Psalms, Book 1, Psalms 3-8

Psalm 3‑8  •  14 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Having Christ clearly brought in as the hope in Israel, as well as distinct from the mass the happy or blessed man, just and one of those justified by faith in Him, we have next a series (from Psa. 3), which concludes with the Lord Jesus, not merely Son of God born here below and King on Zion, but Son of Man, and so humbled and so exalted on high over all things. (Psalm 8)
Here the Spirit of Christ expresses the feelings He inspires in the righteous remnant as experiencing rejection like that which was His portion in an infinitely greater degree. Circumstances are sad in the extreme; for these bitter but blessed lessons are learned among God's people when alas! alienated and hostile. Christ entered into it as none ever did; but His Spirit it is that works in the godly, directs their hearts, and expresses aright what ought to flow from them in the same path.
Psalm 3
Here, though it be only the general principle, it. is a momentous starting-point. The historical fact that gave occasion is stated in our title, the first verse in the Hebrew: “a psalm of David on his fleeing from the face of Absalom his son”. No enemy is so trying as the traitor in the midst of God's people; and the nearer to the king, the more of pain, sorrow, and shame. The king had known more than one profound humiliation, never one so heart-breaking, yet so public, as this. But in him it was far from being unalloyed; in Christ it was in every sense pure sorrow. And His Spirit operates so that His own may unaffectedly and without presumption make His words. theirs. The first word settles all questions, silences all fears: “Jehovah!” No doubt the dangers look great. “How have my persecutors multiplied! Many are rising up against me. Many are saying concerning my soul, There is no deliverance for him in God. Selah"1 (ver. 1, 2). But the righteous one is calm, far from the least self-reliance. His one feeling is confidence in Jehovah. “But Thou, Jehovah, [art] a shield round about me; my glory and the lifter up of my head” (ver. 3). Nor is true confidence silent: “I cry [with] my voice unto Jehovah, and He answereth me from the mountain of His holiness. Selah” (ver. 4). Then and there the saint can rest and rise unperturbed. “I have lain down and slept, I have awaked; for Jehovah sustaineth me. I will not be afraid of myriads of the people which round about have set themselves in array against me” (ver. 5, 6). It is not doubt but faith that bade him say, “Arise, O Jehovah, save me, O my God; for Thou hast smitten all mine enemies [on] the cheek; Thou hast broken in pieces the teeth of the wicked” (ver. 7). His confidence anticipates, and, in the spirit of prophecy, sees the end from the beginning. “To Jehovah [belongeth] salvation; Thy blessing [is] upon Thy people, Selah.” The Christian can sing in still loftier strains. We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
Psalm 4
This is inscribed “to the chief musician on stringed instruments: a psalm of David.” It appears to spring from the same occasion, but goes out more in expostulation to others, with directions for the godly; and was meant for public service, as the companion Psalm 3 seems rather private or personal. It breathes no less confidence in looking to Jehovah, but pleads righteousness also. There is a practically good conscience, no ground of standing before God, but good for his appeal: “When I call, answer Thou me, O God of my righteousness; in adversity Thou hast made room for me; be merciful to me, and hear my prayer. Sons of man, how long [shall be] my glory for a shame? Ye love vanity, ye seek a lie. Selah” (verses 1, 2). It was not merely evil done to a man, but to him whom God had set over His people, to be His king. Yet their heart went out to a worthless thing, their zeal was spent on a false object. So we can say that he that does the will of God abides forever. Here the word is, “But know that Jehovah hath set apart him that is godly for Himself: Jehovah will hear when I call up to Him” (verse 3). If he prayed, he counted on the answer. It is not the offended dignity of the king, nor yet the claims of the separated priest. The object of grace looks for grace, even if he were a king; and all the more, because Jehovah set him apart to Himself. How Christ entered into this, who can tell? Nor does Jehovah fail to direct the gracious godly one: “Tremble and sin not; commune with your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Sacrifice the sacrifices of righteousness, and trust in Jehovah” (ver. 4, 5). Thus self-judgment, integrity of worship, and confidence are cherished. “Many are saying, “Who will show us good?” The saint's answer is ready and it is a prayer of faith and love, “Lift up the light of Thy countenance upon us, O Jehovah. Thou hast put joy into my heart more than at the times their corn and their wine were increased” (ver. 6, 7). What are men's passing benefits to compare with the light of Jehovah's countenance? He alone is peace and security too, and the godly man loves to have it thus. So the close is, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for Thou alone, O Jehovah, causest me to dwell safely” (verse 8).
Psalm 5
This goes farther, and is also “for the chief musician with the Nehiloth” (which some regard as wind instruments): “a psalm of David”. It expresses the cry of the godly to God for judgment; a characteristically Jewish sentiment, and righteous altogether when the day approaches for the vindication of His people. The nearest approach to it from Christ's life as the Sent but Rejected One is in John 17:2525O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. (John 17:25); for the “Righteous” Father was and is not indifferent to the world's wickedness. But “Holy” Father expresses His actual ways, as the Christian should well know. In its due time He will surely hear and judge the wicked on the earth when His public kingdom comes. His righteousness is everlasting, but there is a fitting season for its display, and this in and by Jesus His rejected King, which will fill the remnant by-and-by with just confidence. As they look to enjoy the earth under His reign, they rightly, when God livingly works in them, cry for judgment. We one with Christ in heaven look for Him to fetch us there where He is, and pray for grace as He did, even for His blinded murderers. “Give ear to my prayers, O Jehovah; consider my meditation. Hearken to the voice of my cry for help, my King and my God, for to Thee will I pray. O Jehovah, in the morning Thou shalt hear my voice, in the morning will I set [it] in order to Thee, and will look out. For Thou art not a God delighting in wickedness: evil dwelleth not with Thee. The proud shall not stand before Thine eyes; Thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou wilt destroy all those that speak lies: a man of blood and deceit Jehovah abhorreth. But as for me, in the greatness of Thy mercy I will come into Thy house, I will worship toward the temple of Thy holiness in Thy fear. Lead me, O Jehovah, in Thy righteousness because of mine enemies, make Thy way straight before me. For there is nothing certain in his mouth; their inward part [is wickedness; an open sepulcher is their throat; they make smooth their tongue. Treat them as guilty, O God; they shall fall from their counsels; in the multitude of their transgressions cast them down; for they have rebelled against Thee. But all those that trust in Thee shall rejoice; forever shall they shout for joy, and Thou wilt protect them, and those who love Thy name shall exult in Thee. For Thou, O Jehovah, wilt bless the righteous; like the shield with favor Thou wilt encompass him” (ver. 1-12). For their joy and blessing they must await His deliverance, when judgment falls on His foes before all the world.
Psalm 6
As the three psalms just looked at are a cluster marked by growing confidence, the next two express the heart's experience in sorrowful trial. Divine anger is deprecated, and mercy appealed to, in the sixth; with the prayer in the seventh which spreads before Jehovah their persecutors' ways and the remnant's in view of desired judgment.
Psa. 6 is “for the chief musician on stringed instruments upon Sheminith,” or the octave. We must bear in mind that David was a great inventor of musical instruments (Amos 6:55That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David; (Amos 6:5)), and that they will most appropriately celebrate Jehovah's praise in the kingdom when it comes for the world (Ps. 150, Rev. 11:1515And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15)). Meanwhile we worship in spirit and in truth, as true worshippers of the Father, and are to sing with the spirit and also with the understanding (John 4; Cor. 14)
“O Jehovah, rebuke me not in thine anger, and chasten me not in Thy hot displeasure. Be merciful to me, O Jehovah, for I am languishing; heal me, O Jehovah, for my bones are terrified. And my soul is greatly terrified; and Thou, O Jehovah, how long? Return, O Jehovah, deliver my soul; save me for Thy mercy's sake. For in death there is no remembrance of Thee; in Sheol who shall praise Thee?” (ver. 1-5.) How plainly it is Jewish sentiment, true, holy, and proper for a people “living in the world,” as the apostle reproaches the Colossian saints that they were doing; whereas, as he insists, our relation to God is wholly and blessedly different, having died and being raised with Christ to seek and set our minds on things above. “I am weary with my sighing; all the night make I my bed to swim; I cause my couch to flow down with my tears. Mine eye is consumed through grief, it has grown old because of all my adversaries. Depart from me, all workers of iniquity; for Jehovah hath heard the voice of my weeping, Jehovah hath heard my supplication, Jehovah will receive my prayer. All mine enemies shall be greatly ashamed and terrified; they shall turn back, they shall be ashamed suddenly” (ver. 6-10). Thus, though nationally the Jews had deserved Jehovah's anger and wrath, the remnant know He has heard and will deliver.
Psalm 7
Here we have a wider range, not mourning like its predecessor, but pleading their justice with their adversaries. It is more manifestly as Jews that they pray for Jehovah's arising in His anger against the wicked, their enemy. For the desire is that not Israel only but the congregation of nations compass Jehovah about. Then would be His judgment of the peoples. “Shiggayon of David which he sang to Jehovah because of the words of Cush the Benjamite” is the title. It is a song on occasion of wandering: whether Saul or Shimei is meant may be questioned under Cush.
“ O Jehovah my God, in Thee have I trusted; save me from all those who persecute me, and deliver me, lest like a lion he tear my soul, tearing it in pieces, and there is none to deliver. O Jehovah my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands; if I have recompensed with evil him that is at peace with me; if I have spoiled mine adversary without a cause2; let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him tread down my life to the ground, and let him cause mine honor to lie in the dust. Selah. Arise, O Jehovah, in Thine anger, lift up Thyself because of the wrath of mine enemies, and wake up for me the judgment which Thou hast commanded. And the congregation of nations will encompass Thee; because of it return Thou to the height. Jehovah will govern the peoples: judge me, O Jehovah, according to my righteousness and according to mine integrity [that is] on me. Let now the evil of the wicked come to an end, and establish Thou the righteous: even One that trieth the heart and reins (art Thou), O righteous God. My shield [is] on God who saveth the upright in heart. God judgeth righteously, and God3 is angry every day. If one turn not, He will whet his sword; He hath bent His bow and made it ready. And at him He hath aimed the weapon of death; He maketh His arrows burning.4 Behold, he travaileth [with] iniquity, and he hath conceived mischief and brought forth falsehood. He dug a pit and enlarged it, and he falleth into the pit which he maketh. His mischief shall return on his own head, and upon the crown of his head shall his violence come down. I will praise. Jehovah according to His righteousness, and I will sing forth the name of Jehovah Most High” (1-17).
This is not the Christian glorying in tribulation and suffering with Christ that he may be glorified together with Him. It is the zeal and prayer of a Jewish saint appealing to God's sure judgment at the appearing of Christ.
Psalm 8
This closes and crowns the series founded on the two prefatory psalms, the righteous man in the midst of the wicked (Jews though they were), and the Messiah the object of his trust and of the opposition of Gentiles and peoples, both the righteous and the Christ assured of God's favor and establishment in blessing and glory according to promise. But even the Messiah was rejected beyond all, and the righteous meanwhile share His experience, to which His Spirit gives a voice as He directs their hearts purified by faith as they pass through varied trials. This we have been tracing in Psa. 3-7. Psa. 8 is “for the chief musician on Gittith: a psalm of David". Learned men suggest an instrument invented at Gath, or an air of the vintage festivity: a holy but happy season for a pious Jew. Fürst regards it as a hollow instrument from the verb “to deepen.” It is, however, sensibly distinct from the psalms before and after, as the anticipation of God's counsels, and specially cited as such in the N.T. for the exaltation of the glorified Man over all things after His humiliation even to death.
“ O Jehovah our Lord, how glorious Thy name in all the earth! Who hast set Thy majesty above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast Thou established praise5 because of Thine adversaries, to still the enemy and the revenger. When I behold Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou hast established, what [is] man that Thou rememberest him, and the son of man that Thou visitest him? And Thou makest him a little lower than the angels6 and (with) honor and glory Thou crownest him. Thou makest him to rule over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put everything under his feet, sheep and oxen, all of them, and also the beasts of the field, birds of the heavens, and fishes of the sea, [that which] passeth the paths of the seas. O Jehovah our Lord, how glorious Thy name in all the earth” (ver. 1-9).
1. Selah is a word of which the Targum and other Jewish authorities sum to know the true force as little as others. It may he a musical form expressive of rest, pause, or emphasis.
2. Or, as in the A. and R. Vx.
3. El
4. Or, He prepareth His arrows against the hot pursuers.
5. Or, strength) It is evident that we have here a glory higher and wider than that of Psa. 2 Indeed it is the universe, if we heed the N.T. where the suffering of death is shown to be the hinge and ground of the conferred glory, heavenly and unlimited over all things. It is the great day of Jehovah in the rule of the second Man, the last Adam: His glory set above the heavens, but His name glorious in all the earth. He is the exalted Head over all things, consequent on His humiliation, wherein God was glorified as in nothing so much, though all His life glorified the Father.
6. Or, God