The Atonement; Intercession of the Spirit; the Psalms; Remnant in the Last Days; Jewish Remnants; Sufferings of Christ; Christ and the Psalms

Psalm 20‑21  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 10
As in the Psalms, I do not at all admit that they are all the language of our Lord. Even as to some in which His voice is unquestionably heard, there are other voices also. For instance (Psa. 102), where the cry of the blessed Jesus is answered in words quoted by the apostle in Heb. 1, as addressed to our Lord by God Himself. So in Psa. 20 and 21 it is rather the voice of those who pray and give thanks on behalf of Jehovah's Anointed that we hear than His own. At least they express their interest and concurrence in His desires, and then acknowledge how all these desires are fulfilled to the uttermost: I have no doubt that in all the Psalms the Spirit of Christ is to be heard, and that the grand theme of that Spirit's utterance is "the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow." But all this does not prove that the Psalms were all uttered by Christ as His own language at the time He was here on earth. Some of them were so uttered without doubt. But as to most of the Psalms, they have evidently a different character.
There is a well-known passage in Rom. 8:26, 27, which, more clearly than anything, illustrates, as it seems to me, the character of the Psalms In Rom. 8 the intercession is that of the Spirit in Christians, and therefore according to the place given us and the calling wherewith we are called. In the Psalms it is the remnant of Israel that is in question. But how is the passage in Rom. 8 to he understood? We who pray know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the indwelling Spirit helps our infirmities, making intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. How are the prayers thus inwrought by the Spirit of God? Not according to the poor, feeble, measure of our personal intelligence and desires, but according to the perfect expression of these requests by the Spirit, and according to the value and acceptance of Christ and His work, through which it is that the Holy Ghost has come to make our bodies His abode. "He that searcheth the hearts knoweth" (it does not say our mixed, feeble, imperfect desires, but) "what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to God." His intercessions are according to God; while, alas! our apprehensions and utterance of them always fall short of this. Still, what the Searcher of hearts finds in us—that which He hears and receives—is this mind of the Spirit—this intercession of His according to God.
Now it is something analogous to this that we find in the Psalms. The circumstances are different: it is another body of people; and in general the blessings sought for are different. The people are the Jewish remnant; the circumstances in many, perhaps most, of the Psalms, are those of the final tribulation through which these chosen ones are to pass; and where this is not the case, the circumstances are those of one period or another, past or future, in the history of the remnant. The blessings sought for differ in two very important respects from those for which we should seek. On the one hand the supplicants evidently do not stand in the consciousness of God's manifested favor, as the church now stands; and, on the other, they seek deliverance from their complicated and unexampled afflictions by imploring the execution of righteous judgment on their adversaries. In the Psalms we have the confessions, the prayers, the lamentations, the faith, the hopes, the thanksgivings, the worship of this chosen remnant; not according to the feebleness and imperfectness with which they may be actually uttered, but according to the perfect expression of them by the Spirit of Christ, who did identify Himself with this remnant in a most special manner, and whose Spirit will as truly incite in them the desires, &c., thus expressed, as He does now make intercession for the saints with groanings which cannot be uttered.
As to the remnant, and Christ's identification of Himself with it, several points need to be observed. First, there always was such a remnant, from the time that Israel became apostate, till the time when "the remnant according to the election of grace" became, along with the Gentile converts to the faith of Christ, the church of the living God. I suppose, too, we all agree that there will be such a remnant in the days to come. Further, there have been times of crisis in Israel's history, when the remnant, or those composing it, have been brought into special distinctness. David and his companions, whether in the days of Saul or of Absalom; Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and in general, the prophets; and then most especially the disciples of our Lord during His sojourn below, furnish specimens of what the remnant was in the several critical periods in which they lived. Ezra and Nehemiah, with the returned captives of their day, afford another example.
Now I do confess that, as far as I have any light on these subjects, it seems to me incontestable, that it was with this remnant, not with the nation at large, that Jesus in grace identified Himself. And, whatever may be the measure of the manifested favor of God, or whatever the amount of spiritual intelligence enjoyed by this remnant in any period, past or future; and whatever may be their circumstances of outward trial; and in whatever degree their outward trials may be augmented by the lack of that assurance of God's favor, in the knowledge of accomplished redemption which it is our happy privilege to enjoy; their relation to God is one of peace and blessing, and that by virtue of the perfect sacrifice of Christ. They are not at once introduced into the knowledge and power of this relation, as we are immediately on believing in Jesus. They have to endure all the outward afflictions which are contained in their cup of sorrow, with the far deeper anguish of receiving them as the tokens of God's righteous displeasure against the sins of the whole nation, with which sins they identify themselves in confession and humiliation before God. But then, the very fact of their thus confessing their own and their nation's sins, distinguishes them from that nation, and shows that they are the people of God's choice. And, however dark may be their condition outwardly, and even inwardly as to any sense they have of God's dealings with them; and however unheeded their cry may seem to be, and this is surely the bitterest ingredient in their cup; yet, that cry is the cry of the Spirit of Christ in them, and He, blessed be His name! did, in the days of His flesh, and that, too, in circumstances most similar, anticipate all their affliction. He did in spirit, as identifying Himself with them, pass through it all; yea, and more, for He did, as we rejoice to know, bear all their sins as well as ours in His own body on the tree. He thus endured atoningly the wrath which they dread; and the sense of their having deserved it, that is, this wrath, draws forth lamentations and mourning from their hearts. Where now is the difficulty in apprehending how Christ could and did voluntarily enter in spirit into all the depths of their agony and distress, and thus give expression to it all before God according to the perfectness of His apprehension of their state, and of what the claims of divine majesty and holiness are He thus prepared for them utterances which will be perfectly, because divinely, adapted to their state when they are in it; and which will constitute a cry as entirely "according to God" as are now the intercessions of the indwelling Spirit in the saints of the present dispensation. This is as widely different a thing as possible from Christ being by birth associated with the natural condition of man and of Israel, so as to be Himself in it, and so as to need to be extricated, or to extricate Himself therefrom.
It is, of course, agreed by all, that for them, as well as for us, Christ made atonement. In several of the Psalms, we distinctly hear Christ Himself pouring out the sorrows of His own soul to God, as thus bearing our sin and theirs, confessing them as His own, and appealing (wondrous, affecting, unexampled fact!) to the God—His God—who had forsaken Him! owning Him in such words as, "But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel." It is on the alone ground of this atoning work, that any sinner can be brought into acceptable relationship to God. It is on this ground that the remnant we are contemplating are brought into such a relationship. Now it was with the remnant of His day that our Lord did associate Himself when on earth. From the mass of the nation He did entirely disassociate Himself. Even the closest ties of kindred in the flesh had to give way. " Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, my sister, and mother." (So also in Psa. 16:2, 32O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee; 3But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight. (Psalm 16:2‑3).) There "the excellent of the earth, with whom," says Christ, "is all my delight," are set by Him in contrast with "those who hasten after another god." He identifies Himself with the one class; He utterly disowns the other. In like manner it was with the remnant of every period, that His sympathies, as expressed in the Psalms, were found. And such were, I doubt not, His sympathies, that He did enter in spirit fully into all that they had, or have yet to endure; but the language in which this sympathy is expressed must not be understood as His language personally, as to His own relationship to God; but as their language, in which, by the Spirit of Christ, what becomes them in their state is uttered; and uttered, not in the measure of their dark and imperfect apprehensions, but according to the perfectness of the Spirit, who incites the desires, and has prepared this perfect vehicle for their expression.