Practical Reflections on the Psalms: Psalms 90-93

Psalm 90‑93  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Psalm 90
Psa. 90 is in a special manner Israel's cry for mercy and restoration in the last days, after their long affliction. But we will apply its principles as usual. It contemplates two things in the government of God: discipline, properly speaking, and satisfying mercy. But both are founded on another point: that God is the one unchangeable God—the same before the world, with which discipline is connected, was created, as now, and now as then; time being as nothing to Him, which to us may seem so long; and that He is the dwelling place of His people, where is their rest and home, and secure abode, whatever wanderings they may have. As to man in time, He sets man aside with a word, and restores him. They are like grass growing up and then withering. But though this be true, if we compare God and man, yet faith gets hold both of the ways and purposes of God in dealing with His people. For Israel it is felt as wrath, because they do not yet know reconciliation. We know it is love, but the truth of the dealing is the same and we can apply it. And first as to ways: “as His fear, so is His wrath.” It is not arbitrary, but according to His own nature and character. Fear is knowing Him in truth, so that what He is, is applied to the holy judgment of all that is in the soul, so that nothing should displease Him or hinder communion. Now wrath as discipline—governmental displeasure—is the expression of this as regards the state of the soul, where it has been unheeded, or the will has been in it. It makes good God's character as regards that which is opposed to it in us. Faith, divine teaching, shows us, that His wrath is, as His fear. But when the will bows, our very feebleness becomes not terror, but a motive in our appeal to God, And He owns it. He considers whereof we are made, and remembers we are but dust. But when once we feel our nothingness and apply our hearts to wisdom, the beginning of which is the fear of Jehovah, instead of God's having to enforce it by subduing our will, and correcting our carelessness, the heart gets courage, gets bold. It is not reasoning, but by grace confidence is restored, and the heart says, “Return; O Lord, how long?”
Now this, we have often seen, is the expression of faith. God purposes to bless, and in result will bless His people; and hence, when under pressure, faith can say, How long? Self is not faith, and the fear of God must be produced, but where faith is, it springs up again into the sense of known mercy and says, How long? And note, there is known mercy. It is not come, but “return;” not as if God had left them, (though, as to His ways, that is true as to Israel—He hides His face from the house of Jacob,) but we look to His returning in the sense of known present mercies and enjoyment of favor. Then it brightens up into full confidence. Faith knows His purpose is to bless, to give delight and joy to His people, and that by His own favor. It knows He delights in them; it counts on this: “Satisfy us early,” What a bold word with God! But it is confidence now; the soul is morally restored in His love which He delights in. This is looked at as constant too. “Rejoice and be glad all our days,” it says. Why should it not expect it from the God of goodness? It may be more outwardly with Israel, still the spirit of it is right. It looks for a refraining God; one who takes account of the sorrow of His people, though He has been found to inflict it. See how beautifully and blessedly this is put, Isa. 40, (just what is sought here,) “Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem; tell her time of trouble is accomplished,.... for she has received at the hand of the Lord double of all her sins.” His heart counted it twice the chastisement needed, compared with her sins; for the answer to faith is ever more than the request. (See the prayers and answers in Psa. 132)
But faith, looking on the thoughts and purpose of God in blessing, goes beyond returning and refraining mercies. God has purpose in His love and works in its accomplishment; hence they say, Not only satisfy us with thy mercy, but “let thy work appear unto thy servants.” God's own work will make good blessing, and so how good it will be? and it will be manifested to their honor and delight. So we, even for our souls; we seek not only restoring mercy, but thereon the positive work of God, in producing blessing in bringing us yet nearer to Himself. It is never then merely restoration; it is a soul better able to appreciate God, and God more fully revealed to it. Yet still awaiting, knowing as we are known, the result is the full display of glory; (here for children, because it is literally for Israel in the millennium;) but we do look for the complete work of God in raising and glorifying us, and then entering into glory to abide. But another sweet thought is added to this: “that the beauty of Jehovah, their God, should be upon them.” Their thoughts would hardly go beyond the manifest endowment of blessing from His own hand marking them His. With us how fully is it so! Shall not we be in the glory of Christ Himself? like Him arrayed in this blessed likeness before God our Father, a place of perfect delight? Nor do I exclude present blessing, how we may be as thus under grace as the lign-aloes which the Lord had planted; and that was when Israel was abiding in their tents. So the Church should be a spectacle of grace, to the angels, of order and beauty, and the life of Jesus as manifested in the individual believer. In this case, too, the works of our hands under divine favor are established for us.
Psalm 91
Psa. 91 On this beautiful psalm, of the structure of which I have spoken elsewhere, I have not much to say, because it defines the names of God which are available, and the specific effects of faith going on even to what is directly applicable to Christ; so that the general principle is less justly deducible from or connected with it. It would be reducing what is purposely specific to what is vague. It takes Jehovah, as such, as God; and so he who owns that name, comes under the care of El-Shaddai for a specific performance of earthly promises in the ways of God. This is not our place; one who acted on it would deceive himself. Yet a general faith, and trust of heart founded on it, would surely be blessed. It does not take up a Father's chastenings with which the government of God connects itself.
Here, in trusting Jehovah, no evil comes nigh the dwelling of them who does so. This was what made it strange to David1 till he went into the sanctuary of God. He saw the wicked prospering, himself plagued every moment. This is the certain result of owning Jehovah, when the government of God does come in.
Still we may learn some of the characters of trust. It is not merely the knowledge that there is an Almighty God, who is above all things: the secret place of His true revelation of Himself must be known. This, true faith has, and confers with God there according to it. His name is revealed to faith. To us, it is Christ as Lord and the Father. Faith thus, in its confession of His name, makes its refuge and strong tower, and moreover trusts in it: a great thing, for no power of evil, no cause of distress can be anything to upset the mind, if the Lord be looked to and trusted in. It has here the promise of ever watchful and protecting care. This is true whatever outward evil may come. As we see in Luke 21:16-1816And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. 17And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. 18But there shall not an hair of your head perish. (Luke 21:16‑18), the Lord says some of them should be put to death, but not a hair of their head should perish—they were all counted. Providential power is all at God's disposal. Faith is identified with the interests of God's people; (ver. 9;) but the Lord's own name is what has governed the heart, and the true name of God is known to it; that is, as I have said, the true revelation of God Himself known by divine teaching. To us it is Christ Himself, and the Father in Him. Faith calls. It is not merely passive trust, right as this is in its place, but it communicates with God about its needs, because it trusts Him. God's presence is there for faith and the exercise of its power; and this is as true now, in its just application, as then, as hereafter. The way is different, because the object is different, that is, to bring in a heavenly state. It brings present blessing though with persecution, and is assured of eternal and heavenly salvation.
Psalm 92
Psa. 92 is really praise for the final deliverance of Israel, and Jehovah's millennial name is the key to it, as of the last. As the following psalms are the bringing in again the only begotten, there is one principle to note in it—the elevation of the wicked is finally for their destruction. The man untaught of God does not see this; but faith discerns in its adversaries and the power of evil which rises up and presses on it, darkening its horizon, the enemies of the Lord. Hence, though tried more than another, for the power of evil is very painful to it, it has confidence. For though it would be foreign to wish personally for vengeance (and we have to watch against this), is it so to the Christian to rejoice in the earth being delivered from the power of the wicked? On the contrary, “Rejoice now ye prophets and ye holy apostles.” It is said, Faith gives a keen sense of the evil, because it is such and hostile to God and goodness and truth, and rejoices in the righteous judgment. But it is as the Lord's work, as the work of His hands, it rejoices in it; and that is perfect. It displays, too, the uprightness of the Lord, but faith must wait in patience. The following psalms discuss and celebrate the coming in of this judgment.
Psalm 93
Psa. 93 In this psalm we shall find some very important principles. Though power be now exercised for the triumph of good, it is no new power. The Lord's throne is of old, Himself from everlasting. No inroad of evil has touched or weakened that. This had taken place. The passions and will of man had risen up as the angry and tumultuous waves in vain. The Lord on high is mightier. Rebellious man is allowed to do this, but the power of the Ancient of Days, is concealed from unbelief in the days of patience, so that man thought all in his hand. When evil rises up so as to reach Him and call out His action, an instant suffices to bring about the counsels of God in power by their destruction. But this is not quite all. Faith has that on which it rests—the Lord's testimonies: they are very sure. God's word may be counted on as Himself, not only for final deliverance but for guidance along the path of difficulty. Nor is this all. There is a character which is a safeguard against delusion and a means of judgment and discerning the right path: “Holiness becomes God's house.” Oh! how these two principles do cheer and enlighten us in our path. How they strengthen it in the consciousness that it is of God's very nature, and cannot but be! Thus God's testimonies and God's holiness secure and fix the heart as to that which is of God. If the water-floods rise up, the Lord's power will settle all in His own judgment.
1. Query— Asaph.