Heads of Psalms: Book 5

Psalm 135‑150  •  23 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Psa. 135 This and the following psalm seem to me to be the praise to which the songs of degrees have led. Jehovah is celebrated, the name of Jehovah, and is called to be by the servants of Jehovah. They stood now in the house of Jehovah, in the courts of the house of their (Israel's) God. Jehovah had chosen Jacob for Himself. Israel was His peculiar treasure. He was great, and Israel's Adon above all gods. Whatever Jehovah pleased, He did with universal power, as in creation and providence, and that power in delivering Israel, judging their enemies, exercising divine and righteous authority over them in favor of His people, and using that righteous sovereignty in preparing a place for an heritage to them. Verses 13, 14 remarkably take in the record of the name of promise to the fathers given to Moses, as in Ex. 3; and of sovereign mercy in their utter destitution, Deut. 32 The heathen are therein shown their vanity. Verses 19-21 take up the full Israelitish located blessing according to the ordinance of God in Israel, not His in them, but their return to Him as blessed. At least they are so called in, and in spirit summon their companies, and close with the utterance of the praise itself with a final hallelujah as it began.
Psa. 136 takes up the well-known hallelujah, Israel's chorus, “for His mercy endureth forever.” The present occasion of their praises proved that mercy endured forever, and that that mercy had really gone on unceasingly, and had preserved them (through their rebellions), and remembered them, as Deuteronomy bad said in their low estate, redeeming them from the hand of their enemies. It still takes up the almighty sovereignty of God-Jehovah, and takes up the same elements of power, but adds Israel's sense of mercy, and that, its having endured forever, enabling it to take up this very praise now. “He remembered us in our low estate.” Then indeed it is that praise really comes out from a humble spirit, and mercy known now, and known in unchanging favor in personal blessing, yet more glorious and lovely, because a love which flowed from itself, not caused by the object, is added to the praises as the sinner's only basis for them all. It is a beautiful expression of this; and the mind, thus taught, recounts them with happy particularity—power, wisdom, skill, grandeur of governances in the objects formed in their proper order, judicial and mighty power, in deliverance to the people, for the Creator looks at them, and they are immediately associated with creation in its blessing. He did everything in controlling power over creation for them. Distinctive in judgment, Israel passed through, Pharaoh overthrown. He led them with unceasing care when there was no way, and smote their enemies when they would have checked their entrance into their inheritance, giving their possessions to them His people, and after all redeemed them from their low estate, for indeed His mercy endured forever; and then blessed in providence all the race of man and the animal creation too, for to this His mercy reached—the God of heaven whose mercy endured forever. It is not here “of earth” merely, for it is for them as much to look up as the Gentiles who had the earth, and the Church, apt to think God did not mind the earth, to look down and own Him the God of the earth. Messiah's reign in that day shall prove Him gathering both their dislocated elements—failing Israel on earth, and a failing Church for heaven—into perfection and stability.
This closes, I think, the rising up by degrees to the Lord's house, where this or these are sung. What follows takes a wider scope and yet looks back to the interval which has been entirely omitted in these two psalms—discipline and sorrow and humiliation for sin by the way the people visited.
The former two took up merely the land in their introduction into it, and looks at them then in their low estate, and this, whatever its cause, was looked at as an object of compassion. Mercy forever was the word, and they could truly sing it then. Circumstances are entered into here, connected with visitations and sorrows in strange lands and deliverances there, and all that was associated with Israel's state when far from Jehovah, and Lo-ammi indeed really written upon it—quite another and different aspect of things.
Psa. 137 This therefore gives an important character to this psalm—the period of Israel's rejection, and the impossibility of praising the Lord in such circumstances. It is the Spirit thus in the remnant. Faith put to the associations of God's glory with Israel, but for that reason incapable of uttering the Lord's songs. They might (with a sort of holy boldness in God's own principles and holiness, yet with bowing of heart) say, as elsewhere— “Praise waiteth for thee in Zion.” Jehovah had His own law, His own place. This He had made Israel's: were they to forget this? It would have been slighting His favor, renouncing the specialty of His mercy. Babylon they might get—they had got into: their sins had brought them there; but there they must at least hang up their harps, weeping because for them the place of this world's careless and apostate glory. For indeed, if in sorrow, they were identified with the place of God's glory in the earth. Their portion, if the Spirit of righteousness was in them at all, was sorrow then. Well, the Lord too was very sore displeased with the heathen that were at ease. He was but a little angry, and they had helped forward the affliction. For good He suffered His people to be afflicted; for righteousness too now, but still they were beloved. Now the testimony to their righteousness in sorrow is rendered to them by the Spirit there. And this is the blessed point of this psalm; even it carried away captive, there were those of whom Zion's sorrows were the sorrows, and, in spirit, Jerusalem, the Urim of God's peace, preferred above their chief joy. They could say when free—this in the truth of the spirit of their state then. So shall it be in the latter day. All the intervening sorrow of a separate people in judgment is witnessed and owned of the Spirit of God. Then we have the three great powers of the world or cities that concerned Zion; but they were Zion's songs, not to be sung but there. “Babylon” (if it could be said, for judgment; full judgment was not yet come about) “who art to be destroyed” —haughty evil. He who would be blessed is he who executed the judgment on it. Then there was a third party, haters of the Lord, who would be found liars; implacable enemies of Jerusalem, hating it just because it was the Lord's, and they were ruiners of it; but as they dealt thus in the day of Jerusalem, the Lord would remember them. We see thus that deliverance from Babylon (and so we may add its fall) precedes its destruction; and before they can triumph in the setting-up of Zion, they can, as delivered, and with the remnant's feelings, speak of their previous position as one that had been. Though Babylon was not destroyed, and Edom yet to come up in remembrance of judgment before God, Jerusalem was still to be spoken of as one remembered, not forgotten—not as one which they possessed and dwelt in peace as their glory. But Babylon is spoken of as one remembered too, and yet in existence. There they had done so and so, and he would be happy that destroyed her; and Edom, still viewed as in power, to be visited of the Lord. It is thus a very instructive and pointed psalm, as well as exceedingly beautiful in its spirit and strength of association with the Lord in the sense of the appointed place of His favor, blessing, honor, and glory. The Lord would remember Edom; but Babylon was to have, it seems, some instrumental rewarder of her ways. The judgment on these two closes the psalm.
Psa. 138 then takes up the praise before the whole earth—the Lord's word. His faithfulness in truth was magnified above all His name. Mercy might have done it and be sung, but faithfulness to His promise in spite of all man's unfaithfulness (see ver. 1-3) now shone out in all its glory, and they that blessed themselves in earth would bless themselves in the God of truth. This is a glorious position—the position of the strength of the Spirit, while its tender mercy is true too to the needy and in our infirmities. But this was risen above in His strength now. The holy temple was then to be worshipped toward. Every promise had come out in its own glory in spite of the utter unfaithfulness and utter failure of man. It was true the kings of the earth had not yet come to bow to the glory of the Lord, or yet sing consequently in the ways of Jehovah, and Israel had therefore to praise before the gods. Still this in one sense exalted Jehovah's strength. All was not as yet brought into the peaceful blessedness of acknowledged rule; but Jehovah had appeared of Israel's side, so that they had that glory before al the princes of the earth. Israel had cried in the day of his trouble and the Lord had strengthened him, and now all the kings of the earth would have to bear the words of Jehovah's mouth and would sing, for indeed it would be and was blessing in the ways of Jehovah; for great (the delivered one now can say) is the glory of Jehovah. Such is the substance of the psalm as regards the remnant, as it is in the period after the destruction of Antichrist in the time of Jacob's trouble, the first great act of judgment in the person of the associated oppressor of the remnant, before the earth is subjected or its kings have learned to bow before Jehovah, the faithful God of His people in blessing. Still the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is the great binge of this psalm, and when the mighty one of death was against Him in His entering into the time of Jacob's trouble, yet with Israel against Him, associated with him; so that it could be said, This is your hour and the power of darkness. He was strengthened in His soul with strength and met in His own blessed peaceful dignity their apostate rulers that stood up against Him—was heard in that He feared, and could take the ground of resurrection against all that was against Him; and so in the strength of divine favor could in blessed perfect obedience take the cup and thus seal the certainty of this submission of all to Him in the strength of the Lord over all evil, even in the power of death. We have then in the last three verses the three great aspects of Jehovah's ways—high, but having respect to the lowly; reviving His true loved faithful servant, though such may be in trouble; stretching forth His hand against the wrath of His enemies, perfecting that which concerns His faithful servant. “For his mercy endureth forever,” and this it is has made way for the glory and manifestation of His truth according to the depth of His wisdom and unsearchable judgments. In Christ indeed, and so of all promises in Him, His word is magnified above all His name—His promises, “Yea and Amen” in Him. Blessed be He who is both Lord and servant, David's son and David's Lord, Israel's sufferer and Israel's Savior (the same love making Him one, that He might be the other in divine perfectness).
Psa. 139 The day of Christ's trouble having been thus introduced, the mystery of the Church according to divine righteousness, and searching all things even according to death, is brought in. But the Church being brought out of it stands of course above and beyond the reach of it in judgment, for it stands in the power of it according to the favor due to the person of Christ, and which in Him has raised the Church out of the full result of the judicial fullness of divine righteousness against all that divine righteousness could search; and if it reached heaven or the power of death, the two extremes of that righteousness, it found it in one in perfection, in the other in suffering its full exaction in Him who thus, in it for the Church, and the Church in Him, fills all things. (Ver. 17, 18.) The purpose of these thoughts concerning Christ and His glory is referred to, and then, consequent on this, the judgment of the wicked in vindication of His honor (who opposed and rejected Him) and that righteousness may prevail (for in truth His soul was perfect, though He went into the dust of death in its hatred of evil); and so the Church in Him. And thus the searching eye of divine righteousness, desired for it, is disciplinarian and directive—not judicial as to the acceptance of the person. This rests the whole question on higher ground—the highest and fullest ground yet taken in this book as to the manner of its communication to us, and our portion in it. It is the mystery of the Church, but hidden here.1 It is not, I will praise thee for I am searched; but, “I will praise thee for I am made.” The whole Epistle of Ephesians is the Spirit's unfolding and applying according to the full light of an ascended Savior; the force of this psalm is a commentary on it according to the light of the gospel, and its actual accomplishment. Verse 18 is restoration—His place in spite of death.
Psa. 140 The sacred people being righteous and searched, and the wicked to be judged and slain—these in their relative condition are brought in. And passing on to the condition of the Jewish people, to speak the words of Christ among the remnant as taking up their cause in that day, it looks for deliverance from them on the earth, possibly in the evil man noticing the last enemy rising from within them, especially the Antichrist; and in the violent, those who seek their own will from without against the men of peace and righteousness. Verses 12, 13 show the sure confidence of faith in their circumstances. The psalm, however, is one of character in these He sought to be delivered from—the evil ones and enemies (not designation).
Psa. 141 makes a scene deserving investigation, and enters into the position of the righteous one amongst the people—his being thrown entirely on the Lord for keeping righteousness, so that he may have no part with the wicked, willing that the righteous should smite him. He will pray for them in their trials, though they rebuke and reprove him. All he wants is righteousness; but he desires to be preserved from the vanities of the wicked. Snares they had laid around, but he was securing himself to God, and desiring this only practical acceptance with Him, Jehovah, and to Him only therefore he looks—instructive lesson. Though willing to be smitten by the righteous, verse 6 implies still an owning of them, but their liability to heavy chastisements; but as he prayed in their calamities, for a blessing is in it, in the cluster; so when chastened and overthrown, they would hear his words, for indeed they were sweet He knew it before the Lord in the day of visitation: there would be hearkeners. Thus the Spirit of Christ took up the people of Israel found in Jerusalem; as for the enemies, it was deliverance from and judgment. In verse 7 He looks at the relentless evil and violence—murder committed against the nations. He calls them in that—in spirit He loves them still; still the individual believers—for it was now on earth a question—on earth would escape, while the wicked would fall into their own nets. Look at David in the time of Saul, and there is much to guide in the understanding of the psalm. Prayer is the position in which he puts himself, praying the Lord to put a watch over him.
Psa. 142 Here we find the loneliness of Christ and consequently of His Spirit in the remnant; but Jehovah was the refuge in loneliness; and where all failed of man, he did not; and the voice of groaning was the glory of the Lord's only faithfulness. The Spirit of the Righteous and Holy One was overwhelmed. So of His yechidim in the latter day. But Jehovah knew His path, terrible, troubled, and trying as it was; and no man would know Him, not only of the peoples none were with Him, but none of His people. And so shall iniquity abound in that day: so are the saints ever tried. Look at Paul— “no man stood by me; but the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me.” See the account of these very latter days in Matt. 24. But when his faithfulness was proved, the righteous would compass Him about. This then is desertion, while his persecutors stronger than he pressed on him, i.e., as to the land of the living.
Then in Psa. 143, it is not solitariness as to trial, but judgment that is the question, that the Lord might be with Him—this between His soul and God. Trials existed—his life was smitten down to the ground—his spirit was overwhelmed within him, and his heart desolate; but judgment could not be met by man. No flesh living should be justified. This is, indeed, just what we have learned by the Holy One entering into it. He showed this very necessity of all, and the Spirit in the Lord's remnant express just their sense of this; and He, bearing it as their representative, was heard in that He feared. Still it drew His Spirit for Israel (for Israel here it is that is in question, and that in the truth of their latter day position, oppressed and having enemies, ver. 5) to the Lord as His resource, for the communion with Him was uninterrupted and unbroken. On the cross vicariously the Lord did enter into judgment, but that is just what makes all the rest true for Israel, and this only as purging. Thence direction is sought—teaching, deliverance, guidance, and the cutting off of enemies, for He was Jehovah's servant. This, then, is the psalm of judgment, and Messiah's and the people's part in it is very plain, and how He could plead this for them, and they by His Spirit in them. The cry is founded on God's faithfulness and righteousness—not on theirs as regards the servant's condition. There was no entering into condition, This, I repeat, was just what Christ proved in the atonement. Righteousness is pleaded in all His relationship with the Lord; and then cutting off His enemies is mercy, and only mentioned as to this which puts mercy clearly in a new place—riddance of the earth, that there may be a land of uprightness and an earth of peace, through the peaceable fruits of righteousness, and they that troubled gone in mercy.
Psa. 140 then enters into the position of the righteous generally in the latter day, in presence of the enemy of the Spirit of Christ. Psa. 141. His thoughts before the Lord in the midst of the people in that case. Psa. 142 He finds there are none—He is left alone. Psa. 143 The question of Lord as His servant through the available intercession of Christ—the presence of the Spirit of Christ in the remnant thus brought before the Lord alone, with the consequent direct supplication from verse 7 to end.
Psa. 144 Jehovah is celebrated by Messiah as in the war and conflict for the people. First (ver. 2), what He is to Him; then subduing His people under Him. Then comes the righteous inquiry for judgment: what is man? that the Lord so long lingers and pauses before He gets rid of the wicked and the evil. (Comp. Psa. 8) For here man is seen the proud adversary on earth of the man of God's right hand, after lengthened and infinite mercy bounded first by this state of adversary, which was patience, not with abstractedly possible return, but manifested opposition to good, and therefore would be feeble acquiescence in evil, now God's patience had been the patience of perfect power not of feebleness with evil. Man's worthlessness is here thus presented to Him. It was now the hand of strange children, and Messiah (pleading withal for those put for, and then with, whom He was afflicted) must be delivered. Man is like to vanity. “Bow thy heavens, O Jehovah;” and the righteous Messiah claims the intervention of power, and this brings judgment and new songs—judgment in order that righteousness may bear its unhindered and natural fruits of blessing. It is here with intercession for judgment, because of the position of things. Happy the people in this case of blessing of righteousness—Messiah's blessing; yea, the people that have Jehovah for their God. Thus the vanity of man, the judgment and blessing of righteousness, are all identified through Messiah with His people, even the remnant of Israel.
Psa. 145 Messiah extols Jehovah in the millennial blessings of peace (ver. 18, 19, 20) sheaving its introduction by the hearing of the cry of the sorrowful, oppressed, then yechidim-mercy and judgment. But that first statement gives the force of the psalm, and it is most lovely in unfolding His intercourse: the anthem between Him and His saints and all creation, His works and all flesh—the chorus extolling Jehovah, the blessed in that day. It is a most beautiful psalm in this respect, and carries us far into blessing: and it shall be centraneous. We however, in our own abiding—in sphere, eternal blessing; this with Messiah below.
Psa. 146 to the end is the great chorus of praise to Jah the Lord, the Jehovah, or Eternal One of creation, and of Israel, of which Israel was made dispensatorily the tried and blessed bead; Messiah as of the earth and of the flesh coming of them and coming to them, and withal the Lord's earthly sanctuary being in the midst of them, the center of the blessing and the peculiar place of nearness.
Psa. 147 The deliverer and executor of judgment, Zion's God the Lord. Messiah announces Him thus—He only could. They were the objects of it. Then He is to Israel the remnant, our God; and praise (and they at peace) is pleasant and comely. How lovely is this peace, and the Lord's prosperity in them! Yea, He takes pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy—not their own righteousness. Also they have His word, the oracles of God. He had not dealt so with any nation (the Church is high up above in these blessings). There are two points then: His mercy to Jerusalem, building it up and gathering the outcasts of Israel; and His power in creation (His own strength being the thing displayed and delighting in none else). The connection of Israel with creation blessing is very strong, and a very cardinal point in the order of God's economies. Christ as originally coming would have been (had men not been all sinful) the head over them in this blessing. He shall be but taking in the heavens on a larger scale, and elevated on a higher principle of grace, and that in purification and redemption, risen as He shall be (as in Hos. 2:21, 2321And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; (Hosea 2:21)
23And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God. (Hosea 2:23)
). Creation shall be restored in their restoration; but these higher things are brought in, and a more glorious source of it; but all linked together by the exaltation of the rejected but returned Man. The Second Adam is the Lord from heaven; but it is grace and government at this time, and not simple order of beauty with God all in all.
He sends His word into the world, and shows it to Jacob. His power in this nearness to Israel brought low is the great theme, however, of this psalm. His power—Jehovah is the theme however, not the Father, as in that character; and the heavens shall praise Him; though we in our own special church position rejoice there in the Father—our Father” the kingdom,” it is written, “of their Father.”
Psa. 148 Israel's relation with this general or universal praise is then taken up. This is the great earthly millennial result, but connected, as we have seen, with a sphere beyond it—all creation. Praise Jah is still the key-note. First, Praise Jehovah from the heavens; verse 7, praise from the earth. In the heavens are we; but this is not the subject of the Old Testament word. This mystery is hidden from ages and generations; but we know our place in it; but all the creatures in it are to praise Jehovah, for He created them. Then from the earth; and here the kings of the earth come in, and all people, princes, and judges of the earth. They are to praise the name of Jehovah; for His name alone is exalted—His glory above earth and heaven; but He had elevated the horn of His people. He is the praise of all His chasidim, even of the children of Israel—a people near unto Him. As power was shown in the former psalm in act, so the place of praise; Israel and creation are shown here, as alluded to at the close of it in the millennial hallelujah.
Psa. 149 rises up to the proper praise of Israel for themselves, as between themselves and God in this nearness. The saints here are always chasidim, i.e., Israel so accepted and beloved in mercy—the meek and God-honoring ones—the remnant.
Psa. 150 is the great and comprehensive chorus: God—El—the mighty and strong, and only One, who judges and swears in Himself alone, is celebrated—not Jehovah. It looks in the sanctuary, now indeed specially the heavenly Jerusalem is this in the day of glory for the Lamb, but intrinsically in the light which no man can approach unto. His own secret place of holiness and separatedness from all, He is praised in their thought—spiritual thought by the Holy Ghost—on earth at least alone reaches Him; then not only in His separation above all, but in the firmament of His power, the strength and stability of this place of steadfast testimony of immovable greatness and power. Then His acts and greatness; then with man's (still on earth) best praise; and then everything that hath breath is to celebrate Jab, the existing One—Him indeed in whom they live and move and have their being and breath to praise. It is our privilege now, but it is anticipative of the time when we shall actually be called on to do so. This shall be the full tide of unhindered praise to God Himself where He is for what He has done, goes with all given energies, and by all that hath breath in formal character. It is indeed Jewish and earthly; but as before it reached to the heavens—the created heavens—where we may be, here to the sanctuary of El where He is in His own glory. And this must close, as indeed it is the source of praise. For the soul rises up from Ashrēy-Ha-Ish to Hallelujah (Halleloo eth Jehovah), Halleloo ēl Bekodsho. Then the soul necessarily stops—at least, finds itself at the infinite close of all. Before it is known only by the Holy Ghost.