Darby Synopsis: 2. Ezra to Malachi

Table of Contents

3. Ezra 1
4. Ezra 2
5. Ezra 3
6. Ezra 4
7. Ezra 5
8. Ezra 6
9. Ezra 7-8
10. Ezra 9-10
12. Nehemiah 1
13. Nehemiah 2-6
14. Nehemiah 7
15. Nehemiah 8
16. Nehemiah 9-11
17. Nehemiah 12-13
19. JOB
20. Job 1-2
21. Job 3
22. Job 4-31
23. Job 32-37
24. Job 38-42
26. Psalms - Book 1
27. Psalm 1
28. Psalm 2
29. Psalm 3
30. Psalm 4
31. Psalm 5
32. Psalm 6
33. Psalm 7
34. Psalm 8
35. Psalms 9-10
36. Psalm 11
37. Psalm 12
38. Psalm 13
39. Psalm 14
40. Psalm 15
41. Psalm 16
42. Psalm 17
43. Psalm 18
44. Psalm 19
45. Psalm 20
46. Psalm 21
47. Psalm 22
48. Psalms 23-24
49. Psalm 25
50. Psalm 26
51. Psalm 27
52. Psalm 28
53. Psalm 29
54. Psalm 30
55. Psalm 31
56. Psalm 32
57. Psalm 33
58. Psalm 34
59. Psalm 35
60. Psalm 36
61. Psalm 37
62. Psalm 38
63. Psalm 39
64. Psalm 40
65. Psalm 41
66. Psalms - Book 2
67. Psalms 42-43
68. Psalm 44
69. Psalm 45
70. Psalm 46
71. Psalm 47
72. Psalm 48
73. Psalm 49
74. Psalm 50
75. Psalm 51
76. Psalm 52
77. Psalm 53
78. Psalm 54
79. Psalm 55
80. Psalm 56
81. Psalm 57
82. Psalm 58
83. Psalm 59
84. Psalm 60
85. Psalm 61
86. Psalm 62
87. Psalm 63
88. Psalm 64
89. Psalm 65
90. Psalm 66
91. Psalm 67
92. Psalm 68
93. Psalm 69
94. Psalm 70
95. Psalm 71
96. Psalm 72
97. Psalms - Book 3
98. Psalm 73
99. Psalm 74
100. Psalm 75
101. Psalm 76
102. Psalm 77
103. Psalm 78
104. Psalm 79
105. Psalm 80
106. Psalm 81
107. Psalm 82
108. Psalm 83
109. Psalm 84
110. Psalm 85
111. Psalm 86
112. Psalm 87
113. Psalm 88
114. Psalm 89
115. Psalms - Book 4
116. Psalm 90
117. Psalm 91
118. Psalm 92
119. Psalm 93
120. Psalm 94
121. Psalm 95
122. Psalm 96
123. Psalm 97
124. Psalm 98
125. Psalm 99
126. Psalm 100
127. Psalm 101
128. Psalm 102
129. Psalm 103
130. Psalm 104
131. Psalm 105
132. Psalm 106
133. Psalms - Book 5
134. Psalm 107
135. Psalm 108
136. Psalm 109
137. Psalm 110
138. Psalm 111
139. Psalm 112
140. Psalm 113
141. Psalm 114
142. Psalm 115
143. Psalm 116
144. Psalms 117-118
145. Psalm 119
146. Psalm 120
147. Psalm 121
148. Psalm 122
149. Psalm 123
150. Psalm 124
151. Psalm 125
152. Psalm 126
153. Psalms 127-128
154. Psalm 129
155. Psalm 130
156. Psalm 131
157. Psalm 132
158. Psalm 133
159. Psalm 134
160. Psalm 135
161. Psalm 136
162. Psalm 137
163. Psalm 138
164. Psalm 139
165. Psalms 140-143
166. Psalm 144
167. Psalm 145
168. Psalm 146
169. Psalm 147
170. Psalm 148
171. Psalm 149
172. Psalm 150
174. Proverbs 1-9
175. Proverbs 10-31
178. Song of Solomon 1
179. Song of Solomon 2
180. Song of Solomon 3
181. Song of Solomon 4
182. Song of Solomon 5
183. Song of Solomon 6-7
184. Song of Solomon 8
187. Isaiah 1
188. Isaiah 2-4
189. Isaiah 5
190. Isaiah 6
191. Isaiah 7:1 to 9:7
192. Isaiah 9:8 to 12
193. Isaiah 13-14
194. Isaiah 15-18
195. Isaiah 19-23
196. Isaiah 24
197. Isaiah 25-26
198. Isaiah 27
199. Isaiah 28
200. Isaiah 29
201. Isaiah 30
202. Isaiah 31
203. Isaiah 32
204. Isaiah 33-34
205. Isaiah 35
206. Isaiah 36-39
207. Isaiah 40
208. Isaiah 41-43
209. Isaiah 44-45
210. Isaiah 46-48
211. Isaiah 49
212. Isaiah 50
213. Isaiah 51-52
214. Isaiah 53
215. Isaiah 54
216. Isaiah 55-57
217. Isaiah 58-59
218. Isaiah 60
219. Isaiah 61-62
220. Isaiah 63
221. Isaiah 64-65
222. Isaiah 66
224. Jeremiah 1
225. Jeremiah 2
226. Jeremiah 3
227. Jeremiah 4-6
228. Jeremiah 7-9
229. Jeremiah 10
230. Jeremiah 11-12
231. Jeremiah 13
232. Jeremiah 14
233. Jeremiah 15
234. Jeremiah 16
235. Jeremiah 17
236. Jeremiah 18
237. Jeremiah 19-20
238. Jeremiah 21-23
239. Jeremiah 24
240. Jeremiah 25
241. Jeremiah 26
242. Jeremiah 27-28
243. Jeremiah 29
244. Jeremiah 30
245. Jeremiah 31-32
246. Jeremiah 33
247. Jeremiah 34
248. Jeremiah 35
249. Jeremiah 36
250. Jeremiah 37-38
251. Jeremiah 39-44
252. Jeremiah 45-51
253. Jeremiah 52
255. Lamentations 1
256. Lamentations 2
257. Lamentations 3
258. Lamentations 4
259. Lamentations 5
261. Ezekiel 1
262. Ezekiel 2
263. Ezekiel 3
264. Ezekiel 4
265. Ezekiel 5-6
266. Ezekiel 7
267. Ezekiel 8
268. Ezekiel 9
269. Ezekiel 10
270. Ezekiel 11
271. Ezekiel 12
272. Ezekiel 13-14
273. Ezekiel 15
274. Ezekiel 16
275. Ezekiel 17
276. Ezekiel 18
277. Ezekiel 19
278. Ezekiel 20-21
279. Ezekiel 22-23
280. Ezekiel 24
281. Ezekiel 25
282. Ezekiel 26-28
283. Ezekiel 29-32
284. Ezekiel 33
285. Ezekiel 34
286. Ezekiel 35
287. Ezekiel 36
288. Ezekiel 37
289. Ezekiel 38-39
290. Ezekiel 40-43
291. Ezekiel 44
292. Ezekiel 45-46
293. Ezekiel 47-48
295. Daniel 1
296. Daniel 2
297. Daniel 3
298. Daniel 4
299. Daniel 5
300. Daniel 6
301. Daniel 7
302. Daniel 8
303. Daniel 9
304. Daniel 10-11
305. Daniel 12
307. HOSEA
308. Hosea 1
309. Hosea 2
310. Hosea 3
311. Hosea 4-5
312. Hosea 6-7
313. Hosea 8
314. Hosea 9-11
315. Hosea 12
316. Hosea 13
317. Hosea 14
318. JOEL
319. Joel 1
320. Joel 2
321. Joel 3
322. AMOS
323. Amos 1-2
324. Amos 3
325. Amos 4
326. Amos 5
327. Amos 6
328. Amos 7
329. Amos 8
330. Amos 9
332. JONAH
333. Jonah 1
334. Jonah 2
335. Jonah 3
336. Jonah 4
337. MICAH
338. Micah 1
339. Micah 2
340. Micah 3
341. Micah 4
342. Micah 5
343. Micah 6
344. Micah 7
345. NAHUM
347. Habakkuk 1
348. Habakkuk 2
349. Habakkuk 3
351. Zephaniah 1
352. Zephaniah 2
353. Zephaniah 3
356. Zechariah 1
357. Zechariah 2
358. Zechariah 3
359. Zechariah 4
360. Zechariah 5
361. Zechariah 6
362. Zechariah 7-10
363. Zechariah 11
364. Zechariah 12
365. Zechariah 13
366. Zechariah 14


This second volume of the Synopsis, with the exception of the Psalms, is reprinted from papers published in the “Present Testimony,” translated from the original French edition. If the part which treats of the Psalms be excepted, nothing is changed, save occasional passages with a view to greater clearness and exactitude. With regard to the Psalms, the inquiry into the nature of Christ’s sufferings threw largely increased light on their interpretation into the mind of the writer. This he found it impossible to interweave satisfactorily with the original article, and the whole has been rewritten and an introductory part added. There is no substantial change of view, but he trusts that there will be found in what is now published, considerably greater clearness and solidity of interpretation.


God’s threat fulfilled; kingly power in Gentile hands
The events which we have been considering, at the close of Kings and Chronicles, were deeply significant. The throne of God was no longer at Jerusalem. God had fulfilled His threat of casting off the city which He had chosen. He had bestowed the throne of the earth upon the Gentiles (Daniel 2:37). Not only had Israel failed under the old covenant, and rejected God (1 Samuel 8:7), so that God was no longer their king; but even after grace had raised up the house of David to sustain the relations of the people with God, under the rule of that house everything was entirely corrupted by sin; so that there was no more remedy, and God had written Lo-ammi (not my people), as it were, on the forehead of a people who had forsaken Him. The counsels of God cannot fail; but such was the sad state in which the relationship between this people and God stood, if it can be said that a judgment like this allowed any relationship still to exist. So far as it depended on Israel, on man, all was lost. The consequences of this, with respect to God’s dealings, were of great importance; they were nothing less than His taking His throne from the earth, casting off His people for the time as to His earthly government, and transferring power to the Gentiles. Man, in probation under the law, had failed, and he was condemned. He had been sustained in the way of grace through means which God had granted, in the family of David, for his continuance in the enjoyment of the blessings granted him, and he had failed again. Kingly power was in the hands of the Gentiles, and the people were under condemnation according to the old covenant.

Ezra 1

The return of a little remnant from captivity
But God now brings back a little remnant, that the true King might be presented to them, and causes the temple to be rebuilt in its place, according to the promises given by the mouth of Jeremiah, and at the request of His servant Daniel.
The latter, indeed, still at Babylon, had a deeper sense of the real condition of the people, than they had who were rebuilding the temple, and received also much more extensive information as to the future destiny of Israel and the intentions of God respecting it. But a due appreciation of this return from captivity also is not without importance, since it is evident that the understanding of God’s dealings with respect to the restoration of Israel, and the coming among them upon earth of Messiah Himself is connected with this event. It was the will of God that there should be some respite. The current of His purposes, however, concerning the times of the Gentiles, and the position of His people, was unaltered. They were still in subjection to the Gentiles.1
(1. The coming of Christ did not change this. The restoration of the remnant gave occasion to the presentation of Christ to the people according to the promises; but His rejection left their house desolate to see Him no more till their repentance in the last days. Meanwhile, during His lifetime on earth, not only have we, in Luke, the epoch divinely dated by the reigns of Gentile rulers, but, pressed on the point, the Lord refers to their position and baffles their hypocrisy, which would have profited by what was the fruit and wages of their own sin to put Him in an inextricable difficulty, by telling them to give to Caesar what was Caesar’s, and to God what was God’s. Meanwhile deeper and more blessed counsels were accomplished.)
Cyrus called of Jehovah to fulfill His Word
It is Cyrus, king of Persia, who commands the people to return to Jerusalem, and to rebuild the temple. A type himself, in some respects, of a far more glorious deliverer, he confesses Jehovah, the God of Israel, to be the true God. He is “the righteous man, raised up from the east, who treads down the princes like mortar.” Called of Jehovah by name for this purpose, he favors Israel and honors Jehovah. Distinguished and blessed by the favor of the mighty God, a man whose conduct was certainly under the guidance of God, his personal character did not interfere with its being the times of the Gentiles, notwithstanding that God had put it into the heart of one of these Gentiles to favor His people. The word of God, by Jeremiah, is fulfilled. Babylon is judged, a characteristic event of all importance. But, in fact, that which still exists is a prolongation of its power. The seat of the royal authority which God bestows on man is a city which is not the city of God, which is neither the earthly Jerusalem nor the heavenly. The house of David no longer holds the scepter entrusted to it.
The rod of the tribe of Judah preserved
It is true that the rod of the tribe of Judah is preserved, in order that “the Branch” of the root of Jesse may be presented to this tribe. But the power of the Gentiles still continues; it existed even when the Messiah was on the earth, and the Jews had to be commanded to render unto Caesar the things that were Caesar’s. The presentation of Jesus, the true Messiah, was but the occasion of fully demonstrating this in the cry, “We have no king but Caesar.”

Ezra 2

The family of God marked out; a numbered and recognized people
Nevertheless, God still gives the people-guilty under the law-an opportunity for the exercise of faith. Let us examine the principles that characterize the energy of the Holy Spirit in the people at the time of their return.
The first thing to be observed is that, having felt what it was to have to do with the Gentiles, and having experienced the power and wickedness of those whose help they had formerly sought (the unclean spirit was, in this respect, gone out of them), the children of the captivity resolve that Israel shall be an unmingled Israel, and proved to be so. They are most careful in verifying the genealogies of the people, and of the priests, in order that none but Israel should be engaged in the work. Formerly one priest succeeded another without previous examination; genealogy was not verified, and children came into their father’s place in the enjoyment of the privileges which God had granted them. But Israel now, through the great grace of God, had to recover their position. This was neither the beginning of their history, nor the power suited to the beginning; it was a return, and the disorder that sin had brought in was not henceforth to be endured. They were escaping from the fruits of it, at least in part. What had any but Israel to do there? To mark out the family of God was now the essential thing. Deliverance from Babylon was their deliverance. It was this family, or a small remnant of it, which God had brought, or was bringing, out from thence. Thus, even among those who had come back to Judea, whoever could not produce his genealogy was set aside; and every priest with whom this was the case was put away from the priesthood as polluted, whatever, as it appears, might be the reality of his qualification. Divine discernment might, perhaps, recognize them and their rights another day; but the people who had returned from captivity could not do so. They were a numbered and recognized people. They dwelt each in his own city. It was weakness, no priest with Urim and Thummim, but it was faithfulness.

Ezra 3

The altar built; the Word followed
In the seventh month,1 the children of Israel gather themselves together at Jerusalem, each one going up from the place where he dwelt. The first thing which they do there, under the direction of Jeshua and Zerubbabel, is to build the altar, to place themselves under the wings of the God of Israel, the sole Help and sole Protector of His people; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries. Their refuge is in God. Beautiful testimony of faith! Precious effect of the state of trial and abasement they were in! Surrounded by enemies, the unwalled city is protected by the altar of her God erected by the faith of God’s people; and she is in greater security than when she had her kings and her walls. Faith, strict in following the Word, confides in the goodness of its God. This exactness in following the Word characterized the Jews, at this time in several respects. We have seen it, chapter 2:59-63, where some could not show their genealogy; we find it again here, chapter 3:2; and again in verse 4, on the occasion of the feast of tabernacles. Customs, traditions, all were lost. They were very careful not to follow the ways of Babylon. What had they left except the Word? A condition like this gave it its full power. All this takes place before the house is built. It was faith seeking the will of God, although far from having set everything in order. We find, then, no attempt at doing without God those things which required a discernment that they did not possess. But with touching faith these Jews exercise piety towards God, worship God, and, as we may say, set Him in their midst, rendering Him that which duty required. They acknowledged God by faith; but until the Urim and Thummim should be there, they placed no one, on God’s part, with the object of giving some competency to act for Him, in a position which required the exercise of God’s authority.
(1. This was the month in which the blowing of trumpets took place-a figure of the restoration of Israel in the last days. )
The foundations of the temple laid with joy and tears
Having, at length, brought together the materials which the king of Persia had granted them, the Jews begin to build the temple and lay its foundations. The joy of the people, generally, was great. This was natural and right. They praise Jehovah according to the ordinance of David, and sing (how well it became them now to do so!), “His mercy endureth forever.” Nevertheless, the ancient men wept, for they had seen the former house, built according to the inspired direction of God. Alas! we understand this. He who now thinks of what the assembly1 of God was at the first will understand the tears of these old men. This suited nearness to God. Farther off, it was right that joy, or at least the confused shout, which only proclaimed the public event, should be heard; for, in truth, God had interposed in His people’s behalf.
(1. See Acts 2 and 4.)
Joy was in His presence and acceptable. Tears confessed the truth, and testified a just sense of what God had been for His people, and of the blessing they had once enjoyed under His hand. Tears recognized, alas! that which the people of God had been for God; and these tears were acceptable to Him. The weeping could not be discerned from the shout of joy; this was a truthful result, natural and sad, yet becoming in the presence of God. For He rejoices in the joy of His people, and He understands their tears. It was, indeed, a true expression of the state of things.

Ezra 4

Difficulties and snares
But, in such a case, difficulties do not arise only from the weakness of the remnant; they proceed, also, from elements with which the remnant are outwardly connected, and which, at the same time, are foreign to the relationship of God’s people with Himself. In Israel’s case, there was real weakness, because God-although faithful to His people according to their need-did not, in fact, come forward to establish them on the original footing. To do so would not have been morally suitable, either with respect to the position in which the people stood with God, or with regard to the power which He had established among the Gentiles apart from Israel, or with a view to the instruction of His own people in all ages as to the government of God. Relationship with God is never despised with impunity.
But besides this, in such a state of things the power of the world having gained so much ground already in the land of promise, even among the people to whom the promise belonged, difficulties arose from the fact that persons who, in consequence of the intervention of the civil powers, were within the borders of the promised land, desired to participate with the Jews in constructing the temple. They alleged, in support of their claim, that they called upon God as the Jews did, and had sacrificed unto Him since Esar-haddon had brought them into the land. This was not enmity. Why repel such a desire? The Spirit of God calls them the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin. The people of God-the assembly of God-ought to be conscious of their own peculiar privileges, and that they are the assembly of the Lord. The Lord loved Judah and Benjamin. From His grace towards this people flowed all the blessing of which they were the object; and the people were bound fully to recognize this grace. Not to recognize it was to despise it. Now this grace was the sovereign goodness of God. To admit strangers would have been insensibility to this grace as the only source of good; it would have been to lose it, and to say that they were not its objects according to the sovereign goodness of God, more than other persons of the world. But the faithfulness and intelligence of the chiefs among Israel delivered them from this snare. “We ourselves together,” said they, “will build unto Jehovah the God of Israel.” “Ye have nothing to do with us to build a house unto our God.” In fact, it would have been to deny that He was their God, the God of Israel. This is especially the case of the assembly when called to remember her privileges after long forgetfulness and painful chastisement. If God allow it for the trial or the chastening of His people, it is possible that the work may be stopped through the practices and the malice of those who will praise the great and noble Asnapper to the powers of the earth; before whom they will appear in their true earthly character, just as they assumed the garb of piety when seeking to insinuate themselves among the remnant of Israel. The power that belonged to God’s people, at the time of their former independence, will alarm one who, not trusting in God, dreads the effect upon his own authority of the energy which the Spirit of God produces in the people of God independently of this authority, however submissive the people may be. Israel was acting here according to Cyrus’s own decree; but this is of no avail. That which depends on God is absolute; that which does not depend on Him is arbitrary; but the faithful have nothing to do with all this. God may see that trial and chastening are needful to them.

Ezra 5

The prophets Haggai and Zechariah sent of God for encouragement
Whatever happens, they have to go through that which puts faith to the proof; but their path is ordered by the will of God, and their faith relies upon Him. In this case they had to wait; but God’s time would come; and that, not by means of a mere decree from the Gentile king: God raises up a much more precious encouragement for them from another quarter. Although the people had been subject to the Gentiles, God was still supreme; His Word is still of supreme authority to His people, whenever He condescends to speak to them. If necessary, He can dispose the hearts of kings to uphold it. In every case His people are to follow it, without seeking other motive, or other help. Haggai and Zechariah are sent of God, and prophesy among the people. These immediate communications from God were of infinite value, as His Word ever is; and although they did not change the position of the people with respect to the Gentiles, they were a touching proof that God was interested in His people, and that, whatever might be their afflictions, the God of Israel was above all that had power to oppress them.
Want of faith the true hindrance to building
I have said that the people were obliged to wait. This was the case as soon as they received the decree that forbade their continuing to build. But many years had elapsed before this prohibition came; and it seems evident to me, from examining the prophecies which throw so much light on the contemporary history, and from comparing their dates, that it was want of faith in the remnant which was the true hindrance. There were adversaries in the land who made them afraid, and who thus prevented their building. It appears that the Jews did not dare continue. Their adversaries hired counsellors in the Persian court to frustrate the purpose of the Jews. But the first thing was that the adversaries weakened the hands of the people. It was not until two reigns later that the prohibition was obtained; but the Jews had left off building through fear of their adversaries. (Compare chapter 4:4,21 and 5:1 with Haggai 1:1-2,4 and 2:15.) Neither was it because the king’s decree was brought them that they began again to build, but because they feared Jehovah, and feared not the king’s command, as seeing Him who is invisible (Hag. 1:12-13). God was not any more to be feared in the reign of Darius than in that of Cyrus or of Artaxerxes; but the source of their weakness was their having forgotten God. This makes manifest the great grace of God in awakening them by the mouth of Haggai. God had until then also chastened the people.

Ezra 6

The effect of faith; the intervention of their adversaries
All this shows us that, in ceasing to build the temple, Israel was in fault. It appears from Haggai (ch. 2:15) that they had made no progress at all. The terror with which the adversaries had inspired the Jews had stopped them. They had no excuse for this, since even the king’s commandment was on their side. That which they lacked was faith in God. We have seen that, when there was faith they dared to build, although there was a decree against it. The effect of this faith is to give rise to a decree in their favor, and that even through the intervention of their adversaries. It is good to trust in God. Blessed be His gracious name!
Under the influence of the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah the house was finished (ch. 6:15).
The passover kept; Jehovah’s kindness and grace
Jehovah’s great grace in this was a real occasion for joy. The priests are set in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, according to the law of Moses, and we find more faithfulness than in the best days of the kings. (Compare chapter 6:20 with 2 Chronicles 29:34.) But we hear nothing of the ordinances of David, and a still greater deficiency is seen in their celebration of the feast of dedication. They kept the passover-a proof that the redemption of the people could be remembered in the land. Happy privilege of the restored remnant! Many also had joined them, separating themselves from the filthiness of the heathen of the land. Jehovah had given them cause for joy; but fire no longer came down from heaven to testify divine acceptance of the sacrifice offered for the dedication of the house. This was indeed a negative difference, but one of deep significance. And even that which formed the subject of their joy betrayed their condition. “Jehovah had turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.” It was great kindness and touching grace on His part. But what a change!

Ezra 7-8

Ezra sent to Jerusalem by the Gentile king
Alas! this was not the end of the history. God, in His goodness, must still watch over the unfaithfulness and the failures of His people, even when they are but a small remnant who by His grace have escaped from the ruin. He puts it into the heart of Ezra, a ready scribe in the law of Moses, to think of the remnant in Jerusalem, to seek the law of Jehovah, to teach it and cause it to be observed. Here again it is still the Gentile king who sends him for this purpose to Jerusalem. All blessing is of God, but nothing (except prophecy, in which God was sovereign, as we have already seen in the case of Samuel at the time of the people’s downfall), nothing in point of authority comes immediately from God. He could not pass by unrecognized the throne which He had Himself established among the Gentiles upon the earth. And Israel was an earthly people.
The good hand of God
The character of this intervention of God by Ezra’s mission is, I think, a touching proof of His loving-kindness. It was exactly suited to the wants of the people. It was not power. That had been removed to another place. It was the knowledge of the will and the ordinances of God-of the mind of God in the Word. The king himself recognized this (ch. 7:25). Guarded by the good hand of his God, this pious and devoted man goes up with many others to Jerusalem.

Ezra 9-10

Disobedience, followed by humiliation and confession
Alas! as soon as he can look into these things, he finds the law already broken, evil already come in. The people of Israel had not kept themselves separate from the people of the lands, and even the princes and rulers had been chief in this trespass. Ezra is confounded at this, and remains overwhelmed with grief the whole day. Can it be that the remnant, whom God had snatched, as it were, from the fire, have so soon forgotten the hand that delivered them, and married the daughters of a strange god? Those who trembled at Jehovah’s Word having assembled with him, Ezra humbles himself on account of it. At the time of the evening sacrifice, he pours out the deep sorrows of his heart before the Lord. A great multitude have their hearts touched by grace. There is no prophetic answer, as so often before had happened in similar circumstances; but there is an answer from God in the hearts of the guilty. “We have sinned,” said one among them; “yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.” And they set themselves heartily to the work. Israel is summoned, each one under pain of exclusion, to come up to Jerusalem, and they assembled at the time of rain, for the matter was urgent; and the congregation acknowledge it to be their duty to conform to the law. Under the hand of Ezra, and by the diligence of those who were appointed to this work, it was accomplished in two months. As for all those who had taken strange wives, they gave their hand that they would put away their wives: they confessed their sin and offered a ram for this trespass.
Separation from all who are not the people of God
Once more we find that that which characterizes the operation of the Spirit of God, and the intervention of God among His people, with respect to their walk and moral condition, is separation from all who are not the people of God as they were. Those of the priestly family who were unable to produce their genealogy had been excluded from the priesthood as polluted; and those among the people who were in the same case were not acknowledged. They positively refuse any participation in the work to the people of the land who wished to join them in building the temple; and, finally, with respect to their own wives, several of whom had borne them children, they have to put them away, and to separate themselves, at whatever cost, from all that was not Israel. It is this which characterizes faithfulness in a position like theirs; that is, a remnant come out from Babylon, and occupied in restoring the temple and service of God, according to that which yet remained to them.
God’s unfailing comfort in His compassion
Moreover, we see that God did not fail to comfort them by His testimony-sweet and precious consolation! But the power of the Gentiles was there. That which appertained to authority, and the throne at Jerusalem, and to the power of ordaining, which belonged to it, was not reestablished. The public sanction of God was not granted. Nevertheless, God blessed the remnant of His people, when they were faithful; and the most prominent thing, and that which should dwell on our hearts, is the grace which, in the midst of such ruin, and in the presence of the Gentile throne set up through Israel’s sin, could still bless His people, though acknowledging the Gentile throne, which God had established in judgment upon them. Their position is clearly and touchingly stated in chapter 9:8-9.1
(1. Only for “were” in verse 9, we must read “are.”)
It is a solemn season, when God, in His compassion, encourages and sustains the little remnant of His people in the midst of their difficulties; and owns them, as far as possible, after the ruin which their unfaithfulness has brought upon them-such ruin that God had been constrained to say of them, Lo-ammi.
It is most afflicting to see the people, after such grace as this, plunging again into fresh unfaithfulness and departure from God. But such is God, and such is man.
The peculiar display of God’s everlasting mercy and His ways to the coming of Messiah in the Book of Ezra
We must ever bear in mind that Israel was an earthly people, and their full place in blessing now1 that of the seat of God’s power in righteousness upon earth, so that their relationship to another power, now set up among the Gentiles, was peculiar. But, if this be borne in mind in the application of the contents to other circumstances, the instructions afforded by this book are extremely interesting, as exhibiting the principles of conduct in which faith is displayed in the difficulties connected with a partial restoration from a ruined state, the dependence on God by which man is sustained in the midst of these difficulties, God’s own ways in respect to His servants, and the absence of all pretensions to reestablish what could not be set up in power. Besides this, we have to view the Book of Ezra as giving that peculiar display of God’s mercy and ways which left the rod of Judah subsisting till Shiloh came. No Shechinah was in the temple; no Urim and Thummim with the priest. But there was a sovereign intervention of God in that mercy which endures forever, so that occasion was given to Messiah’s coming according to the promises made to the fathers. The judgment of the Gentile power of Babylon carried with it the witness of a better deliverance, but for this the full time of God’s purposes was to be awaited.
(1. I say “now,” because, till Samuel’s time, Israel was called to be blessed in obedience under priesthood, God being their King. But after David’s time in view of Christ, the nation became the seat of God’s power in righteousness, so far as it enjoyed the blessing.)


Nehemiah as a necessary link in the history of God’s dealings towards Jerusalem
The Book of Nehemiah will require but few remarks; but it is important to establish its import. It is a necessary link in the history of God’s dealings, in the recital of His patience and loving-kindness towards Jerusalem, which He had chosen.
The rebuilding of the temple and reestablishment of the law recorded in Ezra
In Ezra we have seen the temple rebuilt and the authority of the law reestablished among the people, who are again separated from the Gentiles, and set apart for God.
The rebuilding of the walls of the city, the people’s civil condition restored, recorded in Nehemiah
In Nehemiah we witness the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, and the restoration of what may be termed the civil condition of the people, but under circumstances that definitely prove their subjection to the Gentiles.

Nehemiah 1

Nehemiah’s heart and that of the Gentile king
Through grace, faith had set up the altar, and the Gentiles had had nothing to do with it, except by voluntary service; but when the city is to be rebuilt, it is the governor appointed by the Gentiles who holds the prominent place, God having touched the heart of these Gentiles and disposed them to favor His people. We see in Nehemiah himself a heart touched with the affliction of his people, a precious token of the grace of God; and He who had produced this feeling disposed the king’s heart to grant Nehemiah all he desired for the good of the people and of Jerusalem. We see also in Nehemiah a heart that habitually turned to God, that sought its strength in Him, and thus surmounted the greatest obstacles.

Nehemiah 2-6

Nehemiah’s perseverance and faithfulness
The time in which Nehemiah labored for the good of his people was not one of those brilliant phases which, if faith be there, awaken even the energy of man, imparting to it its own lustre. It was a period which required the perseverance that springs from a deep interest in the people of God, because they are His people; a perseverance which, for this very reason, pursues its object in spite of the contempt excited by the work, apparently so insignificant, but which is not the less the work of God; and which pursues it in spite of the hatred and opposition of enemies, and the faintheartedness of fellow-laborers (ch. 4:8,10-11); a perseverance which, giving itself up entirely to the work, baffles all the intrigues of the enemy, and avoids every snare, God taking care of those who trust in Him.
It is also a beautiful feature in Nehemiah’s character, that in spite of his high office he had all the detail of service so much at heart, and all that concerned the upright walk of God’s people.
In the midst, however, of all this faithfulness, we perceive the influence of the Gentile power controlling the whole state of things. Nehemiah’s arrival and even his conduct are marked with this influence. It was not faith alone that was in action, but a protecting power also. (Compare Ezra 8:22 and Nehemiah 2:7-9.) Nevertheless, the separation from all that was not Jewish is carefully maintained (ch. 2:20; 7:65; 9:2; 10:30; 13:1,3,29-30).
Faith stamps its own character on all surrounding it
This history shows us, first of all, how, when God acts, faith stamps its own character on all who surround it. The Jews, who had so long left Jerusalem desolate, are quite disposed to recommence the work. Judah, however, is discouraged by the difficulties. This brings out the perseverance which characterizes true faith when the work is of God, be it ever so poor in appearance. The whole heart is in it, because it is of God. Encouraged by Nehemiah’s energy, the people are ready to work and fight at the same time. For faith always identifies God and His people in the heart. And this becomes a spring of devotedness in all concerned.
Let us remark, that in times of difficulty faith does not show itself in the magnificence of the result, but in love for God’s work, however little it may be, and in the perseverance with which it is carried on through all the difficulties belonging to this state of weakness; for that with which faith is occupied, is the city of God and the work of God, and these things have always the same value, whatever may be the circumstances in which they are found.

Nehemiah 7

The city walls rebuilt; the people numbered
God blesses the labors of the faithful Nehemiah, and Jerusalem is once more encompassed by walls; a less touching condition than when the city of God was defended by the altar of God, which was a testimony to His presence and to the faith of those who erected it; but a condition that proved the faithfulness and loving-kindness of God, who, nevertheless, while outwardly reestablishing them, revoked no part of the judgment pronounced on His people and His city. He who rebuilt the walls was but the vicegerent of a foreign king; and it was the security of the people, and that which uprightness of heart required of them to acknowledge this; and it was done (ch. 9:37). Still, God blesses them. Nehemiah recurs to the numbering of the people, according to the register of their genealogies that was drawn up at their first return from captivity, an already distant period. Thus the people are again placed in their cities.

Nehemiah 8

The law resumes its authority
By means of Ezra and Nehemiah, the law resumes its authority, and that at the people’s own request, for God had prepared their hearts. Accordingly, God had gathered them together on the first day of the seventh month. It was really the trumpet of God, although the people were unconscious of it, that gathered them to this new moon, which shone again in grace, whatever might be the clouds that veiled its feeble light. The people’s hearts were touched by the testimony of the law, and they wept. But Nehemiah and Ezra bade them rejoice, for the day was holy. Doubtless these men of God were right. Since God was restoring His people, it became them to rejoice and give thanks.
The feast of tabernacles kept with great gladness
The second day, continuing to search into the holy book, they found that Israel ought to keep a feast on the fifteenth day of the same month. On restoration from chastening, when the church finds itself again before God, it often happens that precepts are recollected, which had been long forgotten and lost during the apparently better days of God’s people; and with the precepts, the blessing that attends their fulfillment is recovered also. Since the days of Joshua, the children of Israel had not followed these ordinances of the law. What a lesson! This feast of tabernacles was kept with great gladness,1 a touching expression of the interest with which God marked the return of His people; a partial return, it is true, and soon beclouded (and even the hope to which it gave rise entirely destroyed by the rejection of the Messiah, who should have been its crown), yet of great value, as the firstfruits in grace of that restoration which will accompany Israel’s turning of heart to Christ, as manifested by their saying, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of Jehovah!” The gladness was sincere and real; but everything was imperfect. The tenth day had not its antitype. Israel’s humiliation had, as yet, no connection with that death which at once filled up their iniquity, and atoned for it. Their joy was well founded. It was yet but transient.
(1. The feast of tabernacles was the celebration of their rest and possession of the land after passing through the wilderness. The booths marked that they had been under tents as pilgrims.)

Nehemiah 9-11

Heartfelt repentance; under the law
On the twenty-fourth day, the people came together to humble themselves in a manner that became their position, and they separated themselves from all strangers. Beginning with the blessing promised to Abraham, they relate all the tokens of God’s grace bestowed upon Israel, the frequent unfaithfulness of which they had afterwards been guilty, and there is a true expression of heartfelt repentance; they acknowledge without any disguise their condition (ch. 9:36-37), and undertake to obey the law (ch. 10), to separate themselves entirely from the people of the land, and faithfully to perform all that the service of the house of God required.
A conditional and Mosaic restoration looked for under Gentile dominion
All this gives a very distinct character to their position. Acknowledging the promise made to Abraham, and the bringing in of the people to Canaan by virtue of this promise, and their subsequent failure, they place themselves again under the obligations of the law, while confessing the goodness of God who had spared them. They do not see beyond a conditional and Mosaic restoration. Neither the Messiah nor the new covenant has any place as the foundation of their joy or of their hope. They are, and they continue to be, in bondage to the Gentiles.
This was Israel’s condition until, in the sovereign mercy of God, the Messiah was presented to them. The Messiah could have brought them out of their position and gathered them under His wings, but they would not.
It is this position that the Book of Nehemiah definitely brought out. It is the king’s commandment that provides for the maintenance of the singers. A Jew was at the king’s hand in all matters concerning the people (ch. 11:23-24).

Nehemiah 12-13

The dedication of the walls; unfaithfulness and recovery
by the written Word; order and cleansing reestablished
We have already seen that gladness was the portion of the people; a joy which acknowledged God, for God had preserved the people and had blessed them. But the princes of the people had immediately relapsed into unfaithfulness; and during Nehemiah’s absence the chambers of the temple, in which the offerings had been formerly kept, were given up to Tobiah, that subtle and persevering enemy of God’s people. But at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem the joy of the people and the faithfulness of Nehemiah brought them back to the written Word, and Israel separated themselves again from the mixed multitude. Tobiah’s stuff is cast out of the chamber prepared for him in the temple. The observance of the Sabbath is again enforced. Those who had married strange wives, and whose children spake partly the language of strangers and partly that of the Jews, are put under the curse and sharply rebuked and chastised. The order and the cleansing, according to the law, are reestablished, and this leading thought of the book, as to the people’s condition, closes the narrative.
That which we have said will give an idea of the great principle of this book.
I will add a few more remarks in this place.
The Jews’ position in the land till the coming of the Messiah
The Book of Nehemiah places Israel, or rather the Jews, in the position they were to hold in their land until the coming of the Messiah; separate from the nations, faithful in keeping the law, but deprived of the privileges which had belonged to them as the people of God; under the yoke of the Gentiles, capable of rendering unto God the things that were God’s, but deprived of His presence in their midst, as they had formerly enjoyed it in the temple; and, finally, bound to render unto Caesar the things that were Caesar’s. When the Messenger of the covenant came (the Son of God, who could have cleansed the temple and placed the glory there), they received Him not; and they continue under the burden of the consequences of this rejection. This is now their condition until the coming of Christ.
Nehemiah’s faith connected with God’s government
It is this which gives to the Book of Nehemiah its importance. Nehemiah’s faith embraced those promises of God which were connected with His government-such, for instance, as those contained in Leviticus 26. But his faith went no farther. (See chapter 1.) There was blessing upon this faith, and it accomplished the purposes of God; but it left Israel where they were. The precious phrase, “His mercy endureth forever,” is not found in this book. Nehemiah’s faith did not rise so high. He is himself the servant of the Gentiles, and he acknowledges them. Such trust in God as is expressed in the words just quoted was linked with the altar and the temple, where Jehovah was everything to faith, and the Gentiles nothing, except as enemies (Ezra 3-4).
Immediate blessing, but no prophetic future
Although it leaves the Jews in a much better condition than that in which they had previously stood, through the good hand of God upon them for immediate blessing, yet the Book of Nehemiah has no prophetic future, no future for faith.1 The Jews are still Loammi (not my people). The presence of God, sitting between the cherubim, was not with them; nor could it be, seeing that God had removed the throne into the midst of the Gentiles. I speak of His presence in the temple, the habitation of His glory. Set thus in blessing and under responsibility, the Messiah’s coming was to put everything to the proof. The result disclosed an empty house, swept and garnished, from which the unclean spirit had gone out, but in which there was nothing. The unclean spirit will return, and others worse than himself with him. Having rejected Christ, this unhappy people will receive the Antichrist; but this was only manifested by the coming of Christ.
(1. And where faith was not, and they had inwardly departed from God, their legal exactitude without grace in the heart became narrowness of heart and hypocrisy. Scrupulousness is not uprightness.)
The prophecies of Zechariah and Haggai connected with Zerubbabel’s work; the altar the means of blessing
In Nehemiah the people are only set, meanwhile, in this place of blessing. The prophecies of Zechariah and Haggai are connected with the work of Zerubbabel, and not with that of Nehemiah; with the simple faith that reared the altar as the means of blessing and safety. There (Zech. 1:16) Jehovah could say that He had returned to Jerusalem with mercies; but it is “after the glory” that He will come to dwell there (ch. 2:8-13). The prophecy encourages them by blessing, and promises them the coming of Christ, and the presence of Jehovah at a still future period. Chapter 8 of the same prophet connects these two things together to encourage the people to walk uprightly; but it will be seen in reading it that the fulfillment is there clearly marked as taking place at the end of the age, the rejection of Christ (ch. 11) becoming the occasion of the judgments that were to fall upon them, and to give occasion, in a still more striking manner, for that sovereign grace which will use the power of the rejected Messiah for the deliverance of His people, when they are utterly ruined in consequence of their sin.
The prophecy of Malachi, which was uttered after this, declares and denounces the corruption already brought in after the blessing restored in a measure by mercy; and the coming of Jehovah in judgment.
To these remarks it may be added, that neither in Zechariah nor in Haggai does the Lord call the people, My people. It is said, prophetically, that this shall be the case in the time to come, in the latter days, when Christ shall come to establish His glory. But the judgment pronounced in Hosea has never been revoked, and there is not one expression used that could gainsay it.
The people in the land that the Messiah may be presented to them
The Book of Nehemiah gives us, then, the partial and outward reestablishment of the Jews in the land, without either the throne of God or the throne of David, while waiting for the manifestation of the Messiah, and His coming to seek for the fruit of so much grace; in a word, their restoration, in order that He may be presented to them. The people are provisionally in the land, on God’s part, but under the power of the Gentiles who possess the throne.


The condition of the people in the land till Christ’s coming as shown by Nehemiah
The Book of Nehemiah has shown us Judah reinstated in the land, but deprived of the presence of God, except as to general blessing, and unacknowledged by God as His people; so that, whatever length of time may elapse, their condition leads us morally up to the moment when the Messiah should be presented to seal up prophecy, to finish the transgression, and to bring in everlasting righteousness. That book gave us the last word-until the coming of Christ-of the history of Israel; and that, in grace and patience on God’s part.
The Jews’ position out of the land but under God’s hand shown in Esther
The Book of Esther shows us the position of Israel, or, to speak more accurately, the position of the Jews, out of their own land, and looked at as under the hand of God, and as the object of His care. That He still cared for them (which this book proves to us), when they no longer held any position owned of God, and had, on their part, lost all title to His protection, is an extremely touching and important fact in the dealings of God. If, when His people are in such a state as this, God cannot reveal Himself to them-which is manifest-He yet continues to think of them. God reveals to us here, not an open interposition on His part in favor of His people, which could no longer take place, but that providential care which secured their existence and their preservation in the midst of their enemies. Those who were in danger were of the captivity of Judah (ch. 2:5-6), and of those who had not returned to the land of Canaan. If this betrays a want of faith and energy on their part, and of affection for the house and city of God, we must see in it so much the greater proof of the absolute and sovereign goodness, absolute and sovereign faithfulness, of that God Himself.
God’s secret, sovereign and unfailing care
We see then in this history, the secret and providential care that God takes of the Jews, when, although maintaining their position, as Jews, they have entirely fallen from all outward relation to Him, are deprived of all the rights of God’s people, and are stripped of the promises, in the fulfillment of which, as offered them by the mercy of God at that time in Jerusalem, they take no interest. Even in this condition God watches over and takes care of them-a people beloved and blessed in spite of all their unfaithfulness; for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. This, when well weighed, gives this book a very touching and instructive character. It is the sovereign unfailing care of God, come what will, and shows the place which this people hold in His mind.
It has been often remarked that the name of God is not found in the Book of Esther. This is characteristic. God does not show Himself. But, behind the power and the mistakes of that throne to which the government of the world had fallen, God holds the reins by His providence; He watches over the accomplishment of His purposes and over everything necessary to their fulfillment; and He cares for His people, whatever may be their condition or the power of their enemies. Happy people! (Compare, as to Israel, Jeremiah 31:20.)
God’s government and sovereignty over the dispersed Jews
It is to be noticed that faith in the protection of God, and an acknowledgment of it, are to be found even when the dealings of God, with respect to His promises, are not owned. We are speaking of God’s government, and not of salvation. Salvation is not the question here. The Gentile reigns and does according to his will, taking at his pleasure one of the daughters of Benjamin for his wife. Sad condition, indeed, for the people of God! A position contrary to all divine law, to all faithfulness under other circumstances, but here not leading even to expostulation. The people of Israel are lost here as to their own state. But God acts in His sovereignty, and makes use of this sorrowful evidence of their position to preserve them from the destruction with which they were threatened.
Nehemiah unfolds the last relationship of God with the people before the coming of the Messiah; a relationship of long-suffering, in which God does not own them as His people; a provisional and imperfect relationship. Esther teaches us that God watches in sovereignty over the dispersed Jews, and preserves them even without any outward relationship, and that, without revoking any part of the judgment passed upon them, God shelters them without displaying Himself, and consequently by hidden means.
It was this that, as a matter of history, had yet to be made known before the public interposition of God at the end, in the Person of Messiah, which prophecy alone could reveal.
God’s interposition and His ways shown in connection with the earth
This interposition appears to me to be pointed out in the circumstances of this history; vaguely, indeed, yet clearly enough for one who has traced the ways of God, as revealed in the Word. We see the Gentile wife set aside on account of her disobedience, and her having failed in displaying her beauty to the world; and she is succeeded by a Jewish wife, who possesses the king’s affections. We see the audacious power of Haman, the Gentile, the oppressor of the Jews, destroyed; and the Jew, the protector of Esther, Mordecai, formerly despised and disgraced, raised to glory and honor in place of the Gentile. All this, be it remembered, is in connection with the earth.
The hidden hand of God
Finally, in the details of this book there is a very interesting point, namely, the providential means which God employed, the opportuneness of the moment at which everything happens- even to the king’s wakefulness, showing, in the most interesting manner, how the hidden hand of God prepares and directs everything, and how those who seek His will may rely upon Him at all times and under all circumstances, even when deliverance appears impossible, and in spite of all the machinations of the enemy and their apparent success.
Mordecai a type of the Lord
The close of the book presents, historically, the great characteristic facts of the dominion of the Gentiles; but one can hardly fail to see in it typically, in the position of Mordecai, the Lord Himself as head of the Jews, in closest connection with the throne that rules over all.
The appropriate circumstances of the book
The very circumstances into which this book enters are appropriate. When an acknowledged relationship subsists, the dealings of God are according to the conduct of those who stand in this relationship; but here there is no such relationship subsisting. The scene is filled, and rightly filled, with heathen circumstances and heathen manners. Israel is as lost among them, their conduct does not come forward; but their preservation, where to the eye of man heathenism is everything, and their enemies seemingly all powerful. This is all in place. Any other picture would not have been the truth, nor given the true representation of the state of things, nor brought out into their true light the dealings of God.
It will be easily understood that this book concludes the deeply interesting series of the historical books, which, through the goodness of God, we have been considering, exhibiting-as far as there has been ability-their leading features. May the Spirit, who has enabled us to enjoy that which God has deigned to reveal in them, continue to instruct us while meditating on those books which we have still to examine!


The difference between the Old and New Testaments as to the knowledge of redemption and of a Redeemer
The Chetubim, or Hagiographa, in which I do not now comprehend Daniel (though his book has a character distinct from the other prophets) form a very distinct and interesting part of divine revelation. None of them suppose an accomplished and known redemption, in the New Testament sense of the word, though like every blessing all is founded on it. In Job a single passage gives a particular application of the term: “I have found a ransom” (Copher). The Psalms recount we know, prophetically, the sorrows and sufferings in which it was accomplished.
But redemption by blood is known by faith, when accomplished, whether by the Jew or the Christian. Isaiah prophesies of Israel’s recognition of it fully. There were also, as we know, shadows of it under the law. But the knowledge of eternal redemption is Christian knowledge, or that of the Jews when they look on Him whom they pierced. Till Christ’s death, the veil was unrent, the holiest unapproachable. There was knowledge more or less clear of a Redeemer-of a personal Redeemer to come; of God’s favor towards those that walked with Him, and the confidence of faith in Him and in His promises. But there was no such knowledge of sin as led, God being revealed, to the consciousness of exclusion from His presence as a present state, nor of such a putting of it away as reconciled us fully and forever to God by its efficacy, and brought us to Him.
The poetical books: the divinely given expression of man’s thoughts and feelings under God’s government
The books we are treating of are not prophecies of God’s dealings or actings, save as the Psalms express future deliverance by power and by God’s judgments; but they are the divinely given expression of man’s thoughts and feelings under the government of God,1 and the explanatory revelation of God before redemption is fully known. This process has mainly gone on in Israel; and hence they are in the main the various expression of God’s ways with Israel. Still what was carried out there, under revealed conditions and prophetic communications in direct government, was what was in principle true of God’s ways everywhere, though there specially displayed (the question of man’s positive righteousness being raised too there by the law, the perfect rule of life for the sons of Adam).
(1. And these pass into what Christ’s were in His humiliation and sufferings, and thus become prophecies of His sufferings, but in the form of His feelings under them, and this of infinite price to us.)
The scope of the Book of Job
The Book of Job affords us the example of the relationship of a godly man outside and doubtless before Israel, and God’s dealings with men for good in this world of evil; but then it runs up, I doubt not, into a clear type of Israel in result. Those ways are fully displayed in that people. And it is to be remarked that, when Job practically feels the impossibility of man’s being righteous with God, he complains of fear and having no daysman between them; and Elihu, who takes up this ground in God’s stead, explains not redemption but chastising and government. These things God wrought oftentimes with man (ch. 33; 36).
Ecclesiastes: Can fallen man find happiness and rest in this world without redemption?
Ecclesiastes estimates this world under the same government, in its present fallen state, and raises the question whether by any means man can find happiness and rest there, with no trace of the knowledge of redemption. Nor is there any recognized relationship with God. It is always Elohim (God), never Jehovah, fearing God and keeping His commandments being the whole duty of man as such.
The standpoint of the Song of Solomon and of Proverbs
The Song of Solomon affords direct relationship with the Lord, the Son of David, the ardent affections which belong to the relationship with Christ; Proverbs, a guidance through the mixed and entangled scene, and here all is on the ground of relationship with Jehovah, God (Elohim) being only once or twice mentioned in a way which does not affect this. (See more fully note to page 35.) But none place themselves on the ground of known redemption. They do look for redemption by power. Hence, on the contrary, Romans begins with the revelation of wrath from heaven, not government, against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness where truth was, against Gentile and Jew,1 and brings in redemption, personal justification, and righteousness-God’s righteousness. The case of Gentile and Jew is fully gone into, and brought out as before God Himself, and wrath from heaven the necessary consequence; complete redemption by blood for heaven, and sovereign grace reigning through righteousness and giving us a place with the Second Adam, the Lord from heaven, together with the result for Israel hereafter. All is made clear in the light as God is in the light-His eternal redemption, and heavenly places, though finally earth will be blessed. But we are pilgrims and strangers here. This is our place by redemption itself. To the Abrahams and Davids it was so, by getting nothing of what was promised, or else persecution under the government of God upon the earth; so that under that order of things it was after all a puzzle to both, though the final inheritance of the land, the heir, and the judgment of the wicked, known by revelation, met the puzzle in their minds.
(1. And note here Psalm 14, which he quotes as proof of sin in the Jew, and Isaiah 59, both end in deliverance in Jerusalem by power. In Romans it is met by present justification by blood.)
Eternal relationship and present, known redemption unknown and unfound in Job, Psalms and the other poetical books
But in Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, which express men’s feelings under it, this puzzle is fully manifested. Faith and confidence in God may get over it, or persevere through it; prophetic testimonies may meet it; but it is there, and this earth is the scene of the reply of God, even if their faith might be sometimes forced to rise above it, nourished by personal confidence in God. But a present fixed eternal relationship with God even our Father through redemption, in a wholly new scene into which we are brought by that precious blood, whose shedding has glorified God Himself, and reconciled us to Him, though yet in an unredeemed body-that was unknown. Much was learned, learned as to God, and this was most precious. But the actual result for Job was more camels and sheep, and fairer daughters; in the Psalms, judgment of enemies, and deliverance through mercy that endured forever, and an earth set free under heaven’s judicial rule; in Ecclesiastes, as to the perception of the present effect of government, that man must fear God, keep His commandments, and leave it there. Present known redemption is nowhere found. And oh what a difference, an unbounded difference, this makes! “As he is, so are we in this world.” He who redeemed us is gone to His Father and our Father, His God and our God. Proverbs and the Song of Solomon have, as I have said, another character, though referring to the same scene: Proverbs, not man’s feelings in the scene, but God’s guidance through it by the experience and wisdom of divinely instructed authority;1 and the Song of Solomon, the carrying the heart quite out of it all, though still in it, not by known redemption, but by devoted affection to Messiah, and of Messiah to Israel, by the revelation He makes of Himself, indeed of His love to them to beget it in Israel’s heart.
(1. It will much help the reader as to the character of this book and Ecclesiastes to remark, that in Proverbs the name Jehovah is always employed, save in chapter 25:2, where it is “Elohim,” and “her God,” chapter 2:17. But this is not an exception: that is, it is recognized relationship with the revealed God of Israel. Whereas in Ecclesiastes Jehovah is never found. It is always Elohim, the abstract name of God without any idea of relationship: God as such in contrast with man and every creature, and man having to find out experimentally his true place and happiness as such, without special revealed relationship with God. In Job the editor, if I may so speak, or historian who gives the dialogues, always uses Jehovah; but in the body of the book Job, unless at any rate once as to the government of God (ch. 12:9), and Elihu constantly, use the name of Almighty, the Abrahamic name of God, or simply God. The friends generally use God, or particularly Eliphaz the Almighty, sometimes it is only, He. Zophar, I think, uses no name. The dialogue is characterized by God or Almighty. )
These exercises of heart have their place in us now, for we are in the world; but in the consciousness of accomplished redemption and the present care of a holy Father, the perfection of whose ways, as seen in Christ, is the model of our conduct. We can take joyfully the spoiling of our goods, knowing in ourselves that we have in heaven a better and an enduring substance; and glory in tribulation, because it works its needed end, and the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us. This is another case, and a blessed one it is.
I think these general remarks will help us to understand the books which are now about to occupy us. I turn to the books themselves.
Job, the upright and righteous man, put to the test, his exercises and God’s dealings
After what I have said, the Book of Job will not require a long examination-not that it fails in interest, but because when the general idea is once laid hold of, it is the detail which is interesting, and detail is not our present object.
In the Book of Job we have one portion of those exercises of heart which this division of the holy book supplies. These are not joyful exercises, but those of a heart which, journeying through a world in which the power of evil is found, and not being dead to the flesh, not having that divine knowledge which the gospel furnishes, not dead as to one’s self with Christ nor possessing Christ in resurrection, is not capable of enjoying in peace, whatever its own conflicts may be, the fruit of God’s perfect love; but which struggles with the evil or with the non-enjoyment of the only real good, even while desiring to possess it; while, by the means of these very revelations, the light of Christ is cast upon these exercises, and the sympathy and entering of His Spirit in grace into them practically is touchingly developed. What is learned in them is what we are-not committed sins; that was not Job’s case, but the soul itself is put before God.

Job 1-2

In Job we have man put to the test; we might say, with our present knowledge, man renewed by grace, an upright man and righteous in his ways, in order to show whether he can stand before God in presence of the power of evil, whether he can be righteous in his own person before God. On the other hand, we find the dealings of God, by which He searches the heart and gives it the consciousness of its true state before Him.
Job and his accuser before God
All this is so much the more instructive, from its being set before us independent of all dispensations, of all especial revelation on God’s part. It is the godly man, such as one of Noah’s descendants would be, who had not lost the knowledge of the true God, when sin was again spreading in the world and idolatry was setting in; but the Judge was there to punish it. Job was encompassed with blessings and possessed real piety. Satan, the accuser of the servants of God, goes to and fro in the earth seeking occasion for evil, and presents himself before Jehovah among His mighty angels, the “Bene-Elohim”: and God states the case of Job, the subject of His government in blessing, faithful in his walk.
Satan as God’s instrument
It is carefully to be remarked here, that the spring and source of all these dealings is not Satan’s accusations, but God Himself. God knew what His servant Job needed, and Himself brings forward his case and sets all in movement. If He demands of Satan if he had considered His servant Job, it is because He Himself had. Satan is but an instrument, and an ignorant though subtle instrument, to bring about God’s purposes of grace. His accusations result really in nothing as against Job, save to disprove their truth by what he is allowed to do; but, for Job’s good, he is left to his will up to a certain point, for the purpose of bringing Job to a knowledge of his own heart, and thus to a deeper ground of practical relationship with God. How blessed and perfect are God’s ways! How vain in result the efforts of Satan against those that are His!
God as Job’s justifier
Satan attributes the piety of Job to God’s manifest favor and to his prosperity, to the hedge He had put around him. God gives all this into the hands of Satan, who speedily excites the cupidity of Job’s enemies; and they attack him and carry off all his possessions. His children perish through the effects of a storm which Satan is allowed to raise. But Job, dwelling neither on the instruments employed nor on Satan, receives this bitter cup from the hand of God without murmuring. Satan suggests again that man will, in fact, give up everything if he can preserve himself. God leaves everything to Satan except the life of His servant. Satan smites Job with a dreadful disease; but Job bows under the hand of God, fully recognizing His sovereignty. Satan had exhausted his means of injuring Job, and we hear nothing more of him; but it is beautiful to see that God has hereby completely justified Job from the accusation of Satan. Job was no hypocrite. He had lost all to which Satan traced his piety, and it shone forth brighter than ever. Satan can trace the motives which work in flesh, the evil in man’s heart which he excites; but grace in God, His uncaused love, and grace in man which trusts in and leans on it, he cannot measure, nor know the power of.

Job 3

Job’s want of knowledge of his own heart and of God
But the depths of Job’s heart were not yet reached, and to do this was the purpose of God, whatever Satan’s thoughts may have been. Job did not know himself, and up to this time, with all his piety, he had never been in the presence of God. How often it is the case that even throughout a long life of piety the conscience has never been really set before God! Hence peace, such peace as cannot be shaken, and real liberty, are not known as yet. There is a desire after God, there is the new nature; the attraction of His grace has been felt: nevertheless God and His love, as it really is, are not known. If Satan is foiled (the grace of God having kept Job’s heart from murmuring) God has yet His own work to accomplish. That which the tempest that Satan had raised against Job failed in doing, is brought about by the sympathy of his friends. Poor heart of man! The uprightness and even the patience of Job had been manifested, and Satan had no more to say. But God alone can search out what the heart really is before Him; and the absence of all self-will, perfect agreement with the will of God, absolute submission like that of Christ, these things God alone could test, and thus lay bare the nothingness of man’s heart before Him. God did this with Job; revealing at the same time that He acts in grace in these cases for the good of the soul which He loves.
Job’s self-satisfaction; the pride of his heart
If we compare the language of the Spirit of Christ in the Psalms, we shall often find the appreciation of circumstances expressed in almost identical terms; but instead of bitter complaints and reproaches addressed to God, we find the submission of a heart which acknowledges that God is perfect in all His ways. Job was upright, but he began to make this his righteousness; which evidently proves that he had never been really in the presence of God. The consequence of this was that, although he reasoned more correctly than his friends, and showed a heart that felt really far more than they what God was, he attributed injustice to God and a desire to harass him without cause. (See chapter 19, 23:3,13, 13:15-18 and 16:12.) We find also in chapter 29 that his heart had dwelt upon his upright and benevolent walk with complacency, commending himself, and feeding his self-love with it. “When the eye saw me, it gave witness to me.” God was bringing him to say, “Now mine eye seeth Thee and I abhor myself.” It is with these chapters (ch. 29-31), which express his good opinion of himself, that Job ends his discourse; he had told his whole heart out. He was self-satisfied the grace of God had wrought and in a lovely way in him; but the present effect through the treacherousness of the human heart, and not being in God’s presence which detects it, was to make him lovely in his own eyes. If (ch. 9) he confesses man’s iniquity (for who can deny it, and especially what converted man?), it is in bitterness of spirit, because it is useless to attempt being just with such a God. Chapter 6, as well as the whole of his discourse, proves that, whether it was the pride of his heart which could not bear to be found in such a state by those who had known his greatness, a state which pride would have borne in stubbornness alone, or sympathy which, in weakening that had left him to the full sense of it, it was the presence and the language of his friends that was the means of bringing out all that was in his heart. We see also in chapter 30 that the pride of his heart was detected.

Job 4-31

Job’s friends; their ignorance of God and His ways
As to the friends of Job, they do not call for any extended remarks. They urge the doctrine that God’s earthly government is a full measure and manifestation of His righteousness, and of the righteousness of man, which would correspond with it a doctrine which proves a total ignorance of what God’s righteousness is, and of His ways; as well as the absence of all real knowledge of what God is, or man as a sinner. We do not see either that the feelings of their hearts were influenced by communion with God. Their argument is a false and cold estimate of the exact justice of His government as an adequate manifestation of His relationship with man, though they say many true commonplace things which even the Spirit of God adopts as just. Although Job was not before God in his estimate of himself, he judges rightly in these respects. He shows that although God shows His disapprobation of the wicked, yet the circumstances in which they are often found overthrow the arguments of his friends. We see in Job a heart which, although rebellious, depends upon God, and would rejoice to find Him. We see, too, that when he can extricate himself, by a few words, from his friends, who, he is quite sensible, understand nothing of his case, nor of the dealings of God, he turns to God (although he does not find Him, and although he complains that His hand is heavy upon him), as in that beautiful and touching chapter 23, and the reasonings as to divine government, chapters 24 and 21. That is to say, we see one who has tasted that God is gracious, whose heart, wounded indeed and unsubdued, yet claims those qualities for God-because it knows Him- which the cold reasonings of his friends could not ascribe to Him; a heart which complains bitterly of God, but which knows that, could it once come near Him, it would find Him all that it had declared Him to be, and not such as they had declared Him to be, or were themselves-could he find Him, he would not be as they were, He would put words in his mouth; a heart which repelled indignantly the accusation of hypocrisy; for Job was conscious that he looked to God, and that he had known God and acted with reference to Him, though God thought fit to bring his sin to remembrance.

Job 32-37

Elihu: Job’s self-righteousness reproved; God’s ways explained and His power insisted upon
But these spiritual affections of Job did not prevent his turning this consciousness of integrity into a robe of self-righteousness which hid God from him, and even hid him from himself. He declares himself to be more righteous than God (ch. 10:7-8; 16:14-17; 23:11-13; 27:2-6). Elihu reproves him for this, and on the other hand explains the ways of God. He shows that God visits man and chastises him, in order that when subdued and broken down-if there is one who can show him the point of moral contact between his soul and God, in which his soul would stand in truth before Him1-God may act in grace and blessing, and deliver him from the evil that oppresses him. Elihu goes on to show him that, if God chastises, it is becoming in man to set himself before God to learn wherein he has done wrong: in short, that the ways of God are right, that He withdraws not His eyes from the righteous, but if they are in affliction He shows them their transgressions, and if they return to Him in obedience when He opens their ear to discipline, He will give them prosperity; but that the hypocrite shall perish. The first case which Elihu brings forward (ch. 33) is God’s dealings with men. He awakens their consciences to their state, and puts His bridle on the pride and self-will of man. God chastises and humbles him. The second is specially with the righteous (ch. 36), the case of positive transgression but in one righteous in God’s sight, from whom He withdraws not His eyes, in whom He allowed not iniquity; but in the first case he was in the path of destruction. It was this case2 which needed the interpreter to place him in uprightness before God. Finally, he insists upon the incomprehensible power of God Almighty.
(1. This is a very important point. God can bless in a direct manner with the light of His grace, when the soul is brought into its true place, to what it really is in His sight. Then, whatever its state may be, He can bless it, in respect of that state, with increased light and grace. If I have got far from Him, and careless in walk, when I have the consciousness how far I am, He can fully and directly bless. But the soul must be brought into the recognition of its state, or there would be no real blessing; I should not see God in unison with it. For its sensible state did not answer to its real state in God’s sight.)
(2. In this case it may be a first conviction of sin, or the knowledge of self where self has never been really judged, as was Job’s case.)

Job 38-42

Jehovah Himself speaks; Job made to know himself
Jehovah then speaks, and addressing Job, carries on the subject. He makes Job sensible of his nothingness. Job confesses himself to be vile, and declares that he will be silent before God. The Lord resumes the discourse, and Job acknowledges that he has darkened counsel by speaking of that which he understood not. But now, still more submissively, he declares openly his real condition. Formerly he had heard of God by the hearing of the ear; now his eye had seen Him, wherefore he abhors himself and repents in dust and ashes. This is the effect of having seen God, and of finding himself in His presence. The work of God was accomplished-the work of His perfect goodness, which would not leave Job without causing him to know himself, without bringing him into God’s own presence. The object of discipline was attained, and Job is surrounded with more blessings than before.
The lessons of the Book of Job
We learn two things here; first, that man cannot stand in the presence of God; and secondly, the ways of God for the instruction of the inner man.
It is also a picture of God’s dealings with the Jews on the earth.
The place of Satan; God’s work
The Book of Job plainly sets before us also the teaching of the Spirit, as to the place which Satan occupies in the dealings of God and His government, with respect to man on the earth. We may also remark the perfect and faithful care of God, from whom (whatever may have been the malice of Satan) all this proceeded, because He saw that Job needed it. We observe that it is God who sets the case of Job before Satan, and that the latter disappears from the scene; because here it is a question of his doings on the earth, and not of his inward temptations. Further, if God had stopped short in the outward afflictions, Job would have had fresh cause for self-complacency. Man might have judged that those afflictions were ample. But the evil of Job’s heart consisted in his resting on the fruits of grace in himself, and this would have only increased the good opinion he had already entertained of himself: kind in prosperity, he would have been also patient in adversity. God therefore carries on His work, that Job may know himself.
The depths of Job’s heart displayed
Either the sympathy of his friends (for we can bear alone, and from God in His presence, that which we cannot bear when we have the opportunity of making our complaint before man), or the pride which is not roused while we are alone but which is wounded when others witness our misery, or perhaps the two together, upset the mind of Job; and he curses the day of his birth. The depths of his heart are displayed. It was this that he needed.
Job, humbled, can be fully blessed
We have thus, man standing between Satan, the accuser, and God, the question being not God’s revelation of everlasting righteousness, but His ways with the soul of man in this world. The godly man comes into trouble. This has to be accounted for, the friends insisting that this world is an adequate expression of God’s righteous government, and that consequently as Job had made great profession of piety he was a hypocrite. This he stoutly denies, but his will unbroken rises up against God. God has chosen to do it, and he cannot help it. Only he is sure if he could find Him, He would put words in his mouth. He spoke well of Him though in rebellion, and thinking of his goodness as his own. Still he affirms that though there was a government, this world did not show it as his friends said; but he is not broken down before God. Elihu comes in, the interpreter, one among a thousand (and practically how rare they are!) and he shows God’s discipline with man and with the righteous, and rebukes both sides with intelligence. Then God comes in and puts Job in his place by the revelation of Himself; but owns Job’s right feeling as to Him, and puts the friends in their true place, and Job is to intercede for them. Job, humbled, can be fully blessed. This knowledge of self in God’s sight is of all importance; we are never humble nor distrustful of self till then.


The character of the Book of Psalms
The Book of Psalms has evidently a peculiar character. It is not the history of God’s people, or of God’s ways with them, nor is it the inculcation of positive doctrines or duties, nor the formal prophetic announcement of coming events. Many important events, doubtless, are alluded to in them, and they are immediately connected with various prophetic revelations (as, indeed, with precepts and all the other parts of the divine Word to which I have just referred); but none of these form the true character of the book itself. The subjects too, of which the various parts of Scripture I refer to treat, necessarily find their place in the thoughts expressed in the Psalms. But the Psalms do not directly treat of them.
The Psalms as the expression of the hearts of God’s people and the work of the Spirit; the importance of rightly judging their true bearing and application
The Psalms are almost all the expression of the sentiments produced in the hearts of God’s people by the events (or I should speak more correctly if I said, prepared for them in the events), through which they pass, and indeed express the feelings, not only of the people of God, but often, as is known, those of the Lord Himself. They are the expression of the part the Spirit of God takes, as working in their hearts, in the sorrows and exercises of the saints. The Spirit works in connection with all the trials through which they pass, and the human infirmity which appears in those trials; in the midst of which it gives thoughts of faith and truth which are a provision for them in all that happens. We find in them consequently the hopes, fears, distress, confidence in God, which respectively fill the minds of the saints-sometimes the part which the Lord Himself takes personally in them, and that, occasionally, exclusive of all but Himself, the place which He has held that He might so sympathize with them. Hence a maturer spiritual judgment is required to judge rightly of the true bearing and application of the Psalms than for other parts of Scripture; because we must be able to understand what dispensationally gives rise to them, and judge of the true place before God of those whose souls’ wants are expressed in them; and this is so much the more difficult as the circumstances, state, and relationship with God, of the people whose feelings they express are not those in which we find ourselves. The piety they breathe is edifying for every time; the confidence they often express in God in the midst of trial has cheered the heart of many a tried servant of God in his own. This feeling is carefully to be preserved and cherished; yet it is for that very reason so much the more important that our spiritual judgment should recognize the position to which the sentiments contained in the Psalms refer, and which gives form to the piety which is found in them. Without doing this, the full power of redemption and the force of the gospel of the grace of God is lost for our own souls; and many expressions which have shocked the Christian mind, unobservant of their true bearing and application, remain obscure and even unintelligible.
The heart that places itself in the position described in the Psalms returns back to experiences which belong to a legal state, and to one under discipline for failure and trial in that state, and to the hopes of an earthly people. A legal and, for a Christian, unbelieving state is sanctioned in the mind: we rest content in a spiritual state short of the knowledge of redemption; and while we think to retain the Psalms for ourselves, we keep ourselves in a state of soul in which we are deprived of the intelligence of their true use and our own privileges, and become incapable of the real understanding of, and true delight in, the Psalms themselves; and, what is more, we miss the blessed and deeply instructive apprehension of the tender and gracious sympathies of Christ in their true and divinely given application. The appropriating spirit of selfishness does not learn Christ as He is, as He is revealed, and the loss is really great. There are comforts and ministrations of grace for a soul under the law in the Psalms, because they apply to those under the law (and souls in that state have been relieved by them); but to use them in order to remain in this state, and to apply them prominently to ourselves, is, I repeat, to misapply the Psalms themselves, lose the power of what is given to us in them, and deprive ourselves of the true spiritual position in which the gospel sets us. The difference is simple and evident. Relationship with the Father is not, cannot be, introduced in them, and we live out of that if we live in them, though obedience and confiding dependence be ever our right path.
The meaning and object of the Spirit of God in the Psalms
I purpose in this study of the Psalms to examine the book as a whole, and each of the psalms, so as to give a general idea of it. The most profitable manner of doing this (though the character of the Book of Psalms renders it more difficult here) will be, as I have attempted in the books we have already considered-to give the meaning and object of the Spirit of God, leaving the expression of the precious piety which it contains to the heart that alone is capable of estimating it, namely, one that feeds on Jesus through the grace of the Spirit of God.
The Psalms, and the workings of the Spirit of God expressed in them, belong properly in their application and true force to the circumstances of Judah and Israel, and are altogether founded on Israel’s hopes and fears: and, I add, to the circumstances of Judah and Israel in the last days, though as to the moral state of things those last days began with the rejection of Christ. The piety and confidence in God with which they are filled find an echo, no doubt, in every believing heart, but this exercise, as expressed here, is in the midst of Israel. This judgment, of which the truth is evidently demonstrated by the reading of the Psalms themselves, is sanctioned by the Apostle Paul. He says, after citing the Psalms, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law.”
Their primary character: the remnant and Christ Himself
The Psalms then concern Judah and Israel, and the position in which those who belong to Judah and Israel are found. Their primary character is the expression of the working of the Spirit of Christ as to, or in, the remnant of the Jews1 (or of Israel) in the last days. He enters into all their sorrows, giving expression to their confessions, their confidence of faith, their hopes, fears, thankfulness for deliverances obtained-in a word, to every exercise of their hearts in the circumstances in which they find themselves in the last days; so as to afford them the leading, the sanction, and the sympathy of the Spirit of Christ, and utterance to the working of that Spirit in them and even in Christ Himself. In addition to this, the Psalms present to us the place which Christ Himself when on earth took among them, in order to their having part in His sympathies, and to make their deliverance possible, and their confidence in God righteous, though they had sinned against Him. They do not, as the Epistles, reason on the efficacy of His work; but in the psalms which apply to Him, present His feeling in accomplishing it. They intimate to us also the place He took in heaven on His rejection, and ultimately on the throne of the kingdom; but, save His present exaltation (which is only mentioned as a fact necessary to introduce, and to give the full character to Israel’s ultimate deliverance), all that is revealed of the Lord in this His connection with Israel is expressed, not in narration, but in the utterance of His own feelings in regard to the place He is in, as is the case with the remnant themselves. This feature it is which gives its peculiar character and interest to the Psalms.
(1. This so distinctly characterizes the Psalms that there are very few indeed even of those which are prophetic of Christ, where the remnant is not found. In the second book they are not, because that element is distinctly presented as the primary subject in the first: the connection being moral through His entering into their sorrows in grace, this is easily understood. And it is necessary to remember this, to account for various passages in which they come in, though partly applicable to, or used by, Christ. See pages 59, 60 and 62.)
Christ entering into the full depths of suffering with and for His people
They teach us thus that Christ entered into the full depths of suffering which made Him the vessel of sympathizing grace with those who had to pass through them-and that as seeing and pleading with God in respect of them. In the path of His own humiliation, He got the tongue of the learned to know how to speak a word in season to him that was weary. They were sinners, could claim no exemption, count on no favor which could deliver and restore. They must, if He had not suffered for them, have taken the actual sufferings they had to undergo in connection with the guilt which left them in them without favor. But this was not God’s thought; He was minded to deliver them, and Christ steps in in grace. He takes the guilt of those that should be delivered. That was vicarious suffering as a substitute. And He places Himself in the path of perfect obedience and love in the sorrow through which they had to pass. As obedient, He entered into that sorrow so as to draw down, through the atonement, the efficacy of God’s delivering favor on those who should be in it, and be the pledge, in virtue of all this, of their deliverance out of it as standing thus for them, the sustainer of their hope in it, so that they should not fail.
Trial to bring the sense of guilt in a broken law and a rejected and crucified Messiah
Still they must pass through sorrow, according to the righteous ways of God, in respect of their folly and wickedness, and to purify them inwardly from it. Into all this sorrow Christ entered, as He also bore their sins, to be a spring of life and sustainer of faith to them in it, when the hand of oppression should be heavy without, and the sense of guilt terrible within, and hence no sense of favor, but that One who had assured to them and could convey this favor had taken up their cause with God, and passed through it for them. The full efficacy indeed of His work in their deliverance, in that one man’s dying for the nation, will not be known by them till they look on Him whom they have pierced. They are purposely left (and especially the remnant, because of their integrity; for the rest will join the idolatrous Gentiles for peace’s sake) in the depth of trial, which, as ways of God in government, brings them through grace to the sense of their guilt in a broken law and a rejected and crucified Messiah, that they may truly know what each of them is, and bow before an offended Jehovah in integrity of heart, and say, “Blessed be he that cometh in the name of Jehovah.”
The Psalms under law and under grace
But, though the deliverance and a better salvation be not to come till then, still, in virtue of the work wrought to effect it, Christ can sustain and lead on their souls to it; and that is just what is done in these Psalms. These are His language to, or rather in, their souls when they are in the trouble-sometimes the record of how He has learned it. Hence too, souls yet under the law find such personal comfort under them. Let not any soul, let me remark in passing, suppose that deep heart-interest in these sorrows of Christ is lost by passing from under the law to be under grace. There is immense gain. The difference is this- instead of using them merely selfishly (though surely rightly) for my own wants and sorrows, I, when under grace, enter in adoring contemplation and joyful love into all Christ’s sorrows, in the deeper competency given by His Spirit dwelling in me. I go back now in peace, as He is on high, and I trace with divinely given interest and understanding (whatever my measure) all the sorrows through which He passed when here, tracing this “path of life” in love to us across a world of sin and woe, glorifying God in it, through death itself, to the righteous glory in which He now is. Christ comforted His disciples in John 14, though not indeed as under law; but He says at the close, “If ye loved me, ye would rejoice because I said, I go unto the Father.” Under law the Psalms may comfort us in profitable distress; under grace we enjoy them as loving Christ and with divine intelligence.
The distinction between Christ and the remnant
But to return. The great foundation which had to be laid to make sympathy possible was, that Christ did not escape where the remnant of Israel will,1 because He must suffer the full penalty of the guilt and evil, or He could not righteously and for God’s glory deliver them. Thus Christ must pass personally fully through the sorrow as He did in spirit; and besides that, make atonement for the guilt. He passed through it, save in atonement work, near to God; and makes all the grace and favor of God towards Him, all that He found God to be for Him in sorrow, available, through the atonement, to those who should come to be in it, that they might thus have all the mind of God towards them in grace in that case to use when they found themselves in it, even though in darkness. If it be said, How can they when they have not yet learned that God is for them in the atonement? These Psalms, entering into every detail, are precisely the means of their doing so according to Isaiah 50, as already referred to. In truth, many Christians are in this state. They cling to promise, feel their sins, are comforted by hope, see the goodness of God, use the Psalms as suiting them, and do not know redemption nor peace.
(1. It is in the point of death that the sufferings of Christ, whether for righteousness’ sake, and that which He underwent to be able to sympathize with them when they suffer under the government of God, on the one hand, or atonement on the other-the latter prefigured in the burnt and sin offering (compare Hebrews 9), the former the expression and testing of perfectness in the meat offering-meet. Christ suffered onward up to death. Then He also made atonement for sin. Some of the remnant may suffer unto death, as faithful under the trials of this government; but then, like Christ, they will obtain a better resurrection. Of course, the atoning part is exclusively His.)
The Psalms, then, belong properly to Israel,1 and in Israel to the godly remnant. This is the first general principle, which the Word itself establishes for us, as we have seen stated by Paul: What they say, they say to those under the law.
(1. I here use Israel as contrasted with the assembly and Gentiles. We shall see Judah distinguished from Israel when we enter into details.)
The faithful remnant distinguished from the rest of the nation
In examining the Psalms themselves, we shall find other elements of this judgment, which are very clear and positive. The Psalms distinguish (Psa. 73) and commence by distinguishing (Psa. 1) the man who is faithful and godly, according to the law, from the rest of the nation. “The ungodly are not so,” nor shall they “stand . . . in the congregation of the righteous.” Indeed, Isaiah teaches the same truth doctrinally just as strongly.1 Their characteristic subject is the true believing remnant, the righteous in Israel (Psa. 16:3 and many others). It is, therefore, the portion and hope of Israel which are in view in them. In Psalm 1 This is definitely and distinctly presented. But it is the hope of a remnant, whose portion is from the commencement distinguished in the most marked way from that of the wicked.
(1. Compare Isaiah 48:22 and 57:21.)
The Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of prophecy, speaking in the Psalms
Again, it is evident (and it is the second general principle I would notice), that it is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of prophecy, which speaks. That is to say, it is the Spirit of Christ interesting Himself in the condition of the faithful remnant of Israel. This Spirit speaks of things to come as if they were present, as is always the case with the prophets. But this does not make it the less true that it is a spirit of prophecy which speaks of the future, and which in this respect often resumes its natural character. But if the Spirit of Christ is interested in the remnant of Israel, Christ’s own sufferings must be announced, which were the complete proof of that interest, and without which it would have been unavailing. And we find, in fact, the most touching expressions of the sufferings of Christ, not historically, but just as He felt then, expressed as by His own lips at the moment He endured them.1 It is always the Spirit2 of Christ that speaks, as taking part Himself in the affliction and grief of His people, whether it is by His Spirit in them or Himself for them, as the sole means in presence of the just judgment of God, of delivering a beloved though guilty people. Hence we see the beautiful fitness of the language of the Psalms in a point I shall touch upon farther on. In the psalms which speak properly of atonement Christ is alone, and thus His work is secured. In those which speak of sufferings not atoning in their nature, even though they go on up to death, parts may be found personally applicable to Christ, because He did personally and individually go through them, but in other parts of the same psalms the saints also are brought in because they will have a share in them, and thus His personal sufferings are presented to us, but His sympathy too is secured.
(1. Hence the intimacy of feeling and peculiar interest of the Psalms. They are the beating of the heart of Him, the history of whose circumstances, the embodying of whose life, in relationship with God and man, whose external presentation, in a word, and all God’s ways in respect of it, are found in the rest of Scripture.)
(2. Compare 1 Peter 1:11.)
Earthly deliverance sought; sins felt and confessed
Another principle connects itself with this, which gives the third great characteristic of the Psalms. The sins of the people would morally hinder the remnant’s having confidence in God in their distresses. Yet God alone can deliver them, and to Him they must look in integrity of heart.
We find both these points brought out: the distresses are laid before God, seeking for deliverance; and integrity is pleaded and the sins confessed at the very same time. Christ, having come into their sorrows, as we have seen, and made atonement, can lead them, in spite of their sins and about their sins, to God. They do not indeed know at first perhaps the full forgiveness, but they go in the sense of grace as led by Christ’s Spirit (and how many souls are practically in this state!),1 in expressions provided in these very Psalms, to the God of deliverances, confessing their sins also. They “take with them words and return to the Lord.” Forgiveness also is presented to them. The Spirit of Christ being livingly in them (that is, as a principle of life), and fixing the purpose of their heart, they can, through confessing their sin, plead unfeignedly their integrity and fidelity to God. But the thought of mercy everywhere precedes that of righteousness as their ground of hope. In substance, all this is true of every renewed soul who has not yet found liberty, the liberty obtained by known redemption. The Psalms, unless certain praises at the close of the book and the end of some others, are never the expression of this liberty: and even when the expression of it is found, it is that of earthly deliverance or forgiveness.
(1. The state of the prodigal till he met his father-the state of every soul, where the God who is light and love has been revealed in Christ; but redemption work, and acceptance in Him are not known-there is confidence, but not peace.)
The Psalms the expression of the Spirit of Christ in the Jewish remnant or in Christ as suffering for them
In sum, then, the Psalms are the expression of the Spirit of Christ, either in the Jewish remnant (or in that of all Israel), or in His own Person as suffering for them, in view of the counsels of God with respect to His elect earthly people. And since these counsels are to be accomplished more particularly in the latter days, it is the expression of the Spirit of Christ in this remnant in the midst of the events which will take place in those days, when God begins to deal again with His earthly people. The moral sufferings connected with those events have been more or less verified in the history of Christ on the earth; and whether in His life, or, yet more, in His death, He is linked with the interests and with the fate of this remnant. In Christ’s history, at the time of His baptism by John, He already identified Himself with those that formed this remnant; not with the impenitent multitude of Israel, but with the first movement of the Spirit of God in these “excellent of the earth,” which led them to recognize the truth of God in the mouth of John, and to submit to it. Now it is in this remnant that the promises made to Israel will be accomplished; so that, while only a remnant, their affections and hopes are those of the nation. On the cross, Jesus remained the only true faithful one before God in Israel-the personal foundation of the whole remnant that was to be delivered, as well as the accomplisher of that work on which their deliverance could be founded.
The threefold suffering of Christ during His life and on the cross
There are some further general observations on a point to which I have already alluded, which, while in a great measure they are drawn from the Psalms themselves, yet, through the light the Gospels also cast on it, may aid us in seeing the spirit of the whole book, and entering into the purport of many psalms in detail. I mean the sufferings of Christ. We have seen in general already that the book brings before us the remnant, its sorrows, hopes, and deliverance, and Christ’s association with them in all these. He has entered into their sorrows, will be their deliverer, and has wrought the atonement which lays the foundation of their deliverance, as it does of the deliverance of any living soul-but He died for that nation. Of course His own perfection shines out in this; but here we are to look for its connection with Israel and the earth, though His personal exaltation to heaven be mentioned, from which their final deliverance flows. We are not, however, to look for the mystery of the assembly, which at this time was hid in God, nor for Christ viewed in His associations with the assembly. The Psalms furnish most exquisitely all the earthly experiences of Christ and His people which the Spirit of Christ would bring before us. We must look to the New Testament (as in Philippians, for example, and elsewhere) to find the heavenly ones of those He has redeemed.
Now Christ passed through every kind of moral suffering the human heart can go through, was tempted in all points like as we are, sin apart. Nor can anything be more fruitful in its place (for it must not be too long dwelt on in itself, and entirely separated from the divine side of His character, or it becomes profitless or hurtful, because really fleshly sentiment), than to have the heart engaged in contemplating the sorrows of the blessed Redeemer. Never were any like His. But the Psalms will bring them before us, and I refrain from entering on them here. In these introductory remarks, I can only shortly refer to the principles on which, and the positions in which, He suffered. There are, I think, three. He suffered from man for righteousness and love, for the testimony He bore in that which was good, in which He bore testimony to, and revealed, God: He suffered from God for sin. These two distinct characters of suffering are very simple and plain to every believer’s mind. The third kind of suffering supposes somewhat more attention to Scripture. It is said of Jehovah’s ways with Israel, “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them.” This was (as to the last part, yet will be) most especially fulfilled in Christ, Jehovah come as man into the midst of Israel. But the sufferings of Israel, at least of the remnant of the Jewish portion of the people, take a peculiar character at the close. They are under the oppression of Gentile power, in the midst of utter iniquity in Israel, yet are characterized by integrity of heart (indeed, this is what makes them the remnant), but conscious of, for that very reason, and suffering under, the present general consequences of sin under the government of God and the power of Satan and death. The deliverance which frees them from it not being yet come, the weight of these things is on their spirits. Into this sorrow Christ has also fully entered.
Sufferings from man and from God
During His whole life, up even to death itself, He suffered from man for righteousness’ sake. (See, in connection with this, Psalm 11 and others.) Besides this, on the cross He suffered for sin, drank the cup of wrath for sin, the cup His Father had given Him to drink. But besides these two kinds of suffering He bore in His soul, at the close of His life (we may say from after the paschal supper), all the distress and affliction under which the Jews will come through the government of God-not condemnation, but still the consequence of sin. No doubt He had anticipated, and, so far felt it, as in John 12 The coming cross; but now He entered into it. It was, as to the point we are now on, as He said, apostate Israel’s hour then and the power of darkness. But He was still looking to His Father in the sense of faithfulness. Nor was He yet forsaken of God. He could still look to man’s watching with Him. What could watching do when divine wrath was upon Him? But the distinctive character of these kinds of suffering is clearly seen if we, as taught of God, weigh the psalms which speak of them respectively. Thus we shall see that, when He suffers from man, He looks, as speaking by His Spirit in and for Israel, for vengeance on man. Others too are then often seen to suffer with Him. When He suffers from God, He is wholly alone, and the consequences are unmingled blessing and grace. As to suffering from man, we can have the privilege of so suffering, having the fellowship of His sufferings. In suffering from God as under wrath, He did so that we might never have the least drop whatever of that cup; it would have been our everlasting ruin. In the sufferings He underwent under Satan’s power, and darkness, and death, when not yet actually drinking the cup of wrath, besides what was due to the majesty of God in view of this (see Hebrews 2:10), He suffered to sympathize with the Jews in their afflictions, which they come into through their integrity and yet in their sins. Every awakened soul under the law will find comfort in this. All these sufferings are entered into in the Psalms as to Christ and as to Israel. But the Jews passed into utter ruin, and loss of all the promises (save sovereign grace), and the remnant into their place of trial and sorrow as such, by the rejection of Messiah.
On the cross
It is to be remembered that, though all three principles of suffering are essentially different, and all very clear and important in their character, at the close of Christ’s life all coalesced and united in the sorrows of His last hours-save that I doubt not, in coming out of Gethsemane, the pressure of Satan’s power on His spirit had been gone through and was over, but on the cross He suffered from man for righteousness, and from God for sin only. I am persuaded that this last, when fully on His soul, was too deep to leave it possible for the other or anything else to be much felt.
Having made these general observations, which appeared to me necessary to understand the book, we will now examine, with the Lord’s help, its contents; and may He indeed guide both myself and my reader in doing it! If it does depict Christ’s sufferings and His interest in His people on earth, it behoves us to search into it reverently, yet with childlike confidence, and to wait-as indeed we ever should-upon His teaching, that we may be led and taught in our search. That which speaks of what He felt should be touched with confiding love, but with holy reverence.
The five books of the Psalms
It is generally known that the Psalms are divided into five books, the first of which ends with Psalm 41; the second, with Psalm 72; the third, with Psalm 89; the fourth, with Psalm 106; and the fifth, with Psalm 150. Each of these books is distinguished, I doubt not, by an especial subject. Our examination of the Psalms contained in each will give the fullest insight into the character of the several books; but it may be well to give here a general notion of their contents.
The first book: the state of the Jewish remnant in Jerusalem
The subject of the first book is the state of the Jewish remnant before they have been driven out of Jerusalem, and hence of Christ Himself in connection with this remnant. We have more indeed of the personal history of Christ in the first than in all the rest. This will be readily understood, as He was thus going in and out with the remnant, while yet associated with Jerusalem. I use Jewish here in contradistinction with Israel or the whole nation.
The second book: the remnant cast out of Jerusalem
In the second book, the remnant are viewed as cast out of Jerusalem (Christ, of course, taking this place with them and giving its true place of hope to the remnant in this condition). The introduction of Christ, however, restores them, in the view of prophecy, to their position in relationship with Jehovah as a people before God (Psa. 45-46). Previously, when cast out, they speak of God (Elohim) rather than Jehovah, for they have lost covenant blessings; but by this they learn to know Him much better. I doubt not, the history of Christ’s life afforded occasion to His entering into the practical personal sense of this condition of the people, though, of course, less historically His place in general. In Psalm 51 The remnant own the nation’s (more precisely the Jews’) guilt in rejecting Him.1
(1. I think it will be found that the first two books are somewhat distinguishable from the last three. The first two are more Christ personally among the Jews; the last three, more national and historical. And so Psalm 72, the last part of the first two books, closes with the Solomon reign.)
The third book: national deliverance and restoration of Israel
In the third book we have the deliverance and restoration of Israel as a nation, and God’s ways towards them as such (Jerusalem, at the close, being the center of His blessing and government). The dreadful effect of their being under the law, and the centering of all mercies in Christ are brought out in Psalms 88-89, closing with the cry for the accomplishing of the latter. Electing grace in royalty for deliverance, when all was lost, is presented in Psalm 87.
The fourth book: Jehovah the dwelling-place of Israel
In the fourth, we have Jehovah at all times the dwelling-place of Israel. Israel is delivered by the coming of Jehovah. It may, in its main contents, be characterized as the bringing in the Only-begotten into the world. Jehovah having been always Israel’s dwell-ing-place, they look for His deliverance. For this the Abrahamic and millennial names of God, Almighty and Most High, are introduced. And where is He to be found? Messiah says, “I seek them in Jehovah, the God of Israel.” There He is indeed found. Thus there will be judgment on the wicked, and the righteous delivered. The full divine nature of Messiah, once cut off, is brought in to lay the ground for His having a part in the latter-day blessings, though once cut off. He is the unchangeable living Jehovah, the Creator. Then comes blessing on Israel, creation, judgment of the heathen, that Israel might enjoy the promises. But it is the same mercy which has so often spared them.
The fifth book: God’s ways rehearsed, closing with triumphant praise
The last book is more general, a kind of moral on all, the close being triumphant praise.
Having spoken of the details of their restoration, through difficulties and dangers, and God’s title to the whole land, the wickedness of the anti-Christian tool of the enemy, the exaltation of Messiah to Jehovah’s right hand till His enemies are made His footstool, and the earthly people made willing in the day of His power-we have then a rehearsal of God’s ways, a commentary on the whole condition of Israel and what they have passed through, and the principles on which they stand before God, the law being written in their hearts.
Then the closing praises.
The order of the Psalms the stamp of the hand of the Spirit of God
As this rapid sketch will have shown (and the details I shall now enter on will show more clearly still), there is far more order in the Psalms than is generally supposed by those who take them up as each an isolated ode to serve as the expression of individual piety. They are not connected, it is true, in one continuous discourse or history, as other parts of Scripture may be; but they express in a regular and orderly way distinct parts of the same subject; that is, as we have seen, the state of the remnant of the Jews or Israel in the latter day, their feelings, and Messiah’s association with them. These topics are treated in the most orderly way. The Spirit of God, who has superintended the structure, as He has inspired the contents of the whole Scripture, has stamped the unequivocal traces of His hand on this especial part of it. Who collected these divine songs, the work of diverse authors, and written at different epochs, I do not pretend to say. This the learning of divines may discuss; but the result cannot, I think, leave a doubt on the mind of anyone who enters into their purport as to whose power wrought in it.
I have already noticed generally the subject of each of the five books. The distinction of subject I found in them had led me to divide the whole Book of Psalms in the same way, before my attention had been drawn to the well-known fact of its being so divided in the Hebrew Bible. But this principle of order is carried out also in the details of each of the books. This order in the first book, and the contents of the psalms which compose it, are now to occupy us. It is, perhaps, the most complete in the general and characteristic view it gives of the subjects treated of in the Psalms, and so far the most interesting. The others naturally pursue more the details which carry out the general idea thus given.
The principle running through the book
It will be remarked that the following principle runs through it, and indeed, more or less, the others when it is applicable-some great truth or historical fact is brought forward as to Christ or the remnant, or both, and then a series of psalms follows, expressing the feelings and sentiments of the remnant in connection with that truth or fact.

Psalms - Book 1

The divisions of the first book (Psalms 1-41)
The first book may be in general thus divided into distinct parts. The first eight psalms form a whole, an introductory whole to the entire collection of Psalms. This series may be subdivided into the first two, which, in a more particular manner, lay the basis of all that is taught or expressed in Psalms 3-7, and, finally, Psalm 8. The character of these I shall enter on immediately. At present I proceed with the order of the book. Psalms 9-10 form the basis of the psalms which follow to the end of Psalm 15. They give, not the great principles which are at the foundation of all Israel’s latter-day history, but the historical condition of the remnant in the latter day. Psalms 11-15 unfold the various thoughts and feelings which that condition, and the circumstances in which the pious remnant find themselves, give rise to. Psalms 16-24 present to us Messiah formally entering into the circumstances of the pious remnant, the testimonies of God, the sufferings of Messiah, and the final manifestation of His glory when He is owned as Jehovah on His return. The remnant are found in this series, as in Psalms 17, 20 and 23; but the main subject spoken of in them, with the exception of Psalm 19, which gives the testimony of creation and the law, is Messiah. Psalms 25-39 present to us the various feelings of the remnant under these circumstances. The whole book closes and is complete with the true source of the Messiah’s intervention in the counsels and plans of God, the place He took in humiliation, and the blessing which belonged to him who could with divine intelligence discern and enter into His humbled condition, and that of the righteous remnant who were associated with Him (for so indeed they were, and this is what the Psalms especially bring out).
The beauty and excellency of Messiah’s moral character
It is extremely important that, on the one hand, some psalms should personally bring before us the Messiah; but it is also important that the moral traits which form the beauty and excellency of His character in God’s sight, and the attractive object which God delights to bless, should be brought before us also, that, on the one hand, we may delight in them, and, on the other, the indissoluble moral connection between Christ and the remnant may be brought into view. This connection of moral character and its display in Christ is very distinctly brought before us in the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. There blessing is pronounced on those who exhibit certain moral traits and qualities. These characterize the remnant; yet, if they be carefully looked into, they will be found to be morally a description of Christ Himself. Hence it is that we find Him and the remnant so mixed up together in many psalms, while some, as I have said, present distinctively the great foundation of blessing in Himself. We may apprehend also thus the difference of the associations of Christ with the remnant of Israel and those of the assembly with Him. Those of the assembly begin when redemption is accomplished, and Christ is already exalted on high. By the Spirit sent down from heaven the saints are united to Christ there; and their experiences as Christians flow from their position as united to Christ consequent on accomplished redemption, and then in conflict with the world.
The Lord’s associations with the remnant different from those with Christians
Previous to the knowledge of redemption, and for that very reason, saints may now pass through experiences analogous to, and in principle the same as, those of the Psalms, and find, in consequence, great comfort from them; but their own place, as Christians, is in union with Christ.1 The Lord’s associations with the remnant are different. They pass through their trials before the knowledge of redemption or its application in power to them. Their experiences are not the fruit of union2 with Christ. Christ has trod the same path, in grace towards them; not that they were united to Him, for He was alone; but He was afflicted in their affliction and oppression by the world. Death was before Him; the fruits of the penal government of God on them, manifested in the state in which Israel then was, He has entered into in grace, as we have seen. Suffering under wicked Israel, and oppressing Gentiles, as the remnant will in that day, He thus, by His Spirit prophetically, associates Himself with them in all their sorrows, and gives a voice by His Spirit to them on their way up to the discovery of redemption.
(1. Hence it is too that in the Romans we find experiences, because the soul is brought through the process which brings it into liberty; while in the Ephesians we find no experiences, because man is seen first dead in sins; and then united to Christ exalted to God’s right hand. The Epistle to the Philippians gives us, almost exclusively, proper Christian experience.)
(2. Union belongs to the assembly’s position alone, and is by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. By one Spirit we are all baptized into one body. He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit. Union in Scripture is not attributed simply to life. (Compare John 14:20.)
This makes the tone and purport of the Psalms very plain. The “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” was on the cross when atoning work, the fruit of grace, was going on. Judgment on Israel was then suspended, and the Holy Spirit blessedly took this cry up by the mouth of Peter in Acts 3:17, where the return of Jesus to them (as the children of the prophets, and the people in whom the blessing of the nations was to be) was proposed on their repentance. This grace was then of no effect; but in the last days all the fruit of that cross and that cry on earth will be made good on earth, when they have repented and looked on Him whom they have pierced. But this demand (as its final accomplishment will be also) was founded on atoning work, accomplished with God alone, which was based on grace and will bring grace; and not in connection with His sufferings from men, which bring judgment on men, His adversaries.
The call for judgment not found in the Gospels
The Psalms constantly present to us this consequence of the wickedness of men against Christ, and the wish of the remnant that it may arrive. Such a wish will never be found expressed by Christ in the Gospels. He pronounces prophetic woes on others for hindering those that were entering in; but this is love to these souls. No call for judgment is found. In the Psalms, on the other hand, no such passage as “Father, forgive them” is found; though the fruit of grace, after His own deliverance from the horns of the unicorns, is most strikingly unfolded. The gospel was the good news of the visitation of the world and of Israel in love by the Son of God. The incarnation was Christ entering alone into this path of love towards all. God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself. Nought else was, nought else could be, revealed and unfolded then. It was what He was personally in the world. But the remnant of God’s people are to go through these sorrows. The only possible means of their deliverance was the destruction of their enemies. We shall go up from the midst of our sorrows to meet the Lord in the air; we have no need to wish our enemies destroyed in order to our deliverance; we have in the gospel to do with grace, with a heavenly Christ that is not passing through sorrows, and with glory.
The remnant call for the righteous execution of judgment in government
The remnant of Israel therefore call for this execution of judgment on their enemies. They have to do, not with that heavenly, sovereign, abounding grace which gives us a place with Christ clean out of the world (not of it, as He was not of it who was loved before the world was founded), but with the government of this world. Objects, no doubt, of grace themselves (and of mere grace, for they have rejected the promises in Christ presented to them in the truth of God, and have been concluded in unbelief that they might be the objects of mercy), still they are the nation in whom the government of this world centers and in respect of whom it is displayed. Hence they await judgment, and the display of the righteous exercise of that government, and the cutting off of the oppressor and the wicked. Hence Christ (who has entered into, and will in spirit enter into, their sorrows, but was Himself cut off instead of seeing His enemies cut off, accomplishing a better and more glorious work) did not then ask for the world, but for those that were His, and that they might be with Him where He was. John 17 marks the formal contrast of the two systems. He would not call down fire from heaven-would not execute righteous judgment. It is intimated indeed in the Sermon on the Mount that He was in the way with Israel (as in John, that the world had not known Him). Still the Christian path is to do well, suffer for it, and take it patiently, as He did.
Hence, while passing through the sufferings, He could only prophetically be associated with the desires and aspirations after judgment which will have their righteous place when the time of public divine government of this world and judgment is come. Hence already in Psalm 2 This is the place we find Him set in. All the psalms are constructed in view of that. Thus the remnant in suffering, calling for judgment, reach back to Him who, though He never sought judgment for Himself, did suffer and will seek judgment for them and execute it-Himself the center of that center of earthly government divine. He is seen by the prophetic Spirit in the same circumstances, and the cry for judgment is heard. But it will be found that, wherever this is the case, as we have remarked, the remnant, other men, are found besides the Lord Himself.
The importance of seeing the position and thoughts of the remnant; Christ associated with them in grace
In principle, any suffering Jew might so speak; only, as Christ suffered above all, the terms used in the Psalms, where the demands for vengeance occur, sometimes rise up to circumstances which have been literally true in Him in His sorrow on earth. But the point of departure of the feeling, and of the whole of what is said, is any godly Jew whatever in the last days. Into that Christ has entered. The proper or exclusive personal application to Himself is only true when it is proved by the circumstances and the terms of the passage. The point of moral departure is always the remnant and their state. He is merely associated with them in the mind of the prophetic Spirit; though, as to the facts, He entered into deeper sorrow than they all. Hence the immense importance of first of all seeing the position and necessary thoughts of the remnant in the Psalms.
Christ is merely associated with them and their position in grace; though He must be the center, and preeminent, wherever He is found. There is no possibility of understanding the Psalms at all otherwise. All interpretation is false which does not take this principle or truth as its point of departure. When we get into a prophetic and governmental order, even in the New Testament, we at once find the same demands of vengeance. It is judgment, and not grace. The souls under the altar in the Revelation desire that their blood may be avenged; and the holy apostles and prophets are called to rejoice over the destruction of Babylon.
This important principle then is to be laid down, that, in every psalm in which the godly remnant can have a part, that is, where the Person of Christ is not the direct subject (we have seen there are some, as Psalms 2, 102, and others, which speak personally of Christ), the whole is not to be applied to Christ, nor the psalm itself, in general, primarily. It belongs to the condition of the remnant, and speaks of it; and the principle of God’s dealings with them through Christ is often given as the great example of the sorrow of the suffering godly. And hence, in the circumstances it refers to, it may rise up to such as literally depict those through which Christ has passed, so as to show the way in which Christ has entered into their circumstances. This last may be evidently the most important part of the psalm. But this does not change the principle. There may be psalms where the remnant are introduced collaterally as objects of blessing in result, but where a particular part may be evidently applicable to Christ, who only procures that result.
Christ entirely alone in suffering in Psalm 22
Psalm 22 has a distinct and peculiar character, because there Christ, while speaking of sufferings common in kind, though not in degree, to Him and the remnant, yet, as in them already, passes into that in which He was entirely alone. Indeed, the bringing these out in contrast is the very subject of the psalm. The godly have been, the remnant will be, in suffering. But the godly were delivered when they cried, so will the remnant; but Christ, perfect in the fullest sorrow, was not. So that Christ is really alone here; though, in order to show the contrast of this suffering with others in which saints could be, and had been, this last character of suffering is mentioned. The fact already mentioned (that, in the psalms expressive of the godly man’s suffering from men, there is always the call for vengeance on the part of the speaker, and that in Christ’s life-as the Gospels give it to us, that is, according to truth as personally come into the world, and standing as a witness alone in the world-He never does so, but the contrary when on the cross, and in His lifetime forbids it, reproaching the disciples with not knowing what manner of spirit they were of) evidently has the most important influence on our judgment, how far and in what way we find the living historical Christ in the Psalms as a direct object.
To turn now to details.
The principle running through Book 1
The attentive reader will remark that, in the order of which I have spoken of the psalms of the first book, a principle I have referred to is fully exemplified: that is, that standard psalms with some great principle or fact come first, and then a series expressive of the thoughts and feelings of the remnant produced by these. Thus Psalms 1-2 are followed by Psalms 3-7, which depict the state of things as felt by the psalmist, connected with Psalms 1-2, Christ being rejected (closing with the result in Psalm 8);1 then Psalms 9-10, the state of facts in the latter days; Psalms 11-15, the various feelings of the remnant connected with them. Next, Psalms 16-24, Christ and the whole testimony of God, and Christ on the cross or atonement, having been set before us, the feelings consequent on this are depicted from Psalms 25-39. Sins are acknowledged for the first time in Psalm 25. Trials and deliverance had been spoken of before; but sins could not be confessed but in view of, and as building on, the foundation of atonement, when God really taught. So it will be indeed historically with Israel in the last days; though that is not entered on here.
(1. Psalm 8, while it is the great result, is a mighty change in the position of Christ according to the counsels of God, which forms the basis of all that follows. It is referred to in John 1, in contrast with what Nathanael says, which refers to Psalm 2. It is found in Luke 9 and parallel passages, and quoted in Ephesians 1, 1 Corinthians 15, and unfolded in Hebrews 2. In the close also of John’s Gospel we have the three characters noticed on which these psalms are founded. God vindicates in testimony His rejected Son. He raises Lazarus, and the Son of God is glorified thereby. He rides into Jerusalem as king of Israel. Then the Greeks come up, and He says, The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified; but thus, to take this place in God’s purpose, He must suffer and die. In chapter 13 consequently He begins His heavenly place. Psalms 1-2 are in fact an introduction to the whole book. For His glory as Son of Man, though prophesied of here when entered into, is another sphere of glory. Still He is owned as such, as He ever called Himself such down here.)
The first two psalms: the law and Christ
I will now pursue in detail what the Lord may graciously afford me on the psalms of the first book. I have already said that the first two psalms lay the ground of the whole collection. They show the moral character and position of the remnant, and the counsels of God as to Christ-King in Zion; the law and Christ, the two great grounds of God’s dealing with Israel. Psalm 1 is the description of the godly remnant, and the blessing that accompanies their godliness according to the government of God. This blessing, save in the heart-comfort and peacefulness of an upright mind, has never been accomplished; but it is given in the same manner as the portion of the meek when Christ presents the kingdom (Matt. 5). They shall inherit the earth; but the kingdom was not, has not yet been, set up in power. (This is the subject of Psalm 2.) Hence the Lord in Matthew speaks of suffering for righteousness’ sake. The kingdom of heaven is the portion of those who do; and if suffering for His name’s sake, then heaven itself comes in, and their reward there is great.

Psalm 1

The godly remnant on the earth
In Psalm 1, however, we have simply the godly remnant on the earth. I say remnant, for the subject of the psalm is spoken of as characterized by individual faithfulness. The ungodly, sinners, and scornful, are around him. The law is his delight. He is a godly Jew, keeping apart from the ungodly, and is blessed, and prospers. Such is the principle of the psalm. But to make it good the earthly judgment must come in. There the ungodly shall not stand, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous-then left free from
1. But they are viewed as in the last days with the judgment at hand.
2. First Peter makes the same distinction, chapter 3:14 and 4:14.
the pressure of those who cared not for God. The psalm gives us the general character of the godly man, and the result under the judicial government of God.
The righteous and the wicked; the judgment of God
Another element is then brought in. Jehovah knows the way of the righteous-the way of the ungodly shall perish. It is a judgment on one side, and a moral approbation before that judgment come on the other, which is connected with the covenant-relationship of Jehovah with Israel. We have seen that Christ was on earth this godly man, and took His place among the faithful remnant, these excellent of the earth-was perfect in that place. So far this psalm takes Him in; but that is not yet directly spoken of. Its subject is the character of the godly, and the result under the government of God, Jehovah, in the midst of His people. It is not yet suffering because of this. That is a circumstance which will come out in its time. It is the character of the godly man in presence of the wicked, and the result measured by the abiding principles of God’s government. Jehovah knows the righteous-others shall positively perish. Psalm 1 is the moral character of the remnant, their position in the midst of the ungodly, and the general government of God, and the connection of Jehovah and the righteous.
Besides this, remark that the psalm places both in presence of a proximate judgment, by which the wicked are driven away like chaff, and the righteous form the congregation; that is, it refers definitely to the remnant in the last days. The principles of this psalm, the character of the persons spoken of in it, and their position, are clear enough, and important as laying one great part of the basis of the whole superstructure of the Psalms-God’s government, and the trials of the remnant which seemed to deny the government here spoken of, which is only to be made good in judgment when the mystery of God shall be finished. We are on the ground of Israel’s place and of God’s government according to the law, but the righteous distinguished from the wicked, and blessing, not the portion of all Israel as a whole, but of the righteous who will form the congregation when judgment is executed. Blessing is on the righteous, but these shall be the people when the ungodly shall be driven away as chaff. It is just the doctrine of the end of Isaiah. (See chapter 48:22, 57:20 and 65-66.) Only in the last passage the judgment reaches the nations also.
A godly remnant of the people, delighting in the law, and the judgment of God, resulting in the congregation of the righteous, according to the true character of Jehovah, the wicked being driven away-such are the first truths presented to us, the moral government of God on the earth made good by judgment in Israel.1 Hence the last days are clearly in view.
(1. More specifically in the Jews. The remnant of the Jews are spared and pass through the tribulation when two-thirds are cut off in the land (Zech. 13). The judgment of the ten tribes is outside the land, and the rebels do not enter into it (Ezek. 20). Israel is the general term of promise as applied to the nation. )

Psalm 2

Messiah; God’s counsels concerning His Anointed
The next great element of the condition of Israel and the government of God, is Messiah-the counsels of God concerning His Anointed. Here the heathen are brought in, and form the principal subject of the psalm; and again we find ourselves in the last days, when Christ’s rights will be made good against the kings of the earth and all opposers. But Israel is again here the center and sphere of the accomplishment of these counsels of God. The Anointed is to be King in Zion. The adversaries are the great ones of the nations, the evil reaching alas! to the heads of Israel who, as we shall find, “shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes”-“an ungodly nation” (Psa. 43), and as Peter also himself has taught us in applying this psalm.
The nations’ presumptuous resistance brings ruin
I have said that the counsels of God as to Messiah are the element here introduced to us of the ways of God treated of in the Psalms. But the psalm opens with the rising up of the nations to cast off His authority, and Jehovah’s who establishes it, the apostate Jews, as we have seen, being engaged in this great rising alas! against God. The nations rage, the peoples imagine a vain thing-the kings of the earth, and the rulers would break the bands of Jehovah and His Anointed together. But this rising only brings in wrath and displeasure, against which all resistance will be vain. He that sits in the heavens shall laugh, Adonai1 has them in derision; Jehovah, in spite of all, has set His King upon His holy hill of Zion. Such is the sure counsel of God made good by His power. Man’s presumption in resistance only brings his ruin.
(1. The Lord, but not the word LORD which represents generally Jehovah in the English version; but that which gives the Lord as an official relative title. )
Christ born into the earth, owned Son of God by Jehovah
But more is then brought out. This King, who is He? Jehovah has said to Him, “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” It is One who-begotten on what can be called “today,” that is, begotten in time-is owned Son by Jehovah. It is not then here the blessed and most precious truth of eternal sonship with the Father, though it is not to be dissociated from it, as if it could be without it, but One who-the Anointed Man, and that holy thing born into this world with the title, by His birth there also, of Son of God-is owned such of Jehovah. Thus, St. Paul tells us, this raising up Jesus (not raising up again) is the accomplishing the promises made to the fathers, quoting the psalm in confirmation. He quotes another passage for His resurrection and incorruptibility. Thus we have Christ born into the earth, owned Son of God by Jehovah.
The King yet to reign in Zion is now rejected
But large counsels flow from this title. He has only to ask of Jehovah, and the heathen are given Him for His inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. He will rule them with a rod of iron and break them in pieces like a potter’s vessel- break with resistless power, ruling in judgment all that impiously and impotently rise up against His throne. But this execution of judgment is not yet accomplished. The psalm itself invites the kings and judges to submission and humbly owning the Son, lest they perish if His wrath be kindled but a little. He is Himself to be trusted; and who can claim this but Jehovah?
This summons to the kings of the earth is founded, remark, on the establishing the title of Christ to royal judgment and power on the earth. But is Christ set King in Zion? He was cast out of it and hung upon the cross for better blessing and higher glory, even that He had with the Father before the world was, yet cast out of Zion, to which He presented Himself as king. And as to the heathen and the earthly inheritance, He has not yet asked for it; when He does, in the Father’s time, He will surely give it, and so His foes be His footstool. He declares (John 17) that He did not ask about it, but about those given Him out of it. The kings of the earth reign on, many bearing His name to be found yet in rebellion when He shall take to Him His great power, and the nations be angry, and His wrath come. No rod of iron has yet touched them- the potter’s vessel, broken as nothing, is not now their image. The Lord is not yet awakened to despise it. They reign by God’s authority. But there is no king yet in Zion. Christ has been rejected. Meanwhile we know He is Adonai in the heavens.
The great elements of latter-day history in Psalms 1-2
We have now the great elements of latter-day history, a Jewish remnant awaiting judgment, the wicked being still there, the heathen raging against Jehovah and His Anointed, He that sits in heaven laughing at their profitless rage, Jehovah setting Christ surely king in Zion, yea, upon His asking, giving Him all the nations for His inheritance (the submission of all to be enforced by resistless judgment). No sorrows here, not even as to the remnant in Psalm 1; but the counsels and decrees of God, and power such as none can resist. In a certain sense the kings of the earth did stand up and the rulers take counsel together, and-as to earthly power and scenes-succeeded. Christ was rejected and did not resist.
The great principles as to the place of the remnant unfolded in Psalms 3-7
Where then is the remnant viewed in the Jewish scene of this world’s history? What place have they? The great principles on which they stand are unfolded in the Psalms 3-7. It will be easily seen now how the first two psalms form the basis of the whole book, though the great body of its contents are the consequences of their non-fulfillment in the time to which those contents apply. Indeed in this the structure of the book resembles that of a great multitude of psalms-the thesis stated in the first or few first verses, and then the circumstances, often quite the opposite, through which the saint passes to arrive at what is expressed at the beginning of the psalm. The five following psalms then unfold to us, in general and in principle, the condition of the remnant and the thoughts and feelings produced by the Spirit of Christ in them, in the state of things consequent in Israel upon His personal rejection. The circumstances in which they find themselves are not historically alluded to till Psalms 9-10. Hence these psalms give the working of the Spirit of Christ in them in the suited moral fruits, so as to display the state of the godly remnant, the holy seed that is in Judah when all is ruined. The principles of their state, the elements of feeling unfolded in it, are brought before us. There is not the strong expression which flows from the pressure of circumstances; but each moral phase is exhibited, the different feelings to be produced by the Spirit of Christ in relationship to God.

Psalm 3

Surrounded by enemies the godly man of the latter days rests in peace
The first, Psalm 3, gives the condition in general in contrast with Psalm 2, and the support and confidence of faith in it. The troublers of the godly man are multiplied, haughty, and triumphing over him as having no help in God; but Jehovah is his shield. He lies down in peace, and by faith sees his enemies smitten and their power destroyed. Salvation belongs to Jehovah, and His blessing is upon His people. Here again, remark, we find the latter days; and, though surrounded by his enemies, the godly man rests in peace and prophetically sees their destruction, and blessing on Israel. It expresses confidence in God in the midst of hostile numbers, and without resource. Christ has surely entered fully into this; but the place of the psalm is in the latter days, after proof of the non-accomplishment of Psalm 2, at His first presenting Himself as Messiah to Israel.

Psalm 4

Righteousness appealed to by the godly
Psalm 4 differs in this respect from Psalm 3, of which we shall see other examples, that it is not simple confidence, but appeals to righteousness against the sons of men, who turn all the glory that belongs to the people of Jehovah, and especially to their king, into shame; but Jehovah has chosen the godly. The light of Jehovah’s countenance is his resource. In Psalms 3:4 and 4:1, the experienced mercy of Jehovah is referred to.

Psalm 5

The cry of the godly; God’s character appealed to
In Psalm 5 the cry of the godly is presented, and the character of God, as necessarily responding to that of the godly, is appealed to as necessitating His hearing him and judging the wicked. If the godly love godliness, surely Jehovah does; if the godly abhor wickedness, surely He does. It answers to the “righteous Father” of the Lord in John 17: only there the answer was heaven; here, earth- the necessary consequence of the difference of Christ’s position on earth and that of the remnant.

Psalm 6

The fear of Jehovah’s deserved displeasure, and expectancy of mercy
In Psalm 6 the remnant take another ground. They are oppressed, their soul vexed, the extremity of distress presses on their spirit, and their conscience not being cleared gives the fear that Jehovah might be against them in anger, and they look that Jehovah should not rebuke them in anger nor chasten in hot displeasure, which they had as a nation deserved but which the redeemed heart deprecates. But they look to be saved through mercy and saved from death, and call on the wicked to depart, for Jehovah has heard.

Psalm 7

Appeal against persecutors; Jehovah judges His people
Psalm 7 appeals to Jehovah, on the ground of the righteous and more than righteous dealing of the godly with their enemies, that Jehovah may arise and awake to the judgment He has commanded, and that thus, by the deliverance of the remnant by judgment, the congregation of the various nations of the earth would compass Him about. He would then judge the peoples, thus distinctly bringing out the future judgment. Another point is brought out here. The Lord judges the righteous man. If a man turn not, but go on in his wickedness, His wrath will follow him.
The two principles connecting Christ on earth with the remnant
In all this we have the Spirit of Christ as it associates itself with the Jewish remnant, and in certain respects Christ Himself called to mind; that is, as passing through the circumstances which enabled Him to enter into theirs with truth (for we have seen that the effect on His soul personally was never what it is in the remnant). It is not His history, but His sympathy with them. There are two principles which connect Christ on earth and the remnant in the latter days: He takes them in grace into His place as on earth,1 and He enters into theirs. As to the nature and principles of their life, the righteous have the sentiments of the Spirit of Christ as it would work in their state. Their appeals are the expression of this. And God allows their claims (though they have not clear intelligence respecting this), furnishing in the Psalms expressions to them. It is a need and a desire too which the life that is in them legitimates to His heart who can take account of the ground Christ has laid for blessing, which makes Him righteous in forbearance, though the righteousness, as to the Jews, be not yet manifested. Their knowledge of what Jehovah is as respects integrity and oppression-what He has ever been-makes them look for a deliverance which seems impossible.2
(1. See Matthew 17:24-27, already when here below. This may seem in a measure anticipation: still, He revealed the Father’s name to them.)
(2. Leviticus 9:22-24 strikingly shows this. The acceptance of the sacrifice by God was not manifested till Moses and Aaron had come out after going in (vs. 24)-Christ as priest and king. Then the people worship, but Aaron blessed from the offering before. We know by the Holy Spirit come out that the offering has been accepted, while the priest is yet within the veil. And hence the full value of divine righteousness.)
The expectation of faith
There is another expression to note here-“how long?” It expresses the expectation of faith. God cannot reject His people forever: how long will He deal with them as if He did, and take no notice of oppression? Hence in one place He says, There is none that knows how long. As a whole, then, these psalms are a general exhibition of the state of the remnant of the Jews before God in the latter day, and the principles on which their souls stand as godly-not as yet the strong outpouring of their feelings under the trial of circumstances. Is Christ then absent from them all? Surely not, or the Psalms were not here. Christ entered in sympathy into their condition, forms the faith of their hearts in it by His Spirit, is thus fully found in their low estate in the best way. His own personal feelings when on earth they do not express,1 though He has learned by His own sorrows in like circumstances-blessed truth!-to have a word in season for him that is weary.
(1. I do not mean by this that none of the psalms do. We know this is not so, as Psalm 22 notably shows; nor that no sentence is found in psalms which are not wholly of Him which does express feelings He had. I have referred to several in the course of these notes and stated the principle of their application already; but I here speak of the psalms I am treating of (Psa. 3-7).)

Psalm 8

The Son of Man set over all the works of God’s hands
We have now come to Psalm 8 which closes this unfolding of the condition of the remnant, and the counsels of God as to the rejected Anointed of Jehovah. What is said is still by the mouth of the now delivered remnant. “O Jehovah, our Lord!” In vain have the heathen risen up against Him! “How excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.” It is not now a king in Zion-though surely that will be true; but a glory set above the heavens. It is not now merely the people of the great King blessed; but wherever the children of men dwell, Jehovah’s name, Israel’s Lord, is great. Is it now as setting the Christ on His holy hill of Zion? No, it is in setting the Son of Man, not merely over the children of men, but over everything His hand has created in all places of His dominion. He is set over all the works of His hand; none are excepted. He only is excepted who put all things under Him. And who is this Son of Man? It is one made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned now with glory and honor, and set (which the Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 2, shows us is not yet accomplished) over all the works of God’s hands.1 He could not be rejected as Christ (even if that title was afterwards to be made good by Him who laughs from heaven at the impotent rage of the kings of the earth) without His having a yet more glorious place destined to Him in the counsels of God-the being gloriously crowned in heaven, and set over all things. Son of God and (Son of David) King in Zion was His title on earth.2
(1. The littleness of man compared with the creation on high, gives occasion to the revelation of God’s counsels in man.)
(2. Compare John 1:49-51.)
The wider glory of the Son of Man consequent on His rejection
But His first rejection in this character throws Him out into this wider glory He had faithfully acquired too-what belonged by divine committal to the Son of Man. Hence we see in the Gospels the Lord charging His disciples to say no more that He was the Christ (for He was now virtually rejected by Israel), because the Son of Man must suffer and be rejected, delivered to the Gentiles, die, and rise again (Luke 9). This was grace to Israel therefore; but to man, to man in Christ. Still Israel’s Lord, Jehovah, was thus excellent in all the earth. This is that with which the psalm closes, as the proper result in the mouth of the remnant, though it was brought about by, and dependent on, a much higher glory. God, in the presence of the rage and ill-will of His enemies, and to silence the oppressors and the pride of the enemy, and of the relentless pitiless persecutors of His saints and people, has chosen the weakest things of the earth to perfect praise.
We have had an example of this-a little anticipative example of this-in the reception of the rejected Christ riding into Jerusalem. It shall be fully accomplished in the last day. Then He had witness given to Him, as Son of God in raising Lazarus, as Son of David in thus riding into Jerusalem, as Son of Man when the Greeks came up. But then He must die to have this last glory (John 11-12). In the last days all shall not thus fail on earth. It shall be accomplished in power. Meanwhile He is crowned with glory and honor in a better place. The psalm has an elevated and enlarged energy, as is suited to the great deliverance celebrated. Creation makes man so little in himself. What is he when we consider this vast and shining universe? But glance at Christ, and you see all its glories grow dim before the excellency of Him under whose feet all is put. Yea, they are lighted up again by that glory. Man is indeed great and above all in Him, the Son of Man set over all things.
It is not the place here to enlarge on the use of this psalm in the New Testament; but it makes its use and import very clear. In 1 Corinthians 15 we see that it is accomplished in resurrection. In Hebrews 2 we see that the subjection of all things is in the world to come-that they are not yet put under Christ’s feet, but that He is crowned already with glory and honor. Ephesians 1 shows that the church is united to Him in this place of glory, but that does not at all enter into the scope of the psalm. It was part of the mystery hid from ages and generations.
Review of the introductory psalms (Psalms 1-8)
Before passing on, I would briefly review the ground we have gone over in these introductory psalms. First, the remnant in the latter day is set before us; then the counsels of God as to Messiah, but the kings of the earth and the rulers setting themselves against Jehovah, and His Anointed. Yet He will be set king in Zion. Then Psalms 3-7 present the great principles on which the remnant will have to walk under the circumstances in which they find themselves, Christ being rejected. They do not afford us the deep expressions of feeling which the extent of distress brings out, but only the sentiments produced by grace in their position, so far as they are needed to give a voice to the feeling of grace and faith in it: Psalms 3-5, confidence; Psalms 6-7, bowing of heart under distress; Psalm 3, simple confidence; Psalm 4, appeal to the God of righteousness, and the path of the righteous marked out; Psalm 5, he cries to Jehovah, because He discerns between the evil and the good, and the wicked thus must be removed, and Jehovah bless the righteous that trust in Him; Psalm 6, mercy is appealed to, as, distressed in spirit, he entreats Jehovah not to rebuke him in anger, and Jehovah has heard him in his distress to save him from death; Psalm 7, he appeals against his persecutors, contrasting their conduct and his own towards them, but Jehovah judges His people.
The future value of the Psalms to the remnant; the difference between them and Christ in evil
These are the great elements of relationship between Jehovah and the remnant of His people in that day. How precious it will be for the remnant to have their faith sustained and given words to, above their fears, by these gracious witnesses of the Spirit of Christ, to guide them, and justify their best hopes, and calm their justest fears! It is not difficult, I think, to understand why Christ could not personally have the feelings and desires here expressed, and yet animate by His Spirit prophetically these same desires in the remnant, and enter into all their circumstances in sympathy. He came from heaven, and never lost the spirit that breathed there, though He was in the circumstances which earth brought upon Him; but that spirit is love. He was above evil in the power of love, and the consciousness of divine feelings which the Son of Man who is in heaven would have, though He passed through every sorrow which the Son of Man on earth could be subject to. He went through all the distress that sin and man’s relentless enmity and the insensibility even of His disciples1 could bring upon Him; but, while only the more sensible of it and feeling it the more deeply because He was perfect, He was above all the evil in love in the personal perfection of good. The remnant will not be so. They will be sustained of God, yet not only in the midst of evil, but under it, pressed by it, by the sense of guilt, by fear of wrath-not merely the deep sense of wrath, but a personally sifting dread of it. There is no deliverance for them without the destruction of their enemies; and they desire it. These are Jehovah’s enemies too, and their desire is right. (See Psalm 6:5,7,10.)
(1. Not once did they understand what He said to them.)
This Christ, as we have said, did not. He was above all this enmity in heavenly love and through known communion with His Father, whose will He had peacefully to do in known approval: until, in the end, He entered into that dark valley, where, for our sakes and Israel’s, He was indeed to meet wrath, but there His converse was with God. As to His human enemies, He only says, “If . . . ye seek me, let these go their way,” and all were prostrate before Him, and it is His to tell them in peace, “This is your hour and the power of darkness.” Hence Himself, love divine, passing through every sorrow that Israel or we may have to pass through, He did so personally in love. All was felt, but He was above the evil in love to men, being in perfect communion with heaven and its loving favor. In this He is a pattern for Christians, not for Israel. But He really went through all that the remnant can ever go through, yet was free enough from any power over Him to feel for others in it. This He does perfectly, and prophetically inspires the expressions of faith to those who, not knowing yet heavenly love and deliverance, are pressed under it; and gives utterance, by the prophetic Spirit towards God (as the Spirit would in such), to the sense of their oppression of heart which circumstances give occasion to, when divine favor and deliverance are not known.
The perfect sympathy of Christ
No one can enter into another’s sorrows under this oppression so well as one who knows the cause of it, and what that produces in respect of relationship with God, but is not in it. Christ has been in all their affliction, and felt it, but not felt, as to others, what those who are under it, and necessarily and rightly occupied with themselves, feel. He felt for His oppressors with heavenly love. His sympathy, being perfect, has, by the prophetic Spirit, entered into all the remnant’s circumstances and feelings, and given divinely-furnished expression to them. The heart may rise up and say, It is an easy thing to give it by the prophetic Spirit if He is not really in it. I answer, He was in every part of the affliction to the full, and infinitely more than the remnant ever will be, having suffered, withal, that which they never will because He has. But does His having a better feeling in that into which He entered hinder His having perfect sympathy with them? It enables Him to have it, as regards all the distress, which came from Satan, and from God when it was not merely a question of feeling for those from whom the distress came, when He was suffering Himself. He went through all in the same way (only much more deeply) than they; and, as to a part and the deepest part of it, took on Himself what they never will have.
When the remnant are in the same sorrows, not knowing divine favor, He will minister to them, and through these psalms, all the feelings which God can look upon with approbation and listen to. He will conduct their souls through them. How often in trial when we hardly dare to express what we feel (for fear of offending God, in the uncertainties of a cloudy faith) does a text which utters our sorrows in a way which, being in the Word, must be right, assuage the heart and give confidence in looking up to God! So will it be then.

Psalms 9-10

The circumstances of the remnant in the last days under oppression
In Psalms 9-10 we enter historically on the circumstances of the remnant in the last days in the land. The great principles having been laid down (the remnant-Messiah-trial in the midst of Israel through His rejection-a path He had learned in person- glory in the Son of Man), we get in these a preface as regards the circumstances, a laying of them down, that the scene of the exercises, the state of things which gives rise to these, and the deliverance wrought by the judgment of God, may be plainly before us.
We may remark here, in confirmation of previously expressed judgments, that the righteous man, Messiah, according to the counsels of God, but rejected (with the consequent sorrows of the remnant into which He thus enters), and in result glorified as Son of Man, and set over all the works of God’s hands, having been brought before us in the first eight psalms, we find ourselves at once (when entering on the historical detail of circumstances) in the last days, the righteous remnant being under the oppression of the wicked and the heathen. Messiah, in Spirit, in the oppressed remnant, owns the righteousness of Jehovah, in judgment, sitting on the throne judging right.
The righteousness of God established in a heavenly way
Remark the great difference here, in passing, between the celebration of the righteousness of God, sitting in the throne, judging right, and vindicating the righteous man from the oppressor, and Christ on the cross, who was not vindicated on the earth, but declares Himself forsaken of God (His enemies, outwardly, having all their will against Him), and then righteousness being established in a heavenly way, God’s righteousness in setting Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places. “Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more.” As regards this righteousness, He was taken completely out of the world, so that the disciples-as in flesh, as was the case with the Jews-saw Him no more. He had glorified God, and was glorified in God, as God had been in Him. The righteousness which judged the oppressor, though executed by God who alone is really righteous and has power, had its sphere and measure in earthly government, and in discerning the righteous and the wicked among men, the oppressed and the oppressor. It was connected with the righteous government of God. The clear apprehension of this difference is a key to the whole frame of thought in the Psalms.
Various Hebrew words translated “people”
Another point, it may be useful to remark, is this. In the English translation several words are translated people: עם (am),1 עמי (ammi)2 in the singular, people, or my people (Israel): גוים (goim)3 heathens or nations, that is, those outside, who are in contrast with Israel as the people of God. Israel is once so designated to mark its guilt (Psa. 43:1).לאמים (leummim)4 the peoples and nations in general on the earth, the various races of mankind; עמים (ammim)5 peoples in the plural, I think the nations viewed in connection with Israel restored and taken into relationship with Jehovah.
(1. Psalm 3:7.)
(2. Psalm 3:9. (Here “thy people,” the same practically.))
(3. Psalm 2:8. The Hebrew references are to the verses in Hebrew. )
(4. Psalm 7:8.)
(5. Psalm 7:9.)
Jehovah, the Most High, a refuge, delivering by judgment
To turn now to the psalms before us: Psalm 9 presents to us Jehovah, the Most High (the names of God which connect themselves with the Jews, and the millennial accomplishment of the promises made to Abraham), delivering the people by judgment from the oppression of the heathen, and destroying the wicked. The delivered Jew celebrates this goodness which has maintained the right and cause of the righteous. The Spirit of Christ speaks fully in this, as having taken up their interests. It is really His right. If the Jew has any, it is through Him. If they say it, He has put the words in their mouth. Indeed, if Christ had not entered into their sorrow, and given them these words, they could not have said, My right.
Let us consider this (as to circumstances) first leading psalm with somewhat more detail. The humble and oppressed one praises God with his whole heart, under the double name of Jehovah and Most High.1 The turning back of his enemies is not merely a human victory. They fall and perish before the presence of Jehovah Elohim. But this was to maintain the right and cause of the godly one-really the right and cause of Christ, who had thus thrown Himself into their portion in gracious sympathy. In verse 6 a very important principle is brought out for faith at all times, then to be verified in fact. The efforts of the enemy here are for time. He can destroy, if God allow, present prosperity. The Lord endures forever. We have only to do His will by the way. He has always His way at the end. That will which we do by the way, perhaps in sorrow and suffering then, will surely reign at the end of the way. Destructions were now to come to a perpetual end-the cities and their memory had been destroyed. Jehovah endures forever.
(1. These names are not without importance. One is the abiding name of God in Israel, His memorial forever; the other, the millennial name of God introduced by the judgments spoken of in the psalm. Compare Psalm 91 and Genesis 14:19-20.)
We have heard of the patience of Job-that was by the way; we have seen the end of the Lord-that is the ground for faith. It walks with Him who certainly has the end at His command. He shall endure forever-has prepared His throne for judgment. He will judge the world universal in righteousness, and minister judgment to the peoples in uprightness. This was the public character of Jehovah. But there was a private part of His character, so to speak, the making of which however also public, is the great subject of the psalm; and indeed, with that first public one, the great subject of all the Psalms. Both are known only to faith, but are celebrated beforehand. This second part is this: Jehovah is a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. The result is confidence in Jehovah at all times on the part of those who know His name. The intervention of Jehovah in that day in favor of those that seek Him will make good this name everywhere.
Praise to Him who dwells in Zion for His mercy and judgment
Another point is brought out also. Jehovah dwells in Zion as thus revealing Himself. His doings, what He does for the display of His name through judgment in favor of the remnant, are to be declared among the peoples-another word than that often used,1 and signifying, I apprehend, the peoples that He owns-that they may be able thus to trust in Him. He is returned thus to Zion at the close. Verses 13-14 are the cry of the remnant, and on the ground of mercy, that their hearts may praise Jehovah in Zion, as well as because of His judgments; verse 15 celebrates the judgment; and the moral, so to speak, is told in verse 16. Jehovah is known by the judgment which He executes. The way in which this psalm serves as a preface for the understanding the scope of the book, and its application to the last days, is evident. Once seized, it largely helps in the intelligence of the whole book. In verse 17 the wicked,2 be they who they may, Jew as well as Gentile, and indeed particularly the Jew, and all the nations who forget God,3 are shown to be rejected and judged, and to have their place in hades by judgment. And in this God remembers the needy, for the destruction of the wicked is their deliverance. Hence for this, for Jehovah to arise, is the cry of the remnant. This feature explains certain expressions in the psalms to which I have before alluded-the demand for judgment. Compare the characters of the judged ones in Romans 1-2. Only there the wrath is from heaven, not governmental on earth from Zion; and a greater moral development will be found, as was to be expected, and not the external judgment of nations.1
(1. עמים (ammim). In verse 9, לאמים (leummim).)
(2. Here in the plural. The difference is sometimes important, because, as Paul says, there is that wicked one.)
(3. Had not liked to retain God in their knowledge.)
(4. In Revelation 4 are found the character of the seraphim as well as of the cherubim, as prefacing, I believe, the judgments there, as characterized as being according to the holy nature of God as well as governmental. It is true the application of Isaiah 6, where alone the seraphim are found, is to a governmental judgment, because grace preserved a remnant. But the incompatibility of Jehovah and uncleanness-with man in himself-is what the prophet sees.)
The state of things in the last days till Jehovah arises to judgment
The body of Psalm 10 depicts the state of things in the last days, until Jehovah arises to judgment, and more especially the character of the wicked, for he is known by his character, and is especially to be found in the Jew. Compare Isaiah 40-48 and 49-58: in the one passage, the question being particularly idolatry and Babylon; in the second, the rejection of Messiah (the two capital sins which bring the Jews to judgment-Jehovah, and His Anointed). The wicked in his pride acts upon that which is seen; as the righteous by faith on the character of Jehovah, faith in Him. The wicked boasts himself in his heart’s desire, and blesses him (counts him happy, that is) whom Jehovah abhors. He pursues his plans without conscience, seeking to destroy the humble by craft, and reckons that God has forgotten him. How well Christ could help them here! The humble cry under the oppression. Why does Jehovah stand afar off, and hide Himself in the time of trouble?
They were far indeed from being where Christ was, yet the shadow, so to speak, of that sorrow was passing over them, but they could hope in God. So in verse 12. They call upon God to lift up His hand-not forget the humble: why should the wicked contemn God? Jehovah has seen it and will requite; the poor committed himself to Him. Verse 16 to the end celebrates Jehovah’s coming in in reply, and its results. Jehovah is King forever; the heathen are perished out of His land. There is the public judgment; now the secret of the Lord. Jehovah has heard the desire of the humble. He prepared their heart, and then hearkened; and that hearing will be in judging, in being Judge for the fatherless and the oppressed, so that the man of the earth, he who had his strength and hope there, should no more oppress.
The heathen and the wicked characterized in Psalms 9-10
One or two remarks are required on both psalms. There are two parties, and in a certain sense three, besides the poor humbled remnant who wait upon God: the heathen (goim), strangers to Israel, who oppress them, enemies of God; and the wicked, then more especially among the Jews, as we have seen. I have said three, because the wicked are spoken of in a double way. In general, indeed exclusively so in Psalm 10 and each time it is used in Psalm 9, except verse 17, it is in the singular. In verse 17 it is plural, to show that all of them will be cast down into sheol. In the singular it is, I judge, characteristic; yet I doubt not, there will be one special wicked one, harasha, ο ανομος (ho anomos), the Antichrist, but known here certainly by his character, not by a distinct prophecy of his person. The ανομια (anomia) is manifested, but not ο ανομος (ho anomos), and it is not confined to one. The analogy of this, with the circumstances in which Christ was in His rejection on earth, is very plain, as is the case with all the forms of wickedness. The very Trinity is imitated in mischief in the Apocalypse. There is the city of corruption, as the bride of Christ; and so on.
Up to this, save as the Messiah of God’s counsels was brought out in Psalm 2, the righteous man was given characteristically, and here it was necessary to characterize the whole party opposed to Jehovah and His Christ, though one may be the concentrated expression of this character. The remnant were to judge by this character morally. Next, remark, these wicked ones are judged with the heathen; they all come together under the same judgment. The wicked shall be turned into “sheol,” and all the heathen who forget God. So verse 5: “Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked.” Psalm 9 is, as we have seen, the general view of Jehovah’s intervention in judgment. In Psalm 10 we have particularly the position of the sorrow and trial of the remnant within. Hence we find the wicked (man), not the heathen until on the execution of judgment they are found too to have perished out of Jehovah’s land, so as to identify the judgment with the general statements of Psalm 9. How completely this all answers to the history we have of the latter days, I need not say.

Psalm 11

What the righteous are to do when evil is dominant
What the righteous remnant are to do when the power of evil is thus dominant in Emmanuel’s land, Psalm 11 treats of. Psalms 11-15, as I have already remarked, give the thoughts and feelings of the remnant at that time (that is, consequent on the state of things spoken of in Psalms 9-10). I will now trace the outline of these five psalms. Psalm 11 presents to us the righteous repelling the idea of quailing, as void of resource, before the godless wickedness of those who fear not God. He trusts in Jehovah. Still the wicked, with all will, seek the destruction of those who are true of heart. And if all human resource fails-all that was a ground on which hope could be built for the earth, what was the righteous to do? Jehovah is as stable as ever. He is in His holy temple-has His place on earth, which faith owns, let it be ever so desolate; and His throne is in heaven: no evil can enter there, and it rules over all.
But there is more than this. If He abide in sure repose, because Almighty and far above all evil in heaven, He looks on the earth- He governs it, for this, not the assembly’s heavenly portion, is our subject here and indeed in all the Old Testament. His eyes behold, His eyelids try, the children of men. This is a most solemn and consoling truth for those in trial. But the ways of God in government are still further revealed. The Lord tries the righteous: so the history of Job, a picture of what happens to Israel, teaches us. The present state of things is not in any way a revelation of the government of God. Faith knows God has the upper hand, and that all things work together for good to those that love Him; but immediate government, so that the present state of things should show the result of God’s estimate of good and evil here below, is not in exercise. If it were so, no evil could be allowed. The righteous would flourish, and all he does prosper. But it is not so. The assembly, meanwhile, has her portion out of the world, has her place of abode where Christ has gone to prepare her one. She suffers with Him and will reign with Him. But as to all His saints, He tries them; as to the wicked, whom He abhors, upon them He will rain judgment, snares, and fire and brimstone; for the righteous Jehovah loves righteousness, His countenance beholds the upright. Here is the clear ground for faith then, when the remnant are in trial. God beholds-He tries the righteous, and will in due time execute judgment. It involves this: the righteous Jehovah loves righteousness.

Psalm 12

Evil presented to the Lord whose words are sure
Such is the general basis of the godly man’s confidence and walk; but they are not insensible to the evil, but can present it to the Lord. This is the subject of Psalm 12. “Help, Jehovah, for the godly man ceaseth.” Jehovah will cut off the proud and deceitful lips. It is the character of the wicked. He knows no check, no bridle to his will-says, Who is lord over us? But it is just for his oppression of the poor that Jehovah arises. God’s Word, on which these had relied, and which promised help as the necessary witness of Jehovah’s character to which they looked, is a sure and well-tried word. It will bear infallibly its promised fruit. There is nothing deceitful in it. Jehovah will keep His poor from the generation of the wicked. But the wicked have full scope when the worthless are exalted on high.

Psalm 13

Apparently forgotten the righteous is heard and sings to Jehovah
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 had entirely and definitely forgotten him. His enemy was exalted over him, and he taking counsel in his heart; but then he cries-looks to Jehovah to hear lest he should perish on the one hand, and his enemy on the other have to say he had prevailed. But he is heard, and sings to Jehovah, in whose mercy he had trusted, and who deals bountifully with him at last.

Psalm 14

The climax of evil reached; salvation looked for out of Zion
In Psalm 14 the evil has reached its climax in God’s sight. What is ever true of flesh is now brought up under God’s eye at the time when He is going to judge. Man rises up in pride before Him: yea, He judges because flesh does so. He looks down to see if any understand or seek Him among men; but there are none. A remnant indeed wrought in by grace, whom He already owns as His people (vs. 4), are there, and these the wicked eat up as they would bread-they do not call on Jehovah. It is man’s full-blown pride and wickedness; but all is soon changed: God is in the congregation of the righteous. Fear falls upon the proud, who but a while ago were scorning the poor for trusting Jehovah. The seventh verse shows us that all this is anticipative and prophetic, and where and how it will be accomplished. It is the desire of the godly one according to the intelligence of faith. He looks for it, note, out of Zion, not content till Jehovah establishes praise there. The people too, remark, are seen as in captivity.

Psalm 15

The reward of uprightness of heart in the path of the law
Then comes the inquiry-who is the person that will have a share in the blessings of that holy hill, when the Lord shall have established the seat of His righteous power in Zion?
Psalm 15 gives the answer-he in whom is uprightness of heart in the path of the law. Remark here, that while the godly (when all is utterly dark, and wickedness has entirely the upper hand, and the foundations of human earthly hope, even in the things that belong to God on the earth, are destroyed, and wickedness is in the place of righteousness) look above and see God’s throne immutable in heaven, and thus all in heaven and earth brought into connection; yet, as to the point they look to, it is Jehovah in His holy temple and deliverance coming out of Zion; and so it will. (See Isaiah 66:6.) The immutable throne in heaven will establish in sure power the long desolate throne upon the earth. Jehovah will be in His temple, but will reign in the Person of Christ in Zion. This is Jewish deliverance and according to just Jewish hopes.
Full relationship with Jehovah enjoyed in trial
There is one important general remark to make here-the sense of full relationship with Jehovah is enjoyed. Whatever the trial, whatever the condition of the remnant, the wickedness of the people, the oppression of the Gentiles in the land, the faith of the remnant contemplates its relationship with Jehovah. And hence Jehovah is viewed as in His holy temple, though there is as yet no manifestation of His power. We have not, therefore, the remnant as yet entirely cast out, nor is the power of Antichrist here contemplated as manifested. When he sets up his power, there will be open apostasy, and the faithful will be driven out. But the wicked and the Gentile, as such, in the land, are contemplated. We learn clearly from this psalm (Psa. 11) that the wicked is characteristic. It is plural, except verse 5 where it is in contrast with the righteous.
The scope of Psalms 11-15: the remnant among the nations, looking on in faith to deliverance out of Zion
These psalms, passing over the driving out from Jerusalem, go on in hope to another scene-the deliverance wrought by Jehovah when He is indeed returned to Jerusalem; not the destruction of Antichrist by the Lord coming from heaven, but the driving out of the Gentile oppressors by Jehovah established in Zion. Hence all Israel is brought in (Psa. 14:7). And their salvation comes out of Zion. Hence these psalms, as far as they refer to Christ, look at the time in which He walked on earth before His final rejection. They do not, save Psalms 2 and 8, directly refer to Him, but to the remnant. But in His public path on earth, He did, from His baptism by John Baptist, associate Himself graciously with them; as at the close He tasted in grace their final sorrows in the close of their history.
These psalms present to us the state of the remnant while still having their place among the nations who have not yet openly broken, in apostasy, with Jehovah, but whose wickedness is in fact showing itself, and ripening to its highest pitch. And they pass over, in faith, to the time when Jehovah, seated in Zion, delivers His people, casting all the Gentiles out of His land, all Israel being restored from their captivity. The whole latter-day scene, except the last half-week of Antichrist’s power, is before us. Jehovah is still in His place, as publicly owned. It was just thus in the Lord’s days. In Psalm 14:5, Elohim is spoken of, because it is not relationship which is there in question, but God Himself in His nature and character. Not man, or anything human, or even Satan’s power, was there; but God was in the generation of the righteous.

Psalm 16

Christ formally takes His place in dependence among the remnant on earth
With Psalm 16 we begin a very important series of psalms- those in which the connection of Christ Himself with the remnant is brought before us by the divine Spirit. In Psalm 16, Christ takes formally His place among the remnant. It is quoted by the Apostle Peter to prove His resurrection, and the principle of it is referred to in the Epistle to the Hebrews to show His participation in human nature.1 After examining many critical authorities, I adhere to the English translation of the second verse. The third leaves the sense obscure, from not changing the preposition. “But to the saints” answers to “said unto the Lord,” not to “extendeth not to thee.” He says to the Lord, “My goodness . . . to the saints, . . . in whom is all my delight.” Thus this psalm has a most important and deeply interesting place. It is Christ taking His place in grace among the poor remnant of Israel-of the servant to tread the path of life which none as in flesh had found in this world, and that leading through death to beyond it, where there was fullness of joy. He takes the place of dependence, of trust, not of divine equality. And He who says He does not, must have had title to do so, or need not have said it. He was taking another place. He takes the place of servant, and calls Jehovah His Lord. Nor was this all. He takes a place, however alone He might be in perfection and perfect in doing it, with the saints on earth. And this He does, not merely as a fact, but with the fullest affection. His delight is in them. He joys to call them the excellent of the earth.
(1. The quotation in Hebrews 2 is literally from the LXX of Isaiah 8.)
Note further, it is not with the heavenly saints He associates Himself, nor are those of whom He speaks here united to Him in heaven, but He associated with them. Some may go to heaven by that path of life of which He has Himself left the track, but His association with them, and theirs with Him, is under the title of the excellent of the earth.
We may further remark, that the whole psalm breathes this spirit, and takes this place, of dependence, so precious for the poor remnant. It is not, Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days-that was taking a divine place. His body was a temple; He raised it up Himself. Here He leans as man on Jehovah- in both perfect. “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, nor wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption.” Let us now consider the contents of this psalm in more detailed order. We have already noticed the first verses; but the principles are of the last importance, as presenting Christ taking this place, so that I return to them.
Messiah taking the place of a man with God
Messiah looks as man to God to preserve Him. He takes the place of man. It is not merely a Jew already there calling on Jehovah, but a man with God. He puts His trust in Him. The principle of trust Paul alleges in Hebrews 2 as a witness that Messiah was the true man. Next, He takes the place of a servant. He says to Jehovah-for now He takes His place before Him- “Thou art my Adon, my Lord.” This is a definite and distinct place. He moreover takes His place, not in divine goodness towards others, but before God in a man’s place. My goodness, He says, extends not to thee. Thus He said to the young man who came to Him, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.” But though in truth alone, looked at in His relationship to man, for all were sinners, He takes His place with the remnant, the excellent of the earth. This He did historically, when He went to the baptism of John Baptist, with those whom the Spirit led to God in the holy path of repentance. They went first there. He associates Himself with them in grace. Still, we look on to the full result in the last days even here. He will not hear of any God but Jehovah. The sorrows of those who did should be multiplied. Jehovah Himself was His portion, and He maintained Him in the sure enjoyment of that which He was to enjoy in the purpose of God, and pleasant was the place where the lines had fallen to Him. It was Jehovah’s inheritance on the earth that was His portion, and this is specially in Israel. Such was His portion; but then there was His path first. Here He blesses Jehovah too. His counsel was always His guide. He walked by it. The secret of Jehovah was with Him to guide Him; and away from men, when all was brought into the silence of His heart and its inmost feelings, His own inmost thoughts were light and guidance. It is ever so when we are in communion with God; for, though in the heart (such thoughts are always His light in it, the fruit, and the moral fruit, of the working of His Spirit) there was the positive direction and guidance of Jehovah, and those inward apprehensions of His soul, the result of divine work in it.
The perfection of Christ as a man
In Christ of course this was perfect. It is well, while judging of all by the Word, not to neglect this working of the soul, as moved and taught of God. The mind of the Spirit, in moral discernment, is found in it. Besides this guidance, there was positive purpose of heart. He had set Jehovah always before Him. This only direction did He follow, and because of His being near, and at His right hand, He would not be moved. It was not self-dependence, but trust in Jehovah. This was indeed the path of life, though as yet unmanifested in visible power. (Compare Romans 1:4.)
Hence He would rejoice through all, and pass through death with unclouded hope; His flesh should rest in it; as a man He did not fear it. Jehovah, whom He trusted, would not leave His soul in hades, nor suffer His Holy One to see corruption. Soul and body, though going respectively to the place of departed spirits and the place of corruption, would not be left in the one or see the other. Jehovah would show Him the path of life through, but beyond, death. How blessedly He did so! It led up to brighter joys than Israel’s blessing, among whom He had come to sojourn. There indeed the excellent of the earth could not follow Him (John 13:33,36; 21:19). He must first dry up the waters of Jordan for them, and make it the path for them also where He was gone. For that path, since it led through death, must lead, if it was indeed the path of life, to what was beyond it-the presence of Him, in whose presence there is fullness of joy and at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Resurrection, the blessed issue and result of the Lord’s path here
Such is the blessed issue and result of the Lord’s path across this world, where He took His place among the saints, and trod, in confidence on Jehovah (into whose hands He committed His spirit), the path which, if He took us up, must lead through death, and then found the path again in resurrection, and so as man up to Him with whom is fullness of joy. The Spirit of holiness marked the life of the Son of God all through. He was declared to be such, with power, by resurrection; but, being man, passed up into the presence of God. The holy confiding life found its perfect joy there. He is (blessed be God, and the name of that blessed One who has trod this path!) our forerunner.1
(1. Compare as to a special aspect of this, John 12:23-24; and the Lord’s consequent place, in chapters 11-13, as we have seen, had given testimony to His place according to Psalm 2. See note, page 64.)
Christ’s position in the midst of Israel; the difference between Israel’s associations with Christ and those of the assembly
Let us dwell for a moment on the connection of this with other scriptures, partially referred to. It is of importance, as showing Christ’s position in the midst of Israel, and the difference of their associations with Him, from those of the saints of the assembly. And besides that, we get the divinely perfect feelings of Christ Himself in this position: He is in association with the saints in Israel; only He voluntarily takes it (that is, that into which they are called out in witness of their return to God). We see (Heb. 2:13) that this association is with those that are sanctified. He makes one company with that pious remnant manifested thus for God. He is not ashamed to call them brethren, having taken up their cause and consequently become man, become flesh and blood, because the children whom God had given Him partook of it.
We see that He really became man, but to identify Himself with the interests, and to secure the blessing of the saints,2 of the remnant, of the children whom God was bringing to glory, and who are distinguished from the mass of Israel, to whom they were to be a sign. (See Isaiah 8:18.) In this passage the condition of this remnant and the expectation of better days are considered. Leaving aside the assembly which is not the subject of prophecy, the passage passes, as we often see, from Christ’s personal connection with the saints in Israel to the position and portion of these saints in the last days. This is with sufficient distinctness given us in this passage of Isaiah to help us much in understanding the way in which the Spirit of God does pass from the previous history of the saints in Israel over to the last days, leaving out the assembly altogether. Christ, in spirit, contemplates these only-His connection, that is, with the remnant of Israel, and so far with the nation, and thus passes over the whole history of the assembly, to Himself again in the same connection with the nation in the last days.
(1. Thus, becoming man, and through glorifying God in His work as man, He has also title under God’s gift over all flesh.)
“Bind up the testimony,” He says (Isaiah 8:16-17), “seal the law among my disciples. And I will wait1 upon Jehovah, who hideth his face from the house of Israel, and will look for him.” This was when He had become the rejected sanctuary and the stumbling-stone.
(1. This is the passage quoted in Hebrews 2: “I will put my trust in him.”)
It continues to the final glory, when Israel shall possess Him as the Son born to them (Isaiah 9:6-7). If we do not abstract the assembly, it is impossible to understand the prophecies of the Old Testament. The assembly has her heavenly portion, but Christ can consider His relationship with His earthly people separately.
Trust alone in Jehovah ending in the highest joy- the presence of God
To return to Psalm 16, the reader will remark the reference to idolatry (one of God’s great controversies with Israel) in the fourth verse. From Matthew 12:43-45, and Isaiah 65 we learn that the Jews will fall into idolatry in the latter days. Jehovah alone is acknowledged by the prophetic Spirit of Christ. It is after this is all done away that He will rejoice, in the days that are to come, in the portion which Jehovah has given Him with the excellent of the earth. The certainty of this hope is connected with the resurrection (which is a necessary condition to its fulfillment, and which the favor of Jehovah secures to His Anointed) in all the virtue of that power which will not suffer His Holy One to see corruption. Hence the Apostle refers to the sure mercies of David; that is, to the accomplishment of all God’s promises to Israel, as a proof that Christ was to rise from the dead now no more to return to corruption. Nothing can be more beautiful (if it be not His death) than the expression of the Lord’s feelings given us in this psalm-the expression by Himself of the place He has taken, and that with the saints. Jehovah is His own portion. How truly was it so! What other had He? Yet His delight was in the saints. Do we not see it in His disciples? With the first step of spiritual life in the remnant, shown in their going to John’s baptism of repentance, He identifies Himself who surely had no need of repentance. So, as a faithful man, an Israelite, He sets Jehovah always before Him. So, even in death, He rests, in confidence, on Him for resurrection, that path of life through, and in spite of, death (and which He has opened for us), and there Jehovah, God, His Father’s presence, is (He knows) the fullness of joy; at His right hand pleasures forevermore. This is the highest proper joy of the mind and Spirit of Christ; not glory, but the presence of God.

Psalm 17

An appeal to Jehovah’s judgment; God’s vindication
The key to Psalm 16 was in the words, “In thee do I put my trust”; to Psalm 17, “Hear the right.” In Psalm 16 we have seen the blessed path and working of that spirit of confidence. It is, though the same spirit works in the remnant, essentially applicable to Christ Himself in Person. Psalm 17 doubtless applies to Him also, but not so entirely so. It is on somewhat lower ground, though one on which the Spirit of God speaks. We see distinctly that it contemplates others, though not without Christ, in verse 11. “They have now compassed us in our steps.” Still Christ is found here: without Him none really could say to purpose, Hear the right. It is an appeal to the judgment of Jehovah, God, coming forth to vindicate the righteousness of Him that cries to Him. The godly remnant will be, in the main, delivered from their deadly enemies. Jehovah will arise and disappoint them.
Still some will fall, even of the wise (Dan. 11)-Christ Himself, the perfect One, though for more glorious reasons, still in sympathy with His people, did. Hence the righteousness goes higher up than the present deliverance by God’s government of the godly remnant on earth to a result true of Christ, and a comfort for the faith of all those who may fall under the oppression of the enemy. “I will behold thy presence in righteousness. I shall be satisfied when I awake up after thy likeness.” This is fully true of Christ, who is before His Father in righteousness, and is the very image of the invisible God-He in whom He is displayed in glory. But He traces the path He trod as the righteous One on earth, in the midst of evil, and where He underwent the temptations of the enemy. First, there was perfect integrity of heart, and that in the most secret thoughts of it. There was purpose not to transgress. In obedience the words of God’s lips guided Him; and thus the paths of the destroyer were never an instant entered on; the words of God’s lips never lead there. This the Lord showed in His temptation in the wilderness. In the paths of Jehovah He looked to Him to hold up His goings. This is a part of righteousness in man-dependence. He called on God, sure that He would hear Him. This is the confidence we have. Such was His path.
Perfectness of moral character giving nearness of
confidence and sense of preciousness to Jehovah
He applies it then as the ground of looking for the intervention of God’s power to protect Him-as He does those that trust in Him-from the wicked that oppressed Him. Prosperous and lifted up as they were, Jehovah was His refuge when He did not yet interfere. But He looked to His openly doing so. Remark that the perfectness of moral character gives nearness of confidence and sense of preciousness to Jehovah. Even in us God would have this. We are of more value than many sparrows-the very hairs of our head counted. Here it is perfect, and He looks to be kept as the apple of the eye-that which is most preciously guarded by him whose it is.
Prosperous oppressors; death and another world
After all, these prosperous oppressors were but the hand of Jehovah-men of this world, who got all heart could desire from the outward providence of God. But what a lesson among Jews, whose legal portion was blessing in basket and store and children!
(Compare the parables of Dives and Lazarus, and of the unjust steward.) Here then the breach with this world, and a place in glory in the next, are fully contemplated. Jehovah’s face in righteousness, and likeness to Him when thus woke up into another world, were well worth the portion of the men of this world. But here mark, death and another world are contemplated, though deliverance is also (the remnant being more distinctly brought in). It is the same as we have seen in Matthew 5, where also both are contemplated. We have thus, in this first book, the Jews at the end of days, but in circumstances analogous to what Christ’s life was, that is, moving as godly ones in the midst of the wicked people.

Psalm 18

Christ the center of Israel’s deliverances
Psalm 18 presents to us the connection of Christ, and particularly of His (not atoning suffering-that is found in Psalm 22, but His) entering into the sorrows of death, with the whole history of Israel. It is the connection of the deliverance of Israel and the final judgment executed in their behalf on the earth with the title Christ had to that intervention. No doubt the atonement was absolutely necessary to this, but it is not on that side that His sufferings are looked at here. God delights in Him and answers Him according to His uprightness, and delivers the afflicted remnant, into whose sorrows He has entered, with Him. Christ is the center, in a word, of the deliverances of Israel-the cause of their deliverance from Egypt, and of their complete and final redemption by power in the latter day, and then their personal Deliverer too. He is dependent on Jehovah, is heard, and His sorrows are before us; but at the close He works in the power of Jehovah the deliverance of His people, and then is the full witness of God’s mercy (chesed) to His Anointed David and His seed forevermore. Mercy here is not simply such as we would speak of to sinners, but favor and grace shown and enjoyed, so as even to be used for piety in man. It is particularly celebrated in Psalm 89, where, from these mercies centering all in Him, the term is applied to Christ in person. He is the chasid (vs. 19). Hence the blessings conferred on Israel at the close (and indeed on all who enjoy them) are called by the same word “the sure mercies of David,” confirmed by an everlasting covenant, and indeed, as the Apostle shows us, secured by the resurrection of Christ, making their connection with His sorrows of death in this psalm very plain.
Psalm 18 and illustration of the then-present and the future application of prophecy
This psalm presents us also with a direct scriptural proof and illustration of a most essentially important principle as to the nature of all the psalms, giving a key to their general character and form. We know from the Book of Samuel that the occasion of this psalm was the celebration of David’s deliverances from the hand of Saul and of all his enemies. But it is evident that the language of the psalm in no way stops short at any events in the life of David, or that in its main purport the Spirit of God contemplates even what happened to that already anointed sufferer, who was the occasion of the psalm. The Spirit of God takes up the circumstance which has present personal interest for him whom He uses as prophet merely, as the occasion to bring out the larger and wider scene of which Christ alone can be the center, giving a meaning to the whole, in respect of which the more immediate circumstance only forms a partial, though perhaps a most interesting, link in the chain which leads up to the full display of God and His ways in the great result. So it was with all the prophets, only here more personally predictive. Sennacherib’s invasion, for example, is the occasion of bringing on the scene the Assyrian of the latter days. Thus prophecies had an application of the deepest interest at the time and became the instrument of the present government of God, but were also the revelation of those ultimate events on the earth in the same peoples and nations in which the government of God would be fully and finally displayed. They are of no private interpretation, ιδιας επιλνσεως (idias epiluseos). They formed part of the great scheme of divine government.
The Psalms as the Spirit’s provision for future days, or prophecy relating to Christ
In the Psalms the writer and immediate occasion sometimes almost wholly disappear, are never the main object, but are not to be lost sight of in the expressions used as the utterance of personal feeling, which are not the revelation of objective facts. In the latter case the circumstances of the writer have little application. The Psalms necessarily bring in the speaker more, though believers find that the Holy Spirit used the speaker’s feeling to provide for the hearts of others, yet commanded and wrought in them, and led the writer by His power far beyond anything that the occasion would have suggested to his own mind. The feeling, in its nature suited to the event which might give rise to the psalm, was only the occasion of the Holy Spirit taking the writer up to provide a divine record to guide feelings in future days, or to reveal those of Christ as taking up the cause of His people. They may be those of the speaker too, as in simple piety was often the case; but in all cases it was the Spirit’s provision for future days, or a prophecy relating to Christ Himself and the part He takes in those dealings of God with Israel, and going on, looking at the book as a whole, to the full and undisguised celebration of the results.
Deliverance already accomplished by Jehovah
The psalm, as we have said, takes in the whole history of Israel, and speaks as in the time when deliverance from the pressure of hostile power is already accomplished. But it celebrates especially Jehovah Himself the Deliverer, and still declares the speaker’s dependence on Him. This is the thesis of the psalm. It then, as is the usual form of the Psalms, goes through all the circumstances which lead the soul up to what is celebrated in the first verse or verses. Christ is seen, the sorrows of death compassing Him and floods of ungodly men besetting Him, the sorrows of hades upon Him and the cords of death about His soul. I have no doubt the letter of this was the expression of what David had felt, as indeed verse 50 shows. Still, as I have said, this was merely the occasion. The substance of it applies to Christ. He passes in His mind, as in Gethsemane, through the sorrows of death. This is the groundwork laid for all the rest.
Dependence and entreaty, and the results
The next point is dependence and entreaty. In His distress He calls upon Jehovah and cries to His God. He hears Him as in the midst of Israel, His cry comes before Him. Now come the results. Christ but represented Israel here, for we have nothing to do with the assembly here. From verses 7-16 we have the deliverance of Israel from Egypt by the mighty acts of Jehovah. But these were not all Israel’s difficulties. The power of his enemies was to be annulled, who were stronger than he as regards flesh. This also was accomplished, and he was brought into a wealthy place.
The righteousness in which God delighted
But this introduces another principle-the righteousness in which God delighted; and which, while found absolutely and perfectly only in Christ as a living man, yet characterizes the remnant of Israel in whose hearts the delight in God’s law is written. This principle is brought out from the latter part of verses 19-26. Christ is the foundation of this, but it is as entering into the condition and sorrows of His people. He is the Israel in spirit; and hence, while all the value of His perfectness is before God for them, the perfectness of that One whose whole life, as identified with the remnant, was well-pleasing to Him, yet we must take the place and state of the remnant, as of David himself. For, though Christ entered into this place of the remnant in His own perfectness, to give the value of that perfectness to them before God, as agreeable in His sight, yet the state of those to whom it was to be applied is that which is substantially before us in the psalm. Hence we find, “I kept myself from mine iniquity.”
This is most important in judging of the literal use of the Psalms. Christ could have said, “From iniquity”; but personally, “from mine iniquity,” He could not. But the Spirit of godliness (of Christ) in the remnant thus working guards them from following the flesh. They own, that if Israel goes astray (and so they did all but universally in principle), this wickedness was theirs, in themselves; but they were kept from it. Now this is truth in the inward parts-just what God wants. It is the government of God which we have here distinctly brought out in its unchangeable principle (vss. 25-26). Now Christ, having taken up their cause, as associated with them, with these “excellent of the earth,” all the value of what awakened God’s delight in Him, and which, by grace, animated them, was their place of acceptance before God, though the atonement was the final ground of it. But in their case this integrity and divine inward nature were shown in keeping themselves from their natural course. But there was another part of this government, tender care of the afflicted ones, saving them and bringing down all man’s pride (vs. 27). In darkness there would be light. To the righteous there arises light in the darkness.
The coming in of Christ in power on the remnant’s behalf
Now another scene dawns on us-the coming in of power in their behalf. And, as Christ had taken the sorrow at the beginning, and then we had the remnant in their own condition, yet Christ not separated from them in the way of interest and association (for it is not union here, that is the assembly’s portion), so here He must take the power in Person too; just as in Mark He was engaged in the sowing and engaged in the harvest, all the intermediate time going on without His personal intervention or seeming care, though the crop was always His. God’s Word had stood good all through, and Jehovah Himself was a buckler to those that trusted in Him. But now He gives strength and victory to His anointed for Israel from verse 29 to the end. Doubtless the language is that of David, but it is substantially the introduction of the kingdom of Christ.
Resistless victory; introduction of what is millennial
A very few remarks will suffice to give the details, this general character of the latter part of the psalm being seized. The general strain is resistless victory. But in verse 43 there are particulars to be noted. Three classes of persons are here introduced: the people-He is delivered from their strivings; the heathen-He is made their head; then a people, not before known with which He had not been in relation as in Israel, shall serve Him. That is, Messiah delivered from the strivings and revoltings of ungodly Jews; made the head of the heathen; and then a people hitherto strangers should serve Him-become now a people to Him. Submission will be immediate, so evident is His glory and power now. And even where there is no sincerity, or at least no proof of it, they will at once serve, bowing down to Him. This is the introduction of what is millennial. Here Jehovah is again recognized.
We return, so to speak, to the original thesis of the psalm, having arrived with Israel, or the Jews at least, across all the difficulties of the way. I do not see the Antichrist here. The only word which might seem to speak of him is in verse 48-the man of violence; but I apprehend it is an enemy from without. Hence he praises among the heathen. The destruction of Antichrist would make him praise among the Jews. Here, it is to be remarked, though clothed with strength by God, Christ is seen as the dependent man, and on earth, whether suffering or victorious. We find Him (as we may have seen from the study of the details in verses 4-6, at the beginning of the psalm) in His sorrow and trial; and though David be partly in the scene, yet substantially Messiah again from verse 32. Between the two, it is Israel, first delivered as a nation, then in sorrow and calamity. Then the principles of God’s government are stated, and the deliverance comes in. It is very interesting to see, after the Person of Messiah has been introduced, and His association with the godly remnant shown, the whole public history of Israel dependent from first to last on His interest in them, His having entered into their sorrows, afflicted in all their afflictions.

Psalm 19

The testimonies given to the world and to Israel; creation and the law
We now come (it is just the same order of thought in John 17) to the testimonies given in the world or to Israel. Psalm 19 gives us two: the creation, particularly that in the heavens, which is above man and has not been corrupted by him (this a testimony to God as such). Then the law (vs. 7). This is the law of Jehovah. Here, in lowliness, the godly Jew takes two views of sin. First, he cannot tell his: so much lies hidden from him. Here he desires to be cleansed. Secondly, presumptuous sins: from these he desires to be kept. Thus he would be kept from any falling away from Jehovah.

Psalm 20

The faithful Witness; association with Him as suffering
In Psalm 20 we have, in the midst of sorrows and evil come in as regards the two preceding testimonies, the faithful witness, the living witness Himself. He is seen in the day of His distress, for He is come down into the midst of an ungodly people. The remnant is prophetically designated by the fact that they in heart enter into His distress, assured that Jehovah will hear His Anointed.
Conscience then characterizes the remnant, truth in the inward parts in presence of the law, and taking that law spiritually; interest of heart in Messiah, when He is the despised and rejected of men. Still we are in Israel, and the help is sought from the God of Israel, and still as dwelling among them, having His sanctuary there.
In Psalm 16 the Lord identified Himself with the remnant. Here they associate themselves in heart with Him thus suffering, and in His conflict here, though they may see as but the outside of it, yet be assured of His acceptance with Jehovah. They look for His offerings to be accepted, the desire of His heart and His counsels to be fulfilled, all His petitions accomplished. Their joy is in the full deliverance of this blessed but dependent One. In verse 6 we have the assurance of faith as to it, that from heaven itself Jehovah has heard, the mighty are fallen, the poor of the flock are raised up and maintained before Him.
Messiah invoked as King-the mystery of the manifestation of Christ in flesh
In verse 9 Messiah takes another place. While Jehovah had delivered Him as the dependent One in the day of His distress, the remnant now look to His hearing them when they call. Jehovah is still looked to as the Saviour, but Messiah the king is invoked. They now know that the Anointed is exalted. No part of Scripture opens out the Person of Christ as the Psalms do, unless the first two chapters of Hebrews, which quote and serve as a key to them: here Messiah connected with the remnant in the dependent One, but exalted too as the king to be invoked of Israel. A little farther on we shall find that He is Jehovah Himself. I see no reason to alter the text according to the Septuagint, followed by others, such as the Latin. The Targum, and Syriac, and all Jewish interpretations, read as it is read in English. The other reading is, “Jehovah save the king”-“hear us,” etc. Already in Psalm 21 Jehovah and the king are associated in judgment, as indeed we have seen they were already in Psalm 2. It is the very main point of instruction in the Psalms-the mystery of the manifestation of Christ in flesh.

Psalm 21

The divine answer to the cry of the suffering Messiah
In Psalm 21 we get the full answer to Psalm 20 and its desires, in the exaltation of Christ, throwing its light back on the true character of that psalm. The king rejoices in Jehovah’s strength and exults in deliverance through it. What this is is then unfolded. The faithful longing of the remnant was that Jehovah would grant the suffering Messiah according to His own heart, that He would fulfill His petitions. Now in the exaltation of Christ they can say-the Spirit says for them-Thou, Jehovah, hast given Him His heart’s desire, and not withholden the request of His lips. Nay, He was met by Jehovah’s free and willing love towards Him, with the blessing of goodness, and was gloriously crowned by Him. But what had really passed and been done is more minutely revealed. He had asked life of Jehovah. (Compare Hebrews 5.) He gave it Him, but it was length of days forever and ever, the abiding eternal life of the risen glorified man. That was the answer to the cry of the suffering Messiah when death was before Him. And this is clearly seen in what follows. His glory is great in this deliverance by Jehovah’s delight. He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. Jehovah has laid honor and majesty upon Him. He has made Him most blessed forever and glad with Jehovah’s countenance. Such was the suffering Messiah’s deliverance, the divine answer to His cry, His being glorified as the suffering man. It is not the wrath of God which He is here viewed as undergoing; on the contrary, help is looked for from Jehovah when He is brought low. We have already seen the result of this-judgment on His enemies. Man’s enmity and devices are seen. Man’s judgment follows. The king’s right hand finds out all His enemies. Jehovah shall swallow them up. It is not His atoning sufferings which are seen here, but the mischievous devices of men. Hence His sufferings do not bring peace, but judgment.
We have here, then, Christ suffering and crying to Jehovah; Christ exalted as man, crowned with glory and honor; Christ executing judgment on His enemies. In the three psalms we have the witness of creation, the witness of law, and the Messiah’s (the true and faithful Witness) sufferings and exaltation-the true final witness of the righteous ways of God. This must be a revelation of all importance to the remnant in the latter day for suffering or for assured deliverance. Christ has suffered as man from men and for faithfulness; and judgment on men will be the consequence; meanwhile He is exalted on high. But He has suffered for sin from God. The facts connected with this last suffering are unfolded to us in Psalm 22 with its results also.

Psalm 22

The atoning sufferings of Christ
Here the sufferings of Christ have another and deeper character. We have before us that great work which is the foundation of all the blessing developed in the other psalms, and of every blessing and eternal glory, making the interest He takes in the saints possible, because it makes it righteous, and the very way of glorifying God. This psalm, as it has been already observed to be a common principle of their structure, gives us the theme in verse 1. Christ had suffered from man-from men alike heartless and violent: dogs had compassed Him, fat bulls of Bashan closed Him in. But if the measure of this was extreme, and felt more and otherwise than ordinary sufferings from men because it was wholly unrighteous and for Jehovah’s sake, for whose name He suffered reproach; yet others had in some measure borne the suffering of violence and reproach from heartless men too, and for Jehovah’s sake. If He in grace was the leader and finisher of faith, others through grace had trodden-it was their granted privilege, but His willing grace-some steps of that divinely marked-out path. But they trusted in Jehovah and they were delivered. Jehovah never left or forsook them. He had promised He would not. They knew in their consciences that He had never failed in one good or gracious thing He had promised.
A new, unrepeatable scene-the Righteous One forsaken of God
But here was a suffering out of the reach of promise, yea, which was to lay the ground of its righteous accomplishment. It was a new scene, which none had been ever like, nor ever will be, in the history of eternity; which stands alone, the Righteous One forsaken of God. It cannot be repeated a second time; it would have lost its character and the repetition destroy or deny the witness of the first-God perfectly glorified, morally glorified, about evil; He has not been, if it has to be repeated. It is once for all, complete and perfect. The nature of God has been made good in testimony, morally, in the universe. How should that be repeated? I say again, if it had to be, neither had done it; but it is done. The divine glory is perfectly, eternally, made good. But for this in respect of good and evil-that righteousness and grace, or love, where feebleness and evil are, should be made good-all that God is against evil must be verified and made good. Against whom? Who should endure it? Against the sinner it were everlasting misery, nor was love then displayed; what God is, not manifested. But the Lord gives Himself for this; He who was able to bear it, and, in the lowest humiliation of those He took up, to accomplish it in their nature, He bears in His soul all that God is against evil. Tremendous moment!
It is this alone which makes us in any way apprehend what righteousness and judgment are. This is what is shown to us here. It is shown in the utterance of Christ, showing the fact and His sense of it. What it was in its depths no human heart can fathom. It is the fact which is given here, but as felt by Him. Yet we see the consciously righteous One, but the perfectly submissive One, the sense of His own nothingness as to His position, of the certain and immutable perfectness of Jehovah. He is righteous; He can say, “Why?”-submissive: “yet thou continuest holy”; no working of will, calling God’s ways into question; the clear and perfect state thus, which sees God’s perfectness, come what will. For it was the one righteous One who had glorified God in all His ways, an exception from all God’s ways in righteous grace with such. He is forsaken, cries, and is not heard. He is a worm and no man. But this could not last forever, no more than He could be holden of death, having perfectly glorified God in going to the close of trial and awaiting His time. He who was the very delight of Jehovah all through could not be heard till all was accomplished; though more gloriously, and deservedly more gloriously, Jehovah’s delight than any living righteousness, though ever so perfect, could claim to be. In that living righteousness He had glorified God about good, perfect in His obedience as man, and perfect in manifesting His Father’s name of grace, declaring what God was, cost what it might. The reproaches of those that reproached God fell on Him. But now He glorified God in the place of evil as made sin. This, as we have seen, stands alone. “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again.” There in the place of sin before God, that is, as made sin, yet in that wherein obedience was absolute and perfect in entire self-devotedness to God-the contrary of sin-where God’s righteousness found a motive for love, yet where it was made good in forsaking Him; there the foundation was laid of everlasting righteousness and everlasting blessing; there God perfectly glorified, the foundation laid for the accomplishment of all His counsels in glory.1
(1. The more we study the cross, the more we shall see that every question of good and evil was brought to an issue, and the immutable basis laid for perfect blessing according to what God is in righteousness and grace and majesty too, for the new heavens and new earth, wherein dwells righteousness. We come by the blessed testimony that it meets all our wants; but in contemplating it at peace, we see man in absolute sin, hating and rejecting God in grace and goodness; Satan’s full power-the disciples fled in fear, and all the world else in his power against Christ; man in absolute goodness loving the Father and obedient, glorifying God in the very place of sin where it was needed, and at all cost; we see God in perfect righteousness against sin as nowhere else, and perfect love to the sinner. Innocence was conditional blessing. This is completed in perfectness, and its value never can change. It is everlasting righteousness. Hence the blessing of the new heavens and new earth is immutable. We have had an innocent Eden; a sinful world; and shall have, besides the reign of righteousness, new heavens and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness. )
God glorified; Christ heard
Then, when the work is complete, the moral work of glorifying God, He is heard from the horns of the unicorn. Man and all around was hidden by a darkened heaven from view, when all of God, and of the power, and powerlessness, of evil as against the sovereign goodness and righteousness of God, was brought to this divine issue, and God glorified about it. And all is between the soul of Him who is an offering for sin and the righteous Jehovah. And it was closed. He was perfect, had secured the glory of God, had glorified Him when He could not be heard, and was heard and it was finished. He goes down indeed into the grave, that trusty and irrefutable witness that all was closed of this great question of which death was the appointed witness, but only to rise without one element wanting that the work of propitiation and of glorifying God in respect of sin was completed, and the victory over every and the last enemy fully won. He was heard. Who could call it in question who knew that He was risen? And now what remained? Not sin; it was as regards the work to be accomplished for that purpose wholly and forever put away as in God’s sight, though not in full result yet, but perfectly for those who had a part with Him.1 Wrath for such? The cup had been drunk. Judgment against the sin, or of the sinner for it, where faith is? He had undergone it. The power of death upon the soul? It was overcome. Of Satan who wielded it? It was destroyed. But there was the full light of the Father’s countenance and love, the delight of God in divine righteousness, and for us. Into this relationship Jesus now entered as established there in righteousness on the ground of what He had accomplished to glorify His Father; not merely in the everlasting delight which God had in His Person. Hence it was immutable for those who had a part with Him in this place, and for eternal blessedness in the new heavens and the new earth. The place was won for sinners in the putting away of their sin, and founded on the righteousness of God Himself. Into the full blessedness of this name (that is, true relationship with God revealed according to it) He now entered as man.2
(1. And this is known by the Holy Spirit sent down when He had ascended on high. The new heavens and new earth wherein dwells righteousness will be the full result, while it is the manifestation of the just ground of unbelieving man’s final condemnation.)
(2. Christ in His lifetime uses naturally the term Father; on the cross, at the close of the hours of darkness, “my God, my God” (in dying, Father, and so before in Gethsemane); after His resurrection, Father and God: one, in His personal relationship and the Father’s delight; the other, in divine righteousness, bringing us into it.)
The declaration of the Father’s name to His brethren after His resurrection
But He had His brethren-those at least, with whom He associated Himself and whom He had at heart first of all after His Father’s glory. He was entered into this cloudless place of delight. What remained for His heart was to declare the name which expressed it, and to know which was the being brought into it, to His brethren. “I will declare thy name unto my brethren.” And this most precious witness of His love was exactly what He did after His resurrection: “Go, tell my brethren, I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.” Remark, He was heard from the horns of the unicorn. It was on the completing the work, or His subjection of soul to death as divine judgment, that He was heard. When the obedience unto death was complete, hearing became righteous and necessary. The resurrection was the proof to man. But He could say, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” and deliver it up to Him, and assure the thief he should be that day with Him in paradise.
Judgment executed and passed, followed by wide, outspread blessing on earth
I have already remarked an infinitely important characteristic of this psalm, so opposed to those which speak of Christ’s suffering from man: I mean that all is grace-no word of judgment. Who was to be judged, when God had been the One to inflict the suffering- the hiding of whose face rather was the suffering-and the men who had a part in it, believing, had their sins put away by it? It was as to them the judgment, and the judgment executed and passed. Hence what follows is the wide outspreading of wave beyond wave of blessing and nought else. We may remark, however, that the blessing here is all on earth: so much does the Lord confine Himself to Israel and the Jews in the Psalms. And though we have seen His own resurrection, and we shall see His ascension brought in, and the path of life thus opened up to faith into the presence of God Himself, yet the heavenly place for the saints is not unfolded. We know well that the truths on which the blessing is based carry us farther; but the psalm does not speak of them.
The widening circles of blessing and praise
“In the midst of the congregation will I sing to thee.” The remnant then gathered is the first circle gathered into the place of praise; then millennial blessing-all Israel. Those that fear Jehovah are to praise Him. Men fear Jehovah, and only fear; but this work makes those that fear praise. Those that feared Jehovah in that day and suffered might take courage, for Christ was their warrant for deliverance and confidence (and could be, having made atonement) but for positive deliverance also; for Jehovah had not turned a deaf ear to the affliction of the afflicted, nor hid His face from him. When He cried, Jehovah heard. He had been for a time there: that had only wrought atonement. And now, heard when that was accomplished, He could assure others of deliverance also. The meek of the earth should now eat and be satisfied, and be at peace. But the blessing would not limit itself to Israel. All the ends of the world would remember themselves, and turn to Jehovah, and worship before Him; for the kingdom will then be Jehovah’s. All should bow before Him. Nor was it confined to that generation: to the people that should be born those should declare that Jehovah had done this.
The wonderful work of Christ in Psalm 22
I cannot, in explaining the Psalms, meditate on the wonderful work on which this psalm is founded. I say founded, because the psalm speaks directly of the feelings of Christ under it, rather than of the work itself. I can only desire that this constant and exhaustless theme of the saint may have all the power on my reader’s soul, as upon my own, that poor, but renewed, human beings, even by the power of the Holy Spirit, can be capable of. Our comfort as to peace is that God (as indeed His love gave it) estimates it fully; and, while He has glorified Jesus, has Himself accepted that work for our peace. My part here is to unfold, as well as I can, the structure of the psalm itself.
The expiatory sufferings on the cross
As to the outward sufferings the reader will remark how deep they were. But Christ alone, of all the righteous, must undergo forsaking of God; and, having often declared His confidence in, and intimacy with, Jehovah, and taught His disciples to trust in Him, as ever hearing prayer, has publicly now to proclaim that He is not heard, but forsaken. What a tale it tells of what that hour was! But what is important is, as has been already remarked, that His sufferings from man bring judgment on His enemies; His forsaking of God, being expiatory, is a bearing of the judgment, and all that flows from it is unmingled grace. This work being expiatory, once He is heard from the horns of the unicorns all is grace. A stream of grace flows out for the remnant, then for Israel, for the world, for the generation to come-all from the sure and divinely perfect work of atonement in the death of Christ. In the work, in the suffering, He was alone. Once that was finished, He takes His place in the congregation with which He surrounds Himself. Remark how perfect must Christ’s knowledge of, and consequent joy be in, the name of God and Father, into the enjoyment of which He entered as man, consequent upon having put away sin, and the delight of God in Him and His work: all that God was against Him then, for Him according to the virtue of this work now. How well He must know what the deliverance out of His sufferings on the cross into this light is! Now this is the source of His praise. Such must be the character of ours, founded on the blessed certainty of being come out of the place of sin, death, and judgment, into the perfectness of divine favor. All that is not thus in the spirit of it is out of tune with Him who leads our praises.

Psalms 23-24

Confidence in Jehovah and practical righteousness
Psalms 23-24 go in a certain sense by themselves, giving the perfect confidence in the Shepherd, Jehovah, founded on the experience of what He is in all circumstances; and, secondly, the character of those who would have a part with Jacob. The two principles we have seen brought out as to Christ in Psalms 16-17 (and shown in many others); confidence in the faithfulness of Jehovah, and the practical righteousness which characterizes those who will stand in Jehovah’s holy place in the time of His millennial glory. But Jehovah Himself takes His place there as King of glory. This gives us the divine side in all its perfectness, of the principle of the path and the result in glory-glory on earth both as to the remnant, Christ, and Jehovah-with the blessed witness that on one side He took a place and part with the remnant in their divinely-given path, and on the other with Jehovah, for He was really a man, but really Jehovah; the daysman that laid his hand upon both.
What Jehovah is, in all circumstances- past, present, future
But we must examine them a little more closely. The comfort of Psalm 23 is not in what Jehovah gives, but in Himself. He does- it is the natural fruit of His grace at all times and will be the result-make us to lie down in green pastures, and lead us beside the waters of peace: pleasant food where there can be no drought, security in enjoying it, and guidance in divine refreshings in peace. Such is the portion given by His shepherd care; but still it is Himself as that which gives confidence and takes away care. Evil is come in: we have to feel it-we in ourselves, Christ in all that was around Him; so that He could be full of sorrow and troubled-we alas! more than that. The Good Shepherd (and Christ is such for us) restores the soul, and leads us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. The blessing depends on what He is, not on what we have got. I have blessing indeed, and learn it in green pastures; but, if troubled or gone astray, He restores. And not only sorrow and evil had come in with sin, but death too. Then He comes and leads me through it and comforts me. But there are enemies to meet. I have a table spread, on which I feast in their very presence. And how comforting this is to the Christian also! Hence, as it is Jehovah Himself, and not our circumstances, the soul has to depend on, it can say, “Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” When I have contemplated all the pains and difficulties of the way, I have Jehovah Himself more distinctly as the blessing. Hence I can count on it forever, for He changes not. Experienced in the past, in all the effects of the power of the enemy, and knowing what He Himself has been for me in them, I can reckon on it in the future and at all times. The end of the Lord’s dealings will be our dwelling with Him forever. The blessing thus, though less apparent, is much deeper and more personal, at the close; and, as we have said, the soul rests on Jehovah known in all circumstances, not in the blessing it was natural to Him to give.
An exercised soul thus has in result a far deeper blessing than an outwardly blessed one. So the result for Israel-still more for us-is more than the green pastures, in which originally Jehovah set him. It is the deep knowledge in a tried heart of the faithfulness of Jehovah: and thus, according to the blessing of His own nature, the rest will be His rest. The green pastures were suited to sheep; but the anointed head, and the cup running over, and the house of Jehovah forever, were what suited Him who dwelt there. Such is the result, for the remnant, of trusting Jehovah, when the green pastures are for the time, at any rate, lost. Such will follow the Lamb. For us Christ is the Shepherd. We suffer with Him, and we have yet better blessing. The Shepherd’s care is there meanwhile under another form.
What grace produced in the remnant
Psalm 24 gives, as we have seen, the other part of the condition of the remnant as to the good that is working in them-what grace produced in them. Jehovah was the Shepherd by the way. At the end the earth and the fullness of it are His-the world and those who dwell therein. Heaven does not here directly enter into the scene on the road, nor at the end of it; but Jehovah has a special place, a hill more especially His own, in the earth. Who shall ascend into it? We then get their character-clean hands, a pure heart. No idol-following heart, no false oath with his neighbor. Such shall be blessed. That is the generation, the real character of those who seek Jacob; for in Jacob is God’s seat. They seek Jacob as the blessed people of Jehovah; but, if such ascend into the holy hill, and enter into the holy place, the crowning blessing is that Jehovah Himself enters in at the unfolded gates to dwell there. The victorious Lord Jehovah of hosts enters in. It is Christ Himself who took the place of His sheep to go before them, and has the place of Jehovah, as that which is His by right, and in which He is owned when the fullness of blessing comes in and is revealed.
This closes the development of Christ’s place in connection with the remnant, first formally entered upon in Psalm 16. We have now to go through the position of the remnant on a new ground and a different footing.

Psalm 25

The whole case of the remnant laid before Jehovah
Christ has been introduced, not indeed yet in glory, but associating Himself with the remnant, and suffering even unto death for them. Hence their whole case can be prophetically gone into. And here for the first time we meet the confession of sins. It is not merely position-that we had from Psalms 3-7; nor the sense of circumstances which Psalms 11-15 gave, founded on Psalms 9-10; but the whole case of the remnant, as they will feel, entered into. The first word characterizes them: “Unto thee, O Jehovah, will I lift up my soul.” The godly man expresses his trust in his God, and prays that he may not be ashamed, but that those may that are willfully wicked. The remnant are distinguished thus in verse 3. There is the desire to be shown Jehovah’s ways, to be taught in His truth, for He was the God of their salvation: they always waited on Him.
Confession; mercy hoped for in Jehovah’s name
Next, verse 6, he casts himself on what God is in mercy, as He had shown Himself, and pleads that He may not remember Israel’s past sins, but himself according to His mercy. He knows Jehovah, that He is good and upright, and will therefore teach sinners in the way. His dealing with them is according to His own nature and character where He works in grace, goodness, and uprightness. This is an all-important point. Next, we get the present character of the remnant: they are the meek of the earth; these Jehovah would guide in judgment. All Jehovah’s ways were mercy towards such; and faithfulness to promises and righteousness infallibly marked them. In it we have the fullest confession by the godly man of his own sin, not merely the former sins of Israel. He looks only for mercy, his iniquity is so great, and founds his hope on Jehovah’s name. This is exceedingly beautiful. Jehovah’s name, as revealed in Israel, had in the previous verses of this psalm been fully entered into; His ways of mercy and truth in Israel. The answer to this cry, in the effectual work of Christ, though testified of in the prophets, and forming in God’s sight the groundwork of all, is not, I apprehend, at this time known by the godly remnant, nor till they look on Him whom they have pierced; but they have the ways of God, His promises, and the abundant declarations and invitations, yea, pleadings, of Jehovah in the prophets, that if their sins had been as scarlet, they should be as white as snow. All this revelation was Jehovah’s name to them; and to this they look, something in the state, though not exactly, of the poor woman in the city that was a sinner before she received the Lord’s answer of peace.
In verses 12-14 we get the prophetic answer of the Spirit in hope; in verses 15-21, the meek one. He lays his whole case before Jehovah. The great result and true application is seen in the last verse. This psalm lays the whole case of the remnant before Jehovah in the expression to Him of a heart attracted and taught by grace. It is a very full and distinct expression of their place and pleadings before Him, and according to what He is. Some very definite points are brought out-the confession of Israel’s past sins, the confession of his own by him who speaks. Mercy is looked to as the only resource. Yet from so gracious a God they can count on His teaching sinners. But these sinners are the meek of the earth who are to inherit it. Integrity of heart characterizes them, and they trust in and wait for Jehovah. Compare with this the incomparable picture of the remnant in the beginning of Luke. The psalm is both beautiful and very fully characteristic.

Psalm 26

The pleading of integrity; redemption and mercy sought
Psalm 26 is especially the pleading of integrity and trust in Jehovah. Having trusted Him, the godly would surely not slide. He invites Jehovah to search his inmost heart, as Peter did even though fallen. Here, still the goodness of Jehovah was his first motive. Then the separation of the godly from the ungodly body of the nation is fully brought out and taken as a plea that they might not have their souls gathered with the ungodly. Still, though integrity was pleaded, redemption is sought and mercy. The end would be blessing. Their foot stood in an even place. They would, in the full assembly, bless Jehovah. This is substantially the entire separation of the godly from the nation, and the former becoming the congregation of God.
Scope of Psalms 25-26
Thus in these two psalms we have the confession of sins and the pleading of integrity, both marking the real renewal of mind. Though the possibility of government in forgiveness and mercy is founded on the atonement which has been presented in Psalm 22, and is owned fully in Isaiah 53 by Israel subsequent to the period of these psalms; yet the aspect in which all is viewed by the remnant in these two psalms is the known character and government of Jehovah in Israel; and the feelings of a renewed heart are expressed in reference to that government-to Jehovah’s ways. His name is the key to their thoughts, and awakens their best and truest affections. It is the faith of a godly Israelite in the last days. The moral state of the remnant is especially brought out in all this part, and more especially their own with Jehovah, circumstances comparatively little; though the enemies without and the transgressors around form necessarily the occasion of those feelings in respect of deliverance and redemption. The heart of the godly one has the key to all Israel’s history and Jehovah’s dealings with them, because grace is looked to, and sin confessed. This it is that ever gives understanding. And so it is here. Jehovah’s ways have been-are-perfect. He is called upon to remember His own mercies, and not the early sins of His people. The enemies of His people are presented to Him. The hope of forgiveness is founded on Jehovah’s name (it is, as we have seen, connected with His government; they have not yet looked on Christ, and understood atonement); the faithful looks to be guided in the way, and Jehovah’s faithfulness to him is reckoned on. His sins, sorrows, and enemies are all presented to Him with an open heart. Covenant mercies can be seen, looked to, because Jehovah is, in truth by an upright confessing sinner.

Psalm 27

The believer’s confidence; the ground of hope in distress
In Psalm 27 we have two distinct parts, and, I apprehend, then in the last two verses the result for the mind of the saint as taught of God. The first part, verses 1-6, is the confidence of the believer, and that absolutely, whatever enemies there were. In the second part, verses 7-12, we find the cry of distress. In the former, singleness of eye lays the ground of confidence; in the second, the call of Jehovah to seek His face. Enemies without or oppressors within (for the remnant of the Jews will find both against them), a host and war arising, awake no fear. Jehovah is the light and salvation of the soul; its only desire, dwelling in the house of Jehovah to see His beauty and inquire in His temple. He had known Him casting confusion on the enemies of the faithful. He sought Him as the desire of his heart. In the time of trouble He would hide him, and the assault of foes would only be the occasion of lifting up his head above them, and then he would offer sacrifices of joy.
From the seventh verse things are otherwise. It is not his state, as thinking of the Lord in faith; distress is there, and he cries. Here he appeals, not to his integrity, but that Jehovah had said, Seek My face. Was He going after that to turn it away? He looks to be guided in a straight path. There is integrity, but he looks to the call of God. Finally, he looks for, and trusts for temporal deliverance in the land of the living; meanwhile he must wait on Jehovah. He would interfere at the right time; He would strengthen the heart meanwhile. It is an additional and instructive picture of the state of the faithful remnant; their abstract confidence and their ground of hope in distress when Jehovah must be waited for.

Psalm 28

The cry of the remnant furnished, and the witness given that Jehovah has heard
The godly Jew pleads, in the time of trouble come on the nation, that he may not be confounded with the wicked. If Jehovah did not appear in his behalf, so much was he in the same distress with them, death would drag him into its jaws. He looks for judgment on the wicked. They slight Jehovah. Jehovah should reward their doings. The psalm furnishes to the remnant not only the cry, but the prophetic witness that Jehovah has heard it. The heart trusts in Jehovah, had found help, and thus joy and praise. Then Messiah is fully joined with the righteous. Jehovah is their strength, He is Messiah’s. This once settled, the prophetic desire of the godly, according to the Spirit of Christ, expresses itself that Jehovah should have His people and bless His inheritance (for the faith of covenant blessing and relationship runs through all this part of the Psalms), that He should also feed them and lift them up forever. Deliverance, blessing, feeding, and unaltered exaltation, such are the fruits looked for of Jehovah’s coming in in power.
The scope of and connection between Psalms 25, 26, 27 and 28
In Psalms 25-26 we have seen the great moral principles of trust in Jehovah (even when confessing sins) and integrity. In these last we have more the personal sense of condition, and way or ground of relationship with God, beautifully shown in the first part of Psalm 27 in the one desire of the heart; and in the second part, in the touching plea, You taught me to seek Your face; my heart, in those times of divine instructions, said, I will seek it: Lord, will You turn it away now that I am in trouble, when You taught me to seek and trust it? The truth is the same, but in the first part it is the one moral desire of the heart; in the last, the exhortation of God to do it becomes a resource to the soul. Jehovah Himself is their refuge, and has taught them to look for it.
In Psalm 28 the pressure of evil is more felt, and coming judgment and the separation of the remnant looked for. This separation characterizes the whole testimony of God connected with the coming of Messiah, a circumstance which will aid us in seeing the unity of the remnant in the mind of God. Not only was it prophetically announced, as in Isaiah 65, but John the Baptist characterizes the coming of Messiah by it, their being children of Abraham being of no avail (Matt. 3:9); as indeed it spiritually took place: only that He being rejected and not yet coming in power, they were then added as the σωζομενοι (sozomenoi) to the assembly. For that however Peter takes it up (Acts 2:40). The Lord Himself receives them as His sheep (John 10). Paul rests his argument in Romans 11 upon it too.

Psalm 29

Encouragement for the faithful in the presence of the Mighty One
Psalm 29 summons the mighty to hear the mightier voice of Jehovah, to own Him and worship before Him according to the holy order of His house, celebrating the power of His voice in universal creation; but there is a place of intelligent worship where His glory is understood-His temple where men are to come. But this Jehovah is above the haughty raging of the surges of created strength; He sits king forever above and in spite of all. And He, this mighty Jehovah, will give strength to His people and bless them with peace. It is a positive encouragement for the faithful; not their complaint or appeal, but a testimony for them to encourage their hearts in presence of the mighty. He that cares for them is mightier than they.

Psalm 30

The contrast between trust in prosperity and in God Himself; a living people blessed on earth
In Psalm 30 we have the contrast between trust in prosperity- even in that given of God, and in God Himself. He has come in and lifted up the poor, and not left him to his foes. His favor is life. If angry, it is but for a little moment, and for the good of His saints: the favor is forever. In the morning it is light, if heaviness endure for a night. He may let them down as to the grave’s mouth, but only to show His power in infallible deliverance. He, the godly man, Israel themselves, as a people, had trusted in given prosperity. Now, in the depth of adversity, he has found Jehovah in deliverance. The power of evil overcome is better than good we may lose. It is security, and in the blessing and arms of Jehovah for us; for He is the deliverer. We see plainly here that it is a living people to be blessed on earth (vss. 3,9). And though there may be analogous mercies in all times, for there is a government of God as regards Christians, to apply it to the saints now would be a dangerous mistake. It speaks of temporal deliverance for peace in this world. (Compare Isaiah 64:7-8.) No mountain, even if we own it to be made strong by Jehovah, is like Jehovah Himself, even if I am at the pit’s mouth. It is my mountain for my heart when I think of it.

Psalm 31

The complaint and confidence of the remnant
Psalm 31 is a proof how Jesus could use devout and holy expressions of a psalm, and indeed pass through all in spirit, without its having a literal application to Him. Here is found the expression He used, “Into thy hand I commend my spirit,” which was in the fullest sense true. But the psalm continues, “For thou hast redeemed me, O Jehovah God of truth”-He added Father. Yet I doubt not that His spirit had got into the comfort of divine delight again. Still the words, “Thou hast redeemed me,” cannot apply.1 So the whole complaint of the psalm is, besides David, the complaint and confidence of the remnant-connecting the two principles, trust and righteousness, and looking for guidance for Jehovah’s name’s sake, and deliverance when surrounded by enemies. The godly man had called on Jehovah. His name was in question. On His goodness, laid up for them that trusted in Him, he counted; and this in the midst of a life spent in sighing. Distress pressed upon him, and drank up his strength. Yet, tried for faithfulness, friends and acquaintances fled from him. Such will be the condition of the remnant. How truly Christ entered into it, I need not say. But the time of deliverance, and of all that in any time the saint should be under and pass through, were in God’s hand-not the enemy’s, though he might rage. And in the adversities Jehovah knew his soul, for he walks in the knowledge of covenant-relationship. The presence of Jehovah was a tabernacle and a hiding place. In the pressure of his spirit, the godly thought himself cast off; but when he cried, Jehovah heard. In all the rage around (vss. 13-14) he cried to Jehovah as his God. The result he now celebrates, and encourages the saints in the last two verses, and all that hope in Jehovah. Whatever sorrows they are in, Jehovah helps the faithful and judges the proud.
(1. The only possible sense it could have as to Him was the deliverance of His soul at that moment as a fact, from the curse He bore for us, in which He had perfectly glorified God as to our sins, and as made sin for us. But the Lord does not use it. But though He had as a fact yet to die, its bitterness and sting were past.)
Psalm 31 The expression of the Spirit of Christ, though His own relationship as Son was different
This, in a certain sense, closes and sums up the experimental expression by the Spirit of the state of the remnant, and fully unfolds it. In the psalm that follows, forgiveness in grace is spoken of. Then there is a clearer apprehension and more objective confidence and judgment of all around, till we come to Psalms 38-39, which have a peculiar character of their own. Of course, deliverance is not yet come; but the sentiment expressed is become more that of favor in light than confidence out of the depths. How fully this Psalm 31 is the expression of the Spirit of Christ must be obvious to every divinely-taught reader. Yet His own relationship was different. He was Son, and commends His spirit to His Father in death, not to Jehovah to save Him from it; and, as we have seen in the preface, prays for His enemies who crucified Him, instead of demanding vengeance upon them. This demand of His Spirit in the remnant is according to His mind in that day. In Him personally it must have been otherwise; for He came in grace, and was giving His life a ransom for Israel and for many. Hence He passed through all in perfection with His Father in Gethsemane, and gives Himself up then, as being His will, to death. Yet, as to the sorrow and trial, He went through all. And the prophetic Spirit in the Psalms expresses in the denunciatory words what will certainly be accomplished as the consequence of the wicked enmity of the Jews and heathens too at the close; and will become living demands in the mouth of the remnant, whose only and necessary deliverance these judgments will be.
Christ did ask life, and it was given in resurrection and glory, as Psalm 21 shows; but not, as we know, in His being spared here. The path of life led for Him through death in the accomplishment of redemption, though He could not be holden of it. Thus in spirit He entered into all their affliction. The literal application in the writer’s mind was to his own feelings; the prophetical is to the godly remnant in the latter day. The word translated “iniquity,” in verse 10, should, I doubt not, be “distress.” But the fullness of the various motives and feelings brought together in this psalm require a further brief notice. I have already remarked how the two grounds, so frequently found, of the appeal of the saint’s trust in God, and righteousness as the motive and ground of it, are both brought together here. The name’s sake of Jehovah is also added here. In verses 3-6 we have His utter rejection of the followers of idolatrous vanities. In verse 7 Jehovah’s goodness is recognized as mercy. He has known the soul of the believer in adversities-a sweet thought, how dark soever all may have been. And deliverance was granted (vss. 9-10). He pleads his extreme present distress. The first eight verses are a kind of preface of general principles; now it is the pressure of his present state. He was a reproach to enemies, specially to neighbors-a fear to his acquaintance; so mean, despised, and yet hated and rejected, was he. It is the portion of a divine character, of God Himself, to be both. Man neglects a despised person; but he never does God, or what is of Him.1 They will bring Him low if He puts Himself low, or those that are His; but will fear and hate Him too. He is forgotten, yet slandered, and the active enemy plotting against his life. Thus verses 9-13 give the condition the Spirit of Christ, or Christ Himself, holds in the world.
(1. What thief would, if hung, revile another thief hung by his side? But the condemned thief did so to Christ.)
It is a most striking picture in verse 14. He trusts in Jehovah. All that is to befall him is, after all, in His hand. Another motive now is pleaded. He has called on Jehovah. It is the lying lips which should be put to silence (vs. 18). Confidence in goodness laid up for them is there, and the hiding in God’s presence for the time of evil (vs. 20). Verse 21 celebrates the faithfulness of Jehovah. Verses 23-24, encourage the saints by it. Thus, with the extremest distress, all the pleas of the faithful are beautifully brought together here. All these past psalms have been the feelings of Israel under the pressure of distress, and sought deliverance from it. And this Israel will do.

Psalm 32

Forgiveness of sins follows confession and leads to true blessing
Now we have what he wants still more-the forgiveness of sins. The pressure of affliction turns him to God’s law, but to the consciousness of having broken it. Righteousness in that sense he could not plead: forgiveness was his need, and that Jehovah should not impute the iniquity he had, and was brought to acknowledge. Long he had striven against this; but Jehovah gave him no rest. But he confesses sin, and guile is gone from his heart: impossible till then. We are hiding iniquity in it. Forgiveness in grace draws the godly man to God. In the water-floods they do not come nigh him. Jehovah is the hiding-place of the soul-preserves, blesses, guides. Only they are warned to be intelligent through obedience, and not to be without understanding, so that God must guide by providential power.
Remark here that while forgiveness is celebrated (and the remnant will deeply need it), yet the great distinctive truth which separates them from the mass of the people is kept up distinctly- trust, righteousness, and integrity of heart. To the wicked there are sorrows.
In principle, such a psalm, blessed be God, has the widest application. For the remnant it is prophetic, to induce truth in the inward parts, and encourage them by goodness to that confession of sin in which alone God can bless, as is ever the case. For forgiveness and no guile go together. They will only know full acceptance when they look upon Him whom they have pierced, who comes as Jehovah to deliver. But let us lay to heart the great principle of this psalm. Full absolute forgiveness, the not imputing sin at all, is what takes guile from the heart. Else we flee from God, excuse, palliate, if we dare not justify. Where full pardon is before us, we have courage to be true in heart. Who will not declare all his debts when their discharge by another is the only thing in question? who not tell his malady for a certain cure? Grace brings truth into the heart brought to confess its transgressions. He finds all the burden of his sins gone. The humble and godly are encouraged to draw near to a God thus known. “There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mightest be feared.” The psalm will encourage the remnant thus to true confession. When possessed, they will enter into full blessing. We thus see how it is a prophetic preparation and school for them, drawing out before them what will not all be accomplished when they are thus brought to look to Jehovah, but which they thus know will be. Hence these psalms speak of Jehovah’s character, as it has been proved with the inspired composers; in principle, often in letter, with Christ, in order to draw out the confidence of the Jews in the day of distress, and to comfort every uneasy soul. Thus the celebration of complete deliverance is mixed with the cry for it, because it is prophetic and has had fulfillments.
Psalm 33 has its just place after the forgiveness of the people. Before we pass on to these psalms, remark how the guilelessness of heart produced by complete forgiveness leads to that intimacy with God which gives us to be guided by His eye. We have His mind with Himself, and that in the perfectness of His own nature in which He reveals it. Forgiveness leads to full blessing.

Psalm 33

The full result of deliverance celebrated
In Psalm 33 the full result of deliverance is celebrated. The upright are called on to rejoice. Jehovah’s character, His Word and works, are made manifest, and the earth is now full of His goodness. He is the glorious Creator; the earth is to fear Him; all man’s devices and counsels come to nothing before Him; His counsel stands. Blessed the nation whose God is Jehovah, the people He has chosen for His inheritance. It is Jehovah who has looked down on men and disposed of all; but His eye is on them that fear Him and hope in His mercy. Thus the great result of the intervention of Jehovah is brought before the faith of the remnant, chanted as if all were come. The last three verses show the confidence this produces in them.

Psalm 34

Assurance of God’s government enabling faith to bless at all times
The sure government of God enables faith to bless at all times. He has proved His faithfulness to them that were in distress. The psalmist, Christ in spirit, calls on the remnant to praise, for Jehovah has manifested His deliverance in his case. The eyes of Jehovah are over the righteous, and His ear open to their prayers; His face set against them that do evil, and to cut them off from the earth (vss. 17-19). The broken heart, the afflicted and the contrite, to such Jehovah is nigh. The righteous must look for suffering while man has his day, but Jehovah delivers him. While evil slays the wicked, Jehovah redeems the soul of His servant, and none that trust Him shall be desolate. It is the full assurance of the government of Jehovah in favor of the humble in heart. This enables to bless, not only when they are blessed (that is not faith), but at all times, for they are heard, preserved, redeemed, when they are in trouble. Christ is the great example of this. I doubt that He speaks personally, though He does in spirit in the beginning. The faith of the remnant takes His case up as an encouragement in verse 6. Verse 20 was accomplished also literally in Him. It is the secret of faith alone, the test of it, to bless at all times. Peter applies this psalm to the constant principles of the government of God. This is the first psalm in which we have found the interlocutory character, which sometimes occurs (as in Psalms 91 and 145), though doubtless the psalmist’s experience, who again speaks in verse 11. Yet, I apprehend, it is Christ in spirit who opens out God’s ways in this psalm. “O magnify with me.” “I sought Jehovah.” It is the fullest encouragement to the humble righteous.

Psalm 35

An urgent appeal for Jehovah’s judgment
Psalm 35 is an urgent appeal for the judgment of Jehovah against relentless and insidious persecutors who seek after the soul of the righteous. Insult, craft, violence, all were used against him. They pretended to have found him out. Deliverance is sought that Jehovah may be praised in the great congregation, that is, the full assembly of restored Israel. In verses 13-14, we see the grace in which the godly (Christ Himself) dealt with these enemies. Though generally true of the godly, Christ specially comes in here in spirit.

Psalm 36

Warning as to the wicked
We have a needed warning as to the wicked, particularly the enemies of righteousness, the instruments of Satan’s power. There is no conscience to be expected; nothing that will stop them in their evil plans. The power and goodness of Jehovah are the sure refuge of those that trust in Him. In result the wicked are cast down.

Psalm 37

Waiting on Jehovah
In this interesting psalm the great point pressed on the remnant, a lesson for every soul, is waiting on Jehovah, and not having the spirit disturbed by evil; they will soon be cut down like grass. They are not to fret themselves, but trust in Jehovah and do good; to delight in Him-they will have their desires; to commit their way to Him-He will justify them; to rest in Him and wait patiently for Him. Jehovah will soon interfere, the wicked doers be cut off, and the meek inherit the land. The other character of the remnant is also largely unfolded-the righteous man-from verse 12 onward. Jehovah does not forsake His saints: they are preserved. The righteous shall inherit the land. The final word is, Wait on Jehovah and keep His way. The righteous suffer, but are not forsaken; the ungodly are in great prosperity, and soon their place knows them no more. How this, as to the righteous, points to the deep character of the suffering One who was forsaken, though the perfection of righteousness! This psalm also helps to show the connection between the disciples and this remnant (see Matthew 5:5)-yet, to show the difference; the Son was there. They could suffer for His name; this brought in heaven (Matt. 5:12). He could reveal the Father, which He does, in that discourse. The light goes out to the world, as well as being the salt of the earth. Details of grace also are brought in, of which the latter-day remnant know nothing, because of this revelation of the Father, who acts in grace. Still, de facto, it is the same remnant.

Psalm 38

The godly man under God’s chastening
Psalms 38-39 have, as I have said, a distinct and peculiar character. The deliverance has been sought and looked for by the upright, and forgiveness of sins granted for blessing. But in these psalms the governmental rebuking for sins lies on the remnant; there is the sense of why they suffer from the divine hand. In Psalm 6 the chastening in anger was deprecated as a part of the sorrow that might belong to their position; but here they are under full chastening for sin: the rod has reached the flock outwardly, their soul inwardly. When I say they, it is individual, but still the remnant. Friends shrank from such a case; enemies, without compassion, plot against his life. Still he is before Jehovah, and all his desire and groaning. He is true in heart with God, and owns Him-is silent with man. The sorrows are, for his soul, Jehovah’s; and to Jehovah he turns. This is all right. (See verses 13-16.) He will bow under it. His enemies are busy and strong. But though Jehovah smites, he trusts Him; because the smiting is owned by the humble soul to be righteous. But he can look to deliverance from his enemies. They were glad he slipped, and rejoiced over him. But he declares and owns his sin: no excuse-no hiding in his soul from God. His cry is to Him for speedy help.
It is a beautiful psalm as to the state of soul; for the Spirit provides for every case-the failure of the upright, which may call down severe chastening, and cause joy to the wicked. But he accepts the punishment of his iniquity, and places himself openly before God, owning his sin, but looking to Him against the wicked. However sad such a case may be, nothing more shows truth before God and confidence in Him. How confess one’s sin, and look for help from God, when one has been unfaithful, He dishonored, and the enemy triumphing in it? No excuse, no attempt to hide-none: he owns all, and casts himself on God. The picture of the remnant would not have been complete without this, nor the gracious instruction for every soul at every time.
Christ’s perfect sympathy in chastening
The question then arises, How far does the Spirit of Christ enter into it? Fully, I believe; though of course He never could have been personally there. No doubt it arose from some deep chastening of the writer-a chastening which was openly manifested. Such cases may in the full extent arise among the remnant. The principle is of universal application. Christ of course could have nothing to be chastened for; but, having the full bearing of sin before Him, and meeting in His path all the sorrow which will beset the people, He can enter, though the green tree, into the judgment which will come upon the dry.1 He could not say what is said here, but He can perfectly sympathize with those who have to say it. He has provided the words which will express it by His Spirit in their hearts. Had He not suffered the full anger for these very iniquities which press on their consciences, and from which in its full extent as wrath they escape, it would not have been merely needed chastening in which they plead with Jehovah. Hence He can more than feel it when it has that character. And in all the sorrow of the circumstances He has borne the largest part.
(1. Although the dry tree be in the full sense lifeless Israel, yet, as the remnant, so long rejecters of Jesus being the Messiah, are mixed up with the nation, they go through the sorrows in heart and spirit which come upon the nation, though not its final judgment from God. For them Christ had done that; He died for the nation. But all short of that they go through, and feel in bitter sorrow and anguish, in some sort, more than before the judgment comes, because they feel the sin that is bringing it. Hence it was that Christ, who did know the cause and looked forward to the judgment which He did go through (undergoing the oppression without apparent deliverance, for His hour was come to be reckoned with the transgressors), could enter fully into their case. Though He entered into it in love, yet the righteousness which threatened Israel was before Him.)

Psalm 39

Vanity finding its level; God trusted in
In Psalm 39, the godly man is still under the stroke of God; but there is more the sense of the emptiness of all flesh under the hand of God than disgrace and shame and fear. He bows before God rather than let his spirit rise and speak foolishly with his tongue. He might have retorted-been fretted to do evil; but, restraint, when under the hand of God, was his fitting place. It is ever so. He refrains even from good; and sorrow is stirred up in him. In beautiful language he shows this. At last his heart bursts forth; but it is to present to God the nothingness of which the sense was thus matured. He desires to know his days. How little he is! He sees all is vanity; but he sees his own transgression and sin in the presence of One whose rebuke consumes the beauty of man as a moth. To Jehovah he looks for deliverance. His stroke is what he cares for. He trusts Him not to make him the reproach of the foolish. There is great beauty in vanity finding its level in self-annihilation, and then God trusted in to deliver from the pride of men. He has to say to our transgressions.
Here the moral history of the remnant closes, as in connection on covenant ground with Jehovah (that is, as employing His name, as connected with Him). Hence we have much of Christ personally in the psalms of this first book. His taking the place in which He should be associated with them, according to the counsels of God, is stated in the next psalm. The understanding of this place is then shown to be the really blessed one.

Psalm 40

Complete deliverance through Christ
In Psalm 40 then Christ is seen, not only in His passage through the sorrows which beset His way, if He took up the cause of the disobedient and guilty people of His love-sorrows which gave Him the tongue of the learned, and enabled Him to enter into those of the tried and spared ones in the latter days, and give a voice to their cry suited to their condition before God; but primarily the deliverance in which, having waited on Jehovah in these sorrows, Jehovah’s faithfulness was proved, so that He came out from them for the encouragement of many, and then the blessed key to His whole history in His having undertaken to do the will of Jehovah, the whole Jewish system under the law being thus closed and set aside. He has been perfectly faithful to Jehovah in the face of the whole congregation of Israel, yet is in the deepest sorrow and trial. So the psalm closes, and it is important it should, because the thesis of it is complete deliverance. Hence the application of this very deliverance to the sorrows of Christ, which were analogous to that of the remnant, is most precious for the remnant when they are in them.
Christ’s perfect faithfulness and willing obedience in connection with the remnant
But this principle is brought out in a very distinct way in the psalm, and makes it one of the most remarkable in this wonderful book. It brings out the connection of Christ with Israel in the remnant in the most striking way possible-lays it down as a foundation for the whole teaching of the Psalms, though the circumstances are altered after Psalm 41. That Christ is personally spoken of in it, I need hardly say, as the Apostle quotes it as His words, undertaking that blessed work by which figures and symbols were set aside, and which has perfected, as he tells us, the believer forever. “Lo, I come” is the word of the Son’s free offering of Himself to accomplish the whole will of God in His work here below according to the everlasting counsels of the Godhead. It is the blessed Lord’s undertaking the work. His work was to obey; but He in perfect free voluntariness offers Himself for it in the delight of willingly undertaken obedience. In the great congregation of Israel, in pursuing His service to Jehovah, He had not shrunk (whatever reception He met with) from preaching righteousness-had not refrained His lips. He had been faithful to His service at all cost; and it was Jehovah He thus proclaimed. His righteousness, His faithfulness, His salvation, His loving-kindness, and His truth, He had not refrained from declaring before the whole body of Israel. Such had been His service.
Innumerable evils encompassing the faithful One
Then, all changes with this faithful One; for innumerable evils have compassed Him about. He looks for Jehovah’s loving-kindness and truth, to whom He had been faithful. Nor is it all that evils had compassed Him, that men sought after His soul to destroy it. “Mine iniquities have taken hold on me,” He says, “so that I am not able to look up.” Of course, with Christ they were those of others-of all the redeemed, and also particularly of Israel viewed as a nation. In this state He desires that those that seek Jehovah may be able to praise, to say continually, Let Jehovah be magnified; and that the others may be ashamed and confounded. He separates the godly remnant who seek Jehovah from those who, when He is faithfully and lovingly presented, are enemies to Him who manifests His name. Thus Christ closes His experience in this world, poor and needy, yet assured that Jehovah thinks upon Him.
He is not forsaken in what is presented here, but comes into that place, through a life of faithfulness, in which He was to undergo that dreadful moment. It is the cry when, so to speak, He confesses the sins before the victim is consumed or slain. He is in the deep sorrow of the position crying to Jehovah, not in the wrath shown in the time of His not being heard. The psalm depicts not that wrath, but the faithfulness of Christ in waiting for Jehovah when in the sorrow, rather than seek ease, or have twelve legions of angels, or drink the stupefying myrrh, or shrink back from suffering the will of God, any more than He did from facing man when He preached it. He waited patiently for Jehovah; and He inclined unto Him and heard His cry. This was His perfection: no outlet from obedience sought, no shrinking, no turning back or aside. He waited for Jehovah’s time in the path of perfect obedience, and it came. The time, as said of Joseph, came that His cause was known; it is not said here how or when. The object of the Spirit here was to show to the tried ones that One had gone before them in the path of sorrow and had been heard. We can say that it was fully in resurrection; but even on the cross the dark hour was passed, and with a loud voice He could commend His own spirit to His Father, and His mother to His beloved disciple.
But these are details history has given us, not prophecy; they would not have been available for the remnant. They want to know that they will be heard when waiting patiently for Jehovah. If killed, the answer will be for them in resurrection; if not, to have Israel’s place in blessing, I doubt not with the Lamb on Mount Zion, as having gone through (however feebly or infirmly) like trials and sorrows in faithfulness to Jehovah in the great congregation. Do their iniquities alarm them? They are not left out. They do not yet know atonement, but they know that One, who could say, “Mine iniquities have taken hold of Me,” waited patiently, was heard and delivered. They wait, trusting the mercy of Jehovah, though peace be not yet known. Their iniquities have taken hold of them, so that they feel: how can they hope Jehovah will deliver them? There is forgiveness with Him, that He may be feared. And the psalm assures them that One in like depths has been set free. When they look upon Him, they will judge their sins in the light of His having borne them and they will find peace; but the foundation of peace is laid in hope for them here. A heart failing under iniquities, laying hold of it, can look for deliverance. It has been found (and however obscure their light, and it will be), the ground of hope is laid. Compare Isaiah 50:10-11, which describes this very state, consequent, as to the remnant, on Christ’s being justified and helped.
The new song
But this is not all. Messiah puts Himself in this association with them. “He hath put a new song in my mouth, praise unto our God: many shall see it and fear, and shall trust in Jehovah. Blessed is the man that makes Jehovah his trust, and does not trust outward prosperity nor apostatize to lying vanities.” So in verse 5, to usward. That is, in verse 1, we have Christ, who has waited on Jehovah, and been heard, and brought up out of a horrible pit and miry clay. I doubt not that David’s heart sung it: still it is surely Christ in prophetic purpose. But then Christ identifies Himself (though, as we have seen, distinguishing the remnant) with Israel. Praise, He says, unto our God. The effect of this is that many see it, fear, and trust in Jehovah. It acts on the remnant in the latter day, and leads them to trust in Jehovah. They can trust for deliverance too; many will. His preaching righteousness to the great congregation gathered a little flock. His deliverance as the suffering One will be blessed to many. Who hath begotten me all these? says Zion in that day. This may take in the ten tribes too; still, as a principle, a multitude will be there. It was not so at Christ’s first coming. He was to be a despised and rejected One in His own history and trial.
Christ’s coming as a Man to do God’s will; His consequent suffering
Verse 5. These are the thoughts of Jehovah in blessing. This leads to the great thought, the center and groundwork of it all- Christ coming to do Jehovah’s will. Now, we can comment, or, still better, the Spirit of God has commented for us, on the value of His doing Jehovah’s will. Here we have much more the faithfulness of Christ in doing it, His being overwhelmed with iniquities taking hold of Him in His own spirit, as we see in Gethsemane, but deliverance. We must remember that the confession of sins over the head of the sacrifice was not the slaying, or casting into the fire, of the victim. So Christ’s acknowledging thus, or confessing the iniquities with which He was charging Himself as His, was not His enduring the wrath, nor His being cut off out of the land of the living. Dreadful indeed it must have been to Him, as we see in the Gospels, and He saw all that was coming upon Him by reason of it; still it was essentially different-confessing the sins and bearing the wrath due to them. His confession of sins His people must (I will not say imitate, but) take up in the knowledge that those He confessed were their own; and may, till grace is fully known, do it with dreadful anguish and apprehension of the wrath to come. It is this which particularly, besides outward trials, constitutes the analogy between the Jewish remnant and the Lord. The wrath endured in atonement, we know, He endured that we never might.
The eternal counsels of God
In this psalm then we see Christ, according to the eternal counsels of God, come to do God’s will in human nature, taking His place in the midst of the great congregation of Israel, suffering most deeply in consequence, getting into the horrible pit, but His trust is firm in Jehovah. He waited patiently for Him, and He is brought up, and a new song put into His mouth. The first three verses state the great fact: Jehovah heard and delivered out of the horrible pit. It is a lesson for all the remnant. How blessed is the man who trusts Jehovah, and does not look at the appearance of persons to turn aside after vanity! Then we get the course of events. Wonderful have been Jehovah’s counsels. Christ comes to do His will as a man, delights to do it, declares Jehovah’s righteousness before all. This brings Him into the greatest distress. Evils come upon Him unnumbered, and, besides that, His iniquities (those of His people) come upon Him; but patience has its perfect work, and He is perfect and complete in all the will of God; and, as the psalm shows at the beginning, He is delivered, as we well know. But, as already said, the psalm recites His faithfulness especially. Hence we see Him up to the close of the trial still under it. What He asks for is that the ungodly, being found His enemies, may be set aside; but that the poor of the flock may be able to praise, rejoice, and be glad in Jehovah.
Christ’s patience in trial
It is beautiful to see His perfect patience in the trial, that the whole will of God may be accomplished, and seeking the joy and full blessing of the poor remnant; yet Himself taking the place of complete dependence on Jehovah, and praying for His coming in as God. Obedience and dependence are the two characteristics of the acting of the divine life in man towards God. It may be remarked here that the testimony in the congregation is closed when the innumerable evils come upon Him. The preface of the psalm speaks of the horrible pit when He is out of it, and we know whereunto He was obedient; but His death is not spoken of here. In the body of the psalm we have, as come to do God’s will, His faithfulness in life as witness, and the evils that came upon Him at the close when He had to meet the burden of the iniquity of His people. The fourth verse applies to the remnant the result of Christ’s faithfulness for instruction and encouragement.
“Digged ears”
A few words on the expression, “Opened my ears.” The word is not the same as in Exodus 21. There it is attaching the ear with an awl to the door post; the man thus became a servant forever. Nor is it the same as in Isaiah 50, where it has the signification of being so completely a servant to His Master’s will that He received His commands morning by morning. Here it is “digged ears” (that is, took the place of a servant). But this He did, as may be seen in Philippians 2, by becoming a man. Hence the Spirit accepts the interpretation of the LXX-“a body hast thou prepared me.” Compare John 13 (which answers in point of time to Exodus 21), Luke
12:37 and 1 Corinthians 15:28.

Psalm 41

The blessedness of him who understands and enters into the position of the poor of the flock
Psalm 41 shows the blessedness of the man who understands this position of the poor of the flock and enters into it. (Compare Matthew 5:3 and Luke 6:20.) It is spoken in the person of one of the suffering remnant-doubtless with the psalmist’s own experience. It is one of the psalms in which Christ takes up an expression to show how, in the close of His life, when He entered into their sorrows, He tasted fully their bitterness. Still the poor man is upheld in his integrity, and set before Jehovah’s face. The apparent triumph of the wicked is short.
This closes the book. It is the experience, as a whole, of the remnant before they are driven out, or at the least of those who are not so. And the covenant name of Jehovah is used. Hence, the place of Christ is entered into, so far as He came and set Himself among the poor of the flock upon earth, and led the life of sorrow and integrity in the midst of evil. Of this last psalm He is not the subject, as verse 4 shows.
The subject of the first book
We have seen an introduction in the first eight psalms, in which the whole scene is brought before us in its principles and result in the purpose of God; then in Psalms 9-10, the actual historical circumstances of the Jews in the latter day. Thus, as to historical facts, their state forms the groundwork and subject of the whole book; while the way in which Christ could enter into their sorrows, and they be encouraged by His example, is fully introduced. His whole life amid the nation is passed in review; but particularly the close, when, after declaring God’s righteousness in the great congregation, He passed into the deep sufferings of the last hours of His passage on earth, going on to His being forsaken of God. Yet it was for Him-surely for us, blessed be God-the path of life.
The peculiar interest of Psalm 40
Psalm 40 has this peculiar interest, that it gives us, not merely the history of Christ, His faithfulness, but His freely offering Himself to accomplish all that the Father’s counsels required of Him; and then shows Him waiting in obedience till Jehovah was pleased to come in. And then He has the new song to sing. Of this intervention of God the resurrection was the grand witness; through which, as we have seen in Psalm 22, He has awakened, or rather created, it in so many other hearts. As is common, the first three verses give the thesis-the rest all that led up to this: only here it is traced from His first offering Himself to do it.
Additional remarks as to Psalm 41
The reader will remark in Psalm 41 what we have noticed as characterizing the remnant-the acknowledgment of sin (vs. 4), and the declaration of integrity (vs. 12). We have Christ using it as to Himself, showing, though the psalm be not of Him, how He took the place to which the spirit of the whole applies. The proud and wicked could despise and trample upon the meek and lowly, and perhaps chastened remnant. Here it is more the false and treacherous spirit of those whom he ought to have been able to trust. Blessedness is with those who understand, the meek and lowly ones who are chastened, for they understand the Lord’s ways; the meek one himself looks to the Lord when His hand is upon him. The point of the psalm is the blessedness of those who understand and enter into the position of those with whom Jehovah is dealing. This place, Christ fully took, though not chastened with sickness.

Psalms - Book 2

The contents of Book 2 (Psalms 42-72)
In the second book, the remnant is viewed as outside Jerusalem, and the city as given up to wickedness. This is seen throughout it. The covenant connection of the Jews with Jehovah is lost, but God is trusted. When Messiah comes in, all is changed. We have further, more distinctly, the exaltation of Christ on high as the means of their deliverance, and His rejection and sorrow when down here. It closes with the millennial reign of Messiah in peace under the figure of Solomon. The spirit of the godly man is tested by these circumstances. And, as all hope of finding good in the people is given up, the soul of the believing remnant is more entirely looking to God Himself and attached to Him. It is with this that the book opens.

Psalms 42-43

The cry of the heart after God Himself
The godly man had been going with the multitude to the house of God, but that is all over. He is driven away, and his cry is from Jordan-the land of the Hermonites, and the hill Mizar. All God’s waves are gone over him. It was terrible to see an enemy in possession of the sanctuary, and the true one of Jehovah cast out and His name blasphemed. The heathen, as stated in Joel, had come in in power, and taunted those who had trusted in Jehovah’s faithfulness with the cry, “Where is thy God?” (Joel 2:17). It was, of course, a dreadful trial (so with Christ upon the cross; and with Him yet more, for He declared He was forsaken); so that what God was to them by faith was put to the test. This faith is what this psalm now expresses. The heart of the godly pants after God. It was not merely for His blessings; they were gone. The preciousness of what He Himself was, was only so much the more vividly brought out. The main distress was the cry, “Where is thy God?” But if the saint is not in Jerusalem, God is the confidence of the saint. Faith says, “I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” The heart too can appeal to Him (vs. 9), and, under the pressure of the repeated taunt, hope in God Himself, and He will be the health of the countenance of him that trusts in Him.
The reader will remark that in verse 5 it is the help of God’s countenance: in verse 11 He becomes the health of the countenance of him that trusts in Him. This making God Himself to become everything by the deprivation of all blessings, and the exercise of faith in it casting the soul entirely on God Himself, is very precious.
The enemy-Gentile, ungodly Jew, and the wicked
The enemy in Psalm 42 is the outward enemy and oppressor- the Gentile. Though in circumstances, of course, and not in the depths of atonement, it is interesting to see the analogy in verse 3 with what the Lord said upon the cross. Psalm 43 is a supplementary psalm to the former: only that here the ungodly nation, the Jews, are before us, and the deceitful and unjust man, the wicked one; though the Gentile oppressor be yet there (vs. 2). We know they will both be there in that day. From the Jewish nation being now in the scene, the return to the holy hill and tabernacle and altar of God are more before the mind of the remnant. Verses 3-4 form the groundwork of the book.

Psalm 44

The nation cast off and scattered
Psalm 44 gives a full and vivid picture of the state of the nation, as in the conscience of the remnant. They had heard with their ears. Faith rested in the memorial of all the old mighty deliverances wrought by God, and how He had put them in possession of the land by His power, not theirs (vss. 1-8). In verses 9-16 their present state is recounted. They are cast off and scattered. The enemy and avenger is among them; they scattered among the heathen-sold of God for no price (vss. 17-22). Yet they have, in no wise, swerved from their integrity. On the contrary, it is for His sake they are killed all the day long, and counted as sheep for the slaughter. (Note, the moment Messiah was rejected, this began in principle; compare Romans 8:36.) Verses 23-26 contain the appeal to God to wake up to redeem them for His mercies’ sake. Why should He forget them forever? We have still God, not Jehovah, in this psalm; for they are outside.

Psalm 45

The coming in of Messiah in glory and judgment
Psalm 45 introduces Messiah, and, as we shall see, changes everything. I know not, interesting and full of bright energy as the psalm is, that I have much to note upon it, by reason of its force being so very plain. It will be remarked that it is Messiah in judgment and taking the throne. He had already proved that He loved righteousness and hated iniquity-was fit to govern. He is saluted as God. Yet His disciples (the remnant) are called His fellows. (Compare Zechariah 13:7, where He is seen in His humiliation and smitten, but owned to be Jehovah’s fellow.) I apprehend the queen is Jerusalem. Tyre and others own her with presents. She is gloriously received into the chambers of the king himself. This, I apprehend, is the force of within. She is in the closest relationship with the king. The virgins her companions are, I suppose, the cities of Judah. The glory of Israel is no longer now their fathers. The presence of Messiah (the fulfiller of promise) has eclipsed the depositaries of promise of old. Instead of fathers, they have children to be made princes in all lands. The coming in of Messiah in glory and judgment, brings in the full triumph and glory, among the nations, of Jerusalem and the Jewish people. The psalm is full of Messiah, and exclusively, yet as man, and God is only alluded to as his God. But Messiah is God.

Psalm 46

God of Israel with the spared remnant; the result
The remnant, now that Messiah has appeared in glory, can celebrate what God is in favor of His people, and with the special knowledge acquired through what He has been for them in trouble. There may be yet an assault: indeed according to prophecy I believe there will be. But as the whole effect of Messiah’s coming in blessing was celebrated in Psalm 45, so here the great result in divine government. The spared remnant have Jehovah with them as the God of Israel (vs. 7). For here Jehovah is again introduced as a present thing. Here it is specially (and suitably, after what we have been studying, needs not to be said) as refuge and deliverance. Earth, mountains, and waters may tremble, or swell and roar: His people need not fear. God is with them. Nor is this all. He has His city on the earth, where He who is the Most High dwells, and has His tabernacles gladdened by that river which is everywhere in these descriptions the sign of blessing; as in the heavenly Jerusalem, and in the earthly in Ezekiel-nay, in paradise, and in figures, in the believer, and in the assembly, who calls to the water of life him who thirsts. But even then the river is there. God is there-the sure and best of answers to the taunting demand, “Where is thy God?” She shall not be moved, but helped right early.
Verse 6 gives in magnificent abruptness the great result. All is decided. Then they say, “Jehovah Sabaoth is with us.” The God of the whole people is the refuge of this feeble remnant (vss. 8-9), they summon the earth to see what the works of Jehovah are, what is come of the impotent rage and violence of men; for He will be exalted among the heathen and exalted in the earth. The place of faith is to be still and wait on Him and know that He is God, as the remnant of Jacob will with joy-that Jehovah of hosts, the God of Jacob, is with them.

Psalm 47

Jehovah a great King over all the earth
Psalm 47 only pursues this deliverance to its bright results for Israel according to God’s glory in the earth. Jehovah is now a great King over all the earth. (Compare Zechariah 14.) He subdues the nations under Israel and Himself chooses their inheritance. This is triumphantly celebrated from verses 5-9, and the association of the princes of the peoples now owning God, with the people of the God of Abraham. He is specially Israel’s (the remnant’s) King, but if He is, He is King of all the earth. In these verses God Himself is celebrated, but He is the God of Israel. It is the celebration of the earthly part of the millennial glory of God: Israel owned in the delivered remnant being the center. I apprehend verse 9 should be, “Have joined themselves to the people.”

Psalm 48

Israel’s God in Zion, the praise of the whole earth
Psalm 48 completes this series. Jehovah is fully established as Israel’s God in Zion, now the praise of the whole earth, the city of the Great King, and in whose palaces God is well-known as a refuge. The kings were assembled; they found another sort of power there than they thought of, marvelled, were troubled, and hasted away. The power of the sea was broken by the east wind, and Jehovah’s hand manifested there too. The psalm beautifully refers to the beginning of Psalm 44, where they had said in their distress, We have heard with our ears ...the mighty works of the fathers’ days. Now they say, As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of Jehovah Sabaoth, the city of our God. They do not now say, as in Psalm 42, “I had gone with the multitude,” but now cry to Thee from Jordan; but in sweet and unendangered peace, “We have thought of thy loving-kindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple.” God’s name they had trusted, but now His praise was according to it. He had come in in power. It was so to the ends of the earth. He calls on Mount Zion to rejoice because of these judgments, with the joyful assurance that this God is their God forever and ever; their life long will He guide and bless them. It is an earthly blessing, and death, the last enemy, is not destroyed (vss. 11-14).

Psalm 49

All that is exalted in man is nothing
Psalm 49 is a moral conclusion for all, founded on these judgments of God. Wealth, elevation, all that is exalted in man, is nothing. Man expects to endure, gives his own name to his lands, blesses himself, is praised by posterity, and spoken well of as prudent and wise, seeing he has done well to himself. They are laid in sheol like sheep. The hope of the man of the world does not last; he leaves the world he was great in; his reputation, which lives, is nought for him, deception for others. Satan’s power is for this life; there is no deceiving after it. Man in honor without understanding is like the beasts that perish, but the righteous remnant trusts in God: his soul is redeemed from the power of the grave. God shall accept him. The preservation on earth, or heavenly blessing is left somewhat vague here. The immediate hope would be of preserving life; but it would meet those that might be slain with the fullest and securest hope. It is even so in Luke 21:19, κτησασθε τας ψυχας υμων (ktesasthe tas psychas hymon), and in Matthew
24:13. The ambiguity is preserved there too designedly.

Psalm 50

God’s judgment of the people
In Psalm 50 we enter on new ground-God’s judgment of the people. Jehovah the mighty God summons the whole earth; as in Psalm 51 we have their confession of killing Christ.
The introduction of Psalm 50 is magnificent, but requires little comment, God shining out of Zion the perfection of beauty. Only remark that the first two verses are the thesis; from verse 3 is the bringing it about. But heaven is called in to stand by, a witness of righteousness, and the earth; but the judgment is the special judgment of the people. In verses 5-6, He takes up and accepts and gathers the remnant, His chasidim, who have now entered into covenant with Him by sacrifice. It is in view, I apprehend, of their seeing Christ whom they had pierced, that these words are uttered. The heavens (though in result God be seated in Zion) bring in their display of the righteousness of God; distinct in itself, note, from His judgment. This is general. It is not in itself the judgment of God. I doubt not, He shines forth in glory therein, but in a particular manner. We can say it is the glorified saints who display this, of course with Christ Himself; yea, so fully that they shall judge the earth. It is not judgment through secondary causes: God is now judge Himself-hence gathers His saints too. In verse 7 the people are judged. God does not want sacrifice, He wants righteousness. He will not have wickedness, nor, now, the wicked among His people. So we read in the very same way in Isaiah 48-57. Man fancies God is such as he himself is; but all shall be set in order before Him. This is God’s judgment.

Psalm 51

The full confession of the true remnant as to Christ’s death
Psalm 51 is the true remnant’s confession. They have fully entered into the mind of God. (See verse 16.) There is true and complete humiliation for sin before God, yet confidence in Him. He is looked to to cleanse and deliver, with the true faith of God’s people. The whole sin of the heart and nature is acknowledged, and the dreadful crime of Christ’s death owned (vs. 14). The humiliation is accepted, but with the sense of God’s cleansing being perfect He creates too a clean heart. He prays that that Spirit (which Haggai declares abode with them after all their faults, and in spite of the Babylonish captivity), might not be taken from him, nor he lose the sense of the presence of his God. Persons have found difficulty in this verse; I see not any. No good could have been wrought by the Old Testament saints without the Holy Spirit: withdrawn from them, all their joy and comfort ceased and gave place to darkness. This he prays might not be. There cannot for a moment be a doubt that the Spirit wrought in the Old Testament saints. The question is, whether He was present in the same manner, and dwelling in them, in virtue of Christ’s work and glory, uniting them to a risen Head in heaven. This, of course, could not be. The work was not yet wrought, the glory not yet entered into by the man Jesus. The New Testament is clear on this point. He was not; but He must have wrought in and with the saints. He acts in everything good; the agent in all divine action in the creature, as in the creation He moved on the face of the waters, but specially in the hearts of men for any good that is there, and to be the source of joy and strength to the saints. So in the prophets and others.
An intelligent saint now could not say what is said in this psalm (vs. 11); he knows God will not take His Spirit from him. He might indeed perhaps in anguish say it, and with a true heart, and be heard; but not intelligently. This repentance of Israel, as so constantly taught in Scripture (see Acts 3), is the path to Zion’s blessing there. Will God accept their offerings? In these two psalms we have the separative judgment in Israel connected with wickedness, sin against Jehovah-a judgment which is real deliverance for the remnant; and now (when He has appeared) the full confession, and that even of having shed the blood of the Saviour.
Psalms 50-51 as giving the circumstantial setting of what follows
These two psalms complete the setting, as to circumstances, of the whole scene before us, which forms the groundwork of this book. The series of psalms now commences (as we have seen in other instances), to supply and unfold the expressions of feeling for the remnant under these circumstances. It will be found, accordingly, that it is not so much trial by being in the midst of evil, as from seeing it dominant and prevailing in the place even that belonged to Jehovah. Hence in general, they are addressed to God and the Most High, the God of promise-not to Jehovah, the God of present covenant blessings, for they are out of the place of them. When otherwise, I purpose noticing it in its place. After all this is gone through up to the full inshining of hope, the position of Christ exalted on high, and once suffering in Israel as that in virtue of which He could help and deliver them, is brought out. This (with the application of it to the remnant and the employment of David’s last appeal in his sorrow, as now fatigued with years, to Israel’s own state at the end) ushers in the millennial reign of Christ under the figure of Solomon.

Psalm 52

Faith in regard to the power of the wicked man
In Psalm 52 we find faith as regards the power of the wicked man, who was in presence of the godly. The goodness of God endured. God would destroy the proud and deceitful man, while the righteous would abide. It reminds of Shebna-not enemies from without nor even the beast, but within among themselves-the Antichrist of power.

Psalm 53

The wicked in general
In Psalm 53 we have the wicked in general, the whole mass of the people, all, save where grace had come in. It is the same as Psalm 14, but does not speak of Jehovah, but of God, for the remnant are no longer in the place of covenant relation. Hence here it is not God is in the generation of the righteous, but the utter ruin of those encamped against them-the public judgment of the external enemies. Those who are in great fear are the ungodly Jews. (See Isaiah 33:14, 8:12 and 10:24.) In Psalm 14 they despised the poor who trusted in Jehovah. There they were outwardly together. This is not so now. God has put His enemies to shame-not the proud ungodly the poor of the flock. The desire of the full salvation of Israel out of Zion as a center, not merely God’s deliverance by judgment from enemies without, is then expressed. The power which comes from heaven and destroys the faithless oppressor, is a distinct thing from the establishment of the result of covenant power in Zion according to promise.

Psalm 54

The cry to God to deliver
Psalm 54 is the cry to God to deliver according to the value of His name, the subject of trust. The double character of the enemies is spoken of-strangers, enemies from without; and oppressors, the proud within, who hunt for the life of the poor. When deliverance comes, then the name of Jehovah is introduced (vss. 6-7). The name of God is the revelation of what He is. This is what is trusted. Jehovah’s name, that of their covenant God, will be praised when they get back into the place of association with Him.

Psalm 55

Wickedness in Jerusalem
Psalm 55 is a distressing picture of wickedness in Jerusalem. The speaker is outside, but has experienced this wickedness in the treachery of his dearest friends. His resource is in God: Jehovah will save. He is looking back, I judge, at all that he had experienced in Jerusalem. Wickedness went about her walls. Wickedness, deceit, and guile were in her midst, nor departed from her streets. He would fain have fled from it all. The enemy was without, the wicked within; but they charged the godly with wickedness, and utterly hated them; but worst of all was the heartless treachery of those within, those with whom the godly had gone in company to the house of God. Still his trust was in God, for where else should he seek help?

Psalm 56

The Word of God a sure trusting-place
Psalm 56 expresses the sense of the bitter and relentless enmity of the wicked, but the tears of the godly are put in God’s bottle. God is owned as the Most High, the title of promise but not of covenant (that of covenant is Jehovah); and here the remnant are cast out. But the Word of God is a sure trusting-place. It carries the truth of God as its basis to the soul, and contains all the expression of His goodness, and ways, and faithfulness, and interest also in His people. Hence there is no fear of man. The soul of the godly was delivered from death; he had escaped and fled, and now he looks to God that his feet may be kept, that he may walk before God in the light of the living. As the expression of the tried heart driven out, but so escaped, it has a most clear and distinct place.

Psalm 57

Confidence in God; full and heavenly deliverance looked for
Psalm 57 looks more at the evil and the feet being kept, leaning on the Word. This psalm while crying to God in the same spirit and circumstances and under the same title, is more the expression of confidence in God as a refuge. His wings are a covert till the evil be overpast, and full deliverance is looked for by His gloriously putting an end to the trial. God will send from heaven and deliver. Hence the end of the psalm is more triumphant than that of Psalm 56. He will praise among the peoples and various tribes of the earth, for God’s mercy and truth are great. God’s publicly exalting Himself above heaven and over all the earth is looked for. No help was on earth, none to be looked for; but this cast more entirely on God, and thus brought out a fuller confidence in His safeguard, and in the final display of power in deliverance. So it ever is. God would send from heaven. How this directs the remnant upwards, and links them with a heavenly deliverance. Then Jehovah is praised.

Psalm 58

Judgment the only and promised deliverance for the remnant
All righteousness was silent in Israel. The wicked were such and nought else. The godly man looks for judgment on them, for, let favor be shown to them, they will not learn uprightness. In the land of uprightness will they deal unjustly (Isa. 26:9-10). They cannot, says David of the same, be taken with hand; one must be fenced with iron to touch them (2 Sam. 23). Hence the godly looked for judgment-the only possible means, by God’s own testimony, of removing the evil; for patience had been fully exercised towards them, but when even God’s hand was lifted up they would not see. And the vengeance of deliverance would come, and men would say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous; doubtless there is a God that judges in the earth. (See Isaiah 26:9.) This is the meaning of these terrible judgments: they establish the government and righteous judgment of God in the earth. Grace has taken us out of the world; we are not of it, as Christ was not of it. Christ will, as to our deliverance, even from suffering, come and take us out of the evil, so that we have in no way need to seek the destruction of our enemies. But for the persecuted remnant, it is the only and promised deliverance; and not only that-it establishes God’s government of the earth.

Psalm 59

External enemies; the might of human power judged
Psalm 59 gives more the external enemies. The same wickedness is found there, but the might of human power with it. But they also must be judged, that wickedness may be set aside. Nor was it the sin of Israel against them that brought the heathen on them (however God might chasten them for sin against Him, so that He was justified). The suffering remnant look therefore for the intervention of Jehovah to judge them. And Jehovah shall judge all the heathen. They are not destroyed, but scattered, yet practically, as power, consumed; and many, as we know, slain.
This psalm speaks of no restoration of blessing. It is judgment, and judgment going on and not yet finished. And this judgment of the proud and wicked enemies will go on. Though rising up in rage to a head of wickedness, they will be sore smitten and consumed. All the heathen are concerned in it, but I apprehend that it is especially the apostate power animated of Satan-partially the king of Daniel 8 perhaps. It will be remarked here that, the moment it is in contrast with the heathen, the name of Jehovah is introduced. The personal address is still under the name of God, for the people are still outside. (See verses 3, 5 and 8 for Jehovah, and verses 1, 9-10 and 17 for the personal address.) Note, the result is, that God rules in Jacob unto the ends of the earth. Verses 14-15 are, I apprehend, a challenge. Let the heathen be as hungry dogs about the city, the believer will sing of Jehovah’s power. It is at the close of the tribulation.
The connection between Israel and Messiah shown by David
This psalm presents another phase of the connection of Israel and Messiah, and shows how David became the fitted instrument whom God had attuned to tell Messiah’s and the remnant’s sufferings. “Slay them not, lest my people forget.”1 Now, this is not the language of the king, as such, but of Jehovah. The only case where “my people” is used is 2 Samuel 22:44, or Psalm 18:43, where Christ is the speaker. But when Christ is born, He is called Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins. Now Jesus was the personal verifying of that which was said of Jehovah. In all their afflictions He was afflicted, as in Isaiah 63. It is Jehovah who gets the tongue of the learned (Isa. 50). So that “my people,” where not directly of Jehovah which is frequent, is Christ entering into the sorrows of Israel, but in the love of Jehovah to them-no doubt as man (or how could He have actually suffered?) but still in the sympathies of Jehovah-yet, and because He is Jehovah, perfectly entering into them. It is thus He wept over Jerusalem, saying, “How often would I have gathered thy children together!” But that was Jehovah. Hence, though He can say “we,” because He graciously takes a place among the children, yet, in saying “we,” it brings in all His own value and excellency into the cry. “I” and “me” may often take up the case of an individual of the remnant; but in case of such an expression as “my people,” we clearly get One who stands in another position-not merely David. He says (like Moses) to Jehovah, “thy people” ever, and that is all right, but One who, in whatever sorrow, could say, as Jehovah, when spoken of by the Spirit, “my people,” and enter into their griefs with divine sympathy, and a righteous call for divine judgment. I apprehend that, though the enemies are the heathen, yet their complete intimacy and affinity with the wicked among the Jewish people is clearly intimated here. The same thing is found in Isaiah 66. They are all melted into one system and state of wickedness.
(1. If the title be right, David was not yet king de facto, and the Spirit of Christ in him spoke anticipatively of the title of the anointed one; but evidently in view of another epoch. Note too here all Israel is in view of the desires of faith, though no deliverance even of the Jews be yet accomplished.)

Psalm 60

The remnant’s acceptance of punishment; their hope
In Psalm 60 the remnant acknowledge God’s having cast them off. Their only hope is, that He will turn to them again. This is exactly the point of Israel’s righteousness as a nation: no going for help elsewhere-no spirit of rebellion. They accept the punishment of their iniquity. Still God had put His ensign among the faithful in Israel. He was their Jehovah-nissi. They now look to Him. The end of the psalm is God asserting His title to the land of promise. Victory will be to Israel through Him.

Psalm 61

The cry of depression but a known God trusted
The main point of all these psalms is trust in God when all is against the godly One. The more all circumstances are adverse, the more God is trusted in; but Christ shines through all as taking the dependent godly one’s place. Many of the psalms of this book were, it is very likely, composed when David was driven out through Absalom.
This confidence in God which calls Him to hear is expressed in Psalm 61. It is not an appeal of the godly man against enemies, but the sinking of his heart as cast out; but, when at the end of the earth and his spirit overwhelmed, he cries to God and looks for a rock higher than himself from this flood. Thus his confidence was restored. It was a known God whom he thus trusted, whatever his then sorrows. In verse 5 he applies it to present certainty of having been heard. The vows he had sent up God-ward had reached His ear above; full blessings would rest upon him, and in those blessings he would perform them. Verse 6, doubtless, as to the occasion of it, was David, but it looks, I apprehend, clearly to a greater than he, and the abiding life into which He entered as man; and though the godly remnant be thus driven out and their spirit overwhelmed within them, yet the fact that the King had been so would be a cheer and a security to their hearts: His song would become theirs, His having sung it a relief to them when they might have sunk in despondency. Though the being driven out is the occasion and is felt, the psalm does not refer to wickedness, but to nature, the human heart being overwhelmed.

Psalm 62

The confidence and encouragement of trust
In Psalm 62 Confidence is more expressed. It is not looking from an overwhelmed heart, but a free looking up, so that one is not overwhelmed. His soul waits on God, has none else indeed, but does not desire any other. There is a “How long?” as well as a waiting. God will certainly come in at the right time, and then it will be known to whom power belongs. The psalm is spoken individually and may be in the mouth of anyone of the godly remnant. How long would they imagine mischief against a man? What was their object? Why have him thus in hatred, and by falsehood seek to root him out of his place-the place of God’s blessing, in which He had placed the godly in Israel? But this, I doubt not, has special application to Christ as the One who was indeed in this place, and against whom all their malice was directed to cast Him down from His excellency. He invites also the people (Jewish) to trust in God, to pour out their hearts before Him, and, putting Himself with them in this place, says, Not only my refuge is in God, but He is a refuge for us. In saying “mine” He shows that He had it; but these maskilim shall instruct the many and turn to righteousness many of them.1 Above all did that truly understanding One do so. They were not to trust in the great and violent ones of the earth. Power belongs to God, and with Him is mercy. They may trust in Him as a God of righteousness, and walk uprightly and not be turned aside by the prosperity of the wicked; for Adonai will reward every man according to his works. It is the desire to cast down the poor of the flock (because the wicked after all have the consciousness that the excellency of God is with them, and specially with Christ), which draws out this psalm, which expresses the faith of the saint and the warning to the people to trust God and not the mighty. They are exalted in the earth; but true elevation from God is with Christ, and those who thus walk, who fear God and obey the voice of His servant.
(1. Compare Daniel 12:3 and Isaiah 53:11. Not “justify many,” but turn to righteousness, and bear, etc.)

Psalm 63

Desire after God Himself; praise even in the wilderness
If Psalm 61 has been the cry of depression, Psalm 62 The confidence and encouragement of trust in God, Psalm 63 is the longing of the soul, still as cast out and far from the sanctuary (so we can speak of heaven, for we have seen the power and glory there by faith); but having, by faith in the loving-kindness itself, praise as its portion even in the wilderness, marrow and fatness to feed upon. It is a beautiful psalm in this respect; for it knows God; praise is thus begotten in the soul and for all times. There are two points: first, a most sweet word-because God’s loving-kindness is better than life, his lips praise God, though life in the wilderness be sorrow; secondly, because He has been his help, therefore he will rejoice in His protection. Verse 8 describes the practical result-his soul followed hard after God, and God’s right hand upheld him. There was the longing to see the power and the glory as he had seen it; the present satisfying of the soul as with marrow and fatness, and that in the silent watches of the night, when all outward excitement was hushed and the soul left to itself. Those that sought the soul of the righteous to destroy it should go down into hades, but the king shall rejoice in God. Those that own His name should glory, but the false ones who departed from Him should be put to shame. It is again the king, and applies to Christ in a higher sense than to the remnant. For Him it was the desire to see the glory from which He was descended; for the Jew it was in the temple; for us, a Christ who has been revealed by faith to us, who have seen the glory and sanctuary into which He is entered.
There is a difference between Psalm 84 and this psalm-that is the desire to revisit the sanctuary of God; this, desire after God Himself. There the tabernacles of Jehovah, a covenant God, are amiable; here God Himself is a delight when there are no tabernacles to go to.1
(1. For Christ and for the new man, the world is a desert, without anything in it to refresh the soul. But divine favor being better than life, we can praise while we live; our soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness. The saint is not in the sanctuary, but has seen God in it. His desire is after God Himself. Christ could literally say this. “He hath seen the Father”: we have seen Him in Him.)

Psalm 64

God’s sudden judgment of the wicked and its result
Psalm 64 chiefly speaks of the unceasing crafty hatred of the enemy and cries to God: God will shoot at them suddenly. The result of this judgment will be that all shall fear and declare the work of God, for they shall wisely consider of His doing. Then (for judgment is now come) the righteous shall be glad in Jehovah, for His covenant name is now taken, the judgment having removed the power of evil. The upright in heart glory. Thus judgment introduces the millennium.

Psalm 65

Confidence in what the Blesser of the earth will do
In Psalms 65-67 we have the bright side, the bright and joyful confidence of the saint who is conscious of being heard, and who, though not yet in the blessing, counts upon it; whereas up to this it has been the sense of the power of evil, or the cry to God and waiting upon Him. Still in Psalm 65 the door of praise is not yet opened. Praise is silent in Zion; still it surely would not be silent, the vow now made would be performed. There God was the hearer of prayer if praise was yet silent, and all flesh would come to Him. But confidence is very bright here. As to the actual state of the people and the remnant (indeed, the remnant alone enter into their case) iniquities prevailed against them. Still confidence is unshaken, God would purge them away. Blessed the man that Elohim chose (for all was grace) and made to dwell in His courts. They would be satisfied with the goodness of His house. The thing was sure and gave satisfying joy. In verse 5 we have the judgment in favor of the remnant by which the blessing would be introduced-terrible things in righteousness. God is the blesser of the earth in every place. The end of the psalm is the celebration of the earth’s blessings, when God comes in in judgment in favor of His people. At the door of Zion, as yet eating the fruit of their sins outside, the plea of the remnant is, that as yet praise was silent in Zion, but it was ready; God had only to bring in the judgment and deliverance, and it would wake up; and Elohim would do this, He who was the one blesser and orderer of the whole earth.

Psalm 66

The celebration of God’s intervention in righteousness
Psalm 66 celebrates this intervention in righteousness. Men are called to see God’s works, but (vs. 6) it is the very same God who once delivered Israel before out of Egypt. Verse 8 calls upon the nations brought into connection with God, to bless the God of the remnant, that is, of Israel. They had been brought through every kind of sorrow and oppression, to prove and try them as silver, but now they would go before Him and praise Him. They had cried, been righteous, were heard, and found mercy; their prayer was not turned away, nor God’s mercy from them. Thus after the sorrows (seen clearly now as the way and hand of God with them), to the righteous there is arisen up light in the darkness. They can pay the vows uttered in their distress, and tell to others the blessed and sure deliverance of the Lord who cares for the righteous, and has indeed heard their cry. But it is a deliverance by terrible acts of righteousness on God’s part, the display of His intervention in judgment in the government of this world. We see, as indeed in so many other psalms, how it is in the Jewish remnant, though not a sparrow falls to the ground without Him, that God displays His government of this world; as it is in them, which is the subject of the next psalm, that the blessing of the world takes place.

Psalm 67

The repentant Jew the way of blessing for the world
Psalm 67 closes this short series by looking for the blessing of the remnant, not only as the righteous and merciful answer to their cry, but as the way of spreading the knowledge of God’s ways to all nations. “God be merciful unto us, that thy way may be known upon earth.” Thus all the peoples will praise God, and the earth be judged and governed righteously. The earth will yield her increase, God’s blessing will be upon it, and He will, as the own God of the godly remnant that have trusted in Him, bless them. The result is summed up in the last verse-“God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.” For the repentant Jew is the way of blessing, life from the dead for the world.

Psalm 68

God at the head of His people in majesty
Psalm 68 follows on these psalms, being the celebration of the introduction of Israel into the position spoken of in them. Still it has a complete and individual character of its own. It begins with the formula employed when the camp broke up in the wilderness under the guidance of God, the pillar rising up and going before them. So it is now. God takes this place at the head of His people. It is thus introduced suddenly with great majesty. Let God arise-so His enemies are scattered before Him: as wax before the fire, the wicked perish at His presence. The righteous may be glad and rejoice before God, yea, exceedingly rejoice. He shall appear to the shame of the mighty wicked, and the righteous poor will be glorified. Thus the purport of this psalm is most clear. But the character of Him who thus interferes is further most beautifully unfolded. He is a father of the fatherless, a judge of widows. He makes the solitary to dwell in families, the rebellious in a dry land. Judgment is the true and gracious deliverance of the blessed God. And now His people can celebrate this goodness.
History is then recapitulated (vs. 7). Such was He when He brought forth Israel from Egypt. At Sinai the earth shook at His presence. But He refreshed the heritage of His weary people, when He had prepared of His goodness for the poor. But now present facts told that tale still more to their hearts. Adonai’s word went forth. The glad tidings were chanted by Israel’s daughters in a great company (vs. 11). Kings fled apace. What a sudden and complete deliverance it was! The quietest home-stayer divided the spoil, for it was the Lord’s doing. Then Israel came out in all her beauty, though they had been lying in poverty and wretchedness.1 In all the pretensions and striving of the nations, this is God’s will. God challenges these pretensions of human power: “Why leap ye, ye high hills?”-the seats of human power. Zion was God’s hill, He would make it His perpetual abode. For the sake of His remnant He scattered the kings. In the midst of them He would dwell. But whence all this deliverance? The Lord had ascended on high, received gifts as man and for men; yea, even for rebellious Israel, who was now in question, that Jehovah might dwell among them.
(1. The force of the word is much disputed; its sense, I suppose, is evident. It is used for the stables of sheep or cattle.)
Praise for the full restoration of Israel’s blessing and glory; its Source
This brings out praise to the God of their salvation; for their God was the God of salvation. Oh! how could Christ witness that? But they were still mortal men down here. The deliverance was earthly and temporal, though of saints. But He would be their guide always, even unto death. But He would destroy the wicked. What was really the occasion of all this burst of joy (of which the heart was too full to tell quietly the occasion) is now however drawn out; yet the exultation still casts its light and joy over it.
Israel was set up again in power; her enemies destroyed; the beauty of her temple-order restored. The tribes would come up, the kings bring presents. God had commanded strength, and they look to His strengthening what is wrought. The subjection of every enemy or mighty one follows. Princes would come out of Egypt, and Ethiopia stretch out her hands to God. The kingdoms of the earth are all called upon then to sing praises to Adonai. Strength is to be ascribed to God; but His excellency, that in which He is exalted, is over Israel, and, in the clouds of His dwelling-place in power, His strength watches over His people. It is the full restoration of Israel’s blessing and glory, and indeed much more than restoration; and this consequent upon the exaltation of the Lord to receive gifts as man.
The Lordship of Christ
But, while it is the intervention of God in the power of judgment, for the blessing of the remnant and putting down human power and every haughtiness of man’s will-“God’s arising” before His earthly people and His enemies fleeing-there are some points in it, which are brought out by this, which it is well to notice. First, the use of Adonai. His name Jah is introduced (vss. 4,18), but it is always Adonai is spoken of. It is not the covenant name of relationship, though Jah recall it, but power in exercise, Lordship-divine Lordship-but still Lordship. It is what Thomas owned when he saw the Lord, it would seem; not, Tell My brethren, “I ascend unto my Father and your Father,” etc. It is God; but as the Lord manifested here in power as Psalm 2:4; only there He is not redescended. Hence here we have His ascension as a past fact. It is not that God gives, but He who is Adonai has gone up and received gifts as, and in respect of, man. In His Adam (last Adam) character He has received them, having led the enemy captive (Acts 2:33-36); here clearly the ascended man, though much more, and as head having received the gifts באדם (“in Man”)-the human head of glory-He shed forth the gifts (Acts 2; Eph. 4). But though as, and for, and in, man, yet there was also a special object added, yea, even for the rebellious, that Jah Elohim might dwell among them. Here the remnant, the Israel of our psalm, comes in. Hence the Apostle does not quote it, but stops halfway at His receiving them for man.
In the following psalms we find the humiliation of this blessed One. What a contrast! Yet how far indeed from being less glorious or of feebler interest in the eyes of us who have learned and know who He is.

Psalm 69

The godly in deepest distress
The state of soul of which this most important psalm is the expression demands the utmost attention and patient inquiry. We have all along seen the remnant of Israel before us, or Christ associated with that remnant. It is the case here. He who speaks is doubtless, first of all, David; but evidently a greater than he. The state described is this: He is in the deepest distress, sinking in deep mire, has to weigh before God the foolishness and sins which have been the occasion of it. He is in the midst of numerous and mighty enemies, who are such without a cause. Whatever sins may be dealt with, personally He has been faithful. The zeal even of God’s house has eaten Him up, and He is suffering reproach for the God of Israel’s sake. Hence He prays that this may not be a stumbling block to others, seeing that One so faithful to God should find such distress and trouble. Yet He is not forsaken of God. On the contrary His prayer is to Jehovah in an acceptable time. He looks to be heard in the multitude of God’s mercies and the truth of His salvation. His complaint is of His enemies; yet He sees Himself smitten of God, and among those whom He has wounded. His desire is for vengeance against men; it is not the testimony of grace.
If we look at the godly man in the remnant of Israel, all this answers perfectly. He acknowledges his sins-all the sins of his nation. Yet he suffers reproach and causeless enmity for the name of the God of Israel: and the more faithful he is, the more he suffers it. Faith yet makes him know that he prays in an acceptable time (we have seen this to be the character of the last psalms) to the God of Israel. Yet he is in the deepest distress. His eyes fail while waiting for God. His care for the good of Israel, his submission to injury, only makes him their scorn. He looks for the destruction of his adversaries and persecutors, for whom no mercy is of avail (they will it not); assured that Jehovah hears the poor and despises not His prisoners. All creation is to praise Him, for God will save Zion and build the cities of Judah, that they may dwell therein and have it in possession. The seed also of His servants shall inherit it; and they that love His name shall dwell therein. All this is exactly and precisely the position and feeling of the godly remnant-the maskilim.
Christ’s personal sufferings as a Man from men
But in verse 21, and indeed, though of more general application, in verse 9, we have what has been literally fulfilled in Christ. The use of verse 22 in the Epistle to the Romans leads us to the same conclusion; and many other verses, though applicable to others, have their fullest application to Christ. Yet He is not speaking as forsaken of God at all. Yet, though His life is referred to, His sufferings on the cross, as we have seen, are reached in the description given of them; yet there is no trace of grace and mercy flowing from them. They are man’s part in them, not God’s forsaking; and judgment on man sought, not righteous grace announced. Yet withal trespasses are confessed before God, and the persecutions are of One whom God has smitten. Hence, I cannot but see in this psalm, after His righteous life, in consequence of which He suffered reproach (and which He rehearses as regards the great principles which had governed it), Christ entering in heart and spirit into the sorrow and distress of Israel, into which, as to God’s government, they had brought themselves; yet not the forsaking or the rejecting-that was Christ’s alone as bearing and expiating sin. Still, they are smitten of God and wounded by Him; and into this Christ could enter, because He (in the highest and fullest sense, though it be not the general subject of this psalm in general) was smitten of God. The subject is the persecution by the Jews, but the persecuted One was smitten of God, and felt how terrible was the wickedness that taunted and reproached Him who had taken that bitter cup, which we too had filled by our sins. Christ was smitten of God upon the cross, and felt the reproach and dishonor then cast upon Him.
As regards the trespasses recalled to mind in verse 5,1 I apprehend they are in connection with the government of God as to Israel; and that, though the fact of smiting is referred to, its expiatory power is not at all treated of in this psalm. Only judgment is sought for; that is not the fruit of expiation. (Compare Psalm 22.) But it gives to us, for that very reason, a fuller apprehension of all the personal sufferings of Christ at that time; not that which stands wholly and entirely alone-His atoning and expiatory work. Were this only revealed, it is so immensely great, it would have eclipsed His personal sufferings as a man, as such, gone through at that time; and this it is, blessed be God, which we have in this psalm-what accompanied the great act of the smiting of God.
(1. Further, as already remarked, in no case is the assumption of sins or their confession, on the head of the victim, the act of expiation. It is the assumption of that which had to be expiated.)

Psalm 70

The Spirit’s desire in connection with Christ’s sufferings from man
Psalm 70 embodies the desire of the Spirit of Christ in connection with His sufferings from man (but expresses itself, as in the remnant in that day) that His enemies may be confounded-those that say, Aha, aha, as they did when He was on the cross; that those that seek Jehovah may rejoice, and be glad and rejoice, and those who look for His deliverance say, Let God be magnified- that is, enjoy that deliverance. For this, He, as on earth, is content to be poor and needy, and nothing else, to the end. Still He trusts in Jehovah; He is His help and deliverer. He is assured He will come. He asks He may not tarry. Any saint of the remnant could say it doubtless; but it is a summing up of the principle on which the Spirit of Christ speaks in them, and of His personal association with their sorrows, and thus in principle furnishes a key. It will be remarked that from Psalm 69:13 the covenant name of Jehovah is introduced.

Psalm 71

God’s ways with Israel; appeal to His faithful care
Psalm 71, founded, I suppose, as much of this book, upon the flight of David on the rebellion of Absalom, presents, I apprehend, the sum of all God’s ways with Israel from the commencement of their history, and the display of His faithful care, with the appeal not now to leave them at the last. Christ, I doubt not, in spirit enters into it (see verse 11) as in every case, but it cannot personally apply to Him. The close of His life witnessed exactly similar trials, only faultless and deeper ones; but its application is to the old age of Israel, who will be brought up as from the depths of the earth through the faithful grace of the Holy One of Israel.

Psalm 72

The reign of peace and royal blessing; its Source and Securer
Psalm 72 introduces us, not to David in suffering and conflict, but to the full reign of peace and royal blessing. It is the Son of David we have here, the source and securer of millennial blessings. I know not that this psalm requires much explanation by reason of its clearness. It is the king to whom God gives His judgments, and who is at the same time the king’s Son, the Son of David, in His reign of righteousness and peace, as Solomon or Melchisedec. His kingdom has the full extent of promise, but all kings fall down before Him. Blessings of every kind accompany this reign of righteousness. The expression, “Prayer shall be made for him continually,” shows simply, that the blessings enjoyed through Him raise the desire and request for His glory and continuance in power. While literally spoken of Solomon, I think it would point out Christ reigning as a true man upon earth. Verse 17 shows, I think, it is not uncertainty of duration, but the effects of His rule on the hearts of all that are under it. There will be a prince of the house of David in Jerusalem, I suppose: still this, I think, looks beyond him.
The contents of Book 2
This closes the book. We have seen in it the godly ones cast out; their distress and confidence in this position; this ending in the certainty and confidence of restoration; and then Messiah’s deliverance and exaltation and previous humiliation-the glorious and yet humbled person being thus brought out-and then the human royal rule established in Israel. This ends the dealings with the remnant in the land, looked at as apart from the rest.

Psalms - Book 3

The contents of Book 3 (Psalms 73-89)
In the third book we get out into a larger sphere than the state of the residue of the Jews in the last days, whether in Jerusalem or driven out; and hence we find much less of the personal circumstances and feelings and associations of the Lord, who, in His day, walked among them. The general interests of Israel are in view, and thus Israel’s history is entered into. The whole national position is before us, still distinguishing a true-hearted residue. Remark here that, save one, we have no psalms of David in this book. Asaph, sons of Korah, Ethan, are the professed authors; I know of no reason to reject the alleged authorship. It is still the state of Israel in the last days: only that the general facts are spoken of in reference to the whole nation, not the particular details of the Jewish remnant, and of Christ as taking a place among them. It is much more Israel and general principles; there is more reference to their past history and God’s dealings with them.

Psalm 73

Perplexity at the prosperity of the wicked; the solution of the problem
This the first psalm of it shows. Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are of a true heart: but the saint was perplexed at the prosperity of the wicked, and his feet almost gone. The prosperous ungodly are then described; the body of the people join them, and the Most High is scorned; whereas the godly is continually chastened, he had cleansed his hands then in vain. But in speaking thus he would offend against the generation of God’s children. Man pondering on it, it was too painful. In the sanctuary of God, where His mind was revealed, all became plain. As a dream when one awakes, so all their pretensions would disappear when once God awoke. The godly man complains of his want of divine sense in these thoughts and feelings. Still after all he was ever before God, and God’s right hand upheld him; guided by His counsel in that time of darkness, when the glory shall have been revealed, he will be received. (Read, “After the glory, thou wilt receive me.” Compare Zechariah 2:8.) The result is blessed. He has none in heaven but the Lord, none on earth whom he desires beside Him: such is the effect of trial. But his flesh and heart fail: that is nature. It must be so, but God is the strength of his heart and his portion forever. The last two verses declare the result- those far from Jehovah, and apostates, perish; but it is good for the godly to draw near to God. He has put his trust in Him when He did not show Himself, that he might declare all His works when deliverance came; for those blessed without trial afterwards will not learn this knowledge of God.

Psalm 74

The desolation of the sanctuary; God’s faithfulness
Psalm 74 complains of the hostile desolation of the sanctuary, when rebuilt in the land. God’s enemies, as faith here calls them, roar in the congregations. Man’s ensigns, not God’s, are the signs of power. All public Jewish worship was laid low. Not only this- what might have been a comfort in such a time fails. There are no signs from God to meet it, no prophets, none that know how long (know, that is, by the teaching of God, when He will come in in power). Still there is here faith that God will not forsake His people, and that word, How long? if there be no answer as to it, turns into a cry. It cannot be forever. God’s faithfulness is trusted in. Heretofore He had smitten Egypt and delivered His people through a divided sea. All power in creation was His. The enemy had reproached the name of Jehovah. Israel is still held to be, in the remnant, as God’s turtledove. He is entreated to have respect to the covenant, for the dark places of the earth (or land) are full of the habitations of cruelty. The oppressed, the poor, the needy, are, as ever, presented to the eye and heart of God. We have them ever come before us as those of whom God thinks, in whom Christ delighted in the land. And so it is even as to the spirit we have to be of. He calls on God to arise and plead His own cause. The tumult of those who rose up against Him daily increased. While looked at as the poor and oppressed, it is remarkable how faith identifies the interests of the godly remnant and of God, and pleads their cause with Him. It is spoken of as from without. God is addressed: only God is reminded that His name in Israel has been blasphemed. This name recalls (vss. 19-20) the covenant relationship with, and tender love of Jehovah towards, His people.

Psalm 75

Praise for wondrous works already wrought
In Psalm 75 Messiah is introduced speaking, though the psalm commences with the remnant giving thanks to God for wondrous works already wrought. Then judgments of God introduce Messiah to the kingdom. He receives the congregation of Israel; then upright judgment will be executed. The earth is dissolved in guilt and confusion. Messiah upholds its pillars. In the following verses He warns the wicked and despisers of God not to exalt themselves, for God is the Judge; He puts up and puts down. The wicked should drink the cup of judgment to the dregs; but the despised Messiah would exalt the God of Jacob and cut off the horns of the wicked; the horn of the righteous would be exalted.

Psalm 76

The unexpected judgment of kings by the unlooked-for Judge
Psalm 76 is extremely simple in its application to the judgment of the kings, who come up against Jerusalem in their pride, and find, unlooked for, the Lord Himself there. (Compare Micah 4:11-13 and Zechariah 12:2 and 14:3-4.) The judgment of God is rehearsed, and God is now celebrated as having His dwelling-place in Zion. He is the God of Jacob and known in Judah: His judgment was heard from heaven. The long-despised Zion is more glorious than the mountains of prey, the high places of human violence. The earth feared, and was still, when God arose to judgment, and to help all the meek upon the earth.

Psalm 77

Spiritual deliverance and restored confidence
In Psalm 77 we have spiritual deliverance and restored confidence. He cried with his voice to God, and God gave ear to him. To cry with the voice is more than to have a wish. A cry is the expression of weakness, dependence, recourse had to God, the reference of the soul to God, even of uprightness of heart. In the day of trouble, it was not merely complaint, irritation, anger; but, “I sought the Lord,” Adonai, not Jehovah. His first thought was whether the Lord would cast off forever (vss. 7-9); for here he, as often remarked in the Psalms, is going through the process which led to the statements of the first verses.1 In verse 10 he judges himself in the thought, and remembered those years in which the power of Jehovah, the covenant God of Israel, the Most High of the fathers, was displayed. (Compare the remark, verse 5.) The way of God is always and necessarily according to His own most blessed and holy nature, and understood in the secret place in which He makes known His thoughts to those in communion with Him. His way is according to that place, in which He judges His people according to His present relationship with them. (Hence the place of the interpreter, one among a thousand.) The ways of God are the application of the divine principles of His holy nature, owned as placing Himself in relationship with His people, according to which principles that relationship must be maintained. That is His sanctuary. There is where He is approached. Thence He deals with His people, not merely in outward guidance, but as making good in His majesty the principles of His nature (so far as revealed) in the hidden man of the heart.2 He deals in the holy place of His nature and majesty with us in the truth of our state- our real, moral, inward state. He does not deviate from these ways, nor compromise the majesty they make good. But they (though according to His nature) are carried out in a revealed relationship. They make good His nature and majesty in it, but never infringe it. Man in relationship with Him must suit himself to it, must walk in his inward state with Him in it; but God, if He deals according to it, purifies him for it, shows the evil, hides pride from man in order to bless him, but makes good His own majesty. Hence the heart in the evil turns back to that which formed the relationship in redemption (vss. 14-18).
(1. This, if noticed, makes many psalms easy to understand, which would otherwise be difficult; because sorrow and distress follow after the confidence, but it is really what the spirit passed through in reaching it.)
(2. This supposes, of course, truth in the inward parts, conversion.)
God’s ways-in the sanctuary and in the sea
Israel or the godly remnant is not in the enjoyment here of covenant blessings, but, when distressed, looks back by faith to a time which recalls the power of Him who cannot change. The comfort of the soul is, that God’s way is in the sanctuary, according to the nature and ways of God Himself, so far as He is revealed. If I look out to judge as man, His way is in the sea-I cannot trace it; His footsteps are not known, for who can follow out Him who disposes of all things with a thought? We do know God’s own nature and character in relation to us by faith, and can reckon on it, as to all He does, as faithful and unchangeable; but we cannot know and judge His ways in themselves. Hence the unbeliever is discontented and will blame God; the believer is happy, because he has the key to all, in what the God is whom he knows, and on whose ordering of all things he can count. It must be according to what God is. He does not order all things contrary to what He is; but He is for us and therefore orders all things for us-makes all things work together for good. He leads His people like sheep. In Psalm 73 the tried one learned the end of his outward enemies, who prospered while he was chastened. Here he learns the ways of God with himself.
But this psalm is practically both interesting and instructive. The soul away from the enjoyment of divine blessing, is awakened by grace to cry to God, the sense of the loss of these blessings pressing upon it. He seeks the Lord, and this presses the trouble, as it ever does, on him; he feels where he is, his soul refused comfort; but the thought of God is a source of trouble, for if faith is awakened, conscience is too, which mingled with the loss of blessing, and the spirit overwhelmed; his soul is kept in wakeful consciousness of where he is. He thinks of bright days of old when the “candle of the Lord shone upon” him. Had God given him up, forgotten to be gracious and shut up His loving-kindness in displeasure? Can he think that God has given him up, and he one of His people? This brought God Himself into his mind. How could it be all over with him? It was his own infirmity; and he turns back to the years of the right hand of the Most High. He remembers Jehovah’s works. In reaching Jehovah with his own humbled spirit, he reached One who was for His people ever and who had wrought for them and redeemed them of old. He, their God, became the source of his thoughts, not his own state towards Him. Then His being their God made it so dreadful. Then he can think and judge rightly of His ways too. They are in the sea not to be tracked by man’s foot, but in the sanctuary always according to His nature and character, and accomplishing His purposes in good.

Psalm 78

Israel’s conduct; God’s sovereign mercy and grace
In Psalm 78 the conduct of Israel is discussed by wisdom, historically as regards the whole people, but with very important principles brought out. There was not only a redemption of old, to which faith recurred, but a testimony given, and a law to guide Israel’s ways, that they should make them known to their children. But the fathers had been a stubborn and rebellious generation. Now, the law and the testimony were given that the children might not be like their fathers; but they were, and their history is here brought out. God, therefore, chastened them; there was direct open government in respect of their ways. For all this they sinned still. At the moment of chastisement they turned to Him. Nevertheless they did but flatter Him with their mouth, their heart was not right with Him, nor they steadfast in His covenant. But He showed compassion, also forgave, remembered they were but flesh. Yet after Egyptian signs they forgat Him; brought into the land, they turned to idolatry. When God heard this, He was wroth and greatly abhorred Israel. On the ground of this government, under law and testimony and compassionate mercy, Israel was wholly given up, the tabernacle forsaken, the ark delivered into captivity and the enemies’ hand. The people also were delivered over to judgment. But Jehovah’s love to His people in grace was not weakened, and the sorrow they were brought into called out that love. He awoke, as one out of sleep, and smote His enemies, and put them to a perpetual shame. But now He had interfered in grace in His own proper love to His people. It was not governmental blessing on condition of obedience, but the interference of grace, when disobedience had, on the principle of government, brought in complete judgment, in spite of compassion and mercy. Sovereign mercy now had its place. Old blessings had put Joseph as natural heir; he had the rich and double portion. God chose Judah. He chose Zion. This gave it its importance. It is the place of love in grace, when all had failed under law, even with the fullest compassionate patience. He built His sanctuary. That is not directly presented as the subject of electing goodness, but He chose David when in the humblest condition, who then fed His people.
In this most beautiful psalm we have the most important principles possible. Viewing Israel as established on the ground of government in Sinai, on law mixed with compassion, Israel had entirely failed, was abhorred, cast off. A total breach had been made; the ark of the covenant, the link between Israel and God, the place of propitiation, and His throne, given up to the enemy. But God, whose sovereign love to His people had come in in power to deliver, had chosen Judah, Zion, David, and set up a link in grace, and by deliverance after failure. Faith can go back to God’s works in redemption, but not to man’s conduct under law. Psalm 78 is the converse of Psalm 77. Yet in Israel all this is declared to produce that which grace will effect in the last day- that value for the law in the heart which will make them teach it to their children. (Compare Genesis 18:17-19; see Exodus 34.) Mercy put Israel again under the condition of obedience. Here power delivers, after they have failed even under this, and judgment is come, God acting according to His mind of love. Pure law they never were under in fact; the tables never came into the camp. (Compare 2 Corinthians 3.) Moses’ face shone only when he had seen God, when he went up the second time accepted in grace; but for Israel, this was putting them back under law. It is grace, and law brought in after it, which is death and condemnation. This is impossible with substitution; but this place, of course, Moses could not take. “Peradventure I shall make an atonement for your souls.” “Blot me out, I pray you.” No, was the answer; the soul that sins, it will I blot out. This was law and (as we see here, and as is definitely stated in 2 Corinthians 3) ruin.

Psalm 79

The inroad of the heathen; Israel’s standing outside blessing
Psalm 79 refers, in the plainest terms, to the inroad of the heathen, especially the northern army (Joel 2 refers to a second attack, in which the cry of the psalm is answered; Isaiah speaks of both), who had laid waste Jerusalem and the temple, and shed the blood of the servants of Jehovah. There is the owning of former sins, and mercy looked to-tender mercies. The plea is the plea called for in Joel 2, and referred to in previous psalms (Psa. 42-43), “Why should the heathen say, Where is their God?” and it demands that He may be known by the avenging the blood of His servants. Thus His people and the sheep of His pasture would give Him thanks forever. Jehovah’s anger is seen, and so far there is faith to say, How long? That is, though covenant mercies are not enjoyed by the remnant (yea, quite the contrary), yet faith looks to them, and sees Jehovah angry with His people; hence if such, and He thus in relationship with them, He cannot give them up. It is only, “How long?” Yet the direct cry is to God, even here, not Jehovah. Israel is not restored to his covenant place. There he will be in known covenant relationship, and then in grace, nor will this ever be lost sight of. Here they were not, but cast out on their failure under a conditional covenant, and though faith in promises sustained them, the new covenant was not entered into; they stood outside blessing, looking backward and forward, having nothing now. This is never the Christian’s state. In applying it to himself he makes himself a Jew. For while Christ is hidden on high as to them, the Holy Spirit is come down to us while He is there, and we know that He is accepted and glorified as having stood for us, and that we are in Him.

Psalm 80

Israel’s national historic circumstances
In Psalm 80 it is remarkable how we are upon the ground of Israel here, their past or future historical associations, not Christ (though all depends on Him, of course) or the godly Jew in the midst of the apostate assembly. We may have Jerusalem taken, confederacies, ancient deliverances of Israel, in a word, national history or prophecy concerning national circumstances; but all is external, not trials within so that Christ should come personally on the scene, save when He receives the congregation, though the godly in Israel are distinguished. Jehovah also is not referred to, save prospectively, when they enter into the new covenant, until the judgment of the last confederacy, which makes Jehovah known as Most High over all the earth. These psalms do not, I apprehend, exclude the Jews-they are part of Israel; and then in Judah, Jehovah will be revealed: only all Israel, including Joseph, is historically brought in-the nation. In this psalm God is addressed as the Shepherd of Israel, who leads Joseph like a flock, and dwells between the cherubim. This is, again, historic Israel. It is not God calling from heaven, nor coming. He is seen by faith only when He is there, having taken His place in Israel.
The urgency of faith; power laid upon the Son of Man
The psalm is a remarkable one. It sees God in Israel-His throne of right there, and looks to His shining forth, stirring up His strength to help them; but still, as in Israel of old in the desert, Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh were immediately next the ark behind the tabernacle, and the sanctuary went immediately before them on the march of the camp (Num. 10). This was Jehovah, God of hosts. Faith looks for His presence in power with His people as it was then. The touching inquiry is, How long-the urgency of faith-wilt Thou be angry against the prayer of Thy people? This is also viewed in faith. The vine brought out of Egypt was laid waste; its hedge (as, indeed, Isaiah had threatened them) was broken down. Tears were the drink of Jehovah’s people. They beseech God to look down from heaven and visit the vine, the vineyard, and the branch made strong for God Himself-David’s family, I suppose. Still it was God’s rebuke; but further, it looks that the divine hand of power should be upon the man of that power-the Son of Man whom God had made strong for Himself. We can understand from this, and not merely from Daniel 7 (which merely gives a peculiar place to the Son of Man), why the Lord gives Himself habitually the title of Son of Man. He is the One, then, indeed rejected, but upon whom God’s right hand is to be in power. To this the Lord refers Luke 22:69 (only reading “henceforth” for “hereafter”). Come down in grace, His mission there was closed; from that out they would only know Him in exalted judicial power. It gives large importance to the name, and taking in Psalm 8 brings the deliverance of the remnant of Israel into the wide scope of His power; for as Son of Man He takes manhood up in His own Person according to the counsels of God, only is over all the works of God’s hand. He is Lord of all, but as such, and in virtue of His own work for them, effectuates this deliverance of the remnant of Israel. Thus the people of Jehovah would be kept. Such is the cry of this psalm-the coming in of power from Jehovah, the God of Israel-power laid upon the Son of Man. The cry is occasioned by the great distress in Israel; still Jehovah is looked for, and faith sets Him in Israel. When He thus visited them, they would not go back from Him; when He quickens them out of the dust, they will call on His name. (Compare Psalm 2, Messiah.)
The humiliation and exaltation of the Son of Man
Verses 3,7,19 give the theme of desire: still outward deliverance is looked for. Verse 17 demands special attention in the point of view already noticed, as showing what was in the Lord’s mind when presenting the immense anomaly that this Son of Man should suffer. Psalm 8, of course, gives the key, in the purposes of God, as to both humiliation and exaltation, and man’s place. It was this humiliation the Lord pressed upon His disciples. Now they look for the display of divine power in Him. The assembly, and its union with Christ, and adoption individually known, are the only things I am aware of not revealed in the Old Testament; all as to Christ was. Perhaps we may add His present position as priest. Neither of these is mentioned in the titles given to Christ in the first chapter of John’s Gospel, nor His being the Christ.

Psalm 81

The restoration of all Israel; God’s love and unconditional grace
Psalm 81, while celebrating in figure the restoration of Israel, again returns to historical ground, specially introducing Joseph, who represents the ten tribes. (See Ezekiel 37:16.) Otherwise Judah, the Jews, might have claimed everything. But in the restoration (although there are special events connected with the Jews, and it was among them that Jesus was conversant, entering especially into their circumstances in the latter day, producing the association, so profoundly interesting, which we have been studying in the first two books) yet it is evident that in the full purposes of God the stick of Joseph must have its place and become one in the Son of Man’s hand, and as all Israel. Now the new moon was the symbol of the reappearance of Israel in the sun’s light, hailed with joy by the people and connected with redemption in the thought of faith. (See verse 5 of the psalm.) Then Israel called in trouble, and God delivered him; but then another important principle comes in. God answered them when in trouble; but He proved them also. They tempted God then, doubting His care and power. He was putting them to the test by difficulties, which seemed to say there was want of care or power; and they said, Is Jehovah among us! But Jehovah answered in grace (Ex. 17). This, I apprehend, is the case referred to. But even in the second Meribah- called so because Israel strove again with Jehovah, when Moses (Num. 20) spake unadvisedly with his lips and was shut out from Canaan (for, from Sinai on, they were under legal though gracious government)-Jehovah was sanctified in giving them water in a grace which was above even Moses’ failure. Still, while grace and faithfulness to His promises to His people were found in the government of God (Ex. 34:6-7), they were put to the test legally on the very terms of that mercy. It was a testing government though a merciful one, and so indeed in some sense is the divine government. God puts this test to them-if faithful to God, no strange god among them (He was Jehovah their God, which brought them out of the land of Egypt), blessing was prepared. They had only to open their mouth wide, and He would fill it. But Israel would not hearken, and they were given up to their own hearts’ lusts.
Still we see God’s yearning love over them and the delight He would have had in blessing them and putting aside all their enemies. His righteous government would have been manifested in them. (Compare Matthew 23:37 and Luke 19:42.) Oh that they had hearkened! Thus we get the ground of Israel’s ruin. They were placed as redeemed from Egypt under the test of obedience and fidelity to God. They had failed. Still they would appear again, to reflect the light of Jehovah’s countenance. This love of Jehovah for the people breaks out even in their failure.
A very important principle for every soul is brought before us here. Redemption, with conditional blessing after it, only ends in the loss of the blessing, just as creation did. It is the same thing or worse. It depends on us to secure the blessing; and now as fallen beings (instead of innocent and free ones), grace alone can keep us, and so it will be with Israel. The gracious and tender character and thoughts of God towards His people come out most beautifully in this psalm. The passages I have referred to in the Gospels show the same tenderness, but, further that Jesus is this very Jehovah.

Psalm 82

God assuming government into His own hands
We find God assuming the government into His own hands. He had set up authority in the earth and especially in Israel. Directed by His Word in judgment and armed with His authority, the judges in Israel had borne the name of God (Elohim). But none would understand or deal righteously. All the foundations of the earth were out of course. All magistrates had received power and authority of God-the Jewish, His Word also; but even these would not know or understand. They were men, and would die like men, and fall like one of the uncircumcised princes of this world. God who had given the authority judged among the gods. He must have righteousness. This judgment the Spirit of prophecy then calls for in the understanding one. “Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.”

Psalm 83

The last confederacy of the nations; judgment to be executed that Jehovah’s name be known
Psalm 83 requires only to call attention to its subject. It is the last confederacy of the nations surrounding Canaan, with Assur helping them. At the close of the psalm, though the cry be to God as such (for Israel is not yet established in covenant blessing), Jehovah’s name is brought in. Judgment is to be executed, that the rebellious nations may seek Jehovah’s name. It is not, Know the Father, nor, Know there is a God; but, Know Jehovah. When His judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Men will know that He whose name alone is Jehovah (He who is, and was, and is to come) is the Most High over all the earth; that is, Jehovah (the one true God), the God of Israel, is the One above all, the One supreme over the earth. It is in this name He takes possession of the earth, as Melchisedec pronounces the blessing in the name of the Most High, possessor of heaven and earth. And Nebuchadnezzar, the humbled head of the Gentiles, praises and blesses the Most High. It is His millennial name in which He takes to Him His great power and reigns, and the true Melchisedec is priest upon His throne, and the counsel of peace between both. This establishes prophetically Jehovah, the God of Israel, supreme in the earth. His people, now restored to relationship, look for a full blessing and the name of Jehovah is again used. Up to this, save as looking back or looking forward, the cry of the people is addressed to God, the people not being in possession of covenant blessings.

Psalm 84

Jehovah’s courts and the way there
Psalm 84 contemplates the blessedness of going up to the courts of Jehovah, yet, in the figurative allusion to the road thither, refers to the path of tears which His people have had to tread towards their blessings. Thus it has a full moral force, and is instructive for Christians as for Jews. In Psalm 63 the people cast out were longing for God Himself, and found, in spite of all, even in the dry and thirsty land, marrow and fatness in Him. In this psalm it is the joys of His house that occupy their soul, as entering into the enjoyment of covenant blessings. Not but that the living God is longed for; but it is in His courts. “Blessed are they that dwell in thy house; they will be still praising thee.” Brought in there, such is the blessing. They will have nought to do but praise. This is the first great theme of blessing. It is blessing, perfect and complete in its nature. It is at the end.
But there is the way. “Blessed is he whose strength is in Jehovah”-in whose heart are the known ways that lead to the house. This characterizes the state of soul-their strength in Jehovah- their heart in the ways that lead to Him. This path of blessing is through trial; for hence is the need of strength. And the way is loved and taken, whatever it may be, that leads to Him. They pass through the vale of tears-it becomes a well to them; for by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of the spirit. Besides, from on high the rain fills the pools in that thirsty land. They use their strength, no doubt. It is put to the test; but they renew it-go from strength to strength, till all appear before God in Zion. They are a praying people. Dependence is exercised in confidence in grace.
Jehovah’s Anointed, now the link between Him and His people
The covenant name here is again introduced-Jehovah of hosts-God of Jacob. He is His people’s shield: they seek that He should look upon His anointed. This was now the link between Jehovah and His people, not the law they had broken. They appear before God in Zion. But that is the place of royal deliverance in grace. Nor can the interests of the people and the anointed be now separated. The blessing rested on Him, and on them because of Him. The heart’s interest in the kind of blessing is then sweetly and strongly expressed, and the sum of what Jehovah is, which makes it such, is declared from the heart. He is light, protection, gives grace and glory, and withholds no good thing from them who walk uprightly. The thought of what Jehovah is makes him resume all in one conscious word. “O, Jehovah of hosts, blessed is the man that trusts in thee.”
The way opened to Zion; royal deliverance in grace
It is a most beautiful returning celebration of Jehovah their covenant God with their heart, when the way, though through sorrow, is now opened to them into His known presence. Psalm 63 was joy in God in the desert, when they had nothing else-the real character of one enhancing the depth and sweetness of the blessing of the other. This is joy in Him when brought, or going up, to the enjoyment of Him in the midst of what surrounds His presence. The following psalm takes up the blessing of the land and delivered people. In those that follow after we shall find Christ Himself, as far as connected with the people, still with a view to the covenant relation subsisting between Jehovah and His people.

Psalm 85

The need of Jehovah’s blessing; restoring work
I have long hesitated, in reading Psalm 85, whether the first part referred to external deliverance and the grace shown in it, and the following to the causing the people to enter into the enjoyment of it by the restoration of their own souls; or, as we have seen is often the case, the statement of the great result as the theme of the psalm, and then going through the sorrows of the remnant and divine workings which led to this result. There will be a restoring work in the souls of the people after their outward deliverance. Nor do I now speak of this psalm with very great certainty on this point. On the whole, I am disposed to think that they look for their enjoyment of divine favor in it, as between themselves and God, when delivered from all their enemies, and shown to be forgiven by that deliverance. Thus the first three verses lay this ground, that God has been favorable to His land, and brought back the captivity of Jacob. This was the great public truth. But in verse 4 the restored people have need of other blessing in the reality of their own relationship with God. “Turn us, O God of our salvation.” Jehovah was the God of their salvation; but they needed His blessing in the midst of the land. They would that His people should rejoice in Him. How true this is often of the soul which knows forgiveness! It looks for Jehovah’s mercy and salvation, being thus restored to Him, and listens to know what Elohim Jehovah will speak; for they reckon on mercy. He will speak peace to His people-their public character-and to His saints-the remnant who are to enjoy it. Faith has then the certainty in every way that His salvation is nigh them that fear Him, that the glory of Jehovah may dwell in the land.
Mercy and truth, righteousness and peace, the divine principles of establishment of blessing
The last verses celebrate, in remarkable terms, the divine principles on which their blessings are then established. God’s mercy and truth had now met. His promises, always true, had now been fulfilled by mercy. It is to be remarked that in the Psalms mercy always precedes righteousness and truth. For Israel had forfeited all title to promise in rejecting the Lord-had come under full guilt-had no righteousness on which to lean-had been concluded in unbelief, that they also might be objects of mere mercy. But then through Christ’s work these promises would now be fulfilled, and mercy and truth met. But more than this. Jehovah was their righteousness, through grace; and hence that righteousness was peace for them; and that which in judgment would have been their ruin, was in grace their peace-righteousness and peace kissed each other. I need hardly say how true these great principles are for any sinner for yet better and heavenly blessings; here they are applied to earthly ones. Truth shall spring out of the earth (that is, the full fruit and effect of God’s truth and faithfulness shall be manifest in blessings, full blessings, on the earth). But it was not by a righteousness that man had wrought legally here below. Righteousness looked down from heaven. It was God’s righteousness, Jehovah their righteousness. But this made it stable. Jehovah gives that which is good, and the land is blessed. Righteousness traces the path of blessing for Jehovah and Himself in the land-His own no doubt. Still His rule shall be so characterized. “A king shall reign in righteousness”-no more oppression. Justice is no longer fallen in the streets, as Isaiah 59:14 speaks; judgment is returned to it, and the government has this character. “And the fruit of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever.” This last, indeed, is practical; but it is the result of righteousness having looked down from heaven, yea, of its being established on the earth. (Compare Psalm 72:1-7, where this state is described.)

Psalm 86

The pious appeal of the returned remnant in the land
This psalm is the meek yet confiding and confident appeal of a soul conscious of its godly feelings towards Jehovah and looking to the results of relationship with Him. We have had Jehovah since Psalm 84, which is founded on these covenant relationships in which the remnant feel themselves to be, though awaiting full blessing in the land. Still it is yet in distress, for the people are not revived nor set in their covenant blessings in the land. Holy (vs. 2) is pious or gracious (chased, not kodesh). The three requests of the psalm are, “Bow down thine ear and hear me” (vs. 1). The gracious attention of Jehovah is called for to give ear to the prayer of the suppliant; then to attend to the voice of his supplication (vs. 6); that is, he looks for his request being granted; thirdly, to be taught in the way of truth (vs. 11). Jehovah’s mercies in the terrible conflict of the remnant are then owned; but he who thus cried, still looked for His interference in his behalf, that they that hate him may be ashamed, because Jehovah has helped and comforted him. How the state of the remnant, like Job, brings out the great conflict between the power of Satan and divine deliverance, but in which, however low he may be brought, the godly soul owns the source of all to be Jehovah, though his feet may well nigh slip in seeing the prosperity of the ungodly! It is not a psalm of complaint nor bitterness of soul, but of one who is yet poor and needy, but has tasted the comfort of Jehovah’s goodness.
It is to be remarked that, save the cases noticed, Lord is Adonai, not Jehovah. This is not the same as Jehovah, that is, the covenant name of God with Israel in eternal faithfulness-here Adonai, one who has taken power and is in the relationship of Lordship to those who call. Hence in fact we own Christ to be in this place-“our Lord Jesus Christ”; and so it will be for Jews, though, till they see Him, they will not own Him fully thus. This Adonai is Elohim. Death and human power were before the thoughts of the godly, but the comfort of a known Jehovah as a support. They had found deliverance, but it was not complete in blessing. The psalm is essentially the pious appeal to Jehovah of the returned remnant of Israel in the land; but in the main its spirit is that into which Christ fully entered, but it is not directly applicable to Him.

Psalm 87

Zion as founded of God
Psalm 87 views Zion as founded of God, a city which has foundations. Men had cities, and boasted of them; but God had a city He founded in the holy mountains. Even here it was not Joseph or the richness of nature; God was its riches, its place the holy mountains, what was consecrated to Himself. In the power of the Spirit the godly is not ashamed of it (glorious things are spoken of it), nay, not in presence of all the earth’s seats of boasting. Egypt and Babylon in vain vaunted themselves; Philistia, Tyre, and Ethiopia, who had all had their day. The godly could talk of them without fear of comparison. It was accounted the birthplace of the man of God; the birthplace of the beloved ones of Jehovah. The Highest established her. When Jehovah made the registry of the people, He reckoned this man as born there. Joy and the celebration of His praise was found there, and all the fresh springs of Jehovah. I have little doubt that “this man” refers to Christ. Zion boasts of her heroes. The word translated “man” (vs. 5), refers to great men, not the poor and miserable. They are the children of the once desolate. (Compare Isaiah 49:21-22.)

Psalm 88

God’s just wrath as to a broken law
Psalm 88 puts the remnant under the deep and dreadful sense of a broken law, and God’s fierce wrath, which, in justice, comes upon those who have done so. It is not now outward sorrows or oppression of enemies, but that which is far, far deeper between the soul and God. And though the judgments of God have brought him into lowliness (and so it ever is morally with the soul when thus visited of God, for what can man then do, if he would help?), yet this was only a part of the trouble, viewing it as a full expression of God’s wrath; but death and wrath are the true burden of the psalm-God’s terrors on the soul. Nor is there, as a present thing, any comfort, or a prospect of deliverance as from human oppression, however dark for faith. The psalm closes in distress; its dealings are wholly with God; and so God must be known, till grace is known. Israel under law must come under a sense of divine wrath for a broken law; it is right it should. But remark further, it is still a God with whom they are in relationship. They have been delivered, brought back into the land, nearer to God, and hence into the sense of what their deserved position is in respect of this relationship. This is much to be observed, and observed for ourselves too; for a God of salvation may be really known in a general way, and truly, without the conscience being searched out, and divine wrath known in, and removed from, the conscience. “O Jehovah, God of my salvation!” is the address of this psalm. This gives it its weight and true character, and makes it much more terrible. The full blessing of liberty in grace may not be known, but the relationship with the God of salvation-He Himself-the consciousness of having to say to Him is sufficiently known to make the privation of His favor and the sense of His wrath dreadful beyond all-the one dreadful thing.
With the Jews, under the law, circumstances and government may more enter into this case, because their relationship with Jehovah is connected with them. Still Jehovah’s fierce wrath is the great and terrible burden; and this terror of the Almighty, or more accurately, of Jehovah, drinking up the spirit, is the subject of this psalm-the sense the remnant will have of wrath, under a broken law, in that day. Sorrow had visited them before. They had been afflicted and ready to die from youth; for such indeed had been their portion as cast off but now restored, and so far brought into connection with Jehovah, the God of their salvation, they must feel the depths of their moral position between Himself and them alone-the wrath of Jehovah that was due to them. The real recovery, the righteous bringing into blessing, could not be without this. Not that, indeed, the wrath would abide on them. Hence there is faith, hope, though no comfort, in the psalm; for it is when mercy has been shown and known, that this distress comes on them; when they have entered on the relationship by that mercy that its value, as has been said, may be felt; just like Job, already blest, and then made to know himself-what man was, as between him and Jehovah when the question of acceptance, of righteousness, was raised. The wrath will not abide upon them because the true cup of it has been drunk by Christ; but they must enter into the understanding of it, as under law, for they had been under law, and pretended to righteousness under it-at least, that question was not solved for them. How truly Christ entered into this in the closing epoch of His life, I need not say. It is the great fact of His history.
It is to be remarked that, even as to the direct subject of the psalm, the terrors have not been always on the sufferer. Afflicted and ready to die he had been;1 such had been his life; but now he felt his soul cast off, and lover and friend even, whom he previously had had, put far from him by the hand of God. So, indeed, it was with Christ. His disciples could not then continue with Him in His temptations. He bore witness to them, that till then they had; but now, sifted as wheat, desertion or denial was the part of the best of them. Such was our Saviour’s portion: only that, unspared and then undelivered, He indeed drank the cup which shall make the remnant escape the death they are fearing. It may press upon them as a lesson to know righteousness and deliverance, but the cup of wrath they will not drink. They are heard and set free on the earth. This psalm then is wrath under law; the next, mercy and favor in Christ, but as yet resting in promise. Actual deliverance is in the next book, by the full bringing in of Jehovah-Messiah for the world, and Israel’s sabbath.
(1. Some, as Venema, translate, “Because of my casting away or down,” instead of, “From my youth.” Rosenmüller gives both. Compare Psalm 129.)

Psalm 89

The subject of the third book: the restored people in the land, but attacked, destroyed and the temple ruined
We have seen that Psalm 88 puts Israel in the presence of Jehovah (when guilty of having been unfaithful to Him), under the judgment of Jehovah, with the sense of wrath, yet in faith in Jehovah Himself-a place Christ most especially took, though of course for others, in particular for Israel, but not for that nation only. Psalm 89 takes the other side of Jehovah’s relationship with Israel; not the nation’s, Israel’s, which was under law, but Jehovah’s promises to David. It is not, remark here, guilt which is brought forward-surely in both cases it was the ground of the state spoken of-but wrath, instead of salvation. For Jehovah had been Israel’s Saviour, and so faith viewed Him still; yet instead of the fulfillment of promise, as made to David, there was desertion of him. There is no trace of confession of sin. Psalm 88 is complaint of death and wrath; and this (Psa. 89), when mercy was to be built up forever, shows the covenant made void and the crown profaned. Isaiah (ch. 40-58) pleads against Israel to convict them of guilt: first, against Jehovah, by having idols; secondly, by rejecting Christ (ch. 40-48 and ch. 49-58). But here the plaint is Israel’s against Jehovah Himself, not unholily, I apprehend, as blame, but as an appeal to Himself on the ground of what He had been for Israel. Jehovah is establishing these relationships here, as indeed we have seen. Israel is Israel, and in the land (Psa. 85). The heathen are there-all is not restored; the last confederacy is in view, but it is against Israel. God is standing in the congregation of the mighty, judging among the gods (Psa. 82). Jehovah has been Himself recalling His former mercies (Psa. 81:10-16). The ark is remembered, and God as the dweller between the cherubim, as once in the wilderness (Psa. 80). In a word, the whole book is the condition of a restored people in the land, but attacked, destroyed; the temple which exists again ruined and broken down (Psa. 74-76; 79). Not a mere Jewish remnant complaining of anti-Christian wickedness within, with which they were associated externally, or which had cast them out; but Israel the nation (represented by the remnant) with enemies who destroy what is dear to them, with encouraging prophecies of the result, having instruction as to sovereign grace in David when they had failed in their own faithfulness as a nation (Psa. 78-79), which looks to God (Elohim) as such in contrast with man-to the Most High, but returns to Jehovah (as His own out of Egypt) with prayer, and demand that His hand might be on the Son of Man, the branch1 made so strong for Himself (Psa. 80). The whole book, in a word, is Israel taking the ground of being a people, and actually in the land, and with a temple, entering into the relationship by faith, but subject to the destructive inroads of hostile powers-the Assyrian and allies, to whom indeed, because of success, the people return. (Psalm 73:10; for Isaiah 10:5-23 is not yet fulfilled. Compare Isaiah 18, particularly verses 5-7.)
(1. Compare the connection and remarkable contrast with John 15.)
Now these two last psalms of the book present the whole pressure of this state of things on the spirit of the faithful. Instead of a blessed people, it is loneliness under wrath. Yet Jehovah is the God of their salvation. The throne cast down and profaned, though immutable promises in mercy, not to be set aside by faults, had been given to David. The result is in the next book, in the manifestation of Jehovah, the bringing in the Only-begotten into the world. In all this book we are on prophetic ground with Israel; not the special condition in which the Jewish remnant will be with Antichrist, because they rejected Christ-their sorrows therefore coming much more fully out when that condition is treated of. This, we have seen, is in the first and second books. Hence, in the following books we get to the recognition of Jehovah having been their dwelling-place in all generations. It is their history which ends by the appearing of Jehovah-Messiah in glory.
Details of Psalm 89: the sure mercies of David; Jehovah’s faithfulness
A few words now on Psalm 89 in detail. Its subject is the mercies of Jehovah (His graciousness towards Israel, chasdee) and their unchangeableness-the sure mercies. There was faith to say, Forever, for it was grace. This gave the appeal, elsewhere noticed. How long should it be otherwise, and even apparently forever? Jehovah was faithful. For he had said in faith, Mercy, manifested goodness, shall be built up forever, and faithfulness was established where nothing could reach it. And so it will be, Satan being cast down. It is the very description of the millennium. He then recites the covenant originally made with David, which is the expression of mercy, and that to which Jehovah was to be faithful, the sure mercies of David. He turns then, and continues his praises of Jehovah (vss. 5-18), recalling the ancient deliverance from Egypt, and looking to the praise necessarily flowing from what He was, and the blessedness of the people that know the joyful sound. In His name they would rejoice all the day, in His (for we are in grace here) righteousness be exalted. He was the glory of their strength; and in His favor their horn will be exalted.
Such was the blessedness of association with Jehovah in favor. But this blessing was in the faithful mercy to David. And where was this (vs. 18)? Jehovah, the kodesh of Israel, is their king. But, then, He had spoken of, not a kodesh, but a chesed, in whom all the chasdee (the same word in the plural as chesed), all the mercies, were to be concentrated, and to whom the unchangeable faithfulness was to be shown-the sure mercies of David. Read “of thy holy One” (chesed) in verse 19. Here he returns to the covenant made with David, showing it never to be altered (vss. 34-37). But all was different. But there was faith, founded on this promise, to say, How long, Jehovah? If He hides forever, and His wrath burns like fire, what is man to abide it, and not go down into death (vs. 48)?
The former loving-kindness to David is appealed to, as in the person of David himself, but, I doubt not from verse 50, applicable to all the faithful. Still the Spirit of Christ falls in here, as He did with the wrath, to take the whole reality of the burden. He of course in that day will suffer nothing. But He has anticipated that day of suffering, that His Spirit might speak as with His voice in His people; for the reproach of the mighty ones and apostates in that day will reproach the footsteps of God’s anointed. And if the faithful walk in them, they will share the reproach from the enemies of Jehovah. Such is their then position-walking in His footsteps, looking for Israelitish covenant blessings, feeling wrath, yet in faith, but looking to God’s promise in mercy to David (which was already pure grace, for the ark of the covenant was gone, and Israel Ichabod), and yet waiting for the answer. This is in the following book. We are here, as I have said, in prophetic times, in Isaiah’s scenes with the Assyrian and a devastated temple. The wicked are there: people flock with them in prosperity. If we are in Daniel, it is chapter 8, not 7. The beast and the Antichrist are not on the scene, but the land, guilty Israel, promises-not the question of a rejected Christ. This psalm closes the third book.

Psalms - Book 4

The contents and connection of the first four books of the Psalms
The fourth book is not so markedly separated from the third, as the preceding three from one another; and specially the third from the first two, because the third, while prophetically announcing the blessing, describes a state of things which leaves the expectation of divine interference to bring in the blessing in full play. The first had given the great principles of the position of the Jewish remnant in connection with the history of Christ; in the second, they are viewed as outside Jerusalem; the third turns to the condition of Israel as a nation restored to their land, but not yet in the full blessing of Jehovah; the fourth, as I have said, completes this by the coming of Messiah. This connects the nation and Christ, as well as the nation and Jehovah. Thus the book is introduced with the nation’s connection with Jehovah, looking to His returning and finally blessing them, that His beauty may be upon them. The second psalm of the book shows Christ’s connection with the nation as man in this world; the third psalm (Psa. 92) gives, in prophetic celebration, the great result, into the whole establishment of which the Psalms 93-100 enter; then some deeply-interesting details as to Christ (Psa. 101-102), while the general result, as displaying Jehovah’s ways, is treated in the praises of Psalms 103-104 as to Israel and the earth; Jehovah’s dealings from the beginning, and Israel’s ways, on the contrary, with Him, in Psalms 105-106, which close the book.

Psalm 90

The nation’s faith in Jehovah; desire for His return in deliverance and blessing
The first psalm (Psa. 90) of the book places the people-that is, the godly believing part of it-on the ground of faith in Jehovah, and expresses the desire of deliverance and blessing from His hand. First, the godly Israelite owns Jehovah to have been the dwelling-place of Israel for all generations, their shelter and their home; next, He was the everlasting God before the world was, and turned and returned man in a moment, as seemed to Him good: time was no time to Him. Now Israel was consumed by His anger. But this was not all. Though His power was absolute, its use was not arbitrary. It was true and holy moral government; and unfeigned confession is made, not merely of open faults, but of that holy government of God which sets secret sins in the light of His countenance (for so, blessed be God, He does). Their days were passed in this wrath. They look that the pride of their heart may be so broken, their feeble mortality remembered, that the self-sufficiency, so natural to our heart, might be done away with, and that heart applied to wisdom-the fear of God. This putting of man in his place and God in His, connected with faith, as Israel’s in Jehovah, is full of instruction as to the moral position suited for the remnant in that day-in its principle ever true. Thus Jehovah is looked to to return for deliverance, with the word of faith, “How long?” and, as regards His servants, that His work might appear, as the affliction came from Him; and that the beauty of Jehovah their God might be upon them, and their work established by Him. It is the true faith of relationship, but of relationship with the supreme God in His holy government upon earth. But, if so, Jehovah is the God of Israel.

Psalm 91

Messiah with Israel in the place of trust; the channel for full blessing on earth
We have now (Psa. 91) another most important principle introduced; Messiah’s taking His place with Israel, the place of trust in Jehovah, so as to afford the channel for the full blessing of the people. Three names of Elohim (God) come before us in this psalm: one that by which He was in relationship with Abraham, the Almighty; another which Abraham through the testimony of Melchisedec may have known prophetically, the millennial title of Elohim when He takes His full title over the earth (compare Genesis 14:18-20), the Most High. Both, as all the names of God, have their proper meaning: one complete power; the other absolute supremacy. The question then arises, Who is the God who has this place? Who is this supreme God over all to the earth? Who shall find His secret place to dwell in? He who has found this shall be completely protected by almighty power. Messiah (Jesus) says, I will take the God of Israel as that place, Jehovah. In verses 3-8 we have the answer. Doubtless it is true of every godly Israelite, and they are in view, but led by the Spirit of Jesus, the one perfect faithful One who took this place indeed.
In verse 9 I apprehend Israel speaks (that is, the Spirit personifying Israel addressing Messiah): “Because thou hast taken Jehovah, which is my refuge, . . . as thy habitation,” almighty power shall guard thee. This continues to verse 13. In verse 14 Jehovah himself speaks of Him as the One who has set His love upon Him. The form of the psalm is striking. The Spirit of God proposes the problem. He who finds the secret place of the supreme God (of the millennium) will have all the full blessing of Abraham’s God, the Almighty. Messiah says I take Jehovah the God of Israel. Then the answer; so it was and He (vss. 3-8) would enjoy the fruit of it. In verse 9 Israel speaks and declares by the Spirit He would have the blessings. In verse 14 Jehovah sets His seal on all this, and the solver of the great riddle of God will find the full blessing of Jehovah, on whom He had set His love, whose name He had known-even Jehovah the God of Israel. It is a very interesting psalm in this way. But we have to remark that all is viewed on earth, the character of God in all respects. How Christ, as a present thing, relinquished the title to deliverance flowing from this, for perfect obedience, trusting His Father absolutely, belongs to deeper views of the purposes of God and of the path of the blessed One Himself. Satan would have just used this to take Him out of the path of obedience, and into that of distrust and His own will: blessed be God, in vain, as we know. The sure mercies of David were to be in an obedient and risen One-this point is treated in a psalm of unexampled beauty farther on-and thus deeper blessings and higher glories brought out. But He who went in that perfect path of submission, has not the less made good all the fruit of all that is here, for those who shall walk after Him in the place of this trust in Jehovah upon earth. This principle we see indeed, in various forms, all through the Psalms. Indeed the atonement of Christ was needed, which implied His resigning personally this blessing, in order that others might walk in that path in which He could personally walk, of course, without it. Psalm 21 gives a divine revelation as to the way in which the promise of life was fulfilled to the Lord.

Psalm 92

The celebration of God’s answer to faith in His power
Psalm 92 takes up these names of God, Jehovah and Most High; only it is no longer a secret place, known only to fidelity and faith. Almighty power secured blessing and answers faith; verses 7-8 explain how. What is celebrated is not the disciplinary exercise of faith, but the answer to it, showing that Jehovah (vs. 15) is upright, and that there is no unrighteousness in Him. Psalms 90-92 go together as an introduction to the great theme that follows, Jehovah reigns. Already power had been displayed; and the full result in the judgment of all enemies and abiding blessing is looked for now, not merely as hope, but as founded on the manifested intervention of God. It is spoken in the place which Messiah had taken in the previous psalm, identified there in spirit with Israel in the latter days, Israel restored by divine power, but not yet in the full peaceful enjoyment of divine blessing, just as we have seen in Book 3. Messiah takes therefore the lead in praises, and looks to His horn being exalted with honor. (Compare Psalm 75:9.) But Jehovah’s thoughts are deeper. He sees far, even the end from the beginning, and accomplishes all His purposes and His Word. This is what faith has to remember.

Psalm 93

Jehovah reigns; the summary of the whole history of God and man in government
Psalm 93 states the grand and blessed results. Jehovah reigns. Ever indeed was His throne established, but the floods had lifted up their voice. The waves of ungodly men had risen up high. Jehovah on high was mightier. Two other great principles complete this short but remarkable summary of the whole history of God and man in government. Jehovah’s testimonies are very sure. Faith could count upon them, come what would; but, further, another great truth came out as to the character of God. There could be no peace to the wicked. Holiness became His house. But I apprehend this last phrase describes the comely holiness of God’s house for the now lasting period for which the earth was established.

Psalm 94

The cry of the remnant to Jehovah as the God of vengeance
We have now the details of the coming in of the Only-begotten into the world to establish the glory and divine order in the world, introduced by the cry of the remnant in Israel.
Psalm 94 gives us this cry, which is at the same time the expression of the fullest intelligence of their position, of the dealing of God, of the position of the wicked, and the result about to be produced, and, as all the psalms in this book, founded on known relationship with Jehovah. We have seen that Psalm 91 is Christ’s taking this place with the people, that full blessing may come on them as thus associated with Him. Psalm 94 addresses itself to Jehovah as the God of vengeance, and demands that He should show Himself-lift Himself up as Judge of the earth and give a reward to the proud. The “how long” is made pressing and urgent. The conduct and impiety of the wicked is stated. Verses 4-11 address the unbelieving Israelites on the folly of this. Verses 12-15 give a most instructive explanation of the ways of Jehovah. Blessed is the man whom Jehovah chastens and teaches out of His law. This is the position of the suffering remnant, to give him quiet from the days of evil until the pit be digged for the ungodly.
No doubt, as indeed is expressed in the Psalms, the godly had sometimes well-nigh forgotten this (Psa. 73), not always (Psa. 27:5); but faith does not, and this is the true meaning of the remnant’s sorrows-of ours too under our Father. The heart in the midst of evil has to say to God, not only in submission, but as a cup given of Jehovah (of our Father). Hence the distraction and distress felt in meeting man’s will in our will without resource is gone; and God, the will being subdued (the great hindrance), teaches the submissive heart, which is in a true position before Him.1 For faith it was withal a settled thing that Jehovah would never cast off His people. But judgment would return to righteousness, and the upright in heart would follow it. This is the great and all-important principle of the change which takes place in these psalms. Judgment, long separated from righteousness, now returns to it. Judgment was in Pilate, righteousness in Christ. There the opposition was perfect-more or less everywhere else. Suffering for righteousness’ sake and divine righteousness established in the heavens may be, and assuredly is, a yet better portion. It is Christ’s as man, now glorified, but it is not the maintenance of righteousness on the earth. This will now be effectually maintained. But who shall be found to make it good? Who will take up the cause of the godly one, or stand up for the remnant against the mighty workers of iniquity? If Jehovah had not, their souls had soon gone down to silence. How true this was (as to men) of Christ, how fully He can enter into this, I need hardly say. Even when the remnant feared falling, Jehovah helped them. And in the overwhelming of thought, where all the power of evil was, Jehovah’s comforts delighted his soul. In verse 20 a most remarkable appeal is made. Were the throne of iniquity and Jehovah’s throne about to join together? If not, the days of the throne of iniquity were numbered. That wickedness was there, was now patent. But Jehovah, the defence of the godly, the Judge of the wicked, whose iniquity He would bring on themselves-Jehovah would cut them off. Thus the fullest review, as I have said, of the whole position and of Jehovah’s ways is remarkably given to us in this psalm.
(1. Christ, however deeply feeling what was before Him, was just the opposite of this struggling of will, being perfect in subjection (John 12 and Gethsemane). Peter would have resisted, but Christ took the cup as His Father’s will.)
The introduction of the coming in of the Only-begotten into the world
From Psalms 95-100 we have the progress of the introduction of the Only-begotten into the world most distinctly brought out; but here, all through, seen as Jehovah coming from heaven in judgment, and at length taking His place between the cherubim, and calling up the world to worship Him there. It puts the setting up of Israel in blessing by power, in contrast with their old failure when first delivered.

Psalm 95

The summons to Israel, the remnant, in the closing day
Psalm 95 summons Israel to come with joyful songs and thanksgiving before Jehovah (verses 3-4 describing His excellency above the gods and as Creator). But Jehovah is Israel’s Maker, his God also; and now they may look for rest even after so long time and continued failure. Till power comes in to judgment, while it is called today-for in that great tomorrow no evil and no rebellious will be allowed-they are called upon not to harden their hearts as of old in the wilderness, when God sware that they should not enter into His rest. But now, after all, grace says Today, and invites to come before His presence who is the rock of their salvation.

Psalm 96

The summons to the Gentiles; Jehovah comes to judge
Psalm 96 summons all the earth to come in, in the spirit of the everlasting gospel. They are to own Jehovah; the gods of the nations are mere vanity. Psalm 95 invites as of the company- “Come, let us sing.” Now it is said to those who are afar off, Sing unto Jehovah, and His glory is to be declared among the nations. Jehovah is Creator (vs. 5). His excellency is then spoken of, but He is known in the sanctuary in Israel on the earth (vss. 7-8). They are again summoned to own Him there, to worship Him according to the order of His house on the earth, for Jehovah reigns and the world is established, and Jehovah will judge the peoples righteously. This introduces a summons to a chorus of celebration of all this created world to rejoice before Jehovah, who comes to judge the world with righteousness and His people with truth; for Israel had the place of promise and the revelation of His ways.

Psalm 97

The coming itself celebrated
In Psalm 97 the coming itself is celebrated; Jehovah has taken to Him His great power and His reign. The earth and the multitude of isles are to rejoice. Clouds and darkness are round about Him, for it is the revelation of His judgments in power, not of Himself. Righteousness and judgment ever characterize His throne. The fire of judgment goes before Him and consumes His enemies. Jehovah, the Lord of the whole earth, comes forth out of His place. The heavens (for on earth there is none) in power declare His righteousness. The peoples see His glory. The effect of the judgment is then stated. Idol worship is confounded before Him, and all power and authority, from angels downwards, are now to own Him. But another fact comes out-this was joy and deliverance to Zion. The judgment of evil was her deliverance, for it was the glorious exaltation of Jehovah, her God.1 In verses 10-12 we see the blessed objects of the deliverance-the godly remnant. Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. It is a very complete statement of the character of the Lord’s coming to earth.
(1. This in Isaiah 30:32, where the grounded staff, that is the decreed rod, was to pass, it was with tabrets and harps.)

Psalm 98

The result of the coming celebrated by Israel on earth
Psalm 98 is the result celebrated by Israel on earth. Jehovah has made known His salvation, and remembered His mercy and truth towards Israel. All the land (or earth) is summoned to celebrate Jehovah as king. The heavens are not summoned here, as in Psalm 96. They are already filled with His glory, and the angels have been called to worship; but the sea and its fullness, and the world and its inhabitants are to rejoice before Jehovah, who comes to judge the earth and the whole world.

Psalm 99

Jehovah reigning as King upon earth; the two hinges of God’s ways
Psalm 99, though simple in its character, embraces some important principles. Jehovah now reigns, not only in making manifest heavenly power, but in the establishment of that power as king upon the earth. He now sits between the cherubim as heretofore in Israel. He is great in Zion and high above all peoples. I have no doubt this word peoples (ammim), generally translated “people” in the Authorized Version, which confounds it with Israel, is used, not as goim (Psa. 98:2 and often) in opposition with Israel and the knowledge of Jehovah, but for nations not Israel, but brought into relationship with Israel, and so with Jehovah Himself. Israel is called goi (Psa. 43) when judged and rejected. Further, the King (Messiah, but still Jehovah) loves judgment, and establishes equity, executing judgment and righteousness in Jacob. Thus Jehovah, the God of Jacob, was to be exalted, and in Jerusalem.
But another touching and important principle is then brought out: Israel had utterly failed, cast off Jehovah, rejected Messiah, was judged and cast off. But Jehovah had never given up His faithfulness and grace. Hence the Spirit turns back here to recognize the saints under the old covenant who had, through grace, been faithful (the remnant was always acknowledged; in one aspect we are it still, all children of Jerusalem the desolate, and waiting under discipline and government, only a Father’s). Moses and Aaron among His priests, Samuel among those who called on His name, the true prophets with no office, whatever their measure-these called on Jehovah, and He heard them. The relationship of faith was there. Jehovah answered them, but governed His people, taking vengeance of their inventions. So, at the end, whosoever shall call on the name of Jehovah shall be saved; but how surely are their inventions punished! These are the two hinges of all God’s ways-grace and the ear of goodness to the cry of the meek and needy, and government as holy and true. So with us: only we have a Father’s government (still God’s) after salvation and adoption. Thus newborn Israel is identified with the faithful Israel of old. The child of Ruth and Boaz is a son born to Naomi. Mara is known no more.

Psalm 100

The summons to universal worship in gladness and praise
Psalm 100 is the summons to universal worship of Jehovah with gladness and praise. Jehovah is good. Verse 5 gives in principle the great truth so often laid down as Israel’s hope-His mercy endures forever-which gave them too to say, How long? “All ye lands” is free as a translation; it is rather “all the land” (of Israel) or “all the earth.” The claim of Israel to be His people and the sheep of His pasture seems to extend it to the earth. It is, however, to me very doubtful if it is not simply “all the land of Israel.” This closes the remarkable series picturing the coming of Jehovah (Christ) to establish righteousness and judgment in the earth and His throne in Israel.

Psalm 101

The principles of the King’s government
Psalm 101 states the principles on which the King will govern His house and the land when He takes the kingdom in the name of Jehovah.
Summary of Psalms 93-101
Psalm 93 is the thesis, Jehovah reigns: the rage of men, the supreme authority of Jehovah, the holiness that becomes His house. Psalm 94 begins the series with the cry of the remnant when iniquity is still on the throne. Psalm 95, Israel (the remnant) summoned in the closing day. Psalm 96, the Gentiles called, Jehovah coming to judge the earth. Psalm 97, Jehovah is on His way. Psalm 98, He has executed judgment on the earth and remembered Israel. Psalm 99, He has taken His throne on earth in Zion. Psalm 100, Israel is there as His people; but it is a call to worship Jehovah. Still a house of prayer for all the earth: for Israel, mercy, for they had sinned; truth, for God had promised, and, as said elsewhere, they had now met together. Psalm 101, when the earthly throne is taken up, it is mercy and judgment.

Psalm 102

Christ rejected and cast off, yet Creator of heaven and earth
Psalm 102 is one of the most, perhaps the most, remarkable of all the Psalms, and presents Christ in a way divinely admirable. Verse 10 gives the occasion of the cry with which the psalm begins. Christ is fully looked at as man chosen out of the people and exalted to be Messiah, and now, instead of taking the kingdom, He is rejected and cast off.1 The time is the immediate approach of the cross, but was, we know, perhaps often, anticipated in thought, as John 12. He looks to Jehovah, who cast down Him whom He had called to the place of Messiah, but who now meets indignation and wrath. We are far, here, beyond looking at sufferings as coming from man. They did, and were felt, but men are not before Him in judgment; nor is it His expiatory work, though that which wrought it is here if we take it in its full effect on the cross-the indignation and wrath. It is Himself-His own being cut off as man. He is in trouble; His heart smitten like a pelican of the wilderness and an owl of the desert; His days as a shadow that declines, withered like grass. Such was Messiah, to whom all the promises were. Jehovah endured forever. His promises were certain. He would arise, and have mercy on Zion, and the set time was come.
(1. Note, there is no bringing in of “me” in connection with indignation and wrath, as in Psalm 22, though Christ realizes it in spirit. But personally He is lifted up and cast down. It is a key which opens up much in the Psalms.)
The whole scene, from Christ on earth to the remnant in the last days, is one. When Zion was restored, the heathen would fear the name of Jehovah. Jehovah will appear, and, when He builds up Zion, hear and answer the poor remnant, and thus declare His name in Zion, and His praise in Jerusalem, when all nations would be gathered together there. But where was Messiah then? His strength had been weakened in His journey, His days shortened. He had cried to Him able to deliver, to save from death. Was Zion to be restored and no Messiah-He weakened and cut off? Then comes the wondrous and glorious answer: He was Himself the creator of the heavens and the earth. He was ever the same. His years would not fail when the created universe was rolled up like a garment. The children of His servants would continue and their seed be established before Him. The Christ, the despised and rejected Jesus, is Jehovah the Creator. The Jehovah we have heard of coming, is the Christ that came. The Ancient of Days comes, and Christ is He, though Son of Man. This contrast of the extreme humiliation and isolation of Christ, and His divine nature, is incomparably striking.
But it is Christ’s personal sense of rejection, and that in connection with the remnant, not His bearing the judgment of sin in His soul for men. Look at the difference of the consequences in Psalm 22, though that perfect work was needed for “the nation,” too, or their deliverance could not have taken place.
Summary of Psalms 103-106
Psalms 103-106 give us the results-and the covenant-in grace and in responsibility, of Israel’s history.
Psalm 103 is the voice of Messiah in Israel in praise according to God’s dealing with them; Psalm 104, the same in creation; Psalm 105, God’s ways in grace, from Abraham up to the giving of the land (now to be possessed in peace); Psalm 106, the acknowledgment of Israel’s ways from first to last, but owning Jehovah’s mercy, and looking for it, for it endures forever. Grace and favor are the one foundation on which hope can be built leading to obedience. This closes the book.

Psalm 103

Messiah’s voice in Israel in praise
Psalms 103-104 call for a few observations on the details. No doubt the Spirit of Christ leads these praises, for His praise shall be of Jehovah in the great congregation; but it is in the name of all Israel the psalm is spoken. They have forgiveness and mercy through the tender compassions and mercy of Jehovah. As for man, he is as grass; and the people had been as grass and withered (Isa. 40). But the mercy of Jehovah is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, the obedient ones. Thus all is ascribed to goodness, yet faithfulness, from the very nature and name of Jehovah; but to the obedient ones, the godly remnant. Now Jehovah owned them with loving-kindness and tender mercies. All their sins were utterly removed from them. Jehovah’s throne was prepared in the heavens-the only possible means of securing blessing. And now His kingdom ruled over all. It was not only His title, but established in fact. It is Israel’s praise, consequent on the intervention of Jehovah, of which the previous psalms have spoken. Matthew 9:1-6 marks Jesus out as the Jehovah who now at the close healed all Israel (vs. 3). The more intimately we know Scripture, the more simple and distinct is the truth that, though Son of Man, Christ is the Jehovah of the Old Testament.

Psalm 104

Messiah’s voice in creation in praise
Psalm 104, which celebrates Jehovah as Creator, requires very few remarks. It will be noticed that it is occupied almost entirely with the earth. He is clothed with the glory of the heavens, which is described in most beautiful language; but the earth is the subject. It is looked at as existing as the abode of men, as it is, but all depended on Jehovah’s sovereign will. It is not the earth which is celebrated, but Jehovah, the Creator of it. It is not paradise, but this earth, as we see it in man’s hand. But the psalm looks to sinners being consumed out of it, and the wicked being no more. This gives the psalm, evidently, a peculiar character, and connects it with the introduction of the first-begotten into the world.

Psalm 105

God’s ways in grace, from Abraham to the giving of the land
Psalm 105 offers thanksgiving to Jehovah, and calls on the seed of Abraham and Jacob to remember Him and glory in His name. Verses 7-8 give the occasion. He is Jehovah, their God. His judgments are in all the earth. And He has remembered His covenant forever. It was to be permanent. It was commanded to a thousand generations. He had now remembered it. The psalm then recites how God had cared for the fathers, and judged Egypt for the deliverance of His people; and, in spite of bondage, there was not a feeble person among their tribes. “He remembered his holy promises, and Abraham his servant,1 and brought forth his people with joy and his chosen with gladness, and gave them the lands of the heathen, that they might observe his statutes and keep his laws.” All their subsequent failure is not touched on. For now again (vs. 8) He had remembered His covenant with Abraham and had delivered His people by judgments; for it is the accomplishment of promise. And the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
(1. The difference of a reference to the promises to Abraham, and those to Moses the blessings of which depended on the faithfulness of the people, is a marked feature in all the renewals of mercy to the people and the faith that referred to one or the other.)
The following psalm will tell us Israel’s ways, but only so to bring out His mercy and never-failing goodness; for this is the theme.

Psalm 106

Israel’s acknowledgment of their ways but owning and looking for Jehovah’s enduring mercy
“Hallelujah. Give thanks to Jehovah, for it is good [or, He is good]. His mercy endureth forever.” This last we have often seen-the expression of this unfailing faithful mercy of Jehovah, which secures Israel. It then recites the character of those that are blessed; and personally looks, as in the mouth of a godly Israelite at the close, to be remembered with the favor Jehovah shows His people-desiring withal to see the good of Jehovah’s chosen, and rejoice in the gladness of His nation and glory with His inheritance. It is the expression of genuine piety, which then turns to confess the sinfulness of the people-not they have sinned, though that is owned, as showing how Jehovah’s mercy has endured; but “we have sinned with our fathers.” It is the practical piety which proves, in its own confession, enduring mercy. It then goes through all the history of Israel with this view; and at the close shows that, in spite of all, Jehovah, remembering His covenant, thought on their affliction, and caused them to be pitied of the heathen, among whom they were. For this mercy he now looks, that they may triumph in the praise of Jehovah. This closes the fourth book.
All Israel spoken of in the third and fourth books
It will be remarked that, as we had seen in the third, the fourth also speaks of all Israel, and, though the humiliation of Christ is brought out and His eternal divinity contrasted with it in a remarkable way, yet it does not enter into Jewish circumstances particularly, nor the association of Christ with them, though His Spirit be in it all. In Psalm 94 Antichrist is presented to us, but it is for his destruction by the coming in of Messiah the King, as Jehovah the Judge.

Psalms - Book 5

The viewpoint of the fifth book
In the fifth book the people are looked at as brought back, and a general survey of God’s ways taken, with a kind of divine commentary on it all, ending, as all His ways surely will, in praise.

Psalm 107

The celebration of God’s mercy and goodness shown in temporal things
Psalm 107 is a kind of heading or introduction to all this. It celebrates the enduring of God’s mercy forever-that blessed formula of faith in the unchanging goodness of Jehovah in all ages from the display of grace in David’s time. It is restored Israel’s part especially to chant it. The psalm celebrates the two parts of that deliverance in which the mercy has been shown. They are redeemed from the hand of the enemy; they are gathered back from east, west, north, and south. This is the double character of the restoration of Israel-deliverance in the land, and the gathering from among the heathen on every side. But the proper theme of the psalm is the goodness of Jehovah. The various circumstances of deliverance of every kind (and that as an answer to the cry of distress of man who has brought himself low by his folly) are gone through, with the desire that men would praise Jehovah for His goodness, His wonderful works for the children of men. Israel is he in whom it may be fully learned. It goes on to their chastisement in the land after their return, but adds the complete ruin of the pride of men as the result. He pours contempt on princes, and sets the poor on high from affliction, giving him families like a flock. The great result of God’s government is then shown: the righteous rejoice; all iniquity has its mouth stopped. Whoso is wise and will consider these ways of God will understand the loving-kindness of Jehovah. It is to be remarked how entirely the goodness of God, here rehearsed, is shown in temporal things. It does not for that cease to be His goodness and to have its sweetness, but it gives very clearly the character of the ground on which these teachings go.

Psalm 108

Praise for deliverance; full security in the land waited for
Psalm 108 is a psalm of a peculiar character, being composed of the ends of two others, the earlier and the latter parts of which, the cry of deep distress, and the answer to the cry in faith and hope, have been here put together. The former part of this, the end of Psalm 57, expresses the fixed assurance of the godly heart, who can now give praise and will praise among the peoples (ammim), united now in relation with Israel and in the various races of people. But all the results of God’s favor are not yet produced, and the same faith, taking up Psalm 60, leaving out the cry of distress, celebrates the going out of Him whose mercy is above the heavens, to bring into subjection all those who are yet in possession of different parts of the territory of Israel.
It may be remarked here that the general character of this, as indeed of the previous book, as far as regards the position of Israel, is that of the people being restored by God to the land and delivered, but not free yet from attack, nor in possession of all the promised land; so that there is thanksgiving and praise, for God has interfered, and the state of Israel is changed; but there remains the need of help and securing against enemies yet undestroyed, and the full blessing of God in peace. A very few psalms at the end are of unmingled praise, and only praise called for. This state of deliverance, and yet full security waited for, is expressed at the end of Psalm 107; as to final deliverance, the fact only is stated.
The connection of the two parts of this psalm is not without interest. The first part praises Jehovah for what He is as known to the heart in faith; but God in contrast with man. His mercy is great above the heavens and His truth reaches to the clouds, mercy being as ever first as the root of all. The second part begins with looking for Jehovah to rise up as God above the heavens and His glory above all the earth. He is to take His place and vindicate His name as God, that His beloved may be delivered. Verse 7 brings out the answer of God, taking up in detail all Israel’s rights as His. Thus Jehovah has war with the nations possessing their land, but it is in Israel, and through God they will do valiantly. Hence here it is God, not Jehovah, because it is not the covenant relation, but what He who is so is in contrast with man, whose help is vain.

Psalm 109

The individual and general application of the Psalms
It is certain that this psalm applies to Judas; but we shall see, in reading it, that we cannot apply all of it exclusively to him. And this is a help to us, to understand the way in which the Psalms are written. There is the general condition of the saints in the latter day, and that even in a way which cannot apply to Christ personally at all, as Psalm 118:10-11-passages of general application to the righteous, and others which may be, and some with prophetical purpose and exactitude, applied to Christ, and the circumstances in which He was. All this has to be before the mind, and divine teaching sought. I have said that the application of the psalm was not exclusively to Judas. The greater part of it is in the plural number. Up to verse 5 from the outset, the enmity of the wicked, of the band of Jews hostile to Christ, and hostile to the godly remnant, is spoken of. Judas was a special instance of this wicked hatred against Christ. But I have no doubt of the general application of even this part, and that the judgments called for are general, and no prophetic revelation that Judas had wife and children or anything of the sort. Verse 20 makes indeed the generalization of the application of these deprecations certain. So we can have no doubt that the blessed Lord stood in this sorrow, but I have none the less, that it is merely as taking in grace the place of the remnant, and that the psalm applies to the remnant, who go through similar sorrows. Verses 30-31 show it. Still it is most certain Christ entered fully into it-and this is of the deepest interest to us-nay, that His being in it gave it its true character.

Psalm 110

David’s Lord at Jehovah’s right hand; promise and prophecy
Psalm 110, though of the very highest interest, is in application so simple that it needs but brief comment. The despised and poor man, hated for his love, is David’s Lord, and called to sit at the right hand of Jehovah. It is of deep interest to see how in Isaiah 6 Adonai is Jehovah of hosts in the fullest sense, and in this psalm, being David’s Son, sits at the right hand of Jehovah, and strikes through kings in the day of His wrath. Compare Psalm 2. All the truth, in regard to the assembly of association with Him on high is passed over, and the psalm passes from the session of Christ at God’s right hand to the sending the rod of His strength out of Zion. This shows how entirely all is Jewish in these psalms. Note, further, it is the answer to His rejection on earth. It is not His coming from heaven to destroy Antichrist. What is in view is His having already taken possession of Zion, and the rod of His strength goes out thence. This answers to the whole position of this book, where we have seen the Jews restored, but the dominion of Israel or of Christ in Zion not yet made good. But the people are now Amminadib in the day of His power. (See Song of Solomon 6:12.) Alas! how different in the day of His humiliation! That was depicted in Psalm 109. But this is the morning of a new day, in which we have not fathers, but the children of grace. Then we have the certain oath of Jehovah for Christ sitting thus a priest on His throne on earth. This is promise and prophecy. The day too of His wrath is looked forward to. Adonai, who is at Jehovah’s right hand, has a coming day of wrath-one already noticed, when His enemies are made His footstool. While sitting at the right hand of Jehovah, it is not so. It is then the time of mercy, the accepted time. Christ has been heard and exalted, and His work among men is the result of His atonement in grace. Now the time of wrath is come, in which the judgment written will be executed. I suppose in verse 6 it is “the head over a great country”-the head of power in the earth, not Antichrist, nor even the beast. These are destroyed on His coming from heaven. Self-exalting man is brought low. Christ, who in humble dependence on His Father took the refreshment given Him according to God’s will on the way, shall have His head high exalted in the earth. These psalms give the groundwork of the whole scene. What now follows is a review of the circumstances, and indeed from of old, and such as are to come, with reflections (so to speak) on them, and praise as to the result.

Psalm 111

Praise for Jehovah’s works
Psalms 111-113 go together as a hallelujah in reference to Jehovah’s ways with Israel in their deliverance. First, Psalm 111, the works of Jehovah, glorious in themselves, He has made to be remembered by His mighty intervention in righteousness; yet showing Him full of compassion, mindful of His covenant also. He has shown His people the power of His works, to give them the heritage of the heathen: moreover, His works last. The occasion of the praise, a knowledge of His name, is that He has sent redemption to His people. Jehovah being such, the fear of Him is the beginning of wisdom. This gives good understanding in our walk. Faith knows this. The Lord’s appearing in judgment will indeed prove it to the world.

Psalm 112

Blessing and deliverance for those in Israel who fear Jehovah
Psalm 112, on the other hand, gives the character of those who fear Jehovah, and the blessing that comes upon such when the government of God is made good. This shows how impossible it is to apply these psalms to the position of the saints now, though the exercise of faith and piety may be often in the spring of it the same. Still then, it is the deliverance of Israel which brings out Jehovah’s name (vss. 9-10).

Psalm 113

Widespread universal praise
Psalm 113 is more general and full universal praise, but on the same occasion. It is from this time forth forevermore. It is now widespread over all the earth; but He is Israel’s God who dwells on high, yet looks down so low, but to exalt those He loves, to set them with the princes of His people, and fill the hopeless with joy in their habitation.

Psalm 114

Israel’s ancient and present deliverance by the same Jehovah
Psalm 114 is of the highest style of poetry, but is important to us as directly connecting the ancient deliverance of Israel out of Egypt with the present deliverance of the people, and seeing the same Jehovah in both calling the earth to tremble at the presence of Jehovah. It was right in those days. At Jacob’s deliverance then, the sea fled and Jordan was driven back. What was this? Was it affright before the presence of man? The earth was now to tremble before Him who appeared for the deliverance of His people then, and for their sakes turned the sea into dry land, and the flint stone into a springing well.

Psalm 115

The true and full ground of this deliverance
Psalm 115 gives the true and full ground of this deliverance, as seen in the heart of faith. It is not that they, but that Jehovah may be praised, specially in His mercy, and then His faithfulness to promise. The godly one, that is, the Spirit, then refers to that cry which was the bitter grief spoken of in Joel, and referred to in Psalms 42-43. Why should the heathen say, Where is now their God? So in the same spirit Moses: “The Egyptians shall hear of it, and what wilt thou do to thy great name?” What a blessed boldness of faith! This character of sorrow shows, how it was on the cross and in those last sorrows that Christ came into this character of sorrow. For the Jews practically said this to Him then, but never could have done so before. The believing Israelite’s answer is, Our God is in heaven.
He then contrasts Him with idols. And Israel, the house of Aaron, and all that fear Jehovah, are called to trust Him. This last would open the door to all Gentiles who sought Jacob’s face. It then recites, what we have seen to be the ground these psalms go on, that He had been mindful of, and would bless them; yea, increase them more and more, them and their children. They were the blessed of Jehovah, the maker of heaven and earth. Heaven was His, the earth had He given to men. This marks how distinctly the earthly blessing is the scene before us, for He has not given us the earth, but the cross in it; and heaven, and what is there, as our own things. We seek the things which are above, not the things which are on the earth. So, in even almost a stronger manner, the dead do not praise Jehovah; but we (says the Spirit in them) will praise from this, the time of their final deliverance, forevermore. We say, “To depart and to be with Christ is far better.”

Psalm 116

Love and praise drawn out by deliverance at the very point of death
Psalm 116 celebrates this deliverance when they were at the very point of death. Jehovah had heard them, and they would walk before the Lord in the land of the living. In this view it is a continual recital of the gracious mercy of Jehovah: they were brought low and He helped them. It drew out their love to Him. Such was Jehovah’s character. He preserves the simple. The soul so sorely tried could return to its rest. The death of His saints was precious in His sight; and now, before all His people, in the courts of Jehovah’s house, in the midst of Jerusalem, he would pay the vows made in his distress when he called on Jehovah. He would offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving. The quotation of the Apostle shows how these psalms can be used as containing holy principles of life for every saint. In spite of suffering and trial, trust in Jehovah opened the mouth of the believer. The passage does not apply to Paul, nor did he say in his haste that all men were liars, though there be something like it in “all seek their own”; but the general and important principle the Apostle can adopt. The word, translated “haste,” is not haste in the sense of moral defect, hastiness, but in distress-rather sudden distress or alarm from the pressure of circumstances, and hence hasting away.

Psalms 117-118

The other nations called to praise Jehovah; praise and thanksgiving founded on enduring mercy
Psalm 117 is the calling the other nations and peoples to come and praise Jehovah, who will be now King over all the earth. They join and are brought happily into this relationship, Jehovah being made known to them by His ways with Israel. Merciful kindness is here, as ever, first; and truth enduring forever, which no failure has made to fail. This, as the last, is a hallelujah.
Psalm 118 is also, though not formally so, rendering praise and thanksgiving as promised, connected with, or rather founded on, the known formula-His mercy endures forever. The same that in Psalm 115 were called to trust in Jehovah are now called to praise Him. From verse 5 the Holy Spirit speaks in the person of delivered Israel, and speaks of this faithfulness of Jehovah, and now, He being on their side, man need not be feared; Jehovah is better than man, Jehovah better than princes. Verses 10-18 unfold the circumstances and dealings through which Israel has passed. All nations had compassed them; in Jehovah’s name he would destroy them. They are quenched as fire. Verse 13, the enemy had thrust sore at them that they might fall; Jehovah helped them. The result in rejoicing and joy is chanted in verses 14-17. Another aspect of their trial is given in verse 18. It was withal Jehovah’s chastening, and He had chastened them sore, but not given them over to death, which was the power of the enemy for them. Thus we have the full character of trial, as we have seen it even in Job: instruments, men, even all nations; next, the enemy by them, and acting on the spirit, thrusting sore at the soul; but behind it, and before it too, is God chastening, but not giving over. This is full of instruction for us in many circumstances we pass through, where all these elements are found in what we are passing through.
Israel now owns the once-despised and rejected Messiah
Now the gates of righteousness are open before Israel. The turning to this at once, as the result of trial, is beautiful: he will go in and praise Jehovah. It is withal the gate of Jehovah, and the righteous enter into it. Israel there will praise, for Jehovah has heard him and become his salvation; but further and deeper truth comes out here. There is no restoration of Israel without Messiah, and Israel now owns Him once despised. “The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner. This is Jehovah’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.” We see, in the expression “our eyes,” who is the real speaker, and, though the voice had been one, who they are that now take part in the psalm of praise. This is the day Jehovah has made; it is His day, the blessing of His people in connection with Messiah, and His people rejoice in it. And now they cry, Hosanna to the Son of David, the Jehovah of Israel; and say, Blessed be he that comes in His name. This gives us the witness from the Lord’s own teaching, who it is that speaks in the Psalms, and to what time it applies; for the house was left desolate, and they were not to see Him again till they said, Blessed be He that comes. So that it is Israel, that is, the remnant, who speak, and in the day of their repentance, under grace, when they are to see Messiah again. They bless Him that comes out of the house of Jehovah. Jehovah is the God of strength, He has given Israel light; and now worship and sacrifice are offered to Him that has delivered and blessed. Now they say, Thou art my God, and praise and exalt Him.
The psalm closes with the well-known verse of Israel’s thankful praise: “Give thanks to Jehovah, for he is good, for his mercy endureth forever,” with which it had commenced. Thus the spiritual apprehension of God’s dealings, the coming to worship Jehovah in righteousness, and the owning the despised and rejected Messiah, are all unfolded in connection with the deliverance and blessing of Israel, and the full manifestation of Jehovah’s nature and character. Various verses of this psalm are quoted at the close of the Saviour’s trials; no psalm indeed so often, as connecting Him with the sorrows of, and promises to, Israel.

Psalm 119

The law written in the heart
Psalm 119 is in general the law written in the heart. This gives it an important place in the series of psalms. It is found distinctly connected too with Israel’s sorrows in the last days and their previous departure from God. The different divisions of the psalm show, I think, each a different phase of the exercises of heart connected with the law being written on it, though the general principle runs of course through it. I will very briefly notice the main bearing of each.
The blessedness of the walk with God
The first part presents to us naturally the great general principle. It is the third general “Blessed is the man”-the return of the soul in trial and distress to the great truth of Psalm 1, where the effect is seen under the immediate government of God. Psalm 32 gives the blessedness of forgiveness; this, of the walk with God on the return of the wanderer in spite of all difficulties and contempt. We have indeed another special blessing at the end of the first book, where Christ is so fully brought in. In the last psalm of that book he is pronounced blessed who understands His position, be it in Himself or in those who walk in His footsteps; for the first psalm supposed blessedness under the government of God, making good all His will towards the just, and the reverse seemed to be true. In fact, as we know, to man’s eye this wholly failed (bringing in a heavenly and divine righteousness and redemption). Hence true blessedness was shown in discerning, in understanding, the position in which that true blessed One was as rejected by men-that true poor man-taking Himself practically the place He describes as blessed, as we have seen in the sermon on the mount, while the great truth of the law in the heart is laid down. Yet the circumstances also come out in this first part- “forsake me not utterly.”
Cleansing by the Word
Secondly the Word associates with God. Not only is one blessed who keeps it, but it is cleansing: the desire of the heart is positively fixed on it. (See the connection of Jehovah and His Word, verses 10-11.)
Divine mercy in trial connected with the law in the heart
In the third part we find very distinctly the leaning on divine mercy in trial, connected with the law in the heart. The godly Israelite looks to Jehovah’s bountiful dealing, but with a view to hearty obedience (vs. 17). Verse 19 shows his state; verse 21, as we have seen in all this book, Jehovah’s intervention, already known in deliverance, though not in complete blessing; verses 22-23, the contempt the poor remnant undergo. Jehovah’s law had been his delight and comfort under it.
Inward trial; divine relief according to the Word
In the fourth part the trial is more inward. His soul is cleaving to the dust, but he looks to divine relief according to the Word. His desire looks to the effect of that living water from God. He has been open before God-has declared his own ways: so it ever is. He desires all way of evil to be removed by God from him. He has held fast by the Word-looks that God should not put him to shame. But he is looking for enlargement of heart, that he may run freely in God’s ways. Such is the sure effect when under the discipline of God. A soul who has found delight in His will and holiness is yet looking to run in liberty. Though in the heart, the Word here referred to is more of an outwardly expressed will, like Zacharias and Elizabeth, a beautiful moral expression of the remnant. With the Christian it will be more absolute and inward, more holiness than testimonies (though it may begin by them perhaps), whether in his first divine calling or under discipline. It is for him walking in the light as God is in the light-not the “ordinances and commandments of Jehovah.” Yet it is in principle essentially the same. To apply this psalm directly is to lower the divine standard of thought for the saint now. But the nature of the moral exercise may be most instructively used; just as subjection and confidence in trial is always right, though the forms of it in the Jew are wholly below the Christian’s. (Compare with this Philippians, where we have Christian experience.)
Divine guidance, teaching, courage and comfort- all from the Word
The fifth part looks for divine guidance and teaching in the ways and law of God; the sixth, for manifest mercies in that path, that he may have courage before adversaries and hold fast the law of God. In the seventh, having been quickened by the Word, he reckons on it, for God had caused him to trust it as His; so that now he leans on all its assurances. In troubles, when there was no outward cheering of nature, it sustained his heart. This brings him to the eighth. Jehovah was thus his portion. He had sought Him, judged himself, turned his feet to Jehovah’s testimonies. He reckoned on Him, and would thank Him in the secret watches of the night, when his heart was left to itself. He was the companion of those that feared Jehovah. This brightens up his thoughts, and he sees His power in mercy around. This is a beautiful picture of the working of the heart.
God’s will sought
The ninth brings out the circumstances of the psalm. In the comfort of the last part he can look with God’s eye and mind at these circumstances. These are much before our view (that is, feelings about them) in this part of the psalm. Jehovah has already dealt well with him according to His Word, and he looks for divine teaching to understand the mind of God well. He had been under discipline: but before this he had gone astray, but now had got into the spirit and path of obedience. He sees the proud lying against him, and their heart fat as grease (no link in state or obedience with Jehovah); and sees how good it was to have been afflicted, that he might learn Jehovah’s statutes. Nothing marks more the setting right of the soul than this-the turning to Jehovah’s will-“Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”-and counting all good that leads to this, and gives God’s will as authority, and morally its place in the heart.
The creature’s hope in the Creator’s Word
The tenth part has two main thoughts. Jehovah is his Creator- has formed him. He looks to Him to guide His own poor creature as a faithful Creator. Those that fear Jehovah will be glad when they see Him, because they hope in His Word. Secondly, he knows that thus in very faithfulness He has caused him to be afflicted, and now looks for mercies to come unto him, and the proud to be ashamed, and that those that fear Jehovah may turn to Him. All this is linked with soundness in Jehovah’s statutes.
The cry for deliverance because of walking in Jehovah’s precepts
In the eleventh the cry becomes more urgent. He is under the pressure of trial, his soul fainting for deliverance-looking for Jehovah to execute judgment, for he is walking in Jehovah’s precepts. And the proud persecute him wrongfully-they heed not Jehovah nor His law.
The abiding faithfulness of God
But, twelfth, creation is a witness to the abiding faithfulness of God: His Word is settled in heaven, where nothing can reach or shake it. But for Jehovah’s law, which sustained his heart, he had perished in the pressure of affliction. In truth, how precious to have the Word in such a world! We have more than commandments. But we can say, I have seen an end of all perfection. Another and more confident thought grows up out of all this exercise-“I am Thine.”
The psalmist’s delight in the guidance, comfort, sustenance and value of the Word
In the thirteenth he expresses his own internal delight in Jehovah’s law, and its effect in spiritual intelligence.
In the fourteenth it guides his path. Afflicted and oppressed, he looks for comfort to Him whose judgments he has taken as his path in spite of enemies and their snares.
The fifteenth gives the horror of vain thoughts, and looking to God as his hiding-place, with his rejection of evildoers. He looks to Jehovah to uphold him, that he may not be ashamed in his hope; and looks with solemn trembling on the sure judgment of the wicked.
In the sixteenth he presses more earnestly the interference of Jehovah in deliverance. The way in which the wicked have made void Jehovah’s law only makes him cling the closer to it. It was time for Jehovah to work.
The effects of strong attachment to Jehovah’s law and testimonies
The following parts all bring out the effects of his strong attachment to Jehovah’s law and testimonies, its value in every aspect for his heart; the trial he was in still in this path of righteousness; and how he would walk in Jehovah’s ways when set free; his grief at transgressors. He looks for teaching, quickening, keeping; and recalls the everlasting character of God’s testimonies; so that he held fast, though oppressed by the wicked.
Israel’s moral state in the last days
The last part is more general as a closing one, though in the same spirit. It sums up, so to speak, the whole. It desires that the cry of the oppressed delighter in the law may come up before Jehovah; asks for understanding according to His Word-for deliverance according to it; and assures praise when taught His statutes. His tongue will speak of His Word. He has the sense of their righteousness-looks for the hand of Jehovah to help, because he has chosen His precepts. Jehovah’s salvation has been longed for (man not trusted in). Jehovah’s law has been his delight, not his own will, nor the prosperous man’s ways. He looks for life, that he may praise, and that Jehovah’s judgment may help him; for the power of death and evil was before him. He owns finally his having gone astray, and looks for Jehovah as the Shepherd of Israel to seek him, for he has not forgotten His commandments. Such is the moral state of Israel in the last days when (in their land, I apprehend) the law is written in their heart, but full deliverance and final blessing are not come. The psalm is, in fact, the moral development of the hearts of those that fear God in the circumstances prophetically brought out in Psalm 118.

Psalm 120

The songs of degrees; the godly in the land with Gog’s power not destroyed
We now come, Psalms 120-134, to the songs of degrees, which depict, I doubt not, the outward circumstances of the same period, when Israel is in the land, but the power of Gog not yet destroyed. The first of this series begins with the statement of the cry sent up by the godly in his distress to Jehovah who heard. The special charge here is deceit and falsehood. Judgment should come on it. But it is against the godly himself, not the violence and oppression done to Jerusalem, or the apostate oppression of the people. His woe is to dwell in Mesech, and among the tents of Kedar. Wrong is in their hearts; and, when the godly spoke of peace, they prepared for battle. It does not seem to me to be the oppression of Antichrist or the beast at Jerusalem, but to apply to those who in the land found themselves where the last hostile power which had pretended to favor them,1 and had led many to apostatize for quietness and prosperity, now showed himself as only a deceitful oppressor.
(1. I do not refer here to Daniel 9 but to Daniel 8.)

Psalm 121

Jehovah the Creator and Keeper
In Psalm 121 Jehovah is assuredly declared to be his protection. He who never slumbers nor sleeps-He will not suffer his foot to be moved. The general intention is plain. I am not quite sure what is the force of verse 1, unless to identify Jehovah, the Creator of heaven and earth, with the hill of Zion,1 and the city of the great King. However this may be, Jehovah (as the great security) is the subject of the psalm. This is very distinct, and His name reiterated for the purpose. He is referred to in the double character, Creator of heaven and earth, and the Keeper of Israel, especially of the godly: Jehovah would preserve him in all circumstances and forever.
(1. A hill is used as a symbol of exalted strength, a high hill as the hill of Bashan. This is the Lord’s hill.)

Psalm 122

Jerusalem and the house of the Lord
Psalm 122 celebrates Jerusalem. The saint is glad to go there. The tribes go there; the thrones of judgment, of the house of David, are there. His brethren and companions, and the house of Jehovah, the God of Israel, their God, made his heart cling to it. It is a restoring of the associations with Jerusalem, recalling the old and establishing the new ones.

Psalm 123

Israel’s sorrows and resource
The series then returns to their sorrows and resource. Blessing is not fully come; but Jehovah is looked to in the heavens, but as the God of Israel; the remnant say “our God” now. But they are filled yet with the contempt of those that are at ease and of the proud.

Psalm 124

Escape by Jehovah’s intervention
The power of the enemy had been just now fully displayed against them-the godly in the land who trusted in Jehovah. But they had escaped, but only by Jehovah being on their side, or they had been utterly swallowed up, by the last power of the enemy, I apprehend, when the apostate beast and Antichrist were gone from the scene.

Psalm 125

Enduring protection for those who trust Jehovah
The position of those who trust in Jehovah is celebrated, in virtue of this intervention of Jehovah, who would now protect them forever, and they abide forever. Peace would be on Israel. Those that turned to their crooked ways-Jehovah would lead them forth with the open evildoers in judgment. The rod of wickedness would not rest upon the lot of the righteous. There would be an exclusion of the rod of wickedness (what represented the wicked as a tribe), separation from its mischief, that the righteous might not go astray. All this, I apprehend, refers to the last inroad of the final power of Gog, or the last condition of the Assyrian, perhaps to Daniel 8 (only that that gives its whole character, not merely its final one); also to the final king of the north, who comes in after the willful king in Daniel 11.

Psalm 126

Zion the center of full unlooked-for joy
The heart of the godly now finds its center in Zion, when deliverance has been learned; for so it will be. (Compare Isaiah 29:4,7.) How low she was brought, according to Psalm 124! (Isaiah 29:4. Compare Isaiah 17:12-14, and other passages.) It was a dream- so full, so unlooked-for, the joy. The very heathen now owned Jehovah’s hand. But the godly look for the full blessing, and the captivity to be turned again in the fullness of possessed blessing. Still God had manifested Himself; and to the faithful, who had taken up His testimony in sorrow, and when it was shame and reproach, it was now a harvest of joy. So it ever is; for full joy only comes through sorrow: for the testimony of God is in a world of evil.

Psalms 127-128

Present temporal blessing: God’s gift out of Zion
These full blessings thus sought, the building the house, the keeping the city, the desired abundance of children, are all (Psa. 127) Jehovah’s doing and gift, or man labors and watches in vain. The blessing is distinctly Jewish.
A numerous progeny are distinctly God’s gift: happy the man that has his quiver full of them (Psa. 128). The blessings spoken of are declared to be the portion of whoever fears Jehovah. It is present temporal blessing-blessings out of Zion; and, the desire of the godly’s heart, Jerusalem in prosperity all their days. Although the direct object be the remnant, the godly Gentile, so fearing Jehovah, owning Israel’s God, would, as a principle, enjoy the blessing, and rejoice with His people.

Psalm 129

Recurring with joy to past sorrows and trials
Psalm 129 recurs now with joy to the sorrows and trials through which the children of Zion have gone. But Jehovah is righteous, and has cut asunder the cords of the wicked. The haters of Zion (for Zion is here always the central thought) are withered, without resource, and without being desired.

Psalm 130

The effect of the sense of sin and of mercy
Psalm 130 takes up another subject, of the place of which we have found clear traces before-the sins of Israel as between the people and God. It is not, however, now merely legal distress. Confidence in Jehovah characterizes it, though accompanied by depth of distress and humiliation. This is the effect of the connection of the sense of sin and of mercy in the soul. Mere legal distress is more selfish in its terror, though admirable for destroying confidence in self and throwing on mercy; conviction with the sense of mercy is more the sense of wronging the God of goodness. It is a deeper work after all. Here there is forgiveness with Jehovah that He might be feared, and the soul waits on Jehovah, though it has cried out of the depths. There is desire, grace being looked to, as well as waiting for Jehovah, verse 6. The groundwork is stated in verse 7, while verse 8 shows confidence in the full results. Verse 4 is the upright acknowledgment of where the need came from, grace meeting that need; verse 7, that which can be reckoned on in Jehovah; verse 8, the full counting on it for Israel, that is, redemption, not from troubles, but from iniquities.

Psalm 131

Self-confidence gone; unwavering trust left
Psalm 131 briefly states the humble absence of all self-confidence, that so he has walked. Israel is now to trust in Jehovah and forever.

Psalm 132

The ark in Zion; Jehovah’s promises fulfilled
Psalm 132 is, in some respects, a very interesting psalm. It is the restoration of the ark of the covenant to its resting-place, and the promises of Jehovah, in answer to the supplication of His servant. It is founded on David’s bringing the ark up to Zion. This, as we have seen in the historical books, has a very important place. It was grace acting by power when Israel had so completely failed that the bond of the people with God, so far as it was founded on the people’s responsibility, was wholly broken, and the ark gone into captivity, and Ichabod written on all.1 But now, in a fuller and more lasting sense, a habitation was found for the mighty God of Jacob, where the godly would worship low before His footstool. The fruit of David’s body, the Messiah of Jehovah, was to sit on His throne, and that forevermore. Jehovah was entering into His rest-He and the ark of His strength. Before (Num. 10:35-36), if He arose it was to scatter His enemies, and then He returned to the many thousands of Israel. But now, and this is what characterizes the psalm, the enemies were scattered, and Jehovah arose to take His rest in Israel. The sovereign election of God is seen, verse 13; and, then, it will be remarked, that the promise, in answer to the supplication, goes each time beyond the request. (Compare verses 14-15 and 8, 16 and 9, and 17-18 and 10.) This is of the highest interest as showing the grace of the Lord, and how His love surpasses all the hopes of His people, His interest in them.
(1. The three principles of government had been brought out in Israel. First, direct responsibility to God under priesthood. That had failed under Eli, and that was Ichabod. It was over with Israel on the ground of their own responsibility. Then God intervened by a prophet. That He could still do; it was a sovereign act. But that failed; so did royalty as set up by the people. Then we have royalty as power in grace, as it will be in Christ, and the lost ark brought back. This is what we have in this psalm.)

Psalm 133

Israel dwelling together in unity
The people are now dwelling together in unity. It is as the anointing of Aaron, which, poured on the head, gave the odors of divine favor on all, as the abundant dew of the lofty hills, but which brought, however high its source, its refreshing power where God had ordained blessing and life forevermore.1 I see no need to seek for any mountain of a like name near Hermon, but the contrary.
(1. This is one of the two places where life forevermore, life eternal, is spoken of in the Old Testament; the other is Daniel 12; both as accomplished in the time of blessing to come. In the New Testament, I need not say, it is fully revealed in Christ, and he that believes in Him has everlasting life. )

Psalm 134

Jehovah’s servants called to bless the Blesser
Psalm 134 closes the series by calling on the servants of Jehovah to bless Him. Night and day should furnish praise to Him, and in the holy place holy hands be lifted up to bless. Jehovah was there, His servants there to praise Him. Jehovah, who made heaven and earth, blessed now (not simply from heaven, but) out of Zion. It is the place of blessing Jehovah, and Jehovah blessing. I should be disposed to count the last verse rather the voice of Christ as the Son of David, something in the character of Melchisedec, who said, Blessed be the Most High God, and blessed be Abraham of the Most High God, only specially in connection with Jehovah (as Zechariah 6:13) blessing the godly remnant out of Zion. The last verse is a kind of answer to the call of the preceding ones; the Spirit of Christ in the remnant calls on Jehovah’s servants to bless Him, and they from Him bless the godly one.

Psalm 135

Hallelujah; the call to celebrate Jehovah as almighty and as now dwelling in Jerusalem
Psalms 135-136 celebrate Jehovah, who has delivered Israel and now dwells in Jerusalem, and give thanks to Him whose mercy has endured forever-the Creator of all things in goodness who first delivered them, and remembered them to redeem them when brought low.
Psalm 135 is a very characteristic psalm, giving a remarkable key to the interpretation of the book, and linking it with the early statements of Jehovah as to His relationship to Israel, so as to bind together their history in one whole. The subject is Hallelujah-praise the name of Jehovah. He is good: it is pleasant to do it; for He has chosen Jacob and Israel for His peculiar treasure. He is then (vs. 6) celebrated as the Almighty God, doing what He pleased, daily disposing of creation; then as He who executed judgment on the oppressors of Israel, and freed them, and drove out the heathen and gave them their land. Now comes His name in connection with Israel and in contrast with idols; and the two passages, in one of which He first took up Israel forever under the name of Jehovah, and, in the other, prophetically announced their deliverance when they should have wholly and utterly failed, are cited from Exodus 3:15 and Deuteronomy 32:36. The first takes the name of the Lord God of their fathers, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, when He sends Moses to deliver them, and declares this is His name forever, His memorial to all generations, and then promises deliverance and bringing into the land; then He takes the name of Jehovah. The second is in the prophetic song of Moses, when he has drawn out to them their picture as apostate, their spot not the spot of God’s children, when they forsook God who made them, and provoked Him to jealousy with strange gods, and Jehovah hid His face from them, and, but for the fear of man’s pride, had made the remembrance of them to cease from among men. Then, when they should be helpless and hopeless in themselves, Jehovah would judge His people, and repent Himself concerning His servants, execute judgments on the heathen, and then make them rejoice with His people. So that these two verses give the first deliverance and purpose of God, and the judgment and ways of God in the last days, to which the Psalms have brought us. Thus they give a clear key to the application of the Psalms themselves. Then we have (vss. 15-18) the present judgment of the idols spoken of in Deuteronomy 32, and to which they had fallen away. The psalm closes with the summons to those already generally specified-the divers parts of Israel and all that fear Jehovah-to bless Jehovah; the house of Israel, of Aaron, of Levi, and all that fear Jehovah; and this now out of Zion, even Jehovah, of whom now they could say that He dwelt in Jerusalem.

Psalm 136

The answer to the summons
Psalm 136 may be considered as the answer to this summons. It is characterized by the formulary, as often noticed, the expression of Jehovah’s unchanging goodness to Israel in spite of all: “His mercy endureth forever.” It celebrates Him as Creator, God of gods, the Deliverer of Israel, who had led them through the wilderness, as Him who by power slaying mighty kings had given them the inheritance of the land; and who, finally, remembering them in their low estate, had redeemed them from it, and now supplied every living thing with food, the God of heaven. This, in a certain sense, closes the historical psalms.
Sorrows, Jehovah’s ways, millennial praises
We have then a kind of supplementary series: first, of their characteristic sorrows and Jehovah’s ways in the latter days, and then of millennial praises. These sorrows are from Psalms 137-144-the latter, however, being the expectation of deliverance and blessing. Psalm 139 also has a peculiar character, as will be at once seen.

Psalm 137

Remembrance of Zion in their past captivity
Psalm 137 refers, and alone does-to give the full history of Israel’s sorrows-to Babylon, which has only a mystic fulfillment in the latter days, but has its importance, because at that time was the closing of the period of the divine presence in Jerusalem, and the setting up of the power of the Gentiles. But faith could not content itself in a strange land nor sing the Lord’s songs there; for they were not a heavenly people-hence they turn to Jerusalem, which faith never forgets. Babylon is to be destroyed and her judgment is desired; Edom’s enmity not forgotten. The object of the psalm is to bring out their attachment to Zion in their captivity; there was no separation of heart from it in the strange land.

Psalm 138

The ground of faith-God’s Word
Psalm 138 gives the ground of faith-God’s Word; and now the godly turns to own it in worship; and when that Word reaches the kings of the earth, they shall turn and praise Jehovah and sing in His ways. Nor is His truth all. Though so high, He has respect to the lowly; He revives, protects, and perfects all that concerns the believing righteous. “His mercy endureth forever.”

Psalm 139

Man’s heart searched out; God’s omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence
Psalm 139 shows the complete exercise of heart that belongs to God’s ways. Though the faithfulness of God perfects all His purposed blessing, not a thought escapes God. There is, morally speaking, no staying in His presence; but there is no getting out of His presence, nor where He sees not, though conscience might be glad to flee. But this brings in another aspect. He knows all, because also He has formed all. This connects us with the taking perfect notice of us in goodness. He cares for us, watches over every member that is formed, as He knows our every thought; if He does, He has His own too, and these are precious to us. This is just the change and working of faith. It begins necessarily by conscience under God’s eye; for it brings us into His presence, and then gets at God’s thoughts, who has formed us for Himself, and then unfolded boundless spheres of His own blessing and ways. God watches over him in the silence of sleep: waking, therefore, he finds himself with God.
But, further, this connection with God is a perfect breaking with the wicked: God will slay them. And he calls on them to depart from him. Therefore he looks at the wicked with horror, because of what they are to God-for himself, that he may be searched throughout, that no wickedness may remain in him. This psalm goes far in the relationship of man’s spirit with God, though it looks to the external judgment of the wicked, and uses language which becomes verified in the assembly figuratively and which is so also in the resurrection. The great direct point in it is the full searching out of man’s heart, as it will be then, as it must be ever. But this searching, when we are under our own responsibility, is, Whither shall I flee from Him? But when we are God’s workmanship (that is, when grace and power have come in), God’s thoughts become precious to us, and we can ask to be searched, known, and tried-the more the better, that, emptied of self, we may be able to enjoy God. Then also we look for leading. The will is broken, as the thoughts are judged, and our desire is to be led of God. We see at the same time the character of the psalm connects it with the latter day. “Surely thou wilt slay the wicked.” It looks for judgment, and has hatred and horror of the haters of God.

Psalms 140-143

A restored Israel, still in conflict and distress
The five following psalms go over ground which we have trodden over in detail: only they apply to a restored Israel, still in conflict, and not fully blessed.
Encompassed by the proud; deliverance looked for from the evil and violent
Psalm 140 looks for deliverance from the evil and violent man. Israel is in connection with Jehovah, but compassed about by the proud.
The desire of the godly that his words and thoughts be kept
Psalm 141. Having learned the government of Jehovah, the godly looks for his words and thoughts to be kept of Jehovah, that Jehovah may bless him. Smiting he will accept as discipline. He looks for acceptance for his prayers. And even in the judgment coming upon the proud (Israel, I apprehend), he looks to it as breaking them down so as to hear His Word. It is such a psalm as David might have penned when pursued by Saul. He looks for judgment on the wicked, but that calamities may arrest some.
Jehovah alone looked to as a refuge
Psalm 142 looks to Jehovah alone as a refuge.
The cry for mercy and goodness
Psalm 143 specially for mercy and goodness, that in the midst of the persecution of the enemy, and the pressure on the godly, Jehovah would not enter into judgment with him, but show His loving-kindness. As the servant of Jehovah, he begs to be taught and guided. Thus these psalms are all of one in deep distress; but they look, in relationship with Jehovah (not cast out, and knowing Him only as God), for the cutting off of the enemies.

Psalm 144

Jehovah blessed as the source of strength
Psalm 144 blesses Jehovah as the source of strength. Its plea for the destruction of the enemies is, What is man? Why should Jehovah make account1 of such a worm, and delay bringing in blessing by thus lingering in judgment? Deliverance is thus looked for, for the full true final blessing of Israel. Happy the people in such a case: happy the people who have Jehovah for their God! Directly, the psalm applies to David himself, who is named in it, and owns God, as subduing his (David’s) people under him, as the source of royal power. I do not see that it brings in any personally in the latter day. Did it so, it would be “the prince”; for there will be a human house of David on the earth. But it is the bringing in of the people into that state of subjection under Christ, when they will be willing in the day of His power, when in the day of Jezreel they will appoint themselves one head, when the day will be great, when Jehovah will utterly scatter the power of the enemies of Israel, give them a new song, and bless them. Messiah will surely be their head; but it is prophetically spoken of by David in person. The true Beloved will be their sure head.

Psalm 145

Christ in the midst of Israel leading and awakening Jehovah’s praises
Psalm 145 goes on in thought into the millennium, after the distress is over, and the full deliverance can be celebrated. It is Christ in spirit-perhaps even in person-as in the midst of Israel, leading the praises of Jehovah, and awakening them among men. Hence, though only expressing purpose, it is a dialogue in its character. First, he expresses his own purpose of praising Jehovah, and forever and ever. One generation should do it to another. “I will speak.” One sees his heart is full of praise, and he speaks of it (vs. 5). “And men shall speak of the might of Jehovah’s terrible acts. And I will declare thy greatness. They shall speak of the
1. Compare Psalm 8, grace’s view of it, and Job’s impatience (ch. 7:17-18) against discipline, God’s taking notice of men’s ways in government.
memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness.” Then he breaks off most beautifully to speak of the goodness: for still out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. All Jehovah’s works shall praise Him. The saints bless Him. Their subject shall be the glory of Jehovah’s kingdom and His power, to make known to the mass of mankind His acts, and the glorious majesty of His kingdom, and that an everlasting one. Then in verses 14-20 His character is spoken of. Verse 21 returns to the purpose of heart of the leader of praise. It is as man Christ speaks here-“my God.” Jehovah is looked at as King. In general, the outward acts and greatness are more in the mouth of the rest-what Jehovah is in the leader’s, though he does celebrate His wondrous works. Still the greatness and excellency and majesty of Jehovah are that which we see his heart full of, as verses 3, 5 and 8-10; and so, in general, His gracious ways and character (vss. 14-19). It is to be remarked that there is the leader who speaks in the psalm, the saints (the Jewish remnant), and the world in general, the sons of Adam. It is of the highest interest in this way; because we have Messiah fulfilling the word, “My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation.” And how full in heart He is of His praises! Jehovah’s kingdom is set up; the Messiah in the midst of Israel first, then the preserved saints, and then, through their leading, all the world join in His praises, for His greatness, goodness, and wonderful works.

Psalm 146

The introduction to full final praises
Psalm 146 introduces the full final praises: the first, the outpouring of the heart in praise to Him as the God of Jacob, celebrating what He is, and the comfort of trusting Him, the Creator, the Helper of the oppressed, the Comforter of the lowly, the Lover of the righteous, who turns the way of the wicked upside down. He shall reign forever, even Zion’s God to all generations. The character of this praise, after what we have gone through, is most simple.

Psalm 147

The saints’ song of praise to tell what Jehovah is
In Psalm 147 the saints take their place now in Jerusalem and Zion to say what He is. He is their God; He builds up Jerusalem and gathers together the outcasts of Israel, healing the broken in heart and binding up their wounds. In verses 4-5 His greatness is celebrated and His goodness and judgment; in verses 7-9, His goodness in blessing the earth; in verses 10-11, His pleasure, not in animal strength, but in them that fear Him. In verse 12, the song of praise returns to celebrate His ways towards Jerusalem again; in verses 15-18, His dealings with the seasons in power; in verses 19-20, His showing His Word and judgments to Jacob as He had not done to any nation. They might have seen the creative and providential power of Jacob’s God, but His mind and laws were His people’s.

Psalm 148

The call to heaven and earth to take their part in the great Hallelujah
Psalm 148 calls first on heaven, and all in it, to take their part in the great Hallelujah, and praise Jehovah who had created and sustains them in their place; and then on the earth, with all in it, to join in praising Him whose name alone is excellent, and His glory above the earth and heaven, but who exalts the horn of His people, the praise of His saints (the godly ones we have seen throughout, but who now are fully Israel), a people near to Him. The great Creator whom heaven and earth must praise is the God of Israel, and Israel His people.

Psalm 149

The call to Israel to praise and the reasons
Psalm 149 calls upon Israel to praise. The creation and Israel we have seen all through to be coordinate (the new creation and the assembly), and to form the sphere of the Psalms. Still it is now in the congregation of the saints. Israel’s relationship is double: Jehovah has formed him for His praise; He is King in Zion. The reasons of praise are then given. Jehovah takes pleasure in His people; but we learn who have this place. He beautifies the meek with salvation. Then he can say, Let the saints be joyful in glory; but if the high praises of God are in their mouths, the sword of earthly judgment and vengeance is in their hands to execute it on the nations and peoples, to bind the mighty ones who had once oppressed them. It was the judgment written. Such honor have all His saints. The persons here in view are thus evident, as is their position: the meek in Israel now delivered, and the Lord Jesus, King in Zion, execute judgment on those who had oppressed them. Such is indeed, as said, the judgment written, and confirms the view I have taken of the last two books: only now it is complete in its statements. The millennium itself is not described. The Psalms are the introduction to it, and by their connection of Christ, as seen in the Gospels, and the remnant of Israel, with the last days, throw the greatest light on the Gospels themselves.

Psalm 150

The general closing summons to everything that has breath to praise Him
Psalm 150 is a general closing summons to praise Jehovah- only, remark, it is now freely in His sanctuary, as well as in the firmament of His power-in His sanctuary, with all the various instruments of the temple-praise for His mighty acts, praise for His own excellent greatness: everything that has breath is called to praise Him. It is a loud and chorus-like termination, full of power and energy, suited to the Jewish state and temple service.
Here we close this most interesting and instructive study, as to which I could hope only to give the outline of general principles, which might enable the reader to use the book; not its varied and beautiful contents in detail-this would have required volumes, both on the prophetic connection of its contents, and on the exercises and feelings of faith, so far as we can apply them to saints now.


The scope and purpose of the book
The Book of Proverbs gives us the application of that wisdom which created the heavens and the earth to the details of life in this world of confusion and evil. This thought brings out the immensity of grace unfolded here. God deigns to apply His wisdom to the circumstances of our practical life, and to show us, with His own intelligence, the consequences of all the ways in which man may walk. For it is often in the way of knowledge, not of precept, that the statements made in the Book of Proverbs are presented. It is a great blessing to be provided for the labyrinth of this world, in which a false step may lead to such bitter consequences, with a book that sets forth the path of prudence and of life; and that in connection with a wisdom which comes from God.
Heavenly wisdom exercised in, and applied to, this world
It is well to remember that the Book of Proverbs treats of this world, and of God’s government, according to which man reaps that which he has sown. This is always true, whatever may be the sovereign grace that bestows on us things beyond and infinitely above this world.
Solomon was filled with wisdom from above, but which had its exercise in this world, and its application to it; that is to say, which applied to it God’s way of viewing all things, discerning the truth of all that, day by day, is developed in it. We have here the ways of God, the divine path for human conduct, the discernment of that which the heart of man produces, and of its consequences; and also-for one who is subject to the Word-the means of avoiding the path of his own will and of his own foolish heart (which is unable to understand the bearing of a multitude of actions that it suggests to him), and this, not by bringing him back to moral perfection-for that is not the object of the Proverbs; but to that wisdom and prudence which enable him to avoid many errors, and to maintain a serious walk before God, and an habitual submission to His mind. The precepts of this book establish practical happiness in this world by maintaining earthly relationships in their integrity according to God. Now it is not human prudence and sagacity that are enjoined. The fear of the Lord,1 which is the beginning of wisdom, is the subject here.
(1. I have left “Lord” here as an expression of general application, but Jehovah is always His name in Israel, and that of government, save in a few cases where Adonai (Lord, in the proper appellative use of it) is employed. But it is to be noted that Jehovah is used in Proverbs, because it is authoritatively instructive in known relationship; never in Ecclesiastes, where it is God in contrast with man, having his own experience as such on earth. “God” abstractedly is only once used in Proverbs (ch. 25:2). We have “her God” in chapter 2:17.)

Proverbs 1-9

The distinct parts of the book
There are two very distinct parts in this book. The first nine chapters, which give the great general principles; and the proverbs, properly so called, or moral aphorisms or sentences, which indicate the path in which the wise man should walk. At the end of the book is a collection of such made by Hezekiah.
The fear of the Lord; the madness of self-will
Let us examine the first part. The grand principle is laid down at the outset-the fear of the Lord on the one side, and on the other the madness of self-will which despises the wisdom and instruction that restrain it. For, besides the knowledge of good and evil in respect of which the fear of the Lord will operate, there is that exercise of authority in God’s created order which is a check on will (the origin of all disorder), as that confided to parents and the like. And these are carefully insisted on, in contrast with independence, as the basis of happiness and moral order in the world. It is not simply God’s authority giving precepts; nor even His statements of the consequence of actions, but the order He has set up in the relationships He has established among men, especially of parents, subjection to them is really owning God in His order. It is the first commandment with promise.
Man’s will manifested in violence and corruption
There are two forms in which sin, or the activity of man’s will, manifests itself-violence and corruption. This was seen at the time of the deluge. The earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. Satan is a liar and a murderer. In man, corrupt lusts are even a more abundant source of evil.
In chapter 1 violence is pointed out as the infringement of those obligations which the will of God has laid upon us. But wisdom cries aloud that her voice may be heard, proclaiming the judgment of those who despise her ways.
The way of deliverance
Chapter 2 gives us the result of subjection of heart to the words of wisdom, and an earnest search after it-the knowledge of the fear of Jehovah, and the knowledge of God Himself. He who applies himself to this shall be kept: he shall not only have no part with the wicked man, but he shall be delivered from the deceitful woman-from corruption. The judgment of the earth and the prosperity of the righteous are declared.
The clue to guidance through a world of wickedness
The latter principle being established, chapter 3 shows that it is not human sagacity or the prudence of man which imparts the wisdom here spoken of. Neither is it the ardent desire after prosperity and happiness, manifesting itself in crooked ways; but the fear of Jehovah and subjection to His Word supply the one clue to guide us safely through a world of wickedness which He governs.
The necessity of pursuing wisdom; warning
Chapter 4 insists on the necessity of pursuing wisdom at whatever cost; it is a path of sure reward. It warns against all association that would lead the contrary way and into ruin, adding that the heart, the lips, and the feet are to be watched.
Corruption of heart seen by Jehovah
Chapter 5 returns in detail to the corruption of heart that leads a man to forsake the wife of his youth for another. This path demoralizes the whole man. But the eyes of Jehovah are upon the ways of man.
The principles of life; hearkening to wisdom’s words
In chapter 6 wisdom will not be surety for another. It is neither slothful, nor violent, nor deceitful. The strange woman should be avoided as fire: there is no reparation for adultery.
In chapter 7 the house of the strange woman is the path to the grave. To curb oneself, to be firm in resisting allurements, looking to Jehovah and hearkening to the words of the wise-such are the principles of life given in these chapters.
The everlasting wisdom of God, active, revealed and unfolded
Chapter 8. The wisdom of God is active. It cries aloud; it invites men. Three principles distinguish it-discretion, or the right consideration of circumstances, instead of following self-will; hatred of evil, which evidences the fear of Jehovah; and detestation of arrogance and hypocrisy in man. It is by wisdom that kings and princes rule; strength, counsel, and sound wisdom, and durable riches, are found in it. Moreover Jehovah Himself has acted according to His own perfect discernment of the right relations of all things to each other; that is to say, He created them according to the perfection of His own thoughts. But this leads us farther; for Christ is the wisdom of God. He is the center of all relations, according to the perfections of God; and is in Himself the object of God’s eternal delight. The everlasting wisdom of God is revealed and unfolded in Him. But this is not the only link. If Christ was the object of God the Father’s delight, as the center and fullness of all wisdom, men have been the delight of Christ, and the habitable parts of Jehovah’s earth. It is in connection with men that Christ is seen, when considered as uniting and developing in Himself every feature of the wisdom and the counsels of God. The life that was in Him was the light of men. Christ is then the object of God the Father’s delight. Christ ever found His joy in God the Father, and His delight with the sons of men,1 and in the earth inhabited by men. Here then must this wisdom be displayed. Here must the perfection of God’s ways be manifested. Here must divine wisdom be a guide to the conduct of a being subject to its direction. Now it is in Christ, the wisdom of God, that this is found. Whoso hearkens to Him finds life. Observe here that, all-important as this revelation is of the display of God’s wisdom in connection with men, we do not find man’s new place in Christ, nor the assembly here. She is called away from this present evil age to belong to Jesus in heaven. Christ cannot actually yet rejoice in the sons of men, if we take their state into account. When He takes possession of the earth, this will be fully accomplished-this will be the millennium. Meantime He calls on men to hear His voice. The principle of a path to be followed by hearkening to the words of wisdom is one of the greatest importance for this world, and of the most extensive bearing. There is the path of God, in which He is known. There is but one. If we do not walk in it, we shall suffer the consequences, even if really loving the Lord.
(1. So He became a man, and the unjealous testimony of the angels on His birth is, Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good pleasure in men. Man would not have Him, and the special relationship of His risen place as man with God, “my Father and your Father, my God and your God,” and that of the assembly was formed, but His delight was in that race; for the time it was not peace on earth but division, but even after the millennium the tabernacle of God will be with men, where we have both the special relationship and the general blessing.)
Wisdom’s invitation
But in fact (ch. 9) wisdom has done more than this; it has formed a system, established a house of its own, upheld by the perfection of well-regulated and coordinate solidity. It is furnished with meat and wine; the table is spread; and, in the most public manner, wisdom invites the simple to come and partake, while pointing out to them the right way in which life is found. There is another woman; but before speaking of her, the Spirit teaches that instruction is wasted on the scorner; he will but hate his reprover. Wisdom is wise even in relation to its enemies. There is progress for the wise and the upright, but the beginning of it is the fear of Jehovah. This is its fundamental principle.
But scoffing is not the only character of evil. There is the foolish woman. This is not the activity of love which seeks the good of those who are ignorant of good. She is clamorous, sitting in the high places, at the door of her house, seeking to turn aside those who go right on their ways, and alluring those that have no understanding into the paths of deceit and sin; and they know not that her guests are the victims of death. Such are the general instructions which God’s warning wisdom gives us.

Proverbs 10-31

Snares to be avoided, the path to be followed
In chapter 10 begin the details which teach those who give ear how to avoid the snares into which the simple might fall, the path to be followed in many cases, and the consequences of men’s actions: in short, that which characterizes wisdom in detail, what may be prudence for man, divine discretion for the children of God; and also, the result of God’s government, whatever appearances may be for a while. It is well to observe, that there is no question of redemption or propitiation in this book; it proposes a walk according to the wisdom of God’s government.
Wisdom for government; industry and its reward
In the final chapter we have the character of a king according to wisdom, and that of the woman in her own house-the king who does not allow himself that which, by darkening his moral discernment through the indulgence of his lusts, would make him unfit to govern. In the woman we see the persevering and devoted industry which fills the house with riches, brings honor to its inhabitants, and removes all the cares and anxieties produced by sloth. The typical application of these two specific characters is too evident to need explanation. The example of the woman is very useful, as to the spirit of the thing, to one who labors in the assembly.
The great use of the book to the Christian
Although in this book the wisdom produced by the fear of Jehovah is only applied to this world, it is on that very account of great use to the Christian, who, in view of his heavenly privileges, might, more or less, forget the continual government of God. It is very important for the Christian to remember the fear of the Lord, and the effect of God’s presence on the details of his conduct; and I repeat that which I said at the beginning, that it is great grace which deigns to apply divine wisdom to all the details of the life of man in the midst of the confusion brought in by sin. Occupied with heavenly things, the Christian is less in the way of discovering, by his own experience, the clue to the labyrinth of evil through which he is passing. God has considered this, and He has laid down this first principle, “Wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.” Thus the Christian may be ignorant of evil (if a worldling were so, he would fall into it), and yet avoid it through his knowledge of good. The wisdom of God gives him the latter; the government of God provides for all the rest. Now, in the Proverbs, we have these things in principle and in detail. I have not dwelt on the figurative character of the forms of evil. They are rather principles than figures. But the violent man of the last days is continually found in the Psalms; and Babylon is the full accomplishment of the woman who takes the simple in her snares and leads them down to death; just as Christ is the perfect wisdom of God which leads to life. But these two things which manifest evil proceed from the heart of man at all times since the fall: only we have seen that there is an active development of the wiles of the evil woman, who has her own house and her own arrangements. It is not simply the principle of corruption, but an organized system, as is that of sovereign wisdom.


The viewpoint of the book: the wise man’s search for happiness under the sun and his discovery
The Book of Ecclesiastes is, up to a certain point, the converse of the Book of Proverbs.1 It is the experience of a man who-retaining wisdom, that he may judge of all-makes trial of everything under the sun that could be supposed capable of rendering men happy, through the enjoyment of everything that human capacity can entertain as a means of joy. The effect of this trial was the discovery that all is vanity and vexation of spirit; that every effort to be happy in possessing the earth, in whatever way it may be, ends in nothing. There is a cankerworm at the root. The greater the capacity of enjoyment, the deeper and wider is the experience of disappointment and vexation of spirit. Pleasure does not satisfy, and even the idea of securing happiness in this world by an unusual degree of righteousness, cannot be realized. Evil is there, and the government of God in such a world as this, is not in exercise to secure happiness to man here below-a happiness drawn from the things below and resting on their stability; though as a general rule it protects those who walk with God: “Who is he that shall harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?”2 There is no allusion to the truth that we are dead in sins and offences. It is the result in the mind of the writer of the experience which he has gone through, and which he sets before us. As to the things around us, there is nothing better than to enjoy the things which God has given us; and finally, the fear of Jehovah is the whole of man, as the rule of his walk on earth. His own capacities do not make him happy nor the gratifying of his own will, even when he has everything at command. “For what can the man do that cometh after the king?” Man fails to secure joy; and permanent joy is not to be found for man. Consequently, if there be any joy, it is with the sense that it cannot be retained.
(1. See the note to Proverbs, page 223.)
(2. Peter’s epistles, after laying the foundation of redemption and being born again, are occupied with the degree in which what was immediate (in promise) among the Jews is applicable now. The first epistle, its application to saints; the second, to the world and the wicked here below: hence he goes on to the new heavens and the new earth.)
Wisdom and folly in this world and their end
The moral of this book goes even farther than that of the Proverbs-on one side at least; for we must remember that it is this world that is in question (under the sun). Wisdom avails no more than folly. The difference between them is as great as that between light and darkness. But one event happens to all men, and much reflection only makes us hate life. The heart becomes weary of research, and after all one dies like another. The world is ruined as a system, and death cuts the thread of thoughts and projects, and annihilates all connection between the most skillful workman and the fruit of his labors. What profit has been to him? There is a time for all things, and man must do each in its season, and enjoy that which God gives on his way. But God is the same in all His works, that men should fear before Him. He knows that God will judge the righteous and the wicked; but, as far as man’s knowledge extends, he dies as the beast dies, and who can tell what becomes of him afterwards? There is no question here of the revelation of the world to come, but only of the conclusions drawn from experience of what takes place in this world. The knowledge of God teaches that there is a judgment; to man all is darkness beyond the present life.
Injustice and unredressed wrongs
Chapter 4 expresses the deep sorrow caused by the crying injustice of a sinful world, the unredressed wrongs which compose the history of our race, and which, in fact, make the history of man insupportable to one who has a sense of natural justice, and creates the desire to put an end to it. Labor and sloth alike bring their quota of distress. Nevertheless, in the midst of this quicksand in which there is no standing, we see the thought of God arise, giving a firm foundation to heart and mind.
God over all in government and judgment
This is in the beginning of chapter 5. He demands respect from man. The folly of the heart is indeed folly in His presence. From thence onward we find that that which takes away the vain hope of earthly happiness gives a more true joy to the heart that becomes wise, and therefore joyful, in separating itself from the world. There is therefore the grace also of patience. The self-sufficient effort to be righteous only ends in shame; to be active in evil ends in death. Finally, to strive after wisdom by the knowledge of things below is labor in vain. He has found two things: first, with respect to woman, judged by the experience of the world, he has found none good; among men, one in a thousand; and, in a word, that God made man upright, but he has sought out many inventions apart from God.
God must be honored, and the king also, to whom God has given authority. We see too in chapters 9-10, how little everything here meets the apparent capacity of man; and, even when this capacity is real, how little it is esteemed. Nevertheless the wisdom of the upright, and the folly of the fool, have each its own consequences, and, after all, God judges. To sum up the whole, God must be remembered, and that before weakness and old age overtake us. For the manifest conclusion of all that has been said is, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole of man.”
Submission and obedience to God the principle of all true wisdom
The chief subject, then, of this book is the folly of all man’s efforts in seeking happiness here below, and that the wisdom which judges all this only renders man still more unhappy. And then all this experience, on the part of one who possessed the highest capacity, is put in contrast with the simple principle of all true wisdom-submission and obedience to God, who knows all things, and who governs all things, because “God shall bring every work into judgment.”
The only rule of life
If we remember that this book gives us the experience of man, and the reasonings of man, on all that happens under the sun, there is no difficulty in those passages that have the semblance of infidelity. The experience of man is necessarily infidel. He confesses his ignorance; for beyond that which is seen, experience can know nothing. But the solution of all moral problems is above and beyond that which is seen. The Book of Ecclesiastes makes this manifest. The only rule of life then is to fear the God who disposes of our life, who judges every action all the days of the life of our vanity. There is no question, in this book, of grace or of redemption, but only of the experience of this present life, and of that which God has said with respect to it-namely, His law, His commandments, and the consequent judgment-that which is decreed to man.
A Jew under the law might say these things, after having had the experience of all that God could give man to favor him in this position, and in view of the judgment of God that is connected with it.
The difference between Proverbs and Ecclesiastes
In Proverbs we have practical moral guidance through the world; in Ecclesiastes the result of all efforts of man’s will to find happiness, with all means at his disposal. But in the whole inquiry in Ecclesiastes there is no covenant relationship, no revelation. It is man with his natural faculties, and such as he is, conscious indeed he has to say to God, but seeking by his own thoughts where happiness is to be found. Only that conscience has its part in the matter, and the fear of God is owned at the end. It is God owned indeed, but man in the world with full experience of all in it.


The affections of the remnant to the King and those of the assembly
This book takes up the Jew, or at least the remnant, in quite another aspect. It tells of the affections that the King can create in their heart, and by which He draws them to Himself. However strong these affections may be, they are not developed according to the position in which Christian affections, properly so called, are formed. They differ in this respect. They do not possess the profound repose and sweetness of an affection that flows from a relationship already formed, known, and fully appreciated, the bonds of which are formed and recognized, that counts upon the full and constant acknowledgment of the relationship, and that each party enjoys, as a certain thing, in the heart of the other. The desire of one who loves, and is seeking the affections of the beloved object, is not the sweet, entire, and established affection of the wife, with whom marriage has formed an indissoluble union. To the former the relationship is only in desire, the consequence of the state of heart; to the latter the state of heart is the consequence of the relationship. Now, although the marriage of the Lamb is not yet come, nevertheless, on account of the revelation which has been made to us, and of the accomplishment of our salvation, this latter character of affection is that which is proper to the assembly. Praise and glory be to God for it! We know whom we have believed. The strength and energy of desire is, however, still maintained, because glory and the marriage of the Lamb are yet future. What a position is that of the assembly! The entire confidence of the relationship on the one hand, the ardent expectation of the betrothed of the Lord on the other, whose love, however, is well-known; an expectation that is linked with the glory in which He will come to receive her to Himself, to be forever with Him.
This is not the position of the Jew. The point for him is to know that his Beloved is his. That is the question. That there is a principle in common is true. Christ loves His assembly, He loves His earthly people, He loves the soul that He draws to Himself. So that there is a moral application to ourselves which is very precious. Nevertheless it is important that we distinguish and do not apply to the assembly that which relates to Israel. Otherwise we shall not have the right character of affection, and shall fail in that which is due to Christ.
Christ for the remnant and the remnant for Christ
The Song of Songs gives then the reestablishment of the relations between Christ and the remnant, in order that by exercise of heart-necessary on account of their position-they may be confirmed in the assurance of His love, and in the knowledge that all is of grace, and a grace that can never fail. Then is He fully known as Solomon. His heart becomes like the chariot of His willing people (Ammi-nadib), which carries Him away.
Chapter 8:1 affords us a passage which may serve to express the state of mind treated in the book. “Oh that thou wert as my brother...when I should find thee without, I would kiss thee.” Nevertheless, the Spirit of God desiring to assure the heart of the remnant of the Saviour’s love, we see that the expression of the heart’s desire to possess its Beloved does not cease until it has gained its object. The heart assures itself according to the operation of the Spirit of prophecy; for in fact Christ is for the remnant, and the remnant is for Him. The whole is based on this. But the heart needs to be reassured, as in a similar case we observe in other passages.
Having thus given the general idea, we shall point out some features that are developed in the course of this book, and that possess a moral import of great interest to ourselves.

Song of Solomon 1

Assurance of the full enjoyment of blessing
Chapter 1 presents in the most clear and simple manner the assurance of the full enjoyment of blessing; but still, though affection be there, all is more characterized by desire than by peace. And after this we find exercises of heart, that lead to a full understanding of the Beloved One’s affection. There is progress in this intelligence, and that in spite of the faults and slothfulness of heart, which give a fresh value to the affection that is in exercise. This mode of instruction is found in the Psalms, in which the first verses frequently give the thesis and the result, which is reached through circumstances that are afterwards detailed. Besides the peacefulness of the affection which subsists in a known relation, there is another sign of an affection in exercise when the relation is not formally established. The heart is occupied with the qualities, with the features, of the Beloved One. When, on the contrary, the object is possessed, it is with that object itself the heart is occupied. No doubt the qualities are a source of happiness; but while the position gives the enjoyment of these, it is the person who manifests them that is thought of. The grace, the kindness, or similar qualities, may attract the heart, and it is occupied with them. But, the relationship once formed, it is the person we think of, whose qualities are now, so to say, our own.
The qualities of the Beloved in perfect grace
The loved one speaks much here of the qualities of her Beloved; she loves to speak of them, and to others. It may be said that the Beloved does so yet more, although He knows the relation in which He stands to her. This is true; but, as she is not yet in it, He is fain to reassure her with respect to her value in His eyes. He therefore speaks constantly of it to herself. Moreover, this is suitable to the position of man and of woman, and so much the more as it is really Christ Himself in question. Christ, in a certain sense, suffices to Himself. He needs not to go and talk to others of that which is in His heart. His love is a love of grace. But it is infinitely precious to us-when, in our utter unworthiness, we might doubt the possibility of His affection, even because it is so inestimable-and very affecting, as well as precious, to see Him manifesting His sense of her value, that her beauty is perfect in His eyes, that He has observed all her features, that one look has ravished His heart, that His dove, His undefiled, is the only one, that there is no spot in her. There is perfect grace in this reassuring testimony on the Bridegroom’s part. It is the chief subject of His discourse. It is that which her heart needed.
The exercises of the bride’s heart
There is much more variety in the exercises of her heart; there are even failures and sorrows arising from her faults. There is also an evident progress in her assurance. The song commences with the bride’s declaration that her heart needs this testimony. She acknowledges that she is black, because of the scorching rays of the sun of affliction. She seeks shelter in the presence of her Beloved, who makes His flock to rest at noon. She would belong to Him only. She fears now to wander among the shepherds of Israel. But if the Spirit of the Lord reminds her of those former testimonies of the law and the prophets, her heart is not silent, and the heart of the Beloved overflows in the testimony of her value in His eyes. The suitability of all this to the remnant in the last days is evident. The rest of the chapter contains testimonies of affection, which present the idea that is the thesis of the book.

Song of Solomon 2

The awakening of affections and confidence in the remnant
The first six verses (omitting the second) of chapter 2 appear to me to be the voice of the bride. They have been differently understood, but (I think) wrongly. Observe here that Christ is the apple tree. This will help us afterwards. Moreover the bride speaks of herself. In theory she apprehends her relationship, and speaks chiefly of herself; but there is real affection. The Bridegroom will not allow her to be disturbed1 when she rests with full confidence in His love. His own voice, the only one to which she now hearkens, shall waken her. He Himself tells her to arise, that the winter is past-the time of mourning and sorrow. He desires also to hear her voice. Thus her heart is reassured: her Beloved is hers. How truly all this gives the awakening of divine affections and confidence in the remnant which had so long learned what it was to have Jehovah’s face hidden, and how fully the inextinguishable love of Him who wept over Jerusalem is in the blessedest way in exercise to awaken this confidence and assure the heart of the afflicted people! It is to me singularly beautiful, not instruction as to circumstances nor in connection with responsibility, but grace-Christ’s (Jehovah’s) own relationship with Israel.
(1. Read, “Till she please.”)

Song of Solomon 3

The bride alone and in darkness; the Beloved sought for
In chapter 3 we have another attitude, another state of heart. She is alone and in darkness. She seeks her Beloved, but finds Him not. There is affection, but no joy. She questions the watchmen in Jerusalem who go about the city. As soon as she passes from them, she finds Him. Again He will have her rest in His love. But all this is only prophetically and in testimony, for the comfort of those who have not yet found Him, by showing them what He is for them. The Spirit of prophecy then exhibits the Bridegroom coming up out of the wilderness with His bride, where (like Moses) He had been with her in spirit. The chapter confirms the application to Israel. In her solitary state she seeks the Messiah, and, after inquiring of those who watched, soon found Him her soul loved, and brought Him into the place of Israel, for to Israel the Son was born,1 though in a new relationship. There He maintains her rest, and there, the other side of the picture, the true Solomon comes up out of the wilderness, crowned now in the day of His espousals, and in the day of the gladness of His heart, by the Israel that had rejected Him.
(1. So Naomi, and Revelation 12.)

Song of Solomon 4

The Bridegroom declares all that the bride is in His sight
And now, chapter 4, He declares all that she is in His sight, although she has been in the lion’s den. From thence He calls her, all fair and without spot in His eyes; His heart expressing His delight in her. It is, I judge, a fine moral perfectness of thought that the bride never speaks of the Bridegroom’s perfections to Himself as if she was to approve Him; she speaks of Him fully as expressive of her own feelings and to others, but not to Him. He speaks freely and fully of her to herself as assuring her of His delight in her. When we think of Christ and our relation with Him, this is beautifully appropriate.

Song of Solomon 5

The reassured heart exhibiting slothfulness is disciplined
Chapter 5 gives us another experience. Intimacy was formed through the testimony of the Bridegroom’s affection. The reassured heart, certain of His love, exhibits its slothfulness. Alas, what hearts are ours! We turn again to ourselves as soon as we are comforted by the testimony of the Lord’s love. The Bridegroom’s sensitive and righteous heart acts upon her word, and He retires from one who does not listen to His voice. She arises to learn her own folly, and the just delicacy, with respect to herself, of His ways whom she had slighted. How often, alas! do we act in the same manner with regard to the voice of His Spirit and the manifestations of His love! What a dreadful loss, but, through grace, what a lesson! She is chastised by those who watch for the peace of Jerusalem. What had she to do in the streets at night, she whom the Bridegroom had sought at home? And now her very affection exposes her to reproof, the expression of its energy placing her in a position that proved she had slighted her Beloved. If we are not in the peaceful enjoyment of the love of Christ, where He meets with us in grace, the very strength of our affection and our self-condemnation causes us to exhibit this affection out of its place, in a certain sense, and bring us into connection with those who judge our position. It was right discipline for a watchman to use towards a woman who was wandering without, whatever might be the cause. Testimonies of her affection to her Beloved at home, the love of her own heart, do not concern the watchman. Affection may exist; but he has to do with order and a becoming walk. Nevertheless her affection was real and led to an ardent expression of all that her Beloved was to her-an expression addressed to others, who ought to understand her; not to the watchman, but to her own companions. But if sloth had prevented her receiving Him in the visitations of His love, her heart, now disciplined by the watchman and turned again to her Beloved, overflowing with His praises, being taught of God, knows where to find Him.

Song of Solomon 6-7

The recognition that we “are not our own”
And this experience makes her understand through grace another aspect of her relationship, proving a real progress in the intelligence of grace and condition of heart. It is no longer the desire that seeks possession of the object for herself, it is the consciousness that she belongs to Him. “I am my Beloved’s.” This is a very important progress. The soul that seeks salvation, that seeks to satisfy newly-awakened affections, exclaims, as soon as it is assured of it, “My Beloved is mine.” When there has been a deeper experience of self, it recognizes itself as being His. Thus, with respect to ourselves, it is not, “We have found him of whom ...the prophets did write”; but, “We are not our own, for we are bought with a price.” To belong in this manner to Christ, no longer thinking of self, is the happiness of the soul. It is not that we lose the sense of the blessedness of possessing the Saviour, but the other thought, the thought of being His, occupies the first place.
The consciousness of the remnant of what the bride is to the Beloved
Again the Beloved testifies to the preciousness of the bride in His eyes. But here also there is a difference. Before, when speaking of her, He added to the gentleness and beauty of her aspect all the graces which were seen in her, the honey that flowed from her lips, the pleasant fruits that were found in her, the sweet odors which He called on the breath of the Spirit to bring forth. He does not now repeat these things. He speaks of that which she is for Him. Having described her personal beauty, His heart dwells on what she is for Himself. “My dove, my undefiled, is but one.” His affection can see no other: none can be compared with her. There are many others, but they are not the one whom He loves. The person of the Lord fills the heart that has been brought back to Him. The look and the graces of the bride are the subject of the Bridegroom’s testimony. Moreover for Him there is no one but her, the only one of her mother. Thus will it be with the remnant of Israel in the last days, even as in spirit it is now with us.
The reception of Christ and His union with this remnant at Jerusalem are represented in a very striking manner in that which follows. It is no longer the Beloved coming up out of the wilderness-where He had associated His people with Himself-in glory and in love. It is the bride, fair as the moon and radiant with glory, who appears on the scene, like an army with banners displayed. The Beloved had come down to look upon the ripening fruits of the valley, and to see if His vine flourished. Before He is aware, His love makes Him like the chariots of His willing people. (Compare Psalm 110:3.) He leads them in glory and triumph. He had sought the fruits of grace among them; but, having come down for this, He exalts them in glory. It is only when His people are fully established in grace that everything in them will be beauty and perfection, and that they will recognize that they belong entirely to Christ, and at the same time that they will entirely possess His affection.
This last thought is the rest of their heart. This is thus expressed in the third formulary of the experience of this divine song, if I may coldly so speak, and which gives the full happiness of the bride, “I am my Beloved’s, and his desire is toward me”- the consciousness of belonging to Christ and that His affections rest on us-the consciousness that we are the objects of His own affections and delight. This is most deep and perfect joy.
The reader will do well to weigh these three expressions of satisfaction of heart: the possessing Christ; our belonging to Him; and this last, with the unspeakable knowledge that His heart’s delight is in us, however much-and it is surely then it will be felt-all is grace.
But (to return to the text) they can now go forth with Him to enjoy all the blessings of the earth in the certainty and the communion of His love. What fruits of gratitude, what peculiar feelings, will be those which the people of Israel have kept for the Lord alone, which they could never have for any other, and which, after all, none but themselves could have towards the Lord, viewed as come on earth.

Song of Solomon 8

The prophetic announcement of the full heart-satisfaction of the remnant
Chapter 8 stands by itself, and appears to me to recapitulate the principles of the whole book. It returns to the foundation of that which gave rise to all these exercises. The full satisfaction of all the desires of the remnant is prophetically announced, and the path of their affections is marked out. But this picture is drawn for the encouragement of those who are not yet enjoying it, and expresses the desire for its accomplishment (giving thus the sanction of God to the ardent desire of the remnant to possess Christ, and to have full liberty of communion with Him). The reply teaches, with a clearness that is very precious, the manner of its accomplishment. The ardent affection of the loved one is manifested, and the Beloved desires that she may rest in His love, and enjoy it as long as she will without being disturbed. Afterwards she comes up out of the wilderness, leaning upon Him. And where did the Lord awaken her from her sleep? Under an apple tree. (See chapter 2:3.) From Christ alone she derives her life. Thus only can Israel give birth to this living remnant, which, at Jerusalem, shall become the earthly bride of the great King, which desires to be, and shall be, as a seal upon His heart, according to the power of a love that is strong as death-that spares nothing, and yields nothing.
The “little sister” appears to me to be Ephraim, which has never had the same development that Judah received through the manifestation of Christ, and through all that took place after the captivity of the ten tribes. For all the moral affections of Judah were formed on their relationship to Christ, on His rejection, and on the sentiments which this produced when the Spirit caused it to be felt (Isa. 50-53). Ephraim has gone through none of this, but will enter into the enjoyment of its results. Judah, when perfected, will enjoy the full favor of the Messiah; their affections having been formed for Him by all the exercises of heart which they have had with respect to Him.
Christ, in His Solomon character, the glorious King, the Son of David, and after the order of Melchisedec, has a vineyard as Lord of the nations or multitudes. He has entrusted it to others, who are to make Him a suitable return. The vineyard of the bride was at her own disposal, but all its proceeds shall be for Solomon; and there shall be a portion for those that kept its fruits-a touching expression of her relationship to the King. She will have all to be His; and then there are others who shall profit by it also.
The last two verses express the bride’s desire that the Bridegroom may come without delay.
The subject of the book: the heart’s affections
It is to be observed, that there is no question in this book of the purification of the conscience. That question is not touched upon. But it speaks of those affections of the heart which cannot be too ardent when the Lord is their object. Consequently the faults, that manifest forgetfulness of Him and of His grace, serve only to produce such exercises of heart with respect to Him as recall all the attractions of His Person, and the consciousness of belonging entirely to Him-exercises that form the heart to a much deeper appreciation of Himself, because guilt before a judge is not the question, but a fault of the heart towards a friend-a fault which, meeting with a love too strong to be turned away from its object, only deepens her own affection, and infinitely exalts in her eyes the affection of her Beloved (thus forming her heart, by inward exercise, to the appreciation of His love, and to the capability of loving and estimating all that He is). It is all-important to form our heart in this portion of the Christian life. It is thus that Christ is truly known; for, with respect to divine persons, he who loves not knows not. The heart indeed is imperfect; it cannot love as it ought; and therefore all these exercises are necessary. I do not say that faults are necessary. But, as has been said, it is love that causes the fault to be felt when it exists, and the strength of the love that exposes to the watchman’s blows, whose business it is, not to measure love, but to maintain moral order. He takes away the evil-sad and painful discipline, which proves that, even while loving much, there was not love enough; or, at least, that this love was deposited in a weak vessel which, if listened to, is a traitor to itself.
The moral application of the book to the church
I have said that in its interpretation this book does not apply to the assembly. Nevertheless I have spoken of ourselves and of our hearts, and with reason; because, although the interpretation of the book presents Israel as its object, it is the heart and the feelings that are in question; so that morally it can be applied to us. But, then, the modification already noticed must be introduced. We have the full knowledge of accomplished redemption, we know that we are sitting in the heavenly places in Christ. Our conscience is forever purged. God will remember our sins and our iniquities no more. But the effect of this work is, that we are entirely His, according to the love that is shown in the sacrifice that accomplished it. Morally therefore Christ is the all of our souls. It is evident that, if He loved us, if He gave Himself for us, when in us there was no good thing, it is in having absolutely done with ourselves that we have life, happiness, and the knowledge of God. It is in Him alone that we find the source, the strength, and the perfection of this. Now, as to justification, this truth makes our position perfect. In us there is no good thing. We are accepted in the Beloved-perfectly accepted in His acceptance, our sins being entirely put away by His death. But, then, as to life, Jesus becomes the one object, the all of our souls. In Him alone the heart finds that which can be its object-in Him who has so loved us and given Himself for us-in Him who is entire perfection for the heart. As to conscience, the question is settled in peace through His blood: we are righteous in Him before God, while exercised daily on that ground. But the heart needs to love such an object, and in principle will have none but Him, in whom all grace, devotedness to us, and every grace, according to God’s own heart, is found. It is here that the Christian is in unison with the Song of Songs.
The assembly-loved, redeemed, and belonging to Him-having by the Spirit understood His perfections, having known Him in the work of His love, does not yet possess Him as she knows Him. She sighs for the day when she will see Him as He is. Meanwhile He manifests Himself to her, awakens her affections, and seeks to possess her love, by testifying all His delight in her. She learns also that which is in herself-that slothfulness of heart which loses opportunities of communion with Him. But this teaches her to judge all that in herself which weakens the effect on her heart of the perfections of her Beloved. Thus she is morally prepared, and has capacity for the full enjoyment of communion with Him: when she shall see Him as He is, she will be like Him. It is not the effort to obtain Him; but we seek to apprehend that for which we have been apprehended by Christ. We have an object that we do not yet fully possess, which alone can satisfy all our desires-an object whose affection we need to realize in our hearts-an end which He in grace pursues, by the testimony of His perfect love towards us, thereby cultivating our love to Him, comforting us even by the sense of our weakness, and by the revelation of His own perfection, and thus showing us all that in our own hearts prevents our enjoying it. He delivers us from it, in that we discover it in the presence of His love.
The love of Christ learned and known makes us know Him Himself
It is not my object to trace here in detail the working of these affections in the heart, because I am interpreting and not exhorting. But it was necessary to speak a little on the subject, that the book may be understood. Moreover, it is impossible to exaggerate the importance of cultivating these holy affections which attach us to Christ, and cause us to know His love, and to know Himself. For, I repeat, when God is in question, and His dealings with respect to us, he who loves not knows not.
Only remark with what earnestness, with what tenderness, He tells His loved one of all her preciousness in His sight, and of the perfection which He beholds in her. If Jesus sees perfection in us, we need nothing more. He reassures her heart by speaking to her of this, when she had been justly rebuked and disciplined by the watchmen, and her heart compelled to seek relief by declaring to others, to her friends, all that He was to her. He reproaches her with nothing, but makes her feel that she is perfect in His eyes.
Practically, what deep perfection of love was in that look which the Lord gave Peter when he had denied Him! What a moment was that when, without reproach, although instructing him, He testified His confidence in Peter by committing to him, who had thus denied Him, the sheep and the lambs so dear to His heart, for whom He had just given His life!
Now this love of Christ’s, in its superiority to evil-a superiority that proves it divine-reproduces itself as a new creation in the heart of everyone who receives its testimony, uniting him to the Lord who has so loved him.
Is the Lord anything else than this for us? No, my brethren, we learn His love; we learn in these exercises of heart to know Him Himself.


Prophecy: its application and scope
We enter, now, dear reader, on the field of prophecy; a vast and important one, whether in view of the moral instruction that it contains, or on account of the great events that are announced in it, or through its development of God’s government, and, by this means, its revelation of that which He Himself is in His ways with men. Jehovah and His dealings, and the Messiah, shine through the whole. Israel always forms the inner circle, or chief platform, on which these dealings are developed, and with which the Messiah is immediately in relation. Outside of, and behind this, the nations are gathered, instruments and objects of the judgments of God, and finally, the subjects of His universal government made subject to the Messiah, who however will assert His especial claim to Israel as His own people.
The church and the place of the individual Christian in regard to prophecy
It is evident that the assembly and the Christian’s individual place is outside this whole scene. In it there is neither Jew nor Gentile; in it the Father knows the objects of His eternal election, as His beloved children; and Christ, glorified on high, knows it as His body and His bride. Prophecy treats of the earth, and of the government of God. For after personal salvation is settled, there are two great subjects in Scripture, the government of this world, and the sovereign grace which has taken poor sinners and put them into the same place as God’s own Son as the exalted man, and as adopted into sonship-the divine glory, and that in Christ, being of course the center of all. If we measure things not by our importance, but by the importance of the manifestation of God, whatever develops His ways as unfolded in His government will have much importance in our eyes. There can be no doubt that the assembly, and the individual Christian, are a still more elevated subject, because God has there displayed the whole secret of His eternal love, and deepest present divine affections. But if we remember that it is not only the sphere of action that is in question, but He who acts therein, the dealings of God with Israel and the earth will then assume their true importance in our eyes. And these are the subjects of prophecy. For the others we must specially look to Paul and John.
The twofold division of prophecy; the reason for this distinction
This portion of the Word is divided into two parts. The prophecies that refer to Israel during the time that Israel is owned of God, and consequently that concern the future glory also, form one part. The other consists of those prophecies which make known that which happens during God’s rejection of His people, but which make it known in view of the final blessing of this very people. This distinction flows from the fact that the throne of God, sitting between the cherubim, has been taken away from Jerusalem, and the dominion of the earth committed to the Gentiles. The period of this dominion is called “the times of the Gentiles.” The former class of prophecies applies to that which precedes and that which is subsequent to this period. The latter refers to this period itself. There is a moment of transition, during which the restoration of the people is in question, when the end of the times of the Gentiles draws near-a moment especially in view in those prophecies which relate to this period, and to which the Psalms, as we have seen, largely apply, connecting it with the first coming of the Lord and His rejection by the Jews. As He says, “Ye shall not see me henceforth till ye say, Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” But the general history of the period itself is given in diverse forms. The interval between the return from the Babylonish captivity and the coming of Jesus has a special character. For the Gentiles had the dominion; and nevertheless Judah was at Jerusalem expecting the Messiah. God favored His people with the testimony of prophets, who addressed themselves especially to this state of things, namely, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Their prophecies have consequently an especial character, suited to the position in which the people are then found and to God’s ways towards them.
There is another prophet who holds a peculiar place, that is, Jonah. His was the last testimony addressed immediately to the Gentiles, to show that God still bore them in mind, and governed all things supremely, although He had already called Israel to be a separate people unto Himself.1
(1. The character of this prophet in other respects will be considered hereafter.)
Christ the center of all prophecies
Christ is the center of all these prophecies, whatever their character may be. It is the Spirit of Christ that speaks in them.
The striking difference between the two classes of prophecies
One of the two divisions I have mentioned is of much greater extent than the other. Daniel alone in the Old Testament gives us the detail of “the times of the Gentiles,” with the exception of some particular revelations in Zechariah. There is a very striking difference between the two classes of prophecies. That which belongs to the time when Israel is acknowledged is addressed to the people, to their conscience and to their heart. That which gives the history of “the times of the Gentiles,” while it is a revelation for the people, is not addressed to them. In the books of the three prophets who prophesied after the captivity, neither Israel nor Judah is ever called the people of God, except in promises for the future, when the Messiah will reestablish blessing.
Symbols and figures in prophecy
There is yet another principle, simple but important to our understanding of the prophets. Whatever figures the Spirit of God may use in depicting the ways of God or those of the enemy, the subject of the prophecy is never a figure. I am not speaking of those prophecies in which all is symbol; this remark could not be applied to them. Moreover a symbol is not the same thing as a figure. It is a collection of the moral or historical qualities, or of both, which belong to the prophetic object, in order to present God’s idea of that object. Certain elements which compose this symbol may be figures; but the symbol itself, correctly speaking, is not a figure, but a striking whole, made up of the qualities that morally compose the thing described. Accordingly nothing is more instructive than a well-understood symbol. It is the perfect idea which God gives us of the way in which He looks upon the object represented by the symbol-His view of its moral character.
Let us now consider the writings of the prophets.


The whole circle of God’s thoughts as to Israel given by Isaiah
Isaiah takes the first place; and in fact he is the most complete of all the prophets, and perhaps the most rich. The whole circle of God’s thoughts with respect to Israel is more given here. Other prophets are occupied with certain portions only of the history of this people.
The moral bearing of the book
We will give here the division of this book into subjects. There is in the beginning an appearance of confusion; nevertheless it helps to explain the moral bearing of the book.
And here what a scene presents itself to our view!-sorrowful in one aspect, yet at the same time lovely and glorious, like the first glimmerings of dawn after a long and cold night of darkness, telling of the bright day which soon will rise over a scene, the beauties of which are faintly perceived, mingled with the darkness that still obscures them-a scene that shall be vivified by the sun that will soon enlighten it. One rejoices in this partial light: it tells of the goodness, the energy, and the intentions of that God who has created all things for the accomplishment of His purposes of grace and glory. But one longs for the manifestation of the fullness of this accomplishment, when all will repose in the effects of this goodness.
The two characters of prophecy
Such is prophecy. It is sorrowful, because it unveils the sin, the ungrateful folly, of God’s people. But it reveals the heart of One who is unwearied in love, who loves this people, who seeks their good, although He feels their sin according to His love. It is the heart of God that speaks. These two characters of prophecy throw light upon the twofold end it has in view, and help us to understand its bearing. First of all, it addresses itself to the actual state of the people, and shows them their sin; it always therefore supposes the people to be in a fallen condition. When they peacefully enjoy the blessings of God, there is no need of displaying their condition to them. But, in the second place, during the period in which the people are still acknowledged it speaks of present restoration on their repentance, to encourage them to return to Jehovah; and it proclaims deliverance. And in this, the law and so the blessings connected with it, have their place as that to which they should return. Of this the last prophetic word from God (Mal. 4) is an expressive instance. But God well knew the hearts of His people, and that they would not yield to His call. To sustain the faith of the remnant, faithful amid this unbelief, and for the instruction of His people at all times, He adds promises which will assuredly be fulfilled by the coming of Messiah. These promises are sometimes connected with the circumstances of a near and partial deliverance, sometimes with the consummation of the people’s iniquity in the rejection of Christ come in humiliation. It is important to be able to distinguish between that part of a passage which refers to those circumstances which were near at hand, and that which speaks of full deliverance shown in perspective through those circumstances. This is the difficult part of the interpretation of prophecy.
The use of figures in prophecy
I would add that, although the subject of prophecy is not a figure, yet figures are not only largely used, but they are often intermingled with literal expressions; so that in explaining the prophetic books one cannot make an exact rule to distinguish between figure and letter. The aid of the Holy Spirit is necessary, as is always the case in the study of the sacred Word, to find the true sense of the passage. What I have said is equally applicable to other parts of Scripture, and in the most solemn circumstances. Psalm 22, for instance, is a continual mixture of figures, which represent the moral character of certain facts, with other facts recited in the simplicity of the letter. There is no difficulty in understanding it. “Dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me, they pierced my hands and my feet.” The word dogs gives the character of those present. This way of speaking is found in all languages. For instance, it would be said, “He drew a fine picture of virtue.” Drew a picture is a figure. I say this in order that a difficulty may not be made of that which belongs to the nature of human language.
The contents and divisions of the book
I come now to the contents of this important book of prophecy. It is thus divided: The first four chapters are apart, forming a kind of introduction. The fifth also in itself stands alone. It judges the people in view of the care that God has bestowed upon them. But we shall find this judgment resumed in detail in verse 8 of chapter 9. In chapter 6 we have the judgment of the people in view of the Messiah’s coming glory; consequently there is a remnant acknowledged.1 Chapter 7 formally introduces the Messiah, Immanuel, the Son of David, and the judgment upon the house of David after the flesh; so that there is an assured hope in sovereign grace, but at the same time judgment upon the last human support of the people. In chapter 8 we have the desolating Assyrian who overruns the land, but also Immanuel (previously announced in chapter 7) who finally brings his schemes to nought. Meantime there is a remnant, separate from the people, and attached to this Immanuel;2 and the circumstances of anguish through which the apostate people must pass are alluded to, which terminate in the full blessing flowing from Immanuel’s presence. This closes with verse 7 of chapter 9; so that we have here in fact the whole history of the Jews in relationship with Christ. In verse 8 of chapter 9 the Spirit resumes the general national history from chapter 5, interrupted by this essential episode of the introduction of Immanuel. He resumes it from the time then present, pointing out the different judgments of Jehovah, until He introduces the last instrument of these judgments-the Assyrian, the rod of Jehovah. And here the immediate deliverance is presented as an encouragement to faith, and as prefiguring the final destruction of the power that will be the rod of Jehovah in the last days. Jehovah, having smitten the desolator, presents (ch. 11) the Offspring of David, at first in His intrinsic moral character, and then in the results of His reign as to full blessing, and the presence of Jehovah established again in Zion in the midst of Israel. Thus the whole history of the people is given us in its grand features, until their establishment in blessing as the people of God, having Jehovah in their midst. Only that it is to be remarked that nothing is given of Antichrist, nor of the power of the beast, nor of the time of tribulation as such, because that is the period during which the Jews are not owned, though they be dealt with, while our prophecy speaks of the time when they are owned. It is stated in general terms that God would hide His face from the house of Jacob, and the righteous in spirit wait for Him.
(1. Note here, the two great dealings of God with the conscience to convict it of sin exemplified in these two chapters. First, the state of blessing in which God had first set the person judged, and his departure from it (so man in his innocence); and second, the meeting of the Lord in glory. Are we in a state to do so?)
(2. This is largely brought out in the Gospel of Matthew. The passage itself is quoted in Hebrews 2. What is spoken of in Isaiah 8:13-18 is in fact the gospel history breaking in upon the scene. Peter quotes verse 14; Paul (Rom. 9), the stumbling-stone; Matthew quotes chapter 9:1-2 for Christ’s apparition in Galilee.)
From chapter 13 to the end of chapter 27 we find the judgment of the Gentiles; whether Babylon or the other nations, especially of those which were at all times in relationship with Israel; the position of Israel, not only in the midst of them, but of all the nations in the last days (this is chapter 18); and, finally, the judgment of the whole world (ch. 24), and the full millennial blessing of Israel (ch. 25-27). From chapters 28-35 we have the detail of all that happens to the Jews in the last days. Each revelation closes with a testimony to the glory of God in Israel.
In chapters 36-39 the Spirit relates the history of a part of Hezekiah’s reign. It contains three principal subjects: the resurrection of the Son of David as from death; the destruction of the Assyrian, without his having been able to attack Jerusalem; and the captivity in Babylon. These are the three grand foundations of the whole history and state of the Jews in the last days.
From chapter 40 to the end is a very distinct part of the prophecy, in which God reveals the consolation of His people and their moral relations with Himself, and the double ground of His controversy with them, whether in view of the position in which He has placed the nation as His elect servant-the witness of Jehovah the one true God, in the presence of the Gentiles, and their idolatrous failure-or in respect to their rejection of Christ the only true elect Servant1 who has fulfilled His will. This gives occasion to the revelation of a remnant who hearken to this true Servant, as well as to the history of the circumstances that this remnant pass through, and therefore at the same time to that of the people’s condition in the last days, ending with the manifestation of Jehovah in judgment. The position of Israel with respect to the idolatrous nations gives occasion also to the introduction of Babylon, of its destruction, and the deliverance of captive Judah by Cyrus. This idolatry is one of the subjects on which Jehovah pleads with His people. The other and yet graver subject is that of the rejection of Christ. For more detail we must wait till these chapters come under examination.
(1. This term “servant” is a kind of key to this whole prophecy: first Israel, then in chapter 49 the Lord takes Israel’s place, and at the end the remnant. But of this more hereafter.)
The condition of those to whom prophecy is addressed; the use of miracles
Prophecy supposes that the people of God are in a bad condition, even when they are still acknowledged, and prophecy addressed to them. There is no need of addressing powerful testimony to a people who are walking happily in the ways of the Lord, nor of sustaining the faith of a tried remnant by hopes founded on the unchangeable faithfulness and the purposes of God, when all are enjoying in perfect peace the fruits of His present goodness-attached, as a consequence, to the faithfulness of the people. The proof of this simple and easily understood principle is found in each of the prophets. It does not appear that the prophets, whose prophecies we possess in the inspired volume, wrought any miracles.1 For the law was then in force, its authority outwardly acknowledged; there was nothing to establish; and Jehovah’s authority was the basis of the public system of religion in the land according to the institutions appointed by Himself in connection with the temple. It was on practical duty that the prophets insisted. In the midst of the ten apostate tribes Elijah and Elisha wrought miracles to reestablish the authority of Jehovah. Such is the faithfulness of Jehovah, and His patience towards His people. A new object of faith requires miracles. That which is founded on the already acknowledged Word, and which does not demand the reception of it as a new object, requires none, whatever the increase of light or claim on conscience may be. The Word commends itself to the conscience in those who are taught of God; and if there are new revelations, they are to the comfort of those who have received the practical testimony, and have thus recognized the authority of one who speaks on the part of God.
(1. The dial of Ahaz in this prophet may be thought an exception, but Ahaz was really departed from God. It is also noteworthy that the apostles never wrought miracles for their own comfort. Trophimus have I left at Miletus sick. Epaphroditus “was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also.”)
We will now examine the contents of the prophecy itself in a more detailed way.

Isaiah 1

Blessing proposed consequent upon repentance
Isaiah 1 begins with a testimony to the sad condition of the people. They were all wounds and corruption. It was useless to chastise them anymore. Their ceremonies were an abomination to Jehovah. He desired righteousness. Nevertheless the people are called to repentance, and are assured that blessing should follow repentance. Such is the position which prophecy gives them. But God knew the people who, with their princes, were wicked and corrupt; and God declares what will take place. He will execute judgment and thus cleanse the people and reestablish blessing. The two great principles are thus laid down: blessing proposed consequent upon repentance; but in fact it will be blessing brought in by judgment.

Isaiah 2-4

Zion, the center of blessing; the necessity for
God’s judgment; His way into Zion’s blessing
Thus reestablished, Zion, the mountain of Jehovah, will be the center of blessing and peace to all the nations (ch. 2:1-4). This puts the invitation to the people into the prophet’s mouth to come and walk in the light of Jehovah. Why has He forsaken His people? Because they have learned the ways of the heathen. Well, the day of Jehovah shall be upon all the glory of man, and upon all his idols. They may cease from man, for God’s own people on the earth, the place of His rest, shall be judged and smitten by their God (ch. 3-4). But in that day shall the Branch of Jehovah be glorious, and the earth shall be blessed. He who smites binds up the wounds by introducing the Messiah, and by Him blessing the earth. The remnant will be holy when the cleansing of Jerusalem shall have been accomplished by the judgment and the fire of Jehovah. Jerusalem shall be protected and glorified by the manifestation of Jehovah’s presence, like the tabernacle in the wilderness. Such is the form in which the introduction to this prophecy is presented with much force and clearness.

Isaiah 5

The vine and its wild grapes; judgment for breaking God’s law and despising His Word
After this the Spirit of God begins to plead with the people, taking two distinct grounds-namely, that which God had done for His people, and the coming of Jehovah in the Person of Christ in glory. Had the people made a suitable return to the care which Jehovah had lavished upon them? Were they in a condition to receive Jehovah in their midst? Chapter 5 takes up the first question, which addresses itself to the responsibility of the people, in view of the care and the government of God. What could He have done for His vine that He had not done? It has produced Him but wild grapes. He makes known the consequences of this according to His righteous government. His hedge, the protection with which He had surrounded it, shall be taken away, and it shall be left a prey to the ravages of the heathen. God, in pleading with Israel, shows them their sins in detail. Then His hand is stretched forth against His people, and terrible judgments fall upon them. Nevertheless, “His anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.” He will bring mighty strangers against them, whose progress nothing can arrest, who will carry the people into captivity. There shall be sorrow and mourning in the land, and the light of their heavens shall be darkened. In the first instance this will be Nebuchadnezzar, and even Sennacherib; but still more fully will it be the nations that come against Jerusalem in the last days, and capture it, after having overrun and invaded all the land. We shall have the details of this farther on.

Isaiah 6

Judgment of Israel in view of Messiah’s coming glory; a remnant preserved
But it was in the counsels of God that His presence should be established in glory in the midst of His people, and this will be accomplished in Christ at the end of the age. Hence the testimony of the progress of the judgments is interrupted after the first general statement, and in chapter 6 the prophet sees this glory. Yet its first effect is judicial, and operates to blind and condemn them. The previous judgment (ch. 5) had been in respect of the breaking of the law and the despising of the word of the Holy One of Israel. But with enmity against Christ and His rejection comes judicial blindness and the separation of a remnant. That it is the glory of Christ is taught us in chapter 12 of John’s Gospel. The prophet feels at once the incompatibility of the people’s condition with the manifestation of this glory. Unclean lips cannot celebrate it. But a live coal from the altar cleanses his own lips, and he consecrates himself to Jehovah’s message; and to that which concerns the glory of Christ. The heart of the people is made fat until there is entire desolation. Nevertheless there shall be a remnant, a holy seed, which shall be like the sap of a tree that has lost its leaves.1
(1. A more exact translation throws much light on this prophecy. “Nevertheless there shall still be in it a tenth, and it shall return and shall be to be consumed, as the oak and the teil tree, which being cut down have still the trunk [or, the rooted stump]; thus the holy seed shall be their stock” (ch. 1:9). That is, the remnant itself will undergo judgment and consumption at the time of their return; but there shall be a holy seed, from which life will spring as from a tree cut down.)
The two aspects of God’s judgment in chapters 5-6
We have then in these last chapters the judgment of the people under two aspects: first, that of God’s government (in this point of view the people, being altogether guilty, are given up to the Gentiles); secondly, in view of the glory of Jehovah’s presence at His coming according to His purposes of grace (for this the people were unfit). But here, as the purposes of God were in question, there is a remnant according to election in whom the glory shall be reestablished. This distinction must be made when the government of God and His outward dealings are in question.
In chapter 5, which speaks of the former character of judgment, there is no remnant. It is simply the public and complete judgment of the nation; for as to this all rested on their responsibility. In the Gospels this is looking for fruit; Christ might dig about it and dung it, but this was looking for fruit. Hence it is cursed and never to bear fruit. That is Israel (man) under the first covenant. In chapter 6 God acts within, in His own relationship with the people. Hence we find a remnant and the assured reestablishment of the people; for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Here also we find Christ. God could not cast off His people forever, and the prophetic faith is found which says, How long? as elsewhere it is said, There is none to say, How long? For when the Son of Man comes, shall He find faith on earth?

Isaiah 7:1 to 9:7

The gift of Immanuel, the virgin’s Son; the Assyrian’s desolation of the land
But this requires further development; and it is given in a remarkable manner in the next prophecy, comprised in chapter 7 to the end of verse 7 of chapter 9. Certain promises were attached to the family of David, in which-as we saw when examining the Books of Samuel-God had renewed the hopes of Israel, when the links between Himself and the people were broken by the taking of the ark, and He had forsaken His place at Shiloh. Now the house of David, the last sustainment of the people in responsibility, has also failed in faithfulness. Ahaz has forsaken Jehovah, and set up the altar of a strange god in the temple of Jehovah. In chapter 7 the Spirit of God directs the prophet to the king, and addresses him. Isaiah was to go and meet him, with Shear-jashub his son-a symbolical child whose name signifies, “The remnant shall return.” But the Lord seeks first, as He did with respect to the people in chapter 1, to encourage this branch of David to act in faith, and thus to glorify God. He announces to the king that the designs of Rezin and Pekah shall come to nought, and even proposes to him to ask a sign. But Ahaz is too far from the Lord to avail himself of this, though he replies with forms of piety. And again, as He had done with respect to the people, Jehovah declares that which shall happen to the family of David, and to the people under their rule. The two points of this prophetic announcement are-the gift of Immanuel, the virgin’s son; and the complete desolation of the land by the Assyrian. These indeed are the keys to the whole prophecy of Isaiah. Nevertheless there shall be a remnant. Verse 16 refers to Shear-jashub; but this prophecy goes farther. In chapter 8 the second prophetic child announces by his name the approaching appearance of this enemy and his ravages; and then, since the people despised the promises made to the family of David and rejoiced in the flesh, Jehovah would take the thing in hand. Consequently we have the whole sequel of the people’s history, of the directions given to the remnant, and of God’s intervention in power for the establishment of full blessing in the Person of the Messiah.
God’s intervention in power; full blessing in the Person of Immanuel
In chapter 7, where the responsibility of the family of David is the subject, Immanuel is promised as a sign; but the success of the Assyrian is complete without any reverse. Immanuel once brought in, all is changed; the land is His. The Assyrian reaches even to the neck, because the waters of Shiloah had been despised. But Immanuel secured all. Thus the prophetic Spirit passes on to the events of the last days, of which Sennacherib was but a type. He exhibits all the designs and confederacies of the nations brought to nought because of Immanuel-God (is) with us. It is the complete deliverance of Israel in the last days (ch. 8:5-10). And as to the remnant, what course are they to follow (ch. 8:11 and following)? They are not to be troubled by the fear of the people, nor to join them in their confederacies, but to sanctify Jehovah of hosts Himself, and give Him all His true importance in their hearts. He will be their sanctuary in the day of their trouble.
The rejected Christ and the remnant
But who then is this Immanuel, this Jehovah of hosts? We well know. This brings in then the whole history of the rejection of Christ, and the position of the remnant and of the nation in consequence, and of the final intervention of the power of God. The passage is too clear to need much explanation. I will point out its principal subjects. Christ becomes personally a stumbling-stone.1 In consequence of this the testimony of God is deposited exclusively in the hands and the hearts of His disciples, God’s elect remnant. He hides His face from Jacob; but, according to the Spirit of prophecy, this remnant waits for Him and seeks Him. Meanwhile Christ and the children whom Jehovah has given Him are for signs to the two houses of Israel. (Compare Romans 11:1-8.) Those (the nation) who reject the stone are in rebellion and anguish in Immanuel’s land; they are given up to desolation. Nevertheless this distress is not like the former ravages of the Assyrian, because the Messiah, having appeared, has taken in hand the cause of His people, according to the counsels of God. The Spirit of prophecy passes at once, as is constantly the case, from His appearance as light, to the results of the deliverance which He will accomplish in the last days (from verses 2-3, chapter 9). For the church was a mystery hid in God, and not the subject of prophecy or promise. The yoke of the Assyrian being broken, all the brightness of the glory of the divine Person of the Messiah shines out in the blessing of His people.
(1. The beginning of verse 17 is the passage quoted in Hebrews 2, along with verse 18, to prove the humanity of the Lord and His connection with the remnant.)
Messiah and the Assyrian: the basis of all prophecy as to Israel
These two subjects, the Messiah and the Assyrian, form the basis of all the prophecy that speaks of Israel, when this people are the recognized object of God’s dealings. It may be noticed that the Assyrian appears here twice-the second time in connection with a gathering together of the nations. The first time, chapter 7, he is Jehovah’s instrument for the chastisement of Israel, and he does his own will without any question of his being broken. The second time, chapter 8, he fills the land; but the assembly of the nations gathered together against Israel is broken and brought to nothing. This expectation of Jehovah’s intervention (without sharing the fears of the world in the last days, or seeking that strength which the world thinks to find in confederation, but, on the contrary, resting absolutely on Jehovah alone) contains in principle a valuable instruction for the present day.

Isaiah 9:8 to 12

Israel’s chastisement by the Assyrian rod; the destruction of the rod
In chapter 9:8 the Spirit, having given the great leading facts as to Messiah, Immanuel, resumes the general history of Israel without any special introduction of the Messiah till towards the end. This prophecy closes with chapter 12. Although the pride of Ephraim is mentioned, yet Jacob or Israel is looked at as a whole. The different phases of chastisement or of distress are in verses 8-12, 13-17, 18-21, and chapter 10:1-4. The Assyrian then reappears, as being properly the rod of Jehovah; and it is announced, that when God shall have accomplished all that He had determined with respect to Zion (an accomplishment not here revealed), He will break the rod that He has used, and then the remnant shall seek Jehovah, and shall “stay upon” Him. This is the final act of the great drama of God’s dealings with respect to Israel. There is a consumption decreed of God for the land. But when at length the Assyrian lifts up his hand, Jehovah comes in and smites him. And the indignation of Jehovah, and His anger against Israel, which till now had never been turned away, will come to an end in the destruction of this rod that magnified itself against the Lord who used it. Verse 25 is in contrast with chapter 9:12,17,21, and chapter 10:4. Sennacherib was a type of this. But it is a prophecy of the destruction of the Assyrian in the last days, when the indignation against Israel shall cease.
Messiah and His reign of millennial blessing
Consequently we have, in chapters 11-12, the Messiah and His reign, the source of the millennial blessing of the people of God. The first verses of chapter 11 give His character; afterwards it is the effect of His reign.

Isaiah 13-14

The judgment of the Gentiles, the whole world, and Israel’s full blessing described in chapters 13-27
With chapter 12 one division of the whole book closes. That which commences with chapter 13 continues to the end of chapter 27, which describes the same millennial condition, but in a more extended sphere, because the world-of which these latter chapters speak-is brought in; while chapters 5-12 were in especial connection with Israel.
The present gap of time from Messiah’s rejection not taken into account in Israel’s history
The chapters we are now considering connect events that were then at hand with the end of the age. It is only by thoroughly apprehending this that we can understand them. The reason of this is simple: the nations are looked at in reference to Israel. But time is not reckoned, with respect to Israel, from the Babylonish captivity until the last days. The introduction of the Messiah as a stone of stumbling, with which the special epoch of seventy weeks is noticed in Daniel, has been already considered. But this passage in the prophet of the times of the Gentiles shows only more distinctly that time is not reckoned afterwards to the close. Seventy weeks go to the full restoration of Israel. The immense gap, which has now lasted more than 1800 years, is in no way taken into account.1
(1.The seventy weeks, or 490 years, include the great gap which has already lasted more than 1800 years-these coming in between the end of the 483rd and the end of the 490th-only that Christians know that half the 70th week was really fulfilled in Christ’s ministry; therefore we get a half week in Daniel 7 and in the Revelation. )
The destruction of Babylon and Assyria in the last days
In the eyes of the prophet, Babylon, or more correctly its head, besides the idolatrous corruption, represents the imperial throne of the world in contrast with the throne of God at Jerusalem.1 Babylon will be overthrown, and God will again bless Israel. This will be the judgment of this present age-of the world. It is represented here in that destruction of Babylon which was at hand. But this judgment will not be completed until, the times of the Gentiles being ended, Israel shall be delivered. The character of the king of Babylon is described here in very remarkable language (ch. 14:12-13). It is the spirit of Babylon, and still more especially in its last representative at the close, to which this prophecy in its full accomplishment refers. It was so even in Nebuchadnezzar himself-nay, even when they built the tower of Babel. The destruction of the Assyrian then takes place in the earth;2 and, although the house of David had had its scepter broken, Philistia shall be judged and subdued, and Jehovah will found Zion, and the poor of His people will trust in Him. This destruction of Babylon, and of the Assyrian after Babylon, necessary to the understanding of the whole scene, is a kind of scene apart, complete in chapters 13-14.
(1. Besides the fact of the captivity of God’s people, Babylon has a very important position with respect to God’s dealings. Until Nebuchadnezzar received power, the government of God, while centered in Israel (with respect to whom He had set the bounds of the peoples), took cognizance of the nations as dispersed at Babel. He allowed them indeed to follow their own ways; but before Him every nation had an individual existence. The throne once taken from Jerusalem, from whence God governed the world with a view to His chosen people, the world is given up to the dominion of a single throne, which stands therefore before God as holding the scepter of it. Three other powers followed in succession, the last of which was in existence when Christ came, but the time of its judgment was not yet come. These four empires form the times of the Gentiles. God will resume His government, and again judge the nations in view of Israel; and Babylon, or the one universal empire, will be set aside in its rebel and apostate condition. But, while it lasts, the empire has its own peculiar and absolute position before God. Jerusalem, punished for its idolatry by the Babylonish captivity (subjection to idols) and the transfer of the throne from Jerusalem to the Gentiles, is so far owned in the remnant under the Gentiles that God in the prophetic books takes account of it, though not as then His people, till the second grand sin was perpetrated, the rejection of Christ. But this even was in the prophet when they were in captivity. Still they were partially preserved to present Christ the Lord to them, after that set aside till sovereign grace comes on them in the last week, for faith the latter half. Time begins to count again when that is come.
(2. A proof that the prophecy relates to the last days, for of old the Assyrian fell before Babylon, being conquered by it. It is to be remarked that the Assyrian, not the beast nor Antichrist, is the subject of this prophecy. Under the Assyrian Judah was not “Loammi,” nor is he in this prophecy. In Babylon Judah was captive, and “Lo-ammi” written on the people. Hence we must not look for the beast. The Assyrian is the main enemy here.)
But in Israel’s territory, or in connection with this people, some nations still remain; and God must dispose of these in order that Israel may enjoy the full blessing and the result of the promises. Babylon, being an immense system, which takes the place of the throne of David, is seen as a whole. The nations, whose judgments are here related (although there is allusion to events nearer the time of the prophecy), are looked at as in the last days, when God resumes His throne of judgment in order to reestablish His people. Thus Nebuchadnezzar had taken Tyre and subdued Egypt. The Assyrian had overthrown Damascus and led Ephraim captive. And these were events comparatively near at hand. But, as a whole, the events spoken of here are owned in the last days. Even in the preceding chapter the destruction of the Assyrian is placed after the fall of the king of Babylon. Yet historically the Assyrian had been subdued by Babylon; and the overthrow of Sennacherib had taken place many years before that epoch. But prophecy always looks to the accomplishment of God’s purposes. Here there are generally no details with respect to the instruments employed by God. They are found elsewhere.

Isaiah 15-18

The judgment of Moab; the last invasion of Israel predicted
In chapters 15-16 Moab is judged. They are warned that the throne of David shall be established, and the oppressor consumed out of the land. In chapter 17 we have the invasion of armies from the north, the assembled nations. Damascus is overthrown. Israel shall be but as a few berries on the outmost branches. Nevertheless they shall look to their Maker, and the gathered nations shall perish before the manifested power of God. The outline of this last invasion of Israel gives rise to a brief but very clear prophecy of their condition in the last days, and which is contained in chapter 18. They shall be restored by means of some powerful nation, outside the limits1 of their then national relationships; but Jehovah stands apart from His own relationship with them, though ordering all things. Then, when Israel shall begin to bud as a vine in the land, they shall be given up as a prey to the nations. Nevertheless in that time they shall be brought as an offering to Jehovah, and shall themselves bring an offering too.
(1. The rivers of Cush, Nile and Euphrates.)

Isaiah 19-23

Jehovah’s dealings with the nations; Israel delivered
In chapters 19-20 Egypt shall be smitten in that day; but Jehovah will heal it. Egypt, Assyria, and Israel shall together be blessed of Jehovah. Chapter 20 teaches us that it will be Assyria that leads Egypt captive. (Compare Daniel 11 at the end.) It will be observed here, that, in general, from chapters 13-17 there is deliverance. The scepter of the wicked is broken (ch. 14:5). The throne of David will be established in mercy (ch. 16:5). The Assyrian is destroyed-the Philistines subdued-Zion founded by Jehovah-Damascus reduced. The latter event introduces the evils of the last days. Only, as we have remarked, the gathering of the nations is for their destruction (Mic. 4:11-13). Chapter 18, resuming the subject of chapter 17, shows us Israel as they are to be in their land in the last days-oppressed by the Gentiles, but in result brought back to God.
The overflowing scourge; universal overthrow
The chapters following chapter 18 do not, like the previous ones, tell of Israel’s deliverance, but of the invasion and overrunning of the nations before mentioned-the overflowing scourge. Egypt is overrun as well as Ethiopia, in which Israel had trusted. Babylon is overcome—Dumah and Kedar destroyed—Jerusalem is ravaged—Tyre falls. In short it is a universal overthrow, the central scene of which is the land of Canaan, but in which the whole world is included (ch. 24:4). Even the powers of heaven are overturned, as well as the kings of the earth upon the earth, giving place to the establishment of Zion, the mountain of Jehovah, as the center of power and blessing, the power of the serpent, the dragon that is in the sea, being annihilated.
The future fall of Babylon and Jerusalem
After this outline attention must be given to some details. It will be observed that Babylon and Jerusalem fall (ch. 21-22), one after the other, Jerusalem the last. Now it is quite evident that this connection of events is yet future. That which is said of Babylon and Jerusalem may have found its occasion in the capture of Babylon by Cyrus, and partly in the condition of Jerusalem when threatened by Sennacherib. But there was neither the connection nor the order of events noted in this prophecy. But Babylon is named in a manner that gives no clue whatever to its condition. The “desert of the sea” is a singular term to describe a city. But a dreadful invasion is before the prophet’s eyes, and Babylon falls. It comes like a whirlwind of the south, and the power of Babylon is at an end-we are not told in what manner.
Jerusalem, the valley of vision, is ravaged. The Persians and the Medes, who were the invaders of the preceding chapter, reappear here as attacking Jerusalem. There is no fighting outside; but, the city being taken, its inhabitants are bound or slain within it. Besides the prophetic revelations, this chapter contains also moral instruction of the deepest importance. In the first place all the wisdom of man is insufficient to ward off evil, if not accompanied by the power of God. When the city of God is in question, this wisdom, exercised in forgetfulness of the God who built and founded the city of His holiness, is an unpardonable sin (ch. 22:11). Again, that which is related here was, historically speaking, done by Hezekiah, of whom it is said he prospered in all his works. Outward blessing attended his labors; but, at the same time, the condition of the people, even with respect to these labors, was such that God could not pardon it. This is often the case: outward faith in doing the work of God, blessed by Him; corruption as to state of heart in the thing, which God will assuredly judge, and forgetfulness of God Himself and of their belonging to Him. This is when the people of God lean upon human means. We see also here one who held a settled office, according to man, in the government of the house of David, set aside with shame, and one chosen of God taking his place, all glory being given to him (a remarkable prefiguration of the setting aside of the false Christ, and the establishment of the true, in the last days). This prophecy gives room to suppose that the nations will attack Jerusalem when the Babylon of history is a desert. That which is Babylon in those days shall fall. Nevertheless Jerusalem, the object of the prophecies, shall be taken, its government changed; the usurper must yield his place to the chosen One of God.
The burden of Tyre shows us all the pride of human glory stained, and all the honorable of the earth brought into contempt. The occasion is the capture of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar, but the prophecy goes farther-even to the days when her merchandise shall be holiness to Jehovah (ch. 23).

Isaiah 24

The judicial overthrow of the power of wickedness in the heavenlies and of earthly kings upon earth
Chapter 24 sets before us the overturning of everything in the earth. The land of Israel is first in view. But there all the elements of all the systems of this world will be gathered together and judged. We have already remarked that this extends to the judicial overthrow of the power of wickedness in the heavenlies, as well as of the kings of the earth upon the earth: the succeeding chapters show us with what intent. Without it the evil would not be set aside and put a stop to. Hence when Christ rides into Jerusalem in Luke it is said, “Peace in heaven.” For till the power of evil is set aside thus, any blessing established on the earth is soon corrupted and fades.
Before examining them, let us retrace the objects of the judgments we have spoken of; let us retrace them in their moral order. We have Babylon, the power of organized corruption, where the people of God are captive; the public open enemy of God and His people-the Assyrian; the inward enemy-the Philistine; then Moab, the pride of man. Damascus is that which has been the enemy of God’s people, but allied with the apostate part of that people against the faithful part. From all these the people are delivered. Afterwards we find, under judgment, Egypt, or the world in its state of nature, the wisdom of which is lost in confusion; Babylon, now desert in the midst of the nations; Dumah, the liberty, the independence, of man; Jerusalem, the professing people; Tyre, the glory of the world; and, finally, all that is on the earth, and, to sum up all power, spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.

Isaiah 25-26

God’s intervention celebrated in song
Chapters 25-26 take the form of a song, in which the effect of God’s intervention is celebrated. Let us observe its principal subjects. God is faithful. He accomplishes His purposes. He has brought the city of human pride to nought through His power. All the strong organization of man’s pride is destroyed. God has been the strength of the poor among His people in the day of their distress, and the power of the enemy has been brought low. He will execute justice in Zion for all people. He will take away the veil that is upon their heart. The resurrection of the faithful will have taken place. I say “the faithful,” for it is death swallowed up in victory. Moreover, 1 Corinthians 15 applies it thus. The rebuke of His people (Israel) shall be entirely taken away. The remnant (vss. 9-12) celebrate their deliverance; they had waited for God, and the power of Jehovah shall be displayed on their behalf. Moab, their haughty neighbor, shall be subdued.1
(1. Note, you have here all the results then of this judgment of God and what is connected with it. The saints are raised, the power of evil cast down from the heavens, the rebuke of Israel taken away, and the veil of the covering taken off the face of all peoples.)
The praise of the remnant
In chapter 26 the remnant sing in praise of the character of this deliverance. They have a strong city, but its bulwarks are the salvation of God. The strength of man has no place here; it is the foot of the poor that treads down the lofty city. It is the judgment that the righteous God executes Himself. The remnant had waited for Him in the way of His judgments. The long-suffering of grace was in vain; it is only when the judgments of God are in the earth1 that the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Even when the hand of Jehovah was lifted up to strike, they did not see. But they shall see, in spite of themselves, and they shall be ashamed. The fire of Jehovah’s jealousy shall devour them; they shall not rise. But Israel shall be raised, as from the dead, by the power of Jehovah.
(1. I apprehend “the earth” is a more contracted sphere than “the world,” the distinction especially lying in this, that it is the sphere in which the revealed ways and government of God have been brought before men. When this has been the case with the whole world, it becomes the earth. The word “earth” is used for the land of Israel and for the earth in the sense explained, and for the whole earth as a scene ordered of God. Hence, when the scene with which God has already dealt is judged, then it is that the wide world at large will learn righteousness; not, though it ought to have been carried there, while the present system of grace prevails.)

Isaiah 27

Jehovah’s care over His people when He executes vengeance
Finally, Jehovah invites His people to hide themselves a little moment, while He comes out of His place to execute vengeance (ch. 27). The power of Satan in this world and among men shall be destroyed, Israel preserved and watered as the vine of Jehovah. He had smitten Israel, but only in measure. Nevertheless the people shall be fully judged; and then Jehovah will gather His dispersed, one by one.
In the succeeding chapters we have the details of that which will happen to Israel in their own land, when invaded by the Gentiles in the last days, of which we have had but the general picture and results. We shall find a complete and glorious deliverance of the remnant amid the most terrible judgments.

Isaiah 28

Details of Israel’s invasion in the last days; the scourge from the north at Jerusalem
Chapter 28 sets before us the first elements of these final scenes in the history of this wonderful people. The scourge comes from the north. Ephraim is invaded as by an overflowing torrent, by a tempest of hail that smites and destroys; he is trodden under foot. But in that day Jehovah shall be for a crown of glory to the residue of His people. The people, morally besotted, do not hear. And this is the judicial sentence of Jehovah who turns to Jerusalem in pronouncing it. There they had made a covenant with death and the powers of darkness,1 that they might escape the overflowing torrent. But the covenant shall be disannulled, the scourge shall overtake them; they shall be trodden down, and smitten by this terrible rod. We have then this revelation, that when Ephraim shall be invaded by this terrible scourge, the princes of Jerusalem will seek to preserve themselves from it by making a covenant with the power of evil. But it shall come to nought. The waters shall overflow and sweep away the refuge of lies. Jerusalem, as well as Ephraim, undergoes the consequences of the assault of the enemy. But the Messiah is the elect cornerstone, the sure foundation for the remnant; he that believes in Him shall not be confounded. Thus Ephraim is invaded and Jerusalem taken. There is a consumption determined2 by Jehovah upon the whole earth.
(1. They insolently say they have made a covenant with the power of evil, so that, when the scourge came, it would not come nigh them. Impossible to conceive a more open defiance of God and His judgments. Historically they will have done it in uniting with the man of sin, the Antichrist, whose coming is after the power of Satan; but here it is said in defiance of God.)
(2. This expression is used elsewhere also, as in Daniel, as a kind of technical formula for the Lord’s dealings in the last day-the finishing of the work and cutting it short in righteousness. He judges completely, fills it up, but cuts it short for the sparing of the remnant, the elect.)

Isaiah 29

The second attack; Jehovah’s deliverance
Jerusalem is reduced to the last extremity. But this time Jehovah appears for her deliverance, and the multitude of her enemies disappear as a dream of the night. Everything is dark and gloomy as to the people; all is morally overturned, and soon God will overturn everything by His power, and change the forest into Carmel (that is, a fruitful field). Henceforth Jacob shall no more be weak and feeble. The meek shall be blessed, the deaf shall hear the word. The terrible one and the blasphemer shall be consumed before Jehovah. There are two parts then in this history, two attacks. The first succeeds against Ephraim and against Jerusalem. The second does not succeed. Jerusalem is brought very low, but Jehovah appears and she is delivered. The spirit of scorn and unbelief was marked in chapter 28; the spirit of blindness in chapter 29.

Isaiah 30

Unbelief and trust in man; their result; God’s perfect grace
The effect of this unbelief is manifested in chapter 30. The people put their trust in man, according to the wisdom of man. They look to Egypt for help, but in vain. This contempt of Jehovah, accompanied by an absolute refusal to hearken to His Word, which called on the people to trust quietly in Him, added yet more to their iniquity. God allows the evil, therefore, to go on to the full; but it is in order to give then free course to His grace. Verse 18 is a marvellous testimony to the ways of Jehovah. He allowed the chastisement to be fully accomplished, that nothing might be left for Him but perfect grace. Grace and glory will abound, when Jehovah shall bind up the breach of His people and heal their wound. At the end of the chapter we have the intervention of Jehovah against this last instrument of His chastisements-the rod of chapter 10. The Assyrian is destroyed, and in the place where the rod should fall on him, there shall be only songs of triumph. But Tophet, the fire of Jehovah, was prepared for another also-“for the king.” He who shall have assumed that title in Israel shall be consumed also by the indignation of Jehovah.

Isaiah 31

The true means of deliverance
The folly of trusting in an arm of flesh is again pointed out, but only while dwelling on the true means of deliverance. Jehovah at Jerusalem would be in the midst of the nations as a lion among the shepherds, and would defend Jerusalem as birds hovering over it. His presence should overthrow the Assyrian, and cause him to flee; for the fire of Jehovah shall be in Zion, and His furnace in Jerusalem.

Isaiah 32

Messiah shall reign in righteousness; full earthly peace
Then, in chapter 32, the Messiah should reign in righteousness and set everything morally in order. Zion would in fact be a wilderness until the Spirit was poured out from on high, and then it should become a Carmel; and that which before had passed for a Carmel should be counted comparatively but a wilderness. Righteousness should be established everywhere, and peace, the fruit of righteousness, when the hail should come down upon the lofty ones who bear no fruit; and the city, the organization of human pride, should be utterly abased. The last verse appears to me to speak of the blessedness of full earthly peace.

Isaiah 33-34

The last two great acts of judgment
Chapters 33-34 announce the last two great acts of judgment. At the moment when God establishes Himself in Zion, and fills it with righteousness, a final and powerful enemy (whom I believe to be the same as the Gog of Ezekiel), who had come up to spoil the land, appears on the scene. But there are those who wait upon Jehovah, and He arises, and the enemy is put to flight. They gather the spoil of those who thought to despoil Israel. In verses 14-15, the faithful remnant are distinguished. The Messiah appears in His beauty; and, all being at peace after the destruction of this enemy, the most distant parts of the land are open to the inhabitants of Zion, which is established in safety forever.
Chapter 34 reveals the terrible judgments which will fall upon the other nations in Edom (compare chapter 63).1 Here it is those who have oppressed Zion, and the vengeance that God takes on oppressors. Idumea is itself the particular object of this; but all the enemies of Israel, who were associated with Edom, the armies of the nations assembled against Jerusalem, will perish by the judgment of Jehovah in the land of Edom.
(1. Compare also Psalm 83 and Obadiah.)

Isaiah 35

The blessing that succeeds the judgment
Chapter 35 gives a picture of the blessing that succeeds the judgment, the blessing even of the wilderness, which depends on that of Israel. The redeemed of Jehovah shall go up with joy in full security to Zion, and all mourning shall pass away forever.

Isaiah 36-39

Sennacherib’s invasion; Hezekiah’s sickness unto death; the Babylonian captivity
Chapters 36-39 relate the history of the invasion of Sennacherib, its result, and the sickness unto death of Hezekiah, which preceded it: an instruction for the remnant as to the manner in which the Lord should be waited on (this deliverance being, as to the substance of it, a figure of that which will take place with respect to the Assyrian in the last days). The sickness of Hezekiah furnishes us with a type of the Son of David as raised from the dead-the power of Christ, which shall be perfected in a nation raised also-morally-from the dead, all their sins being pardoned. It is the outward and inward deliverance of Israel: resurrection (as to its practical power); and deliverance from the Assyrian. Meanwhile, as a present thing, the captivity in Babylon is announced.
The second part of Isaiah; Israel’s moral history
Previously to this, we have rather had the outward history of Israel; but now we have their moral or inward history, in their place of testimony against idolatry, and in their relationship with Christ, and the separation of a remnant.1
(1. See the note further on in page 273.)

Isaiah 40

Comfort beginning with the knowledge of utter helplessness; God’s omnipotence in grace
The first part of that which might be called the second book of Isaiah extends from chapter 40 to the end of chapter 48. The Messiah is, comparatively speaking, but little introduced here. It is rather the great question between Jehovah and idols, answered first by the success of Cyrus and the capture of Babylon. For, though their glory cannot be separated, there is Jehovah and His anointed. This is evidently connected in grace with the deliverance of Israel, God’s witness on the earth, unworthy, as the nation was, to be so. At the same time these ways of God showed that there was no peace at all for the wicked in Israel. The great truth is repeated twice over, being applied to the two great controversies which God had with Israel. We will point out some details to make all this evident. The first eight verses of chapter 40 express in a very remarkable manner the principles on which God acts: the grace flowing from His own heart, when His chastisements had been fully inflicted. God would comfort His people; and He speaks to the heart of Jerusalem, by telling her that her warfare is accomplished. The herald proclaims the coming of Jehovah. And here it is the fact, as deliverance: His rejection is not mentioned. It is spoken of later in chapters 51 and
53. But with respect to the people, what must the prophet say? “All flesh is grass.” If all flesh is to see the glory of Jehovah, if He pleads in vengeance with all flesh, this is where the testimony must begin. All flesh is grass: Jehovah blows upon it. Is it thus with the Gentiles only? No; “the people is grass.” Comfort must begin with this. The grass withers; who, then, can be trusted in? God has spoken. “The word of our God [says the faith of the remnant-says the Spirit of prophecy] shall stand forever.” Then comes the prophetic testimony to the blessedness of ransomed Zion, who proclaims to the cities of Judah the presence of Jehovah-the Saviour, whose tender care is then described in a touching manner. The glory of His divine majesty is contrasted with idols to verse 26. He then challenges Israel for their unbelief. He who is Jehovah faints not, neither is weary. The depths of His wisdom are unsearchable; but they that wait on Him renew their strength, and shall not grow weary.

Isaiah 41-43

Cyrus raised up to overthrow idolatry; Israel the elect servant of God
Chapter 41 begins the historical details which prove this. Who raised up Cyrus to overthrow idolatry? But in the midst of the havoc he made of it, Israel is the elect servant of God, the seed of Abraham.1 (This title of “servant” is a key to the rest of the book.) He is not to fear: God will uphold him; and they that strive with him shall perish. God will hearken to His poor, and minister to their need. The besotted idolaters of the nations know nothing of what God is about to do in judgment and for the deliverance of His people.
(1. It will be remarked that, though there is the fullest discovery of Israel’s sin, yet these chapters are the expression of grace and sovereign goodness, and a remnant preserved; not the responsibility of the nation and judgment.)
The true Servant amid the people’s disobedience
But although Cyrus is Jehovah’s instrument for inflicting judgment and for delivering His people, this is but a passing and partial thing. Above all this there is a servant of God, His elect, who will appear in humility and without pretension, but who shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He have set judgment in the earth; and the isles of the Gentiles shall receive His law (ch. 42). This testimony was needful, and secures the blessing of Israel by the unfailing purpose and grace of God; but nothing more is said of the Messiah in this part of the prophecy. The result of bringing in the work of the Messiah is the glory of Jehovah, who alone in fact shall be glorified, and that unto the ends of the earth. In the manifestation of this glory He who had for a long time held His peace, will deliver His blind and deaf people Israel, who had not understood His ways. He will magnify His law. But why then are the people robbed and spoiled? Jehovah had given them up because of their disobedience.
Deliverance and pardon for God’s own glory
But now He delivers and saves them (ch. 43). He created them for His glory. The blind have eyes; the deaf, ears; they are witnesses that Jehovah alone is God. The judgments on Babylon- the commencement and the figure of the final judgments1-prove this. Jehovah had formed this people for Himself, and the people had grown weary of their God; and, as it were, had made Him to serve with their sins. But now He pardons it all for His own glory. Glorious and striking testimony of Him who, in grace to the sinner when the sin becomes unbearable, puts away the sin instead of the sinner! This is what God has done through Christ.
(1. That is, earthly judgments.)

Isaiah 44-45

Encouragement and promise; the folly of idolatry when the God of grace is their Redeemer
Chapter 44. Jehovah now reasons with His people whom He had formed from the womb, encourages them, promises them His Spirit. Their children shall spring up as willows by the water-courses. They shall be witnesses for Him, Jehovah, the King of Israel, and their Redeemer. He shows Israel the folly of idolatry, reminds him that he is Jehovah’s servant, and that He will not forget them, and assures them of the entire pardon of all their sins: even Jehovah, who is the disposer of all things, and who calls Cyrus by name to rebuild Jerusalem.
Chapter 45 enlarges upon the same subjects, dwelling on the deliverance of Israel as an everlasting deliverance, the result of which shall never be overthrown.

Isaiah 46-48

God’s pleading against idolatry; sovereign redemption in spite of wickedness and obstinacy
In chapters 46-47, the application is made to Babylon and to her idols, but still as pleading for Israel as beloved of God; for governmental judgment is always the deliverance of the beloved righteous. Babylon with all her pride and all her idols must come down and sit in the dust. In chapter 48 Jehovah at length pleads with Israel. He specifies Israel, the name of relationship with Himself Jehovah, which those He is pleading with bear and claim, while noting that they were descended from Judah-in a word, the Jews, who had the place of Israel and called upon the name of the God of Israel; but He declares their wickedness and obstinacy. He had told them many things long before, and they made new revelations to them, that they might know that Jehovah is God. But they hearkened not; they did not understand. Nevertheless for the glory of His name Jehovah would not cut them off; but would refine them as silver. He reminds them in an affecting manner of the blessing they would have enjoyed had they kept His commandments. Nevertheless it is even now declared unto them that Jehovah has redeemed His people. But as for the wicked, there is no peace unto them. This continual pleading against idolatry, while giving instruction for that day, seems to prove that, up to the end, the question of Israel’s either testifying against idolatry or being defiled with it themselves will have a principal place. For the government of the world is a primary question. The god of this world governs by means of idols; Jehovah by His own name. Israel ought to have been the witness of this. They will be unfaithful to it in the last days. This is the reason why there is so much testimony here on the subject.

Isaiah 49

Messiah the true Servant; God’s glorious answer to His rejection
The Messiah is brought in, for it is He who delivers. But it is a question apart, so to say. The subject of Christ, and of the people’s guilt with respect to Him, begins with chapter 49, which, with the following to the end of chapter 57, forms a whole; and, if one may venture to say so, Christ takes the place of Israel as the true servant of God. As He declared, “I am the true vine.”1 This makes an apparent difficulty, but gives the true sense of chapter 49. Israel is the vessel of the glory of God on the earth, and the Spirit of prophecy in Israel calls on the isles of the Gentiles to hearken, as being thus chosen of Jehovah. “Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified” (vs. 3). Then Christ, by this same prophetic Spirit, says, “Then have I labored in vain.” For we know that Israel rejected Him. Verse 5 is the answer. He shall be glorious. It would be a light thing to restore the remnant of Israel. He shall be the salvation of Jehovah unto the ends of the earth. Here we find a principle that is applicable to the work of Christ, even in the days of the gospel. But for the fulfillment of the counsels of God the succeeding verses carry us on to the millennium. Verse 7, Christ is exalted. Verse 8, He is given for a covenant of the people (Israel) to secure the blessing of the land, of Canaan, and the long desolate inheritance, and then the deliverance of the captives. At length God has comforted His people. Zion, apparently forsaken, must confess that Jehovah’s faithfulness is greater than that of a mother to her sucking child. Her destroyers are gone, her children flock in crowds to her and replenish her waste places, which regorge with an unlooked-for multitude before the eyes of the astonished mother, longtime desolate. Kings shall be her nursing fathers, and shall bow down to her. And although she has been the captive of the mighty, she shall be delivered, and her oppressors trodden under foot. And all flesh shall know that Jehovah is her Saviour. This is the result in grace of the introduction of the true Servant.
(1. So, I doubt not, in Matthew, “I have called my Son out of Egypt.” Christ replaces the first Adam before God, though blessing in that new position many of His children. He takes the place of Israel also, though blessing the remnant and making it the nation.)

Isaiah 50

The Person and first coming of the Lord; Christ’s sufferings from man
Chapter 50 enters into the detail of the judgment which God brings upon Israel, and the true cause of their rejection.1 Nothing can be more touching, more wonderful, than the manner in which the Person and the first coming of the Lord are presented in this remarkable chapter, which requires not interpretation but devout study. Jehovah, who disposes of the heavens and the earth at His pleasure, has learned how to speak a word in season to the weary and heavy laden, taking the place Himself of lowliness and humiliation. Men-sad and dreadful truth!-seized the opportunity to insult and put Him to shame. They would none of Him. The heart pauses before such a truth, and judges itself. But soon also, thank God, it melts before that love which took occasion to introduce man into God’s own perfection (and that of man in the divine counsels) and to adapt itself, at the same time, to all his need-to make him feel that it had experienced all his misery. But, whatever the sorrows and trials attendant on such a service, the Man, Christ, trusted in God throughout, and turned not away back.
(1. It is affecting to remark how in both pleadings, as to idolatry, and as to the rejection of Christ, the love and faithfulness of Jehovah and its consequences are introduced before the pleadings of the Spirit of God with the people for their failure in these very points; the resulting blessing before the human evil, God before man. It was so in the counsels of God before the world: the full declaration of the blessing comes afterwards.)
Israel’s rejection; the remnant who hearken to God’s true Servant
Here then is prophetically the cause of Israel’s, or more specifically Judah’s, rejection; when Jehovah came, there was no man. But, at the same time, with the help of the New Testament, we find the Christian’s place in the most clear and striking manner. It is the place of Christ Himself. That which Christ says here the Apostle adopts, and puts it into the mouth of the believer1 (Rom. 8:33-34). He is identified with Jesus in His position before God. God (thus judges faith) acknowledges Him whom the people have rejected, and by so doing have, as it were, forced God to give them a bill of divorcement. Next, this is what distinguishes the remnant-a new and important principle-they hearken to the voice of the servant, the Messiah, to the prophetic word. We have seen the church hidden in the Person of Christ Himself; here it is the faithful remnant of Israel in the latter day that are specified (vs. 10). The rest who seek resources in themselves, in man and in flesh, shall lie down in sorrow.
(1. These verses in Romans 8 should be divided thus: “It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again,” etc.; “who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” In His love He has gone through everything that could make us imagine it possible. They have become the proofs of His love. Moreover it is the love of God; creation cannot separate us from His.
I add a brief synoptical view of all these chapters, to aid in seizing them as a whole. Chapters 40-48 treat the question of idolatry between God and Israel; chapters 49-57 that of Christ. Chapter 49 gives an orderly view of the purposes and ways of God as to Israel and the Messiah. God will be glorified in Israel (vss. 1-3). Then Christ has labored in vain; yet His work is with God. First, He will be glorified in the eyes of Jehovah. Second, It is a light thing, the restoration of the preserved of Israel. He is salvation to the ends of the earth. Third, Heard in an acceptable time, He is set as a covenant of the people. Zion is restored. In chapter 50 Israel is divorced, because when Jehovah came, there was no man. He had come as man in humiliation in order to perfect sympathy with man in sorrow. Given up to shame, God justifies Him (vss. 5-9). This, that is, Christ’s justification, is the church’s, as we have seen; in verses 10-11 we have the Jewish remnant of the church. Chapter 50 gives us Christ’s sufferings from man; in chapter 53 it is atonement. Chapter 49 gives the glory resulting from Christ’s taking the place of Israel, the fruit of His labor; chapter 50, the consequence of His rejection by Israel, yet in grace as to the yet unrevealed church and the remnant which is positively spoken of; chapter 49 has more to do with the government of God.)

Isaiah 51-52

The remnant encouraged and acknowledged as Jehovah’s nation; God’s salvation manifested to all the earth
The application is found in chapter 51 and chapter 52 to the end of verse 12, and that to the remnant of Israel. In verse 13 a fresh division of the prophecy begins. The remnant in the last days are exhorted to have confidence. Those who follow after righteousness are a little flock; but God had called Abraham alone, and had blessed and increased him; He can do the same for the remnant. Compare Ezekiel 33:24, where we see in what manner carnal confidence, walking in unrighteousness, can imitate, to its own ruin, divine faith. Jehovah will comfort Zion. Verse 4 is the second exhortation. The remnant are acknowledged as Jehovah’s nation. His righteousness was near; salvation and deliverance were already gone forth from Him, and should be forever. In verse 7 there is a further step. They are a people who know righteousness, who have the law in their heart; they are not to fear men who should be devoured by the judgments of God. But His righteousness and His salvation should be everlasting. The remnant, thus set in their place, are revealed by the Spirit of prophecy as owned of Jehovah. The same Spirit speaks by the mouth of the remnant (vs. 9), to implore His intervention in power, and to claim the perfect loving-kindness of Jehovah, and the assured salvation of His redeemed ones, as well as the reestablishment of Zion in everlasting joy. The remnant thus encouraged, the Spirit turns to Zion, and even as “Awake! awake!” had been addressed to the arm of Jehovah, so is it now to Zion herself, oppressed and trodden under foot of strangers. As if to say it was Zion that had need to awake, not the Lord, for the salvation was there. The cup shall now be given to those that afflicted her again. “Awake! awake!” is once more addressed to her, that she may stand up and clothe herself in strength and glory. For Jehovah has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of Israel’s God. This threefold repetition of “hearken” (vss. 1,4,7), followed by the threefold repetition, “Awake! awake!” is extremely beautiful. Verses 11-12 of chapter 52 show that in those days Israel will be captive among apostate Gentiles, as in the days of Babylon. Verse 13 is closely connected with that which precedes. It is Christ’s position in those times of glory and of deliverance wrought by Jehovah. Nevertheless it may be considered separately, and as beginning a new subject, because it forms a whole with respect to the Lord Jesus Himself. Christ shall be very highly exalted in those days. But what had His position been? On this subject the Spirit of prophecy enlarges. The kings shall be astonished at His glory-His whose visage had been so marred, more than any man.

Isaiah 53

The affliction of the day of atonement; Christ’s work; the confession of the escaped remnant
Israel’s unbelief is declared. The structure of this most interesting chapter is as follows. As we have seen, in the Psalms and elsewhere, the full repentance of Israel comes after their deliverance. That is, when (as judged of Jehovah) their chastening is over, the glorious manifestation of Christ as their deliverer produces the deep sense of their sin in having rejected Him. This is Psalm 130. It is the affliction of the day of atonement. This chapter 53 expresses it. After verse 1 The Spirit speaks by the mouth of the escaped remnant of Israel. They confess their sin in having despised Him. Nevertheless there is faith now in the efficacy of His work (vs. 5). Verse 1 shows that the testimony of Christ, addressed to faith, had been rejected. They believe when they see Him. I need not comment on this chapter, which is engraved on every true Christian’s heart. We, by the work of the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, have anticipated, and more than anticipated, their faith in the value of that work which is here spoken of; and their sin, which, as far as the nation was concerned in it, they here acknowledge. They had esteemed Him smitten, rejected of God, but the meaning of this is now seen. In verse 11, it is my belief that the two parts of Christ’s work are distinguished. By His knowledge He shall bring many to righteousness, or instruct many in righteousness, and He shall bear their iniquities.

Isaiah 54

The result of confession and Christ owned
Chapter 54 gives the result of these events to Jerusalem in those days. Jerusalem is looked at as barren and desolate, after having rejected Him who came to be her husband; but now, through that grace which has made Jehovah to be her righteousness, she is called to enlarge the place of her tent, and spread forth the curtains of her habitation. That grace indeed reckons all gathered during her desolation as her children. Christ being owned as the son born to her, all came in under Him. (See Psalm 87:5-6.) For a little while God has treated her as a rejected wife, but has now comforted her with everlasting mercies.

Isaiah 55-57

Full, free grace and blessing; the moral instruction necessary
Chapters 55-57 are exhortations given in view of these things. Chapter 55 is full free grace, which consequently embraces the Gentiles. For this reason it can be applied as a principle to the gospel. Its accomplishment will be in the time of blessings to the earth through the Lord’s presence. Chapter 56 gives the moral character that is necessary to enjoy the blessing, which is no longer according to the narrow legal principles of former days. His house shall in fact be a house of prayer for all those whose hearts are truly turned unto the God of Israel; and they shall be joyful in it. Chapter 57 denounces (we may say, on the same principle) those even in Israel who morally walk contrary to the will of God. The righteous might perish. But it would only be taking them from the evil to come. But whether it were Israel or not, there would be no peace for the wicked. These three chapters then give the moral instruction that belongs to those days. The faithful shall be blessed, and the meek, be they who they may; the wicked shall be judged, whether of Israel or not. This closes, as I have said, with chapter 57 the second subdivision of this part of the prophecy.

Isaiah 58-59

Present sin and hypocrisy denounced
But these moral considerations rouse the indignation of the Spirit at the condition of Israel in the days of the prophecy-their sin and their hypocrisy in pretending to serve Jehovah; and in chapters 58-59 He denounces their trust in outward forms, and places blessing on condition of obedience. It was not that the arm of Jehovah was shortened, or His ear grown heavy; but the iniquity of the people hindered blessing and would bring judgment upon them. Yet, when all had failed and there was no one to maintain righteousness, Jehovah Himself would intervene in His sovereignty and might. He would crush His enemies and judge the isles; so that His name should be feared throughout the whole earth. The Redeemer should come to Zion and to those that turn from transgression in Jacob. Blessing should then be permanent, and the presence of the Holy Spirit abide with the seed of Jacob forever.

Isaiah 60

Jerusalem’s future righteous condition and glory
Chapter 60 gives us the condition and the glory of Jerusalem in that time of blessing: all of the people thus spared would be righteous.

Isaiah 61-62

The full grace of the Person of the Redeemer
Chapter 61. As chapters 50-53 presented Christ in His sufferings, chapter 61 exhibits Him in the full grace of His Person concerned in the blessing of Israel. The three preceding chapters had revealed the judgment and the intervention of Jehovah, at the same time pointing out the Redeemer. We have seen the same principle in the structure of the prophecy from chapter 40 to the end of chapter 48, as in the last series. Then in chapter 49 the Messiah is specially introduced. So He is here from the beginning of chapter 61 to verse 6 of chapter 63. But there is a progress necessarily accompanying the introduction, in the last series of chapters, of the Person of Christ as the principal subject of Jehovah’s pleadings. We see that it is Jehovah Himself who is Christ, and Christ who is Jehovah. “Wherefore, when I came,” is the inquiry, “was there no man?” Hence also there is the difference between the moral sins of Israel against Jehovah, and the rejection of Himself in the Person of the Messiah, which we have seen so clearly pointed out in chapter 50. So also with respect to the repentance of the Jews. In the former chapters the law is written in their hearts; they turn away from iniquity; they trust in Jehovah; they hearken to the Spirit of prophecy, to the servant of Jehovah; they are delivered. But when they shall see their Redeemer in glory, then it is that the true repentance, the deep affliction, shall take place at the sight of Him whom they have despised and rejected, and who in His grace has borne their iniquities.
Chapters 61-62 appear to me too plain to need much remark. The manner in which the Lord stopped in the middle of verse 2 (ch. 61) will be observed, the time for the fulfillment of the last part of the verse not being yet come. But He could set before them that which applied to His own Person in grace.

Isaiah 63

Jehovah’s judgment and its result
Chapter 63:1-6. We find again here the terrible judgment of chapter 34 executed by Jehovah (or rather having been already executed, for He returns from it). The result is the peace and blessing which we have just seen described in chapter 62.
The plea of the afflicted trusting remnant
From verse 7 of chapter 63 we have the reasoning of the Spirit of prophecy in the mouth of the remnant, or perhaps that of the prophet, putting himself in that position. And in chapters 65-66, we find Jehovah’s answer. Nothing can be more affecting than the way in which the Spirit lends Himself to the expression of all the feelings of a faithful Israelite’s heart; or rather in which He gives a form to the sentiments of an afflicted but trusting heart, recalling past kindnesses, overwhelmed by the present distress, acknowledging the hard-heartedness and rebellion of which they had been guilty, but appealing to the unchangeable faithfulness of God’s love against the judicial blinding and hardening which the people are under. If Abraham acknowledged them not, God was their Father. Where was His strength, His tenderness, His mercies? Were they restrained? Faith recognizes through all things the link between the people and God; it acknowledges that God prepares for those that wait on Him things beyond man’s conception1-that He meets those who walk uprightly; and it confesses that the state of Israel is quite different-that they are sinners not even seeking His face. But the affliction of His people, the disastrous condition into which sin had brought them, is to faith a plea with God. Whatever had happened, the people were to faith as the clay, and Jehovah the potter. They were His people; their cities, the cities of Jehovah. The house in which their fathers had worshipped was burned up, and all was laid waste.
(1. The difference between this and gospel knowledge as made by Paul (1 Cor. 2) is striking, often quoted for just the contrary. These things, he says, have not entered into man’s heart, but God has revealed them unto us (Christians) by His Spirit; so at the end of the chapter, “But we have the mind of Christ.”)

Isaiah 64-65

God’s answer; the full revelation of His dealings in grace; the millennium
The next two chapters give us a full revelation of the dealings of God in answer to this appeal. First of all, God, through His grace, had been sought after by others. He had made Himself known to those who were not called by His name. The infinite and sovereign grace of God had sought out the poor Gentiles. At the same time, with infinite patience, He had stretched forth His hands to a people who would not have Him-to a people who provoked Him continually in the grossest manner. And now He declares His mind. The people that forsook Him shall be judged; He will number them with the sword; they shall bow down to the slaughter. But there shall be an elect remnant in grace-the servants of Jehovah, who shall be spared and blessed (vss. 11-12,8-9,13,15). Jehovah would then introduce an entirely new order of things, in which the truth of His promises should be acknowledged, and the former things should be quite forgotten-new heavens and a new earth, not as yet with respect to the physical change, but the moral order of which should be entirely new. It should not be only a new order of things on the earth, which the power of evil in the heavens might spoil, as in former days; the state of the heavens themselves should be new. We learn elsewhere that Satan will have been cast out, and his power there gone forever.1 Indeed, this would have been the occasion of the last terrible trials in Jerusalem. But now Jerusalem should be blessed in the earth, and her people should enjoy the gifts of Jehovah in as long a life as that of men before the flood. A man of a hundred years old should be a child; and if anyone should die at that age, he must be looked upon as cut off by the curse of God. God would always grant the prayers of His people. Peace should be established, and there should be no evil in all His holy mountain. This is the millennial state of the Jews.
(1. Hence, when the Lord enters into Jerusalem as Jehovah Messiah, it is said (Luke 19:38), “Peace in heaven.”)

Isaiah 66

The millennium introduced by the judgments of the God of glory
Chapter 66 speaks of the judgment that introduces it, and consequently gives us more historical details. The temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem (vs. 6), but Jehovah does not own it, man alone being concerned in its building; neither does He acknowledge the sacrifices offered in it. He looks to the meek and contrite spirit. There were some who mocked at the hopes of these, and said mockingly, “Let Jehovah display his glory”; but He will appear to their confusion, and for the blessing of those who waited for Him. Zion shall suddenly be as the mother of a people, blessed in Jehovah and comforted. The remnant is thus distinguished in these two chapters in the most explicit manner.
The use of the word “servant” in Isaiah
Let us retrace here the use of the word servant. First of all it was Israel; then Christ Himself, the only true servant amid this people; afterwards the remnant who hearkened to His words as the Servant, or Spirit of prophecy. For the Spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus. The latter are called servants here: they shall be comforted in Jerusalem, as one whom his mother comforts; and the hand of Jehovah shall be known toward His servants, and His indignation toward His enemies. For He shall come and execute judgment against all flesh. Salvation has been made known to all flesh. And now Jehovah shall plead in judgment with all flesh. The unbelieving and idolatrous Israelites shall be there, confounded with the nations, all of whom God will assemble, who shall come and see His glory. He will execute judgment on the multitude by fire and by His sword. But there shall be some who through grace will escape. God will send these to the distant nations who have never seen His glory nor heard His fame. There is no question here of the election by grace for heaven. They will declare (not that grace, but) the glory which they have seen; and the nations will bring back the dispersed of Israel, as an offering to Jehovah in His holy mountain. And the seed of Jacob, and the priests whom Jehovah shall choose, shall be as the new heavens and the new earth before Jehovah, and all flesh shall come to worship before Him. Those who have been the objects of Jehovah’s judgments, who have transgressed against Him, especially it seems to me the apostate Jews, shall be an abiding testimony of Jehovah’s terrible judgment. For if the full blessing of His presence shall shine upon His people, it is the principle of judgment that brought it in and that maintains it.
God’s patience with sin; its eventual judgment
There remains a general remark to be made here. The sinful condition thus judged existed in the days of the prophet. The patience of God bore with it, but the principle that brought in judgment was there (witness chapter 6). Until the rejection of Christ, and in a certain sense until the reception of Antichrist coming in his own name, the evil is not fully consummated, nor the final judgment executed. But already in Ahaz the occasion had been given for pronouncing it. Thus, the occasion being in this manner given, the whole condition of Israel, the grace that received the Gentiles, the nothingness of forms and ceremonies-in a word, all the great moral principles of truth are laid down in this part of the prophecy; and we see Stephen, Paul, the Lord Himself, making use of passages that speak of these principles, applying them to the times in which they lived: the Lord, to the hardened state of the people; Stephen, to the unprofitableness of an already judged system; Paul, to the Jews’ state of condemnation, and to the manifestation of grace to the Gentiles. What remains is the accomplishment of the great result, in which these things shall be demonstrated to the world by the judgment and the sovereign blessing of God.
The Lord’s first coming in humiliation as clearly revealed as His second coming in glory
As to the coming of Jesus in humiliation, we have seen it as clearly revealed as His coming in glory. In short, all the ways of God in the government of His people, with respect to their conduct under the law, to the promises made to the house of David, and at last to their treatment of Christ-Jehovah in humiliation among His people-the government, I repeat, and the ways of God towards Israel in all these respects, are developed in the clearest and most wonderful manner in the course of this prophecy.
But the judgment pronounced now by the prophet the patience of God suspended nearly 800 years. It was only accomplished when they rejected Christ.


The spirit of the book
The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah has a different character from that of Isaiah. It does not contain the same development of the counsels of God respecting this earth that Isaiah does. It is true, that we are told many things in it concerning the nations; but it is principally composed of testimony addressed immediately to the conscience of the people, on the subject of their moral condition at the time the prophet speaks, and with an eye to the judgment with which they were threatened. Judah had forsaken Jehovah; for their repentance under Josiah was but a fair appearance, and under the kings that succeeded him their degradation was complete. The prophet’s heart was overwhelmed with grief, because of his love for the people; at the same time that he was filled with a deep sense of their relationship with the Lord. The sense of this produced a continual conflict in his soul between the thought of the value of the people as the people of God, and a holy jealousy for the glory of God and His rights over His people-rights which they were trampling under foot. This was an incurable wound to his heart. He had pleaded for the people, he had stood in the breach for them before Jehovah; but he saw that it was all in vain: the people rejected God and the testimony that He sent them. God Himself would no longer hearken to prayer made for Israel. Jeremiah prophesies under this impression: a sorrowful task, indeed, and one which made the prophet truly a man of sorrow. And although he could always say that, if the people repented, they would be received in grace, he well knew that the people had even no thought of repenting. Two things sustained him in this painful service (for what could be more painful than to announce judgment for their iniquities, to a people beloved of God?): first of all, the energy of the Spirit of God, which filled his heart and compelled him to announce the judgment of God, in spite of contradiction and persecution; and then the revelation of the people’s final blessing according to the unchangeable counsels of God. After this brief notice of the spirit of the Book of Jeremiah, the proofs and details of which we shall find in going through his prophecies, let us now examine these in succession.
The order of the prophecies in the Septuagint and Hebrew Bible
It is well-known that the order of the prophecies in the Septuagint is different from that in the Hebrew Bible. But I see no reason for not receiving the latter. There is no doubt that it does not preserve the chronological order. The names of the kings1 in the successive chapters clearly prove this. But it appears to me that, where there is chronological confusion, the subjects are classed, and that according to the mind of the Spirit.
(1. In chapter 27 “Jehoiakim” should be “Zedekiah.” (See verse 12 and chapter 28:1.))
The general contents of the book
The first twenty-four chapters have rather a different character from those that follow. To the end of chapter 24 it is a reasoning, a moral pleading with the people. In chapter 25 there is a formal prophecy of judgment on divers nations by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. And afterwards we find prophecies much more distinct from each other, and connected with historical details.
Chapters 30-33 contain promises of assured blessing for the last days. From chapter 39 it is the history of that which followed the taking of Jerusalem, and the judgment of Egypt and Babylon.
The different prophecies
We will now state the different distinct prophecies; chapter 1, chapters 2-6, chapters 7-10, chapters 11-13, chapters 14-15, chapters 16-17, chapters 18-20, chapters 21-24, chapter 25, chapter 26, chapter 27 (verse 1, read “Zedekiah” instead of “Jehoiakim”), chapter 28, chapter 29, chapters 30-31, chapter 32, chapter 33 (this last, however, is connected with the preceding one), chapter 34, chapter 35, chapter 36, chapters 37-38, chapter 39, chapters 40 -44, chapter 45, chapter 46, chapter 47, chapter 48, chapter 49:1-6, 7-22, 23-27, 28, 29, 30-33, 34-39, and chapters 50-51. Chapter 52 is not written by Jeremiah.
The prophet’s expression of the anguish of the remnant
There can be nothing more striking in the way of deep affliction than that of the prophet. He is distressed; his heart is broken. One sees too that God has made choice of a naturally feeble heart, easily cast down and discouraged (even while filling it with His own strength), in order that the anguish, the complaints, the distress of soul, the indignation of a weak heart that resents oppression while unable to throw it off or overcome it, being all poured out before Him, should bear testimony against the people whose inveterate wickedness called for His vengeance. The affliction of Christ, whose Spirit wrought that of Jeremiah, was infinitely deeper; but His perfect communion with His Father caused all the anguish, that in Jeremiah’s case broke out into complaints, to be in secret between Jesus and His Father. It is very rarely expressed in the Gospels. He is entirely for others in grace.1 In the Psalms we see more of His feelings. In Jeremiah’s case, it was proper that the anguish of the faithful remnant should be expressed before God. The absolute perfection of the Lord Jesus, and the calmness which, through the presence of God, accompanies His perfection in all His ways, allowed of no complaint, whatever might be the inward anguish of His heart. He thanks in the same hour that He can justly upbraid. Sympathy for others became the position of Jesus. We see that our precious Lord never failed in this.
(1. Compare Matthew 26 where this is brought out in the most striking way. It is very precious to see both this perfect result in Christ and at the same time all that He felt in His heart as man, both as sensible to circumstances without and so deeply exercised within. Perfect exercises within produce perfect quietness in walk without, for in both God is fully brought in. If we avoid the full dealing with the matter with God, the heart cannot act for Him as if all were disposed of: and that is peace in action. Yet how precious to see the reality of Christ’s human nature in all the intimate exercises of His spirit.)
But it was equally becoming that the outpouring of heart of the faithful, who needed this sympathy, should be expressed by the Holy Spirit. It is not that there was no weakness in the heart that poured itself out; but if the Spirit lays it open, it is evident that He must express it as it is; otherwise it were useless and false. Consequently Jeremiah enters much more personally into his prophecies than any other prophet.1 He represents the people in their true position before God-such as God could recognize, as being before Him in this character-in order to see whether, receiving from God that which applied to this position, and expressing the sentiments inspired by such a position, it was possible to reach the conscience and win the heart of the people; always remembering that these sentiments were expressed according to the Spirit, and accompanied by the most direct and positive prophecies of that which God would bring upon the people. It is to be observed also, that a great part of that which was written was not addressed in the first instance to the people, but to God. This position of Jeremiah’s, as the representative before God of the true interests of the people, or of the remnant, causes him to be looked at sometimes as though he were Jerusalem itself, and, at other times, as a remnant separated from it and set apart for God.
(1. There is something analogous in Jonah. But there the circumstances of the prophet are an episode, and are not connected with the testimony he bore, unless by the single principle of grace.)
The period of Jeremiah’s prophecies
But these points will be better understood by examining the passages which bring them into notice. The period during which Jeremiah prophesied was of considerable length, and embraced the whole time of Israel’s decline, from the year after that in which Josiah began to cleanse Jerusalem and all the land, until the final destruction of Jerusalem by the army of the Chaldeans; and even a little while after in Egypt, a period of more than forty years-a period throughout of distress and anguish. For although Josiah was a godly king, the reformation of the people was only an outward one, as we shall see. So that the anguish of one who saw with God was so much the greater on account of this appearance of piety. “And Jehovah was not turned away from his fierce anger, because of the sins of Manasseh.” Nevertheless the prophet distinguishes between the two periods, that is, the reign of Josiah, and that of his successors.
Excepting in chapters 21-24 there are no dates for the first twenty-four chapters. It is probable that they were mostly given under Josiah’s reign. They contain moral arguments, the expression of the prophet’s sorrow of heart, and solemn warnings of the coming invasion from the north. The four chapters I have specified have no chronological order, and are probably composed of prophecies given at different periods. They contain the judgment of the different branches of the house of David successively, as well as that of the false prophets who deceived the people. They end by declaring the fate of the captives in Babylon, and of those that remained with Zedekiah in Jerusalem-the two very different from each other.

Jeremiah 1

The appointment of Jeremiah to the prophet’s office
In chapter 1 The prophet is established in his office, to which he had been appointed by Jehovah, even before his birth, that he should carry His word unto the nations. But Jeremiah’s fears are immediately manifested. The Lord encourages him by the assurance of His presence. He puts His words into his mouth, and appoints him as prophet over the nations to root out and to plant. Two visions are shown him, which contain the summary of the prophetic charge communicated to him, and announce that Jerusalem shall soon be stricken by the kingdoms of the north. Under these circumstances Jeremiah is set before a rebellious people, who will strive against him. Nevertheless he must declare everything; and as the Lord had before encouraged the prophet, He now adds to the encouragement, in order to enforce it, a threat in case of disobedience; namely, that, if through fear he drew back from his commission, the Lord would become a greater cause of fear, and would break him to pieces before those of whom he was afraid. But if he fulfilled his appointed task, Jehovah would be with him. Verses 6-8 and 17-18 show the great fearfulness of the prophet’s spirit, which needed to be thus strengthened by Jehovah.

Jeremiah 2

Jehovah’s touching appeal to Jerusalem; the people’s responsibility
Chapter 2 Contains a most touching appeal to the people at Jerusalem. It requires no explanation, but deserves the heart’s serious attention. It testifies in the most striking manner to the kindness and tender love of the Lord. Only that we have here only the comparison of what they had originally been as planted by the Lord, and His ways of love, not any reference to the coming of the Lord. Christ is not in view nor the counsels of God as in Isaiah, though we shall find it further on; but their responsibility under God’s touching ways of grace with them is much more fully brought out, and final blessing is spoken of in the following chapter.

Jeremiah 3

Israel’s restoration by sovereign goodness
Chapter 3 has the same character; indeed it is the continuation of the same address; but it contains details of Israel’s and Judah’s behavior, and proclaims the restoration of Israel by sovereign goodness, and the blessing of the last days on their return to God. Remark only that, before the pleading with Israel for their folly, what the Lord first notices is that there was no seeking Himself, no longing after Him: no people nor priests said, “Where is Jehovah?” For judgment being executed on Israel, God can allow His heart to flow out in the testimony of grace. This necessarily gives a place also to Judah, as the two are to be united. The end of the chapter enlarges, in a very affecting manner, on the spirit that grace will produce in Israel when they are brought back, and on the manner in which the Lord will receive them. In verses 23-25 the prophet confesses the people’s condition at the time in which he spoke. It is in this chapter that we have the solemn revelation, that as far as the people were concerned, the reformation under Josiah was but hypocrisy. These two chapters form a kind of general introduction, showing the ways and judgment of Israel and Judah, and their restoration by grace. The first chapter had been the appointment of Jeremiah to the prophet’s office.

Jeremiah 4-6

Repentance called for; the certain judgment of God
Chapter 4 resumes the subject of chapters 2-3, and, applying it at that time to the people, tells them that, if they return, it must be unto the Lord Himself-that neither forms nor half-measures would be of any use. After verse 4 the prophet announces the certain judgment of God, which should come from the north, and fall upon Jerusalem in destruction.
Universal sin; Jeremiah’s position
In chapter 5 the sin and iniquity are shown to be universal: rich and poor, all are alike. And, “Shall not I visit for these things? saith Jehovah.” Nevertheless He will not destroy entirely. The source of evil, or, at least, that which maintains it, is pointed out. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means. Chapter 6 continues the testimony, but gives also the position of Jeremiah in the midst of all this evil. In verses 11-26 the judgment is plainly announced. The conduct of the false prophets is again marked. In both these chapters the coming of Nebuchadnezzar in judgment is evidently declared.

Jeremiah 7-9

The temple a witness against iniquity; the prophet’s grief; God’s righteous judgments
Chapter 7 begins a new prophecy, contemplating especially the temple, which, instead of being a protection (as the people, without conscience, would have it), was become a further demonstration of their iniquity. They were to remember Shiloh; for the house of God should likewise be overthrown. Judah should be cast off, as Ephraim had been, and God would hear no intercession for His people. He required obedience and not sacrifice, and if the people came into His house while they were practicing idolatry, they did but defile it. But Israel had less understanding than the birds of the heaven, which at least knew their appointed times, while Israel knew not the judgment of Jehovah (ch. 8).
From verse 18 to verse 2 of chapter 9 the prophet lays open the depth of his grief. From verse 3 of chapter 9 he proclaims judgment-a judgment which shall also visit the nations around. And in view of these judgments he exhorts every man not to glory in man, but in the knowledge of Jehovah (vss. 23-24).

Jeremiah 10

The idols and vanities of the nations contrasted with Jehovah
In chapter 10 the idols and the vanities of the nations are put in contrast with Jehovah. In verses 19-25 we have the affliction of the prophet, speaking of the desolation of Jerusalem as though he were himself the desolate city, and praying to God that His dealings might be only chastisement, and not excision. The reader will do well to observe that the repetition of God’s pleadings with Israel (although these pleadings, while varied in their character, need little remark to make them understood) is the most touching proof of the kindness of God, who multiplies His appeals to a rebellious and perverse people, “rising up early,” as He expresses it, to protest unto them.

Jeremiah 11-12

Israel addressed as responsible; Jeremiah in the place of the faithful remnant pleads with God for them
Chapter 11 suggests some observations. God addresses Himself again to Israel on the ground of their responsibility, reminding them of the call to obedience, which had been addressed to them ever since their coming out of Egypt. God was about to bring on the people the evil with which He had threatened them. Jeremiah is not to intercede for them. Nevertheless He still calls Israel His “beloved”; but, being corrupted, what had she to do in His house? Whatever she might have been to Him, judgment was coming. At the end of the chapter Jeremiah takes the place of the faithful remnant who have the testimony of God. His position continually reminds us of the Psalms. We see the working of the Spirit of Christ often clearly expressed, but sometimes, it appears to me, in expressions more mingled with Jeremiah’s personal position, and thereby less deep and less akin to the sentiments of Christ, although the same in principle with the Psalms. Jeremiah, on account of his faithfulness and his testimony, was exposed to the machinations of the wicked. Jehovah reveals these things to him; and, according to the righteousness which characterizes the condition of the remnant, he calls for the vengeance of God.1 This will be the means of deliverance for the remnant, He announces the judgment of these wicked men by the word of Jehovah. In Psalm 83 the same principles will be found, and the same wickedness in God’s enemies; only there, these enemies are Gentiles, and the range of thought is wider. Israel and the knowledge of Jehovah are the object of the prayer in that psalm. Compare also chapter 9 and Psalm 64. Here there is more intercession on Jeremiah’s part; the psalm speaks of judgment. Compare also Psalm 69:6-7 and Jeremiah 15:15. The words of the psalm being from the mouth of Christ Himself, the request is for others and infinitely more touching. This comparison of passages will help in understanding the relationship between the position of Jeremiah and that of the remnant described in the Psalms. We may also compare Psalm 73 with the beginning of chapter 12. This last chapter forms a part of the same prophecy as the preceding one. Jeremiah pleads with God on the subject of these judgments, but in a humble and submissive manner, which God accepts by making him feel (a painful necessity) the evil of the people more deeply. At the same time He sustains the prophet’s faith by the personal interest He manifests in him. God makes him understand that He has forsaken His inheritance: the state of things was therefore no longer to be wondered at. At the same time He reveals His purposes of blessing to His people, and even to the nations among whom they will be dispersed,2 if these nations would learn the ways of Jehovah.
(1. Righteousness characterizes the saint as well as love, and has its place where there are adversaries to that love and to the blessing of the loved people. It is the Spirit of prophecy, not the gospel, no doubt because prophecy is connected with the government of God, not with His present dealings in sovereign grace. Hence in the Revelation vengeance is called for by the saints.)
(2. We see at the same time the unchangeable love of God for His people, and the bond of His faithfulness which cannot be broken. He calls the nations, that surround the inheritance He had given to His people, His neighbors. We see also the setting aside of all that national system of which He had made Israel the center, and which falls when Israel, the keystone of the arch, is taken away (vs. 14). Afterwards, these nations are reestablished, as well as Israel, and blessed if they acknowledge the God of Israel. The Lord Christ will reunite the two things-the universal headship of man, and the union of nations round Israel as a center-in His Person. He will be the one Man to whom the whole dominion is given; and Israel, as well as the various nations with their kings, shall be reestablished, each in his own land and his own heritage (as before the time of Nebuchadnezzar), with the exception of Edom, Damascus, Hazor, and Babylon herself; that is to say, those nations which occupy Israel’s territory, and Babylon which had absorbed and taken the place of all the others, and which must disappear by the judgment of God to give them their place again. (Compare chapter 46 and the following chapters.))

Jeremiah 13

The call to repentance because of coming judgment; the prophet’s grief
Chapter 13, bringing to mind how God had bound Israel to His heart, announces the terrible judgment with which the people shall, as it were, be drunken; and, on the ground of this judgment, calls them to repentance. He relates their hopeless evil, and the unfeigned grief of the prophet at their obstinacy. Compare Luke
19:41. This zeal for Jehovah’s glory against the evil and the people who dishonored Him, and touching affection to them as Jehovah’s people, is everywhere a striking mark of the working of the Spirit of Christ. Compare Moses (Ex. 32:27-28,31 and sequel); so Paul (Rom. 9; 1 Thess. 2:15-16): only here, under grace, there is no call for judgment; so even Christ Himself. (Compare Matthew 23:31-37.)

Jeremiah 14

The famine; Jeremiah’s intercession
Chapter 14 refers to a famine which took place in the land. The desolation of Jerusalem by the sword and by famine is again declared. But observe here the touching intercession of verses 7-9; and again in verses 17-22, the deep affliction of the Spirit of Christ which expresses itself in the prophet’s mouth. “For in all their affliction he was afflicted.” Observe also another element of their condition, pointed out by the Apostle Peter, and by the Lord Himself, with reference to the last days-namely, false prophets.

Jeremiah 15

God’s answer in judgment on the nation
The beginning of chapter 15 is an answer to the close of chapter 14; but the instruction and the principles it contains are very remarkable. Jehovah declares that if Moses and Samuel (whose love for Israel, and faith in intercession for them, were unequalled among all the servants of God who had stood before Him on their behalf)-if these two beloved leaders of the people were there, yet God would not accept Israel. Who should have pity on them? Jehovah Himself forsakes them. From verse 20 we find the true position of the remnant in such a case: a most touching instruction for ourselves!
Jeremiah’s sorrow; the separated position of the faithful remnant
Poor Jeremiah complains of his lot, among a people whose sorrows he bore on his heart, while at the same time enduring their causeless hatred. We see in verses 11-13, that he represents the people before God, but yet that the faithful remnant are separated from the mass of the wicked. From verse 15 they present themselves in this separated position to God, bearing at the same time all the pain of the nation’s wound, even while asking vengeance on the wicked, the adversaries of the truth. In reply, precise directions are given for the walk of one who is faithful in such a position. The Word of God, eaten and digested in the heart, is the source of this position (vs. 16).
Instead of sharing the spirit of the enemies and the mockers, who rejoiced in the abominable and hypocritical state of those who bore the name of God’s people, the effect of the Word in the heart was no doubt to separate from this condition of the people, but to isolate the godly one, as though he were himself the object of God’s indignation, as being himself the people. The Word, which revealed the relationship between God and the people, and showed them their privileges and their duties, caused the faithful to judge the state of the people, and to feel all the consequences of this state as the judgment of Jehovah-a judgment so much the more terrible to his heart from his feeling how close a band of affection and blessing from God was the normal condition of the people. “Thou hast filled me with indignation” (vss. 17-18) is the prophet’s language.
God’s open door; His recognition of individual faith
In verses 19-21 The precise instructions of God with respect to this condition are given. God also addresses Jeremiah as though he were the people whom he thus represented in spirit before Him, and, at the same time, according to his individual faith. He says, first of all, “If thou return, then I will bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me.” This open door-open till man shuts it-is always in the ways of God, although He well knows that man will not profit by it.
Taking account of all that is good
Is this all that is to be done while it is called today and the door is open, to call on the rebellious people to return? No: there is something else for the faithful to do: and this is the second leading principle: “If thou separate the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth.” In the midst of the ruin caused by the rebellion of God’s people, this is the especial work of one who is faithful, who is imbued with the Word. The desire of his soul being the reproduction of this Word, and of the affections of God revealed in it, can he reject the people in a mass as wicked? That cannot be. Can he accept them in a condition of rebellion, which is so much the worse because they belong to God? This he cannot do either. He must learn to do that which God does-take account of all that is good, and, if it is too late to preserve everything, never condemn that which is of God. The penetrating eye of God never loses sight of this. The affections of the prophet are fixed upon it also.
Separating the precious from the vile
But God has His own thoughts, and He acts according to His own will; He lays hold of that which is precious, owns it, and separates it from that which is vile. This is not precisely the judgment of God respecting evil; but when the judgment is imminent on account of the evil, the energy of the Spirit and the power of the Word lead us to attach ourselves to the good, to discern it, to separate it from the evil, before the judgment comes. If Satan can, he will mingle them together. Those who know how to separate them shall be as the mouth of God. God will do it in judgment by smiting the evil: in the faithful the Spirit of God does it by separating the precious from the vile.
Refusal to return to the unfaithful obligatory
The third principle is, that, when once separated from the path of the rebellious by this spiritual intelligence, there must not be a moment’s thought of returning to them. “Let them return unto thee, but return not thou unto them.” Finally, in this position, Jehovah will make the faithful like a wall of brass. The rebels, who boast of being called the people of God, fight against His faithful servant, but shall not prevail, because Jehovah is with him. Deliverance is promised to Jeremiah.
All this, while having its immediate application to the prophet, is most valuable instruction for us in the principle which it contains, to direct us in similar times. Patience is required, but the path is clearly marked out. There is always an open door on God’s part; the separation of the precious from the vile makes us like the mouth of God; a positive refusal, when thus placed, to return to the unfaithful: such are the principles that God has here established. The Word received in the heart is their source. At the same time the effect is very far from contempt of the fallen people; on the contrary, the heart of the faithful takes upon itself all the grief of the position in which the people of God, or those who publicly stand as such, are found.

Jeremiah 16

Jeremiah to avoid family relationships with the people to show what God would do
In chapter 16 Jehovah teaches Jeremiah to avoid all family relationships with this people, and to cease from all testimonies of interest in what was going on among them. For He Himself had entirely broken off with them, and would cause all His testimonies to cease among them, and would drive them out of the land. But, after all, through the greatness of the evil which He would bring upon them, He would cause their deliverance out of Egypt to be forgotten in their yet greater deliverance from this evil. For at length God will pardon and comfort His people. But before this He will recompense their iniquity. Afterwards the Gentiles themselves shall come and acknowledge the true God, the God of Israel.

Jeremiah 17

Trust in man or in God; the door of repentance opened
The great thing, amid all that was going on, was to trust in Jehovah. He who, failing in this, made flesh his arm, should not see when good came. Meantime the fire of God’s anger was kindled and should not be quenched. How could a wicked and deceitful heart be trusted? The Lord searches it, to give everyone according to his ways. The prophet, in the name of the people, casts himself upon Jehovah; and, on account of the wickedness of the adversaries who mocked at God’s testimonies, he appeals to God. He had not desired the woeful day which He announced; neither was it by his own choice that he forsook the peaceful duties he owed the people to follow God in this testimony. He entreats God, whose terrible judgments were to scatter the people, not to be a terror unto him. God was all his hope in the day of evil. What a picture of the condition of the remnant in the last days; and, at all times, of the portion of one who is faithful, when the people of God will not hearken to his testimony! Nevertheless, it being still called Today, God in His long-suffering opens the door of repentance to the people and to their king, if they have ears to hear.

Jeremiah 18

The potter’s vessel; a solemn warning of judgment
In chapter 18 this principle is fully demonstrated before the people (vss. 1-10). But the people in despair as to God, in the midst of their boldness in evil and in contempt of His marvellous patience, give themselves up to the iniquity by which Satan deprives them of their hope in God. God announces His judgment by the prophet, whose testimony provokes the expression of the confidence felt by a hardened conscience in the certainty and immutability of its privileges, and of the blessings attached to the ordinances with which God had endowed His people, and to which He had outwardly attached these blessings, which maintained their relationship with Him. What a dreadful picture of blindness! Ecclesiastical influence is always greatest at the moment when the conscience is hardened against the testimony of God; because unbelief, which trembles after all, shelters itself behind the presumed stability of that which God had set up, and makes a wall of its apostate forms against the God whom they hide, attributing to these ordinances the stability of God Himself. Conscience says too much to allow the unbeliever any hope of standing well with God, even when God opens His heart to him. “There is no hope,” he says; “I will continue to do evil; moreover, the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise; nor,” he adds (the false prophets having the ear of the people), “the word from the prophet.” The warning which this chapter contains appears to me very solemn. I can scarcely imagine a more terrible picture of the professing people’s condition. The prophet asks for judgment upon them. This is in the spirit of the remnant trodden down by the wickedness of the Lord’s enemies.

Jeremiah 19-20

Judgment announced; the priest’s opposition and Jeremiah’s sufferings
Chapters 19-20 show us the judgment of Jerusalem announced in terms that require little explanation; and we have in chapter 20 a sample of the opposition of the priests, and of Jeremiah’s sufferings. But this does not prevent Jeremiah’s denouncing the priest himself, and repeating that which he had said of Jerusalem. Nevertheless we see the effect of these sufferings on his heart. He was compelled, as it were, by the Lord to bear this testimony. He has not (and it is the same with the remnant) the willing spirit that rejoices in tribulation by the power of the Holy Spirit. He was the subject of constant mockery. They watched for his halting, so that he would gladly have been silent; but the word of Jehovah was like fire in his bones. Alas! we understand all this-the deep iniquity of the men who are called the people of God; the way in which the feeble heart recoils before this iniquity, that has neither heart nor conscience; and how on these occasions the Word is too strong in us to be shut up in our heart. Nevertheless with all this fear he had also the consciousness that Jehovah was with him, and he again asks for vengeance (which, in fact, is deliverance, and the only deliverance of those who have the testimony of Christ in such a position). This deliverance is celebrated in verse 13; but in verses 14-18, we see to what a point personal grief may drive those who are subjected to such a trial as this.
See the same thing in Job-a picture of the same condition, that is to say, of a soul tried by all the malice of Satan, without the full knowledge of grace, in the sense of its own nothingness, and in the forgetfulness of self. This will be precisely the state of the remnant in the last days. Christ is the model of perfection in what answered to these circumstances of trial, the reality of which He thoroughly experienced and felt, when He had yet to undergo for others what laid the foundation of grace for them.

Jeremiah 21-23

God’s righteous answer to Zedekiah; the Shepherd after His own heart
On the occasion of Zedekiah’s request to Jeremiah to know if the Lord would interfere in favor of the people against Nebuchadnezzar, the Spirit of God has brought the testimonies together that were given with respect to all the members of David’s family who presided, so to say, at the ruin of Jerusalem-Jehoahaz (ch. 22:10), Jehoiakim (vss. 13-19), Jeconiah (vss. 20-30). The judgment of Zedekiah had been pronounced (ch. 21); and after having declared, as we have seen, that the door was always open to repentance, and that blessing always attended a godly walk (ch. 21:12; 22:1-5), judgment is again pronounced, and a sentence from God upon the different kings. Finally (ch. 23) the expression of Jehovah’s indignation against these evil pastors gives rise to the declaration that He will raise up a Shepherd after His own heart, namely, the true Son of David, the Messiah. The just indignation and the judgment of God are expressed in the strongest terms.

Jeremiah 24

The good and bad figs; God’s judgment of man’s
unfaithfulness; His faithfulness to His promises
Two things attract our attention in chapter 24. First, submission to the judgment of God when He executes it is the proof of intelligence in His Word-of real spirituality. Want of faith leans, not on the stability of the promises, but, under pretext of the promises, on that of the ordinances and of the men who enjoy them. Those who submit to this judgment of God upon the unfaithfulness of man (a judgment which leads to the enjoyment of these promises, and operates to the setting aside of ordinances, the stability of which God had not guaranteed; but in connection with which man would, if faithful, have enjoyed the promises)-those, I repeat, who submit to this judgment, shall enjoy the full and entire effect of these promises, to which it is impossible that God should be unfaithful. The second thing to be remarked is that, when God would encourage the faith of those who submit to His judgment (being led by this submission to a holy conviction that man has deserved it), God stops at nothing short of the full and entire accomplishment of the promises, which depend on His faithfulness, whatever may have been the unfaithfulness of man-an accomplishment which can and shall be enjoyed solely by means of a work of God in man, that will bring him into a condition suitable to this accomplishment. (See verses 6-7.) The position of the people at the time of Jeremiah’s prophecies furnished an evident opportunity for the development of these two principles; for the people and the house of David had entirely failed in their faithfulness to God. It is very afflicting, and very humbling, when we are obliged to confess that God’s enemies are in the right. The only comfort is that God is in the right (Ezek. 14:22-23), and that in the end He cannot fail to accomplish His gracious promises.

Jeremiah 25

Universal judgment beginning with Jerusalem; the earth given into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand
Chapter 25 closes, so to say, this part of the prophecy with a general summary of God’s judgments on the earth, giving it into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. The immediate application to events already accomplished does not offer much difficulty; but we shall find a good deal, if we would bring in also an allusion to the last days. Israel, to whom the door had always been held open, is first judged. The chapter begins by announcing the judgment of God upon Jerusalem, because she had refused to hear the call to repentance which had been addressed to her during twenty-three years. And here let us notice the hardness of the people’s heart, stubborn in evil, and refusing to bow the neck to God’s testimony, in spite of all the pains God took, if we may so speak, to warn them. And indeed it is His own language: “Jehovah hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, but ye have not hearkened.” (See 2 Chronicles 36:15.) Jehovah had always set before the people a full and abiding blessing, if they repented; but they would not. The prophet announces that Jehovah will bring all the families of the north under Nebuchadnezzar, against Jerusalem, and against the adjoining nations, all of whom should assuredly drink the cup of judgment that the Lord had mingled for them. Jerusalem shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years; and after that the king of Babylon himself should be judged and punished, according to the prophecy of Jeremiah against all the nations. For, having begun with Jerusalem, it should be a universal judgment. That which should immediately happen was the judgment of the nations around Palestine, and afterwards that of Babylon, which was the instrument of their judgment. But the fact that the city called by the name of Jehovah was to be laid waste implied the judgment of all the nations. Consequently, in the symbolical action of the prophecy, all the nations connected with Israel, all those of the world as then known, are forced to drink the cup. But this is expressed in terms that include the nations of the whole earth. The historical application of verse 26 does not go farther than that which happened by means of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Sheshach, who should drink subsequently to the others. But a principle of universal judgment is comprised in this. The universal evil is developed (vss. 29-38). The only question that can be raised is whether, in this ulterior destruction of all the kingdoms of the earth, the expression “King of Sheshach” has any application to one who shall possess the same territory, or if it is merely Nebuchadnezzar. I doubt its going farther.1 The picture of universal judgment ends the first division of the prophecy. That which follows gives details and particular cases.2
(1. In either case the judgment does not appear to me to go farther than the oppression of the nations by the king of the Gentiles, who is raised up in place of the throne of God in Jerusalem, and his own destruction at the end of his wicked career.)
(2. The destruction of Babylon had a peculiar importance; first, because it was substituted by God Himself in place of His throne at Jerusalem; secondly, because it was the only Gentile power directly set up by Him, though all power be from Him. The others replaced Babylon providentially. Hence, at the destruction of Babylon, Jerusalem is restored (however partially it shows the principle), and the power which judges Babylon is the setter up of God’s people again in the holy city. Babylon-its setting up, its rule, and its destruction-involved the whole of the direct dealings of God with the Gentiles, and with His people in power. All the rest came in merely as a prolonging by the by.)

Jeremiah 26

Renewed calls to repentance; the long-suffering of God
Chapter 26 begins this series of details with a prophecy of the commencement of Jehoiakim’s reign. The people are warned, as being already in sin, that if they repent, they shall escape. We have constantly seen this character attached to the prophecies of Jeremiah, as though God said, “Today, if ye will hear my voice.” Circumstances rendered this appeal urgent, for in fact, if Israel did not repent, the house of Jehovah was to be like Shiloh. We find that of which God had warned the prophet. They strive against him; but, as Jehovah had promised, they gain no advantage over him. We see that it is the ecclesiastical party that excite the people against the testimony which God bears to them by the mouth of the prophet. But God turns the heart of the princes and of the people towards him. There were some also who regarded the ways of Jehovah. Their intelligence did not go far, but sufficiently so for deliverance; they feared God. We may remark here, that conscience laid hold of the Word of God in its immediate application. No doubt the evil would go on increasing, and, when ripe, the judgment would be accomplished (for God does not strike before iniquity has come to its height), and then the prophecy would be fulfilled. But conscience, under the influence of the Word, takes knowledge of principles which are judged by it, even when all is not yet ripe for judgment; and as yet consequently the judgment is not executed (vss. 18-19).

Jeremiah 27-28

Refusal of submission to the Gentile head appointed by God is rebellion against God Himself
Chapters 27-28 go together. Their chief subject is the submission to the head of the Gentiles, which God requires of the Jews. But before dwelling on this, I would call attention to the care which God bestows on His people, warning them again at each new phase of their career towards judgment. We remember that Zedekiah brought down this judgment by rebelling against the king of Babylon. At the beginning of his reign the Lord sent His word by Jeremiah to warn all the kings around, as well as Zedekiah, that they must submit. If they submitted, they should dwell in their land in peace; if not, they should be driven out and perish.
Let us now observe the place which, as Creator of the earth, of man and beast, God gives to the king of Babylon. God has given the nations, and even the beasts of the field, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar for a certain time. God establishes the central and universal power, and the nation that refuses to submit to it would be in rebellion against Himself, and should be consumed. Compare Daniel 2:38, which adds the fowls of the heaven to his dominion. All on earth was subjected to this king of the earth-the imperial head taken from among the Gentiles. It was a government appointed of God, who had forsaken Jerusalem, and would no longer protect her unless she submitted to this government. It appears that the kings of the surrounding countries were plotting with Zedekiah to throw off the yoke of the king of Babylon, and that the mission of their ambassadors was the occasion on which this prophecy was given, God declaring that He would have all submit to this yoke, for it was He Himself that imposed it.
Man under a new trial; his failure
This fact-that God has committed power in this world to a man-is very remarkable. In the case of Israel man had been tried on the ground of obedience to God, and had not been able to possess the blessing that should have resulted from it. Now God abandons this direct government of the world (while still the sovereign Lord above); and, casting off Israel whom He had chosen out from the nations, grouping the latter around the elect people and His own throne in Israel, He subjects the world to one head, and committing power unto man, He places him under a new trial, to prove whether he will own the God who gave him power, and make those happy who are subjected to him, when he can do whatever he will in this world.
I do not enter here into the details of the history of this trial: they belong to the Book of Daniel. We know that man failed in it. Senseless and presumptuous, he ravaged the world and oppressed the people of God, trod down His sanctuary, and prepared for himself a judgment so much the more terrible that Satan will induce him to resist it, and will aid him in his rebellion. Nebuchadnezzar alone answers in all points to that which we have just said. He is the head of gold. God had committed immediately to him the government of the world. Cyrus had personally a more peculiar place, and one more honorable in some respects. But as an empire, the Persians only took the place of one that already existed; and the sources and character of power continually deteriorated, in proportion as their distance from God and His gift increased.
False prophets and teachers; God’s testimony to the true prophet
False prophets as well as false teachers oppose the truth in this very point on which God tries His people. They can use all other parts of truth in order to deceive, and appear to have increased faith in them. It is manifest that the secret of the Lord is never with them. But whatever appearances may be, they neither stop nor turn away God from the path He takes. Yet the true prophet’s position is a painful one. He may seem for the time to be reduced to silence; for the popular falsehood possesses the hearts of the people. Jeremiah had to go away. Nevertheless in the combat between truth and error God often intervenes by a striking testimony, and so it was here. The function of the prophet, with respect to the government of the world and of the people’s walk, is always a testimony to the judgment which hangs over unfaithfulness.

Jeremiah 29

Coming deliverance; God’s own thoughts of grace
On the other hand the prophet comforts those who, by the judgment of God, were subjected to the yoke which He had imposed upon them. The Jews in Babylon should dwell in peace, quietly seeking the welfare of the city in which they were captives. The time of deliverance should come. The spirit of rebellion should be punished. Finally, having insisted on the people’s submission to the judgment, God reveals His own thoughts of grace. This submission was necessary, because of Israel’s sin; for God must maintain His own character, and not identify Himself with the ways of a rebellious people. But He must needs manifest Himself as He is in His grace. The execution of the judgment, and Israel’s ruined condition, brought the truth and beauty of the grace of God into yet greater prominence.

Jeremiah 30

The day of Jacob’s trouble; promised deliverance
in their extremity and sure judgment on the wicked
Some details of the circumstances that accompany its exercise deserve our attention, as well as the character which God displays in it, and the extent of its effects. In chapter 30 God commands Jeremiah to write in a book all the words of the judgment which he had heard, for God would restore the people. Now this deliverance found Israel at the height of the distress. This is the first thing presented to the prophet. No day could be compared to this day of Jacob’s trouble. It is the day spoken of in Matthew 24 and Mark 13. But in this extremity God comes to the help of His people, who shall be delivered. And now, God having executed His judgment and acted according to His own counsels in grace, this deliverance shall in consequence be full and complete. Israel shall serve Jehovah their God and David their king. The ruin (vs. 12) was complete, incurable: no remedy could heal it. It is God who had smitten His people for the multitude of their sins. Nevertheless He was with them to save them; and consequently all the nations who had availed themselves of God’s anger to devour Israel should be themselves devoured. Zion should be rebuilt on her own foundation, joy and peace should be in her dwellings, the governors of the people should be of her children. Israel should be the people of Jehovah, and Jehovah should be their God. Finally a principle which we have seen clearly explained is here announced, namely, that judgment should fall upon the wicked; that this judgment went forth to smite the people of God first, because they were wicked and must bear the consequence. But wherever the wicked might be, this judgment should reach them. Wheresoever the carcass might be, there should the eagles be gathered together.

Jeremiah 31-32

Israel’s restoration and blessing; enjoyment of complete deliverance
Chapter 31. But it would not be Judah only, to whom the prophecies of Jeremiah were addressed, that should be restored-all the families of Israel should enjoy this blessing. Jehovah should be their God, they should be His people. A few words will suffice to fix the reader’s attention on this beautiful prophecy. All the tribes are there, but all in renewed relationship with Zion. It is a deliverance wrought by the Lord, and it is therefore complete. Its enjoyment is not hindered by weakness. It is a deliverance that melts the heart and produces tears and supplications, but which removes all cause for tears, excepting grace. They shall sorrow no more; their soul shall be as a watered garden; they shall be satisfied with goodness from Jehovah. Ephraim has repented, and God will cause him to feel that He has never forgotten him. The Lord has always remembered His erring child; Judah shall be the habitation of justice and the mountain of holiness. This shall be through a new covenant-not that which was made when they came out of Egypt. The law shall be written in their heart; they shall all know Jehovah; and none of their sins shall be remembered anymore. If God should overthrow the ordinances of creation, then, says He, shall Israel be cast off for all that they have done. Finally the Lord declares in detail the restoration of Jerusalem.
I would add that in verse 22 I see only weakness. Israel, feeble as a woman, shall possess and overcome all strength-seeing that strength manifests itself in that which is very weakness.
The purchase of the field as proof of the people’s sure return according to God’s counsels of grace
These two chapters give in general the prophetic testimony to Israel’s restoration. Chapter 32 applies it to the circumstances of the Jews besieged in Jerusalem; taking occasion, from the ruin that evidently threatened them by the presence of Nebuchadnezzar, to announce the infallible counsels of God in grace towards them. Jeremiah had declared that the city should be taken, and Zedekiah led captive, but Jehovah had caused him to buy a field, in proof that the people should assuredly return. He points out the iniquity of the people and of the city from the beginning; but now that, in despair through sin, their ruin appeared to them inevitable, Jehovah declares not only a return from captivity, but the full efficacy of His grace. He would give oneness of heart to the people, that they may serve Him forever. Their relationship to God as His people should be fully established according to the power of an everlasting covenant. Jehovah will rejoice in doing them good. He would plant them in the land with His whole heart, and His whole soul. It was He who had brought all this evil in judgment, and it was He who would bring all the good which He had promised.

Jeremiah 33

The King-Priest, the Son of David, in whom Jehovah’s covenant will be fulfilled
Chapter 33 repeats with ample and rich abundance the testimony to these blessings, and dwells particularly on the presence of the Messiah; it announces that the branch of righteousness shall grow up unto David, executing judgment and righteousness in the land. Judah shall be saved and Jerusalem shall dwell safely. Her name shall be “Jehovah our Righteousness.” David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel (not merely Judah), nor the tribe of Levi a priest. The Lord’s covenant with the heavens and the earth shall fail, before this covenant with David shall be broken. However deeply sunk in despair the people might be, the Lord would never cast off Jacob, or His servant David, but would cause their captivity to return and would have mercy on them. The reader will remark how complete this revelation of deliverance is in its objects: first Judah, who was then particularly in question, then all Israel, then the land, then Messiah and the priesthood. Although, as a comfort to those in Babylon, the captive Jews are encouraged with a sure hope on their repentance (ch. 29); yet in general Judah is joined with Israel in the same deliverance. It is looked at as a whole. Indeed, after chapter 29 save chapter 31:23-24, where Ephraim had been already distinguished, and chapter 33:7,10,16, in present grace because of the siege, Israel is always put before Judah when both are named, and God glories in the name of the God of Israel.
We do not get in Jeremiah the rejection of Messiah. His subject is present sins, and future purposes in which Messiah comes in. With this chapter the second part of the book closes, that is, the revelation of the full effect of God’s grace towards ruined Israel, a result which should be according to His purposes of love, and perfect according to His counsels.

Jeremiah 34

Renewed iniquity and certain ruin
On the occasion of renewed iniquity the prophet announces the certain ruin of the people. Nevertheless Zedekiah, though carried captive to Babylon, should die there in peace.1 In the succeeding chapters we have some details of the obstinate rebellion which led to the destruction of Jerusalem and of all Judah.
(1. God’s ways in this are remarkable. He had broken the oath of Jehovah, and he is judged as profane. It was mainly through the influence of others (for he was disposed to listen to Jeremiah), and therefore mercy is extended to him.)

Jeremiah 35

The obedience of the Rechabites contrasted with Israel’s disobedience
The obedience of the Rechabites is set forth in order to show out more clearly the sin of Judah-disobedient in spite of the remonstrances and the patience of God. God does not forget the obedience that glorifies His name. The family of the Rechabites shall never fail.

Jeremiah 36

God’s call and testimony despised; the inevitable result
Chapter 36 furnishes us with another example of the obstinacy with which the kings of Judah despised the call and the testimony of God. Jeremiah was shut up; but God can never fail in means to address His testimony to man, whatever efforts they may make to escape it. Baruch is employed to write the prophecies of Jeremiah, and to read them, first to the people, then to the princes, and at last to the king himself. But the latter, hardened in his evil ways, destroys the roll. Jeremiah, by God’s direction, causes the same words to be written again; and others also, for he neglects no means to reach and lay hold afresh of the people’s conscience. But all was useless.

Jeremiah 37-38

Zedekiah’s weakness; God’s perfect ways in sparing the righteous
Chapter 37 gives us Zedekiah in the same state of disobedience. A show of religion is kept up, and, having a moment of respite which excites some hope, the king seeks an answer from the Lord by His prophet. But the favorable circumstances, through which it might appear that the wicked may escape from judgment, do not alter the certainty of the Word. Jeremiah sought to avail himself of the opportunity to avoid the judgment which was coming upon the rebellious city; but this only serves to manifest the hatred of the heart to God’s testimony; and the princes of the people-accusing Jeremiah of favoring the enemy, because he proclaimed the judgment that should fall on the people by their means-put him in prison. Zedekiah manifests some conscience by releasing him.1 In general there is more conscience in Zedekiah personally than in some others of the last kings of Judah. (See verse 21, chapter 21 and chapter 38:10,14,16.) On this account, perhaps, were those few words of favor and mercy addressed to him in chapter 34:5. But he was too weak to allow his conscience to lead him in the path of obedience. (Compare chapter 38:2-12.) This last chapter gives us the history of his weakness. Nevertheless in the midst of all this scene of misery and iniquity we find some rare examples of righteous men; and, however terrible His judgment may be, God remembers them; for His judgment is terrible because He is righteous. Ebed-melech, who delivered Jeremiah, is spared. Baruch also preserves his life; and even Zedekiah, as we have seen, is comforted by some words of encouragement, although he must undergo the consequences of his faults. The ways of God are always perfect, and if His judgments are like an overwhelming torrent as to man, still everything, even to the smallest detail, is directed by His hand; and the righteous are spared. The prison even becomes a place of safety for Jeremiah, and Jehovah deigns not only to spare Ebed-melech, but to send him a direct testimony of His favor by the mouth of Jeremiah, that he may understand the goodness of God in whom he had trusted.
(1. See preceding note.)

Jeremiah 39-44

Zedekiah carried to Babylon; useless endeavor to escape judgment
After this, chapter 39 and the following chapters give us the history of the confusion and iniquity that reigned among the remnant who were not carried captive to Babylon, in order that they should be scattered, and that all should fully bear the judgment which God had pronounced. Nevertheless, if at this last hour this remnant had submitted to the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, peace should have reigned in the land, and these few that remained should have possessed it. But some revolt, and the others fear the consequences of their folly. There is no idea of trusting in Jehovah. They consult Jeremiah, but refuse to obey the word of the Lord from his mouth. They take refuge in Egypt to escape Nebuchadnezzar, but only to fall under the sword which would have spared them in Judea, had they remained there in subjection to the king. In Egypt they give themselves up to idolatry, that the wrath of God might come upon them to the end. Nevertheless God would spare even a little remnant of these, but Pharaoh-hophra, in whom they trusted, should be given up into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, as Zedekiah had been.

Jeremiah 45-51

Encouragement to individual faithfulness; prophecies of judgment against the Gentiles and Babylon itself
Chapter 45 gives us the prophecy with respect to Baruch, already mentioned. Chapter 46 and following chapters contain the prophecies against the Gentiles around Judea, and against Babylon herself. We shall find these special elements in the prophecies that refer to the nations-the judgments are not those of the last days, as in Isaiah, but (according to the general character of the book) refer to the destruction of the different nations, in order to make way for the dominion of one sole empire. It is thus that, in the case of Judea, the judgment is even now executed.
God’s ways in government with the nations and His people
But there is a difference with respect to the restoration of those nations in the last days. Egypt, Elam, Moab, Ammon, are restored in the last days; Edom, Damascus, Philistia, Hazor, are not. The reason of this is easily seen. Egypt and Elam form no part of the land of Israel. God in His goodness will have compassion on those countries; they shall be inhabited and blessed under His government. When the people of Israel entered Canaan, Ammon and Moab were to be spared. They were not Canaanites under the curse; and however deplorable their origin might be yet, being related to the family of Israel, their land was preserved to them, although to the tenth generation they could not be admitted into the congregation of Israel (Deut. 23:3). And when God shall put an end to the dominion given to Nebuchadnezzar, and to the empire of the Gentiles, these nations shall again enter into the countries that were allotted them. But, although Edom had been spared, and were even to be received among Israel in their third generation, yet as their hatred to Israel had been unbounded, they should be totally destroyed in the judgment of that day. Compare Obadiah throughout, especially in verse 18. Their land should form a part of Israel’s territory, and was, in fact, a part of it, although they themselves were spared at the beginning as the brethren of Israel, but only, alas! to abuse this favor; so that the judgment would be more terrible upon them than upon the rest. Damascus, Hazor, and Philistia were a part of the land of Israel, properly so called. These nations disappear as distinct nations, as to their territory. At the close of the judgment on Egypt, God sends words of encouragement to Israel. Israel had leaned on Pharaoh when Nebuchadnezzar had attacked Jerusalem. The Egyptian power appeared to be the only one capable of balancing that of Babylon. But God had ordained the fall of Egypt, who would willingly have taken the chief place. This was, however, appointed for Babylon. The country from which they were brought out (the world, considered as man in his natural independent character, organizing in his own strength) would like to prevail over idolatrous corruption and Babylonish principles; but these were to be in force until the time appointed by God, when God will judge them. Now Israel having leaned upon Egypt, would apparently fall with Egypt; but God watched over them, and they were to return from their captivity and dwell in peace. The ways of God in government are well worthy of attention here. God would judge the nations; He would chastise Israel in measure. His people should not be condemned with the world. Grace abused brings down the most terrible judgments; thus it was with Edom.
The destruction of Babylon
Babylon yet remains. But, in Jeremiah, all the judgments are contemplated in connection with the setting aside of the independent nations, and the establishment of the one empire of the Gentiles-the chief subject of this prophecy; consequently the prophet is specially occupied with the historical fate of the empire, as established by God in the prophet’s own days. It is Babylon and the land of the Chaldeans which are the subject of his prophecy. It is the judgment of this empire, to avenge the oppression of Israel by Nebuchadnezzar, who had broken his bones (ch. 50:17). Nevertheless, the deliverance of Israel, at the time of the destruction of Babylon, is given as a pledge and foretaste of their complete and final deliverance (ch. 50:4-19,20,34; see also ch. 51:19-21). For the destruction of Babylon was the judgment of that which God had Himself established as the Gentile empire. This is the reason why, even historically, her judgment was accompanied by the deliverance of Israel and the destruction of idolatry, by a man raised up to execute the righteousness of God. It has not been at all the same thing with the other empires, although, no doubt, they were also set up by the providence of God. But in their case it was not the immediate establishment of the empire on God’s part, placing man in it under responsibility. Man, thus placed, had completely failed. He has tyrannized over God’s people, established a compulsory idolatry, and corrupted the world by its means. Looked at as having the dominion of the world, which had been committed to him, he has been judged, and Babylon is fallen. It is important thoroughly to apprehend this truth with respect to this first empire. In principle the deliverance of Israel results from it, whatever the subsequent dealings of God may have been. See also the character of this judgment, chapter 50:28,33-34. The next chapter furnishes us also with important principles in connection with this destruction of Babylon.
God’s unchangeable faithfulness to Israel
Chapter 51:6 reveals the unchangeable faithfulness of God to Israel, in spite of the people’s sins. It was the time of the Lord’s vengeance. When the time that God indicated should have arrived- a time to be known only by those whose spiritual discernment would enable them to apply the prophecy, the elements of which were given clearly enough in these two chapters (especially in the assaults of the nations), then those who had ears to hear were to leave the city. Moreover the fall of Babylon was a judgment pronounced upon idolatry. The portion of Jacob-Jehovah-might chastise His people, but He was not like the vanities of the Gentiles. After having chastised them, He would bring forth His righteousness in contrast with the Gentiles, who oppressed them, and would, finally, use them as His weapons of war. From verse 25 we see that it is the Babylon of those days which is in question. From verse 29 the historical circumstances that are related give us a very especial proof of this.

Jeremiah 52

Events relative to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple
The last chapter forms no part of the Book of Jeremiah, properly so called. We find in it events relative to the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple. After the remarks we have made, that which is said in it of Babylon will be easily understood.
The place of the first empire in man’s hand to exercise God’s
government on earth; the patience of God’s love and interest
I recapitulate here the principles of this book on account of their importance. The empire of Babylon, in consequence of the unfaithfulness of the house of David, was established by God Himself, and entrusted with the government of the world. But Babylon not only oppressed Israel, but set up idolatry, and corrupted the world. He who should have been a worshipper of the true God, and an instrument of His power, established, as far as he could, the influence of the enemy. God has judged him. The empire which God Himself established has been entirely overthrown. This judgment was executed against the pride of man, and against idolatry. At the same time it was the deliverance of Israel. This last consideration gave rise to a declaration on God’s part of what Israel was to Him, and what it shall be in the last days. But the subject treated of is the Babylon of that day. Since then God has permitted other powers to exist, governing the world with universal dominion, until the final accomplishment of all His purposes. These empires have subsisted according to His will, have been raised up or cast down as He saw good. But neither of them has held precisely the same place as Babylon. None of them have been formally established in the place of Israel, nor has the destruction of any of them been the occasion of Israel’s restoration. The word of prophecy assures us that at the end of the days, the judgment of the last empire will have this effect. The judgment of Babylon has, in a manner, foreshadowed it; as its moral character commenced the sad history of these monarchies, and served as a model to them in many respects as to the evil that should be developed until the end. But to understand the fundamental principles of this history, and the dealings of God, the place which this first empire held in these dealings must be clearly and distinctly kept in mind. Besides the immense fact of the substitution of empire in man’s hand, for the immediate exercise of God’s government on the earth, the diligent testimony which God sent, and the warnings to king after king, to people and to priests, is very striking in this book, the patience of God’s love and interest.


The character of the book: God’s interest in His people’s afflictions
The Lamentations of Jeremiah-a touching expression of the interest which God feels in the afflictions which His people undergo on account of their sins-will not require much explanation as to the general meaning of the book. A few remarks may be useful, to show the true character of this book, and its connection with the dealings of God, as revealed to us elsewhere. The first interesting point-to which I have already alluded-is that the affliction of His people does not escape the eye of God. He is afflicted in their affliction: His Spirit takes knowledge of it; and, acting in the heart of those whose mouth He uses, gives expression to the feelings He has produced there. Thus Christ wept over the hardheartedness of Jerusalem, and invited its inhabitants to do so likewise. And here also His Spirit not only reproves and reveals things to come; He gives a form to the grief of those who love what God loves, and furnishes the expression of it Himself.

Lamentations 1

Sore affliction; confession of sin and of Jehovah’s righteous judgment
There is nothing more affecting than the sentiments produced in the heart by the conviction that the subject of affliction is beloved of God, that He loves that which He is obliged to smite, and is obliged to smite that which He loves. The prophet, while laying open the affliction of Jerusalem, acknowledges that the sin of the people had caused it. Could that diminish the sorrow of his heart? If on the one hand it was a consolation, on the other it humbled and made him hide his face. The pride of the enemy, and their joy in seeing the affliction of the beloved of God, give occasion to sue for compassion on behalf of the afflicted, and judgment on the malice of the enemy. At the end of chapter 1, after full confession that it was Judah’s sin that had brought the evil upon them, and that Jehovah was righteous, the people call on the eye of Jehovah to look on their sorrow, and judge those by whose wickedness they were punished.

Lamentations 2

The touching appeal to Jehovah; the desolation of Jerusalem His work
The second chapter is a very deep and touching appeal. The desolation of Jerusalem is looked at as Jehovah’s own work, on what was His own, and not as that of the enemy. Never had there been such sorrow. Not only had He polluted the kingdom and its princes, and had been as an enemy against Jerusalem, and all that was goodly in it, but He had cast down His altar, abhorred His sanctuary. He no longer respected what He had Himself set up. Only we must remember that it was when the relationships of Jehovah with His people depended, however long God’s patience, on the faithfulness of the people’s obedience to Jehovah, on the old covenant. But this consideration gives room for appealing to Himself. Still it is a solemn thing when Jehovah is forced to reject that which He acknowledges to be His own. But it must be so if the association of His name is only a means of falsifying the testimony of what He is (vss. 6-7). And this brings before us the amazingly important principle contained in the ministry of Jeremiah, not merely the substitution of Babylon and the Gentile empire for Jerusalem and God’s government in Israel, but the setting this last aside in itself, the ground of God’s relationship with man where it subsisted, as that which could not subsist when put to the test.

Lamentations 3

The Spirit of Christ in the remnant, suffering for the testimony and for its rejection
In chapter 3 we find the language of faith, of sorrowing faith, of the Spirit of Christ in the remnant, on the occasion of the judgment of Jerusalem in which God had dwelt. Before, the prophet (or the Spirit of Christ in him) spoke in the name of Jerusalem, deploring her sufferings and confessing her sin, while appealing to Jehovah against her enemies, relating what He had done in forsaking His sanctuary, and (from verse 11 of chapter 2) expressing the depth of her affliction at the sight of the evil. But in chapter 3 he places himself in the midst of the evil to express the sentiments of the Spirit of Christ; not, it is true, in an absolute manner, according to the perfection of Christ Himself, but as acting in the heart of the prophet (as is generally the case in Jeremiah), expressing his personal distress-a distress produced by the Spirit, but clothed in the feelings of the prophet’s own heart-to bring out that which practically was going on in the heart of a faithful Israelite, the reality of that which was most elevated in that day of anguish and affliction, in which alas! there was no more hope from the people’s side than from that of the enemies who attacked them, and in which the heart of the faithful suffered without hope of remedy, yet much more on account of a people who hearkened not to the voice of Jehovah; than on account of enemies raised up in judgment. What has Christ not suffered! That which His Spirit produces in the midst of human weakness, He has Himself undergone and felt in its full extent; only that He was perfect in all that His heart went through in His affliction.
In chapter 3 the prophet expresses then in his own person, by the Spirit of Christ, all that he felt as sharing the affliction of Israel, and being at the same time the object of their enmity-a position remarkably analogous to that of Christ. What suffering can be like that of one who shares the suffering of God’s people without being able to turn away the evil, because they refuse to hear God’s message-like that of one who bears this affliction on his heart with the feeling that, if this foolish people would but have hearkened, the wrath of God should have been turned away? It was the lamentation of Christ Himself, “Oh, if thou hadst known,” etc. In the main Jeremiah partook of the same feelings. But we see him more as being of the people, and participating in his own person in the consequences of the evil, seeing himself under these consequences with the people, because they had rejected his testimony. This may be said of the Lord at the close of His life, or on the cross. But we see that this sentiment, a little known in the case of Job, takes here the form of a personal prayer, complaining of personal suffering. Jeremiah suffers for the testimony, and for the rejection of the testimony. The first nineteen verses of chapter 3 contain the expression of this state. It is altogether the spirit of the remnant; and, with the exception of the sentiment I have just mentioned, it is that expressed in many of the Psalms. Into it all indeed, if we go on to the cross,1 Christ Himself entered.
(1. I add, “if we go on to the cross,” because, though Christ may have felt much of it in His sorrow as He approached the cross, there are expressions which apply to Him only as suffering there. The direct proper application is to the remnant, as is the case with the Psalms, and to Jeremiah in particular.)
Turning in faith to the One who smites
The prophet speaks as having borne in his own heart the deep grief of that which Jehovah had brought upon Jerusalem; but feeling it as one who knew God to be his God, so that he could experience what it was to be the object of the wrath of God. He suffered with Jerusalem, and he suffered for Jerusalem. But the truth of this relation with Jehovah, while making him feel the affliction more deeply, sustained him also (vs. 22). He begins to feel that, after all, it is better to have to do with Jehovah, although, in another point of view, this made it all the more painful. He feels that it is good to be afflicted, and to wait upon Jehovah who smites: for He will not cast off forever. He does not afflict willingly, but from necessity. Why complain of the chastening of sin? It were better to turn unto Jehovah.1 He encourages Israel to do so, and while remembering the affliction of his weeping people, faith is in exercise until Jehovah shall interpose. It is well that an affliction like this should be felt; the only harm is when it is allowed to weaken confidence in the Lord.
(1. We have here a principle of the deepest interest, and most instructive. I will follow it out with a little more detail. The principles are in the text. Jehovah smiting His own altar and all the holy things, having been set up by Himself in the midst of His people as marking them as His and the formal link with them as their God, their destruction which broke that formal link, as far as God’s own ordinances went, put an end to the connection; and this, as one of that people and living in that bond, had been the deepest distress to the truehearted Jeremiah; but while this, because they were of God, pressed upon his heart, it led him, when he had got to the depth of the feeling, to the Jehovah whose ordinances they were; Jehovah known in his heart takes then the place of the ordinances which bound the people to Him, and his soul is drawn out in confidence to Him who was within and beyond all those links. He feels and speaks from the place of affliction, but his soul is humbled in him when personally thus in intercourse with Jehovah, and so has hope. And this is a sure and immovable anchor of faith when God our Father is truly known. (See verses 22-26.) He is brought quite low and subdued in spirit, but Jehovah is before his soul and known, though he must wait for Him (vss. 27-30), but Jehovah rises up before him. He does not afflict willingly; and now he turns in greater calmness of spirit to try his own ways (vss. 39-42). Yet he looks fully at all the sorrow (vss. 42-49). But now Jehovah is in his heart, and the “till” (vs. 50), the full assurance of which flows from His very nature, for personally, when at the lowest, he had called and Jehovah had drawn near to him, and pleaded the cause of his soul, and he looks for Jehovah’s judgment on his rele