Heads of Psalms: Book 5

Psalm 118-134
The division of this closing Psa. 118 (closing, i.e., as to this subject) is this: first, the celebration of the truth for Israel. Compare 1 Chron. 16:34 and the structure of that psalm very particularly; 2 Chron. 5:13; 7:313It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord; (2 Chronicles 5:13)
3And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever. (2 Chronicles 7:3)
; Ezra 3:1111And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. (Ezra 3:11); Psa. 106; 107; 136 The psalm in 1 Chron. 16 is a summary of the heads of what Jews are interested in as the ground, exhibition, and resting-place of confidence in the latter-day, but there only the blessing and prayer, for it supposes the first step of blessings in accomplishment, and accordingly can rehearse together the statement, “Mercy endureth forever,” and omit the intermediate miseries. Then the summons to each sort of persons to use the song, verse 5, Messiah for Israel and trust in Jehovah, and that answered to verse 9. Verse 10, the circumstances of Israel in the latter day as to the nations. Verse 13, the adversary's part, this Satan, and by Antichrist, but the adversary. Verse 13, the Lord's hand in it—chastening, but preserving. Verses 10-13, therefore, is in a manner a common subject. Verse 19, Messiah takes the advance, being in this now living, accepted position, and then it is the Lord's relation with Israel in connection with Messiah, not Messiah's connection with Israel in respect of the evil—that was once true. Messiah's grace in subjecting Himself to their sorrows in this, though they esteemed Him stricken, is the way by which He can take them (now again at the last recognizing Him) with Him into the blessedness which (as their head, as the righteous Son) He is going into. The Lord's own use of it makes its force and application manifest. I question whether it should not be (ver. 27) Jehovah is El (the mighty God).
Psa. 119 This exceedingly beautiful and well-known psalm appears to me to be this: other psalms testify of the circumstances surrounding the remnant as having the Spirit of Christ by that Spirit; this of their state, the Spirit of Christ in them expressing that state, the law written in their hearts, the judgments being executed; so that there is what shows the Lord's interference, so that the sense of this is expressed, but not yet deliverance finally from the oppressor, their estimate of their whole condition, under and as connected with their circumstances, the mind of the Spirit of Christ in them. It is most interesting in this point of view. All the holy yet humbled thoughts and feelings of this poor people expressed in the now returning righteous confidence of their delight in God, breaking forth to God, who has put His law in their hearts when He is interfering for their deliverance. Its moral depth too is admirable and blessed in instruction and joy, and our delight in His holy will (the expression, and commandments, and holy roots of His will); for we know His law is spiritual and we carnal. The condition, however, prophetically in strict application is a Jew, a godly Jew, in that day.
From Psa. 120 to Psa. 134 is confessedly one series of psalms and ought to be viewed together; they are the songs of Zion, describing, if I may so speak, the process of their restoration. It supposes them to be already altogether in the latter-day times and that in a very definite character. Indeed generally they are retrospective of its earlier character, and, to say the least, commence with the certainty of the destruction of Antichrist, and that is entered into rather by a retrospective operation of the Spirit. It is on the whole of it rather the restoration of Israel—all Israel: that is the subject (the people leaning fully on Jehovah as one they knew and that distinctly, and He known and recognized, and they knowing Him and openly owning Him as their resource not in any uncertainty of position). It has more the character of a recital of what they had been enduring than the expression of those who had none that cared for their souls.
“In my distress I called on Jehovah, and he heard.” This first psalm tells the cry under Antichrist. The judgment on the false tongue for deceit was his, and characterized him; as Christ was the Truth. The next is the sorrow of sojourning among hostile powers, much connected with Gog. Kedar would come and Mesech before the last capture of Jerusalem, with whom they had no wish for war, but who were men of violence—were not godly men, still less had God for their habitation. They were weary of their spirit.
Psa. 121 They will look around them to the hills for help. Whence should it come? Ah there is the well-known truth for Israel! My help comes from Jehovah, who hath made everything man could trust in. He keeps Israel. He never slumbers or sleeps—a secure guardian: no power of evil shall smite them. The Lord shall preserve their going out and coming in from this time forth for evermore. The first of the two, the evil to which they were liable; the second, their sure, safe, and secure refuge, and that forever.
The happy results in worship (the third part of the sentiments of the delivered remnant, the happiness of Christ in them) is in Psa. 122. It is ever Israel in all this. These three psalms are rather prefatory, such as will be used, but retrospective, as I have said, not historical. From Psa. 123 we enter more into detail. They respect the full restoration, in one form or another, though it may not be viewed as accomplished in them all. Psa. 122 is the joy of Christ's Spirit in the fruits of it in others in actually going up; but all is restored joy of Israel, and verse 4 in assembled thanksgiving of worship in the temple; verse 5, judgment—His delight in the place of judgment. The Lord's heart who once wept here goes out in yearnings over His beloved Jerusalem; and, calling to prayer for its peace, pronounces peace upon it. Two great motives too, animating to the brethren and glorifying to God, draw it out. Them He still is not ashamed to call brethren and companions, and having so blessedly named, He (at once introducing them into full connection with the glory and blessing) says, “Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek to do thee good.” Nothing could be added to this.
Psa. 123 The intercourse is all here entirely with Jehovah and expresses their position and feelings towards Him. It is this rather than the circumstances that are entered into. They are occupied with themselves and Him, because with Him. The Lord is looked at as dwelling out of the reach of circumstances where evil really was. Then out of the reach of circumstances the believer could direct his heart, and then there was the ground of patient faith. As Psa. 119 gave the position of the Jewish remnant as regards law in that day, so this as regards faith. It was their condition as to their heart that was in question or expression. They wait on the Lord their God, who is in the heavens, as the eyes of a maiden or a servant to her master and mistress—helpless, and who have no business, till they get the word of their master, until He have mercy upon them. Patience, submission, the consciousness of no desert, yet the confidence of mercy—this characterized this waiting people. Then their sorrow and despisedness was an occasion for mercy—a plea; and so it is in their mouth, and so ever when one is in this disposition; so in the plea of this confidence of mercy they have to wait. They have nothing else to say but this is strong in the mercy and lovingkindness of the Lord. There were others at ease and proved they were associated with, and dependent on, the Lord. This was the blessed, holy, and submissive position of heart of the remnant. This was the perfection of faith in their position, the expression of the Spirit of Christ which enters into all our conditions. In all their afflictions, He was afflicted.
Psa. 124 It was well they did trust in Jehovah. For if Jehovah Himself had not been on their side, in man all help was utterly lost. Men rose up against them, and the proud waters had gone over their soul, but it was the occasion of their being able surely to say, Jehovah Himself was for them, for there was none else, and to Him they had looked. Such is the effect of extreme and hopeless trouble—in Jehovah's deliverance, the clear certainty that Jehovah is for them. This Israel might now say—a long last word in the revolt of the sorrowing but still loved people—Jehovah is on our side. “Blessed be Jehovah” was now therefore their word. The snare is broken, they are delivered, and they could say now with experience, “our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.” This great and hopeless trouble thus becomes the certainty of Jehovah’s being with them.
Psa. 125 Here is the celebration of their distinctive confidence. They can now speak about it in the maturity of peace rather than the joyous excitement of deliverance, when they were just saved from being a prey to their teeth. They that trust in Jehovah shall be even as mount Zion which abideth, for the peace of mount Zion is now a witness of deliverance—the same mount Zion as of old, the seat of the gracious counsels of God uncovered. They trust in the Lord—have the same portion as the mountains round Jerusalem. Verse 2, Jehovah is around His people, and that henceforth even forever; but then it was a distinctive blessing. It was judgment, the rod of the wicked, and then came against them: it should not rest on the lot of the righteous. There was no peace to the wicked; and this applied to the wicked among Israel. It was not a distinction merely between Israel and the nations, but a distinction in the deliverance of the righteous remnant; so the prayer is for them, the good and upright in heart. As for those that turn aside to crooked ways, Jehovah gives them a portion with the wicked; but there will not be now any more. Therefore, numbered with Israel, peace shall rest on Israel; now accepted and righteous before God, the righteous remnant becomes the nation.
Psa. 126 This restoration of the captivity of Zion is now specially noticed. The very heathen were astonished, and noticed the hand of the Lord for them, and the echo of praise came from His people: “He hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.” How simple and eloquent this word! Verse 4 takes the restoration of the captivity of Zion as the fullness of the restoration of the whole people. Verse 5 is the joyful experience of Israel, the humbled and sorrowful remnant grieved and laid low, but with godly sorrow now reaped with joy. But there was One above all who had sown precious seed in Israel, and in love as well as righteousness, and in both continued. He had been a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, their faces hid from Him; but now He filled His bosom with the sheaves, for though sown in tears, the seed was indeed precious seed, and the fruit sweet to His taste, and the joy of His labor of love—now He reaped it. The husbandman had had long patience for it, and waited the early and the latter rain; but now the precious blessed fruit came. First laboring. He now partook of the fruits. He came again rejoicing.
Psa. 127 This is for Solomon, in which character the Lord builds the house; and we have the expression of the experience of the utter folly of all carnal Jewish expectations and efforts. They might have built the house, and great stones and buildings be there: it was in vain. The Lord did not own it. They might have watched the city, but they had awaked in vain: all had been in vain for Israel till the Lord arose and had mercy. These Jewish blessings flow forth as upon earth in a gratuity given us—blessing in the Lord's peace.
Psa. 128 It is the fearers of Jehovah that enjoy this blessing; yea, even to children's children. All the associations of their hearts would be satisfied. It was out of Zion the Lord would bless them, and they would see the good of Jerusalem all the days of their life. How of the Lord—and yet how truly earthly, and of man, human nature—these blessings are!
Psa. 129 particularly takes up the enemies, these desolators. Many a time had they done it. And so indeed it was from the days of Cushan-risathaim onward, till Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon broke the bones thereof; and after, in their yet worse and more terrible (because more real) desolation, their back bad been plowed in and long furrows made. They had just to lie down and be treated at the very will of the enemy who had enslaved them. Yet, wonderful mystery, they had not prevailed against them. But there was One who said He was for them—One who in all their affliction was afflicted. His Spirit now taught them to speak in the recognition of the ways of God; and then comes the sum, for Israel through mercy now stood in righteousness. The Lord is righteous; He hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked. Their character was now brought out: they hate Zion, with which the Lord in grace was now identified. But there was not blessing from God or man upon them, when Israel should blossom and bud and fill the face of the world with fruit. No mower would fill his hand with them, nor any goer-by say, “The blessing of the Lord be upon you.”
In Psa. 130 we have Him who truly took this place; and though true of Israel, by Him and in His Spirit casting from the depths His soul on the Lord, and therein leading Israel into all the blessing of its forgiveness. This was the true hope of sinful Israel—the new ground, not under the law at all, and then looking for no other hope but waiting for Him; and so in verses 7, 8 His Spirit fully teaches them. The place of the cry is the leading point here. The place acknowledged Christ's Spirit, who had been in it, taking His place with them in it, and putting loved yet poor Israel into the place of God's thoughts and its true comeliness in it—acknowledgment, faith—but that in mercy. His answer (i.e., the answer of the Spirit of Christ) is in verses 7, 8.
His place of holy subjection and littleness is brought out in Psa. 131; and so was the place Christ had taught them and taken. He knew all things, but He had put Himself into the place of quiet subjection to God's will, and therein was in the way of blessing. The things which were revealed He took up and taught to Israel; and there Israel found and would find its blessing. The Spirit is the Spirit of all learning and instruction; but it is not the character of the Church's language, but of the quiet child-like subjection of Israel, entering as an obedient child into the place of its hope.
[Psa. 1321 First of all David's (i.e. Christ's) sufferings are the basis of all. Next, it is sovereign grace, for responsibility, even under the mercy declared through Moses, was closed when the ark was taken captive by the Philistines. There could be no day of atonement, no blood on the mercy-seat. Ichabod was written on all. God had delivered His strength into captivity, His glory into the enemies' hands. Sovereign grace raised up Samuel the prophet, and then David who brought the ark not into the tabernacle at all, but to Mount Zion, which was thus the seat of sovereign grace in power as contrasted with Sinai. God is called on to arise into His rest; for He will rest in His love. It is His rest we are to enter into, when His love will be satisfied and His nature perfectly met through the fruits of it as in Eph. 4:4, 54There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5One Lord, one faith, one baptism, (Ephesians 4:4‑5). Christ will see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied. Hence it is God's rest and of the ark of His strength—a new thing. It is not, “Rise up O Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered,” and “Return O Lord, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel.” But then man's (i.e., the saints') rest is only in this. “Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.” His rest, his heart's rest, could only be in rest of God perfectly glorified. Here we find the rest of the saint's heart, in its desires identified with God's, so that it can have no rest till He has rest and be perfectly glorified: a vital principle, the effect of being partakers of the divine nature. And this, we shall see, brings one in this blessed way into God's counsels, as it is written, “Who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor that he should instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ—the Holy Ghost by the word leading us into all truth. (Compare Ex. 15; 29:46.) Our rest is entering into God's rest—an infinite blessing.
But the desire is right according to man, the answer is according to God: the desire is right according to the divine nature and ways, but the blessing according to the riches of grace. The desire (ver. 8) is that Jehovah should arise into His rest, He and the ark of His strength. For the strength and faithful covenant-working of God enter into rest when all is accomplished. The answer (ver. 13, 14) is, “The Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.” It is more than asked, clearly more. The heart led of God has been brought to desire what is God's desire and the object of His election.
So the desire (ver. 9) is that Jehovah's priests be clothed with righteousness, as John the Baptist's father; and the answer (ver. 16) is, I will also clothe her priests with salvation—the full, final deliverance of God. The desire is right: righteousness becomes them; the answer is from God, and becomes Him in the power of His grace. The desire again (ver. 9) is, that His saints may shout for joy. All right: the renewed heart must desire the prosperity and joy of God's chosen. And God will give it abundantly (ver. 16): “her saints shall shout aloud for joy.”
Remark another thing. In the desire they are Jehovah's priests, and Jehovah's saints— “thy priests,” “thy saints.” It is so as to “the rest:” and as to the rest it is repeated (compare verses 8 and 14), but as to Zion, This is my rest; and this is what we want: nothing else will do or would be rest. But as to the priests and saints, the answer does not say “thy,” but “her,” that is, Zion's. They are His; but so perfectly does God own the complete association of His people with Him in rest and blessing, that the priests which are His He calls hers (for they do belong to Zion), and the priests which are His to be hers. This in the identity of the rest is of unequaled beauty.
I have omitted the desire (ver. 10) not to turn away the face of God's anointed. The answer (ver. 17, 18) also is more: the born of David is to bud; a lamp is there ordained for him, and his crown shall flourish on him. That is, He goes beyond the wish. But note it is “there” —in Zion. Christ literally is King there, as in Psa. 2. There too it was first sung” His mercy endureth forever;” for it had blessed Israel after all, and in spite of all, and found in the end of His responsibility the occasion and beginning of His perfect grace. We see the outgoings of His goodness in that which He will do for Zion.]
Psa. 133—The person of the high priest represented the whole people. But the power and anointing of the Holy Ghost in the fragrance of grace was that which united the whole people; so exactly in Christ—one Spirit—one body. They shall in that day appoint themselves one Head; they shall not be two peoples any more in the land, and this not only in form but in Spirit and unity of blessing. Hermon caught in its lofty head the dew or produced it; but it fell in the central place of divine blessing, thus ministering the power of unity. Hermon was called Zion, but it was with ש not ö. This seems to be Zion as we ordinarily understand, where the Lord commanded His blessing and life for evermore. It was the place of grace, the hill of grace. Though Hermon, whose head was in heaven as it were, was the attractive place of dew, it was the dew of Hermon, but it fell on Zion. The Spirit will be poured on them from on high, and Ephraim will no more envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim.
Psa. 134 Zion thus established, praises rise, Men by night in the sanctuary at peace there, His servants, stand in His courts; and as once the day only brought clearer light on their sorrow, now the night itself is awake with the praises of Jehovah who has restored them and given them cause for praise day and night; and He who has been the center and power of this blessing—David is now in Zion which the Lord hath chosen. They bless out of this seat of grace and royalty. The sanctuary owns the royalty—the seat and place of blessing. He who has made heaven and earth, the Jehovah of His people, the Creator of all things is in this power called to bless Him out of Zion, the place of grace and desire to the Lord. It is not Sinai now; Psa. 132-134 all center in Zion. The Lord hath chosen Zion—commanded blessing there—blesses Messiah out of Zion. Surely the people is restored now. The priest blesses Jehovah and calls for benediction from Jehovah on him from this seat of royal grace. Thus is Christ placed, as the remembrance of David and his afflictions, who had no rest till a place was found out for the Lord. Heaven and earth the compass of heaven, but Zion the seat of peculiar blessing; Psa. 133, especially priestly blessing, as Psa. 132, the king. Psa. 134 brings both in pronouncing and ministering praise and the blessing.