Practical Reflections on the Psalms: Psalms 81-84

Psalm 81‑84  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Psalm 81
From Psa. 81 I have only a few brief principles to state as to the government of God. On the restoration of blessing, the precious ways of God are considered. Had there been faithfulness, there would not only have been peace instead of trouble, but rich present blessing. Whereas the effect of not hearkening to God was, that God gave them up to their hearts' lusts, and they walked in their own counsels and soon came under the power of their enemies, even stronger than the people of God on their own ground. God has delivered us. We have been delivered from the bondage and burden of sin. Answered by divine power when in trouble and distress under it (a power which, while manifest in its effects, had its source of operation in the secret of the divine counsels), we are, as regards present dispensed blessings, put under responsibility, yet in the place of fullest ministered blessing. “If thou wilt hearken” —truth of heart to God is that which is looked for; not merely avoidance of actual evil, but no idol in the heart. This tests the heart—truth in the inward parts with God. But God calls to this as being already our God—now we say Father—who has delivered and saved us: and calls us in the path, no doubt, of obedience; to open our mouth wide that He may fill it. It is to this we are called, to enlarge our hearts to receive blessing. God has largely and richly for us, and calls us to open our mouths wide. All His mind is to fill it from His own riches. But of blessings of grace from His own hand, the unsearchable riches of Christ are ours, and dispensed to our souls. But, alas! very often we are like Israel, “My people would not hearken to my voice.” There is then as chastisement, a giving up of the saint to eat the fruit of his own ways: a terrible judgment sometimes to be humbled and feel the bitterness of the power of the enemy; sometimes, what is worse, to think he is finally given up. This is seldom the case when the soul has really been already emptied of self and subtle self-righteousness. Still the flaming darts of the wicked are terrible to the soul. It is not at all the same thing as the legal doubts of an exercised soul, but the dread of God as now against the soul; not the uncertainty whether He will be for it, whether it can escape. This last is legal doubt; the former, despairing doubt from Satan. If the saint walks faithfully, he has surely enemies, Satan and his machinations, to contend against; but the Lord really subdues them. It is after the patience of faith, the encouraging proof that the Lord is with the believer in his way. Our adversaries are the Lord's: the consciousness of this is an immense force. Those that oppose us in the Lord's path are, at any rate in that respect, the haters of the Lord. They are found liars, and empty in their pretensions. And at peace through the Lord's power, the saint would walk in a constant path. “He that doeth God's will abides forever;” he is fed with the finest of the wheat, with the most precious knowledge of Christ; and the sweetness of divine grace refreshing and satisfying the desire of the spirit.
Psalms 82-83
On Psa. 82 and 83. I have no remark to make in connection with our present object in commenting on the psalms. In psalm 82 The reader will observe that God judges the judges, especially those who in Israel had the divine law to guide them. They fall thus from wielding God's authority in the earth, into the place of responsible man, and God arising judges the earth. Here iniquity towards man, the reparation of judgment entrusted to man from righteousness, is dealt with by God. In psalm 83 it is the way in which man is guilty of active enmity against God in his hatred against God's people, using craft, conspiracy, and violence to destroy their remembrance off the earth—the result being that Jehovah alone (the God of Israel) is the most high over all the earth; for such is the effect of man's efforts. Oppression downwards in those who represented God in the earth, rebellion upwards against God shown in hatred against God's earthly people: such are the characters of man, and the object of God's judgment on the earth.
Psalm 84
Psa. 84 Though God be necessarily the center of all our desires, the desires of the new man, yet it is not in this psalm the desire after God as such, which is spoken of as in psalm 63 Jehovah is owned as the living God, but He is owned as a manifested God ill relationship with His people. It is not, “my soul is athirst for God;” but, “how amiable are thy tabernacles, O Jehovah of hosts.” They would not have been so, if He had not been there, if they had not been His. Still it is the enjoyed public relationship with Him, dwelling in the midst of His people, which is delighted in, not abstract delight in Himself. The tabernacles of God are a resting-place for the heart, as the swallow had a nest from God where she might lay her young. And this is just. The root and essence of personal piety is the soul's own desire after God. The secret of God is there, and the soul is kept in the holiness of His presence, and exercised it before Him. But where God displays His glory, where He is worshipped, is the just resort of the pious soul. In His temple shall every one speak of His honor. There praise is drawn out.
It is not exercise, but the soul in its piety as in the new man, alone goes forth in praise and worship where all do, where there is naught else, and with others of the same spirit also. For the altar of God is the center of the heart's desire and outgoings. There God displays Himself, and there the heart is at home from exercises and trials. Hence it is known to the heart, that there they will be still praising God. They that dwell there have naught else to do. Such is the full accomplished blessing.
But there is another thing (ver. 5 and seq.) in which blessing is known on the way thither, the way through this world, the valley of tears. The strength of him who passes with an undisturbed heart towards God's rest and dwelling-place, is in the Lord. Hence he too is blessed. If the dwelling-place of God, where His glory is manifested and fills the place, is the object of the heart, where its desires tend, the way that leads there will be in the heart too. It may be a rough one, a valley of tears, a valley where the cross is found, but it is the way there, and the heart is in it. Besides, the heart trusts God—has His love as the key to all. Hence it says, “by these things man lives, and in all these things it is the life of the Spirit.” They turn the valley of tears into a well, and find in the sorrow the refreshments of grace. For we need the will broken, the movement of will in the desires of the heart judged, that grace, that God Himself (that well of joy and blessing), may have His full place. And this the trials and exercises of the wilderness do. It is not called the valley of trial, but the valley of tears; that is, it is not merely the facts which form the well, but the exercises of heart which flow from them. No doubt the character of the valley was the source of this; but Christ perfect in His way was a man of sorrows, therein manifesting and exercising His love. We need humiliation and breaking down that we might get into this state, but this is what makes it a well to us. He had meat to eat in His sorrow as cast out, by the well of Sychar, which His disciples knew not of. But this is not all. There is direct supply and ministration of grace from above. God sends a gracious rain on His inheritance, refreshing it when it is weary. The rain fills the pools. The communications of the Spirit of God, the revelation of Christ to the soul, the Father's love, all refresh and gladden the heart, and fill it with that which makes the world a nothing, turning the heart elsewhere. The new man is in its joys, and goes cheerfully thinking of that through the valley. It goes from strength to strength. It is not accumulated strength, though strength is increased, but never in any sense so as to diminish dependence on God, but on the contrary to increase the sense of it. Self is better known and more thoroughly distrusted; we are more simple, and have a more simple consciousness that power belongs to God. As Peter, “when thou art converted (brought back), strengthen thy brethren” —an extreme case, as to the means, but showing how self-judgment and the lesson of dependence is the way of having strength, because strength is really in Christ. “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Thus the strength we have and feel at a point where we are brought to realize the grace and presence of Christ sets us forward on our journey across the wilderness; we use it (I do not say lose it) in travel, but it is not the conscious enjoyment of deriving blessing from Him, but employing that strength in the way. This leads us to a further apprehension of our need of Christ, increased knowledge of self by what we pass through, but which is discovered not always in a judgment we form of ourselves, but in such emptying of self, and the decline of its deceptive power in our heart, as casts us more simply on Christ. We go to a further place of strength thus; Christ is more all. If there be failure, it will be in the positive judgment of self and restoring the soul. The result is our appearing before God, where no self will be at all, and in the place where He has set His blessing, and where all go up to worship and glorify Him. Even now there is a partial realization of this, but its accomplishment will be surely in glory—in the heavenly Jerusalem and the Father's house. But all this turns to supplication—supplication in the sense of divine majesty, but supplication in the consciousness of blessed relationship. He is Jehovah of hosts, but He is the God of Jacob. But it goes yet farther. Till we are actually in the courts of God, we depend on this majesty and covenant faithfulness—for us the Father's name in union with Christ—but also on God's looking on Christ; but this secures us till then—indeed, in one sense, forever. We are assured, are confident, and pray because God looks on Christ. But this confidence on the way through Baca is connected with the desire to be in the courts. “Look on Him our security; rest in Him: for a day in thy courts is better than a thousand.” Better be at the threshold there, than enjoy all that the tents of the wicked can afford, with the right to abide there. God enlightens with His glorious majesty, and protects. He will give in perfect, unhindered grace all we need in the trial of the way, and in our weakness, when it is sweet to count on His help. And He will in the end, when brought home capable of enjoying it, give glory with Himself. We can count on Him for everything. He is good; nothing good will He withhold from those who walk before Him. The soul closes in the conscious feeling— “Blessed is the man that trusts in thee.” And how true it is! Nothing can disturb, nothing is beyond, His power—nothing of which His love cannot take charge for us—nothing which His wisdom does not know how to deal with for blessing. And the heart knows His love to count on it, and that “blessed is the man that puts his trust in Him.”