Practical Reflections on the Psalms: Psalms 114-118

Psalm 114‑118  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Psalm 114
Psa. 114. The same thing as to power is seen in this very beautiful little psalm. He brought water out of the flint rock. His presence makes the earth that has forgotten Him to tremble; but for His people in the desert, His power and grace bring refreshment and life out of what seems to man hopeless and most opposed. Dependence and confidence in Him—such is the peaceful path of faith.
Psalm 115
Psa. 115 The first principle here brought under our eye is setting the Lord's glory first, a simple but mighty one— “not to us but to thy name.” So we find perfectly in Christ. But this is followed, for all that, by the connection of that glory with God's people. The first principle gives purity of motive—this the courage and hope of faith. And note what is specially blessed—the name, (i.e., the revelation of God's character) is specially suited to the blessings of His people. He had spoken in promise, but they have failed on their side to take up the promise in the path of righteousness. Yet God has promised, and here His name of government in grace comes in. “Give the glory to thy name for thy mercy,” that is part of His name; “and for thy truth's sake,” that is another. And here the glory comes out—if He were not the former, the latter could not be righteous judgment, would have not cut off the guilty; but there would have been no fulfillment of promise. But mercy rejoices over judgment. What God is in His nature, love interprets itself in His ways towards the failing, in mercy, leading them, no doubt, into the place of repentance that they may suitably enjoy; suitably to any moral relationship with God, but then accomplishing His promise in truth. But the divine glory goes first. This is counted on. God had made Himself to display His ways, the God of His people. “Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God?” Such was the ancient plea of Moses and Joshua. This is, further, in contrast with the idols of the heathen. When God's glory is first sought by faith, it not only turns to the blessing of the people according to that glory, but it opens out into the consciousness and apprehension of that glory in itself in the hearts of the people. This is a great blessing. They joy, no doubt, in the salvation, but they joy in God. For the full display of this, He must come in in judgment; not for our blessing, for He has given us heavenly things, where His own dwelling is, in what He is in Himself, not merely as what He is in His ways. For we may remark how earth is here the sphere, and this present life the energy in which God is known and owned. “The dead praise not the Lord;” “the earth hath He given to the children of men.” We rejoice in being dead and having our place in resurrection with Christ in heavenly places. We cannot keep this too strongly in mind, though there be instruction as to God's ways on earth, in these psalms.
In these last especially, the earthly government is in view, because judgment at the end is just coming in. It is a blessing to have heaven instead, and our God, such as He is, our Father.
Psalm 116
In Psa. 116 the suppliant has been heard; the government of God consequently enters but little into its composition. The soul has been brought down under the pressure of death, but delivered. It is the history of the remnant at the end, into which the blessed Lord so wonderfully entered, but which is not a prophecy of Him, and applicable to any so suffering, as is seen by the apostle's citation of verse 10. The deliverance is for this world. The thought of the psalm is—grace and faithfulness in Jehovah in delivering. The character of the saint is simplicity: a spirit difficult to some, but precious. It is formed by a simple-hearted reference to the thoughts of God and living in them, and then trusting Him who always makes His own thoughts good, and remembers those who thus trust in Him. The opposite to this is—the activity of man's thoughts, his will and counsels mixing themselves with them. These perish, he is disappointed. The humble spirit does not think so much—it receives God's thoughts. They have a moral character. He abides in them, is obedient, and waits on God. (Compare Eleazar, Gen. 24) The deliverance of God comes as favor and an answer to the soul, and is full of sweetness. His faithfulness to this state and expectation is felt. Hence, on receiving the blessing, thankfulness, (not merely enjoying the blessing) is the fruit; and, “I love the Lord:” hence sweet associations of soul are connected with it. It is felt that the Lord has dealt bountifully. The soul returns to its rest, faith had been at work before. The soul believed and spoke as trusting God, but was sore troubled—now finds the God it thus trusted its source of joy and blessing, not, mark, the blessing it gets. The soul was turned to Him, not to comfort, in the trouble. It is turned to Him now in the time of joy. The Lord Himself is before the soul, its source of blessing. Note another thing in this psalm, the feeling of the failure of all men. It is not exactly “in my haste,” but in my anxious pressure of alarm, such as would make man flee in haste. This gave the consciousness that man could not be relied on. It was not simple faith or sound judgment this, but there are moments when God makes us feel that we cannot rely on man, but only on Him. Often we have comfort from men. “God who comforteth them who are cast down, comforted me by the coming of Titus.” But we must not rely on man. Hence there are moments when we have to say, “all men are liars,” and we are cast on the Lord. How truly the Lord was so, I need not say; yet in grace He could say to His disciples, Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. But there was an hour when He must say, “one of you shall betray me,” and feel it; and, “all ye shall be offended because of me this night, and shall leave me alone.” That showed His perfection. It teaches us to lean on the Lord only, not diminishing cordial confidence and openness of heart, but teaching to rely on God. Unhindered joy will come afterward. But in all trouble the Lord thinks of us.
Psalm 117
Psa. 117 The consciousness of grace and favor enlarges the heart. Israel never thought of calling the nations to praise when under the law. But now that mercy has brought blessing, they do. It is the sentiment of what God is to us, the thankful enjoyment of it as of God, which opens the mouth and heart by the knowledge of Him. It calls others to enjoy His goodness, too. It is an assimilation to the divine nature and privilege in the knowledge of love; only, as it should be, we learn love by knowing its exercise towards ourselves.
Psalm 118
In Psa. 118 we are still on the ground of final blessing, so that the government of God in the midst of trial is only referred to in the past. It is Israel's recognition of the divine ways and of Christ Himself when blessing is come, owning that Jehovah's mercy has lasted out all their ways and endured forever. I notice only the aspect of circumstances as applicable to us at all times. God is for His people; but men, all men, may be against them. One has only to trust the Lord, and victory remains with faith. But in this, where evil has to be governmentally corrected, Satan seeks, Satan has his part. How truly it was so in leading all men against Christ; how fully so in the last days of Antichrist's power, I need not say; but as the book of Job shows, it is so in the various chastenings of God. Evil on the conscience, or even unconsciously in the heart, gives him a handle, sometimes a terrible one, against the soul even where it is upright. Rest is found only in self-judgment and confession of what gives him a handle. Satan would seek to make us fall thus; but behind all this the hand of God is to be seen, as in Job's case. “Thou hast chastened me sore, but thou hast not given me over unto death.” It is for blessing. One only could declare, “The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in me;” but with us, all is love and blessing, to make us know ourselves, and then enjoy His blessing, (compare Deut. 8,) and fully own what Christ is according to His victory and glory in the counsels of God. We must be thus exercised, the ground plowed and harrowed, but the result is— “this is the day which the Lord hath made.” No doubt this is the final blessing of the earth when Christ comes, but in every exercise of a soul brought to the point of uprightness with God, the principle is made good; the gates of righteousness into the joy of communion, so to speak, are opened. And the mercy to which we had no title we own to be the Lord's doing, and all is light. The direct application to the remnant is evidently the just application of the psalm, but we connect this great display of God's government with the details in which it applies to us.