Practical Reflections on the Psalms: Psalms 25-28

Psalm 25‑28  •  19 min. read  •  grade level: 7
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In Psa. 25 we have, for the first time, the definite confession of sin. This, with 26, the declaration and consciousness of integrity of heart, form the subjective basis of all their experiences: the two following the objective. Jehovah, light and salvation, and present distress, through the pressure of the wicked, still here with confidence of heart in Jehovah. But the more we study the Psalms, the more we shall see that they apply properly to the Jews, and that almost universally; referring to the godly, righteous man of the remnant, animated according to his position, whose thoughts are furnished by the Spirit of Christ speaking in the prophet. Many parts of them can be applied to Christ Himself, when all cannot. But this shows what I have already remarked, that the possibility of referring passages to Christ does not make them exclusively prophecies of Him, nor prove that all the Psalm applies to Him; and, further, the real danger of taking the Psalms as the expression of Christian piety. They are not so. Often they furnish blessed instruction on confidence in God; but he who would take the form of his piety from the Psalms, as a whole, would falsify Christianity. Having said this, I turn to details. The soul is lifted up to Jehovah in its difficulties—the true secret of overcoming them, and having peace in the midst of them. The true heart has no other refuge. Another distracts it from this. It says, my God, in them—it can now, through Christ, and trust in God; and looks not to be ashamed, nor its enemies triumph over it. This in difficulties is the first desire of faith. But it cannot confine itself when real to self. It is linked up by grace with God's goodness, felt in this very hope; but then with all those who wait on Jehovah. It desires that the wicked—causeless transgressors, i.e., those who love iniquity, not who fall in it, may be ashamed. This, as a general principle, is no way unchristian. The Christian cannot desire that an individual enemy come under judgment; but he does desire that evil be set aside, and that the adversaries of good be made ashamed: he loves and desires righteousness, and that the oppressor of righteousness, and of the lowly, and meek, and just, be put down, and put to shame. In his own case he can desire it as to result, without wishing evil to the individual. His trust in Jehovah prevents his taking the smallest step for the injury of his enemy; but he refers his case to the Lord, and leaves it in His hands, looking for His deliverance.
But there is another characteristic of the saint whose heart is turned towards the Lord in repentance. He seeks Jehovah's ways, His paths—to be led in His truth and taught. Remark this very definite character of good in the upright soul. It is not simply a right way, but the Lord's way he seeks. His spirit is returned to the Lord, thinks of Him, estimates His character, is conscious of owing allegiance and service to Him, belonging to Him, and that all does, and delights in and seeks only His way. But this psalm presents a returning man, (the Jew,) not one first converted. Israel (and so the saint) does remember and recall, but looks to Jehovah's remembering his faults no more, and according to His mercy to remember himself, to remember him in that way; for He knew Jehovah to be merciful, and it was for the glory of His own name, he could ask it for His goodness' sake. This shows, not known pardon, but the confiding of grace. This is not a purged conscience, yet it flows from the answer of God. But it is an acceptable way of approaching God. So the poor woman that was a sinner in the gospel. She came thus, she went away in peace. But there is a faithfulness of the Lord to His own goodness—His own character, which is above evil, which (a ransom being found which maintains righteousness) makes Him act for the true blessing of the sinner thus looking to Him. As it is said even of Joseph, “He was a just man, and not willing to make her a public example.” No doubt other motives come in with man; still, as far as he has to act like God, this principle comes in. Good and upright is the Lord. Good to us, He loves uprightness, loves to see it, and so will teach it in grace to those wandered from it. It is sweet to one that has wandered to count on this. Remark, it is not here His way. That was the expression of the state of the saint's heart—this the revelation of (or, rather, the confidence of) the saint in what was in Jehovah's. What the way was not exactly the question—of course a good one; but He would teach them in it. His active love would be occupied with them for good. Yet the character of the way is not left out when the true character of the renewed saint is brought in. The meek will He guide in judgment, in the path which expresses God's mind. The meek will He teach His way.
But there is progress in other respects in this psalm. It divides itself into three parts, 1-7, 8-14, 14-22. In the first part, the oppressed and tried soul judging its past sins, but trusting God and looking to Him, pleads with God in respect of its wants and difficulties, in presence of the power of evil. In the second part, this reference to God has led the soul to speak about Him, dwelling on and declaring what He is in His ways. In the third, the soul looks personally to the Lord, as assured of His interest in it, and calls down the eye of God on itself and on its enemies and circumstances, looking for forgiveness in that, but confiding in conscious integrity; and, finally, applies its request to all Israel. But there is also progress in detail, as to the condition of the soul in speaking of God. First, His goodness and uprightness lead Him to teach sinners uprightness in heart. They had wandered in their own ways; how terribly are God's forgotten. But the good and gracious Lord will not leave them unguided; their state draws out His compassion. He loves the right way, nor can He bless elsewhere. He teaches sinners in the way. But the effect of acknowledging sin and knowing the goodness of God, is meekness, subduedness of spirit, and lowliness; the absence of haughtiness, of self, of what the heathens considered the spring of virtue. In this state God guides in judgment and teaches His way. Not only the way is taught to one who had wandered far from it; but where there is lowliness and submission to God, He guides in the intelligence of His ways, in their own spirit and mind. They are formed by His instructions to judge of what God's own way is. This is an internal and moral conformity which applies itself to discern and judge circumstances. And this moral conformity and discernment is very precious. But verse 12 goes further. We have one fearing God, walking in the consciousness of His presence, and responsibility to Him, referring in heart to Him as subject to Him. Here is not merely moral discernment, but knowledge of the chosen way of God. The man who is guided in judgment will know what is right and do it, and avoid what is wrong, but the man of Issachar had understanding of the times. There was a way God chose in the midst of prevalent evil, and he who feared Jehovah, should be taught in this way. He would find the path which issued in full blessing. This is a great privilege, and of which no surrounding darkness or confusion can deprive us. It is the way Jehovah chooses in the midst of it—a special covenant way for those who fear Him. So surely there is for the Christian in the confusion in which the Church of God is. This is shown with additional evidence in the words which follow. The secret of Jehovah, for He has a secret for the ears of those who hear, is with them that fear Him—His friends to whom He makes known His mind. It is wonderful that Mary knew more of it than Martha. She could anoint Him beforehand for His burial, had the Lord's mind in the scene which was before. His word is always a guard against false pretenses to this, but it remains ever true, that the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him. And however all seems to run against His sure promise, they see the result and progress towards it by faith, and will see it in full accomplishment further on when His ways are accomplished. This is a great blessing and gives a tranquility, a calm, in the path, which nothing else does. One has the Lord's mind in it. This closes the second part. In traversing the evil, the trust of the soul is in the Lord, and His faithful love. “Mine eyes are ever to the Lord, he shall pluck my feet out of the net.” This is the secret of the Lord. One looks out of all the evil and trusts in Him who is above it all. Knowledge of the Lord's secret is not insensibility to present evil, even as it affects self; nor coldness as to the Lord's interest in ourselves, not only in righteousness, (though He be ever righteous,) but in ourselves. The secret of the Lord, through His fear, tends to give this intimacy and confidence. Turn thou unto me, and have mercy upon me, for I am afflicted and desolate. There is a truth of heart with the Lord. But this supposes integrity, and such is found here; and such in Christ is found in the true of heart, though they confess themselves in themselves the chief of sinners, and in their flesh no good thing. The heart can present all the hostility of its enemies to God, and leave that also with Him. It looks to be not ashamed, for it has put its trust in Him. Christ only had to go through the contrary for us, the upright soul never will. But the heart, though having this intimacy with, and confidence in, God, does not forget His people—Israel, then; for us, the Church. The heart is there and, if it is intimate with God, must be. I have entered somewhat into the detail of moral feelings exhibited in the psalm, but it must be held in mind that all are founded on the presence in the heart of a deep consciousness of what Jehovah was for it, that the thought of Jehovah predominated, and is the source of all that is felt.
In Psa. 26 it is, as already remarked, the consciousness of integrity rather than the confession of sins, but here, also, all refers to Jehovah, and draws from what Jehovah is, and the attachment of the soul to Him, the principle of separation from evil doers, and final joy in His congregation when there shall be full deliverance from them. The spirit of the psalm is that integrity which has kept the soul by its own affections, and this attachment to Jehovah, and trust in Jehovah in presence of the power of evil (and for the time, as between them and the saints, evildoers are always the most powerful, because they can act according to their will without restraint or conscience,) apart from evildoers; and the conscience in presence of Jehovah looks to God's not gathering it with sinners, when He comes in in power, and on this it counts in faith. It is the expression of the path and desire of integrity in presence of evil.
Psa. 27 shows the heart confident in Jehovah, yet exercised before Him in the presence of the outward manifestations of evil. What would create fear more than distress of spirit? The connection of confidence in thinking of the enemies, and exercise of heart when looking to God, I think instructive, though at first sight it seems strange in this psalm. Confidence is not indifference or insensibility; but true exercises of heart with God, even when fear accompanies those exercises, spew themselves in confidence and boldness in presence of the hostile action of evil. Man would have spoken of fear when in presence of the enemy and confidence when with God. Whereas grace, working in true exercises of heart with God, gives boldness with the enemy. There is a real power of evil. The rightly taught heart feels it in its inward sources and reality (more or less spiritually,) but feels it with God, and then is at peace in the midst of, and as to, the conflict itself. So Christ sweat, as it were, great drops of blood in exercise of soul before God, and was of perfect calmness in the presence of his enemies, yea, they fell to the ground at the mention of His name. This is full of instruction as to the difficulties and pains of Christian life. Where the heart, conscious of the power of evil, is exercised with and before God as to it, the evil itself, whatever its power, is powerless when it comes, assuming the exercise to be complete. “This is your hour,” said Christ, “and the power of darkness.” But He had felt all that with God, and took the cup, as to the fact, out of the Father's, not the enemy's hand, who had, as to Christ, no such power. The psalm shows us the working of this in ordinary men according to His Spirit. Jehovah is the saints' light by faith, lightens up all around. There is no power of darkness for the spirit, when darkness is there in power. It rules in the enemies, but light is in the heart from the Lord, and it walks thus in the light. This is a great consolation. But the Lord is more than this—He is actual deliverance. This, till the cup was drank, He could not be for Christ; but He is known to be so for the redeemed soul in the midst of the trial. The same revelation of Jehovah which gives light, gives us in the light to be assured of the deliverance: I do not say necessarily to see the deliverance, for the how may be obscured, but to be assured of it. Because Jehovah is there in light, He will deliver; so the Father for us, and in His place of government, the Lord. But if it be God Himself, clearly there is nothing to fear. This is celebrated in thinking of the wicked, whom no conscience restrains—of war, where will is unbridled, however violent and mighty; if the Lord is there, all is provided for. But an important principle, or state of soul, is associated with, and is the basis of, this confidence—entire singleness of eye and desire, the looking to Jehovah for, and seeking one thing, to be with Him, in His presence where He is, and can be adored; to behold His beauty, and learn there His will and mind. But this, on the other hand, is connected with confidence in His goodness. The soul, defenseless in itself, knows the Lord will hide it in the time of trouble in His pavilion. Who shall hurt or disturb it there? And what love in the Lord, what interest He takes in those He loves! The soul dwells with Him, and dwells in safety. It is not apparent deliverance, but the secret of his tabernacle. And it is wonderful how the Lord does when evil rages, and there seems no resource; the soul seeks none, it confides sweetly and quietly in the Lord, sure of security in Him. The 6th verse counts on full deliverance and praise in His tabernacle, now not a hiding-place, nor a secret, but the blessed place of open praise. In the following verses we have the exercises of soul with the Lord, while waiting on Him for help. The Lord had called to seek His face. He could not turn it away. The soul recognizes here the possibility of anger, and deprecates it, and counts on grace. This is important for the soul, for one might think it could trust in the Lord if He had nothing against it. But not so: the heart may recognize that it ought to expect anger, yet trust grace. It has known a helping God, and looks not to be forsaken of one who is a Savior God. This confidence is complete; more than the nearest ties of nature can give, and so indeed it is for him who knows the Lord. It takes up its own matters between itself and God, looks to be taught His way, and led in a plain path, because its enemies watched for its getting out of the way. The pressure of enemies was great, and there will be such for the saint. There is a will of evil—false witness, then cruelty. The goodness of the Lord—no human means—is the resource of the heart, the goodness of the Lord in His government. The result is: wait on the Lord. He strengthens the heart. “Wait, I say, on the Lord.” This, indeed, is the secret of strength in the time of evil. There is, nothing to fear. We may have learned that it is a Father's love in our path of children, and the care of Christ, that good Shepherd, but the principle of our confiding in the Lord is the same. It is remarkable how entirely absent is the thought of any other resource or help, than that of the Lord. And this it is maintains integrity, for the Lord cannot help otherwise than in maintaining truth of heart. The wile of enemies is there. The soul knows nothing, (no human means or strength, or wisdom, or plan,) but seeking Jehovah's face; with Him all is settled, and so in truth in the inward parts, and integrity. The enemies are then Jehovah's concern. This is the secret of our security and comfort in trial. Thence, grace being there, we can reckon on the Lord at all times. If we have erred, bring it to Him. It is a true exercise of soul in His presence. He deals with it according to truth, between itself and Him, but grace and This secret place, and their deliverance are its position.
Though Jehovah be the great subject of Psa. 28 as of all these, as regards the faithful there is a special point—his cry to Jehovah, and the supplication addressed to Him. The heart connects itself with the Lord in crying to Him. The cry implies the Lord's interest in us, and our having this for our starting point; also our avowed dependence on Him Thence, crying and prayer to the Lord are important, and an index to the state of soul. We may desire from the Lord, have faith in His goodness in giving, but crying to Him identifies us avowedly with Him, even before others. Here the soul is spoken of as in extreme distress—the pit of sheol open before it. But the principle is ever true, even in interceding for others. Here faith is shown in crying, when all seemed to man's eye hopeless. This connection with the Lord is distinctly marked here, in its being made the ground for not being drawn away with the wicked in judgment. In psalm xxvi. it was the integrity of the believer in his ways, which was laid as the ground for not being so drawn away: here it is this connection with the Lord, shown in calling upon Him. And though the wickedness of evildoers be the ground on which their judgment is looked for, yet their disregard of Jehovah is declared to be the ground of their destruction. The righteous has trusted in Him and been helped. But there is more, and much more, in the Lord's deliverance of us than the fact of being delivered. He has delivered us. The heart was attached to Him, adored Him, looked up to Him, believed Him, and He has not failed us. Oh! how true this is! and how it attaches afresh the heart to Him. So here, (ver. 6, 7,) “My heart trusted in him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth, and with my song will I praise him.” This looking with confidence to the Lord is a real entering into His character and conformity to it, in the sense of estimating, delighting in, and honoring it, in counting it impossible to be otherwise. It appreciates the Lord; and he who appreciates anything morally excellent is in a dependent way like it. I have a friend, of a noble, faithful, self-devoting character. I am in circumstances where all is opposed to the probability or possibility of his coming in to help. I am sure he will. I count with affection on what he is. It is evident that I hold fast in my appreciation of him. He is to my mind superior to all circumstances, governed by his own excellence; and this is what I appreciate and reckon on. Whatever circumstances may be, my heart goes with his in his conduct, though in the way of dependence, and his with mine. When he has acted, I rejoice in him, in my estimate of him. I say, I knew my appreciation was just: I knew him, and what he is. I rejoice in his excellence: I have reckoned on it as certain, and above all the circumstances. He has proved his interest in me in intervening. Thus, when God shall deliver the remnant, and when He delivers the Christian, they can say, “This is our God; we have waited for him.” This is what we can see in Job through all his culpable irritation. He reckons on God, and knows what he would be and do if he could find Him. The heart has trusted God's heart, and found it, and rejoices in it—has really honored God, though only in waiting, in assured confidence for Him. It is satisfied in what its mighty Friend is, and in His love. It rejoices in deliverance, for it suffered and was oppressed in weakness; but rejoices in heart—delight in the deliverer. It has a friend that has formed the heart after His own excellency, and formed it to confide in it. In the Christian this will be calmer, because he is more instructed in heavenly things, knows God better, and leas less anxiety as to what is here below, does not look on the things that are seen. But the principle is the same.