Book 1: Psalms 1-41

Psalm 1‑41  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Overview. In the first book both the remnant and Christ are rejected, but the remnant is not cast out of Jerusalem. While still together in the city and sanctuary, the godly remnant is seen as distinct from the wicked among the Jews. (In Book 2 the remnant is cast out of the city and is severed from the wicked.)
We have more the personal history of Christ in this first book than in any of the rest. He was going in and out with the remnant, while it was yet associated with Jerusalem.
It is only the Jews (two tribes) in this book and not all of Israel. The ten tribes do not come in till the third book. The remnant includes the children of Israel who came up with the two tribes at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. So in Luke 12 we find Anna who was of the tribe of Asher and Elizabeth who was of the daughters of Aaron.
The light of resurrection dawns for the faithful in this book, Christ having gone through death into fullness of joy at God’s right hand.
Divine Names. As the people are still owned of God, the covenant name of Jehovah predominates.
Psalms 12 are part of a series of psalms that ends with Psalm 8, but they are distinct in themselves and give the general idea of the whole book.
Psalm 1, like Isaiah 4048, takes up the question of Jehovah and idols, the remnant’s obedience to the law and trust in Jehovah. The “wicked” are the ungodly Jews. In Psalm 2, like Isaiah 4957, Christ takes the place of Israel as Jehovah’s servant, and the remnant is distinguished by their reception of Christ. In these portions it is only a remnant of the people whom God would recognize, and they end with the blessing of this remnant and with the declaration, “There is no peace .   .   . unto the wicked” (Isa. 48:22; 57:2122There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked. (Isaiah 48:22)
21There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked. (Isaiah 57:21)
In Psalm 1 it is the description of the remnant’s character, and so we have them meditating in the law of Jehovah. In Psalm 2 it is Christ, and we have the nation rejecting Him.
Is it the crucifixion in Psalm 2? No, we are really in the last days. Peter quotes its beginning (Acts 4) and applies it to Israel for their rejection of Christ, but in the Old Testament, church-time is dropped out. Thus from verse 4 the psalm leaps over all the time from the crucifixion to the millennium. In verse 4 we have the Adonai (the Lord) sitting in the heavens. He shall laugh at them and have them in derision.
We see the same principle in Luke 4 where the Lord quotes Isaiah 61:12. He stops in the middle of the verse, because the end is vengeance at the second coming. In John 1, Nathanael owns the Lord as Son of God and King of Israel, according to His Messianic (Psalm 2) glory, and the Lord says, “Thou shalt see greater things than these.” In the last verse He takes the glory of the Son of Man, according to Psalm 8. John 1:5151And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. (John 1:51) should be, “Henceforth ye shall see,” for the moment Christ was on earth, there was an adequate object for heaven to open upon; the angels ascend and descend upon the Son of Man.
Paul in Ephesians 1, 1 Corinthians 15 and Hebrews 2 quotes Psalm 8 to show that He as “Son of Man” is set over all things which God has made. “Son of Man” is a wider title than “Christ.” In Matthew 16 the Lord tells His disciples not to say He is “The Christ,” for He was about to suffer as “Son of Man.” (See Luke 9:20-2220He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God. 21And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing; 22Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. (Luke 9:20‑22).)
What is the difference between Jehovah and Adonai? Adonai is lordship. Jehovah is perpetuity — the One who was and is and is to come — the originator and the fulfiller of the promises. Jehovah is the covenant name with Israel.
After the preface to the whole book in Psalms 12, we have in Psalms 38 the position of the godly remnant in their different exercises of sorrow and suffering while the Messiah is rejected.
In Psalms 37 you see the godly remnant in three distinguishing characters or positions: confidence, personal righteousness and guilt, though obeying the Word all the time.
In Psalm 3 you get confidence in God through all their trials.
In Psalm 4 you have personal righteousness, so that they can appeal to God as the God of my righteousness. In Psalm 5 you get the confidence of blessing through Jehovah’s righteousness for the righteous.
In Psalm 6 you have guilt and so deprecating God’s anger, “O Lord, rebuke me not in Thine anger,” for they know they deserve it. Sins are not acknowledged and confessed until Psalm 25, after atonement has come in and laid the ground for it in Psalm 22.
In Psalm 7 he looks for His judgment falling on the wicked.
Psalm 8 closes the series with the Son of Man set over all the works of God’s hands. It is the language of the now-delivered remnant.
In Psalms 9-10 we have the historical statements of the circumstances of the remnant in the last days in the land. We find the judgment of the heathen and God known in Israel by the judgment He executes. In Psalm 10 we have the description of the wicked: “He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages: in the secret places.” The wicked man is the character of Antichrist. Sometimes in the Psalms it is plural, and sometimes it is characteristic, and sometimes it rises up to Antichrist personally. In Psalm 10:1818To judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may no more oppress. (Psalm 10:18) it is characteristic.
Psalms 11-15 give the thoughts and feelings of the remnant when in the circumstances of Psalms 9-10.
Psalm 11 takes up what the righteous remnant is to do when the power of evil is dominant in Emmanuel’s land.
Psalm 12. Jehovah loves righteousness; this is the general basis of the godly man’s confidence and walk. While not insensible to the evil, the godly ones can present the matter to the Lord.
In Psalm 13 the righteous is reduced to the lowest point of distress as far as evil from men goes. It is as if God has entirely forgotten him.
In Psalm 14 we have the atheist. Here the evil has reached its climax in God’s sight.
Psalm 15 is the character of the righteous and describes who the person is who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord when the Lord shall have established the seat of His righteous power in Zion.
In Psalms 16-17 we have the two great principles that characterize the remnant: confidence and personal righteousness. Here we have Christ Himself. The distinction between this series and the previous one is that in this series we have the connection of Christ Himself with the remnant.
Psalm 16 is Christ’s confidence in God as man: “In Thee do I put My trust.” The psalm closes with the fruit of trust, the enjoyment of God Himself: “In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”
“Hades” in Psalm 16 means anything out of this world. In Greek it means “unseen.” Heaven was not revealed until Christ went there, though the existence of the soul after death was known. David says of his child, “I shall go to him.” It is he and the separate soul together. Samuel says to Saul, “Tomorrow shalt thou  .  .  .  be with me,” but as to where they went, all was unknown, invisible and dark. They did not know where they went. The thief on the cross first threw light upon it. Christ revealed the happy state in which he should be with Him: “Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” In Psalm 16:1010For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. (Psalm 16:10) we see that the soul and the body go to different and distinct places until the resurrection.
Psalm 17 is personal righteousness, and it ends with the fruit of righteousness in being like Him: “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness.” Christians are like Him now (1 John 4:1717The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: (John 4:17)); also they shall be when they see Him as He is (1 John 3:22The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. (John 3:2)). They have both.
In Psalm 17 we see the world given to the wicked. It is the principle brought out and answered in the account of the rich man and Lazarus. “Thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.”
Psalm 18. The sufferings of the Messiah are the central ground of all the history of Israel from Egypt to the glory of the millennium. His death is the ground for God’s dealings in grace with them; they were delivered from Egypt on the ground of Christ’s sufferings. The Passover and the Red Sea were figures of it, and this principle is true of every saved soul from Abel downwards. No doubt, when David wrote the psalm, he was feeling it all in his own circumstances, but this is, as we have seen, a common principle in prophecy, and especially so in the Psalms.
This psalm especially celebrates Jehovah Himself, the Deliverer, and still declares the speaker’s dependence on Him. This is the thesis of the psalm. It then, as is the usual form of the Psalms, goes through all the circumstances that lead the soul up to what is celebrated in the first verse or verses. In verses 4-5, Christ is seen, the sorrows of death compassing Him and the floods of ungodly men besetting Him. In verse 6 you have the cry to Jehovah. Then in verses 7-16 you get Israel delivered from Egypt and brought through the Red Sea through Messiah’s sufferings, though doubtless these are spoken of in a mysterious form.
In verses 17-27 we have Christ as God’s Israel, perfect in trial, and the value of this toward the remnant’s godliness. Then from verse 28 to the end is the coming in of power in deliverance to Christ and through Him to Israel in the last days. In verse 43 He is the Head of the heathen, so that we get to the millennium. In verse 44 all come and submit —yield feigned obedience. They tell lies; it is power subduing, but not faith.
In verse 20 the language is only true essentially of Christ, and yet from the last verse we know it is David who speaks, as in 2 Samuel 22:1 where we find the occasion on which the psalm was composed.
Psalm 19 takes up two testimonies of God: His works in creation and His Word (the “law [or, doctrine] of Jehovah”). Creation is a witness to God, but as sin has come in and marred the earth, we have only the heavens mentioned as declaring the glory of God. The law is a witness to Jehovah.
Psalm 20. We have the third testimony of God in Christ, who is God’s witness in the day of His distress, the object of the remnant’s sympathy as the dependent One and the object of their trust as the exalted King.
Psalm 21. We have an exalted Christ. Thus we have had the testimony of creation, of the law and of Israel, and now the testimony of Christ completes all the testimonies of God.
Up till now we have men against Him in His sufferings, but in Psalm 22 we have God judging sin in His Person in atonement. Consequently we have no judgment on man, but a tide of blessing flowing out, first to the remnant, then to all Israel, then to the ends of the earth and last to those born in the millennium. In verse 22 you have John 20 when Christ declares His Father’s name to His brethren. In verse 25 you have Him praising in the great congregation of Israel.
Psalm 23. The result of Psalm 22 is that the sheep are taken care of. Can we look upon Christ here as one of the sheep? No, but He goes before them in the path of dependence and confidence in Jehovah, and thus He puts Himself among them. But the psalm speaks of the remnant, though Christ entered into their place of dependence, taking Jehovah as His Shepherd.
In Psalm 24 we have Christ taking His place of glory in the temple on earth and owned there as Jehovah.
In Psalms 25-39, Christ having made atonement, we have the state and feelings of the remnant in respect of this work and its results, which have been brought out in Psalms 2224.
Psalms 25-26. Israel can confess their sins, because atonement has been made. Here it is the general truth of their sinfulness. In Psalm 51 it is the confession of blood-guiltiness, owning their guilt in the rejection and death of Christ. It is not that they know atonement for their deliverance and peace; this will not be till they see Him and look upon Him whom they have pierced. But they can confess sins, because atonement has been made, without the personal comfort resulting from the fact of its application to themselves being known.
Psalm 27 says, Whom should such a one fear? Whatever the distress, Jehovah is his shield, who will judge the wicked according to their deeds, as in Psalm 28. Hence the challenge in Psalm 29 to the sons of the mighty to own Jehovah, as everyone in the temple says, Glory!
Psalm 30 celebrates deliverance; if weeping comes for the night, there is joy in the morning. Yet for this, Messiah died (Psalm 31). Thus only could transgression be forgiven, sin be covered, and true blessedness come (Psalm 32). Thus alone could the righteous exult in Jehovah, as in Psalm 33, its companion psalm. Psalm 34 rises to a strain yet higher and sustained “at all times.”
Psalms 35-38 contemplate the way and power of evil judicially and the path of the righteous, as well as a just sense of their sins confessed.
Psalm 39 owns that it is their chastening, though man walks in a vain show.
Psalm 40 is Christ Himself in the most distinct way. It is taken up in Hebrews 10. Here it is not the fact of His sufferings in atonement that is before us, but the counsel and will of God which He has accomplished therein. It is not the same view of the sufferings as Psalm 22, but it takes in a wider range and shows the root of it all in the eternal counsels: “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God.”
In Psalm 41 we have, “Blessed is he that understandeth the poor” (JND), in contrast with the pretensions of the proud. Christ takes this place of the poor and needy in Psalm 40:1717But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God. (Psalm 40:17). Christ is really the poor man here, but not exclusively. In Psalm 41, blessed is the one who recognizes those in such a state. In Amos 2:66Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes; (Amos 2:6) the judgment falls upon Israel because of their conduct toward the poor. Zechariah 11 takes this up definitely, and Christ takes up the poor of the flock. It is our place. I don’t know how far we realize it, though we have hymns written for the poor of the flock. It is just what it ought to be with us. Verse 9 is true of Christ. It speaks practically of Judas, but not only of him, for in the Psalms we are in the last days; so in verse 1 it is not only Christ, but all the poor of the flock.
The book begins in Psalm 1 with, “Blessed is the man  .  .  . [whose] delight is in the law of the Lord,” and ends in Psalm 41 with, “Blessed is he that understandeth the poor” (JND). These two things characterize Israel, and they are blessed in doing it. In Psalm 1 we have the blessing in loving God and in Psalm 41 the blessing of loving one’s neighbor.