Practical Reflections on the Psalms: Psalms 1-4

Psalm 1‑4  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 7
My purpose in this series of papers is not to interpret the Psalms, but to draw from them some portion of the spiritual instruction and edification they afford our souls. The interpretation has been sought to be given elsewhere. The Psalms afford us special light on the government of God and the sympathies of the Spirit of Christ with his people. This, in the first instance, has the Jews for its object and center of display. Still, in making allowance for the difference of their state and ours, and of the relationship of a people with Jehovah and children with a Father, God's ways in government apply to us Christians also. If it is not the highest ground on which a Christian is viewed, for that is heavenly, it is a most important and interesting one, and brings out all the tenderest displays of divine care, the care of Him who counts the very hairs of our head, and the seriousness and vigilance required in walking before God, who never swerves from His holy ways, who is not mocked, nor withdraws His eyes from the righteous, though all be the ministration of His grace for perfecting us according to their ways before Him. Of this application of the Government of God to the Christian's ways, the Epistles of Peter are more especially the witness. See, for example, 1 Peter 1:17; 3:10-1517And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: (1 Peter 1:17)
10For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 12For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. 13And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 14But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (1 Peter 3:10‑15)
, and the spirit and tenor of the whole Epistle. This government in the 2nd Eph. is carried on to the consummation of all things. The first is more the government of the righteous, the second the judgment of the wicked, though that judgment, as closing the power of evil and the deliverance of the just, be alluded to in the first also. He was the apostle of the circumcision, and this subject came specially under his eye in teaching.
Psalm 1
I. This government in the earth is plainly pointed out in the first Psalm and the character of those whom that government blesses. He it is who keeps separate from the wicked in his way, and delights in the law of Jehovah and meditates on it. Submission to the Christ, as the depositary of this government in God's counsels at the close of this time of trial, is the subject of the second. Only a few words on the first of these two Psalms, which lay the basis of all the rest. The counsel of the ungodly, the way of sinners, and the seat of the scornful are avoided. While here connected with human responsibility in walk, yet it is being kept from the evil. I do not desire to spin out the force of the words, but a few remarks may be made on these words. The ungodly have plans, counsels of their own will, their own way of viewing things and arrangements to obtain their purpose. There the just is not found. The sinner has a path in which he walks, pleasing himself there: the just does not walk with him. The scornful are at ease, despising God. There the just will not sit. Judgment will come and such will not be allowed to stand in the congregation of the just then brought to rest by the glory of God.
Psalm 2
II. The second Psalm announces the establishment of Christ's earthly triumph and royalty in Zion, when the heathen shall be given Him for an inheritance. This is not fulfilled. The government of God does not secure the good from suffering as it will then, but turns suffering to spiritual blessing and restrains the remainder of wrath, giving a glorious reward for our little sorrows. But for us a Father's name is revealed in them. We call on the Father who, without respect of persons, judges according to every man's work, and we pass the time of our sojourning here in fear, knowing that we are redeemed. Here kings are called on to submit before the coming judgment of the earth. But this is not yet executed and we have to learn our own lesson in patience. This the Psalms will teach us.
Psalm 3
Let us see the lessons of the first Psalms which follow. Troublers are multiplied, but the first thought of faith is “Lord.” There the spirit is at home and looks at troublers from thence. Jehovah is thus trusted. When “Lord” comes in the heart before those that trouble me, all is well. Our spirit sees him concerned in matters and is at peace. He is a glory, shield, and lifter up. Another point is, it is not a lazy, listless view of evil and good, nor listless confidence. Desire and dependence are active, the links of the soul with Jehovah. “I cried and He heard.” That is certain. That is the confidence that if we ask anything according to His will He hears, and if He hears, we have the petition. We do not desire, if sincere, to have anything not according to His will; but it is an immense thing, in the midst of trial and difficulty, to be sure of God's hearing, and God's arm, in what is according to His will. Hence rest and peace. I laid me down and slept: I awaked: for the Lord sustained me. How emphatic and simple! Is it so with you, reader? Does all trouble find your heart resting on God as your Father that, when it is multiplied, it leaves your spirit at rest, your sleep sweet, lying down sleeping and rising as if all was peace around you because you know God is and disposes of all things? Is He thus between you and your troubles and troublers? And if lie is, what can reach you! The thousands of enemies make no difference if God is there. The Assyrian is gone before he can arise to trouble or execute the threats, which, after all, betray his conscious fear. We are foolish as to difficulties and trials, measuring them by our strength instead of God's, who is for us if we are His. What matter that the cities of Canaan were walled up to heaven, if the walls fell at the blast of a ram's horn? Could Peter have walked on a smooth sea better than on a rough one? Our wisdom is to know that we can do nothing without Jesus—with Him, everything that is according to His will. The secret of peace is to be occupied with Him for His own sake and we shall find peace in Him and through Him, and be more than conquerors when trouble comes, not that we shall be insensible to trial, but find Him and His tender care with us when trouble comes.
Psalm 4
IV. The fourth Psalm affords us another most important principle, the effect of a good conscience in calling upon God in our distress. It is not here a good conscience as justified from sin, but a practically good conscience, giving confidence towards God. If our heart condemn us not, says the apostle, then have we confidence towards God. Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness. He does not say, Justify me, O God of my righteousness; but hear me. The soul is in trouble, yet had been enlarged, had had experience of God's faithful lovingkindness. His glory and honor was from God. How true this was of Christ! Man turned it into shame and sought after vanity. Still it remained unalterably true, in the divine government of Him who cannot deny Himself, that he has set apart the godly for Himself. They are thine, says Christ. We are a peculiar people to Himself. Now this is always true, but in walking in godliness we have the present confidence of it, and our eye sees God brightly, and we know then He will hear us. We have not lost the perception of what He is at the present moment for us. Our soul is not beclouded, and nothing is so soon clouded as present dependence on and confidence in God. Integrity, when there is dependence, gives courage. It is not that God will not hear us from the depths of contrition—but that is another thing. Integrity of heart gives confidence in the day of trouble, because God is seen by the spirit. The eye is then fixed on Him across all the trouble. And so it is here: Commune with your own heart and be still; worship God in integrity, without fear, and trust in Him. In what is around us many might say, Where is any good to be found? and discouraged and disheartened, despair of finding any; but in and through all circumstances the light of God's countenance is the secure and unchangeable good. His favor is better than life. Besides, it secures good. The power of evil is below the power of God. He disposes of it, removes it, turns it to blessing, annuls it as He sees fit. The light of His countenance does this for faith. And the soul rises above evil and rejoices in God. Hence there is more joy than in temporal blessings. They may be taken away: besides, they are not God Himself, and the light of His countenance in trouble is altogether Himself, and gives the secret to the soul of His being for us. Hence he lays down in peace and sleeps—does not disquiet himself in anxious watchfulness against evil, for after all it is God only that secures him in joy or trouble.