Practical Reflections on the Psalms: Psalms 9-11

Psalm 9‑11  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 7
I PASS over the 9th and 10th Psalms—the former celebrating the judgment of the enemies of Israel, the latter descriptive of the wickedness of their oppressors. They express the consciousness during the oppression that God does see it, and does not forget the humble; and then, on the deliverance, celebrate the faithfulness of Jehovah. The world is judged in righteousness, and Jehovah known by the judgment which He executes. I have only to draw the reader's serious attention to the judgment of the world here spoken of, and the main scene of it in the land of Israel; while, in every case, the humble soul in oppression and trial may walk in peaceful assurance that God sees it, and that its cause is in the hands of God. Yea, what is more difficult, that when it has brought it on itself, if truly humbled, it may count on God. I now turn to the expression of the feeling of those who are in the trial before the deliverance comes, and while they have to possess their souls in patience.
The eleventh sees distinctly—as is always true, though not publicly manifested as at that time—that there is no hope from, no reliance on, man on the earth—that nothing earthly is stable, and that evil has brought in ruin. The foundations are cast down, and what are the righteous to do? This for faith, is true, since the time that Christ was rejected on earth; only the restraining hand of God checks the power of evil, as long as patience can be exercised, and there are souls yet to be drawn out to the fellowship of Christ. It will be openly the case when the wicked one wields power in the earth, before God arises to judgment, and to help all the meek of the earth. Cases of peculiar trial bring us often into analogous circumstances in our own little sphere. Only we must remember that we have to do with a Father known as such, who disciplines us for our profit, for our heavenly and eternal gain, with a well-known love which has not spared His own Son, but delivered Him up for us.
The question put in the Psalm is: If the foundations be cast down, what can the righteous do? what they might refer to as of divine stability; for good does not exist, and the wicked are disturbed by no scruple of conscience and with fraud of heart seek to destroy the righteous. There is a time when the Lord warns to flee, when no action and no patience is of any avail. This is not the case here. It is only so when God delivers up all to the wicked for a time. Fear and unbelief would urge flight, as a bird, away from the scene to a place of refuge and human security. Faith looks higher. “In Jehovah put I my trust.” Trust in the Lord, who is above all, to whom nothing is unknown, whom nothing escapes, whose faithfulness is unchangeable, without whom not a sparrow falls to the ground, who, after all, orders everything, whatever man's plans are, who is our Father. Trust in Him is the resource and peace-giving feeling of the righteous. This in its nature gives a perfect walk and calmness at all times; because circumstances do not govern the feelings, and the soul has no motive to lead it but the will of God, and can have boldness to do it when called on, through confidence in Him. It gives calmness, too, because God is trusted for every result.
But the simple fact of this confidence is not all the Psalm teaches us. All is subverted and in confusion on earth. No security for the righteous there. But Jehovah is in His holy temple. His throne is in heaven. And His eyes behold, His eyelids try, the children of men. He does not slumber nor sleep; the righteous may leave his cause to Him. But there is, besides this, an explanation of God's ways in the time of sorrow. Jehovah tries the righteous. When His eyelids, who sees all things according to His own purity, try the children of men, He has an object as regards the righteous: He proves and sifts them. This is a most important truth—the activity of God in dealing with the righteous, to accomplish His own gracious purposes as to them, to manifest His own character, to judge, and lead them to judge, all that is not according to it, and thus give them the intelligence of what He is, and conform them morally to it—at the same time subjecting their will, and engaging their affections, by the sense of His faithfulness and love. The breaking of the will is a great means of opening the understanding.
But His temple and His throne govern all this. In His temple everyone speaks of His honor. It is the place where man approaches Him, where His nature and character are revealed, for man to be associated with Him according to them. And the throne orders all things, to associate us rightly with the temple. The flesh, of course, cannot always like it; but this dealing with it is just what is profitable in the matter. He tries the children of men. Their actions do not escape His eyes. All things are naked and open to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do, and He judges of them all. But more particularly He tries the righteous. This is in contrast with His hatred of the wicked, on whom He will pour out judgment. In His trial of the righteous, one must first think of God's own character and glory. This He maintains. For, however His countenance beholds the upright, however much He delights in them in love, He cannot deny Himself. He will conform them to what He is, but not relinquish that. He maintains this character in government. he has let the earth know, in Israel, that He will not have wickedness. The nearness of a people to Him is only an additional motive for this. “Thee only have I known of all the families of the earth, therefore will I punish you for your iniquities.” And now, whatever His grace, God is not mocked: what a man sows he will reap. The passages are numberless in which this principle is applied to Israel. It is carefully maintained. (Rom. 2:66Who will render to every man according to his deeds: (Romans 2:6), and following verses.) The epistles of Peter particularly unfold this righteous government of God—the first, as regards the righteous; the second, as against the wicked. In trying the righteous, God vindicates and maintains His character in those near Him.
But it is for the profit also of those who are tried, the precious proof of the constant, watchful care of God. “He withdraws not his eyes from the righteous,” says Elihu. It is, if need be, that we are in heaviness through manifold temptations or trials. We are to count it even all joy (James) when we fall into divers temptations, seeing that they work patience. And mark the fruit: “Let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and complete in all the will of God.” We are to glory in tribulations; (Rom. 5;) they work patience; and this brightens, in its result, our hope, the love of God being shed abroad in the soul—the true key to all that comes.
The love of God in the chastening itself leads to two conclusions, expressed in Heb. xii.—not to despise the chastening; for there must be a reason for it in us, if love does it; and not to faint, because it is love which does it.
There are two causes which, as we are taught in the Book of Job, bring trial on the saint. First, God shows the transgression in which man has exceeded, that is, positive faults. Secondly, He withdraws man from his purpose, and hides pride from him. (Job 33:16, 17; 36:7-916Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, 17That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man. (Job 33:16‑17)
7He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous: but with kings are they on the throne; yea, he doth establish them for ever, and they are exalted. 8And if they be bound in fetters, and be holden in cords of affliction; 9Then he showeth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded. (Job 36:7‑9)
.) This book gives us full divine instruction as to God's way in trying the righteous. There we learn another truth, important to exercised souls, who often dwell on secondary causes: that God is the cause and moves in all these exercises. The origin of all Job's trials was not Satan's accusation, but God's word, “Hast thou considered my servant Job?” God had, and saw that he needed this. The instruments were wicked, or disasters caused by Satan; but God had considered His servant, tried the righteous, but measured exactly the trial—stayed His rough wind in the day of the east wind, debated in measure: and when He had done his own work, (which Satan could not do at all) and shown Job to himself, blessed him abundantly.
He humbles us and proves us, that we may know what is in our heart—feeds us with the bread of faith. But it is to do us good in our latter end.
When the trial is met in the truth and power of spiritual life, it develops and brings out much more softness and maturity of grace—a spirit more separated from the world to God, and more acquainted with God. Where it is met by or meets the flesh, the will of this, its rebellion, is brought to light, the conscience becomes sensible of it before God, and, by the discipline itself, the self-will is, even insensibly, destroyed.
Trial cannot in itself confer grace; but, under God's hand, it can break the will, and detect hidden and unsuspected evils; so that the new life is more fully and largely developed. God has a larger place in the heart, there is more intelligence in His ways, more lowly dependence, more consciousness that the world is nothing, more distrust of flesh and self. The saint is more emptied of self and filled with the Lord. What is eternal and true, because divine, has a much larger place in the soul; what is false, is detected and set aside. There is more ripeness in our relationship with God. We dwell more in the eternal scenes into which He has brought our souls. We can look back, then, and see the love which has brought us through it all, and bless God with deepest thanksgiving for every trial. Such only purge away the dross, and confirm us in brighter, fuller, and clearer hope, and increase our knowledge of God—self being proportionately destroyed.