Practical Reflections on the Psalms: Psalms 59-63

Psalm 59-63
(Psa. 59-63)
Psa. 59 I have not much to say on this psalm in view of our present object in commenting on them. It refers directly to the desired judgment of the heathen. I may only note that absence of all conscience and all heart is to be expected from the world when the Lord and His saints are in question; a terrible judgment, but which these psalms, as well as experience, prove to be true. The simple refuge of the saint is in God. “God is my defense.” It is not counter-plotting, nor using human means to meet the power of the enemy. We may partially, perhaps, and for a time so succeed, but in using carnal weapons we have lost the dependence which calls God in, and the perfection of walk and testimony which waiting on Him gives. We have played into the hands of the enemy by acknowledging the power of the world as competent to settle the question of good and evil, a power which after all, till Christ comes, is in his hands, though under God's sovereign rule. The heart of the saint has to say, “the God of my mercy.” He knows Him as such. His favor is what he cares for, and he trusts His faithfulness. He expects the wickedness which has no fear of God at all. They will return heartless and impious, but the godly will sing of God's power. And not that only—mercy, tender consideration of the afflicted saint, of him who has need even of mercy through his failure, has been experienced at the hands of God. He will sing aloud of God's mercy, and that when brighter times come; for in the trouble that mercy has been shown. God is his strength too, and to Him he sings. The saint thus encouraged not only sings of God but to God. The wickedness of the wicked is viewed as pure wickedness here. As between God and the saint there may be occasion for discipline; but between the saint and the wicked, the former had given no occasion to the malice of his enemy. Still, towards God, in the sense of the power of this evil, he looks for mercy. His heart loves to turn there in the sense of weakness and nothingness. God for him is the God of his mercy.
Psa. 60 is one which we can only apply in principle to our outward conflicts with the power of evil. There God can leave us as to His government for the time to defeat and scattering. And it is the deepest kind of chastening in these conflicts. For as we serve in God's cause, we see that it is defeated on earth through our fault or failure. No doubt, in us pride may be mortified too, as we are in the conflict; still, the feeling of grief and distress is a genuine feeling, a feeling which must fill the heart of the servant of God. It is a terrible thing to see those who stand in the place of God's people and witnesses, put to the worse before their enemies, the cause of God for the moment defeated. God has given a banner to them that fear Him, to be displayed because of the truth. He has set His ensign among them, and it is terrible if with this they are defeated and driven back; if when saying Jehovah-Nissi, the enemy has the upper hand. Jehovah had war with Amalek; but if Achan was in the camp, He did not go out. For if God contends, it is in and for the exercise of His people. But when thus cast down, faith does not lose its courage though drinking the wine of astonishment. It looks to God, judges the evil if it be there, looks to God, owning there must be some if it does not discover it. But God has spoken in His holiness. The very unchangeableness of His nature, which allows no evil, gives the certainty that He will make good. His word in their favor. To this faith looks—on this it counts. And when it has to say, Who will go out with our hosts? it says, Wilt not thou, O God, which hadst cast us off? Then all is right. The one who had thus disciplined His people would be their sure and faithful deliverer and strength. Through Him, though erst scattered, the saints will do valiantly. For faith looks through everything to God, because He is faithful, and His favor better than life. This confidence is fully brought out in the psalm which follows.
Psa. 61 The soul is still removed from the enjoyment of present blessing. It is at the end of the earth, but looks to God. The heart is overwhelmed within itself. There is no resource within in the pressure of circumstances. Pride may stand up against difficulties and be haughty even in destruction, but this is not the path of the saint. Besides the fortitude which maintains itself in adverse circumstances has always some result to hope for. But in the circumstances of the saint here before us, there were none. He is driven out and no ground to hope for human deliverance, and pride is far from him. He bows to God's hand; but he has a resource—God leads him to the rock that is higher than he. Faith gets to what is above circumstances, when nature is overwhelmed by them. And if God be for us who can be against us? God takes an interest in us; we know it; He has shown it. The heart can look to Him with whom all circumstances are nothing. The heart trusts God and self disappears overwhelmed, as it may be. God is the securer and portion of the believer. All else is, then, simply nothing. It is the contrast between God and circumstances, instead of between ourselves and circumstances. God has heard the cry of distressed faith, and as it trusts now so will it abide forever in the tabernacle of God. It is the secret of all peace in trial, the rock higher than ourselves. The spies saw themselves grasshoppers. Was God so? The walls were up to heaven—what matter when they tumbled flat down.
Psa. 62 Waiting on God is the subject of this psalm. It implies dependence, confidence; and both in such sort that we abide God's time: dependence, because we cannot do anything without Him, and ought not; because what He does is what the soul alone desires; because action without Him, even in self-defense, is only the action of our own will, and so our being without God so far. Saul did not wait upon God. He waited nearly seven days; but if he had felt he was dependent, and nothing could be done without God, he would have done nothing till Samuel came. He did not; he acted for himself, and lost the kingdom. Deliverance from God is sweet; it is love; it is righteous, holy deliverance—becomes the revelation of the favor and grace of God. It is perfect in time, way, place. So where the soul waits for it, will not being at work, it meets and enjoys the deliverance in this perfectness; and we are perfect and complete in the will of God. But it implies confidence, too; for why should we wait if God would not come M? The soul is thus sustained meanwhile. And this confidence is such that we tarry the Lord's leisure. Patience has its perfect work, so that we should be perfect and complete in all the will of God. There is, too, an active reckoning upon God. But this leaves the soul absolutely and exclusively waiting on Him. It is not active for itself; it waits only upon God. (“Truly” in verse 1 and “only” in verse 5 is the same word in Hebrew.) The two points connected with it show the state of soul: “from him cometh my salvation” — “my expectation is from him.” He only is the rock and salvation; so the confiding soul waits for Him, and seeks no other refuge—looks for deliverance only from Him. Hence, in principle (in fact, in Christ), the heart is perfect in its confidence, and meets in dependence the perfectness of God—accepts nothing but that, because it is assured that God is perfect and will act perfectly in the right time. Faith corresponds thus to the perfection of God. On the other hand, there is no working of self-will at all, no acceptance or saving of self by an intervention inferior in its nature to God Himself.
This makes patient waiting on God a principle of immense moment. It characterizes faith in the Psalms, and so Christ Himself.
But there are a few points yet to remark. “Trust in him at all times.” There is constancy in this confidence, and constancy in all circumstances. If I look morally to Him, He is always competent, always the same, does not change. I cannot act without Him, if I believe that He only is perfect in His ways. But, note, this does not suppose there is not exercise and trial of heart; or, indeed, waiting upon God would not have to be called for. But if God is faithful, and awaits the time suited to the truth and His own character, so that His ways should be perfect, He is full of goodness and tender love to those who wait upon Him. He calls upon them to pour out their hearts before Him. How truly was this the case with Christ, too! How in John 12, and above all in Gethsemane, He poured out His heart before God. God is always a refuge: He acts in the right time. He is always a refuge for the heart; and the heart realizes what He is when the deliverance is not come: and in some respects this is more precious than the deliverance itself. But this supposes integrity.
But yet another point. The effect of thus waiting on God's deliverance is to make us know that it will be perfect and complete when it does come. “I shall not be moved.” He had to wait, indeed, till God came in in perfectness; but, then, His power secured from all. Man may think there is a resource in man, or in what man possesses, or in man's strength of will; but power, faith knows, belongs to God. The last verse shows that the soul is looking to the perfect, divine righteousness of God's ways, but in the sense of integrity. The final intervention of God, the judgment He executes, will be the deliverance of the righteous. He has identified himself with God's ways on earth in heart, and waited till God makes them good, perfectly good, in power. But this will be the end of evil, and mercy to those who have sought good, and waited for God to avenge them. It will be a righteous reward to the expecting, righteous man: his waiting will be met, and the power of evil set aside. In this path we have to walk. God deals so now in government, though not in its final accomplishment; but we have thus to count and wait upon Him.
Psa. 63 supposes the full knowledge of the blessings of relationship with God, but not the full enjoyment of those blessings; on the contrary, that he who thus knows them is in a place entirely the contrary of all their blessedness. But, then, the thing sought and desired is not the blessing, but God Himself, and the revelation of His glory where He dwells. The whole being thirsts after Himself. The effect of being in the world, in the dry and thirsty land, is not complaint, nor even looking for deliverance; but thirst is thirsting after God. This sense of nature which craves after Him gives us the consciousness also that He is our God. It is the perfect delight the divine nature in us has in Him which gives the sense of this relationship. They cannot be separated. To have any knowledge of God, and not know Him as ours, is despair, or near to it as may be. And God even so is not known as the spring of delight, so that we desire Him. “My God,” and this thirst cannot be separated. It is not Jehovah and blessings, but the divine nature and God its delight; but with the dependent sense of appropriation expressed in “My God.” The soul which has the same desires in their nature as God Himself, hence (desires after Himself), feels morally and really that He is its God. This was perfectly so in Christ only; and we never lose the sense of relationship and retain this. Still, it is true in the nature of the delight, when that delight does not take the form of relationship, but of nature; when I do not say, Father, but “my God.”
But, then, this very thirst and desire after God longs to see Him possessing His full power and glory, and must. We cannot love much one we look up to, without desiring Him to enjoy all the fullness of the glory that belongs to Him, and to see Him in it. We owe our delight in Him, and feeling of indebtedness to Him; we must desire He should have all that is due to Him, and that we should see Him have it. And this feeling even Christ meets: “Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory, for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” But the main desire, the spring of all this is, the desire after God Himself, and known as our God, come what will. Not only the heart can appropriate it, as has been said, but would have it so, and none else. The nature which is of God would have none but Him, and would earnestly have Him. Where God is truly known thus, and the soul identified with Him in desire, the fact that it is where there is not one drop of what can refresh it, as is the case in this world, only renders this longing after Him more intense. But it is because He is known, known as He reveals Himself in the intimacy of His own nature, in the sanctuary where He displays Himself and makes Himself known. But with this there is another thought—that is, when God is thus known. as He is in the sanctuary, His loving kindness, His grace, and favor, and goodness, are felt by the soul. The sense of them rests upon it. That is better than life. Life is life here, the present enjoyment of it in this world; and as to that, he had absolutely nothing of it—as Paul: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” There, indeed, it was more outward pressure—here the inward, necessary sense, from the life in which he speaks and feels here, that there was not the smallest thing in what was in the world which could meet and refresh that nature. So perfectly with Christ. Still, though connected with trial, this was remarkably unfolded in Paul. He rejoiced in the Lord alway, when nothing refreshed his spirit.
Hence, in the sense of this loving kindness, in a dry and thirsty land his lips praised his God. This is very sweet: and, note, it is perfect in its nature, because it is simply God; for in the land the saint is in, there is absolutely nothing. God, his God, is his desire; His loving kindness is the refreshing of his soul. Now this is perfect, divine life in one having the divine nature, but in the place of dependence, known only to the soul born of God, or in its perfection. So Christ. This gives, then, exclusively its color to life. “Thus will I bless thee while I live” (down here in the dry and thirsty land). This is all his soul lives in here. Hence, in this life he blesses God, his God. His whole life in the dry land is, in spirit, out of it. Nothing attracts his soul in it at all. It finds its refreshings, because the land is altogether such to the new nature, wholly in God. Yet he is not in the present, full enjoyment of God as present; he is still in the dry and thirsty land, but blesses while he lives, and owns and worships the God he thus knows. But there is perfect happiness and satisfaction of heart when separated from the turmoil of the world, and when nothing is there to engage the flesh's attention, which is perfect misery to the flesh, but real deliverance to the renewed spirit, the soul can mediate upon God Himself. The soul finds in God Himself the fullest and richest food. The soul is satisfied, does not want anything else, when it can be thus alone with God, in which is its delight—it is filled with it.
So in coming to Christ (only there negatively, which is what human nature in this world wanted—here positively, because it is the new nature's delight in God), “he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” There shall not be the unsatisfied cravings of men's hearts in this world. But here there is the full satisfaction. The delights of the heart are created and satisfied with the revelation of God Himself. God is essentially delighted in and enjoyed. And as the soul is full, so it overflows in praise; the mouth praises with joyful lips. There is not the need here of weighing how far we are enabled, or entitled, to praise in the state we are in. It is the new nature finding its own proper delight in God, and thinking (as the new nature does not) of nothing else; and because thinking of Him simply, has not itself to think of, and praises because He is a source of praise. And this is true simplicity. When the eye is not single, the thought of God detects it, and comes as a claim, and forces us to think of ourselves; but when, as is here supposed, it is simply the new nature, its whole delight is simply in God, and the lips praise joyfully. This simplicity of heart is very blessed. Remark here, that while it speaks of this, the psalm supposes one exposed to the distractions of the world, and hence looks to the condition of the soul in loneliness, where, instead of feeling that, it is only delivered from distraction to delight in God.
Next, the psalm takes up not merely distractions, but adverse circumstances—the force of enemies. The soul sees God, its God, as its help, that is, as having been so. God was his joy; and his soul, in this wholly desert world, where no water is, was satisfied as with marrow and fatness. That was taking it in spirit out of the world, making it joy in God. But the Blessed One was what he needed for this world too, its conflicts and trials. And this is very gracious of God. We rejoice in the Lord always as looking to the source of our joy. But if without are fightings, and even within fears, He comforts them that are cast down. “Because thou hast been my help.” But here is described as already experienced what Paul speaks of himself as experiencing. Hence it is the aspect of the soul towards God because of tins. The soul would rejoice under the shadow of God's wings. It was the known place of refuge and confidence. There is the comfort of feeling at all times, the favor of God, and the security in which we thus dwell. I know not what may arise, but He will be there; nor this only, but the sense of His goodness and active interest in the soul is a source of sweet joy to it. The soul rejoices in having this divine favor its refuge, and actively interested in securing it. Thus the soul's condition is this: in its activities it follows hard after God. It would follow Him, come to Him, enjoy His presence; and it had the sure certainty that His right hand upholds it. The latter verses are the judgment on the enemies of the godly men, according to the government of God, and particularly the enemies of Christ. But our present object is the former part. Still, as we have often seen, God does govern, and we may reckon so far upon His interference as is needed for securing the blessing of His people who depend upon Him, though it may not be at the moment our nature could desire. On the whole, the psalm shows us simple faith, the soul making God Himself its joy, and rejoicing in the sure care of the Lord, whose favor protected it as a shield. If we compare this psalm with psalm 84, which in many respects resembles it, it will be seen that there the present enjoyment of covenant blessings is in view, and the way up to them; here, more what God Himself is, as away from them in the dry, thirsty land, and His protection and care in the difficulties and dangers we are in there. If we think of the remnant driven out, which is the character of this book prophetically, it makes this view easily intelligible.