Practical Reflections on the Psalms: Psalms 135-138

Psalm 135‑142  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 7
(Psa. 135-138)
Psa. 135 gives the more general praise of Israel, not so much priestly praise, but then it consequently brings out the place of the people as such with God. They are in the courts of God, there as His people, praise Him, for He is good, and it is pleasant. We do praise Him as priests in the sanctuary. But we praise Him also as on earth in the sense of His goodness, and praise is pleasant. His name is known; that is, His revelation of Himself, so as to be known to us. But there is more: we sing, as we do all else, as the elect of God, holy and beloved—an immense privilege. It is not only that God is good, what He is in nature; but we are the special objects of His favor and delight. This, when known, is an immense delight. As people of God we know it, and for ourselves as part of it, but, when personally brought home, it is of divine delight to be the peculiar treasure of God, and that not as a national election but according to His own nature, the personal objects of His delight. It is known, it is evident, as of pure grace. It is what gives it its value. Faith recognizes it as true, rests in it. It is a doctrine of Scripture—the faith, but in relationship it is great delight. But we know withal that He is great, and though we know Him as Father, yet we do know Him, realize His presence, as exceeding great, and as supreme above all; and the heart delights in this. Our God is above all. It is more general for us than for all Israel who could speak of other gods, but the absoluteness and supremacy of God for the heart remains true. He is sovereign in His actings everywhere, a comfort when we have to traverse in weakness a world of wickedness. He disposes of everything. He has smitten the power of evil and brought out His people, and brought them into a heavenly inheritance whence the powers of darkness are expelled. This is true for us now, as in Eph. 4 and Col. 2, though not for the possession of the inheritance. And we reckon fully on the final result. And it is looked for presently, though no day or hour be known. This as to Israel is brought out here in a remarkable passage. The original promise in which God appeared to Moses as taking up Israel forever in grace, His name of memorial forever, is cited; and the prophetic declaration in Deut. 32 of what He would do when Israel had wholly utterly failed—judge His people and repent Himself concerning His servants. The idols are naught. It is in the place of royal rest that praise is found, the Jerusalem where Jehovah dwells. And so for us, the Church and even the individual saint knows itself as the heavenly dwelling-place of God, the bride; and now we dwell in Him and He in us, as we know by the Spirit, and collectively too are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit; but it is as a new heavenly thing, as that which is heavenly, as that which remains.
Psa. 136 celebrates a blessed principle in connection with Zion, the place of sovereign grace in power. Our having the place of praise and thanksgiving depends on this, that His mercy endures forever. Ichabod had been written on Israel; the ark where the blood was to be placed on the day of atonement, that Israel might have a place with God, was taken—as far as Israel went, lost. But God's mercy endures forever, and David, so soon as he sets the ark on Zion, establishes this song there, celebrating the alone Jehovah, the creator and wonder-doer of His people. His mercy does endure forever for us. Christ and the Father's love in every way secure our blessing and ourselves for it. But while glory awaits us, and He will confirm us to the end, we possess that in which He confirms us, even eternal life as His children. The life we have and know it, the inheritance we have nothing of as yet, but are assured of and being kept for it. And in this wilderness we can abundantly say, His mercy endureth forever. But it is only along the road we say it, because we have eternal life. Only if a soul wanders from Him and is restored, it can say with special application, His mercy endures forever.
Psa. 137. There is a double application of this to our souls. Nothing can make us forget the heavenly Jerusalem, the house where God and the Lamb are the temple, and where they dwell. All the glory of the world is nothing compared with that heavenly home. But the Church on earth, which will be it in glory, arrests our hearts; we see it desolate and her walls cast down, her children scattered or in captivity. But the saint's heart is still there. The outward worldly glory of Babylon cannot efface the attachment and love of heart to the Church as God founded it on earth; and even the judgment of those who corrupted it is looked for with joy by the Christian. But of the individuals a Christian could not do that—it would be revenge—but of the whole power of evil.
Psa. 138. But the enduring of God's mercy forever brings out a blessed apprehension in the heart of many other truths, which make God's character known, and His word precious as revealing it and as sure, so that the whole heart praises. And this is a very important element. Not will for some blessing, not even thankfulness for that which we do desire, while the main current of the heart is elsewhere than with God; but such a learning of God as makes the whole heart praise Him, and this is always in circumstances which makes the whole heart want Him (as it will be with Israel in the latter day). This may be learned gradually by emptying of self, or in times of deep trial when help fails, and thus self is broken up within. Hence, too, when God is thus known, He is praised in presence of all the pretentious power of this world, which seemed to make those that leaned upon it happy and enriched. We praise with the whole heart, we praise before the gods, all within; all without has given place to God known and revealed in His word. Lovingkindness and truth are the great traits in which He is known, just as grace (a fuller word) and truth came by Jesus Christ, who is the living Word. There they came, and we know their fullness and perfectness in Him; here they are learned by experience, and it is lovingkindness in nature and circumstances, not infinite and perfect grace in itself. But God had here made good His word. His faithfulness had exalted itself, and taught the saint how right he was in trusting God when all seemed contrary. But this involved His goodness also in caring for us and persevering in His love in spite of failure. His word taught us to trust in Him, was in its nature a call to it, revealed His goodness to sinners to this effect, but called us to wait on Him to this effect, to trust Him though it set us in a lowly place, apparently far off from all our desires and left evil in power to try our faith. So it was with Christ and those who followed Him. But there is another point. The saint led by this word, and guided in his thoughts by it, cried and was answered; and, before the public answer came forth by power, God strengthened with strength in his soul. How true this is of Christ even, and of the Christian! But this gives the assurance that all shall have to own the power which we have trusted in the time of darkness. We have had God's mind, followed Jesus, done God's will (by power) before power came in to deliver and make that will good. But every knee shall bow to Him to whom our knees have gladly bowed. But they shall praise and bless His name (for those are looked at here) who own that power truly in that day. Thus the word revealed God as the object of trust, and there His faithfulness came to make good all that He had led the heart to trust in. The word gave both—revealed God and gave that to hope in which it was fulfilled. This brought out another character of goodness. The Lord, high as He was, had respect to the lowly. He is too high to make a difference of man's exaltation. If we look down from heaven, all is flat upon the earth. But there are high and low here, and God thinks of the lowly. Trouble, too, comes on the faithful, but the goodness and the promise give the issue according to the word. Nor is this quite all. God will perfect what concerns us, make good in blessing in and to us all that was in His heart, and which He had revealed in His word, in relationship and communion with Himself. Over all, through all difficulties, and, beyond all, His mercy endureth forever.