Man He lives again, though the fullness of the Godhead be within that flesh. The First-begotten from the dead was to become, as the second Adam, the accomplished reality of that eternal purpose, of whose excellency, as the image and glory of God, the former man was but the figure and the shade.503 That shadow was to flee away, to lose itself amid the deeper shades of death, that out of death the living and Divine perfection of Jehovah's likeness might arise. The resurrection would declare Him who, in His day of weakness, was as a worm, and no man, to be the Son of God with power. And in this His Divine and paramount title would be included and maintained those lesser names of promise which—whether “Son of man," or "Seed of Abraham," or " Branch of David"—pertained alone to Him who is now revealed to our faith as "the beginning, the firstborn from the dead."504
Verses 7-10. The bitterest mockery with which the dying Savior was assailed was uttered, not by Gentile soldiers, but by those whose lips professed to keep wisdom and to dispense the knowledge of Jehovah. The language of verse 8 is a prophetic expression of almost the very words of the chief priests, the scribes, and elders of Israel, as they looked with pleasure on their fearful handiwork; and thought to bless themselves in their iniquity, by taunting the expiring Son of God with words which bore true witness to Him as the perfect servant whom Jehovah had upheld505
“He trusted in God."And yet He hung before their eyes, the victim of their un-resisted malice. “Let Him deliver Him, seeing [or, if] He delighted in Him." Such was the triumphant self-justification of the murderers of the Just One. But they knew not the manner and reason of Jehovah's delight in His Elect, though haply they had listened to the saying which He spake when, in riddles of judgment, He was uttering in their ears the new words of Gospel promise: "Therefore Both my Father love me, because I lay down my life for the sheep." Thus it always is. Religion, if it be not in the faith of God, is ever found to be the bitterest antagonist of truth. It was because the Pharisees justified themselves in the sight of men, that they so hated and withstood both the doctrine and Person of the Lord. Loathing Him, as darkness shrinks from light, they were loathed of Him according to the purity of His own Divine holiness, because He understood and judged the deep hypocrisy which lay within their hearts.506
In all these things Jehovah was pursuing His perfect, but to man His hidden way. He thought to bring rebellious sinners to Himself in love. His mind was to deliver those who had destroyed themselves. And thus it became Him (for that He is holy) to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. God's purpose for His many sons was glory.507 But never might the weight of glory rest in His most holy presence on anything but perfect righteousness. That Jesus then might be the author of salvation, He must needs fulfill all righteousness. Not only was the spotless purity of His Person needed, that a Lamb might be provided worthy of God's altar of atonement; His work must also be a perfect work. He must perform the total sum of human obedience, that He might present Himself on man's behalf to God, with a righteousness which was of Himself, in Himself, and through Himself;—a righteousness, not graciously imputed to His faith (as theirs had been whose works received the approving witness of the Holy Ghost,)508 but wrought in perfectness, through the devoted zeal of Man for God. A faithful and complete reflection of the mind and will of God must first be found in man, that glory might become man's just reward. These things were found in Jesus; He glorified the Father on the earth.509
And then, for the impartation of His own most blessed title of righteousness to those on whose behalf He wrought, He must needs taste once for all of death. Jesus has thus not only presented in Himself a Divine title of righteousness for man and in man,—seeing that it was the Only-begotten of the Father who thus obeyed,—but also by Himself He has put away sin through the precious blood of His cross. Sin is triumphantly displaced, for the believer, by the sacrifice of the Son of God. The two things co-exist no longer in the mind of faith; the second must supplant the first. Sin is destroyed as being Satan's work, for the destruction of which the Son of God was manifested in the flesh.510 Righteousness abides for ever as the work of God,—of Jesus the Son of God, Himself the true God and eternal Life,—Jehovah, the righteousness and endless peace of all who put their trust in Him.511
But all this wondrous process of Divine wisdom and mercy was hidden from the dull and fattened hearts of Israel after the flesh, before whose eyes the work of the Father and the Son was being carried on.512 The visible demonstration of the grace and truth of God was fruitless of conviction to the natural man; for the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.513 And that Spirit had not yet been given.514 The revealer of the true Light could not act, until the work had been completed which was to remove forever the thick screen of darkness, which as yet kept hidden from the sight and thoughts of men alike the truth and glory of God's perfect love.515
Hence, even His disciples, though true children of the Father, were incapable of understanding, until the Comforter should come, the truth which, nevertheless, they daily heard and saw and touched and handled. They believed, indeed, with dim yet true discernment of His Person, that Jesus had come forth from God, and that it was the Father who had sent Him into the world. Yet even they were fools and slow of heart to believe the written testimonies of the Holy Ghost, until the Son of God—now manifestly such in His resurrection from the dead—became Himself the opener of their understandings, to perceive and understand the words of God.516 But that Comforter has now been sent, and light as well as perfect peace is thus become the present portion of His saints. Meanwhile, the natural Jew seeks on in fruitless quest of Israel's hope. Nor shall he find, until the Spirit be poured upon the nation from on high, and their eyes, no longer blind, shall see that great and shining Light which, once despised, when only its moral glory and beauty were displayed, shall be openly revealed to sight in that soon-coming day, when Jehovah shall appear as Zion's builder, in the manifested brightness of His glory.517 Lest these notes should seem to grow beyond just limit, the many practical considerations which suggest themselves in connection with these verses must remain unnoticed, that we may hasten to the sequel of this very comprehensive Psalm.
Verses 11-18. Jehovah was the sole resort of Jesus, when, in the day of His distress, He found none near to help. It was He who had taken Him from His mother's womb (verse 9). He had made Him hope while on His mother's breasts. Terror and strife were around Him as He walked, on every side; but God was thought of as above the darkness which daily drew more closely round the solitary light of life. God, too, was still within that circle of distress with which His Well-beloved was environed. He was His shield and stay, the solace and support of one who leaned upon Him as His strength, and lived only to fulfill the counsel of His will. It was thus with Jesus, till the hour came when God must cease to know Him as His own, and the sword of judgment must awake against the fellow of the Lord of hosts. It is as standing in the actual place of our substitute, that the Lamb of God is contemplated in the verses now before us. Human thought is incapable of compassing, even when most enlightened by the Spirit of God, more than a scanty knowledge of this deepest of God's depths.518 The love of Jesus far excels the measure of all possible knowledge. But its proof is here. And in this His people find the sustaining strength of their salvation. His flesh and blood are meat and drink indeed. In vain shall we think to learn, with mastery of the subject, the doctrine of the cross. It is the earliest lesson of the poor believing sinner, in the true knowledge of God; it is the necessary meat which keeps the Christian's soul in health from day to day; but it contains also for the ripest and the wisest saint the still unfathomed deep of God's most holy love, a wealth which eternity alone will perfectly disclose.
It is hardly necessary to remind the reader of the exact fulfillment in detail of the prophetic language of this passage. In verse 16 the expressions “dogs "and" the assembly of the wicked," seem to indicate the union, for the doing of the deadly work of wickedness, of the Gentile and the Jew.519
Man was the agent in the bruising of God's Branch of righteousness. The circumstances of outward suffering and ignominy were of his device. The apparatus of death was in his hands. The desire for innocent blood was in his heart. But the work itself was of God; the pleasure of Jehovah was accomplished in the smiting of the slaughtered Lamb. This is remarkably expressed in verse 15. It was they indeed who compassed Him; they pierced His hands and His feet; but it is added, “THOU halt brought me into the dust of death." No human hand, nor human will, nor might of Satan could have bowed Him thus. Many a time men's hands were filled with stones to stone Him; once had the men of His own city led Him forth as if to certain death; but He still passed safely by, unharmed of all. Until His destined hour came He occupied securely for the Father. But now that hour had arrived, and the strength of Him who is the mighty God;520 of Him who fainteth not and knows no weariness; who quickeneth whom He will; of Him who just before had changed corruption into life, by waking buried Lazarus from death, that the glory of the Son of God might manifestly shine; that strength which Jesus, though His own, had never exercised save at the bidding of the Father's will—now seemed to leave Him quite. In perfect weakness He would undergo the sentence which He brought with Him into the world, when, born for death as God's appointed Lamb,521 the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.
Verses 19-21. “O my strength, haste thee to help me," etc. Truly may the believer say," This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes." He was crucified in weakness522—for us. Our iniquities dissolved the strength of Jesus. Attracting to themselves the stroke of righteous judgment, the weight of that infliction fell on Him who bare them in His own pure body on the tree. Jesus received in His own Person the wages due to our sin. He has spoken from "the dust of death," with the faint cry of one whose strength was dried up as a potsherd. The feeling which predominates in the mind of a believer, while pondering these things, is that of an utter inability to realize them adequately, much less to set them forth worthily to others.523
A remarkable expression occurs in the 20th verse, "my darling, or my only one [margin],524 from the power of the dog." I hesitate as to the true interpretation of these words. We may refer them to the Sufferer Himself. On the other hand, the application of such an expression to the Church, as bound up in the dying thoughts of Jesus, who gave Himself for her, is simple and very precious. Nor does it seem unreasonable, in view of the general tenor of this Psalm, and the strong Jewish features which distinguish it throughout, to assign to the word in question a particular application to Israel and Jerusalem below—the nation for which He died, and the city over which her God will yet rejoice as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride. The verse which follows expresses a transition, on the Holy Sufferer's part, from the last extreme of apprehended danger, to the consciousness of enjoyed deliverance. “Thou hast heard me," etc. He was heard in that He feared. And now, deliverance being found, His thoughts are straightway with the objects of His love, for whose sakes He had thus been brought within the lion's mouth.
Verse 22. The joy which fills the heart of Jesus as the first-born from the dead is imparted freely to the brethren of His love. It is in the midst of the Church that He sings, and will forever sing, Jehovah's praise. This subject has been already treated in the remarks on the foregoing Psalm. The quotation of this verse in the epistle to the Hebrews and its immediate application to the Church, are well known to every Christian reader. Viewing the sufferings of the Messiah in their national connection, these words, like those which follow, have also an especial reference to Israel when again restored.525
Verses 23-25. The results of Messiah's deliverance now fill the mouths of the seed of Him who is both Jacob and Israel with the praises of their God. The prophetic bearing of these verses on the times of promised restitution526 is apparent. With verse 24 compare Isa. 53:10, 1110Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:10‑11). The great congregation,527 in the midst of which this acceptable worship is to be rendered by the Spirit of Christ, refers, I believe, to the assembly of saved nations in the millennial day, whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, "Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance."528
Verses 26-31. A fair and soul-refreshing view is here presented of the effect of righteousness529 as it is yet to be experienced in the wasted and sin-defiled earth, when revived and blessed beneath the scepter of Messiah. The promises are as definite as they are full: "All the ends of the earth shall remember, and shall return," etc. In verse 29 there is shown a striking moral contrast of the Lord's Day with the day of man, the last sands of which are soon to run out and be at a perpetual end. Now the men of this world prosper, whose belly is their god. Then the fat ones of the earth shall thrive under the appreciated blessing of the Most High God, repaying with grateful worship the rich abundance of the blessings of His goodness whose praise will then fill all the earth. Messiah's power as Lord of the dead as well as of the living is strikingly put in the last clause of this verse. All that go down to the dust shall bow before Him, “although He kept not His own soul alive."530 He did not do so, but rather died that He might thus become Lord of the living and the dead.531 A seed shall serve Him (verse 30). The Church seems here to be intended separately from Israel. It shall be accounted to the Lord532 for a generation. Compare with this the apostle's quotation in Heb. 2:1313And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. (Hebrews 2:13): "Behold I and the children which God hath given me." It is this seed which shall come, and shall declare to the nation yet to be born the righteousness and glory of Jehovah's acts (verse 31). It is the manifestation of the sons of God that the creation, whose earthly head is the nation of Israel, will be freed from bondage. The King whom Jerusalem will welcome with blessings in that day will not return alone, but accompanied by those who, having endured for a moment a light affliction for His name, will bear with Him the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, when the hour of His kingdom shall have come.
Psalm 23
THIS sweet and very lovely strain presents a perfect expression of the confidence and rejoicing which belong abidingly to the family of faith. We may view it in two ways. First, as it relates to Jesus, whose secret experiences of joy and refreshment, in the days of His weary pilgrimage for our sakes, were tasted by Him in communion with the Father, who upheld and cheered Him as the beloved servant of His choice.533 Jesus knew the Father as the absolute guide and disposer of His way. When declaring Himself to be the good shepherd, whose faithfulness was presently to be witnessed by His dying for the sheep, the blessed Lord appears to make immediate allusion to this Psalm in its relation to Himself. "I am the good shepherd; and I know my sheep and am known of mine, even as the Father knoweth me and I know the Father."534 When earthly refuge failed Him, and no man cared for His soul, He found a shepherd in Jehovah; rejoicing in spirit amid the most heart-sickening evidences of the apparent futility of all that He had wrought,535 and finding meat and drink where only weariness and exhaustion seemed to be His portion.536
Regarded thus, the Psalm presents abundant matter for the Christian's happy meditation on the grace of Him whose self-chosen poverty was for our sakes.537 But, secondly, and more practically, it is the blessedness of the believer as a sheep of Christ that forms the rich and fruitful subject of this invaluable Psalm. Looked at in this latter sense it stands in an obvious relation to the one immediately preceding, the meek of the earth already tasting, through the revealing power of the Comforter, the satisfying portion of “the bread of God."538
The springs of the spiritual man are in God. But the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is the unstopping of those springs for their perennial flow of blessing to the thirsting spirit. The strength of the believer, while fulfilling here below his pilgrim days, is the knowledge of Jesus, the shepherd and bishop of his soul. He knows Him thus according to the full glory of His person now justified divinely in the Spirit;539 brought from the dead through the blood of the everlasting covenant, and crowned with honor and dominion in the heavenly places. Jesus alive from the dead is the effectual minister of the peace of God.
He is Himself our peace. In Him the God of peace is known, who preaches peace by Jesus Christ when speaking by His Son from heaven in the gospel of His grace.540 To be able to say by faith, "The Lord is my shepherd," is to be assured of everlasting immunity from spiritual want. The path of light and safety is made plain and even through the wilderness of life to the poor and feeble saint, who, needing all the grace and power of Divine sufficiency for his guidance and comfort here below, finds God's full treasures opened in all their richness, and ministered with ever ready application to his own peculiar need by the sympathizing tenderness of a Savior who claims the friendship of the saved. Jesus loves His own, and serves them in His love; governing and leading them meanwhile as their Master and their Lord—the ruler of his own house—the keeper of His purchased flock.
The soul turns instinctively to Jesus as its rest when once His love is known. Confidence, deep seated in the heart whose secret grief has been disclosed to Him who gives rest to the weary, in the revelation of His finished work of grace, is the sentiment with which the believer as a sheep of Christ regards Him as the Shepherd. “I know my sheep, and am known of mine." He is known in this gracious character—known therefore to be trusted and relied upon. All the blessedness which finds such bold expression in this Psalm belongs by God's free gift to every saint; for they are the experimental development to faith of what Christ personally is, and He is the Shepherd of the sheep—of all the flock. But a just appreciation of the blessings to which believers have this common title must be the effect of vigilant obedience to His voice who goes before His sheep, to lead them and to keep them in the way of peace. We have then in the present Psalm the rich utterance of a faith matured in all true godly experience, while learning through faith and patience the deep and divinely taught knowledge of the grace of God. The words are David's; but as the Spirit of the Lord spake by him, his experimental utterances have a meaning in them far beyond the limits of his personal communion. It is for those in whom Christ dwells by the spirit of adoption to enjoy to the full the language of this Psalm. Let us briefly analyze its general contents as they show themselves in the full light of gospel truth.
Verse 1. Confident assurance of unfailing blessing, grounded upon the known name and character of Jehovah as He is now made manifest in "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.”
Verse 2. Experienced joy and peace in believing. The soul finds its perfect rest, through the Holy Ghost, in the love of God; being stablished in Christ, who is Himself our peace, and drinking into the love of the Spirit.
Verse 3. Unfailing grace is found to meet all discovered need, whether arising from their weakness or their failure, in the sheep whom Jesus tends541. Rising continually in its abundance above the conscious requirement of the believer in the time of his distress, the same blessed grace becomes the practical instructor of the soul in the pure ways of holiness.542 The Lord becomes the measure of His people’s walk, as well as the restorer of their souls.543
Verse 4. Calm discernment of the realities of sin and death in the light and power of the resurrection, as already known and tasted in its effects upon the inner man through the witnessing Spirit of adoption.544 Liberty and triumph take the place of fear. Christ being already in us the hope of glory, joyful confidence of victory becomes the believer in the presence of the enemy. Meanwhile the ways of Jehovah are traced quite through the veil of darkness. In the midst of death the Christian walks in life. Guidance is found in God, and gratefully accepted by the soul. His rod and staff give comfort; chastenings, no less than direct and heart-cheering mercies, being fruitful tokens of His faithful love who brings His people on their way to glory. God's presence banishes the fear of evil from the soul.
Verse 5. Rejoicing as a favored guest of God with joy unspeakable and full of glory. The Lord is Himself His people's meat, and a true discerning of His body makes for the pilgrim of faith a plenteous feast of fatness in the wilderness. God spreads His children's table in the presence of their enemies. Warfare is not at an end, but Divine refreshment is richly furnished. The unction of the Holy One opens to the parched and wearied spirit the exhaustless riches of the love of God in Christ.
Verse 6. Repetition of the former strain of confidence. Its beginning is held steadfast to the end.545 We are saved by hope. Goodness and mercy are the constant attendants of the believer's pilgrimage. The house of Jehovah is kept evermore in view as the sure goal of his race of patience. The eye of faith looks thither for the prize 'of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.546 Rest remains to be eternally enjoyed, while joy and peace accompany, and are continually experienced in the soul whose present occupation is with things unseen.547
I do not doubt that this Psalm expresses also prophetically what will be the latter—day experience of the earthly nation, when brought finally under the sure staff of the Shepherd—the stone of Israel.548 Jehovah will be known as He that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of His flock,549 when, with a mightier deliverance and a yet dearer ransom, He shall have effectually accomplished the salvation of His chosen.550 Then too shall the true David-David's Lord as well as David's seed-be set over them; and He shall feed them and be their shepherd.551 He shall stand and feed in the majesty of Jehovah,552 both staves being then resumed into His hands, both Bands and Beauty.553 The flock itself shall then be united, to be no more again divided or dispersed. They shall be a beautiful flock, when they come up white and clean from the washing of the fountain which in that day shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.554 Jesus will then be acknowledged as Jehovah's shepherd—His fellow—when the veil shall have been taken from the heart of the nation for whose sake the sword had once awaked in judgment against the guiltless sufferer, whose stroke was in the house of His own friends.555
Psalm 24
THE fifteenth Psalm has displayed the moral glory of Messiah's person as the upright lover of God— the pure-hearted, holy candidate for Divine acceptance. We have now a celebration of His majesty and praise as the King of glory, the only Lord of all power and might. The blending (verse 4) of the moral features of the perfect Man with the majesty of Divine glory, which shines in Him who had the right of entrance at the everlasting gates, is strikingly presented in this Psalm.
It is an ode full of beauty and power; its leading strain being the assertion of Jehovah's lordship over all terrestrial things. “The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof," etc. Then follows a declaration of the title on which this dominion is claimed, which here, and universally in the Old Testament, is affirmed to be creation: “For He hath founded it upon the seas," etc. The believer enters on the full enjoyment of this Psalm through the knowledge of Him who, to His ancient title, of creation,556 has superadded that of redemption. It is from the risen' and ascended Christ that the true light shines, in which the beauties of this song of triumph may be seen and worthily enjoyed. For it was through the suffering of death that it behooved the King of glory to enter openly upon His rights.557 Jesus, having descended in self-emptied lowliness of perfect grace, has now ascended far above all heavens.
The holy hill was His, by right and virtue of His own perfection as the Holy One of God; but for our sakes He would have His entrance into the heavenly courts through the blood-shedding of eternal redemption.558 By faith, therefore, God's chosen have already passed, in their Forerunner, within the everlasting gates.559 The doors of heaven are thrown freely open to the entering worshipper, whose access into the holiest is with confidence by the faith of Him.560 By Him he may in spirit continually draw nigh, while in Him he abides unceasingly in the cloudless presence of the Father of lights. Henceforth his home is there. He is, therefore, a stranger and a pilgrim here below. Christ's sheep go in and out, and find their pasture in His name.561
But the natural aspect of this Psalm is Jewish rather than Christian; the name of Jacob is found emblazoned in the light of Messiah's glory. His face is now no longer pale, but ruddy with the saving health of God.562 The true singers of this prophetic strain are surely they whose hearts shall be attuned to a wise utterance of Jehovah's praise, when the long-lost but unforgotten seed of Jacob shall return, and shall seek and find their God, and David their king; and shall fear Jehovah and His goodness in the latter day.563 Pure water shall then be poured upon them, even the laver of regeneration. That blessed Spirit, whom their fathers had grieved and successfully resisted to the undoing of their souls, shall yet resume His gracious mastery over the remnant of Jacob which shall return unto the mighty God. In that day shall He unstop the deaf ears, and unloose the silent tongue, and the mouth of Jacob shall be filled with laughter and with praise, when he recognizes his own flesh564 in the person of the Lord of glory, and bows himself before the high God as the happy possessor of a righteousness which he then shall joyfully confess to be of God, and not of man.565
The sixth verse seems to contrast the generation of promise, the children who are the work of Jehovah's hands,566 who seek and find in that day the light of life in Jesus, with those who had not sought the Lord but had gone about to establish their own righteousness. In the preceding verse the righteous award of Jehovah had been expressed, whereby the Just One shall be manifestly exalted in blessing. Mention is now made of the generation of them that seek Him. The name Jacob appears to be applied here, as that of Israel is in Isa. 49, to Jesus, as the object and security of the promises made to the fathers.567 The vision which Isaiah saw of the King, the Lord of hosts, when the posts of the doors were moved at the majesty of His presence, had its scene in the temple at Jerusalem.568 We know how in far different guise the King of Zion revisited that temple in the days of His flesh. In the present Psalm we seem to have a prophetic anticipation of His future enthronement in the place of His shame, when the Lord of hosts (then known to Israel as He is now revealed by faith to the Church, in the glory of His victory as the destroyer of the adversary and his work) shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously.569
Psalm 25
THE practical bearing of this Psalm upon the exercised heart of faith is obvious, and its value to the believer is proportionately great. This shall be considered somewhat further presently. Let us first contemplate it for a moment in its prophetic character.
With respect to this, the last verse furnishes a key to the general meaning of the Psalm. It is an intercessory utterance of the Spirit of Christ on behalf of Israel, and it is in the broken remnant of the nation that the Spirit of Immanuel seems here to speak. One important feature found in connection with their actual condition is, that while they are brought low by the affliction of the enemy, there is a discerning and very full acknowledgment of national sin as the cause of their distress. Hence in the land of their captivity they think upon the Lord. Faith is heard inquiring for the old paths, the ways from which their fathers' hearts had widely erred, although in ancient days those paths had dropped fatness when Jehovah led them by His chosen shepherd through the desert like a flock. Israel has fallen by his iniquity, yet he is to return with words to Jehovah.570 Such words must needs be words of confession; but the source of all true confession is faith in Divine mercy. This last principle is strikingly exemplified in the structure of the present Psalm.
A full expression of trust in God (verses 1-6) precedes the more detailed confession of sin which follows. "Thou art the God of my salvation" is the language of a faith which, while profoundly feeling the circumstances of shame and sorrow amid which its present lot is cast, because fully alive to the sin which has produced them, yet sees a lower depth than that of evil. God is found in grace below, even as He is perceived in demonstrated power to be above, the causes of human wretchedness and woe. Israel Will know this when God shall have given them another heart. The Spirit of Christ seems meanwhile to be here expressing prophetically some of the bemoaning of Ephraim in the day when he shall be turned in godly sorrow to a fruitful repentance, and the shame of his youth shall be no longer borne because the times of plenteous forgiveness shall have come.571
They had gone with a stiff neck in the way of their own frowardness. Walking by the light of the sparks which their own hands had kindled, they had found a bed of sorrows as the result.572 They now feel that their sin has been their ruin; that their iniquities are the wall of their separation from the God of their strength. Yet is He remembered as their God. His name is considered; His mercy is thought on, who is not overcome of evil, by the prostrate victims of their own undoing. His ways, His paths, His truth are now inquired for. To Himself alone they look for light as well as for deliverance. No longer saying in the pride of an uncircumcised heart, "We be Abraham's children, and never were in bondage to any man," they rather own, amid the circumstances of their affliction, the righteous visitations of Jehovah's hand (verse 7). As it is elsewhere said by the same Spirit of prophecy, “We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us; for we have sinned against Jehovah our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day."573
While owning thus their sin as transgressors from the womb, in the shame and confusion of faces which the sense of abused mercy fails not to bring, seeing that it was the rock of their salvation, their Father, whom they had forgotten thus and lightly esteemed; they are nevertheless emboldened to prefer their appeal to the grace and justice of Jehovah. This is expressed in verse 8: “Good and upright is Jehovah; therefore will He teach sinners in the way." The covenant is the ground of this appeal (verse 10). Faith, viewing the filthy rags of human righteousness in the light of a quickened conscience, regards them with a feeling of self-abasement indeed, but not of despondency, because of the secret of that everlasting righteousness which is declared in promise to such as cleave still to God's early and unchanging words (verse 14). This covenant will be the desire of such as turn to the Lord from among His ancient people in the latter day. Nor will their desire be in vain; the bemoaning of Ephraim will kindle together the repenting of Jehovah. There shall come forth out of Zion the Deliverer, and He that shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.574 In the revelation of Jesus as Jehovah's Christ, they shall see in its living realization the sure and ordered covenant,575 within whose bond of life the afflicted people shall find rest.
The prayer of their distress shall then be answered to the full. The Lord will consider their enemies (verse 19), and will perceive them to be His own; and vengeance belongeth unto Him. Meanwhile, the deep and earnest cry for the forgiveness of their great iniquity (verse 11) shall have its answer in the sprinkling of a better blood than that of bulls and goats, even the blood of Christ, which in that day shall be known through the Spirit in its full and divine efficacy to purge clean away the iniquity and uncleanness of the nation for which He died.
The principles just illustrated in the national history of Israel apply themselves perfectly to the individualities of Christian experience. Trouble of soul because of sin is not, indeed, the experience which properly belongs to one who is walking in the Spirit. Redemption has brought the believer as a child into the Father's house, not to defile it, but to adorn it as a vessel of sanctification. God has called us not to uncleanness, but to holiness.576 To adorn the doctrine of God our Savior is the opportunity of the believer's day of pilgrimage.577 Sanctification of body, soul, and spirit, is the aim and desire of the Holy Ghost on behalf of those whose conversation is in heaven, and not on earth, because they are the anointed children of the God of peace.578
But the exhortation, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall," is not a needless caution to the most advanced believer. The capabilities of sin remain unchanged and undiminished in the flesh of all God's saints. Failure of deeper or of less degree is continually reported in the soul's secret, when the conscience is in its full exercise as a judge of personal conduct in the sight of God.579 This is a large subject. At present I notice one point alone; the case of conscious departure from God, of some willful declension whereby defilement has been brought upon the soul.
A believer may awake, or perhaps be rudely awakened by some open fall, to a sense of personal guiltiness, such as must constrain him to write bitter things against himself. The exercise of soul which ensues is profitable, or otherwise, according to the clearness with which the immutability of the counsel of the God of peace is discerned and still held fast on the delinquent's part. The natural effect of such experiences is to shock and consequently to enfeeble, if it cannot destroy, the feeling of confidence towards God. The heart condemns. God, who is greater than our heart, knoweth all things. Does not He also condemn? The evil, of what kind soever it may be, He most surely does, but not the self-abased confessor of it. The blood of the everlasting covenant has marked the believing sinner's person for eternal acceptance with Him who, because He is the God of all grace, is likewise to the receivers of His Spirit's testimony the God of peace. He has assumed these titles as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. They express to us distinctly what He is. And being such He so remains, with whom is no variableness or shadow of change.
The discovery therefore of personal sin, or the troubled retrospect of a life of much abused grace, though well fitted to bring low the spirit and to abase the soul in the very dust in confession of its vileness, can never of itself produce a genuine and abiding repentance not to be repented of. It is when these things are pondered by the heart of faith, that godly sorrow finds its place. A remembrance of the object of our sin as the God of our mercy, whom already we have known according to the riches of His grace—a grace which in Christ Jesus still excels the utmost measure of human depravity, remaining unaltered and undiminished after all the false requital of our treacherous hearts—is alone effectual in truly breaking and subduing natural self-complacency, and making contrition a permanent condition of the restored but self-loathing spirit. Blessing can only arise from truth. God blesses His chosen in faithfulness to Himself, as the producer of blessing in the way of grace. The Holy Ghost therefore, while acting as the Spirit of truth upon the conscience of a self-judging sinner, clothes the soul with mourning as the witness of personal corruption. The same blessed Spirit turns this heaviness to joy and peace, when, as the revealer of the changeless compassions of the Father of mercies, He unfolds Christ to the abased and contrite spirit as the eternal covenant of peace and truth. The lesser truth may not annul the greater. A just apprehension of personal failure cannot vitiate in the eye of faith the finished perfectness of that Divine and everlasting righteousness which, in Christ, is the beginning of the believer's confidence, and which, because it knows no change, remains abidingly the un-removed foundation of his soul If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. For the puce-shed blood of Jesus has a power evermore commensurate with the rising exigencies of His people's need. The holiness of the Father's presence, into which faith finds itself already brought, is tolerable only under the assurance that the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.580
Psalm 26
A MORAL portrait of Jesus, in His priestly character and relations, appears to be presented to us in this beautiful Psalm.
Verses 1, 2 express the purity and spotlessness of the Man who could thus appeal to the judge of all, upon the ground of personal integrity, while Jehovah was evermore His stay and confidence as He walked with a whole heart in His fear. Jesus only could make this appeal. Everything in the Just One was willingly naked and open to the eye of Divine holiness. He knew the Father, and was known of Him. As the solitary well-doer among men He put His trust in God. He knew with perfect knowledge the wisdom of the just man,—that God, that is, is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him;581 and in the power of righteous anticipation He despised the shame through which the path of His obedience lay, and viewed in clear and bright perspective the joy which was set before Him in the resurrection.582
Verses 3-6 contain the account rendered by the approved and perfect servant to Jehovah as the Judge. It is a record, in brief, of that moral purity and harmless life which, as Man, the Son of God exhibited here below, and which formed the preparatory process through which according to the Divine counsels He must needs pass in the days of His patience, that He might take His place for ever as the Priest and King in the presence of the Most High God.583 The fifth verse appears to refer to the ungodly generation against whom the fearful testimony of Jesus was borne in the days of His flesh.584 In the sixth, His intrinsic fitness for the pure ministration of the priestly office is declared:—"I will wash my hands in innocency," etc. He needed no laver of purification to fit Him to approach Jehovah's altar. Aaron and his sons could enter on their ministry only by a process which marked at every step the personal unfitness of the priest for his office. It stood wholly in carnal ordinances and ritual observances.
To fail in these was destruction to the priest, whose presence in the holy place was sufferable only by virtue of the sanction which God was pleased to attach to His own prescribed observances. But Jesus was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, intrinsically and according to the proper realities of His own Person. In the mystery of godliness, the Divine nature is not presented to the view of faith as an object distinct from the proper humanity of the Lord. Found in inseparable union in the one blessed Person of the Christ, the Son of God, both natures are and live in perpetual harmony of self-same holiness. Pure and spotless manhood becomes in Jesus the visible, appreciable manifestation of the God which He essentially ever was and is. The moral glory of the only-begotten of the Father shines from the person of the Word made flesh.585
Hence, in contemplating the palpable humanities of our Lord's life and conduct here below, the believer never (if in the Spirit) loses sight of the Divine presence. It is, on the contrary, in an adoring remembrance that it is the Lord of Glory who thus speaks and acts, that the wondrous portraiture which the Holy Ghost presents to us in Scripture of the Son of God in the days of His flesh, produces its just effects on our minds.
In the seventh verse the Divine glory is declared and extolled in the praises of the anointed Priest and minister of all blessing. "Glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee,"586 was one of the last requests addressed, while on earth, to the Father by the lips of Jesus. His exaltation at the right hand of the throne of heavenly majesty is "to the glory of God the Father."587 The Church already knows this, learning by the Spirit the true note of Divine praise from the lips of the first-begotten from the dead.588 The High Priest of our profession is now made higher than the heavens. But this publication of Jehovah's praise is not confined to the Church. She learns indeed and utters even now, though feebly, that sweet strain, but in a language which the world has not yet learnt. Jesus is not now the world's High Priest. The sanctuary of which He is the minister is accessible only to the faith of God's elect, who, by the gospel of effectual salvation, have been delivered from this present evil world, according to the will and power of the Father.
But the praise which now waits silently for God in Zion589 will again be vocal in due time.
It will arise, with loud and merry sound of timbrel and of harp, in the day when the messenger of the covenant shall be again revealed; when there shall arrive—sent straight from heaven—One who shall bring good tidings to Zion, speaking with comfortable speech to Jerusalem, in convincing demonstration that her iniquity is pardoned, and her warfare at an end. For in that day shall the counsel of peace, which the Christian already knows and delights in who sees in the blood of Jesus the witness of the everlasting covenant, be perceived by the eyes of Israel to be between the King and Priest, whose united honor and blessing shall be found in the Man whose name is the Branch. Jesus shall then sit openly upon His throne, in the glory of Melchisedec priesthood, as well as the full power of Messianic dominion. “He shall be a priest upon His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both."590
Verse 8, while having its earlier exemplification in the recorded zeal of Jesus in the days of His flesh,591 and capable of richest application to His present relation to the Church,592 seems rather to refer to Messiah's joy in the coming time of restitution, when, as the manifested Hope of Israel, "He shall build the temple of Jehovah, even He shall build the temple of Jehovah," and shall bear the glory of that house whose latter glory shall excel the first.593
Verses 9, 10 describe the moral features of the generation of wickedness, from which the Holy One stood separate. "Ye do the deeds of your father the devil,"594 was the estimate which perfect truth and holiness formed of the works of those whose prayers and sacrifices were but bribes of wickedness. “Thou thoughtest I was altogether such an one as thyself," is the reproof elsewhere addressed to such by the Searcher of all hearts, who is not mocked.595
They thought so when, with hands full of righteous blood, they compassed the altar of Jehovah, and stood as suppliants in His courts, keeping with unwashed hearts and blinded eyes the vain memorials of things whose only profit was as hopeful figures to the eye of faith of the better and abiding truth which they denied.596
Verses 11, 12 respect the redeemed rather than the Redeemer, and may be viewed as the language of the Spirit of Christ speaking in sympathy with the faithful remnant, who in their appointed season will return to the mighty God of Jacob and become known among the nations as the seed whom He hath blessed. The prayer of faith anticipates the time of Israel's manifested position among the congregations597 of the earth, when with feet firm set upon that truth which once had been their stumbling stone and rock of offence, they shall be called the priests of Jehovah, and men shall name them the ministers of their God.598
Psalm 27
A RICH and truly blessed utterance of the spirit of faith, which, while estimating to the full the power of the enemy, finds boldness and triumphant assurance in the name of Jehovah, as the pledged security to the believer of the blessings of goodness in the land of the living.
Resurrection shines brightly and distinctly throughout this Psalm. The soul takes and keeps its stand in God, who owns as His people not the dead but the living.599 Jehovah is known and rejoiced in by His believing worshipper as his light, his salvation, and his life (verse 1). Upon this knowledge is based a confidence which derides the power of all adversaries. The soul, once joined by faith to the living God, is evermore above the enemy.600 God is trusted. His name is the bond of His eternal faithfulness and truth. Hence the presence of danger only stimulates faith to a more energetic defiance of things contrary, because the battle is felt to be the Lord's.
It is an experimental Psalm of very ample range. David, whose tongue first spake it, entered doubtless much into its spirit. Still more so may the Christian; who now, a stranger in this populous world of evil because of the unction of Divine adoption, finds conflict his inevitable portion, while yet as saved by hope he has on his side in all such conflict a more than victor's might. For already the believer in the Son of God has overcome the world.601
Verse 4 contains an expression of that one desire which rules all hearts that really are alive to God: "One thing have I desired of the Lord," etc. The same spirit of faith in the true lover of Jesus echoes still the same desire: “To me to live is Christ."“This one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind," etc. The thirsty longing of the renewed soul is for God. Its proper and delighted conception of rest and happiness is the Divine presence and glory. Faith, therefore, as to this speaks always the same language. But with what a richness and power of superior blessing does the Spirit, who indicted these sweet strains, and ministered to the hearts of them of old some portion of the Lord's own joy, now pour upon the opened eyes of a believer's heart the cloudless light and beauty of the God of his salvation, as the Father of glory, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ!602 What was remotely seen, yet firmly embraced, by those who held the promises of old, is now shed abroad in the conscious hearts of God's beloved children by the indwelling Spirit of the Son, the Divine witness and earnest of the heavenly inheritance.603
Yet trouble and affliction are the portion of the children here below. Weakness is the Christian's personal condition. Sin and Satan are his near and active enemies. Hence, the truly exercised spirit will find, as the very result of the perfect confidence which it has in God, a movement of desire towards Him as its strength. The pursuit of holiness, now felt to be no longer a matter of cold duty, but the instinctive craving of the inner man, which thirsts continually for a full conformity to its blessed prototype and source, becomes the jealous aim and exercise of the believer's heart. All that impedes or opposes this is dreaded and avoided as a thing that threatens him with loss no less than danger. One object only occupies and satisfies the Spirit of God: He glorifies Christ. A believer who is walking in the Spirit will have a single eye, because he has a single heart. Light, and joy, and peace, and every fruitful spiritual blessing is the satisfying portion of them that are thus led. They walk through the present world as sons of God.604
I do not dwell now upon the application to the blessed Lord, as the leader and exemplar, as well as the object of our faith, of which the present Psalm is susceptible. It is the Spirit of Immanuel animating and sustaining the tried hearts of Israel's remnant that seems rather to speak, though many verses are perhaps at first sight more obviously applicable to the Lord Himself.
Verses 7-12 bear, in their general expression, a close resemblance to the utterance of the sore-pressed heart of Jewish faith, as it is presented elsewhere in the prophets.605 Stricken and brought low because of Jehovah's indignation, they yet remember in their low estate His ancient counsels of faithfulness and truth.606 The veil, as yet but partly lifted from their heart, admits sufficient light to sustain their drooping spirits while awaiting, as prisoners of hope, the manifest revisiting of the Lord's inheritance according to the surely ordered mercies of His covenant. The 8th verse,607 viewed in this connection, would show the contrast which the humbled and contrite heart of the believing remnant will present to the face-worship and lip-service which God hates, and which so abounded in the stiff-necked and unbelieving nation, producing only reprobation and destruction as its fruits. Besides the manifest application of verse 12 to the oppressed and afflicted Man of sorrows, there may be in it a reference to the condition of the same remnant, as the subjects of especial persecution, more particularly at the hands of their unbelieving countrymen when the time of their deliverance is at hand.608
The concluding verses are full of the sweet consolations of Christ for the soul of the child of patience.
By faith and patience we must enter on the promises of God. Both these qualities have had an exemplification in the ways of the elders who obtained a good report. For our sakes God bears approving witness to those ways, which pleased Him well.609 But in Jesus only have they had their perfect work. May we find in these words the living voice of the shepherd and bishop of our souls. Looking to Him alone, whose burden of shame and sorrow, once borne for our sakes, has given place to the everlasting joy of the Father's presence, may we find His joy to be by faith the strength and sure stability of our souls.610
Psalm 28
THERE are many expressions in this Psalm which apply to the common experience of all who suffer for righteousness' sake, while their hearts are sustained in hope because kept by the power of God, through faith, for a salvation which is to them of no uncertain attainment. David, whose name it bears, felt this as thus he sang. Jesus, who as the anointed of Jehovah is the true subject of this Psalm, knew, because of His perfectness, a realization of that entire dependence upon God, in the midst of mighty and prevailing wickedness, which finds frequent expression in the Psalms, such as could be known by no other. The Christian, because called to walk as Jesus walked, will act and think and speak, as did his Master, so long as he watchfully abides in Him. Traits and utterances occur in this Psalm such as, in certain circumstances, might aptly represent the character and conduct of a partaker of the heavenly calling. Thus Paul, suffering as a servant of the truth, when he referred the judgment of his wrong to the Lord who judgeth righteously, uses language quite in keeping with the sentiment expressed in verse 4.611 Speaking generally, however, the scope of this Psalm is both narrower and lower than the just range of Christian sympathy and desire, as it is excited and regulated by the indwelling Spirit of adoption. It is not a silent God who now sheds His love abroad in the hearts of His children by the power of the Holy Ghost. The perpetuation of Jewish blessing, under the grace and power of Messianic rule, is the limit of the language which are here expressed.
If regard be had to the historical order of its interpretation, it seems to belong to the times and to express the experience of Jehovah's prisoners of hope in the later stages of their trial. Amid the afflictions and under the reproach of Christ, which will rest in that day upon the small and feeble few of them that fear the Lord, they prayerfully await the time when He shall arise to plead their cause.612 The eye of hope still fastens on Jehovah's oracle. The heart of Jewish faith is ever toward that place on which are set continually the eyes and heart of Israel's God. If Daniel prayed in the house of his far captivity, it was with his window open toward Jerusalem.613 So will it be again when Jehovah's suppliants make vehement and ceaseless prayer in the ending of the troublous days, upon the eve of the sounding of His voice froth the temple, which had been the derision of the desolator, whose ensigns of abomination it must for a moment bear.614 There shall issue thence the voice of the Lord's commandment for the destruction of His enemies.
Amid the shaking of the heavens and the earth, the Lord will be the hope of His people, and the strength of the children of Israel.615 Then they who refused to regard for their salvation the works of Jehovah and the operation of His hands616 (verse 5), shall find, by a fearful token, that power to destroy as well as to redeem belongeth unto Him alone.
The latter verses (6-9) are a sweet expression of that confidence which faith, divinely skilled in the ways of the God of promise, knows how to feel when at the lowest pitch of circumstantial distress. The Christian knows the secret of that otherwise most strange command: “In every thing give thanks.617 For such is now the will of Him, in the secure possession of whose love in Christ the child of God already sees himself, in the power of anticipative faith, invested with all that exceeding and eternal weight of glory which shall presently obliterate the memory of the afflictions which draw forth now the frequent cry of sorrow and distress. Meanwhile the Lord of peace Himself is the helper and sustainer of His saints. This we may boldly say.618 For well we know that though long silence still be kept—so long, that scoffers, who once spake softly and with secret fear, now cast off shame and utter, with a daily-growing boldness, the madness of their hearts—yet He who still refrains will surely speak. He will surely come, and will not tarry, though yet His suffering be long for our sakes.619
Psalm 29
A MAGNIFICENT celebration of the displayed glory and power of Christ, when in royal dominion He will sit as King forever, while His name shall be known as the God of the whole earth, which shall then be filled throughout its circuit with His praise.620
What the apostle mentions621 as accompanying the bringing a second time of the First-begotten into the world, may perhaps be referred to in verse 1;622 but strictly, I believe, the present Psalm is altogether earthly in its character. It is a sublime description of the majesty of that power which, long despised by those whose hearts were haughty and whose power and dignity proceeded from themselves, is now established for the abasement of every lofty look and the bringing low of every high thing, that Jehovah only may be exalted in that day.623
It is as the giver of strength and peace to His people that Jehovah is thus to be revealed (verse 11). The terribleness of that majesty which shakes both earth and heaven at its rising, pertains to Him who is the born child of Israel's hope-to Messiah the prince of peace. Government and peace will grow with constant increase for Him who is ordained to sit upon the throne of David.624
The glory of that coming day is anticipated by the Church which sees her Savior on the Father's throne. He is our peace, who has made peace for us through the blood of His cross. For us the Breaker is gone up;625 and into the heavenly places, whither their Forerunner is now entered, the Spirit leads His people by the faith of Him. For in Christ they are accepted in perpetual peace, and blessed already with all spiritual blessings. Moreover, they have received, as a part of their portion, that kingdom whose KING (verse 10) is the subject of this mighty and majestic strain.626 The voice of Him whose words are as the sound of many waters, and who utters thunders from His throne, has been heard rehearsing, in tones which moved no fear in them that listened to what they then but little understood, the coming glory of this kingdom. The appointment of His love has made the glory which He would Himself receive as the awarded recompense of perfected obedience, the sure portion of those who always were the Father's, in the appropriative counsels of His mercy, but whom now the Son delights in as His own,627 given to be His, and to partake His blessedness whose perfect joy is in the Father's love. The Church will reign with Jesus when He reigns. The world is hers, even as she is the ransomed bride of the world's Lord.628 In the day of the loud thunder she will be far above the scene which will be illumined by the fatal lightnings of His vengeance. The mover of all things else is the eternal stability of the chosen partners of His glory, the anointed fellows of His joy.629The scene of what this Psalm describes is laid below the heavens. The voice of Jehovah is heard in its effect upon created things630 within that sphere in which man's voice had first been suffered to speak forth great words against the Most High God. Satan's deceitful promise will have had its seeming vindication in their eyes, a part of whose sentence as obdurate disbelievers of the truth is that they shall believe a lie.631
“Ye shall be as gods " was the lying persuasion that seduced the creature to his own undoing. "I will be like the Most High"632 is the thought which for a moment will seem to have attained its realization, when the wicked one shall set his seat as God in the temple of the Most High. But it shall not be so. The Lord will cause His glorious voice to be heard; He will show the lighting down of His arm with the indignation of His anger; for through the voice of Jehovah shall the Assyrians633 be broken down which smote with a rod. With battles of shaking will He fight against those who shall be gathered, in the pride of their own imaginations, only to be broken in pieces in the day of the fierce anger of the Lord.634
The excellency of Jehovah's power as the deliverer of His people, according to the judgment written, is the leading topic of this Psalm. His temple is already the purged and hallowed house of His glory. It is in the beauty of holiness that men are called to worship Him (verse 2). The imagery used is Jewish throughout. The cedars and the great waters seem to denote respectively the princes and peoples whose strength shall be broken, and their multitude made few, in the day which shall burn as an oven.635
“The voice of Jehovah," which is the great burden of the Psalm, is an expression which often indicates in Scripture the administrative power of Christ, whose name is the Word of God.636
The voice of the Lord is in power (verse 4). That voice which shakes the wilderness of Kadesh, and bows the everlasting hills, exerted a yet mightier force when, in the days of the despised Messiah's patience, the devils, uttering loud cries of dread, came forth unwilling at the bidding of the gracious healer of His people, though He spake no louder than another man. The grave of Lazarus gave back its rotting inmate at the voice of Jesus, although just before that voice was only audible in sobs, because of the realities of the destroyer's power upon those whom He could love as no man ever loved. The raging tempests fell submissive to a peaceful cairn, when Jesus spake to them His will. But mightier far than all these things was the power of that voice to speak into the souls of wretched sinners the Divine assurance of forgiveness and of life. It was blasphemy, His enemies declared, that He who seemed to them no more than man, should handle thus the chief prerogative of God.637 They crucified the Lord of glory for the good confession of the only truth by which a sinful man may stand in security before his Judge.638
Jesus has ceased to speak on earth; but from heaven is His voice still heard by faith. In the gracious testimony of the Comforter, the believer can distinguish to his joy the welcome tones of the good Shepherd's voice. A little while, and once again that voice will audibly resound in the expectant Church's ears.
The Lord shall Himself descend from heaven with a shout. Before the shaking of this earth begins the quiet slumber of His saints, who sleep through Him, shall be sweetly broken by the only voice that ever spoke unmingled gladness to their hearts.639
Psalm 30
THE title of this Psalm explains its subject. It is the solemn yet joyful memorial of Divine deliverance, uttered in strains full of the sweetness of heart-rendered praise, because of rest attained and enjoyed in the house which Jehovah had built for His Anointed.
David's house was not so with God. Mourning and death soon turned to heaviness the joy of his first prosperity. The heavy judgment of the Lord had made the fruit of his own loins to be the instrument of his chief affliction. Confusion and every evil work had arisen in his house to vex the quiet of his soul But the Lord had spoken of a house for David which David's hands were not to build, but in which the servant of Jehovah's choice should dwell forever in the safe and pleasant chambers of His rest.640 The ordered covenant of promise was the sure foundation of this house not made with hands. All his salvation as well as all his desire centered there.641 Moved by the Spirit, who spake by him and led the musings of his mind, he is empowered to utter this song of anticipative commemoration in strains which, while truly representing the experiences of his soul, yet reach a measure far above himself, and give forth a steady brightness of prophetic light to cheer God's prisoners of hope, until the dark night of toil and sorrow cease and flee away before the clear shining of the morning without clouds.
As an experimental Psalm this is one of high value. It abounds in expressions of readiest practical application to the exercised believer; for it is the utterance of a heart which had been instructed deeply in the true secret of faith. Prosperity had been tasted and had gendered fleshly confidence. Jehovah's favor, when used to strengthen the creature on its own base, is sure to be misused and is never truly understood. The believer has to learn the resurrection as a preparation for his right use even of the present life. "God which raiseth the dead" is to be known and walked in by His people now.642 The foundation and living spring of present peace and joy is Christ, now known no more after the flesh,643 but according to the power of the resurrection from the dead. The hope which lives amid the shades of death is there644 That perennial flow of pure and joyful confidence, which should not cease within the heart in which God dwells, can only be maintained where first the strength of nature has been withered, and the sufficing riches of the love of Christ are drawn forth from the wells of salvation by the active energy of faith. The cloudless favor of the God of all grace shines forth on the believing sinner in the person of the risen Savior. In that favor is life—eternal life.645
Perfect and abiding peace and blessedness are the never-fading portion of the soul that has learned to render thanks to God for His unspeakable gift.
The true bearing of' this Psalm is, I believe, upon Israel's latter-day experience, first of sorrow and death and then of quickening life and joy, when the long-protracted days of mourning (though then they will seem but a moment)646 shall be changed for the gladsome times of Divine refreshing, when stones of fair colors shall become the sure foundation of the city that the Lord shall build.647 His people shall be brought up out of their graves. His prisoners shall go forth, through the blood of His covenant, from the pit which hath no water.648 Resurrection is figuratively used in Scripture to indicate the resuscitation of the regenerate nation, as well as in its literal sense.649 The concluding verses are an echo of prophetic witness elsewhere borne to the blessedness of Israel when, reposing under the shadow of the righteous Branch and firmly resting on the sure mercies of David, they shall know their King and be known of Him, according to the fullest measure of the blessings of the new and everlasting covenant of peace.650
Psalm 31
LIKE other Psalms which bear the name of David in their titles, the one before us—while pointing distinctly to Messiah—was probably to its inspired author not only a sure word of prophecy, into which his searching spirit might inquire, but a heart-felt expression also both of the sorrows and the joys which his own soul had tasted during the checkered experience of His pilgrim days. Passages in the recorded history of the son of Jesse easily suggest themselves to the mind while pondering such Psalms. But the marrow of Divine nourishment is received most richly into the believer's soul when, passing by the shadow, he meditates upon the perfect Truth Himself.
The present Psalm enters very deeply into the secret experience of Jesus, as He walked in the yet unfulfilled way of His obedience until the works of God should be complete.651 The exact repetition by the dying Savior of the first clause of verse 5,652 and the striking correspondence which other verses present to the historical testimony of the Gospels, when recounting the sufferings and reproach of the rejected Son of God, enable us at once to perceive that He is personally the main subject of this Psalm. On the other hand there are expressions which seem rather to belong to those for whom He suffered than to Himself. This last point I leave at present without further examination.
The compass which the Spirit here takes of our blessed Lord's experience is very wide. He appears before us not only as the patient servant of Jehovah, the doer of all righteousness amid the contradiction of sinners, but likewise as the confessor, in its vicarious appropriation, of sin itself (verse 10). It was this gracious assumption of His people's sin which furnished the deep cause of that matchless sorrow which He alone could know, because on Him only it could come as a thing which attached to Him by no right of sinful birth,653 but because for sinners' sakes He had come forth from God to do for His enemies the undesired work of their redemption. Perfect confidence—such as became Him whom Jehovah upheld while He leaned, in conscious feebleness and brokenness of heart, as a despised and solitary Man, upon the sustaining presence of the Father who left Him not alone—is found combined with a weight of sorrow and distress which seemed to press without relief upon His spirit, while the deadly counsels of wickedness were plotting against His life, and fear was about His steps on every side (verses 9-18).
There is constantly found in the Psalms a twofold expression of confidence in God. First, an appeal to His righteousness is made absolutely, on the ground of conscious purity and faithfulness in service; and secondly, Divine mercy is celebrated as the rest and security of the afflicted soul. Both these things are found in the personal experience of Jesus. As the spotless and holy One, who did always the things which pleased the Father, He could evermore appeal to Jehovah upon the ground of righteousness. “Righteous Father, the world hath not known thee; but I have known thee."654 He stood alone in this. The prince of this world had nothing of his own in Him. But the Son of God was born into the world to bear witness to the truth. He was made a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers.655
Jesus was the object of all gracious promise, even as He was the sole mediator of human blessing, through and in whom alone the righteous God could bless with favor any child of Adam. Grace, fulfilling promise in a just redemption, is the sole ground of blessing to man once fallen. Hence from the beginning "good things to come" had fed the souls of God's elect with an imperishable hope, though the promised blessings were to them as far-off objects of desire. It was God, as the rewarder in mercy of such as sought Him with heart-persuasion of His goodness, who was the stay and present object of the fathers' faith and hope.656 Jesus, Himself the seed of promise, the first partaker of those fruits which should mellow into ripeness for His people through the patient travail of His soul, fully recognized this. While bearing about in His own Divine person the secret which could alone in due time give effect to the promises by means of death—Himself being thus the root of David—He takes His place as the chosen vessel of Jehovah's favor, the appointed Heir, as David's offspring, of the mercy promised to the fathers.657
Besides the sufferings of Messiah, the joy also which was set before Him is contemplated in the present Psalm. In the latter verses the Spirit changes the language of hopeful patience to a triumphant declaration of the results of that patience in the realized delights of the blessings of goodness.658 Jesus has entered into His rest; and now His voice is heard from heaven speaking by the Spirit of the things laid up with God for them that fear Him, and who, because they fear Him, do not fear nor are ashamed to own their trust in Him before the sons of men (verse 19). To the believer who rightly estimates the nature of his calling as a companion of Christ's patience, the concluding verses of this Psalm will speak richly as a word of consolation.
The Comforter exhorts and cheers the Christian as one called to follow in his Master's steps. For it is the servant's privilege to share his Lord's experience in this world, so far as it is communicable by One who must needs both feel and be as none else ever feel or are. If true disciples of the Master, we shall fare as He did in this present world.659 Moreover, it is because the believer is dead by the body of Christ that his present calling is to know the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings,660 being made conformable to His death. If the life of Jesus is to manifest itself in our mortal flesh, it must be by bearing in our bodies the dying of the Lord.661
In verses 14, 15 we have declared to us the secret of unswerving steadfastness of soul, and true stability in all godly service. It is the undivided confidence of the heart in God. “Thou art my God." Where faith can thus appropriate God as its portion a surrender of all circumstantial anxieties become the just sequel and effect. "My times are in Thy hand," is then the calm and happy expression of most rich contentment. It was thus with Jesus, the author and finisher of faith. He suffered at the will of God, whom He both knew and loved. The cup of bitterness was mingled by the Father's hand. He drank it thus in pure committal of His soul to Him. In like manner it is that the believer, who walks humbly in the grace and power of Christ, is fulfilling in his generation the good pleasure of the Lord, being ", strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness."662
We have an expression of this joy in verse 19. The Christian knows that not only are things prepared for him which God hath wrought, and which pass the compass of man's understanding to conceive, but that he himself is wrought of God in fitness for those selfsame things.663 He has been fashioned and prepared of God, in Christ, for a participation in His joys. The joy of his Lord is his daily strength in hope. He is presently to enter on its fullness, when the time of gracious reckoning is come.664 The Spirit is, meanwhile, the abiding witness of these things. Searching the deep things of God, He brings within the view of faith fair scenes of joy unspeakable and full of glory. To dwell on all the details of this rich Psalm is impracticable here. Very precious are its closing words to those who know what it is to be maintaining, amid the scoffing of this latter time, the attitude of patient waiting for the Lord. He will strengthen the hearts of them that look for Him; He will surely come and will not tarry. The blessed hope and glorious appearing of Him who is the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ, is the proper expectation of all who have already bidden an eternal farewell to the world and its pretensions in the cross of God's rejected Son.665
Psalm 32
THIS is the first Psalm that has the term "Maschil"666 appended to its title. It is David's description of the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.667 Sin, met in confession by Divine grace, and turned to everlasting righteousness, is the leading subject of this song of wisdom. Many points are touched, some of which we may briefly examine not yet all things put under in their order.
Verses 1, 2 describe the happiness of a forgiven sinner, together with the moral effect of the discernment of 'sure grace in cleansing the spirit from all guile. True repentance is an awakened longing for Divine favor, and is therefore inseparable in its nature from the faith of God.668 This is its broad distinction from remorse. Sin is loathed, and its burden found intolerable by the quickened spirit, because of its contrariety to that which is the real desire of the heart. Dread of Divine wrath may be more or less painfully felt at the same time; but the true bitterness of sin is that it renders the sinner miserable in his own conscience, while it excludes him, by its very nature, from the only presence in which peace and gladness can be truly known. It separates the dependent creature from the ever-blessed Creator, who is the alone source of life and contentment to the soul that He has made. The discovery by Divine conviction of what sin really is, brings therefore the savor of death into the spirit. It is felt that, spite of all godly wishes and efforts to the contrary, the master principle of human life—the power which wields and governs the entire man—is an active instinct of opposition to the will of God. The awakened soul thinks, and feels, and fears, as a sinner, and that in the presence of the righteous Judge.669
It is this condition of soul that is met and perfectly cured by the grace of God in Christ. Atonement is the perceptible fact which, in the cross of the Son of God, assures to faith the present validity of the gospel of salvation. Forgiveness of transgression, and hiding of sin, are things Divinely impossible, until the pure and equal demands of justice have been met. The way of God is upright. He is 'essentially the just God. This truth is recognized, with a poignant feeling of its necessity, by the quickened conscience. No one attribute of God can conflict with or overrule another. In the truthful language of the word of grace, mercy may rejoice against judgment; against justice it never will. Hence the unspeakable value to the believing sinner of the blood of Jesus. For it is by that alone that peace is made. The breaking of Christ's sinless body on account of sin is a demonstrative assurance to the faith of God's elect that the wages of sin have been unduly paid, unless the Just One, who received them, received them in the sinner's stead. And this it is that He has done.670 God now reveals Himself in the light of this accomplished truth. He preaches peace by Jesus Christ. Promises of mercy and acceptance become intelligible to the gladdened heart of faith, through the testimonies of the Holy Ghost, as the messenger and witness of the glorified Redeemer. God has indeed been always seen and rested in as the speaker of the word of life. From the beginning of the world, types—which spake to the wise-hearted of an effectual atonement to be one day made—were present to the eye of faith as boding shadows of good things to come, until the very Lamb of God should come, who had been fore-ordained to die before the world began.
What David's understanding and that of other holy men of old could perceive but dimly, and celebrated only by prophetic anticipation, David's heart and conscience knew in power as a vessel of the grace of God. "The Lord hath put away thy sin," was the word of restoring mercy which revived his spirit, when, amid the plenteous blessings of Jehovah's goodness, he had learned a lesson of his own inherent baseness and depravity, which perhaps he could only have completely learned upon those royal summits of prosperity to which the gracious bounty of the only wise God had freely raised him at His will.671 That God could be just, and yet the justifier of believing sinners, was known hopefully to every saint of old. The proof and explication of this mighty truth are now plainly set before the eye of Christian faith in the record which, in the gospel of His grace, God now witnesses openly concerning His own Son.
In the language of that gospel, which declares the value of the Savior's work according to the Spirit's estimate of His person, non-imputation of sin is equivalent to positive justification. What Christ has suffered in our stead is the ground upon which perfect remission becomes the answer of Divine justice to a believer's faith. What Christ is, and what He has wrought in His obedience unto death, are the acceptable righteousness in which the forgiven sinner stands before God in the new and perfect title of sonship, according to the unblameable holiness of the Beloved in whom he is accepted of the Father. The effect of a full and simple perception of grace is to expel all guile from the believer's spirit; for the whole secret of what is in him, and of what he is, has already been laid open before God. In the cross of Jesus, in the rich abundance of His grace, God has met him as a sinner in the completeness of his ruin. Truth having penetrated to his inward parts remains there; a perpetual witness of his personal unprofitableness, and the Divine assurance of unqualified and triumphant mercy. The love of God in Christ becomes now the satisfying portion of the soul that has emerged from its own dark wretchedness to live forever in His marvelous light. Pure desires, fed and quickened by the Spirit of truth, flow now to Godward as their end. The unchanged evil of the heart indeed remains. But the power of God is in the children, who are born of Him, as a victorious energy, which will surely prevail in the conflict which must still be waged between the irreconcilable principles of flesh and spirit. Grace is the enemy of sin, but the sure protection of the believing and self-judging sinner. Held fast by faith, grace is the perpetual justifier of conscience and the animating motive of all practical holiness. The effect of faith must always be to purify the heart. For faith not only separates us from our sins, but brings us nigh in Christ to God.672
Verses 3, 4 are touchingly descriptive of that wasting misery which is the natural effect upon the spirit, where sin is known without the ability to confess it to God in the simple confidence of faith. Keeping thus its evil treasure pent in and hoarded painfully in the heart's secret, the sinner's conscience groans beneath its weary load, while God is thought of only to the increase of the soul's distress, because the full disclosure has not yet been made on which alone He can declare Himself in perfect grace. How often has this been the experience of an awakening soul, before the sense of personal sinfulness has penetrated to the necessary depth of thorough conviction. While this remains, an unequal contest is carried on within the troubled spirit. Prayerful purpose, resulting continually in conscious defeat, at length wears out the energy of nature and brings the exhausted sufferer to a practical acknowledgment of perfect impotency for all good. The seal is thus set to all God's faithful sayings which He has spoken concerning human sin. The need is felt of a new foundation. Righteousness is longed for as a thing quite foreign to degraded nature. God, who has convinced the withered heart of its own vanity, must minister in grace to its relief. The soul is become capable of Christ when once its true condition as sin's bondman is perceived. The wretchedness of guilt must, in greater or less measure, be felt before the blessedness of forgiveness can be truly known. But in most instances a Christian's understanding of sin is far deeper after he has known the grace of God that meets it than before. It is the very discernment of grace, under the teaching of the Holy Ghost, that enables the believer to estimate sin according to the perfections of God, as He learns them in their full display in the cross of His most blessed Son.
Verse 5. The heart, once thoroughly unburdened by confession, finds relief and entire rest in God; for truth, spoken honestly on our part, receives an answer of immediate peace from Him. Christ is the truth and power of God as a Savior. If, we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The only truth that we can testify of ourselves as men is, that we are ruined sinners; and until this humiliating acknowledgment has been heartily made, what God intrinsically is remains unknown. “The glorious gospel of the blessed God " is but an empty sound to one who stands in his own eyes as something better than a merely lost and naturally hopeless man. To taste the love of God in Christ, which brings us nigh to Him, we first must know subjectively the nature and extent of that dread distance to which Jesus went, when for our sakes He became as an accursed thing.673
“For this shall every one that is godly," etc. (verse 6). The Spirit here opens the blessed principle of grace in all its breadth of application to the varied need of sinners. The special instance is but a sample of encouragement, recorded for the sake of others who might thus be more emboldened to believe.674 The godly man is the sinner who knows God in grace. Finding Him in the acceptable day of salvation, he prays, not vaguely but with calm assurance of being heard, to One who has provoked that prayer by already revealing Himself as the Savior and Justifier of the ungodly in his direst hour of need.675 Mercy received is the proper groundwork of true Christian prayer. A believer prays—if his prayer is truly in the Spirit—upon the basis of a federal relationship of peace with God, which stands eternally established in the blood of Christ.676 The cry of distress which goes up from a heart in which peace is as yet unknown, is not to be confounded with true prayer. God's ready and most gracious answer to such a cry is His full and ever-blessed testimony of peace and forgiveness in the gospel of His Son. He is Himself the winner and enticer of sinners to the Savior.
But what is here contemplated is the prayer of faith, which is addressed to God with reference to things which in themselves are objects of dread to the believer, but from which deliverance is sought for and reckoned on in Him who is already known and trusted as the soul's deliverer and rest. Christian supplication assumes, as its first principle, that GOD IS FOR US. It is in the light of this most precious truth that Satan is distinctly seen to be our adversary. We are exhorted to pray in the Holy Ghost.677 But that blessed Spirit is Himself the indwelling witness of our full acceptance with the Father. Confidence in God is thus the motive of prayer, whether its object be the deprecation of evil or the attainment of good. The floods then of great waters may rise fast, and seem to utter threats of ruin in their roar; but they cannot reach the safe abode of one whose dwelling is on high, and whose munition of defense is the God of his salvation.678 Boldness in the day of judgment belongs to the vessels of God's saving mercy, into whose hearts the Judge of all has already sent the witness of eternal peace. The hand of the destroyer can reach no particle of his rich treasure whose trusted wealth is hid with Christ in God.679 The seventh verse is very full. It is a sweet expression of the confidence and rejoicing of hope which result to the reconciled sinner from a discernment of what God is to the vessels of His mercy. Perfect love having cast out fear, the justified believer hides himself in God; his home of joy is there. “We joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation.680 Trouble is now a distant fear; for God, who forsaketh not His saints, is the preserver of the soul. As a shield He stands, in Christ, between His people and their woes. Triumph and rest are already in clear view.
The Lord's song is evermore about the ransomed children of His love, while dwelling in the tabernacles of their pilgrimage. The melody of thanksgiving comes forth as a freely flowing utterance of joy from the hearts of those whose ceaseless conflict with an ever-present foe is waged in a full assurance of His faithfulness and power, through whose death-tried love they are already more than conquerors.681
In verse 8 we have the gracious response of Jehovah to the confidence with which the abundance of His mercy had inspired the man of blessing. Three things are comprised in this verse. First, the promise of wisdom:682 "will instruct thee." The believer is renewed in Christ for the knowledge of God.683 Divine wisdom unfolds its treasures to their faith who already are made perfect in Christ, through the effectual knowledge of the grace of God in truth684
But it is well to distinguish between progress in the wisdom of God and the mere acquisition of scriptural knowledge. The Spirit of truth is the alone effectual instructor of the children, who are themselves begotten by the word of truth. A Christian is not always receiving Divine instruction when he is reading the word of God. If the heart be not at the time in communion with the Lord, the knowledge thus acquired will not profit; it may puff up, but will not really enrich the soul. God must blow on it, as on every other vanity, before any solid blessing can result. Every lesson Divinely taught brings the learner nearer in the spirit of his mind to God. Increased conformity to Christ becomes the necessary result. The soul, rising in its estimate of heavenly things, is daily less under the power of its own natural tendencies. Its proper nothingness is understood because of its nearness to the living God. Christ alone is valued and desired, because in Him alone it is that we can bear and enjoy the holiness of our God, who is always a consuming fire.685
There is, secondly, a pledge given of guidance in service: "I will teach thee in the way which thou shalt go." There are two ways in which a Christian finds guidance in his service. First, the word of God is the lamp of his feet, ever ready to shed its holy light upon the circumstances of the day and its evil. This is the standing medium of intelligence by which, the will of God is known. It is, moreover, the sole test of reference by which all private purpose and intention must be proved. Nothing that varies in its drift and tendency from Scripture is really of God. It is some subtle instigation of the enemy (which never fails to show itself in its true character when tested thus), however specious it may be. But, secondly, a believer who walks habitually with God may acquire a sort of intuitive discernment of the right in the most perplexed and misty passages of actual life, upon which no written precept may seem immediately to bear. The Holy Ghost, who dwells in the believer, confers on him an ability to understand the fear of the Lord686 While walking in that fear his way is sure. The eye when really single sees Christ alone before it. “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked."687 But Jesus pleased not Himself. His meat and drink were to do the will of Him that sent Him. He walked and wrought beneath the guidance of the Father.
He was led of the Spirit which anointed Him; whether into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, or into the temple of Jehovah to purge it of the defilers of His house, or along the path of His daily and perfect obedience, or, lastly, to the slaughter, for the which as the appointed Lamb of God He had been predestined from eternity. The sustaining power of His obedience was His knowledge of the Father's love. He trusted in God while running the way of His commandments. Even thus is it also with the truly spiritual man. As a sheep of Christ he is no longer at his own discretion, but under the absolute direction of another. "I lead in the way of righteousness," is the word of Him who is the shepherd and bishop of our souls. Where Christ is really the motive of our steps we need not fear that we shall greatly err. The most important principle which we have to bear in mind in connection with this subject is, that true Christian service never loses its distinctive quality of obedience. A faithful observance of this principle is our sole preservative against the many and dangerous plausibilities of will-worship. Whatever is done in the Spirit is done in fulfillment of His will. We are sanctified unto the obedience of Christ.688 We are no longer our own. We are His to govern and direct, as our only Lord, even as we are His own in love to bless for ever through the purchase of, His precious blood.689
Thirdly, there is, in close connection with the subject of service, the promise of counsel: “I will counsel thee; mine eyes shall be upon thee."690
Every believer knows the value of that standing promise of covenant grace, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Continual protection, and the gracious supply of our present need are thus secured. But-here we have the additional assurance of God's ever-present and active sympathy throughout the way. It is not only the faithfulness of God as the sure deliverer in the hour of danger that is intended by these words, but a pledge rather of the gracious companionship of the Divine presence; whereby the servant is enabled to fulfill his day, not merely as a hireling whose appointed task must be discharged, but as a fellow-worker with the Master whom he serves.691 It is not exclusively an apostolic privilege to be a worker together with God.692 To know and to perform His perfect and acceptable will is the proper calling of every child of mercy.693 In this again the disciple shares the privilege of the Master. As the opened ear of Jesus received daily from the Father the direction of His way,694 so was it in the power of the Father that the works were wrought.695 The Christian's calling is to walk as Jesus walked. The Spirit's prayer for such is, that the same God of peace, who has stablished their souls before Himself in the everlasting covenant, may make them perfect in every good work to do His will, working in them that which is well pleasing in His sight—fulfilling thus the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power.696
“I will counsel thee." It is in the word of God that the believer finds positive counsel and direction. Jesus understood this perfectly. “It is written," was the weapon of His conflict with the father of lies. Our ability to use this weapon will always be according to the degree in which our souls are in willing subjection to the Lord. For Scripture is the word of God. It is the sword of the Spirit. It is not ours, but His. Unless it has first done its work upon us, by sifting and discovering every secret thought, making thus the inmost heart to be thoroughly the Lord's697 in the spirit of self-judgment, it cannot be used safely and efficiently by us. Nearness to God, habitual abiding in Christ, is the alone condition of spiritual prosperity and fruitfulness.
But there are resisting forces in the way of every saint. Hence the word of warning follows closely on the promise (verse 9). The purpose of God, the Father of our spirits, is to make us partakers of His own holiness.698 Exceeding great and precious promises are given, whereby the justified believer in the righteousness of God may himself become a partaker of the Divine nature.699 The effect of practical sanctification, where the Spirit is not hindered in His gracious work, is to assimilate, by a constant moral approximation, the child of God to the Father who begat him. “Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect," is the exceeding broad commandment of redeeming love. Believers are called to a behavior suitable to their description as “elect of God, holy and beloved;”700 to be" imitators of God as dear children."701 This is morally to take the place of Jesus, who did what things He saw the Father do.702 But we cannot act as God's children out of His own presence. “Walk before me, and be thou perfect," is the recorded counsel of Abraham's Friend. “Abide in me and I in you," was the yet nearer and more dear/ persuasion of Divine love, when, in His palpable humanity, the same blessed God spoke in familiar counsel to those whom He had made His friends, by that new and wondrous way of kindness which first stooped to their estate, that for the love He bare them He might give His life for theirs.703
But alas! too well the Christian knows his faint requital of this gracious love. "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you," are words which may unravel to many an unhappy Christian the secret of his spiritual feebleness. Simple devotedness to Christ alone discovers to the soul the full sweetness of the Savior's friendship. We must be not in calling only as He is, but in spirit also as He was, in order to understand or relish the joy of One who lived not for Himself, but for the Father; who came, not to be ministered unto, but in grace and patience to become the willing servant of His own.704
Nearness to God is the secret of true happiness, but the believer is not left to discover this secret by himself. God never loses sight of our profit in accomplishing the mystery of His will. He counsels us to abide in Him. If we are inattentive to His voice, He knows how to devise a way to enforce on us, with firm yet gracious hand, that which alone can further our blessing or His perfect praise. Divine discipline comes when needed, in aid of Divine counsel, and is a fruit and token of the self-same love. “Be ye not as the horse," etc. The believer, because born of God, has an understanding to know Him that is true. It is, however, needful that by reason of use in the Divine presence, his spiritual senses be kept in exercise. But flesh oppose this; for in the presence of God the natural will can never have its way. Hence the peculiar force of the comparison in the present verse,705 in which the will of nature is likened to the native instincts of the animals described, whose range of liberty is far from the abodes of men.
That which is natural in the believer is continually striving to remove itself from God, that it may regain the freedom it alone enjoys—the liberty of doing its own will. No self-judging Christian can be ignorant of this. Abundantly, then, have we to adore the faithfulness of the Father of spirits, who has made chastening in some shape to be an universal token of true sonship to His saints.706
In verse 10 there is, perhaps, besides the statement of a general principle of Divine government, a particular reference to the two heads respectively of righteousness and unrighteousness. The verse which follows fitly closes this delightful Psalm by a general summons to the righteous to rejoice in Jehovah; an appeal to which the true “circumcision " can alone respond. Only the Church now answers to that description.707 But a day is coming when the preserved of Israel will enter into the fellowship of the blessedness which this Psalm describes. They will sing it in their latter day of hope, when the stony heart shall have been changed for them into a heart of flesh. The bridle of Divine judgment will then be permanently taken from the nation's jaws.708 The Schoolmaster's long and painful lesson will have wrought its full effect and be forever at an end, and the-children of the covenant will know the rich blessings of the heritage of their adoption.709
Jehovah's Branch will then be beautiful and glorious, as the fruitful bough of promises, then tasted in their fruits, under whose shelter there shall assemble, no more to be dispersed, the peeled and scattered remnant of the nation for the which Messiah died. The cloudy day of Jacob's trouble shall be changed to the bright meridian of the Sun of righteousness, in the fulfilling of the long deferred counsels of Him whose gifts and calling are without repentance.
Psalm 33
THE dying close of the preceding Psalm is re-echoed in the opening verse of the one on which we are now entering, which has no distinctive title, and stands evidently in a close moral relation to the last.
In its primary intention it is a celebration of the glory and majesty of Jehovah, on the part of the people of His choice, the nation of His name (verse 12), now settled on the sure and lasting foundation of finished truth and mercy. It is a latter-day song of Israel, when the veil shall have been removed from the nation's heart, and their eye shall behold the Lord their righteousness in the person of the once rejected Jesus. It is a new song. Jehovah's covenant of promise had indeed been established with their fathers from of old, even as that covenant itself had its earlier and deeper root in the eternal counsels of God in Christ. But the effects are new. The performance of the mercy will call forth from the heart of the new-born nation the high and comely praises of their God and Savior.
It is an, earthly people whose praise thus ascends; but the strain rises to the heavens, whose Creator's name is now extolled by the true worshippers, as the God of their mercy (verse 6). Grace strikes the chord which so sweetly vibrates with Jehovah's praise (verse 18). Israel, wearied and broken in the vain endeavor to establish their own righteousness, will in that day discover in the revealed glory of Jesus the unity and completeness of Divine counsel and power. They will attest Jehovah's truth in the light of His salvation (verse 4). There are precious things in this Psalm for the meditation of God's saints. The glory and power of Christ shine richly through its words. The peculiar force of verse 6, in which the distinct names of Jehovah, His Word and His Spirit, are united in the ascription of creative glory, will not have escaped the careful reader, who knows His salvation to be in Him who, through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God.710
But the praises of this Psalm do not begin in those heavenly places which are the proper sphere of Christian worship. It expresses, rather, the homage of a people whose dispensational blessings are on earth. They are Jehovah's witnesses there. His nation is compared with other nations. Their counsel had failed, although the craft of Satan might direct the godless energies of the human will. The Lord has now arisen to free the groaning creature from the bonds of wickedness, by smiting the crown of the oppressor and binding up the breach of the sore afflicted people of His love. The order in which the earlier verses (4-11) follow each other is striking, when we attentively consider the force of each, and their common moral connection. The Creator of the heavens is the counselor of Israel's peace.711
Verses 12-22 express the wise-hearted musings of the once foolish people, but who now, as graphed again into their own olive tree, bear grateful fruits of praise, celebrating with understanding hearts the grace which reigns through righteousness by the one Man, Jesus Christ. A retrospect is taken in this Psalm both of the ways of human vanity and of the course of Divine wisdom, in their relation to the progress of the world's evil. Jehovah had endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath. Meanwhile the counsels of the heathen had been framing proud desires, according to the craft and power of the prince of this world. Their imaginations had been lofty against the Lord and against His Christ. But the time had come for God to arise in power that the inhabitants of the world might stand in awe of Him.
If I ventured to assign a particular time and action to this Psalm, it would be in the interval between the smiting of Antichrist and the permanent settlement of Israel in their own land. Thus in the latter verses (18-22) we have a perfect expression of confidence in Jehovah, and a joyful anticipation of the fruits of the mercy which already had begun to act for their sakes in the destruction of the oppressor. The full results, however, are yet in prospect. The overflowing scourge had left too recently its fearful traces for the saved remnant to feel as yet at home in the newly purged land of their inheritance. The operation of the Spirit of judgment and of burning had meanwhile produced its effect.712 The pride of the nation is completely broken down, and mercy is understood in their now contrite hearts. Jehovah is glorified in their complete cessation from man. Jesus, known now as their deliverer,713 is waited on as the end of their confidence and the rewarder of their trust.
But this is a suggestion merely as to the possible prophetic bearing of the Psalm. Meanwhile let those who love the Lord remember that it is all their own; the practical value of such strains to the believer is not dependent upon the exactness of their dispensational interpretation; while Israel lies un-awakened in the sleep of spiritual death, the Church may sing the songs of Zion as a part of her full sacrifice of praise.
Psalm 34
THE title of this most beautiful Psalm is suggestive of very deep and precious instruction to those whose present calling is to walk by faith and not by sight. If we compare the historical record of David's conduct, which the Spirit of God has elsewhere afforded,714 with the language here ascribed to him, we find a striking contrast. In the former are portrayed the degrading effects which the fear of man, when met by the subtleties of the heart's natural policy, never fails to bring upon the man of God. In the latter, there is the sweet and rich memorial of Jehovah as the refuge and deliverer of His servant, who proves Him to be such upon the frustration of all previous endeavor to find another shelter in the hour of distress.
David, as the anointed of the Lord, could rightly occupy one of two positions. He might be upon the throne of Israel in the full and willing recognition by the people of his divinely-sanctioned title as their king, or he might because of that title be a homeless exile, a proscribed wanderer, sustained alone by the light and comfort of Jehovah's favor.
In either situation he could sing; for the springs of Divine melody are in the secret of Divine communion. Where God sets and maintains the witness of His truth, there He is Himself in the favor of His countenance, which is better than life to them that trust in Him. David could sing of Jehovah in the cave of Adullam; for there he was cast solely, upon God, who could meet and bless the slighted vessel of His pleasure, when dismissed with reproaches from the place of man's regard. But at the court of Ahimelech there was no song of joyful confidence, but rather piteous degradation and faint-hearted self-abasement in the sight of men. God was not there. Faith had not drawn him, but fear had driven him to that ill-chosen place of refuge. A hasty flight from a danger which he had incurred for Jehovah's sake, and 'against which God was his proper shield and most secure defense, hurried David into a still deeper snare, to fill him with a yet more deadly and more shameful fear. The very ornament of his praise, which marked him among friends and foes alike as the anointed champion of the Lord, becomes the chief dread of his spirit in the presence of the uncircumcised aliens, who seemed to eye him as their lawful prey.715 It is only in the place of faithful obedience that boldness can be exhibited in our confession of the truth. But David had forsaken that place at the treacherous counsel of his fears.
Thus is it always. The heart of a believer, if it be not habitually cleaving to the Lord, is naturally prone to seek a refuge at any trying crisis in the shifts of human policy. Often a Christian is relying upon himself, or upon man in some other shape, for immediate succor, while God is not forgotten as the final refuge of his soul. Many a one is truly alive, through faith in the Son of God, who does not live his daily life, and run his daily course, in the simple and steady exercise of trust in God. The true honor and happiness of a Christian is to be able to refer his circumstances to his faith. Divine grace sets the believer in a position from whence he may regard events and experiences under an entirely new aspect, even as he stands himself towards them in a new relation. He suffers many things which are indeed common to himself with other men; but his privilege is to connect them all with the truth in which he stands—with Christ. Things happen to him as a Christian, not as a man merely. He is to meet, therefore, and to endure all things according to the power of God. Neither safety nor honor can accompany a compromise of truth. A Christian in disguise is as poor and piteous a spectacle as the fear-stricken king of Israel, when he shamed his royal person with feigned show of madness. A believer can never rightly or safely be where the unction of Christ may not stand plainly confessed, whether for honor or reproach. Our Lord, as the rejected One, is the pattern of those who are called to the companionship of His kingdom and patience. Another king had usurped the throne which Jehovah had given in title to the Son of David. Refused by Israel's builders, He lived, because of the very truth and glory of His blessed person, as a homeless wanderer amidst His own. Men might wish to make Him a king,716 having respect to His person because of advantage, when they saw and tasted the substantial blessings which were proved to be at His command; but He was the anointed choice, not of man, but of God.
Until, therefore, the nation's heart turns finally to Him from whom it has so deeply revolted, such outward recognition of the Christ could be in His eyes no purer or more acceptable a thing than the false-hearted worship which their fathers offered vainly in Jehovah's courts.717 Jesus did not commit Himself to such. The Son of Man thus had not where to lay His head, because, Himself the truth and bearing witness to the God of truth, He sojourned in the place where truth was disallowed. But though an outcast He was not alone. The Father was the strength and the rejoicing of His patient Son. The secret of His name and title was kept, meanwhile, among the chosen few whom in gracious love He acknowledged as His friends; to be presently displayed and glorified according to the exceeding greatness of that mighty power which, by raising the rejected Seed of David from the dead, should justify what men had disallowed, by proving Him to be indeed the Son of God.
The true test of a spiritual state is the ability of the believer to praise the Lord at all times. Jesus rejoiced in spirit when in the lowest depths of circumstantial distress.718 For He trusted in God, whose will was both His joy and His reward. The spiritual man finds in his crucified and risen Lord an argument of unbroken and perpetual praise. Affliction cannot quench it; temporal welfare does not augment it; it is paramount to the circumstances of time and change. The Holy Ghost is Himself the divine spring and power of the believer's joy. As the revealer of Jesus He presents to faith that which, simply contemplated, cannot fail to gladden and to bless the heart in which He dwells. And thanksgiving is the pleasant fruit to Godward of the satisfied believer's joy in Him.719
Considered quite apart from its reference to David, this Psalm is a remarkable utterance of the Spirit of Christ.
We seem to hear the blessed Lord immediately addressing the children whom God hath given Him,720 and expounding to them, by the gracious illustration of His own experience, the name and ways of Jehovah (verse 11). Jesus is the teacher of His people's praise (verse 3). The fourth verse presents Him as the holy sufferer, who proved in trustful patience the faithful deliverance of Jehovah. He was heard in that He feared.
The effect of looking to Jesus by faith is stated in verse 5.721 Shame fills the face of the self-conscious sinner as he lifts his eyes to look upon his Savior. But one view of that all-gracious Presence turns his shame to confidence and joy. For God's light shines forth in peace upon him from that face. The pure intensity of perfect love is there. Divine glory—the glory of the God of all, grace—is in Him both looked upon and loved.722 Peace and joy and perfect liberty of conscience are the sweet and present fruits of that obedient faith which looks to Jesus at the hearing of the word of grace, and looking sees in a crucified Redeemer the fullness of the truth of God. Another shame may afterwards result from this. Sorrow may accompany and seem to be the natural effect of spiritual joy. For it is through much tribulation that the pilgrim of salvation finds his entrance into the kingdom of God.723
But the heart is now at ease. God is known there in Christ, as the sunlight of the day of hope. With respect to the exact force of the present verse, while its value to the believer at all times, as a presentation of the attractive power of the cross, is clear, it probably contains also an especial prophetic reference to the believing remnant of the nation in the latter day.
Verse 6 is full of divinest comfort for the afflicted and distressed believer. It is the cry of a poorer man than David to which the Spirit here refers. The poverty of Jesus, who was poor for our sakes, is kept constantly before our hearts, that in the contemplation of His grace who thus abased Himself to make the dregs of our cup His own, the Christian might in his day of trial rise out of weakness into strength. In this remembrance temptation may be counted even joy,724 because the Lord, who holds the crown of life in readiness to give to those who because they love Him are not ashamed of His reproach, has proved already to the full both the trial and deliverance which now, on His behalf, are the allotted portion of His saints.725 Feebly indeed do our minds now compass (though we know it) the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.726 But it is a part of that exhaustless wealth of knowledge unto which we are renewed, and which we shall only then perceive in full, when ourselves brought past the present hour of affliction into the cloudless and eternal day of God.
The latter verses contain principles of divine administration which already have received large illustration in Israel's history, and which are of immediate practical application to the ways of God's saints.727 The final and permanent vindication of these principles involves however an inversion of the existing course and manner of God's dispensational dealings.
For the continuance of the time of longsuffering728 is the holiday of natural wickedness, and the time when the heart of the righteous is made sad. The crisis at which the cup of trembling will at last change hands, and the un-repented promises of Israel's mercy be fulfilled, has already been noticed, and will be more distinctly treated in the sequel. It is enough to have alluded to it in this place.
Verse 20 contains a literal prophecy, which received its exact fulfillment at the cross of the Son of God.729 The same verse is also interesting in another sense. It intimates to the believer the limitation within which the power of the oppressor is confined, with whom he is in ceaseless conflict. As the same scripture which contains the record of Messiah's sufferings provided also that no bone of the Divine Sufferer should be broken,730—preserving thus, in most significant type, the in-frangible unity of the Lord's body,—so is it with the saint, whose calling and appointment are to be as a sheep for the slaughter in this present world.
Death may seize upon his mortal flesh, but the very hairs of his head are numbered in the faithful memory of God who raiseth the dead. He is the purchased possession of the Lord that bought him. His troubles may be many. They will be so, in proportion as his walk resembles that of Him who was the Man of sorrows. On the other hand, alas! it is but too possible that affliction may befall him from the wholly opposite cause of personal unfaithfulness to Christ. Yet the Lord delivereth him out of them ALL. According to the gracious title of that righteousness which rests for ever on the chosen vessels of His grace, He will present to His eternal glory those who are viewed by the Spirit as already glorified (as well as justified and sanctified) according to the good pleasure of His will.731
That the last two verses of the Psalm refer especially to the latter-day dealings of Jehovah with His earthly people, cannot I think be reasonably doubted.
Psalm 35
A SOLEMN appeal of the rejected and dishonored Messiah, from the unrighteous judgment of men to the just award of Him who sanctified and sent Him into the world.732 The place maintained by the sufferer throughout the Psalm is that of Jehovah's Servant. It is under this title that the Spirit of Jesus invokes the righteous judgment of God upon those who had outraged and derided His name, in their rejection of His Elect in whom His soul delighted.
Eventual triumph is contemplated as the sure result of the arising of Jehovah to judgment in His Servant's cause. Praise is to flow from the lips of the expectant petitioner of righteousness when the Lord shall have vindicated His true claim (verse 18). Meanwhile, the strong and tender sympathies of the Man approved of God, but despised and rejected of men, is with them that share His reproach in the confession of His righteousness (verse 27).733 The believer, whose calling is to be a partaker of the sufferings as well as of the glory of Christ, finds thus a rich portion of blessing in such words.
In opening, which it does, the condition and experiences of Jesus, as the solitary vessel of Divine truth and holiness in the midst of an ungodly nation, this Psalm presents to our view a fearful picture of the moral darkness and ruin of that generation whose fruitless boast it was to be the seed of Abraham and sons of God.734 "They will reverence my Son," was the righteous expectation of Jehovah, when estimating the people according to their profession of covenanted worship and obedience. But the thought of their hearts was not so. "This is the Heir; let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be ours," was the counsel of hopeless revolt which filled the minds of those who—duped meanwhile by their own deep hypocrisy —thought it good to do the deeds of Satan in the name of the Holy One of Israel.735
Jesus stood amid the world of sinners as a poor and needy man (verse 10), although beneath that outward poverty there lay concealed the exhaustless wealth of God. The power to afflict was on the side of darkness; the power of gracious endurance was in the obedient Fulfiller of all righteousness. They thought Him smitten of God, when in the zeal of wickedness they compassed with causeless hatred the life of Him who did no sin.
It is an awful display of human character that is exposed by the Divine light of life and truth. Satan, who had nothing in the Son of God, is in full possession of the world. It is he who stirs men's hearts to lift rebellious tongues and hands against all truth; for he is the prince and director of this world, whose authorities combined to crucify the Lord of glory.
The course and effects of human evil are varied and tremendous, but its principle is simple. If man be not in willing subjection to God, he must (in imagination and desire) be above Him. The lusts of their father filled the hearts of the enemies of Jesus;736 but he first taught sin to man by tempting him to rise, by inspiring him with the desire to have and to enjoy, in independence and despite of God. If human conduct has another source or motive than the Divine will, it is virtually atheism. It is that deep revolt of heart for which no cure exists in nature, and which grace alone can quell and turn to perfect and abiding peace, through the once made reconciliation of the cross.
Verses 11-16 contrast the pure sympathy of Jesus—entering in all the gracious reality of perfect love into the circumstances of human sorrow and distress; Himself taking our sorrows and bearing our griefs, in the sufficiency of Divine endurance—with the rooted selfishness and perfidy of corrupted nature. The ineffable baseness of the flesh shows itself marvelously here. It could not be won to the love of goodness even by the presence of Goodness itself. Beholding the grace of Jesus in His works, it hated Him because He witnessed of the Father. Feeding eagerly upon the bounties which grew at the Lord's bidding, for the satisfying of their bodily wants, they turned, swine-like, to rend the gracious hand that dispensed so lavishly its blessings for their sakes.
They sought His life. They desired His hurt. They spread secret snares of entanglement for His feet. They brought lying accusations against Him. They requited Him evil for good. To the scum of the rabble, as well as to the pastors of the people, He was an object of hateful contempt in the day of His adversity.
They tore Him, and ceased not. Yet in His mouth were no reproofs. He bare them, indeed, sad witness of the madness of their way. “Many good works have I shown you from my Father; for which of these works do ye stone me?"737 But they hated Him without a cause. Yet in acting thus they were but filling up the measure of their fathers' sins. He, whom now their eyes beheld in fleshly presence, only to abhor and to reject, in earlier times had pleaded with their fathers in like strain:" What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far, from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?"738 "O my people, wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me," etc.739 Such had been the language which Jehovah held by His prophets, when rising early He had sent them forth as messengers of peace, before the set time had arrived for the final visitation of His patience by the mission of His Son. But it was in vain. The whole heart was sick. They were governed by the instincts of a nature which, ever since its first corruption, has been essentially a "hater of God."740 Their eyes, moreover, were judicially blinded. Yet their hearts were privy to the wickedness of their way. "Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am," is a word which seems to imply that the real source of that Light, which shamed their darkness and reproved their deeds, could not be hidden from the conscience even of those who were willingly ignorant of the blessed Person against whom they spake.741
The prayer of Jesus (verses 17, et seq.) has been heard, and in part has been fulfilled. Having been put to death in the flesh, He has been quickened and justified in the Spirit. The heavens have received Him whom the world cast out, and already gladness fills the hearts of the believing confessors of His name; to whom the witnessing Spirit of adoption is become as the oil of gladness and of praise-the living unction from the Holy One. Meanwhile, the nation that would none of Him lies broken on the stone of stumbling. The outstretched arm of righteous judgment is against them still. Yet for them, too, is there a portion of prospective blessing, to be realized in due time through the once-despised righteousness of the rejected Man. The “much” or “mighty"742 people mentioned in verse 18 are, I doubt not, the restored nation of Israel. “The quiet in the land" (verse 20), if taken in any other than a moral sense, would mean the persecuted confessors of Immanuel, as Israel's Messiah, in the last hours of the present evil day.
Psalm 36
THIS solemn yet exquisitely beautiful Psalm is full of meaning for the believer who is learning, as a spiritual man,743 to estimate all things according to God.
It is a meditation, by the Spirit of Christ, on the wondrous phenomena of sin and grace respectively, as these things are known in the renewed minds of the children of light. For by such alone can either sin or grace be either wisely considered or rightly understood.
Verses 1-4 present in striking language the result of the heart-communings of the believer while pondering silently the progress of the mystery of iniquity. The self-knowledge which belongs to God's children, under the effectual teaching of the Spirit, enables them to judge aright the mainspring of the complex movement of this world's evil. The fear of God is not there. A watchful and far-extended observation of the progress of human society will assuredly bring this sorrowful conclusion to the heart of one who walks in that fear as a sojourner with the Father.744
It is a truly wonderful place in which the quickening truth of God thus sets the Christian. With a thorough and more or less painfully searching sense of his own intrinsic vileness as a sinner, he is called to holiness, according to the enabling power of that grace in which he already stands unblameable in Christ, before the face of God. A believer is "light in the Lord."745 Christ is the “mirror " of his conscience, as well as the salvation of his soul. The effect of this is twofold. First, self-judgment becomes the inseparable accompaniment of Divine communion; and, secondly, there is an estimate, according to the fear of the Lord and the truth of His holiness, of the things through the midst of which the way of pilgrimage is found practically to lead. The spiritual man judgeth all things. He is not innocent, but holy. Innocence implies an ignorance of sin and of its cause. Holiness understands both, and abhors them with a perfect and unchanging hatred. Jesus knew no sin; but He judged human conduct according to His own pure and holy brightness as the Light. He knew what was in man. A Christian is called to exercise his spiritual senses in the discernment of good from evil. He knows what is in himself, that is, in his flesh. Viewed in Christ, he is set for eternity on the side of good—of God, who has joined him to the Son of His love; but he has to watch with soberness, lest by any means (and how many are the means to this sad end!) he walk unworthily as a confessor of that blessed hope.
Looking at these verses with reference to their prophetic meaning, we seem to have a presentation of the great Apostate,746 in the wicked one whose unrestrained lawlessness suggests this meditation of the man of God. But already the energy of that evil, which is to culminate in such a crowning prodigy of sin, is at work within the limits of that which still does outward reverence to the names both of the Father and the Son. Religious apostasy ("he hath left of to be wise and to do good," verse 3) is an effect of the human will, as it works in known opposition to the will of God. The ripe result of this is atheism. But the denier of God is the son of perdition.
The disciple, whose heart is kept duly open to the warnings of the Spirit, will find abundant food for sad yet hopeful reflection in the condition of the world around him. Progress is the watch-word of the leaders of the age. Progress is likewise the anticipative testimony of the Spirit of truth, when marking with sure words of prophecy the course of human events.747 But it is a progress outward and away from God; a progress wherein evil men and seducers wax worse and worse, complicating and augmenting the ever-growing work of evil, until the only rectifier of human crookedness shall be revealed in power. He will come. In the meanwhile the unrepentant sinner, couching softly upon the credulous fatuity of his own deceived heart, which evermore imagines God to be a liar in His words of warning, devises mischief till the hour has arrived when his iniquity shall come into remembrance with the God of judgment, and the adversaries of the Lord shall know the power of His wrath.
But other and happier things than these are also spoken of in this remarkable Psalm. Verses 5-9 most sweetly celebrate the boundless riches of the Divine mercy and faithfulness. The judgments of God are, indeed, a mighty and unfathomable deep. But the exercised spirit of the believer already tastes in Christ the active loving-kindness which is the result of those eternal counsels, and which has lifted him, as a helpless burden, from the deep abyss of ruin, to set him on the great mountain of that righteousness from whence full survey may be taken of the fair and unfading inheritance of the saints in light.
The passage now before us is capable of very rich and happy application to the Christian in his actual experiences as an heir of grace. But, intermingled with expressions of paramount and abiding truth, there are others which must be viewed as prophetic anticipations of millennial peace. The confidence expressed seems to belong to those whose full cup of covenanted blessing is to be enjoyed below the heavens, not above them. The church, while halting as a pilgrim through the present scene, finds sweetness and refreshment in the creatures of God's hand; but as yet creation groans.748 The scene presented here is, on the contrary, a scene of full terrestrial joy. Man and beast find, both alike in their respective spheres, the satisfying favor of Him whose name is to be honored as the God of the whole earth, and whose tender mercies are over all His works.
Verse 9 expresses a desire which is already realized by the established believer in Jesus.749
God dwells in the children which He has begotten by His word. The Holy Ghost is the earnest of their inheritance. They not only hope for the eventual possession of the promise of life, but already are quickened and enthroned in Christ. He is our life. We therefore know that we shall resemble Him at His appearing, being already fellows of His name and of His joy-rejoicing, on the ground of His acceptable worthiness, in hope of the glory of God. The language of the present verse suits rather those who elsewhere are described as walking in the darkness, and having no light.750 It is a prayer of hopeful anticipation, reflecting faithfully what is often felt by Christians, but in its terms below the just expression of true Christian standing.751
The remainder of the Psalm calls for no particular remark. In verse 10 we have a sweet utterance of the Spirit of intercession, who draws the hearts of God's afflicted people to desire His right ways. They know Him, and their trust is in His righteousness. In light or darkness faith cleaves still to God. He is His children's confidence, while men and their ways are objects of apprehension and alarm. His people put no trust in their own strength; their defense is of Him whose mercy is in the heavens, and whose faithfulness reaches to the clouds. The righteous judgments of God against the workers of iniquity are recorded for the warning and comfort of those who wait, as children of patience, in the midst of the evil day. It is to the faithful expectants of the consolation of Israel, under the outstretched rod of Anti-Christian pride, that this Psalm appears to belong as a prophecy. They will look for deliverance; waiting for the unstopping of the fountain of life, and the appearing of the light of salvation in the manifestation of the nation's hope. Jesus when thus revealed will also be as a destroying flame of vengeance, to consume the glory of the forest of wickedness. He will lop with terror the full bough of human arrogancy, while to the remnant of His mercy He is the staff and crown of their unending joy.752
Psalm 37
AN exhortation of the God of patience and of hope, addressed to those who are daily reminded by the Spirit that it is by faith and patience that we are called to inherit the promises. It is a Psalm of very wide practical application to the tried believer in the varied exercises of his spirit as a sufferer for righteousness' sake, while learning as a disciple of God's saving grace to adorn His doctrine, till the promised advent of that blessed hope for which He looks.753
The abundance of evil in the present world bears hard upon the spirits of God's saints. To contemplate the prosperous growth of ungodliness must always be a painful thing to any who love God. To witness the afflictions of the righteous is a thing more trying still. But the believer, whose heart is disciplined of God in the faith of His most blessed Son, knows well that experiences of this description are inseparable from the standing and position of a child of God in Satan's world. We are called to suffer with Christ as a direct consequence of our union with Him. But what caused His suffering experience (not to speak now of the specialty of His atoning grace) was His being what He was in such a world. The natural course of human conduct was the contradiction of sinners against the Holy One. It is his possession of "the mind of Christ" that renders the believer capable of participation in these sufferings of Christ. It is to such no marvel to be hated of the world, and disallowed by them that know not Him. We confess a crucified Savior; not only finding repose of conscience in a Divinely-provided Lamb of atonement, but worshipping and glorying in a world-rejected Lord. For the sound-minded believer, therefore, the nature of his relation to the world is definitely ascertained.754
The sweet and gracious tones in which the comfort of God is ministered in the opening verses of this Psalm are full of reassuring encouragement for the tried spirits of any who are proving the truth of the apostolic maxim, that persecution must in this world be the sure accompaniment of godly living in Christ Jesus.755
Like Psa. 34, it seems to form a part of the instruction ministered by the Lord to the children whom God hath given Him. But while in both instances the personal experience of the One obedient sufferer is the ground on which the instruction proceeds, there is a difference in the manner of its exhibition. In the former Psalm the voice of Jesus is heard immediately addressing His elect: “Come, ye children, hearken unto me," etc. Here, on the other hand, we have rather the Spirit of Christ exhibiting to faith the Divine estimate of the ways respectively of the righteous and the wicked ones, and recording the just decision of Jehovah upon either case. Christ thus becomes to the believer the substance and color of the moral outline of righteousness, which is traced so distinctly in the present Psalm. For He alone exemplifies perfectly the principles of an acceptable walk before God; and the rewards of righteousness are His.
Verses 30-33 are full of interest. They present in brief a summary of the character and experience of Jesus as the servant of righteousness. The law of His God was in His heart, who received not honor from men. Deep springs of wisdom were in the mouth of Him who spake as none had ever spoken, whether while uttering in parables the mysteries of the kingdom of God, or speaking words of life and health to the weary ears of heavy-laden sinners. But the eye of the wicked one was set on Him for evil. "The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him." He sought, and at the time appointed, found that righteous blood. For our sakes, and at the Father's will, was Jesus given to the hands of His betrayers and His murderers. But Jehovah, who upheld His servant, did not leave Him in their power. Another hand was' in the work that seemed to crown the wishes and reward the cunning of the prince of this world, and those in whom he wrought. Man, as Satan's servant, judged Christ: "He is worthy of death." God, who hates sin, condemned it in love unspeakable to sinners in the cross of Jesus. Sin was seen and judged and punished there. Death thus passed upon the spotless One, who His own self bare His people's sins in His own body on the tree. But Jehovah's Holy One could not be left a trophy in the hands of the wicked one (verse 33). By condemning sin, through the dying obedience of Jesus, God would presently assert with more abundant glory the title which had been disowned of men. It was against His fellow that the sword of judgment had awaked. The “ministration of death" fulfilled itself upon the person of the blameless Lamb of God. The curse of the law broke to its full exhaustion upon the head of His anointed Son. Jesus died in grace unspeakable beneath the hated power of the prince of darkness. But by means of death He destroyed him that had the power of death. In the resurrection from the dead He has been openly justified, according to the perfect glory and majesty of that truth which seemed but blasphemy to the uncircumcised ears of them that heard Him speak.756
The resurrection is the crisis which determines the victory of righteousness over sin. Sin produced death. Righteousness, submitting to death under the imputation of sin, annuls death by enduring it, while its own proper title to life remains. Thus Jesus in the cross abolished death. By rising from the dead, He has brought both life and incorruptibility to light.757 The Gospel is the witness of these things. The sinner, who through grace believes that witness, finds in the person of the risen Lamb of God his everlasting justification in the Father's sight. For the Lamb once slain is now declared to be the Lord of life and glory. The justified believer again, knowing that the ascended Christ is Himself His righteousness, awaits as an heir of salvation the hope of righteousness by faith.758 That hope is glory—is Christ Himself, in the promised manifestation of His glory. Of this hope the blessed Spirit is the power whose dwelling is in the heart of the blood-cleansed vessels of mercy. There remains therefore for such no condemnation.759 The accuser may be loud, the conscience may fully ratify in self-judgment the severest sentence of the adversary; but the God of truth has spoken otherwise. The advocacy of Jesus Christ the righteous turns all blame to praise for such as penitently trust their cause with Him. The Lord will not leave His children in the hand of the destroyer, nor condemn them whom He has already justified and glorified in the captain of their salvation. He will uphold them before the face of the accuser with the right hand of His righteousness.
That Christ is risen is to the truth-cleansed sinner the answer of a good conscience before God.760 Believers live and joy in Him alone.
A strong practical tone pervades this Psalm. Delighting in the Lord is connected with the attainment of the heart's desire (verse 4). No blameless wish is alien from the tone and spirit of true worship. Grace sanctions with the holiness of Jesus' name all natural objects for the eye of faith.761 Our calling is to liberty. But the law of Christian liberty is Christ the Lord. We are to walk in Him. Sin was the bondage out of which we have been brought. Holiness is the liberty into which we have been called. The desires of a heart that enjoys redemption cannot but flow to Godward as their home and rest.
The more attentively we consider the present Psalm, the more manifestly will it, I believe, appear that its main features are Jewish. Divine principles of eternal application to the family of faith, without respect to dispensational peculiarities, are found in conjunction with specific hopes and promises of an earthly kind. The earth is doubtless included in that rich possession which the love of Christ has already given promise to in the Church, which is to share His throne; but it is to the partakers of a calling, the character of which is distinctively earthly,762 and not heavenly, that the general language of this Psalm is more immediately addressed.763
The suffering witnesses of truth in the days of Anti-Christian pride and violence, seem to be especially contemplated in the comforting exhortations which here so richly abound. The prosperity of the lawless one and his sudden destruction are noted (verses 35, 36), though the language is too general to be confined to any special instance. As a prophecy, however, I do not doubt that the events of the latter times—the trials, the hopes, and the deliverance of the righteous remnant—are distinctly regarded by the Spirit in this strain.
The careful reader will not fail to notice expressions which bring to remembrance the words of Jesus to His disciples on the Mount. The patience of a faith whose near object is the consolation of Israel—the reigning King of righteousness—seems in either case to be contemplated. The disciples looked, as the kings and prophets who preceded them had looked, for earthly Messianic blessings. The Lord's words frequently recognize this expectation, and in a certain sense feed and encourage it; while He continually seeks to open to their view yet higher and richer truths. Meanwhile, His words apply morally to all who suffer His reproach, whether partaking dispensation-ally of the heavenly or the earthly calling.
Psalm 38
A PSALM of David to bring to remembrance.764 Such is the title of this very remarkable Psalm, which is a wondrous memorial of the perfect sorrow of Jesus, as the bearer of our griefs and the sustainer of our woes. The Son of man appears in it, not only as the persecuted object of men's hatred, but as shut up for our sakes within the strong bars of Divine judgment, which only His atoning death could loose.
It is a copious expression of grief which, while it filled the bosom of a human sufferer, was such as man alone could neither know nor bear. The perfect character of the Lord's sorrow, in its entire freedom from mistrust or repining, is wonderfully displayed in this Psalm. It is the unshaken confidence of Him who alone knew the Father, that forms the ground on which the varied shades of the gracious devotedness of the Just One are presented by the Spirit of truth: “Lord, all my desire is before thee."“In thee, O Lord, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord, my God" (verses 9, 15).
The bitterness of the cup is shown with strong and vivid distinctness of description. But in the very recital of its terrors we learn the intrinsic separateness of the gracious Sufferer from that which had produced these sorrows as its natural effect. He knew no sin. He was manifested to take away our sin, but in Him was no sin.765 Yet wrath became His portion. Divine grace to sinners prepared the arrows of God's holy vengeance against the person of the only blameless One, who stood before Him in their place. He came into the world to die. The first man, Adam, took in willing ignorance the cup of perdition from the hands of her whom Satan's lie had first deceived. Loving himself above the God that made and blessed him, and choosing the creature as his rest, he went with open eye but blinded heart into the way of death.766 Jesus, the Son of man, with full discernment and appreciation of its contents, and against the holy loathing of a nature which knew no evil-in which the prince of this world had no part-received, with perfectly consenting will, the cup which righteousness had mixed for sin; for He knew the hand which ministered that cup.767
I do not discover any historical crisis in this Psalm. In this respect, as well as in many other points, it differs from Psa. 22 What is here disclosed is rather the anticipative distress of the blessed Sin-bearer, at the prospect of the hour when the power of darkness must indeed prevail. The Father's wrath was the consummation of the sorrows of the Lamb. But towards this lowest deep of dread the steps of Jesus daily led Him, through the weary course of thankless labor, of despised and unrequited love, and amid the snares laid thickly for His feet by those who sought, by guileful stratagem, to take away His life before the time (verses 10-12).
None but He who alone knoweth the Son768 can duly estimate the grief of soul, the sore amazement to, which the Spirit has given utterance in this Psalm. But the full and more than compensating harvest of eternal joy was being sown amid those bitter tears.
Unspeakably precious is this sorrow to the heart of the exercised believer. The sorrow of Christ for my sin! The grief and mourning of the Son of God, who, as the gracious bearer of Ms people's iniquities, discloses to the Searcher of hearts the root of bitterness as His own. “My sin"—"Mine iniquities"—"My foolishness"—"I will confess mine iniquity, and be sorry for my sin" (verses 3, 4, 5, 18). The personal contrition of David for his own deep guilt is made to furnish language for the lips of his Divine Son, when, as his substitute and ours, He had come into the world to die. But in closest connection with these strangest but most blessed words we find (verse 20) the appeal of perfect goodness and unspotted righteousness preferred by the Sufferer to the God of judgment.
“They also that render evil for good are mine enemies, because I follow that which good is."He endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself. “Which of you convinceth me of sin?" was His vain appeal to the conscience of those who hated Him without cause. Yet was the mouth of Jesus empty of reproof. He did not strive nor cry, though right was on His side alone. He committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously. His God would hear Him in due time.
The dark cloud of dreaded judgment covers the whole of this Psalm. But the eye of the Sufferer is toward Him who was able to save Him from death. Judicial wrath must indeed be the immediate answer to His cry for help; but a worthy joy lay bright and glorious beyond that grief. It was in the knowledge that all things were given of the Father into His hands769 that the Son of God went forth to meet and conquer, in the strife of our salvation, the destroying enemy of the sheep which were His own.
The Lord Himself, and His personal experience as our substitute, form the proper subject of this Psalm; while its language is in part expressive of true penitential emotions wherever these exist in the hearts of His awakened people. Of its primary application to David it is needless to say more.
Psalm 39
THIS Psalm appears to bear a certain moral relation to the last. It may be viewed as an unfolding of the experience of Jesus, considered with reference to His subjective acquaintance with vanity, as the universal condition of man in the flesh. But this position of One who was personally “separate from sinners," is recognized as a direct result of the will of God, submitted to in perfect obedience by Him who would be tempted in all points like as we are, but apart from sin. "I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it" (verse 9). Many obvious reflections of a practical kind will suggest themselves to every thoughtful reader of this Psalm. These may be now passed by, that it may be examined in its assumed prophetic relation to the Son of man.
Verses 1-3 seem forcibly to express the pure sorrow and righteous vexing of soul which belonged to the Holy One, because constrained to see and hear the filthy conversation of the wicked; as well as the perfect surrender of Himself to the moving energy of the Holy Ghost, as the Spirit of Him whom Jesus came to glorify in perfect obedience. The gospels largely unfold this. We read there of Jesus withdrawing Himself to the mountain, to be alone with God; of how He sometimes held His peace, while other men were free to utter the vanity of their hearts. We read too of the stirring of His sorrow, when He turned with amazement from the unbelief and hardness of heart which seemed to mock the gracious labor of His love. He knew, moreover, the counsel of wickedness, which forged persuasive lies in the vain purpose of ensnaring His feet, or used reviling in the hope that His grieved and bruised spirit might be roused to angry strife. No happy ignorance of human character, and of sin its basis, served in His case to mitigate the weariness of hopeless labor. For Jesus was not only innocent. He was the Holy One of God. He fully understood the heart of man,770 although He knew Himself no sin. The natural flow of all His pure affections was toward the Father; escape therefore from the contrarieties of human wickedness was an instinctive desire of His soul. But His presence among men was by the grace of God. He had willingly been born into the world, for from of old His delights were with the sons of men. Sore requital of hatred for His love might cause indeed His heart to groan; yet deeper and mightier than His vulnerable human sympathies lay that Divine and unrepentant love which had put off outward majesty and honor to do the perfect work of grace and truth, according to its own eternal counsel of salvation.
Because He was the faithful witness of the truth, the heart of Jesus burned to speak the words of God (verse 3). The spectacle of God-dishonoring hypocrisy, which met Him in the very place where truth and righteousness had their reputed dwelling, compelled forth the testimony of holy indignation and of warning judgment against that way of evil in which destruction and misery were only to be found. “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers," etc., was language that expressed terrifically what manner of estimate is formed in heaven concerning the self-commended counsels of men's hearts.
Meanwhile, that heart divinely fraught with goodness and compassion found its delight in pouring its rich abundance into the desolate bosoms of weary and heavy-laden sinners, whom Jesus welcomed and gratefully nurtured as the given children of the Father's love—led of Him to the despised yet full fountain of eternal life, to find there the abiding refuge of their souls771
Every day's experience of human vanity and sin opened new sources of suffering to the Son of man. He stood Himself (most marvelous truth!) in the place of weakness and temptation; for He was Man, with perfect human sympathies and affections, though nothing less than God was in that form. Coming in the likeness of sinful flesh, He would taste in grace the vanity to which the creature was and is in groaning subjection. Weariness of body and of spirit were well known to Him. “His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men." He was acquainted with grief. To die—to taste of death—He had come into the world. The sixth verse of this Psalm is full of deep and mournful power. Jesus, knowing the rest of the Father's bosom, having come forth to reveal Him, and presenting Himself as the open door of access to that rest, might well marvel to behold the vain disquiet of the men of this world. He saw them laboriously heaping up what they could not hope to enjoy. They were working hard for death, deriding still amid that toil of vanity the words and the presence of Eternal Life. "Ye will not come unto me, that ye may have life," was His complaint, who stood ready to bestow the gift of God772 on all whose hearts assured them of their need of such a gift.
The remaining verses are wonderfully expressive of the patient agony of the blessed One, as He bowed to the Father's will in the contemplation of that from which His soul recoiled.
There is a perfect identification of Himself in grace with those for whose sakes He suffered, and whose sins He acknowledged as His own. This is especially noticeable in the twelfth verse, where He takes His place as the prisoner of hope, albeit Himself the end and fulfillment of all the promises of God. It was for the truth of God, and to fulfill the promises made to the fathers, that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision. The Psalm thus connects itself more emphatically with Israel's prospects of blessing, which are made dependent for their fulfillment upon the national recognition of the truth that all flesh is grass.773
Practically, this solemn and most touching strain is full of warning and counsel for the Christian, who is left for a season in the world, although no longer of it, to be as Jesus was,774 through the sanctifying power of the truth, while waiting in hope amid the days of evil. The seventh verse seems more particularly to address itself to such. The Christian has no just expectation from the world, but a daily varying succession of tribulation. We are saved by hope. Meanwhile, provocations to strife abound on every side. But the servant of the Lord must not strive. His calling is to endure, as a companion of the patience and kingdom of Jesus Christ. Discerning in the cross of the Son of God the solemn witness of human vanity and sin, he finds there also the sweet assurance of emancipation with eternal joy and honor, because of Him who now is risen from the dead; instead, therefore, of the deprecatory language of verse 13, the desire of the saint is rather to depart and be with Christ.775 In conscious possession of the victory which has already overcome the world,776 the "stranger and pilgrim"777 of the gospel is to tarry patiently until the victor shall assert at His appearing the truth and glory of that blessed hope, which in His absence is derided by the world.778
Psalm 40
WITH respect to the general drift of this most interesting Psalm there is but little difficulty. I am inclined to view it in connection, as to its main subject, with both of the two which immediately precede it. As we have there beheld Messiah in suffering patience waiting upon Jehovah until deliverance should arrive, according to the good pleasure of His righteous will, so in the opening verses of the present' Psalm we have a declaration, by the risen Christ, of the faithfulness and power of the God of His mercy.
There are at least two distinct subjects. First, the commemoration of Jehovah's dealings with Messiah personally as His righteous servant, now vindicated as such with everlasting honor; and, secondly, the wide and blessed effects of the Divine counsel and working are celebrated in their relationship to those who, through grace, partake the precious fruits of God's mighty and innumerable thoughts of love (verse 5). Connected with both these, and in necessary illustration of the mystery of Divine mercy, is the recital of the Lamb's acceptable self-devotion as the "better sacrifice" of the eternal covenant.779
Verses 1-3 contain sweet strains of Messiah's resurrection song. Christian faith bears, by the Spirit, its part in this song. For after mention made of the horrible pit of the Savior's gracious passion, and of His firm establishment in resurrection on the rock of God's eternal counsel (now perfected by means of His sacrificial death), there is an immediate association of His brethren in the new song of praise. It is praise unto “OUR God."780 The sufferings of Christ were for the people;781 the people, therefore, (now owned as such according to the abundant mercy which has chosen them,)782 are partakers of the triumph which results. This, as a general principle, is quite clear. Especially is it now known and enjoyed by the fore-trusting783 partakers of Messiah's joy, while the nation for the which He died lies buried still in the low grave of darkness and unbelief. “I ascend unto my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." The Church is already risen, and presented in heavenly places in her Head.
Three things are stated in verse 2. First, resurrection as the act of God.784 "He brought me up," etc. Secondly, the justification of the name and title of the Sufferer; “and set my feet upon a rock." Jesus is set up, as alive from the dead, upon the basis of accomplished truth. He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead. Divine counsel had willed the abolition of both sin and death; and by the cross this counsel is become a fact, since by means of death He destroyed him that had the power of death.
The first-fruits of victory is the second Adam, even as He had in His own most blessed person been privy to the counsel, and effected the work of eternal redemption. Thirdly, there is His ascension. "He established my goings." The Son of God having trodden, in gracious and self-renouncing obedience, the passage to the grave, now enters finally as Man the path of life. “He is gone into heaven," says the Spirit.785 And again, “He ascended on high, and led captivity captive."786
In the third verse Messiah sings the new song of triumph and redemption—of mercy glorified in holiness. Jehovah is the subject of His song.787 The Church, which is joint-heir with Him of God's full blessing, is learning now that song. But the birth of the believer's joy is the Spirit's demonstration of the truth. This is expressed in the latter clause of the verse. "Many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in Jehovah." It is the voice of Jesus, heard by faith in the gospel, that quickens the dead soul, and enables it to look in His light on the wondrous work of God. The exceeding greatness of Divine power is exemplified in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.788 The fear of Jehovah fills the man whose eyes are opened to perceive in truth the operation of His hands. But God's power in this its pre-eminent display is the power of a Savior. And so that fear, which is the beginning of wisdom, leads to the establishment in perfect peace and confidence of him who thus beholds in Christ the wisdom and power of Divine salvation.
Verse 4, while describing generally the blessedness of the man of faith, relates especially, I believe, to Jesus, Himself the author and exemplar of our faith. “He trusted in God," was the contemptuous reproach of imputed hypocrisy, which the lying lips of pride were not afraid to fling in the teeth of the dying Lamb of God. A true witness indeed, though uttered from hearts which loved not truth, and knew not what they spake.
The note of praise is resumed in verse 5. It is to usward that Jehovah's thoughts are turned. The Church is in spirit already invested, because of her union with the Beloved, with all the mighty results of Divine counsel. But while, as a commemorative celebration of the triumph of redemption, the language of the present passage is of the widest reach and meaning, the Spirit of prophecy seems to be contemplating in this Psalm, as a more immediate object, the fruits of Messiah's passion in their sure (though for an appointed season intercepted) enjoyment by the nation of Israel789
This verse is, however, chiefly to be prized as an expression of Christ's own interest and delight in the counsels and the works of God. He has fulfilled them in grace; in grace, too, He enjoys them. Bearing everlastingly the form in which He suffered, He now lives in joy as the object of the promises,—the first partaker of the incorruptible fruits of that harvest which was sown amid the tearful labor of His patience in the days of His flesh. “They are more than can be numbered." Such is the multitude of the thoughts and works of the ever-blessed God! Exhaustless in their fullness, they will give endless occupation to the lips of Jesus, and to the hearts of the delighted audience of His love.
Their lips shall also speak. They shall utter without weariness or pause the perfect praises of God and of the Lamb. Rich and ever-blessed prospect of that hope which maketh not ashamed! And though the many sons whom God is bringing to His glory are weary now, because the way of pilgrimage seems long, yet can they enter already (though but in feeble measure yet, because the hindrances are great and many) into the enjoyment of the things not seen. For to them the living Spirit is Himself the foretaste of those joys which will presently be apprehended in the full fruition of their blessedness. May that day of lasting blessedness draw quickly to its rise!
Verses 6-10. On these verses I say but little now.790 The devotedness of the Lamb's love in consenting to the bored ear791 of everlasting service for the love He bore His Master, the wife and children of the Master's gift,792 has often been noticed, and is of great price to the believing soul. The Spirit elsewhere states more fully the blessed meaning of the contrast here expressed.793 The shadowy ordinance fulfilled its purpose and remained its time. Peace of conscience and personal acceptance stood not in the shedding of the blood of beasts. They could come only by the doing of God's will; and Jesus wrought this for His people to the full. He here appeals to Him who alone could prove His work. “Thou knowest" (verse 9). Jesus refrained not His lips from testimony while on earth.794
He was sent to preach the kingdom of God, as well as to be lifted up by the grace of God for sin. He was obedient unto death, fulfilling first, in loving duty to His Maker, and in loving grace for man, all righteousness, and terminating all obedience by the sacrifice of Himself. The tenth verse appears in its full intention to go beyond the preaching of the Son of God in the days of His flesh. It refers, I think, likewise, to the testimony now and hereafter to be given by the Spirit to the finished work of Jesus. As it is elsewhere said of Him after His resurrection, “He came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them which were near."795
Verses 11-17. The structure of this Psalm is peculiar, setting out with an anticipative celebration of deliverance in victory, its closing strains are in a tone of deep and grief-laden supplication. With confessional language such as suited the gracious lips of our Substitute, there is mingled intercessional entreaty on behalf of those who seek salvation from the Lord, together with the appeal of judgment so often heard in these prophetic utterances of the Spirit. The language of these latter verses will be found, perhaps, in the last times upon the lips of those whose hearts will then be filled with the spirit of supplication, when their righteousness shall, in their own eyes, be as filthy rags; and when, in the midst of the city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, they will urge their strong cry of distress in the ears of Him who in all their sorrow bears His gracious part, for the fathers' sakes, and for His own great name.796
Psalm 41
THE practical bearing of the earlier verses of this Psalm upon the believer's conscience is very obvious. Like-mindedness to Him who went about doing good, is the calling of such as are joined to the Lord in spiritual unity.797 The rich rewards of Divine favor are evermore their portion who seek not their own but the things of Jesus Christ. The Lord is Himself their wealth and their security. The breasts of Divine consolation are an open and exhaustless supply in the hour of drought and distress, to all who learn sorrow and are made acquainted with affliction in the ways of single-eyed devotedness, with hearts exercised in practices of faith and love.
But the "poor man," in the truest, fullest sense, was Jesus. When He spake of the sure reward which awaits in heaven the gift, for His sake, of a cup of cold water, He understood the nature both of the need and of the love which should meet it in His name. Himself the only spring of life, He yet knew, in His own gracious person, the necessity which such a kindness might relieve;798 but the love which should minister it was denied to Him. No man cared for Jesus.799
The only interest which He excited, of a permanent kind, was experienced in the bosom of His enemies, who hated Him without a cause. Care and patience, watchfulness and diligence, were all employed against Him; but among men's busy sympathies He stood alone. The world bestows its love upon its own; and He was none of this world's sons. Yet was He man; capable of comfort, and perfectly susceptible of love. But because He was “of God," the hearts of men could nourish only hatred, where love was more than ever due.
The quotation which is made from the present Psalm in John 13 enables us to apply its contents generally to the Lord Jesus in the days of His flesh. Solemnly instructive, indeed, is that most touching quotation as to the fearful depravity of the flesh. Judas exemplifies unregenerate nature in its instincts and conduct under opportunities of grace. Judas is not the only son of perdition. The second of that name800 will be, as was the first, the fitted vessel and willing instrument of Satan. But both alike are led to their perdition by their lusts as men. Nature sees nothing in Jesus that is preferable to itself. The homage which the un-renewed mind may pay to Him, as a faultless ideal of goodness and virtue, is of no more value than the kiss of Judas. For men are but worshipping themselves when thus they idolize the Man Jesus, in willing ignorance of the perfect glory of His person and His work. It is when the cross of the Son of God is preached that the unregenerate mind revolts. Jesus is then a poor man, and despised. The unspeakable mystery of Divine love is a troublesome impertinency, or a loathsome offence, to the still unbroken heart of nature. The world remains the enemy of God.
Verses 4-9 are full of profoundly touching power, when referred to the desolateness and un-befriended grief which Jesus took on Him for our sakes. The spotless Sufferer justifies (verse 4), amid the sorrow with which He had in grace become so well acquainted, the name of Jehovah, according to the changeless holiness of that name. God sent forth His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin; and in this mournful estimate of the ways of the ungodly His Spirit is morally connecting' cause and effect. With the cross continually in view, as the goal of His voluntary race of patience, He could refer the experimental bitterness of His earthly sojourn to the proper root of all human wretchedness and woe.
In the twelfth verse we have the pure contrast, which is offered by His own intrinsic perfectness, to the position which He had assumed in grace as the confessor of His people's sin.
There is, moreover, in this Psalm an especial identification of Immanuel with the people of His birth.801 They had sinned. And in gracious recognition of His oneness with them that were His flesh, He adopts their sin as His. He would die, in due time, for that nation. But Israel had enemies, who hated them with cruel and unrighteous hatred. With the nation, as thus causelessly oppressed, the sympathies of Immanuel are ever found.
The children of wickedness should not continue always to afflict. For He is the sure covenant of Israel's peace.802
Verses 10-13 appear to contemplate this ultimate avenging and glorifying of the people of Jehovah's promise, while they have also a primary reference to the retributive inflictions of Divine judgment, under which the broken and scattered despisers of Jesus still remain. These very distinct, yet morally kindred subjects, are often intermingled in the Psalms. The concluding verse, which likewise closes the first of the five books into which the Psalms are distributed, clearly intimates the point towards which the mind of the Spirit, in this richly-instructive part of Scripture, continually tends. The sufferings of Christ are the central doctrine around which every other truth revolves. But the glories thence resulting are characteristically those in which He stands related to Israel and the nations, as the Seed of earthly promise.
 
1. Isaiah 42
2. Phil. 2: 7, 8.
3. The structure of this verse is remarkable. The Spirit of God seems to indicate, by the terms employed, and the order of their' sequence, the cumulative progression of human evil. Ungodly counsel is followed by sinful act, and results in the evil attainment of the heart's desire,―the hardened impenitency of self-satisfied impiety. The tree is rooted firmly in its own deep soil, and bears ripe fruits of judgment. Impunity, long extended, forms, as it were, a seat of scorn for the man who still hardens himself in his evil way against the persuasive patience of Divine wisdom.
Regarding this subject dispensationally, we may trace the three leading stages of progressive human iniquity here specified as follows: I. Antediluvian corruption was the result of the unrestrained license of the human will ="the counsel of the ungodly." II. The imposition of the law gave to the working of man's will the definite forms of transgression and rebellion ="the way of sinners." Lastly, the fountains of pure mercy are opened to a world convinced of sin, in the precious blood of the Lamb of God. But the preaching of the Gospel is the opportunity of man's highest contempt of God, in despising the riches of His goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering (Rom. 2)="the seat of the scorner." The last type of evil comprises in it both the former. The scorner of Christ is an ungodly rebel in his deeds and in his thoughts. Thus, at the close of the Psalm, it is "the way of the ungodly" which shall perish (comp. Jude 14, 1514And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, 15To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. (Jude 14‑15)). The constitutional ungodliness (Rom. 4:6; 5:66Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, (Romans 4:6)
6For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)
) of fallen nature is the source of every special form and demonstration of particular sin.
14. The word of Divine revelation closes with the announcement of this grand result of the manifold wisdom of God. To speak of the end of God's way in any other sense would be folly. There is one passage of Scripture (Eph. 2:77That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:7)) in which ages to come are spoken of. All we know of these is the blessed certainty that their revolution will be in perpetual witness to the exhaustless kindness of God in Christ towards His Church. The first of the series is the Millennial age, when they who suffer now with Christ will share His throne.
20. The words used are גן֗יִם and לִאֻטִּים terms, neither of which is ever used to indicate Israel separately. That they comprehend the nation under its aspect of degradation, while disowned of God is easily admitted. (Hos. 1:99Then said God, Call his name Lo-ammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God. (Hosea 1:9); Amos 9:77Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the Lord. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir? (Amos 9:7).) The word עַם is the only one which is generally used in the singular number to distinguish Israel, as the people which Jehovah owned, from the rest of the nations. The former of the two terms above quoted is, indeed, often used in the singular for Israel; but always with some qualifying adjunct. The latter is found twice only in that meaning; once with a pronominal affix, which settles its determinate sense (Isa. 51:44Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people. (Isaiah 51:4)), and once without it (Isa. 55:44Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. (Isaiah 55:4)), where the context seems to require that it should be referred to Israel
21. A comparison of Luke 4:1818The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, (Luke 4:18) with Isa. 61:1-71The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 2To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; 3To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. 4And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. 5And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. 6But ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. 7For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them. (Isaiah 61:1‑7), and of Matt. 4:1616The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. (Matthew 4:16) with Isa. 9:1-71Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. 2The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. 3Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. 4For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. 5For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. 6For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:1‑7), will illustrate this. This subject will frequently recur in the progress of these Notes
27. 2 Peter 2, 3.; Jude
32. As to this, see further the remarks on Psa. 110
35. אָן
39. Much more than this, undoubtedly. They saw and hated both Him and His Father. He was dishonored and disowned in all His titles, as well as in His most blessed Person. But it was more emphatically as the promised Messiah, the Heir of David's throne, that He was rejected of men. “If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him," etc.
41. Dan. 7
43. Psa. 48
44. The Church by faith sees Jesus crowned with glory and honor; and, as herself come to Mount Zion, finds Him there in all the fullness of mediatorial blessing and glory which the blood of the New Covenant has secured. But, although the Spirit of God uses the term "Zion" in a figurative sense in the passage just referred to, the figure thus used with a heavenly application is borrowed from the earthly reality, the hour of whose blessing attends the entrance of Israel with unveiled heart within the bond of the New Covenant. (2 Cor. 3:1616Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. (2 Corinthians 3:16).) This Covenant, it should be remembered, is theirs. It is made in Christ "with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah." Although they are, because of unbelief, still nationally aliens from their own blessings, they will not always thus remain. Israel is to be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation. The era of this national deliverance will be the time when those large and full blessings which form the subject-matter of so much of the Old Testament prophecy will be fulfilled in them; and, through them, to the nations of the world. The relation in which the Church stands to these things will appear more fully in the sequel. Meanwhile, it may be remarked generally, that as all earthly conditions of blessing are but figures of more exalted and heavenly originals, the adaptation of the name of that mountain which is the future earthly seat of reigning grace, to the actual sphere of that same grace which now in its eternal results is revealed to faith in heavenly places, is both clear and simple.)
52. I am not forgetful of the apostle's word, King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets?" I remember also that his bonds in Christ were at Rome made manifest in Caesar's palace. What is meant in the text is, that the preaching of Christ in the present dispensation is not to kings and judges with a view to their ordering their government aright, but for the saving of their own souls. A crowned head who should endeavor to rule his kingdom according to the principles of Christ, would soon become practically aware of the incompatibility of the hope of the heavenly calling with the course of the present world. Flesh will not obey Spirit. Nor would a nation, not itself regenerate, accept the government of one who knew no man after the flesh. Yet this hinders not a monarch from being personally an object of saving mercy. He may, by the grace of God, be one of the few of this world's mighties who are called. (1 Cor. 1:26-2926For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29That no flesh should glory in his presence. (1 Corinthians 1:26‑29).)
56. אַפּו֗ בִמְועַט כִּי־יִבְעַר "Denn bald entglühet sein Zorn." ―DE WETTE. Expressive, as it appears to me, of the peremptory decision with which the scepter of righteousness will abase everything which in that day shall lift itself against the title of Divine majesty with which the Anointed of Jehovah will then be openly invested.
57. Isaiah 32. passim.
62. 2 Sam. 12
63. The personal experience of David as to this may be further learned from Psa. 51
64. Psalm 32
65. Heb. 12
76. Fully and richly, indeed, is this same appeal fitted by the Spirit of truth to the lips of the child of God, who knows, in the God of the Lord Jesus Christ, the God of his righteousness. But while large entrance is thus opened into the Psalm as a vehicle for the true expression of Christian experience, the believer's ability to draw full comfort from this and similar Psalms will always be enhanced proportionately to the clearness with which he discerns in them the Person of Jesus, the author and finisher of faith. (Heb. 12:22Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2).)
79. הָםִיַר
80. John 8
82. More especially in the form of idolatry. As when Israel, forgetting God their Savior, had changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass. (Psa. 106:20, 2120Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass. 21They forgat God their saviour, which had done great things in Egypt; (Psalm 106:20‑21).)
84. לו֗ חָםִיר יְהוָ֗ה הִפְלָה ‘Εθαυμάστωσε Κύριος τόν ὅσιον αὐτοῦ. ―LXX. "Mirabilem reddidit Dominus Sanctum suum."―ΗΙERON. "Erkennet doch, class Jehova seinen Frommen auserkoren."―Da WETTE.
88. Quoting, as is generally known, and as was his frequent custom, from the Septuagint version
89. For an account of this remnant, and of the points of variance between their spiritual experience and that of a Christian walking in the light, see the remarks on Psa. 13.
91. The kingly title of Christ is never a prominent one in the revelations of the Comforter to the Church; nor is He ever presented expressly to the Church as her King, although her Lord and Head is assuredly such in His infinitely full and gracious Person. It is hers rather to be the bride, the Lamb's wife; the Eve of the second Adam. He is, indeed, and is by the Church alone confessed to be both “King of kings, and Lord of lords." Moreover, a characteristic blessing of the Christian is that he is already "translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son." (Col. 1:1313Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: (Colossians 1:13).) In worshipping Him, it is the believer's joy to think of Him as "far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named” (Eph. 1:2121Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: (Ephesians 1:21)); to see Him crowned, not with one only, but with mow crowns. (Rev. 19:1212His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. (Revelation 19:12).) But it is a part of the Church's expectation to reign with Him when the time of His kingdom shall have come. At His manifestation as the Prince of the kings of the earth, there will likewise be displayed the glory of the Church as His anointed partner in that throne. (Rom. 8:29, 3029For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (Romans 8:29‑30); Rev. 3:2121To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (Revelation 3:21).)
94. הו֗לִלים. Παράνομοι.― Uebermüthige.―DE WETTE. This last appears to me the preferable version.
95. Isa. 2:10-2210Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty. 11The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. 12For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: 13And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, 14And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up, 15And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall, 16And upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures. 17And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. 18And the idols he shall utterly abolish. 19And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. 20In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; 21To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. 22Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of? (Isaiah 2:10‑22)
105. I do not mean, by this expression, the Church of God. Nor do I believe that the Spirit of God has ever applied, in Scripture, at least in an appropriative sense, the name of Israel to the Church. In Gal. 6:1616And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. (Galatians 6:16), the apostle, after having re-laid the shaken foundations of the faith, and invoked upon those who gloried in the cross of Christ a benediction of peace and mercy, adds likewise, "and upon the Israel of God." God has an Israel, as He has a Church. His Israel is ordained to peace and glory in His time. (Isa. 45:17,2517But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end. (Isaiah 45:17)
25In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory. (Isaiah 45:25)
.) For Jehovah will yet choose Israel, and have mercy upon Jacob, and will set them in their own land. (Isa. 14) Aptly, then, might Paul, in writing to those whose ignorance of their true calling (3:27, 28) had exposed them to an error fraught with ruin to their souls (v. 2-4), refer to that which really held, in the mystery of the Divine counsel, the place which in their foolishness they had sought to attain, to the overlooking of their own peculiar and far higher portion. The reader is requested to peruse, in connection with this note, another on the same subject appended to the opening remarks on Psa. 103.
108. Zech. 14
111. Rom. 7
117. Isaiah 10
121. Gethsemane was the great crisis of this anticipative sorrow and dread, but the blessed Lord's language in Luke 12:5050But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! (Luke 12:50) is sufficient to indicate how continually the purpose for which he had come into the world was present to His mind. The night-long prayers of Jesus are attested but not recited in God's record of His Son. It is enough for us to know that all the varied shades of sorrow through which He passed, until the cup of bitterness was finally commended to His lips, became His portion through the love which for our sakes chose poverty and grief, that the riches of eternal life and joy might fill our cup of blessing as the fruit of the travail of His soul. (2 Cor. 8:99For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9).)
122. Καίπερ ὤν υἵος
123. The Lord is said to be made perfect through suffering, with reference to His name and appointment as the efficient Captain of our salvation. (Heb. 2:1010For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:10).) Until the completion of the work which the Father had given Him to do, He could not become the subject of the Spirit's testimony, who preaches peace in His name. It is with a similar meaning that the Lord uses the same word when, with allusion to His coining decease, He says, "on the third day I shall be perfected." (Luke 13:3232And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. (Luke 13:32).) The expression has no sort of reference to the Person of the Holy One. It relates exclusively to His work, and to the titles which attach to Him as the doer of that work. (Compare Heb. 7:2828For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore. (Hebrews 7:28).)
126. As the godly discernment, in faith, of the doctrine of the Lord's gracious sufferings is one of the richest and deepest springs of Divine communion, and consequently of practical profit to the soul, so, on the other hand, mere intellectual inquiry into such topics is one of the most injurious and soul-hardening exercises in which the human mind can possibly be engaged. The history of the Church, from the earliest times to the present moment, is but too rich in instances which prove the truth of this general assertion
127. Notes on Second Corinthians, chap. 13:4
129. Probably identical with Shimei, the son of Gera. (2 Sam. 16) Verses 5-14 of this chapter should be carefully read in connection with the remarks in the text
132. So far, that is, as the will of man was concerned. But until His hour came, the shadow of the Almighty was His defense as a man, while His blessed Person as the very Son of God was, of Divine necessity, secure from harmful contact as He passed in and out among those whose madness sought its gratification in the shedding of His blood. (Luke 4:3030But he passing through the midst of them went his way, (Luke 4:30); John 8:5959Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. (John 8:59).) The perfect union into which His entire dependence upon God―(which kept Him always wide of Satan's snare (Matt. 4:4-104But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. 5Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 7Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 8Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. (Matthew 4:4‑10)), and which at the same time induced Him to avoid known danger (John 7:11After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him. (John 7:1)), save where the Father's needed work exposed Him to it)―is brought with the intrinsic majesty of His Divine Person, is one of the most striking as well as most practically instructive features which the Spirit of truth unfolds to our view, in the living portrait of Jesus which the gospel narratives present.
136. John 5
137. Isa. 26:99With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. (Isaiah 26:9). Israel is not mentioned by name; but it is, I believe, to the voice of the afflicted Jewish remnant that we are listening here. The words לָאֻמִּים עְַרֵח wrongly translated "the congregation of the people," are of widest meaning; they may comprise Israel inclusively with others, but I doubt this. Nothing in the English Version is more to be regretted than the strange custom of the translators in using the word "people" in the singular number, without the least regard to the diversities both of word and number presented in the Hebrew text.
145. 2 Thess
149. Israel being the more immediate subject of this ministration of blessing, which will visit the nation for which Christ died when the times of refreshing and of restitution shall have come. (John 11:5151And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; (John 11:51); Acts 19-21.) Meanwhile, to the Church, the full glory of the Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec is declared by the Holy Ghost. He ever liveth, as the Minister of the heavenly tabernacle, to make intercession for us. We have such an High Priest. (Heb. 8:11Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; (Hebrews 8:1).)
150. הַגִּחִּיח may point, as some think, to an unknown species of musical instrument; but I prefer, on a general view of the subject, the opinion of the LXX and Jerome, who translate it "wine fats," and regard the Psalm in its primary intention as a vintage song. As such, it seems well suited to the lips of those who in their own land shall possess the double, and when their vine is no longer as the vine of Sodom in the eyes of Him on whom they call, shall eat its fruit and drink its rich juices as "common things." For things common shall in that day be also "holiness to the Lord;" when the earth and its inhabitants shall be alike acknowledged as His own, and His glory shall rest for ever in Immanuel's land.
156. עו יִםַּרְחָּ Κατηρίσω αἷνον.―LXX (Compare Matt. 21:1616And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? (Matthew 21:16).) Similarly, DE WETTE renders, "Hast du [dir] Lob gegründet."
157. John 3
158. In the song of Zacharias (Luke 1:78,7978Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, 79To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:78‑79)), there is, perhaps, a reference to the prophecy of Malachi. The ἀνατολἠ ἐξ ἕψους is none other than He of whom it is said in the passage referred to in the text, και ἀνατελεῖ....ἥλιος οικαιοσύνης. But more directly, I think, the Holy Ghost refers in Luke's Gospel to Jer. 23:55Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. (Jeremiah 23:5), and Zech. 3:88Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH. (Zechariah 3:8), and 6:12, where the Branch is the subject of prophetic promise. I do not now detain the reader by any reasoning in proof of the futurity of all these testimonies of the Spirit of prophecy, as it respects their complete fulfillment. This will, it is hoped, become sufficiently clear as we proceed
162. This blessed truth, however, instead of exempting the believer from present conflict, is itself the occasion of it. It is the ability which pertains to faith to sing the joyful song of full deliverance in Christ, that excites the wrath of the adversary, and provokes his fierce attack. External tribulation and persecution, as well as inward oppositions of the flesh, array themselves in varying measure, but with ceaseless perseverance, against the Christian as an anointed heir of salvation. Patient conflict is the habitual experience of those whose calling it is through much tribulation to enter the kingdom of God. But the victory is doubly theirs. Already they are more than conquerors in Christ; while, as it respects their experimental history, they overcome the adversary through their testimony and the precious blood of the Lamb. They love not their own lives unto the death. For the life which even now they live, they live by the faith of the Son of God, who gave His life in saving love for theirs. (Rom. 8:3737Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. (Romans 8:37); Rev. 12:1111And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Revelation 12:11); Gal. 2:20; 3:27; 5:2420I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
27For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27)
24And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (Galatians 5:24)
.
170. Ps. 65:1, margin. The remarks on that Psalm may be read with advantage in immediate connection with the above paragraph.
174. Isa. 19:23-2523In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. 24In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: 25Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance. (Isaiah 19:23‑25). Let not the reader to whom, perhaps, the doctrine of the personal reign of Christ and its concomitant truths may hitherto have been a doubtful disputation suppose that I forget the apostle's quotations in Rom. 15:9-129And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. 10And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. 11And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. 12And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. (Romans 15:9‑12). A patient perusal of the present work will unfold much of the evidence on which, from its commencement, millennial doctrines have been treated as a part of the clearly revealed truth of God. The general order of God's dispensational government has been more fully exhibited in the Notes on the Epistle to the Romans, to which the inquiring reader is referred
177. He was made a little lower than the angels. (Heb. 2:99But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. (Hebrews 2:9).) What was the crown of the first Adam's pride was the wonder of the Son's humiliation. Man's first condition, as the chief of God's terrestrial creatures, was not much less than angelic. God's fellow,―the Omnipotent Redeemer, assumes a place below the creatures of His hands (Col. 1:1616For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: (Colossians 1:16)), to become in Person, and not by deputy, the effectual Surety of His people
178. ‘Η οἰκουμένη ἠ μἐλλουσα
179. "Οταν ὄὲ πἰλιν εἰσάγῃ τὸν πρωότοκον εἰς τὴν οἰκουηένην κ. λ. The true force of this and the preceding quotations has been discussed at length in Notes on the Hebrews, chap. 1:6
182. But in this position, Adam is a silent witness only to the just relationship of man to his Creator. We have no recorded hymn, no purpose nor resolve, as coming from the first man's lips. He was the passive workmanship of Him that made him, but was not made to be the doer of His will; that place and glory were for the last Adam, not the first.
186. 1 Cor. 15
189. See further as to this, Notes on First Corinthians, chap. 15
190. Infra, Psa. 110 The coming of Christ is the necessary preliminary to His reign. For His kingdom is a manifested thing. At present He is hidden in God. But He will shortly come, and every eye shall see Him. He will rule the nations, not unaccompanied by those to whom the throne of His kingdom is a promised and assured reward. Meanwhile, He is on the throne of Divine majesty in the heavens. In that sense, therefore, He reigns; angels and authorities being made subject to Him. But this clearly is a different thing from His taking His great power to reign over the kingdoms of the world. When the Son of man shall sit on the throne of His kingdom, He will be both seen and heard of men. (Matt. 25:31,3231When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: (Matthew 25:31‑32).)
194. For in the new earth it is expressly said, that there is no more sea. I merely notice the expression, without offering any interpretation of the words, as strikingly in contrast with the language of this Psalm, in which the familiar features of the actual creation are so distinctly as well as beautifully sketched.
201. רָשָׁע Frequent mention is made of the Wicked One in the singular number, both in the Old Testament and in the New. (Compare Isa. 11:44But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. (Isaiah 11:4); 2 Thess. 2:88And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: (2 Thessalonians 2:8).) It is not the devil, but his human representative and chief instrument, who is usually thus described. Not all the nations will be assembled round his banner; the range of his dominion is limited, but within its limits it is absolute, and to be resisted only by such as love not their lives unto the death. The bounds of his dominion have nowhere been defined in Scripture. It is, however, most clearly the fourth beast of Daniel that produces the Lawless One. The name which in Dan. 7 is given to the system out of which the horn of destruction is to arise is, in the book of Revelation, applied eventually to the individual in whose person the united powers of human and Satanic wickedness eventually meet. (Rev. 17:1313These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. (Revelation 17:13).)
202. Joel 3
209. Compare Psa. 44, 79
212. The prophets everywhere abound in descriptive passages which relate to this crisis. See especially Mic. 4:11-1311Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion. 12But they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor. 13Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass: and thou shalt beat in pieces many people: and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth. (Micah 4:11‑13); Zech. 12 passim; Isa. 25:4, 5; 29:7, 84For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall. 5Thou shalt bring down the noise of strangers, as the heat in a dry place; even the heat with the shadow of a cloud: the branch of the terrible ones shall be brought low. (Isaiah 25:4‑5)
7And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision. 8It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion. (Isaiah 29:7‑8)
. The testimony of the Lord Jesus in the Gospels to the same event shall be given farther on.
217. אֱגוׄשׁ. The force of this word in the present context is peculiarly emphatic
218. Isa. 26:9-119With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. 10Let favor be showed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the Lord. 11Lord, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see: but they shall see, and be ashamed for their envy at the people; yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them. (Isaiah 26:9‑11); Zech. 8:21-2321And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also. 22Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. 23Thus saith the Lord of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you. (Zechariah 8:21‑23). Little has been said in the text as to the present spiritual application of this Psalm to believers. Although full explanation on this point has been afforded in the Introduction to these Notes, I think it right to repeat here, that while it may often happen in the review of particular Psalms that a similar deficiency is noticeable, in every such instance the omission is an intentional one. Psalms which have a decidedly prophetic tone, I have always endeavored to interpret according to what seems to be their proper meaning. But there has at no time been absent from my remembrance, while attempting to exhibit more directly the first and simple purport of any part of Scripture, the blessed truth that to the Christian all Scripture is the word of Christ. It belongs to the believer in all its fullness, by virtue of his union with Him who, whether in His earthly or His heavenly relations, is the final Object of it all. Jewish Scripture pertains to Him therefore as much, and in one sense a great deal more, for all the gracious purposes for which the word of God was written (2 Tim. 3:1616All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2 Timothy 3:16)), than if He were a Jew. This is so obvious a truth, that I hesitate to repeat it. But it is well to exclude the possibility of misapprehension on a point of such preeminent importance.
219. רָשָע as in the former Psalm; and, I doubt not, indicating in each instance the Man of sin―the Lawless one, or Antichrist.
220. Dan. 11:3636And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. (Daniel 11:36); compare Dan. 8:24, 26, 9-1224And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. (Daniel 8:24)
26And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days. (Daniel 8:26)
9And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land. 10And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. 11Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. 12And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered. (Daniel 8:9‑12)
; Isa. 14:13, 1413For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (Isaiah 14:13‑14), etc.
222. From the eleventh verse of this Psalm, compared with verse 13, it would seem that conscience is not wholly extinct in the subject of this description. The existence of God is recognized, but His power and His holiness are willingly overlooked. Satanic power will work on Antichrist as well as by him. He will be, in his own person, an apostate before he magnifies his title as willful King. He will work as a man the will of the devil, through the lusts of his own nature, for some time before he becomes filled with Satan so as to deny God openly and to usurp His place. The case of Judas is an example of this. He was a thief; Satan, acting on his lusts, puts it in his heart to betray his Master; finally, the devil enters and becomes the effective possessor and wielder of the passive instrument of his will. (John 13:2727And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. (John 13:27).)
226. מִן־הָאָרֶץ אֱגוׄשֺ A distinctive description, I believe, of Antichrist, as the rival of Him who is "the Lord from heaven."
236. Phil. 3
239. חַשָׁחוׄח "Die Pfeiler."―DE WETTE. See, also, GESEN. Lex. sub voe. LUTHER has "Denn sie reissen den Grand um," which gives the general senses but is not literal. DIODATI'S version is preferable, "Quando i fondamenti sono ruinati." HIERON translates "Lewes," a good metaphorical meaning. "Pillars," or "foundations," is, undoubtedly, the signification of the word. Compare 1 Tim. 3:1515But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15). Στύλος καἰδραίωμα τῆς ἀληθείας.
246. Οἰ ἄνθρωποι
251. But although there is a destined crisis in the progress of human evil, and the climax of all ungodliness will be reached in the days and in the person of the Antichrist, yet the epistle of Jude distinctly notes the then existing prevalence of those evils of the tongue which are eventually to ripen into the general voice of atheistic blasphemy and the avowed worship of the Beast. (Compare also 2 Peter passim.)
254. Matt. 5.-7
256. That the prophecy of the Lord contained in the chapter above quoted has yet to receive its complete accomplishment is now acknowledged by very many Christians, who by the mercy of God have been freed from the error of supposing the national existence of Israel to be at an entire end. Many, however, still continue to regard the Roman destruction of Jerusalem as the fulfillment of these predictions. But the language of verses 29, 30, 31, imperatively forbids such a construction. Did the Son of man come with clouds immediately after the destruction of the city by Titus? The planting, moreover, of the abomination of desolation is to be the immediate precursor of the destruction of the Oppressor himself. (Dan. 9:27; 11: 4527And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. (Daniel 9:27).) The difficulty presented to many by the language of verse 34, "this generation," etc., cannot justly be opposed to the plain meaning of the context. Moreover, an examination of the uses of this term, both in the Old Testament and the New, will convince the reader that it is constantly employed to designate the uncircumcised in heart―the fleshly nation―as distinguished from the generation which should be born when Zion should have brought forth her children unto liberty, according to the blessing of the New Covenant. More will be found on this subject further on.
257. Rev. 11
258. Zech. 12
261. The earnestness with which Jews are striving, in the present day, to acquire and to exercise the rights of Gentile citizenship is a striking instance of this. Neology, which is the modern successor of the "know ledge falsely so called" against which Paul so emphatically warns the man of God, by questioning or denying the inspiration of the Scriptures, endeavors to supplant God's truth by the lying sophistries of men. Under its influence the distinctive hope and profession of Jew and Christian alike is fast changing (save in the hearts of God's elect) to an. empty form of words, which may be held or relinquished with about the same amount of moral effect upon the soul.
265. Eph. 1:6, 2:6
267. Rom. 6; Col. 3
272. 2 Peter 1
276. Προηαρτυρόμενον.....χαὶ τὰς μετὰ δόξας.
278. That the fathers, who obtained a good report through faith, looked for a heavenly city is most sure. That Abraham saw the day of Christ is equally so. The covenant, of which Messiah was the true object, was all David's salvation, as well as all his desire. But with respect to that which now forms the subject of the Spirit's testimony in the Church of God, it is described as a mystery "which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men." (Eph. 3:55Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; (Ephesians 3:5).) The mystery of the Church as the body of Christ is one "which from the beginning of the world had been hid in God'! (verse 9). God has magnified the riches of His wisdom, as well as of His grace and glory, by educing from the apparent frustration of Messianic promise in the unbelief of the nation, the new and previously unrevealed manifestation of the Church as the object of direct heavenly calling and promise, altogether apart from those specialties of covenant promise-save that in Christ all the promises of God are hers (2 Cor. 1:2020For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. (2 Corinthians 1:20))-which directed the burden of Divine blessing primarily to the nation of Israel, and mediately through them to the Gentiles at large. The Church is the offspring and the bride of Christ, as dishonored and disowned of men. Her confession is of Him whom the world has rejected, and does reject. The vitality and constituent power which distinguishes her from the world is the Spirit whom the world neither sees nor knows. Persecution and dishonor are, therefore, a part of the Christian's appointed portion until He come, who as yet is hidden in God. The passage above referred to in Peter 1. goes no farther than to show, first, that the Jewish prophets were aware that the sufferings and after-glories of Christ were the subject of their testimonies; and secondly, that all that of which they prophesied was future―not unto themselves, but unto us. Many prophets and kings (Luke 10:2424For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. (Luke 10:24)) had desired to see and hear as the disciples saw and heard. But what occupied the thoughts of the disciples in the days of the Lord's flesh was a Jewish. Christ. The glory of His Person might be declared to them (Matt. 16:1616And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16:16)), and a prefigurement of His power and coming might be disclosed (Matt. 18); but it was as the Hope of Israel only that He filled their minds. (Acts 1:66When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6).) The Holy Ghost, sent forth from the Father in the name of the ascended Son of man, could alone declare that testimony to the crucified but now exalted Savior, the reception of which gives to the Church of God its true character as the fore chosen vessel of Divine grace and power, called forth from Jew and Gentile alike.
280. It is a peculiar blessing of the Church to know Him, and be known of Him, as the Sox OF GOD. The mystery of His Person is largely discoverable to the eye of Christian faith in the Old Testament. There are even passages in which the Son is nominally mentioned. (Psa. 2:1212Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. (Psalm 2:12); Dan. 3:2525He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. (Daniel 3:25); Prov. 30:44Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell? (Proverbs 30:4).) But the filial title of Jesus, as the ever-blessed correlative of the FATHER'S name, could not be truly known until the Comforter was sent. (John 16:77Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. (John 16:7); 1 Cor. 8:66But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. (1 Corinthians 8:6); 2 John 33Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. (2 John 3))
281. It is by no means denied that passages exist in the Old Testament which a Christian might justly regard as extending, in their ultimate intention, beyond the millennial dispensation. Undoubtedly there are such. Still less is it forgotten or disputed that heavenly and eternal things have always been the remoter limit of the view of faith. God is the reward of the believing soul. (Gen. 15:11After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. (Genesis 15:1).) I speak only to the general subject of Jewish prophecy in its characteristic variance from the present calling and hope of the Church
282. Thess. 4:15-18
285. Zech. 12
287. Zech. 13:8, 9; 14:1-118And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. 9And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God. (Zechariah 13:8‑9)
1Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. 2For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. 4And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. 5And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. 6And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: 7But it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light. 8And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. 9And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one. 10All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin's gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king's winepresses. 11And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited. (Zechariah 14:1‑11)
. I add here a few further proofs to those already stated in a former note, that the Roman siege of Jerusalem is not the last of which the Scripture speaks. 1. All nations are represented as associated against it, instead of one. (Zech. 12:2, 32Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. 3And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it. (Zechariah 12:2‑3)) 2. The horrors of the siege are terminated by a sudden and triumphant deliverance. 3. The armies which afflicted Jerusalem are supernaturally and totally destroyed. (Zech. 14:1212And this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth. (Zechariah 14:12).) 4. The delivered remnant of the city turn immediately to the Lord. (Zech. 13:99And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God. (Zechariah 13:9).) Did the wretched survivors of Roman severity do this? 5. The remnant of the Gentiles, whose armies had gone against Jerusalem, are constrained to become proselytes to His worship, who will then be known in that place as the King, the Lord of hosts. (Zech. 14:16, 1716And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. 17And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. (Zechariah 14:16‑17).) These evidences, drawn as they are from a single book of Scripture, are so clear and palpable, as to render superfluous a further examination in this place. Proofs to the same effect will, however, continually multiply in our progress through the Psalms.
288. Isa. 59:9-15; 63:15-199Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. 10We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men. 11We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us. 12For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them; 13In transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. 14And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. 15Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment. (Isaiah 59:9‑15)
15Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of thy holiness and of thy glory: where is thy zeal and thy strength, the sounding of thy bowels and of thy mercies toward me? are they restrained? 16Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O Lord, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting. 17O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants' sake, the tribes of thine inheritance. 18The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a little while: our adversaries have trodden down thy sanctuary. 19We are thine: thou never barest rule over them; they were not called by thy name. (Isaiah 63:15‑19)
290. Isa. 12:54
291. I do not at all doubt that we have presented to us in this Psalm the same individualization of human sin, under the name of גָבָל, as has been already exhibited under a different aspect as רָשַֹע. Antichrist will combine in his person the fullness of wickedness with the excess of folly. Folly and sin are, in the language of the Holy Ghost, almost convertible terms. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Consummated iniquity is, on the contrary, the perfection of foolishness
295. בְּגֵי־אָרָם
296. Gen. 11
301. Gen. 3
305. Ex. 14, 19
308. Isa. 10:2121The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. (Isaiah 10:21). The twofold application of this and similar passages, first, to the remnant according to the election of grace, who received the Gospel at the first; and, secondly, to the Jewish confessors who bear the reproach of Christ in the midst of the last apostasy, has been noticed in the "Notes on the Epistle to the Romans," to which reference has been already made.
312. Num. 6
315. John 1
316. Matt. 23
319. חָסָיר “Οσιος
323. לִקְרןׄשׁים Τοῖς ἁγίοις
328. Acts 26:1818To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:18); Cant. 2:3. There is probably an especial reference in verse 3 to those who,' amidst the ungodly nation, have borne, and will hereafter bear, the reproach of Christ. They are the excellent, as contrasted with the vile ones of the last Psalm. It is worth noticing, in connection with this, that the LXX. render נָּאָרֶץ by ἐν τῦ αὐτοῦ. This is, of course, not literal, as the text now stands. "In the land" is however, as exact a translation as "in the earth."
330. הָמָרוּ אַחֵר "Die anders wohin eilen."-DE WETTE.
331. 1 Thess. 2:1616Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. (1 Thessalonians 2:16). “Εφθασε δὲ ἐπ’ αὐτοὺς ἡ ὀργὴ εἰς τέλος-to the end. But there is an end, and beyond that end a fair and sunny hope. And when the time of mercy shall have come, the ended indignation will seem to have been but for a little while. (Isa. 54:88In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer. (Isaiah 54:8).)
334. Zech. 13 “In that day shall there be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness." And again, "For I will cleanse their blood which I have not cleansed." (Joel 3:2121For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed: for the Lord dwelleth in Zion. (Joel 3:21).) These and similar passages are applied to Judah and Jerusalem, not only as representing the entire nation, but with an especial reference to the peculiar guilt of that tribe and city. Jehovah is a stumbling-block to both the houses of Israel; but it is upon Jerusalem and on the tribe of Judah that the blood of the Just One preeminently rests.
348. Enoch and Elijah are no exceptions to this general statement. They saw no death. Corruption, therefore, is not in question in their case
350. On this point see further in Notes on the Ephesians, chap. 1:20.
351. The title "quickening Spirit" is expressly applied to Christ only after resurrection. (1 Cor. 15:4545And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. (1 Corinthians 15:45).) But it is a title which relates to His Person, not His work. It is, therefore, eternally true; although its ever-blessed and triumphant vindication will be under the likeness in which He had first in grace become acquainted for our sakes with death
353. There lay the dead Christ. For He was buried as well as slain. (1 Cor. 15:44And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: (1 Corinthians 15:4).) Meanwhile, the Paradise of God contained both Him and the first-fruits of His everlasting conquest over sin and death. (Luke 23:4343And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43).) The path of life had opened to Himself through the dread portals of that death, and the joy for the sake of which He endured the cross was already His possessed reward.
356. On the personal blessedness of the ascended Christ, see further Psalm 21
358. For it is not the scrutiny of the natural heart that is properly the object of a child of God, who knows already, having learned it in the cross, the utter badness of the flesh. It is the watchful jealousy of self-judgment, on the part of one whose affections are renewed to Godward, and who fears, because he hates, the indwelling principle of sin, and has learned with purpose of heart to cleave to the Lord―that has in some sort its representation in the language of this verse. There is therefore an obvious moral connection between it and verse 7 of the preceding Psalm.
363. It is in the light of the resurrection that the glory of this name, as a distinctive title of Christ, is fully asserted. He is declared to be this by the Holy Ghost, subsequently to the completion of the work which definitively set aside the first Adam. The Cross is God's judgment, not upon sin only, but upon that in which sin dwells-upon the Adamic nature. The title is here applied anticipatively to Jesus, while fulfilling His obedience on earth. Ante, p. 114, Note.
369. Heb. 3:3-16; 10:103For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honor than the house. 4For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. 5And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; 6But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. 7Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. 11So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) 12Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; 15While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 16For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. (Hebrews 3:3‑16)
10By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)
372. Isa. 1
377. I do not doubt that the sufferers here contemplated are properly the Jewish remnant. The language of verse 8 is a counterpart of that in which the faithfulness of Jehovah to His earthly people is prophetically pledged. (Zech. 2:88For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. (Zechariah 2:8); Deut. 32:1010He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. (Deuteronomy 32:10).) I have preferred, however, in the text a more practical application of the general principle.
383. מֵחֶלֶר מְחִים Rerum terrestrium amantes.―GESEN.
386. בְלִיַעַל נַחֲלֵי "Torrentes diaboli," as HERON renders. The LXX. have χείμαῤῥοι ἀνομίας. The former I believe to be the more just version. The word Belial occurs but once in the New' Testament. It is in that instance exactly opposed to Christ: "What concord hath Christ with Belial?" (2 Cor. 6:1616And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (2 Corinthians 6:16).) The expression in that text conveys faithfully the terrible reality of that scene. It was by the insurrection of human wickedness, as the fatal agency of him that had the power of death, that the crucifixion of the Lord of glory was effected
388. Matt. 28
389. Matt. 27
390. The mighty power of God was indeed displayed by the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, and by the miraculous works which demonstrated to the unbeliever the authenticity of the Gospel testimony. But it was to Jesus, hidden in the heavens until the times of restitution, that that Spirit gave His witness. (Acts 3:2121Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:21).) The power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ was a part of the testimony everywhere delivered by those who preached the Gospel, though it might seem to the scoffer no better than a fable of ingenious device. 2 Peter 1:1616For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (2 Peter 1:16)
400. עַם־עָנִי
401. Psa. 118 passim
402. Let not the reader forget, that the capability which these verses possess of a spiritual application is not at all in question in this outline. How the blessed Lord fought and triumphed as the Captain of salvation, destroying the enemy, overleaping and breaking down the middle wall of partition, and nailing all oppositions to His cross; how too He now leads in the Church the song of victory, which already is placed by the Holy Ghost in the mouths of those who are more than conquerors through Him that loved them―are things well known to the believer. Such an one may often find, in meditating on this passage, a fresh remembrance of those blessed truths, whereby his own feeble spirit may find itself girded anew, as with the strength of God, for spiritual conflict.
408. Οὗτός ἐστι πάντων Κύριος.―Acts 10:3636The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) (Acts 10:36). The Gospel attests this truth. The coming reign of Christ will establish it in power.
411. לאׄ־יָדַעְתִּי עַם I do not think that this expression refers to the Gentiles. The existing position of Israel is one of Divine repudiation. They are disowned as Jehovah's people. This is plain from Scripture. (Rom. 11) Moreover, I feel persuaded (though it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to demonstrate the point indisputably) that עַם in the singular is never used in Scripture, where גוִׄים or לְאֻמִּים is in the context, except to represent the nation of Israel.
415. יְכַֽתֲשׁוּ־לִי “Schmeicheln mir."―DE WETTE. "Filii alieni mentientur mihi."―HIERON. et sic. LXX
421. חָמָם אִישׁ Looking at the deliverance of the Lord's resurrection, this expression would relate rather to Satan himself, "the murderer from the beginning," whose self-destroying blow had slain the Lamb of God, the Captain of salvation. (Heb. 2:1414Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; (Hebrews 2:14).)
422. Isaiah 14
426. Deut. 32:4343Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people. (Deuteronomy 32:43); Zech. 8:11-2311But now I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the former days, saith the Lord of hosts. 12For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. 13And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong. 14For thus saith the Lord of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the Lord of hosts, and I repented not: 15So again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not. 16These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbor; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: 17And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbor; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord. 18And the word of the Lord of hosts came unto me, saying, 19Thus saith the Lord of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace. 20Thus saith the Lord of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: 21And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also. 22Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. 23Thus saith the Lord of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you. (Zechariah 8:11‑23)
429. Isaiah 1
431. Rom. 10
432. The law is never the standard of Christian conduct, but Christ. The believer is not under the law, but under grace. (Rom. 6) A dead man is past the jurisdiction of law; a risen man knows God as the Savior of his person, and the Judge only of his works. In Christ, the fullness of all righteousness abounds before God, to the account of every believer. Meanwhile, as it respects the flesh, which lusts against the Spirit, the law is evermore the witness of God against all unrighteousness. It still has thus its lawful use. (1 Tim. 1:7-117Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. 8But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; 9Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; 11According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. (1 Timothy 1:7‑11).) But to bind it again to the conscience of a justified believer is not its lawful use. For such an one is Christ's freed man, whose calling is to serve in newness of the spirit, not in the oldness of the letter. He is under law to Christ (.ἔννομος Χριστῷ 1 Cor. 9:2121To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. (1 Corinthians 9:21)).
434. Heb. 10
442. Some further remarks on this subject will be found in the Notes on Psa. 139
450. I do not pause to insist particularly on the present bearing of these things upon the Church. The believer knows what manner of interest he has in the offerings and in the prayers of Jesus; what manner of sacrifice He has offered for us once for all, and how He has prayed (John 17) for those who put their trust in Him, while hidden from their sight. Available, however, as the language of this Psalm is for the furtherance of true Christian communion, it is in its proper drift and intention most plainly Jewish.
455. Eph. 1
458. For, as has been already shown, the Davidical kingship of Christ relates immediately to the nation whose capital is to be known in that day as "the city of the great King." See also the remarks on Psa. 48
460. Psa. 16
472. Rom. 6
475. Already the Lord Jesus is known to the believer in His royal as well as sacerdotal character. He is a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Heb. 7) The functions of His priesthood are, however, conducted for His people in the present dispensation, according to the Aaronic type. (Heb. 8, 9, 10) The Priest is not yet seated upon the throne of royal administration as the King of nations. But the throne of His Father David is reserved for Him whose right it is to wear the long-profaned diadem of Israel (Ezek. 12:26, 2726Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 27Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off. (Ezekiel 12:26‑27)), as the chosen Shepherd, who shall stand and feed the flock of Israel in the strength of Jehovah, in the majesty of the name of Jehovah His God. (Mic. 5:44And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth. (Micah 5:4); 2 Sam. 23:3, 53The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. (2 Samuel 23:3)
5Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow. (2 Samuel 23:5)
)
479. עָם בְזּי Israel, that is, who received Him not, although they were His own. (John 1:1111He came unto his own, and his own received him not. (John 1:11).)
486. Nathaniel was a guileless Israelite, by the Lord's own testimony. Such too were all whose hearts were settled in the faith of Divine promise. (Psalm 32:22Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. (Psalm 32:2).) But the Just One alone, who did no sin, was intrinsically pure.(1 Peter 2:2222Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: (1 Peter 2:22).)
489. Isaiah 12:26
493. Luke 23
494. Matt. 27
497. Matt. 21; 27:20, 25
505. Matt 27:43
506. Zech. 11
508. Heb. 11. passim, specially 33
519. מְךֵעִים עֲךַת appears to refer to the nation and its counselors of unrighteousness. For the use of the term "dogs" as a designation of Gentile ungodliness, see Mark 7:2727But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs. (Mark 7:27), and, perhaps, Phil. 3:22Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. (Philippians 3:2).
521. The birth of Jesus conferred on Him the means of accomplishing the will of God. Death is to fallen man the natural sequel of his birth. Death was to Jesus an act of obedience to the will of God. That will was for Him the cause of which death was the effect. In no other way could the holy Child Jesus be liable to death, or in any other way connected with it than as its Destroyer.
522. Notes on Second Corinthians, 12: 4.
523. Distance from God was the climax of the Lamb's dying sorrow. It is a fearfully solemn thought that the world, while with heedless self-confidence it still pursues its way, is no nearer now to God than Jesus was when, under the burden of the world's iniquity, He cried, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
524. יְחִידָתִי "Mein Leben."―DE WETTE. “Mein Einsame."LUTH. Τὴν μονογενῆ μου.―The English margin renders the word exactly.
525. The act of Solomon, in blessing the people at the dedication of the temple, may be typical of this. (1 Kings 8)
527. דָב קָהָל as distinguished from קָהָל in verse 22, which last the apostle applies to the Church. “The great congregation" might, as a simple expression, describe the ultimate fruit of redemption, when dispensations shall have ceased to be. The context appears, however, to oppose such an interpretation in the present case.)
530. חִיָה לאֹ וְנַפְשׁוׄ This excellent and, when once perceived, most natural version of these words, is due, I believe, originally to Mr. Boys
532. לַאךֹנָי
536. John 4
537. 2 Cor. 8:99For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9) Notice will presently be taken of the expression, “He restoreth my soul," which in its ordinary acceptation forbids the application of the verse in which it stands to Jesus.
539. The resurrection was the demonstrative justification of the Divine nature and title of the Son of God. "This is my beloved Son" was indeed declared from heaven concerning Him on whom the Spirit rested and abode. Faith may discern the glory of the Only-begotten in the despised Jesus of Nazareth. But it was by the resurrection from the dead that His title was vindicated effectively and in power. The testimony of the Spirit is according to the glory as well as grace of the crucified Son of God.
541. יְשׁובֵב נַפְשִׁי The word here used means" restore" or "bring back."It is not used in this form [Fold] in the sense of “refresh," unless the present passage be regarded as an instance. Such a meaning is, however, clearly admissible. JEROME took it in this sense when he rendered the above words by "animam meam refecit." DE WETTE gives a similar interpretation, "meine Seele erquickt er." Jesus knew what it was to receive refreshment from above. But never could the Perfect One experience restoration of soul. We, alas! often know the latter rather than the former. Refreshing meets the saint who is proving in singleness of heart and eye the dreary wilderness of the present world. Restoratives of Divine mercy, on the other hand, are in never ceasing flow towards the exercised soul, whose personal experience discloses to it daily more of its actual condition of poverty and need. Recovery from sin is fully involved in the above expression, although the more prominent idea appears to be that of gracious comfort and refreshment of spiritual weakness.
544. Rom. 8
545. Heb. 14
549. Isa. 63
551. Ezek. 34
553. Zech. 11
554. Ezek. 36:16-2716Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 17Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman. 18Wherefore I poured my fury upon them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for their idols wherewith they had polluted it: 19And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them. 20And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the Lord, and are gone forth out of his land. 21But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went. 22Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. 23And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. 24For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. 25Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Ezekiel 36:16‑27); Zech. 13:11In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. (Zechariah 13:1)
568. Isa. 6
570. Hosea 14