Practical Reflections on the Psalms: Psalms 5-8

Psalm 5‑8  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 7
THE fifth Psalm furnishes the occasion of saying a word on the calls for judgment which are many times found in the book, and with that I shall pass it over. There is constancy of cry in the presence of enemies. It is to Jehovah the tried one looks; but it is on the ground of that righteous character and government of God which makes it impossible for Him to look on evil complacently. He will destroy the violent and deceitful man. And this is right. The Christian feels God ought not to let successful evil go on forever. When his mind rests on the government of God, he looks for the removal of evil by judgment, and rejoices in it; not in thinking of the evil doer, but of the righteousness and the result. Vengeance belongs to God. But it is in no way the element He lives in. The Jew having his portion in the earth— “for the meek shall inherit the earth and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” —looks for the removal of the violent and deceitful man in order to his own comfort and rest. Not so the Christian. He leaves the violent man here and goes to heaven. He walks, as to his personal walk, in the time of grace and leaves it for glory. Even in the millennium, when government will be exercised and the wicked cut off, his distinctive place is grace. The river of water flows out of the city; the leaves of the tree of life, of which he eats the full ripe fruit, are for the healing of the nations. Now his place is wholly grace and patience. He does well, suffers for it, and takes it patiently, and knows this is acceptable with God. He would overcome evil with good. He sees the evil, knows it will be judged that the judgment shall devour the adversaries, and, viewed as adversaries, can be glad that they are removed from hindering good. Righteous judgment, I repeat, his soul owns and acquiesces in. But he looks not for it for his own gain or liberty. He is above this in grace. And this was Christ's place. He will execute judgment. His Spirit calls in these Psalms for judgment. But as walking on earth, in which he was a personal pattern for us, He did not call for judgment on His enemies.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” was His word when their violence was directed against Himself; and in judgment He opened not His mouth.
Now the fifth Psalm takes up the call for judgment according to God's government of the earth, founded on Jehovah's immutable character, and looks for the happiness and joy of Jehovah's people flowing from it. And so it will, but not ours, because our joy is in heaven, where such deliverances are not needed. We leave the earth. Hence while the spirit sees and feels the rightness of this Psalm, I do not give it as in any way the experience of a Christian, save that his cry in difficulty and trial is undividedly and actively directed to the Lord—we may say to the Father.
The sixth and seventh Psalms both partake of this character and call for judgment. But the sixth is on very different ground from the fifth, and in certain respects will afford us experimental light for the Christian. When the believing soul is under trill, the recurrence to God as its resource and hope is the natural movement of faith. The great grace of God in being for us and the sense that there is nothing like this love, the confidence which accompanies submission of heart, draw out the heart towards Him. Nor is there a sweeter time for the soul that trusts Him than the time of trial. This supposes indeed the will to be broken, and the heart subject, and God's love to be known. When this is not the case the trial through grace works submission and is then removed, or the soul finds its happiness in the wise and holy will of God, and in the fruit it bears. But there is another case where trial, though ever salutary and gracious, has another element in it which makes confiding love to God more difficult. I mean where the trial has its
source in the conduct of the person suffering. If I have brought trial on myself by sin, how difficult to see love in it! how difficult not to groan in the consciousness that it is the fruit of sin and just rebuke for it, and hence that we have no right to think of love in it! Yet where can we turn but to Him, and how look to Him to deliver whom we have offended? Such is the real and distressing difficulty of a soul which, feeling that it has brought sorrow on itself, feels it has no right to look for deliverance. It is indeed almost tempted to despair and sink under the sense of hopelessness. This was the force of our Lord's intercession for Peter, that his faith might not fail, his confidence in Christ, and his love and hope of divine favor not be lost or he might fall into the hands of Satan through despair and remorse. In his case it was not trial or chastening, but the danger was the same. Faith hinders this despairing feeling, but it does not take away the sense of sin nor of the justness of rebuke; but it trusts God and His love and goodness, which now take the character of mercy to the spirit of the sufferer. The sense of sin is deeper, the dread of consequences less, and God is trusted with a humbler heart in spite of all. Still it is felt that rebuke is deserved—nay, the soul may be in a measure under it. This is the state brought before us in the sixth Psalm. It pleads the distress and desolateness under which it is lying, and looks for mercy, and pleads that the rebuke may not be in anger. It has confidence in God, though in presence of the thought that the rebuke of His anger would be but the natural consequence. It owns the justness of this, yet resting in faith on grace says, How long? God cannot cast off forever those who trust in Him: light will spring up. There is relationship with God, and faith counts on it. So that the heart can plead its extreme sorrow and trial with a God whose compassions are known. The last three verses express this confidence fully. We see how the government of God applies to this world, so that death has the character, in that government, when so falling on anyone, of cutting off. This was fully true with the Jew, as we see in Hezekiah and even in Job. But it is true in a measure as to the Christian. There are sins unto death, and death may have the character of discipline, as 1 Cor. 11 and may be arrested, as we read in James' and John's Epistles. The Psalm does not look beyond it, save into darkness, nor does the government of God either. When the believer has peace, he looks at discipline, even when justly severe, in the sense of certain divine favor. Hence his horror of sin is of a much purer kind, for it abhors the sin and not its consequences. It may be that the fiery darts of the wicked reach him or that dread threatens him at least. He looks through it to God's mercy and faithfulness. His faith through Christ's intercession does not fail. Still this is a terrible state; but the heart clings to God and can say, How long?
Psa. 7 is a full and elaborate appeal to righteousness and vengeance, and faith in that judgment. Thus the congregations of the peoples of the earth will own Jehovah and compass Him about.
He looks for God's anger on the wicked as he deprecated it for himself, and he expects it with a certain faith. This we do and own it all to be most right and excellent; but I cannot give the Psalm as presenting anything of the experience of the Christian, save the consciousness of integrity and the fact of trusting God. It is all true and certain; but it is for those who are in the distress produced by the haughty wicked, and look for deliverance, and not to suffer like and with Christ that they may be glorified together, that the Psalm provides an expression of feeling.
Psa. 8 is the celebration of Jehovah's millennial dominion and the glory of the Son of man in connection with, and in the mouth of, the Jewish people.