The Psalms

(From the Fourth Pentateuch of the Old Testament: Volume 3 of the Numerical Bible)

F. W. Grant.

Book 3. (Psalms 73 — 89.)

The holiness of God in His dealings with man.

The third book of the Psalms speaks, like Leviticus, of the sanctuary, and thus of God revealed in holiness. Hence, while we find in it, as before, Israel's deliverance in the latter days, it is constantly in view of this. Naturally in connection with this we have also Israel's history as a whole more entered upon: God is seen to have been consistent with it in all His dealings with them from the beginning.

The book is much smaller and less various in its range of subjects, having only seventeen psalms; eleven of which are ascribed to Asaph, being generally similar also to the fiftieth, which is the only other, and has been already before us. These psalms form the first subdivision of the book, and like those of the second book, are Elohistic, God (Elohim) being found in them, almost to the exclusion of Jehovah. This first subdivision consists also characteristically of "Remnant" psalms, while the last is predominantly Messianic. This conformity to the natural divisions, helps to confirm the authority of the titles, which has been disputed. The Asaphic psalms give us the holiness of God in grace toward Israel; the other six, the requirements of divine holiness met in Christ.

Subdivision 1. (Ps. 73 — 83.)

Holiness in grace.

The psalms of Asaph have again two sections: the first, of five psalms, gives the general principles; the second, of six psalms, their application to Israel's history.

Section 1. (Ps. 73 — 77.)

The general principles.

The first psalm here (Ps. 73) shows, after the usual manner, the general character of the book. It speaks of the suffering of the righteous in contrast with the often seen prosperity of the ungodly, — a thing painful to consider and hard to understand, until, in the sanctuary, in the presence of God, we find on the one hand the end of the wicked, and on the other that these sufferings are a discipline, the necessary result of the holiness of His nature with those who are ever with Him: — "for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness." Then the soul acquiesces with delight in its portion: holden by His right hand, guided by His counsel, what remains for us but Himself in heaven or earth?

The second psalm (Ps. 74) shows us this chastening rod for Israel — the enemy in the very sanctuary itself. At first sight, it looks as if God had entirely cast them off; but the enemy is so evidently God's enemy, that they realize He must finally appear against him. The adversary reproaches His name: can He give up into his hand the people He redeemed, yea, His own dwelling-place His anger against them may be manifested in this rage of the enemy, but it cannot last. He will finally turn it against the oppressor, and break the rod He is using.

In the third psalm, (Ps. 75) the great day of manifestation is just at hand. All foundations may seem gone, but Messiah bears up the pillars of the earth. All is in the hands of God who puts down and sets up as He will. The horns of the wicked shall be cut off and the righteous shall be exalted.

In the fourth (Ps. 76), accordingly, all the might of the creature is prostrate before God. He shines out gloriously from the mountains of prey, where the weapons of war have been destroyed. God has arisen to judgment and for the deliverance of the meek; and the wrath of man is shown to praise Him, the rest of it being restrained.

While the fifth psalm (Ps. 77) gives the moral of all this, whatever the exercise of heart, to trust Him in the dark as in the light. His way is in the sea, and His footsteps oftentimes unseen; but His way all through is in the sanctuary also; and so, through storm and flame, He has, spite of all, led His people as a flock.

We must now look at these psalms in detail.

Psalm 73.

Consistency of divine holiness with the sufferings of the righteous.

A psalm of Asaph.

1. The question raised in the 73rd psalm is stated in the first three verses, "Truly God is good to Israel," the psalmist affirms; and then adds that, (according to the holiness of the divine nature,) this is "to the pure in heart." That is the truth; but it is not always easy to realize and maintain. He had not found it so: his feet had well-nigh gone, his steps slipped. The prosperity of the wicked, of which they had boasted, had moved him to envy of them; and the ways of God had darkened with him; as their lot seemed bright.

2. Indeed, to his eyes they seemed not merely no worse off than other men; much more than this, they were exceptionally peaceful and secure. Death threw no shadow over their lives. They were strong, comfortable and well-fed. The travail which besets the lives of men who are mortal because of sin, and accessible to all that that implies, did not trouble them. The strokes with which all mankind are smitten seemed not to fall upon them. Their circumstances justified apparently their boastings.

3. Yet this blessing blessed not: it only confirmed them in their evil. Pride they displayed, as if it were an ornament upon their necks, erect with self-consciousness. Their violence sought no concealment, but was like the garment upon them, manifest to all. Their insolent eyes stood out with fatness.

They exceeded even their own imaginations of success. And this put them beyond bounds, making them scoff at the idea of being checked in the malicious thoughts they vented in violent words, as if above all other men: "they set their mouth in heaven," so lofty are they; "and their tongue goeth through the earth," as if they had possession of it all, — though this infatuation only made manifest their emptiness.

4. It was not only them whom their prosperity intoxicated. The effect of it was that people fell to them from among the professing people of God, who, encouraged by it, gave themselves up to license. For, they argued, how can God know? how can the Most High have any knowledge? Are not these confessedly the "wicked," whom He denounces? and yet, see how they live at ease, and their wealth increases? Of what use, then, is it to have cleansed my heart, and washed my hands in innocency, to live a life under the constant stroke of God, chastised every morning?

5. Alas, men might speak thus, who never knew what it was, really to be with Him! But if I joined them in this speech, says the psalmist, what injustice would I not be doing to the generation of Thy children! He speaks of Israel according to their birthright, for God had said, "Israel is my son, even my first-born," and the apostasy of others only leads to the realization that "they are not all Israel, that are of Israel;" therefore to the appropriation of this to a true remnant, though the Christian "Spirit of adoption" has not come.

He cannot go with these apostates; and yet his soul is in conflict. For a Jew with his covenanted blessings and the legal curses upon iniquity, hard indeed would it be, to understand this flourishing of the wicked, while the godly suffer, — a state of things not always simple to the Christian, who is taught to take up his cross and follow Christ. But if he does not understand, he draws nearer to God that he may do so. In the sanctuary of His presence the secret is disclosed: he sees the end that is coming for the wicked. The "smooth places" in which God sets them are not signs either of His favor or of His indifference. They are the prelude to an awful fall, which comes as in a moment, and they are brought to an end, consumed with terrors. Their prosperity, while it deceives them, is but the image of a dream; vanishing when men awake; — is but this, when the Lord arises and shows it as their folly and shame.

6. The psalmist turns from this to deplore his own folly in his having been so moved as he had been by this short-lived triumph. He owns it as the ignorance of a beast who leaves out God. After all, he cannot, in the face of faith's record through all generations, take the circumstances of the life here as giving cause to doubt that God is with him: circumstances which would plead against the "generation of His children" in every age. And that one thing realized, that after all God is with him, is the controlling circumstance: it may well stand in the place of all other good. Is it not this also which will account for chastening and humiliation, the fruit of the holiness of Him who has come to walk with this poor creature of His? But support cannot be wanting either, in such a case; and so he owns: "But I am continually with Thee; Thou hast holden my right hand." From this the whole future may be certainly predicted; for God can be fully reckoned upon. The way will be with Him, and the end too with Himself: "Thou wilt guide me with Thy counsel; and afterwards in glory* Thou wilt receive me." The face to face vision of God has been for faith necessarily, in every generation and under every dispensation, the end — short of which complete satisfaction cannot be found. The cry in the Psalms from end to end is after God. After Him the soul longs and pants, as the hart after the water-brooks. Its question is continually: "When shall I come and appear before God?" Here this is quietly contemplated with the reassured confidence which is the end of all faith's exercises at all times. Here is the abiding joy, the source of all that can be: "whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee! "Nature may fail, but this failing strength only reveals the might of that "strength," which "is made perfect in weakness." "God is the rock of my heart, the foundation upon which it builds, and my portion forever."

{*It is to be acknowledged that the simplest translation of the text here would be" "after [the] glory Thou wilt receive me." The difficulty is as to the meaning of this. For though the acceptance and blessing of Israel as a nation will be when the Lord appears" and not before" yet the psalm is so individual in its character that it seems hard to apply it in this way. I do not discuss the point however" but leave it to the judgment of the reader with this acknowledgment. The translation" as given above" is accepted with slight modifications by Hebraists generally, the words in question being both treated as adverbial forms. As so translated" the national hope of Israel is not lost in what has larger meaning.}

7. The last two verses sum up finally the contrasted results for the righteous and the wicked: the way of independence which ends in destruction; the way of dependence, in which already the goodness of drawing near to God is tasted; and in confidence, the ready tongue declares His works.

Psalm 74.

The enemy being God's enemy a plea for deliverance.

Maskil of Asaph.

In the second psalm of the Third Book we have the enemy in the sanctuary, and the destruction of that with which all blessing for the nation was connected, around which its religious life clustered and intertwined itself. Thus the desolation of the sanctuary was the casting off of the people of God, — the writing Lo-Ammi on them. It is difficult for us as Christians to put ourselves into the position of a man of that dispensation, where all spiritual blessings were sealed and symbolized to them by outward means. To say, "I am continually with Thee," was itself comparatively easy while Jehovah's tent was in their midst; but with the sanctuary desolated, how different would this be! Yet this might be used of God to bring the individual soul, after all, nearer to Him, — to make faith more fully aware of that personal link with Him which never could be broken. In Judaism, with all things right, the personal link founded itself upon and grew out of the corporate one. In Christianity, where things are right, the personal link is the foundation of all, and it is the union of those who believe which forms the body. The Judaized, ritualistic Christianity reverts to the old order, which was but probationary, and leaves the soul's personal interests secondary and doubtful. God, to bring His people into the blessings He designs for them; suffers the collapse of the Jewish system. That which was of course on the one hand the penalty of their national sins (and indeed apostasy), becomes in the mercy of God, through individual exercise and the conviction of legal unrighteousness, a wholesome and effective discipline for the remnant of His ancient people, who find their way to Him. not on the ground of the Jewish covenant, but as mere "sinners of the Gentiles." We have had their picture before us in the touching history of Ruth.

No wonder, therefore, that this is another Maskil psalm, — a special "instruction" for Israel in the last days; although it needs for full understanding to be put in connection with the thirty-second psalm, which as the first of these maskilim is the beginning of all true intelligence, and in living relation to them all. (See Notes.)

1. The psalm begins with a cry to God, as thus (as a people) abandoned by Him. They are — not "forever," as if they were predicting the future, but "perpetually," that is, as a matter of day by day experience, — forsaken of Him. They beseech Him; as it were, to "lift His feet," that is to come and look at these perpetual desolations: they are indeed the terrible and demonstrative proof of their abandonment; for they are the ruins of His own dwelling-place among them. But who could have accomplished this, so long as He owned it as that in any wise? how impossible for an enemy to prevail against God!

But they are "the sheep of His pasture," whom He has thus forsaken! Not that by this is meant to assert any righteousness on their part. It is not that they have been tractable, docile, obedient to government: who could assert this for them? No, it is privilege that they are thinking of, — of His provision for them; of that into which He had brought them, little as they might have responded to His care. They were His assembly, His in a relationship which Himself had formed with them: for He had purchased them; He had redeemed them: whatever they might be, would the unrepenting One deny His work! He had chosen Zion and dwelt there: could He altogether forsake it?

Thus we see that there is no self-righteousness in this plea that is made with God. It is really founded on that covenant name, Jehovah, though this does not, with good reason, appear. But in the power of that name it was that He redeemed them out of Egypt at the first. He will be true to it: He will act according to His own nature, not as if He repented, or changed because men changed. And this ground taken is really that of grace — of the thirty-second psalm — of purchase and redemption, which implies the putting away of sin.

2. But the psalmist goes on to picture the enemy's work in all its desperate profanity as against God. Not the least sign was there of fear, or of regard: Thine adversaries roar in the midst of Thy place of assembly." There is worse abomination: there, where the tokens have been seen of the worship of the true God only, "they set up their signs as signs." "By 'signs,'" says Delitzsch, "we must not understand military insignia; the scene of the Temple and the supplanting of the Israelite's national insignia to be found there, by the substitution of other insignia, requires that the word should have the religious reference in which it is used of circumcision and of the Sabbath (Ex. 22:13); such heathen 'signs' which were thrust upon the Temple and congregation of Jehovah as henceforth the lawful ones were those which are set forth in 1 Macc. 1:45-49, and more particularly the so-called abomination of desolation ' mentioned in verse 54 of the same chapter." The application therefore to the time of the end, to which all these psalms look forward, is evident.

Mere malice seems to guide the hands and strengthen the arms of the invaders of the holy places. They seem like men leveling trees in a thicket; but no, it is the carved work of the sanctuary which is ruthlessly demolished with axes and hammers. Then they set it on fire and burn it profanely to the ground. And this flame spreads far and wide throughout the land against every place of gathering that owns the Name of the "Mighty One," thus assailed by the pitiful weak arms of men His creatures.

And who knows the limit? There is no prophet any more: there is none who knows how long. But here the extremity of evil rouses afresh the appeal to God, who does know.

3. He must appear; He must vindicate Himself, for His name is openly reproached. The fool scoffs at it; and though he show himself by this a "fool," yet how can God suffer it? "Why withdrawest Thou Thy hand?" aye, "Thy right hand?" why is the blow, which seems so often about to fall, so constantly delayed? "Get it ready from inside Thy bosom!"

4. The psalmist now goes back to the history of old, to comfort himself with the experience of God's wonders in behalf of the people, when He led them out of Egypt into this very land, where now so terrible a calamity has fallen upon them. "For God is my King of old," he says, "working deliverances in the midst of the earth," — there where the eyes of men would be most upon them. Egypt, of which he goes on to speak, was such a place; and the haughty king of it was just the person in whom God could make His power known, and declare His name throughout all the earth. "Thou didst in Thy might cleave asunder the sea: Thou brakest the heads of the monsters on the waters. Thou brakest the heads of leviathan* in pieces: and gavest him for food to a people, — dwellers in the desert." These last, spite of the objection that the word used only conveys the thought of animals of the desert, surely refers to Israel; to whom, though for a time only dwellers in the wilderness, their enemies became a spoil. Similarly, Caleb and Joshua speak of the Canaanites afterwards: "they shall be food for us" (Num. 14:9); and the words "to a people" seem to be put to guard us from the usual meaning. Delitzsch urges the application of "a people" to the ants in Prov. 30:25; but the figurative use is there quite plain, while here it would have no meaning. Israel's difficulties only become God's opportunities; their adversaries only furnish them with food: "happy are the people that are in such a case!" but so it is with all the people of God.

{*The crocodile, often the symbol of Egypt. "Leviathan" is from levi, "joined," referring to its scales, and than, almost the same as the word for "monsters," "tannin" in the previous verse.}

The experiences of the onward way are given only in two instances, in some sort evidently contrasted with each other, and chosen on that account, to show nature's various acting under the power of God. In the first instance in the presence of human need, a "place of springs and brooks" is cleft in the flinty rock, and the people are nourished from the barren breast of the desert. In the other case the impetuous Jordan — no winter-torrent merely, and at its flood-tide — is dammed back and dries up. The long journey ends with the same display of power with which it had begun.

From these special interventions of God in history, the psalmist passes on to His general and orderly government in creation. Israel's God is the Creator; and His general government is in harmony with His gracious relationship to His people. The stars in their courses fight against Sisera, and all things work together for good to them that love Him. And yet no less does He make His sun to rise upon the evil and upon the good, and send His rain upon the just and unjust. These things are, of course, in no wise contradictory, for it is unbelief itself which makes that which otherwise would be blessing turn to its very opposite. So Christ in the world, in fashion as a man, was fullest, richest blessing for every one, the source of all blessing: yet men stumbled over Him, and to that, says the apostle, (1 Peter 2:8,) "they were appointed." There can be no blessing for faith, but unbelief will stumble over it. In the nature of things, faith and unbelief being contraries, there can be nothing that shall be blessing for faith, but unbelief shall take it for the opposite; and He who appoints, therefore, the blessing for faith, appoints thereby the stumbling-block for unbelief. How terrible a thing is sin, then!

But to know that our Father is the Lord of heaven and earth, what unspeakable joy! The day and the night are His alike; and the night unveils a peopled heavens, which even the glory of the day, as that, shuts out. So it has been for us spiritually, as we know. The very going down of Eden glory has but been the occasion of the display of manifold glory. And for us all the night of sorrow has revealed the luminaries with which God has lighted it. For us the day comes only with the sun: it is not earth-manufacture but heaven's gift.

The next verse, according to its number, speaks of limits. In a world of contraries, and of perpetual conflict, what need for One who shall put limits to this. The limits of the land itself are in this way fixed by God, and a little knowledge of physical geography will teach us its importance. Compare land-locked Siberia, with its mountains cutting off the south, and the countries laved by the currents from the equator. And this therefore, is intimately connected with that "arrangement" of summer and autumn, so necessary to man's subsistence. When the expected time of blessing for the earth shall come, it may take but an extra throe of earthquake to send man's wheat-harvests far up towards the pole!*

{*The coal-beds of the polar regions, and even the name of "Greenland" are witness to a very different climate once in those ice-bound tracts. And it was Lyell's belief, with which many have expressed their concurrence, that a different arrangement of sea and land would suffice to account for so great a difference as that between its present condition and the sub-tropical one argued by the presence of coal and coral.}

Thank God, these physical limits are but signs of power in His hand used in other than material things to restrain and bound; and so we are to read them.

5. From this the psalm goes on to appeal to this strong and stable government of God for recompense to those that are His adversaries as well as theirs, — theirs even on His account. The occasion calls for His intervention now. It is Jehovah Himself whom the enemy reproaches! it is that glorious and terrible Name that the fool scorns and defies. Then with Israel's Redeemer the psalmist pleads that it is His turtle-dove — defenceless, and as far as the enemy is concerned, innocent — that is in danger. Can He give it up to men inspired in common only by their lusts? — His community, now in a common condition, indeed, in their affliction: can they be perpetually forgotten?

{Verse 29 'community': Chajath, as in Ps. 68:10: literally, a "living creature"; but used for a "troop, company," also: a body of people, as it were, inspired with one spirit, living one life. It must surely be translated alike in the two parts of one verse, and in measure is so in the common version; the revised, with most, disconnects them by rendering them "wild beast" and "life." With the rendering I have given, however, the nephesh following, usually rendered "soul," is better taken as qualifying chajath, (which is in the construct,) and like the similar psuchikos of the New Testament, James 3:15; Jude 19.}

Their hope, their refuge, still could be the "covenant." Not, indeed, that terrible legal one which they had violated, and which pleaded only against them; but rather that, back centuries before Sinai, and which in its sign of circumcision spoke of the incapacity of the flesh to accomplish anything towards the fulfilment of the divine promise. Like their father Abraham, with his "body now dead, when he was about a hundred years old," they could still believe in the God of resurrection, and fall back upon that "covenant of promise" given, when as yet there was no law to saddle it with conditions (Gal. 3:15-17). Thus in all their forlorn state they could rise to be truly children of their father Abraham; and the divine mercy had here foreseen and provided for the destitution and helplessness in which they are now found. "How good is the God we adore!"

Though, therefore, in the darkened earth, the habitations of violence are everywhere round about, their need shall be an effectual plea with One able to show Himself fully out to such humbled ones. They can plead that the oppressed shall not turn back ashamed, — that the poor and needy shall be made to praise His Name. And again that brings back the realization of how the fool is scoffing at it. Let Jehovah plead, then, His own cause, and remember these reproaches, in which surely in divine government the end must be reached. The tumult of rebellion rising up continually to heaven challenges the power of God to show itself supreme above it.

Psalm 75.

Christ the Interpreter of God in the day of manifestation.

To the chief musician: Al-tashcheth; a psalm of Asaph, a song.

The seventy-fifth psalm is the announcement of the divine answer to this prayer, presently to be given in the day of manifestation and Christ is the Interpreter of God, upon the throne of the world, — the anti-typical Joseph of days near to come. The psalm is easily understood as "a psalm of Asaph," and "a song." The Al-tashcheth "Destroy not," which we have had also in the title of Psalm 58, I cannot apply with any more certainty here than there.

The ten verses of the psalm divide into two sections of five verses each in the first of which Christ, whose voice is heard throughout the whole, anticipates the kingdom that is to be His at the appointed time. In the second we find Him as the "faithful Witness," the Representative of God on earth, testifying for God: as Judge exalting and abasing, according to grace and holiness alike. But His heart is only manifest in blessing, and the heart of the saved goes forth to Him in joy and praise.

1. Accordingly in the first verse, as the connection with the second shows, He it is who is the Leader of Israel's praise. The name of God is near: that is, it is going to be displayed. The wondrous works of His hand are what shall declare it. During all this time, God has been declaring His name in the grace of the gospel, but men at large will not hear: "Let favor (or grace) be shown to the wicked," says the prophet, "yet will he not learn uprightness;" "when Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness (Isa. 26:9, 10). The gospel dispensation therefore passes away, and with it the day of man: the day of the Lord follows, putting in the dust the glory of man, and forcing his reluctant ear to hear.

Messiah now speaks alone: —

"For I will take the set time," He says: "I will judge uprightly." The common version has "when I shall receive the congregation;" but the word, though capable of this, is the regular one for Israel's "seasons" or "appointed times," and has here the deepest significance. The typical Ruler among men is Himself the obedient One, and as such speaks in the gospel of Mark, — the gospel of the Servant, — as not knowing this "time." "Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels that are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father" (Mark 13:32). It is as the Son in service, that He speaks here, and thus the words are omitted in the parallel place in Matthew: for (as His own words are) "the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth." In this character, His Father's will is (as it were) not His business: He waits until His enemies are made His footstool. When the appointed hour has struck, He takes it and comes forth: the perfect Servant still, to do the will of God upon the throne now, as He has waited upon it hitherto.

Thus, indeed, will He "judge uprightly." He has not a separate interest to divert Him from it, — not a thought that is not in harmony with the divine mind. And so, if the earth be in dissolution with its corruption, — men's hearts away from God, and therefore at strife with one another, He can set up again its pillars in truth and righteousness. Thus the license given to vanity is at an end: "I have said," — using the prophetic style of anticipation, — "I have said unto the boasters, Boast; and to the wicked, Lift up not your horn." Man out of his creature place, exalting himself, has led to all the misery in the world. How perfect is the rebuke of it by the One who took up obedience voluntarily in a world which disobedience had ruined, by this to redeem it!

The next verse, though it be so similar, carries this to its necessary issue; and observe with what definite precision the numerical structure emphasizes the point here. The previous verse, as the fourth, simply speaks of the frailty and vanity of this poor creature, boasting himself to be what he is not. The present, as a fifth, shows him in relation to God, and thus points out his lifting his horn on high (comp. Ps. 7:7; Ps. 68:18), — his exalting himself against God, and his impudent neck. And this, let us remember, is shown out in the fullest way in the man of sin. the wicked one, whom at the very time that He comes forth, "the Lord shall consume with the breath" (not "spirit") "of His mouth, and destroy with the brightness of His coming" (2 Thess. 2:8).

Thus Christ the Lord, then, comes into His kingdom.

2. Now we have His testimony, given in judgment, discriminating and diverse, to destruction or to exaltation, from this throne which He is taking. And first of all, as is clear, the people for whom He interferes is addressed: "For not from the east," ("the going forth" of the sun,) "and not from the west," ("the place of evening,") "and not from the wilderness," (which lay south of the land,) "is exaltation." The position of Israel is most plainly marked here, at the time of the attack of the king of the north upon Jerusalem (Dan. 11:45). The north, therefore, is not mentioned, because from the north there is no hope. In other directions help might possibly be found; but in fact it is not coming from any point of the compass. God is coming in: "for God it is that judgeth; He abaseth one and exalteth* another."

{*This word, so often recurring in different forms in this connection (tarimu, 4, 5; marom, 5; harim, 6; jarim, 7) is the key to the meaning of verse 6. which the Septuagint, Targum, Syriac, and Vulgate, with Delitzsch, Moll, Cheyne, etc. translate "not from the desert of the mountains" (harim). The verse in this case would be abruptly broken off. }

But who will be able to stand when God comes in? All the earth will be consumed with the fire of His jealousy: "for a cup is in Jehovah's hand, and the wine foameth: it is full of mixture, and He poureth out of the same; surely the dregs of it," — that which remains for the last, and is the strongest part,'` shall all the wicked of the earth drain off and drink." It is the day of wrath and of the ban upon iniquity, — the day which abases all the pride of man. Abasement one can understand, but how can there be "exaltation?" and is it not written: "the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day?"

Ah, but when the Lord is exalted, all His character must be exalted. If this be the day of the manifestation of His Name, judgment alone can surely not manifest it. Judgment is the strange work to which He is forced, but where He is free to express what is in His heart — what then?

Here then the voice of Christ breaks out into distincter utterance. He must not leave it for a moment doubtful with what the joy of His soul links itself. If the shepherd's rod has beaten down the enemy, there are sheep of His in whose behalf He has acted, and a people with whom that God whom He represents has linked His Name: "But I will declare forever," He says; "I will psalm unto the God of Jacob." Here is a people whose God He is not ashamed to declare Himself. Who, then, is this Jacob? and what is he, that such a portion should be his? Nay, his name speaks of nothing but what is poor and lowly; it speaks not of strength but of weakness. More than this, it speaks of sinfulness; not merely of the weakness of the creature, but of a fallen creature. It speaks of one with whom God had had to strive and to cripple him, and put him into the place of weakness, that, no longer striving but clinging, he might have "power over the angel and prevail," and acquire that new name "Israel" in which his new link with God could be expressed.

For there is a strange power with God in human weakness, and He who is the Creator has a marvelous respect unto His creature, just in that place of creature. Nor does sin itself affect this, when only the arms of conscious need are flung upwards towards God. Notice again that this is just what the numerical structure once more emphasizes here, the creature weakness which, even in his craft, makes itself felt in him. And this name he must own, to get the blessing: "and he said, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel." He must acknowledge the name first, that he may lose it. And yet God delights to recall it still, and link Himself with it, and as here, be called the "God of Jacob." And this is the Name that Messiah now declares, and which He celebrates in psalm — that is, making all nature sympathize with Him. And this as the King in glory.

Righteous and wicked get thus a definition here. The nature of God is not sacrificed, but shown out in His grace; and the work of the Mediator in its necessity and power for men while still the government of God is maintained in its eternal principles: "All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off; and the horns of the righteous shall be exalted."

Psalm 76.

The prostration of the creature.

To the chief musician, on stringed instruments: a psalm of Asaph, a song.

Thus, then, for blessing, man has to be put down into the place of need. With God's judgments upon the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. We see, therefore, the need of what this psalm presents to us, which naturally follows, also, the one before it. As a psalm of divine government, manifestly exercised, it has the regular 12 verses, and with the regular division also, into four sections of 3 verses each for there is plainly nothing to disturb this. Again, it is a psalm of Asaph, and a song, which the stringed instruments accompany, for the earth is now tuned and ready for its Maker's praise.

1. The first section shows us the inauguration of the reign of peace. God is known in Judah, the worshiper-tribe, and His Name is great in Israel. The once-divided kingdom is now impliedly united and at rest, in obedience to Him whom so to serve brings into harmony with all His universe.

And thus there is relationship between Him and His people never to be disturbed. His tabernacle is at Salem, Jerusalem gone back to the meaning of its older name as Melchizedek's city — "Peace." Another Melchizedek now rules in her, "Priest of the Most High God" in full reality, and in Zion is His "fixed" abode (meonatho), "His rest." And because He is to be at rest, He has broken up all the instruments of war together: the "flashings" — the arrows flashing from — "the bow," the shield and the sword, and all that makes up war.

2. Never will war have been more pronounced, more deadly, than in that last spasm in which it expires. As we think of the diligent perfecting of the machinery of it now, which leaves the old "flashings" of the bow to be but the types of its far-reaching artillery, how good it is to think of its collapse which is impending when the Prince of peace makes war upon war! Serene, beautiful, like the breaking forth of morning at the end of a night of storm; the glory of the Lord shines forth there where all had been but the prey of the spoiler hitherto. The "mountains of prey" are not any indefinite allusion to the fastnesses of robbers generally, but Jerusalem itself, the city of so many sieges, the constant "prey" of the enemy. The contrast expressed (for which the "more than" of the common version is inadequate) is between the city in its recent awful desolation, and the Light that now enfolds and glorifies her, wrapping all her dwellings in its bright, yet chastened lustre (Isa. 4:5). The new day is come, that shall have no decline, the "morning without clouds" of prophetic vision (2 Sam. 23:4).

On the other hand, night is fallen upon the children of night. Like nocturnal birds of prey, the morning has sealed their eyes, and sunk them in helpless sleep from which there is no waking. It was the necessary doom of such as they were.

But there is another reason: and here we have the assurance, once again, of the grace which can consist with holiness. It is the God of Jacob who has thrown His arms around the feeble objects of their attack. And here, notice, it is chariot and horse upon which sleep has fallen. The enemies find their doom because of what they are: here it is simply the means of attack that fail, because God has sheltered His people.

3. In the next section, therefore, it is God Himself who is before the soul: but God revealed in judgment, which is openly manifested from heaven, in omnipotent, discriminative, holy wrath. His power is such that He must needs be feared: who can stand before Him; when He is angry? His judgment is discriminative, as the word used here (din) implies: wise, therefore, and searching, and recognized by the still awe of earth. It is holy, also, for it is in behalf of the meek of the earth, for whose salvation God at last, after long patience, rises up.

4. The fourth section shows the earth entirely in His hands. So complete is His government of it, that the wrath of man, which has just been at its wildest, nevertheless praises Him. Whatever could not be made to do this He could not permit to be. Men are bidden therefore to vow and pay their vows to Him who is the Eternal and their God and to bring presents in sign of their subjection to Him who is truly to be feared. For that to Him it belongs is plain by His judgment of its kings, just now executed. "He cutteth off the spirit of princes: He is terrible to the kings of the earth."

Psalm 77.

God's way in the sea and in the sanctuary.
To the chief musician "to Jeduthun" a psalm of Asaph.

The last psalm of the series gives us that character of the divine government which causes it to be so fruitful of exercise to the soul of man. Even for the Christian, in this respect, clouds and darkness are about Him still the revolving wheel of the world, with all its remorselessness of change for the fleeting generations, is yet God's chariot wheel, as indeed the Preacher sees it, only to the increase of his perplexity and the height of the wheel — so high as to be dreadful, in Ezekiel's vision, — hides with its mystery Him who sits above it. This is what this fifth psalm here presents: God's footsteps in the sea, and there unknown, with the difficulty for faith engendered by it; — a difficulty pressing for solution, or at least some answer and which is here answered, measurably at
least. It could not yet have the settlement which Christianity has given to it, nor can there be settlement, even with this, which shall leave us with no more exercise of this kind. Faith must still reckon with the unseen, in some sense, as Asaph did; and the psalm will have its use still for every pilgrim. Comforting it is, too, to note that it is for Jeduthun, i.e. "the worshiper," and that it is,
notably also, a sanctuary-psalm. If God's way is in the sea, His steps unknown, it is no less in the sanctuary also, in the holiness which must be His, and it is from what is known of Him — changeless as He is in nature, — that what is unknown must be determined.

The psalm; as it is a fifth, so it has five parts, the first three of which are taken up with the problem and its solution, while the last two expand the general thought of it, as we have seen.

1. In the first part we have the occasion of the question, but with the preliminary assurance that the psalmist's cry to God has been answered: "My voice is unto God, and I cry: my voice is unto God, and He hath given ear to me." He then points out how the question which was troubling had risen for him. External difficulty it was that (as commonly) produced the inward perplexity. We are apt to take with calmness enough the difficulties of others, until these become our own: as Eliphaz said to Job, "it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled." So here: "in the day of my strait I sought the Lord" — not Jehovah, but the Almighty Ruler of all: my hand was stretched out in the night and slacked not: my soul refused comfort." The remembrance of God also only made the distress more poignant, for here it was that doubt was assailing him: "I remembered God, and I moaned; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed." We have not as yet, however, the special character of this distress made known.

2. In the second section we realize more the nature of the conflict, as having to do with questions which, as Ecclesiastes has it, "God has given to the sons of men to be exercised with." "Thou hast held mine eyelids open," he says: "I am so agitated that I cannot speak." He is occupied with the history of man, with "the days of old, — the years of ancient times" — God's dealings with men are exercising him; and from these he turns to review his own experience. He remembers his "music in the night," but he is not disposed to music now. He is busy, communing with his own heart, and his spirit making diligent search. But with all this, at present, rest is not attained.

3. The next section brings us however to the interpretation of it all. We find the riddle and its solution also. We see clearly that it is a question which. Israel is above all concerned with, and which a latter-day remnant would certainly be exercised about; while the answer concerns His people at all times, it being the assertion of the faithfulness of God to His own Name, for which He ever acts, and in which they find their resource and refuge.

The question is "Will the Lord cast off forever? and will He show favor no more?" Here the "Lord" is not "Jehovah;" nor is the covenant-Name mentioned until after this question is answered. Covenant they cannot plead: the answer has to come from what God is in Himself, not from relationship, which is the very thing in question. But the "Lord" (Adonai). He in whose hand all power is, has in effect cast off when that power no more acts in their behalf. Will He cast off, then, "forever" (leolamim; "for the ages")? "and will He show favor no more?" There was no doubt, at least, of what He had been to them. Could it be, then, that He would act in opposition to this? A temporary "forsaking" would not be opposition: for chastening means present interest and future blessing; and was this, then, chastening, or renunciation of the favor that He once had shown?

In his next two questions the psalmist weighs his evidences. The divine loving-kindness, can that be at an end — exhausted? is the fountain of love dried up? This is of course an impossibility; and he is arguing that it is an impossibility. And yet in application to themselves, how many are tempted to believe it! How many admit the suggestion of some sin possibly unpardonable to him who sincerely turns to God about it, and would find his refuge in the blood of Christ! But no: there stands as the complete denial of this the unfailing word of divine inspiration: "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth from all sin." Here is no limit, and who shall make one? Whatever may be true as to unpardonable sin, it cannot mean that any such can be to one who has recourse to the blood of Christ; or that He will cast out, for any cause whatever, any one who in the day of present grace shall come to Him (1 John 1:7; John 6:37).

But this brings us to the second question of the psalmist: "has His word failed for all generations?" Here, too, is an impossibility; but let us see what it implies. It is "His word" that is in question, not "His promise"; and this makes it much more weighty. God has been pleased to give us His word, and this indeed is "loving-kindness" to do so, and the parallelism of the verse is complete. He has written Himself out on the page of Scripture, — given us to see His heart, His mind: it may be in His dealings with this or that person, in His announcement as to this or that event. All this rests (as to its blessing to me) upon the immutability of His nature, the assurance that I shall find Him for myself the self-same God that He has been to others. Were He changeful, capricious, limited, I could argue nothing, find comfort in nothing: — for all generations His word would be practically gone. Were His "loving-kindness" anything but the infinite fount of blessing that it is, no declarations of it for another would help me, no words of other times would avail me now. But blessed be God, this cannot be. He is Himself, always Himself, no attribute at strife with another in His changeless and perfect nature. How I can rejoice, then, that Abraham's God is mine; and what unfailing assurance any one that will, may gather from His word!

Here then is the point of the argument: it is God Himself in whom we can trust, and that, whatever the present circumstances. "Has the Mighty One (El) forgotten to be gracious? Must any circumstances whatever be allowed to argue infirmity in Him? "Has He shut up (contracted) in anger His compassions?" No, be assured. His very anger is the effect of love itself: cast yourself upon His love, this anger will not harm you; His chastening shall but purify and bless.

And thus we come to a point: shall we argue infirmity in Him or in ourselves? Here there can be no question, and the trouble is ended: "And I said, This is my infirmity" — "my malady," it might be rendered: "there are years of the right hand of the Most High;" — an inadequate statement, which is all the more effective. "God has had years of experience," he says to himself: and that so feebly represents the truth, and yet in that enfeebled form; so forbids doubt, that immediately he is master of himself again, and can only praise Him.

4. Back he can go now at once to Scripture, to those old experiences of God, now once more so available for him. "I will make mention of the works of Jah," he says: "for I remember Thy wonders of old; and I will meditate on all Thy work, and talk of Thy doings." "Jah," the contracted form of Jehovah, speaks in the most energetic, decisive way of the One who is, as if He were the only reality. And so, in a true sense, He is: for "in Him we live and move and have our being," and He governs absolutely where most his authority seems set aside. Had we eyes purged from all films, where would we find a thing which might not be a text from which to descant upon the "works of Jehovah?" and with what blessing to our own souls, as well as to the souls of others. Even the "wonders of old" are but as it were the visible signs and tokens of a manner of work which everywhere has the stamp of the same Author. Indeed that is what gives them their main charm and interest. Oh for eyes without a film! we shall have them: but do not let us be so satisfied with that assurance as to put away from us the present opportunity of learning such glorious things.

But he goes on: "Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary" — not simply, I think, "in holiness," though that be the main thought. But the sanctuary suggests more than this, — suggests already even, what the next section more develops, the hidden character of His ways, which are yet not hidden of His will, for He is ever seeking to make them known, but of necessity, by reason of men's estrangement from Him. The sanctuary, thank God, does not to us, as to Israel, so much speak of this: for it is what characterizes Christianity that the veil of it is rent from top to bottom; and we have "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus" (Heb. 10:19). Blessed it is to know this! but beyond measure blessed to draw really near because we know it! Practically still the measure of our knowledge must depend upon that purging of the eyes, of which we have been speaking. The light shines, and here is our responsibility, and here is our privilege. What we see is a question to be answered, each one for himself.

But it is in holiness God's way is, and "the knowledge of the Holy is understanding": therefore we enter into His mind as His mind enters into us. And then indeed shall we realize: "who is the mighty one (El) so great as God?" And if He be thus necessarily hidden by. His own perfection, yet is He not outside the knowledge of men everywhere: for "Thou art the Mighty One that doeth wonders: Thou hast made known Thy strength among the peoples." And here especially in Israel — through His relationship to these — He is made known, and in the grace which this declares: "with Thine arm hast Thou redeemed Thy people, the sons of Jacob and of Joseph."

5. Here the fifth section opens, and we find in the way in which God manifested Himself as with His people and for their deliverance, how the powers of nature in which He so much hides Himself, are nevertheless perfectly at His disposal, and work in behalf of those with whom He is. The psalmist is drawing the picture manifestly of the deliverance at the Red Sea, although of the convulsions of nature described, the history gives no account. The moral drawn from it is of the widest application.

"The waters saw Thee, O God; the waters saw Thee, they were afraid; the depths also trembled." Nature owned His power, while men doubted the Arm upon which they leaned, or else defied it, after abundant experience. But not only did nature tremble and give place, but the elements yielded themselves to His will: "the clouds poured out water; the skies sent out a sound; Thine arrows also went abroad." But there was that which has ever to man been more like the manifestation of God, and which Scripture recognizes in this way: "The voice of Thy thunder was in the whirlwind; the earth trembled and quaked."

And now comes the moral of God's clothing Himself in these nature-forms "Thy way is in the sea, and Thy paths in the great waters; and Thy footsteps are not known." True as that may be, yet this "way" is with His people and in their behalf: "Thou leddest Thy people like a flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron." Thus in the dark as in the light He is the same; and in the dark, we can yet trust Him.

Section 2. (Ps. 78 — 83.)

The principles applied to Israel's history.

We have had, then, in the first section, the individual principles which manifest themselves in God's dealings with men in general. The present one gives their application in detail to the history of Israel. The difference between the two sections is plain upon a brief examination. The very first psalm here (the seventy-eighth) takes up the history at large in this way. The eightieth and eighty-first are similar, though more partial in their review. The eighty-second is the setting right of government in Israel, that it may correspond with the divine one: while the last (the eighty-third) gives the great final confederacy against them; which is that He whose Name alone is Jehovah may be manifested as Supreme over all the earth.

On the other hand the lack of generalization in this second section is as manifest as is its prevalence in the first. Along with this there lacks also the distinct Messianic character which we have in the seventy-fifth psalm; even God's controversy with the people as to the rejection of Christ being found elsewhere, and the testimony given here being necessarily the Old Testament history and not the New; this ending, however, in times which are still before us, (in prophecy therefore, not in history,) that "end of the (Mosaic) age",which we have often had presented to us as being of such intense interest and importance in connection with Israel's blessing, and God's disciplinary ways with them in connection with it.

The principles brought before us in the first section are, briefly, these: in the seventy-third psalm; the mysterious suffering of the righteous, while the wicked so often flourish: a mystery understood only in the sanctuary, where God's presence with us is realized on the one hand, and the holiness of His character who is thus present with us, on the other. In the seventy-fourth psalm the wicked one is not only flourishing, but seen in active hostility to God and to His people: a fact which gives, however, assurance of his final overthrow. In the seventy-fifth, all the foundations of the earth being in this way out of course, He must come who will govern for God in consistency with His character, and we must wait for Him. In the seventy-sixth, the whole earth is prostrate before Him: and this realized by faith beforehand, the wrath of man even now is seen to praise Him; nothing being suffered that will not do this. Lastly, the seventy-seventh psalm, in a deuteronomic summing up as to the divine ways, answers the deep perplexity of the soul occupied with these with the assurance that, while they are indeed in the sea at present, so that His footsteps are not known, they are yet in the sanctuary also: that is, not only holy, but in grace towards His people.

Essentially, thus, God's character is maintained as love and light; while it is seen also that as to the world all things are in disorder, and that faith is needed to discern the government of God, which yet exists and has absolute control over every single thing that transpires, and therefore makes all things work for good towards every individual among His people. Love acts, but often in disguise; the allowance of evil becomes a wholesome exercise and discipline for the soul; faith is practised and strengthened; we are called, as Peter tells us, "by glory and virtue" (valor), God developing in us the character which those must have who are by and by to be associated with Him who Himself takes the glory as the end of a path of suffering.

Such principles apply, as is evident, to the life of faith in all dispensations, whatever the differences which result from the difference of these. We are to look at them now in their application to Israel's history, taking in the past and the future for this, as necessary to its completeness. The rejection of Messiah, and the results of this to them; do not indeed appear: the reason for which we may in some measure apprehend, perhaps, but which it is not necessary to enter into now. That there is valid reason for it we may be sure beforehand; and this subject has had already some treatment in both of the preceding books of the Psalms.

Psalm 78.

The consistency of God's ways, in which His grace is sovereign still.

Maskil of Asaph.

The seventy-eighth psalm is most fittingly entitled a "Maskil" — an instruction. It surveys the history from Egypt until David: a sufficient sample, man being, as he is, the same at all times; and David's history being also the type, as we are well aware, of that of his Son and Lord. We can understand, therefore, why with this gleam of brightness the psalm ends; grace in him seen sovereign and victorious, after the long course of failure, as it will be in the end foreshadowed by it. The six sections mark this victory of God's grace, which is seen in measure all through, while everywhere His holiness and consistency with His character are conspicuous also.

1. The first section gives us God's provision for His people, illustrated by the one who here addresses them. God is not satisfied with giving a written word to them, necessary as this is, and the basis of everything. His will is that there should be preachers of the Word and of all the works of the Lord of which it testifies and from which it draws its precious instruction. Preachers were to be in every family in Israel, and these preachers not an official class, but the heads of the families themselves. Practically, those who were competent to speak, spoke: the things they heard and knew they were not to hide, and such capacity is always responsibility, and in the nature of things must be, — a responsibility which none can devolve upon another. But let us hear the psalmist.

(a) He speaks with the authority of one speaking for God, — with the consciousness of the importance of what he utters. The language of conviction will ever be authoritative, and on that account held for assumptive and dogmatic by those who are either not near enough to God to know the secret of it, or not conscious enough of being afar off to want to change the confusion of twilight for the clear outlines of the day What comfort can there be for the soul, apart from the certainty of what it holds for truth? what happiness in the path, except there is full assurance of this being with God? Surely, none whatever. And the apostle Peter expresses what the goodness of God intends for us when he says: If any one speak, let him speak as oracles of God," that is, as God's mere mouthpiece: while for the walk the Lord Himself declares: "If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." Thus the blessedness to which we are called is manifest. Oh that we may live up to the full privileges that are ours!

He begins then with an exhortation to obedience:

"Give ear, O my people, to my law": or "instruction," some would say; and that is, indeed, the primary meaning of the word; yet it is that regularly used for "law" (torah), and we must take it at least as implying the authority which truth ever has for the true. This is, in fact, what the numerical structure lays emphasis on the number being that which speaks of sovereignty, supremacy. Therefore, "incline your ears unto the sayings of my mouth."

This "instruction" needs, however, penetration and discernment: "I will open my mouth in a parable I will pour out deep things of old."

It is not, therefore, that only which is unmistakable at first sight that is authoritative. But how many excuse themselves from obedience on just such grounds! Thus Scripture, which is professedly oftentimes "deep," as here, becomes a thing so far which may be unknown, nay, slighted, without blame. "Deep" things are for the deep, the people who have mind for it, or taste, or learning, or leisure, or all of these! Parables, types, prophecies, the larger part of what they too, with the rest, call "the word of God," become so much spiritual bric-à-brac, which it is rather a proof of sobriety of mind to do without, or, at least, to value at a low rate. But is the psalmist commending to us these things, or the reverse, when he speaks of them as "deep things" or "parables"? Does he address himself to the many or to the few? to the people as a whole, or to some spiritual aristocracy? after all, not an aristocracy by spiritual qualities, but by natural, or even by circumstantial differences? For there is, let it be known, a spiritual aristocracy, (if you please to call it so,) but it is defined by devotedness and diligence of heart: and where these are found, the race of the prophets still is found, to whom the words of Amos will apply (Amos 3:7): "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets."

When we go on to look at the psalm which is thus characterized, however, we may have difficulty in discussing how it fulfills the titles which are thus given to it. From beginning to end it is historic, — an appeal to facts which we already have in books that are devoted to the "wonderful works" of the Lord in relation to Israel. For God never left such things to tradition merely. What would tradition be in the hands of those whose incompetency every way the history itself demonstrates so absolutely? But this history, being what it is, and of what it is, is just what is suited to utter divine secrets to the heart that is attentive. It is the ways of God put in connection with the men and their ways, to which these apply. Thus, since we are men, and the same God is ours and theirs, the history becomes a parable or similitude, — something by which, as we compare things together, what we are and what God is to us will be brought out. Thus the very history becomes a mirror for us, not merely of ourselves, but of ourselves in the light of God. How good thus to know ourselves!

Then indeed, our own history and the history of God's people at all times, become united in one glorious whole, which fills the soul with light and blessing. "What we have heard and known," and what "our fathers have told us" come into the most instructive agreement. Our lives are seen not to be broken and disjointed, and so far, meaningless fragments, but are lifted into significance and power. The actors in all this human history become friends and counsellors. The precepts of the Word are powerfully enforced, illustrated, and fastened in their place by these vivid pictures, all the more fitted to lay hold of us by the exceptional magnitude of the events which come before us in them, — only made plainer, and not distorted by their magnitude.

Were we thus more realizing the ways of God with us, the natural consequence would follow that we should be (how much!) more competent witnesses to those that come after us in the same path. "What we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us, we will not hide from their children, showing to the generations to come the praises of Jehovah, and His strength, and His wonderful works that He has done." This is what secures the blessing that is in it, that it is His praises that are being thus sustained and spread abroad. God is in His place, and thus all else, in the same proportion that He is so.

(b) The second part here declares this perpetual testimony to be designed of God, to maintain the memory of His acts and the authority of His commands, in view of the constant proneness upon man's part to forget. The living voice of the preacher was to make, in the lower sense of this, the Word living. And the preacher was not to be official, but, as we may say, the one everywhere installed by nature. God, as the Author of nature, confirms its appointment. We may now pass on to the history.

2. The second section shows us now, in brief but decisive contrast, the ways of the people and the ways of God. As to the people, this is put in the most general terms, the tribe of Ephraim being taken as their representatives, for reasons which we shall have presently to consider. The ways of God are shown by reference to the great features of His intervention for them in Egypt and the wilderness. The miracles in Egypt are only referred to, and come up for review more fully afterwards; the others are not spoken of again in the psalm.

(a) On the people's side there is not seen merely failure. It is carefully explained that what might seem that was in reality much more. With God, they could not fail. If they did so, it was because they refused to walk in His law. At first sight, what is said of Ephraim also appears as if it were an incident only, but it is not so. Ephraim is but representative of the conduct of all the tribes; their action as typical as they themselves are.

When Israel entered the land, it was under the Ephraimite, Joshua. When the ark came first to rest in the land, it was in Ephraimitic Shiloh that it rested. "Shiloh" is the name given to Messiah in Jacob's prophecy as to the tribes (Gen. 49), and means He who gives peace": the rest of the ark might well seem to intimate that that peace was now at hand.

The tribe of Ephraim, the younger of the brother tribes of Joseph, but in Jacob's prophecy concerning these (Gen. 48) exalted to the first place, might well therefore in Joshua's time claim the leadership in Israel. Reuben had lost the birthright which was his originally, and Joseph, the first-born of Rachel, had gained it: these two sons of his taking place with the sons of Jacob themselves, showing him to have the double portion of the first-born. Every way, therefore, in title as in fact, the preeminence then belonged to Ephraim.

But the title under which they inherited the land at that time had, as we well know, one fundamental defect: it was this, that it was held according to the covenant of law, — the covenant which, in ignorance of themselves and of God, they had taken upon themselves to keep. Their failure therefore to hold this title was inevitable; although only by degrees did this become apparent. In Jacob's blessing of the tribes Judah occupies a large place; but Joseph, it might be claimed, one still larger. If Shiloh is spoken of in connection with. Judah, the Shepherd and Stone of Israel is spoken of in connection with the other: what the connection, might still be doubtful. In Moses' blessing, Joseph again has undeniably the larger place. No other tribe could claim precedence, if Judah failed.

Apart from all typical significance, (which, of course, could not be pleaded in the case,) Joshua, therefore, was the natural leader in taking possession of the land, and might well seem to emphasize the claim of Ephraim. Thus Ephraim comes into the psalm here as the representative tribe: but it is no longer said of him; as of Joseph it had been, "his bow abode in strength." The language might seem in designed opposition to this: "the children of Ephraim; archers equipped, turned back in the day of encounter." Equipped they were, and therefore sufficient to have stood. God had not failed them; circumstances were not too strong for them. Nor lacked there any assurance of successful issue. They stood upon ground secured to them by the divine promise: "every place that the sole of your foot shall tread on shall be your own." Yet in spite of all this, they turned back: it was no mere failure: "they kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in His law; and they forgat His works, and His wonders that He had shown them."

(b) This is a common history, and it was that of the whole nation. Yet what had He not done for them! It was no unknown God who laid claim to their obedience. He had manifested Himself to them in mighty miracles by which He had shaken to its centre what was then the greatest kingdom upon earth, which held them in its cruel grip relentlessly. He had made the sea to yield a path for their escape, the waters standing as a heap while they passed through. He had Himself led them by that which, always the opposite of nature, answered to their need, a cloud by day, the light of fire by night. In the wilderness He had cleft the rocks for them; at Horeb and at Meribah, and given them drink abundantly, as out of the depths. Nay, He had brought streams out of the rock, and caused the waters to run down like rivers.*

{*The last two verses refer" of course" to the same two miracles" though these are differently emphasized. The fourth verse speaks of need met simply, though abundantly met the fifth of what in the language of Scripture would be called "living", i.e."running" waters. The typical interpretation would give here a gleam of light as to the structure: for" while 4 is the number of the creature" 5 — that is 4 plus 1, — brings into connection with this the thought of God in relation to the creature" which the "'living water" as the type of the Spirit of God (John 7:38, 39) would answer to. But this involves" of course" interpretation of this character, and as ruling where the literal meaning seems the first thing. The natural constantly is the basis of the spiritual" as we have often seen but I can only suggest the question and leave it.}

3. (a) The third section shows how the people had sinned in the very presence of God so manifested to them. It was not a later generation merely that did so, with whom the knowledge of these things had grown dim in the years that had elapsed since their recurrence, but the very generation among whom such miracles had been displayed. People scoff now, because they see no miracles; but so they did when the miracles were before their eyes: they sinned yet more against Him, and provoked the Most High in the desert," — there where His supremacy over all nature had been unequivocally demonstrated in their behalf. Miracles did not repress the craving of hearts away from God, for which one thing denied could turn the bounteous Giver into one incompetent to secure the blessing of those with whom He had charged Himself. Yet in the same breath they own what He had already done in bringing water out of the rock. To provide flesh, they thought, was a more difficult thing, and transcended His ability. Thus they turned His hand against themselves: "fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger went up" in the flame that rose against Israel." Unbelief was the only sin with them; as it always has been the sin that provoked judgment: unbelief that came not from lack of evidence, for of that there was abundance, but from wills that rebelled against His easy yoke.

(b) As in the book of Numbers, when the people are murmuring about the food which God has given them, and craving flesh, as we are here reminded, the Spirit of God turns to describe this manna which they are rejecting, so now does the psalmist, though in a different manner. He especially dwells upon it as bread from heaven, and then upon the strength given by it, for that is surely what is meant by calling it "the bread of the mighty" — bread that produces might. Nor are we to think of any figurative sense of the words, or any typical significance of the manna itself. The purpose to which he applies the history forbids any thought of this in the case, as is evident. The marvel was great indeed, and fitted to appeal to the heart, that the food which the desert soil denied should come to them from heaven! When we think of the precisely measured quantity, on the sixth day double every other day, following them wherever they journeyed for forty years, until it ceased, just after passing Jordan, — it was a stupendous miracle. No wonder that imagination should picture it, (as the Septuagint, but not the Hebrew, does) as "angels' food." No wonder that it should be really — prepared in such a manner, with such abundant care, — "bread of the mighty"; like the food in the strength of which Elijah went forty days and forty nights, through this same wilderness, "to Horeb, the mount of God." "Provision to the full" it was, excluding any possible need of any other. And that is the point here.

God had provided for them; and how then could that provision be other than perfectly adapted to their need? In fact, it was the food to nourish a race of mighty men. Yet that wilderness-food was but the type of ours. This spiritual manna, what ought it not to produce in us in the way of strength and courage! what spiritual heroes ought we not to be! Nay, we should say rather, what will there not be in this way, if God's food be really partaken of in faith and simplicity. Communication with Christ, — the entering into that self-sacrificing love which brought Him down to us, and gave Him for our sins! what manner of men must this make of us, in all holy conversation and godliness! If this be lacking, it is not that God's provision has failed, for that cannot be, but that we have despised and turned away from it: and who can doubt that this is largely the case now? Plenty of activity in benevolent work there may be, where this is true; and the very enthusiasm for this work which leads professing Christians to associate for such ends with the deniers and despisers of Christ Himself, is the surest evidence of this.

(c) The people, however, have turned from the manna: they desire flesh; and, their craving being ungratified, they have questioned even the ability of God to give it. He will not therefore permit this. They shall see that His hand is not shortened, and that the creatures that He has made are subject to Him, though sin has made man a rebel. Once more the powers of heaven therefore are in activity: the east wind unites with the south wind to accomplish His will, and flesh is rained upon them more plentifully than manna was. Nor is there the least trouble in procuring it: it is all round about them; at their very doors: "He let it fall in the midst of their camp, — round about their habitations." The manifestation of His power and goodness is complete.

(d) But this necessarily becomes a new test for the people. God cannot be manifested to them without its being that. What will they do now, when His power and love to them are so perfectly demonstrated? Will they judge themselves for all these murmurings, and give Him the glory due to Him? Have they hearts capable of being touched by this new grace, which comes so entirely in the way which they have themselves indicated for it?

Alas, there is no response. This mercy is to them only the satisfaction of their lust. They eat to repletion of the food, hardened and stupefied by it, instead of blest; and the judgment of God falls upon them. It is, in fact, now the only remedy which even mercy knows. Judgment therefore picks out the fat ones, and the choice men of Israel are stricken down: and with what effect? "For all this, they sinned yet, and believed not His wondrous works." The genesis of unbelief, as rather in the heart than in the head, is perfectly apparent.

4. This ends the detailed story of the wilderness, to which we have only a general reference again (verses 40, 41), and the place is reached in which we may now survey man, this fallen creature. and ask, what is he? It is a question very necessary to be faced and answered, if we ourselves are to go on with God. If we trust in man, it is ourselves we trust in: for we are men. If we trust in ourselves, in that exact proportion will God's ways be dark to us, and Himself unknown. The Cross it is in which together man finds his judgment, and God manifests Himself in the glory that is His. If it be not man's due, then is the cross mere martyrdom; and Christ at best but Prince of martyrs. If it be man's due, and by a death under His wrath on sin God alone could save us, then how completely must man be put out of sight, in order that there may be a righteous ground for our salvation, — that God may be righteous in it. And Christianity is not the restoration (even by grace) of this ruined creature. It is the setting aside — the crucifixion of the old man, that Christ may be now the New Man, in whom God sees us, and in whom we see ourselves, — that I may live, no longer I, but Christ in me (Gal. 2:20). Faith, which is but the turning of the back on self, being now the only principle of fruitfulness and power, we walk in Christ as we live in Christ. They are the true circumcision who worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh (Phil. 3:3).

The review here is of the greatest importance, and we have it with such completeness as man's history thus far could give it, in seven sections, in which there is not omitted the pitifulness of God's estimate, while He is truthful in it. True, "He consumed their days in vanity, and their years in terror;" yet it was the only thing that would in any wise recall them to Himself: for "when He slew them, then they sought Him, and returned, and sought diligently after the Mighty One." It was might that they needed to be put forth for them; and the memory of former deliverances wrought with them: "they remembered that God was their Rock, and the Mighty One, the Most High, their Redeemer."

Something now was surely accomplished. Their need had been most real, and the remembrance of God was also real; the days of the Judges come to our mind, when "the children of Israel cried unto Jehovah, and Jehovah raised them up a deliverer." Yet how constantly had fresh captivity followed deliverance! Alas, it was manifest that when they turned to God it was but halfheartedly: the greatness of their need had constrained them, and not a love responsive to the love that had been shown them. They had flattered Him with their mouth, and lied unto Hint with their tongue, and their heart was not firm with Him, and they were not steadfast in His covenant."

What hope then in man, whom judgment brings but to a forced and temporary amendment, and mercies move but to forgetting Him altogether? Yet He went on still in mercy manifest, or chastening with what was mercy in disguise: "He was compassionate, and forgave their perversity, and destroyed them not; and often turned away His anger, and did not stir up all His wrath." And why? Ah, "He remembered that they were flesh: breath that goeth and returneth not." Frailty and transience could not be more perfectly characterized than by that which is the sign and accompaniment of the life within man. Flesh, too, is that which in all its waste and renewal teaches the same lesson; while as the lowest part of him; and yet into which he seems altogether sunk, it speaks of ruin, which, to be such for a creature such as man, must be moral ruin. The Lord's argument from this condition is, that he "must be born again."

5. The following section shows Israel's history in conformity with this; and God's dealings with them until everything seems gone; His link with them broken, the ark in captivity, the priests that served it slain. It is the history of centuries of long-suffering on His part, though compressed in so brief a space. But in truth the elements are few and simple, and the history in its general character monotonous enough. It is prefaced by a longer detail of how he had acted on their behalf in Egypt to deliver them: showing to them and to men at large in impressive detail the complete dependence of all things upon Himself. Hence in the world's insubjection to Him, the subjection of things to man is lost, and the course of nature is turned against him. Such lessons learned at the start, how much would have been spared them! How strange that each generation must needs learn by experience what the combined experience of the race has been ineffectual to teach it! Israel is in all this a constant example to us.

(a) The wilderness is first of all glanced at, to remind us how they rebelled against Him there, — how "they turned back, and tempted the Most High, and set limits to the Holy One of Israel." One would imagine rather that it would be said, that they set limits to the Mighty One, — that is, to His power; but the thought is that it is His holiness which, in view of their sin, hinders Him from coming in for them. Is it not so, that God's "delights are with the sons of men," and that, as we see in Christ come down among us, He would give free way to His love, but that unbelief on our part forces Him behind the veil, puts "bounds around the Mighty," in His very love to us? Alas, so can His redeemed ones act, though partakers of a better redemption, that Israel of old should he their sign: for they remembered not His hand, — the day when He redeemed them from the oppressor: how He set His signs in Egypt, His miracles in the field of Zoan." Signs of this kind are for His people to read, that they may escape them. They take effect as to the world, the state of which they reveal as away from God, and the contrast between it and His people; who are yet warned by them of the things "on account of which the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience."

(b) Such an application of the plagues of Egypt follows in the next section: in the very first of which we see, as before remarked, nature rebelling against those in rebellion against God. The river, in its various channels by which the land was watered, and which was the very sign of their independence of heaven, — which they adored as a god, and yet could claim as their own making (Ezek. 29:3) — things which to all idolatry agree well together, — the river was turned into blood, so that they could not drink of it. The support of life becomes the very symbol of death, and of death by violence, the infliction of the penalty. It is, in fact, not merely the insurrection of nature that is here, but penalty from the Creator of nature — death from the Life-giver.

Next, in another order from that in Exodus, and two miracles being classed together to make the lesson clear, — the pride of Egypt is abased by two of the meanest instrumentalities, the "swarms" (no doubt, of insects) and the croakers of the marsh," as the word for frogs seems to mean in Hebrew.

Then the fruit of their labor, as that of unclean hands, is put under the ban and destroyed by what Joel calls the army of the Lord. And then nature itself is smitten by that which speaks of the withdrawal of God from it. Afterwards nature as in subjection to and sympathy with man, of which the cattle naturally speak.*

{*"The number five, as applied to man, speaks of man with God, the 4 of the creature being added to the 1 of the Creator. . . But in the lower sphere in which we now are — penetrated everywhere as it is, however, with divine meaning — the 1 represents man instead of God, but man as His vicegerent and in His image. Thus this last character of the rasorial type, as described by Mr. Swainson, the 'aptitude and disposition of those accomplishing it to submit to his dominion,' is surely as remarkable as unexpected an illustration of the number before us. Man with God means man subject to Him, under His dominion: here we have the image of that in the lower creatures." ("Spiritual Law in the Natural World," p. 137.)}

Next, we find "a mission of messengers of ill," the more open manifestation and fullness of evil as from Him. And then death itself, and by pestilence, as the end of all, closes the list. No doubt, the death of the first-born is here included, though this is given in another connection, separately, as it stands in the book of Exodus itself, apart from the other plagues.

(c) We now find Israel put in possession of the land, toward which the death of the first-born is the first decisive step; the deliverance of the people follows, with which is connected God's guidance of them in the wilderness. The wilderness is no more mentioned. Then we have their safety from the presence of God with them; their enemies being buried in the sea; and then at once they are at the land: "He brought them to His holy border, this mountain which His right hand acquired." Last comes the governmental award of the land, of which for their sins He dispossessed the nations of Canaan.

All this is briefly told, but more effectually for its very brevity. God is now for them, and nothing can even delay His progress, except the unbelief and folly of those with whom He has charged Himself. In fact there was on this account a delay during the lifetime of the whole generation; but this is not now in question, and has indeed been already considered. The psalmist designs all this but as introduction to the story of their defection in the land, after all this power displayed for them.

(d) The departure is now, still in the concisest manner, told out. There is nothing new in their course except the new opportunities afforded by the high places of the land: the departure is, first, negative rebellion, "they observed not His testimonies." Then, more positively and decisively, "they turned back, and dealt faithlessly, like their fathers: they turned aside like a deceitful bow." The next verse shows a direct attack upon the central worship: high places which the one sanctuary was intended to displace rose up again, and graven images moved the Lord to jealousy.

(e) The recompense follows in the next two sections: first of all, in His removal of the profaned sanctuary. Shiloh is given up, and the tent He had in wondrous loving-kindness pitched among men. And He gave His strength" the ark of His strength" (Ps. 132:8) into captivity among the Philistines; and his beauty (or splendor) — still the ark, but in another aspect of it, — into the hand of the oppressor of Israel. Thus God, in every visible sign of relationship, had departed from Israel, and Ichabod, according to the declaration of the dying wife of Phinehas, was written upon the nation at large. Every regularly constituted link was snapped asunder. God might still speak by a prophet, and in fact did so, for this depended upon a grace which was sovereign with Him; His inalienable prerogative, whenever He was pleased to exercise it. But the established order of things was at an end. Nor was the ark restored to its place till David's time (1 Chron. 13:3; Ps. 132:6).

(f) If things went on otherwise well, man might feel little, alas, the loss of his great treasure. But because God will not give them up to this, more sensible chastening must ensue. Therefore, in very acknowledgment that in the thoughts of His heart they were still His people, He delivered them up to the sword; their young men were consumed in the fire of His anger, so that the maidens went unwedded. Their priests also fell by the sword, making the sanctuary doubly desolate; and their widows were dumb with a grief that went beyond the grief of widowhood.

This is the end, then, in fact, of the legal covenant, in one important aspect of it. The people had failed under it as first given — failed utterly at Sinai itself. Priesthood was then a resource, and with a modification of the first unsparing severity of law, they were put under it a second time, in the hands of a mediator: first, Moses, but then the family of Aaron. Now these, too, had utterly failed, and all was gone once more. Samuel may be in this strait another Moses, and introduce one last method of trial after the legal sort, by the king. But the issue cannot now be any more doubtful, for "as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man." The song of Moses had indeed foreseen it all from the beginning; and he who would take God's estimate of things could never at any time have been in doubt. Now it was proved, however, by ample experience, in the national history. Thus a momentous conclusion had in fact been reached. Man is "flesh," and of man in the flesh here is an end. Though David follow therefore in this psalm; this is not put now as if it were a new trial. David is but the expression of a grace in God which will need indeed Another in whom rightly to manifest itself; but the grace is here, and with David in this way seen, the psalmist ends. For faith there is left an open secret, to which his own last words bear witness. (2 Sam. 23:1-7.)

6. The sixth section is clearly therefore a fresh division of the psalm; and not a continuation of the former one. It is also, beautifully, as we know, a trumpet-note of victory after defeat, but the Lord's victory, and not man's. And so, exactly, its opening words declare. Two verses are devoted to this thought.

(a) The Lord — not Jehovah, but Adonai, the Sovereign Lord — awakes, as the strong figure puts it, as one out of sleep; and His full strength is manifest at once with Him. He is "like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine." The excited energy of man is needed to furnish the figure: "He smote His adversaries backward; an everlasting reproach He inflicted upon them."

(b) But the new grace must have new experience. It must be seen that this is not a reinstating of the old conditions. The first-born, the primacy of nature, is once more rejected. The tent of Joseph is not restored; God's sovereignty of choice cannot be properly shown out in the taking up again for His abode the tribe of Ephraim. His new relation is one that depends solely upon the love that is in His own heart, and thus Zion becomes unchangeably the destined seat of His earthly kingdom, and Judah the tribe with which this is connected. And now the "tent" correspondingly gives place to a permanent dwelling. He builds as for eternity: "He built His sanctuary like the heights, — like the earth, which He founded for ever."

From these thoughts He has not departed. From this free choice he could not depart. In His counsel Zion is still, according to its name, the "fixed," and Judah the worshiper. Yet a little while, and His old abode shall he revisited in His love, in a favor no more to be withdrawn, as all the prophets witness. And thus we see how true a beginning of grace is exhibited here.

(c) The psalm ends with the "Anointed." The structure emphasizes this, and not merely the King: though he is King, and must be anointed, to be this. The eyes of the prophet are afar off, though David is in immediate sight: David, the "Beloved," here too God's heart has chosen, and will not give up its choice. David, first of all, His servant, proved in the lowly service of the flock, by and by to serve His true flock on the throne: to be shepherd to Jacob — well known as that, yet "His people," and "Israel His inheritance."

And God's thought was realized — though but partially indeed — in David. It is easy to hear the Voice that speaks to us in it with how much deeper meaning: "And he tended them after the integrity of His heart, and guided them with the skilfulness of His hands."

Psalm 79.

The plea against the invasion of the enemy.

A psalm of Asaph.

The seventy-ninth psalm is strikingly similar to the seventy-fourth; and these occupy the same position in their respective sections. The one is the second psalm of the first section, as the other is of the second. In both it is the invasion of the enemy that is the subject, and in both they have profaned the very sanctuary of God. But in the seventy-fourth this and the similar destruction of the places of assembly in the land are the whole topic, while here it is still more the slaughter of the people of God themselves. But both are before us, and we have evidently such a state of things as that in the last psalm, when God removed His tabernacle from Shiloh, and His people were oppressed and slaughtered by the Philistine foe. Here it is the time of the end, and the desolation is still worse, and plainly hopeless, save to God Himself. But the greater the distress the greater the remedy; and as in the former case God raised up David, it is now a greater than David that is to be their resource, as we have seen in the psalms that follow. In the present we have only their prayer, the pleading which shows the ground they are on in their souls with God, and what is effectual with Him. Essentially, this ground is always in Himself, and the utter break-up of self-confidence it is which gives us a bolder and more confident appeal to Him.

There are thirteen verses in the psalm; which is divided otherwise as a twelve-versed psalm would be; the additional verse finding its place in the first section.

1. We have first the occasion of their prayer, the case spread out before God. It concerns Him. The nations have invaded His inheritance, defiled His temple, laid Jerusalem in heaps. They have given the dead bodies of His servants as food to the birds and beasts of prey. No doubt their sins — and they own it to be so — have provoked the Lord to anger; but here are enemies to Himself who have come in to slaughter those who at least were His servants, worshipers of His, and "saints," sanctified by His Name upon them. Their blood has been shed like water round the city of peace, so that none was left to bury them. Yet thus they were left to appeal to God in the open sight of heaven, — the crime manifested, earth refusing to cover it (comp. Job 16:18; Ezek. 24:8). But so too was the reproach of their helplessness to those round about but without pity for them.

2. They now impute this rightly to Jehovah's anger: but will it be, then, perpetual 2 These are aliens who disown Him altogether: will He not rather pour it out on these? these who have shown their hostility by devouring Jacob, and laying waste his habitation?

3. Thus for the glory of His Name they can appeal to Him to come in. They acknowledge the sins of their fathers and their own: but the glory of His Name still appeals for their salvation. The nations taunt Him as One not to be found in the day of need: let the avenging of the blood of His servants make Him known.

4. The last section pleads their helplessness. They are as prisoners shut up and under the death sentence: they plead that His mercy may give them life, and that He render seven-fold the reproach with which His adversaries have reproached Him. As His people, the sheep of His pasture, their thankful hearts, from generation to generation, shall show forth His praise.

The psalm is of the simplest character, and needs little labor to make it plain.

Psalm 80.

Revival sought and restoration of the glory of God through the Revived Branch, the Man of His right hand.

To the chief musician upon Shoshannim-Eduth: a psalm of Asaph.

{Verses 1 & 2 'leddest'  & 'sittest': present participles in both cases — "leading," "sitting": but the reference is to the past.}

The outburst in the eightieth psalm is singularly beautiful. It is still a prayer, and as to much of it a lamentation, but Israel has caught sight of the way of blessing, and is proportionately expectant of the blessing itself. Even the Targum finds Messiah in it, and the title "upon Shoshannim-Eduth," or "concerning the lilies of testimony," reminds us of what we have had, with some variations, in the forty-fifth, sixtieth, and sixty-ninth psalms, already. Christ and His people are here together again; and their testimony, while so different as to the witnesses themselves, combines in absolute perfection in the final result, in which God does indeed, according to the burden of the repeated prayer, "shine forth," — and for more than Israel. Her revival — the turning of her heart to Him, — and the preparation of the Branch in and through which the nation alone revives, — are all of Him. He is the Saviour-God, the God and Father of Him in whom salvation is wrought out and comes into their possession; as into ours.

1. The psalm opens with a cry to the Divine Shepherd who of old led Joseph like a flock. The reference is to the wilderness journey to the promised land, and the mention of Joseph in this prominence has nothing to do with the divided kingdom of Israel long afterward, which by the fact of its division separated itself from the cherubic throne as here referred to. The true reason of Joseph's prominence has been already shown in the seventy-eighth psalm. After Reuben's loss of the birthright for his sin, it came naturally to Joseph, Rachel's first-born; the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh being the two-fold witness of this, as well as the tabernacle in Shiloh in the land of Ephraim. This lasted till the captivity of the ark in Eli's time, when Ichabod was written upon the nation; and out of this ruin emerged a new state of things, the prominence of Judah and the divine choice of Zion and David. It is no wonder, therefore, that Asaph, going back to the beginning of the nation; as he does, should make Joseph prominent. With the kingdom of the ten tribes, with which many would for this reason connect these psalms, Asaph had nothing to do.

It is natural for the psalmist to go back to the wilderness, when the tribes advancing under their Almighty Leader were preparing to take possession of their land. He is looking now to another possession of it, when the whole nation would come into line once more, following their great Shepherd. But for this He must take the throne as of old, and in the old relationship, as when the ark went before the tribes of Rachel's offspring, its accustomed place. But for this they too must be turned to Him; and, (just because they are in fact turning, but in the consciousness of their own feebleness of will and waywardness, with their old history facing them — starting aside as a deceitful bow,) they ask, in the person of the psalmist, to be turned. God alone could make effective this desire of theirs. The work in them, as the work for them, must be His: the two, therefore, are joined together in the cry, "Turn us again, O God! cause Thy face to shine on us, and we shall be saved."

But with this comes also the consciousness of His present and long-continued anger. How long shall it continue to smoke against those who cry to Him? Their present circumstances are a sorrowful contrast to that glorious time to which they are looking back.

2. This leads to a sorrowful pleading of their condition. He who was once their Shepherd has fed them with the bread of tears, and given them in abundance tears to drink. And this breach has made them a matter of contention to their neighbors, a derision to those hostile to them. And again they utter their sad, yet expectant cry: "Turn us again; O God of hosts; and cause Thy face to shine, and we shall be saved."

3. This is, however, but a preface to a longer pleading, in which their case is set before God. They go back to the deliverance out of Egypt, in which He had separated them to Himself for fruit. The vine is good for nothing else but fruit, and with its trailing branches is the very image of dependence. The prophet Isaiah (Isa. 5) uses the same figure in the same way, although speaking from the divine side, as the psalmist does from the human; and the brief appeal in Jeremiah (2:21) is similar to Isaiah. Here the appeal is to God on the ground of what He had done for them, that that work should not be in vain.

He had brought a vine out of Egypt. — brought it out, as is implied, to yield Him fruit: shall it not yield Him fruit? He had dispossessed nations, to make way for it; and He having made room, it rooted itself and filled the land. Next, we see its glory: it rose, shadowing the mountains, with a growth as solid as the mighty cedars. Lastly, we have its extension to the sea and to the River (Euphrates), — in these directions its divinely-given boundaries.

4. But in spite of all this progress, ruin had followed where success seemed fully assured. The causes of this are shown in Isaiah to be moral and spiritual failure on the part of the people. It was not possible that the failure could be in God. He could appeal to themselves whether He could have done anything for His vineyard that He had not done. Yet when He looked for His vine to bring forth grapes, it brought forth wild grapes. All His care and cultivation of it had gone for nothing in the result: why, then, should He go on with it? He tells them; therefore, what He will do in consequence of all this: "I will take away the hedge thereof," He says, "and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down; and I will lay it waste." It is this action of God which the psalmist sees, and which he laments. He says nothing directly of the moral causes: they are implied, no doubt, in the very need which they now have of Him; but his argument goes back of all this, to the Immutable God and His purposes. He leaves out the people, as if they were of no account. Certainly, when God took them up, He knew what was in man: He could not be deceived. He had brought this vine out of Egypt; He had taken abundance of pains with it. He had linked Himself openly, before the eyes of men; with this people of His choice. After all, could He be defeated? It is the argument of Moses in the wilderness, when God proposes to him that the people should be consumed as a stiff-necked people, and He would make of Moses himself a great nation. Nay, says Moses, "then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for Thou broughtest up this people in Thy might from among them,) and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land, . . . and the nations that have heard the fame of Thee will speak, saying, Because Jehovah was not able to bring this people into the land which He sware unto them, therefore He hath slain them in the wilderness" (Num. 14:13-16).

Here is the same effectual argument, in which the sin of the people itself is omitted, to plead with God as to the undoing of His own acts, as if it were mutability in the Immutable, or powerlessness in the Omnipotent. "Why hast Thou broken down its enclosure, so that all who pass by the way may pluck it? The boar out of the wood doth ravage it, and the wild beasts of the field feed on it."

So he cries now to God as the all-powerful, "the God of hosts" ready at all times to execute His will, to return and visit this vine, which through His power alone had been all that it had ever been — "the stock which Thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that Thou madest strong for Thyself." It is here that the Targum renders," and upon the King Messiah, whom Thou hast established for Thyself." Literally it is "the son," but which in relation to a vine would be a branch, according to Hebrew usage. Delitzsch and Moll apply it still to the nation; as they do also the expressions in verse 18; the Christian here falling behind the Jewish expositor, and the point and power of the closing appeal being lost. The psalm thus becomes tame and colorless enough.

Doubtless, "the Son of man; whom Thou madest strong for Thyself," is intended to remind us of the previous "branch" or "son; whom Thou madest strong for Thyself": but the argument can work also the other way. God does, as we know, call Israel His son; and the first passage could in that way be explained of the nation; but the Son of man; and Man of God's right hand, cannot be made so to apply according to Scripture, while the first title expressly and the second by the easiest possible inference apply to Christ: who is also as plainly the "Branch" which is strengthened of God for Himself. And here is Israel's hope, as well as the hope of any. The place of the psalm in this series, and the numerical structure also, are in the fullest confirmation of this application, which alone gives worthy meaning to the whole.

Yet the "branch" of verse 15 may not be directly Christ, but David's house,with the desolation of which the promise connected with it would seem in danger of being lost; and this interpretation preserves consistency throughout. With the seed of David the national hope is plainly identified; and Christ is, according to the flesh, the seed of David.

All seems to be over: "it is burned with fire, it is cut down: they perish at the rebuke of Thy countenance." God seems to be against Himself, undoing the work which He has done. But it is the sense of man's ruin which, after all, enables the soul to rise to the conception of the divine thoughts, and the psalmist concludes with renewed confidence.

5. The number 5, in its essential significance of "man with God," breathes here, assuredly, the Name of Names, Immanuel." And it is with this that the fifth section begins. While the language is still that of prayer, yet faith has risen to clear sight of the answer. "The Man of Thy right hand" may connect itself with Benjamin; but only as Benjamin is connected typically with Christ. Benjamin speaks indeed, as we have elsewhere seen; of Christ in power upon earth, and God's hand upon Him cannot surely be in wrath, as some have suggested, but to strengthen or put Hint in the place which is His due. The direct reference is to the 110th psalm; "Sit Thou on My right hand," for Christians a scripture easy enough to read in this connection, even if we had not the confirmation of the latter half of the verse.

"The Son of man" was, as we know, the title which the Lord most commonly assumed. It was that which proclaimed Him in wider sympathy than merely with the Jew, His nature truly human; and come into humanity by the lowly entrance by which other men come, though that for Him indeed implied a miracle. Thus He was fit to be also the Judge of men (John 5:27), and as such comes in the clouds of heaven to His kingdom. Here is One whom God has indeed "made strong for Himself"; and God's hand setting Him in His place is the proclamation of the hour that strikes for Israel's deliverance.

Thus all is in harmony. Power is in His hands for them, and in His hands only who has made atonement in the Manhood He has taken; and in Him, too, is security for the future which nothing else could give. Saved with so marvelous a salvation; they may now say without self-confidence, "So will we not go back from Thee"; and in recognition of the need of the Spirit's work, — "quicken us, and we will call upon Thy Name."

Once more the cry, but with increased confidence to Him who has made the Son of man strong for Himself: — "Turn us again, Jehovah, God of hosts! make Thy face to shine on us, and we shall be saved."

Psalm 81.

The new ways that go with the new experience.

To the chief musician: upon the Gittith: [a psalm] of Asaph.

The connection of the eighty-first psalm with the preceding one is as simple as it is beautiful. Israel has been crying for God's face to shine upon her as of old: here it does shine upon her. As the result she shines: for this new moon, clothing itself again with the glory of the sun; is her own symbol. The blowing of the trumpets at the beginning of the seventh month is the first of the series of set times which speak of Israel's blessing (Lev. 23, notes). Passover, the Sheaf of First-fruits, Pentecost — that is, the Cross, the Resurrection; and the Coming of the Holy Ghost, (the Christian endowment,) — are some time past; and the seventh month speaks of the time for the completion of the divine purposes having arrived, which necessarily, therefore, brings Israel once more to the forefront. In the blowing of trumpets we hear the voice of her recall; in the day of atonement — though this naturally links itself with the past, for the day of atonement has really begun long before they come into it, — their sins as a nation are taken away from them in the ordinance of the scapegoat; and in the feast of tabernacles we find them in permanent blessing in the land, remembering their wilderness-wanderings (which for so many centuries now have been renewed to them) as past forever.

The new moon; therefore, is Israel's own symbol. The light is beginning to shine upon her: she, therefore, is beginning to reflect it; and here the beauty and evangelical character of this eighty-first psalm become fully apparent. As a fourth psalm of this series, it speaks of man's walk, — of the practical life, — and this is evident in the psalm itself: it speaks of what Israel's ways should have been; and of what, alas, they were; but the God who spake to them of old is afresh speaking to them, afresh inviting them to obedience. But how, then; is that obedience to be rendered? how are they to escape the recurrence of that terrible departure from Him; under the shadow of which they have been for so many generations? Here the psalm itself can give us no plain speech. It simply gives and ends with the invitation. For us who have realized the law to be only the condemnation of man; there can be no hope if we think of man. He has been weighed in the balances and found wanting. And there is no difference between men: as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man." The gospel thus comes to us as helpless — "lost" — and casts us altogether upon grace, — that is, upon God, for all that is to come. If the blood of Christ avails alone for our sins before God, it is this also which, applied in the power of the Spirit, reconciles the heart to God, and makes the life the expression of the reconciliation. Grace becomes, not only our deliverance from condemnation, but our sufficiency for all the way. And this the beautiful type of the new moon expresses; the life must be the outshining of that which has first shone in. It is not by effort, and it is not a peradventure, if the moon shine. Men can predict it, and know certainly how it is effected. The light is derived — dependent: that which is received is reflected and shed abroad; and this is the light of all God's witnesses.

1. The feast of trumpets is the beginning of Israel's civil year; and this naturally connects itself with that national restoration which is implied in its three "set times." The jubilee, when it occurred, began on the tenth of the same month, after their sins had been removed by the scape-goat carrying them into a "land cut off." The civil year waited for these national feasts, and thus was parted from the sacred year, which presents God's order, and began with the passover. But the passover was a family ordinance, not (in the strict sense) national. All the nation did not keep it at the same time, but there was a second day appointed for those defiled with the dead or on a journey. Its aspect, therefore, is what the apostle's word to the jailer declared: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." Israel, as a nation; refused the passover, and thus the disjointing between their civil and religious years.

In the prophetic application of this psalm; therefore, Israel's national life is now truly beginning. Praise is in their heart and on their lips: God is celebrated as their strength and as the God of Jacob. Power has come in for them in grace, and this is the key-note of their joyful song with which, as we have so often seen in the case of Israel, nature finds its voice in accompaniment.

Let them sound the trumpet, then; in the new moon; at the set time, for their feast-day.* The blowing of trumpets may be itself the feast here spoken of; or this feast may be the feast of tabernacles. This last was but the fulfillment of the promise of the former, and therefore the passing over of the day of atonement (which Delitzsch objects against this interpretation) is readily accounted for. The feast of tabernacles was, so to speak, really the fullness of that which in the new moon was beginning to appear. In the time spoken of in it, Israel would be enjoying the presence of God; the brightness of His glory would be upon her: and this at the "set time" which proclaimed the foresight and purposes of eternal Wisdom, which could not be disappointed, because they could not be defeated. Therefore the trumpets may indeed be blown, and the whole earth, now to come into blessing, echo Israel's joy.

{*Here, however, there are different renderings and interpretations to be considered. Instead of "at the set time," most, perhaps, would now say, "at the full moon" and this is a point very difficult to decide. Happily, it is also not very important. If we take it so, the "feast-day" spoken of will be in the middle of the month whether it be the passover or the feast of tabernacles. This only adds to the significance (if it be correct) of what the new moon promises.

The passover is contended for on account of the fifth verse. Neither new moon nor tabernacles was instituted at the time that Jehovah "went forth against," or "over," "the land of Egypt"; but that verse in no wise requires to be understood in this way. The exact expression, with only a change of pronoun (betzehtham; "in their going forth," instead of betzehtho, "in his going forth"), occurs in Joshua 5:4, where the common version has "after they came out of Egypt," and that is certainly the sense.

The reference to the time of their deliverance does not at all necessitate that the feast should be that of the passover, as the exposition of the psalm as given above, should be enough to prove.}

2. The ordinance itself bears witness of the God of grace, who would thus keep that which His goodness would accomplish for them and in them before the eyes of His people. Looking back to the beginning of the nation; as is so constantly the case in these psalms, Joseph is still the representative of the tribes, and we have seen for what reason. The past deliverance out of Egypt is naturally connected with it, as the anticipation and pledge of the deliverance to come; as the foreign language that they had heard there is the suggestion of the many languages they have since had to learn in the many lands in which they have been made to sojourn since. But in all these at last they shall praise Him with joyful lips.

3. The Lord's voice now makes itself heard, and to the end of the psalm it is He that is heard alone. The psalmist becomes here a prophet in the highest sense, therefore. The two verses that follow are an appeal to their hearts by putting them in remembrance of that old deliverance. It becomes more direct as it goes on.

"I removed his shoulder from the burden," says their divine Redeemer: "their hands were freed from the basket" (the task-basket for the removal of clay and bricks). From such hard and servile labor He had freed them, from a distress in which their cry had gone up to Him by reason of their bondage. They had cried, and He delivered them: He had answered them in the Cloud of His Presence from which He looked in wrath upon their enemies — "the secret place of thunder," which they themselves had heard at Sinai. At the waters of Meribah also, where the smitten rock had poured out water for them, He had proved them by an intervention which answered their very murmurings with the witness of abiding love.

4. Thus they had been cared for up to Sinai itself; and these were the circumstances under which He spoke to them; demanding but (what should have been so easy to them) their allegiance to One who had manifested His power over the false gods of the nations, and in such perfect goodness toward themselves. He repeats now the essence of it, in a new appeal: for grace of necessity calls for obedience, and without this no blessing were possible. Grace, too, it had been with them of old, until their fatal self-sufficiency had made them take up a legal covenant to their ruin; but for grace they were not ready.

Yet the terms were made all that divine love could make them: love appealing in them for that answer of love for which it had wrought; and still love appeals for that without which it cannot be satisfied. "Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto Me; there shall no strange god be with thee: nor shalt thou worship any foreign god. I am Jehovah thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open wide thy mouth, and I will fill it."

How blessed to know that still, if we but yield Him our heart, we may assure ourselves of the fullest satisfaction from Him! "Open wide thy mouth" is what He bids us; and it is but obedience, therefore, to do this. Love will believe Him, and satisfy itself at this free fountain.

Israel, alas, fell away, as the Lord now reminds them: "My people did not hearken unto Me; and Israel would none of Me." It was not merely failure: it was revolt. And the recompense could not but follow: "So I gave them up to the stubbornness of their hearts, and they walked in their own counsels." The saddest thing that men can be left to is what is here expressed.

5. But now He returns to the yearning of His heart over them: "Oh that My people would hearken unto Me" now, He says — "that Israel would walk in My ways!" And then He proceeds to speak of the blessed consequences. How soon would their enemies be put down. Jehovah, a living fence around them, would make those cringe before Him who, in being their haters, would be His; while their time would be forever (comp. 1 John 2:17). Finally, the land would yield them fat of the wheat and honey from the rock, the tender care of the Creator for the creature He had made.

There the psalm ends, and we are left to find the assurance of the actual blessing that we look for from that prophetic ordinance with which it began. The new moon with its returning light speaks, as we have seen; not only of the favor of God toward Israel returning, but of the nation also reflecting back the light. And that is the method of grace in producing holiness, love begetting love. "God," says the apostle, "who made the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give out the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6, Gr.).

But there is another witness to the evangelical character of the psalm that is found in the title. We have already had "upon the Gittith" in that of the eighth psalm, and saw reason there to believe that in its fullest significance it speaks of the joy born from sorrow in the work of the Cross (p. 38, notes). If this be so, there is exact accordance between the two psalms in this respect. The work of atonement is not explicitly referred to in either of them; while it underlies both; and thus the grace which is seen in the re-appearing of the moon here finds its only stable foundation. It is the power and value of the blood of the Lamb that the joy of Israel's New Year's Day attests. Thus can the glory of God shine forth again upon them: it is in very deed the "glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ": and the salvation so attained is neither a merely external nor a temporary salvation. It is that salvation to the uttermost which every soul receives that comes in its ruin and helplessness "unto God by Him."

Psalm 82.

God judging among the judges.

A psalm of Asaph.

Because God is returning in grace to Israel, however, judgment must take its course against stubborn wrong-doers; and these are (alas) especially they who have occupied the places of rule and judgment among them. The wresting of judgment must be stopped with a strong hand, and the places of authority purged from their defilement with evil. And for this God Himself must take the judgment-seat and rule among men: and this He is ready to do, not alone in Israel, though beginning there, but over all the earth.

1. He stands, therefore, in the midst of what is His own assembly, and which is now to be the seat of power upon earth, the assembly of El, the Mighty One, in truth. He is there for judgment among the "gods," a term which the Lord defines for us from this very psalm (ver. 6) as "those to whom the word of God came" (John 10:35), — that is, who were commissioned to represent Him — the judges of Israel. They were thus identified with Him whom they represented, and were responsible in the most solemn way to represent Him in His character also, both in His righteousness and in His love to men.

Here then is the ground of His challenge to them, and in the first place as to what is first — the fundamental thing in judgment: it must be righteous judgment. Here is what must govern in the manifestation of love itself. And so the first appeal is: "How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?" Their conduct was in flagrant contradiction to their position as representatives of the Righteous God, and with whom is "no respect of persons."

2. But this cared for, they must manifest Him also on His salvation side, in His regard for the poor, the weak, the defenceless, and the oppressed. "Judge the weak and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and destitute." It must be still justice: that must not be violated even in pity to the poor; and there was a special commandment as to this (Ex. 23:3). Yet his poverty should nevertheless make him an object of special and tender interest: "Rescue the weak and needy: deliver him out of the hand of the wicked."

3. But the state of things is apparent. There is no heart, and therefore no knowledge: "they know not, neither do they understand": they are in darkness, for they are not with God, and God is light. But they do not need light for their course: their want of knowledge does not bring them to a stand; — "they walk on in darkness." Thus "all the foundations of the earth" — judgment and mercy which establish it — "are removed." There is nowhere any moral stability.

4. Thus failing in justice, the perverters of it must themselves fail and pass away. Their position is a lofty one. They are, as it were, gods: children of the Highest, every one of them. But that will be no security: they shall fall like the mere earthly princes that are anywhere found. The movement of the foundations must bring down — little as they may believe it, — their own house in ruins also.

5. Who shall succeed them? Is there to be only an endless succession of men like these? Nay, the earth groans and longs for God Himself. He must arise; and He will. There is no resource but in Him: no refuge for the creature but in God. "Arise, O God! judge the earth." And that is what shall be: the earth is His; and He shall take His inheritance; not Israel only; but with Israel, all the nations. Thank God, that blessed time is surely almost at the doors.

Psalm 83.

Victory over the last assault of evil.

A Song, a Psalm of Asaph.

Israel being now set right within, the tempest may roar against her; but there is no rotten core any more, to make the tree break. Still, she must find, but she shall find, her resource in God. The eighty-third psalm closes the series with a great confederacy of the nations hurling itself against Israel's shield, only to be dashed in ruin from it; and Jehovah is thus made known in all the earth in His supremacy of power.

1. In the first section the case is stated which demands the intervention of God. The nations of the earth are in rebellion against Him, and the psalmist cries for Him to act and not be still. His enemies are all astir, and full of anticipated triumph. They are in movement against the people of God, through whom alone they can attack Him; but who are hidden from them in a safe place of shelter, which they discern not, — which they must be made to realize. They mean nothing less than to cut off Israel as a nation from the face of the earth, and cause the very memory of them to be lost.

2. The allied foes are now enumerated, compacted together in covenant against God Himself. They are Israel's immediate neighbors, as far as we know them; and indeed, largely their kindred, with Philistia and Tyre, who were in the borders of their land. One power only beyond these is mentioned, as aiding and abetting, rather than instigating, the attack: and that is Assyria. Israel's foes are thus all round her: Edom, Ishmael, and Moab in the south; Ammon and Amalek on the east; the Philistines and Tyrians on the west coast; and Assyria to the north. There are two not certainly known, — Gebal and the Hagarenes or Hagarites. The last stand, in the second member of the sixth verse, over against Ishmael in the first place, and in the same connection with Moab as Ishmael with Edom. Were they, perhaps, as their name might intimate, but a branch of the Ishmaelites themselves, which had attained a similar independence of the original tribe to that which the Amalekites held in regard to Edom? This, which is easily conceivable of these wandering peoples, seems the most probable conjecture, though it is but that. Gebal is only mentioned here, if that in Ezek. 27:9 (and which was the seat of the Giblites of Joshua 13:5.) is different.

The names, as a whole, are difficult to connect, as is generally sought, with any event in Israel's past history, which (if it could be established) would not, of course, prevent an application to that prophetic future with which these psalms are so evidently connected. It is, as we know, the commonest thing, if not the rule, to make some impending historical event the text of a prediction as to the latter days. But it is also difficult in many ways to connect an irruption of these peoples, most of whom have disappeared long since, with Israel's prophetic history, as far as we have yet come to an understanding of it. That there is a revival of many of the old nations in the last days, and a replacement of them in the positions they occupied of old, is clear, and has begun even to be fulfilled before our eyes, as in the case of the Greek and the Italian kingdoms. Many of the scattered tribes which are classed in general under the common name of Arabs, may be Moabites, Ammonites, and such like. In all this there is no very great difficulty. On the other hand, while the Assyrian is prominent in Isaiah in connection with Israel's troubles in the latter day, the list of the nations that come with Gog against her (as given in Ezek. 38, 39) is plainly different, and they are much further off than what are enumerated here. We must leave the precise application of what is here, therefore, in uncertainty. The day will declare it; for of its being a prophecy of the last times there can be no reasonable doubt. Rather than an attack of distant enemies, however, it is an attempted settlement of old scores with Israel on the part of neighboring and kindred races. With the exception of Assyria, Israel is to possess herself of all this territory and such an attack on their part may naturally lead to this.

As to the numerical structure, it is not strange that (with so much else uncertain) there should be room for much uncertainty as to the meaning of it. If the Hagarenes are really but an independent section of Ishmael, then those named in the second verse are all of Israelitish kin. The third verse is much more doubtful, as Ammon had her land expressly preserved for her, along with Moab and Edom. This is the main difficulty; for Gebal may after all be the Phoenician Gebal of Ezekiel and Joshua, and would then be within the limits of Israel's original inheritance; and Amalek, being condemned to utter extinction, would forfeit her land to Israel, and so be within her limits. As to Philistia and Tyre, there can be no question. Finally, the fourth verse seems to have no difficulty in relation to Asshur.

Edom and Moab will (with Ammon) lose what had been reserved for them, and Israel possess their territory also, which comes plainly into their final inheritance; but the very attack upon Israel here predicted would be, as before-said, a sufficient reason for this, and thus all would be in harmony. But the exceptional place of Ammon in this enumeration is a difficulty as to all this, to which I have no key, and must leave it as an evident objection.

3. The confederacy is paralleled with Midian's overflow of the land in the days of Gideon, and with Sisera and Jabin; in the time of Deborah. The psalmist prays that their destruction may be like theirs; and their "anointed ones," set apart to special place among them; be like the kings that fell by Gideon's hand. They too would have seized upon the dwelling-places of God in the land, and possessed themselves of His inheritance.

4. He prays that, in the hands of the Mighty God, they may be like chaff or thistledown whirled by the wind; — that, as the fire catches hold of a wood, or the flame of the volcano sets on fire the mountains, so the anger of God may pursue them and His presence terrify them like the breath of the hurricane. But —

5. The end is to be the blessing of man in the exaltation of God, — that man may find his place with God. He must needs be abased for this, and the pride hid from him; that hides the thee of God. Yea, the destruction of His foes is to make Him known as Supreme, who is alone Jehovah, the Immutable because the Perfect One. Thus fittingly the psalms of Asaph close.

Subdivision 2. (Ps. 84 — 89.)

The holiness of God manifested by Christ as Mediator.

The second subdivision completes the third book. It shows us this holiness of God, which the book speaks throughout, as maintained in the final salvation of Israel through Christ the Mediator. There are but six psalms, and these are divided into three sections of two psalms each. The first section shows us how in the salvation itself God's attributes are displayed united (Ps. 85), the foundation of their blessing being that God looks upon the face of His Anointed (84:9). In the second, Christ is seen taking the servant's place for this, and owned of God in it as the Unique Man; while the voice of universal praise owns all springs of divine blessing to be in Him. In the third we have, in contrast, the curse under a broken law, and the "sure mercies of David" of which the prophet (Isa. 55:3) and the apostle speak (Acts 13:34) mercies which are unchangeable, because in Christ. The detail we are presently to consider.

Section 1. (Ps. 84, 85.)

Christ uniting the divine attributes in the salvation of His people.

The two psalms of the first section are both psalms of the sons of Korah, eight of which we had at the commencement of the second book, the suited witnesses of divine grace.

Psalm 84.

Jehovah supreme and sufficient for the soul; and Christ the foundation.

To the chief musician, upon the Gittith: a psalm of the sons of Korah.

Israel are still away from the courts of Jehovah's house, but their faces and their hearts are thitherward; and if they have not yet the blessedness they long for, they have that of those in whose heart are the ways which lead there. For such the vale of tears becomes a place of springs, and the rain overspreads it with blessings. They go from strength to strength until they all appear at last before God in Zion. But whence comes this security? whence this confidence of heart in God? It is revealed in this, that God is looking on the face of His Anointed. Indeed, we cannot but think, as we read the psalm; of Him who had left the glory which He had with the Father, and has returned to it; though here it is the earthly house of God's rest in Israel that is the goal of these pilgrim feet. Still, whatever be the surroundings. it is God Himself that is sought, as by every soul that has been touched by divine grace; and we have never found any difficulty in translating these intense longings into Christian speech. The Spirit of Christ breathes in them, and unites the hearts of His own in one desire, whatever may be the variety in its expression.

Another testimony to what is in this psalm is found in the al-haggittith of the title; which here, as in the eighth and eighty-first psalms, speaks of the joy that springs out of sorrow, — nay, of the surpassing joy that has come to us out of the One great Sorrow (see p. 38). Thus again we recognize the "Anointed," upon whose face Jehovah is besought to look. And this agrees with all that precedes and follows, while it gives fullness of meaning to much that otherwise would lack in definiteness and unity of purpose. This distinctness of outline shows when we have got the focus duly adjusted to the object before us.

1. The cry of heart is after the "living God" — a simple and even a poor expression; one would say; for the least truth to affirm about God is that He is "living." But this only shows how poor are we, who need to remind ourselves that He is this. He, Jehovah of hosts, around Whom move the myriad forces of the universe in sympathetic obedience; — He in Whom we and all else His creatures, "live and move and have our being," — He Himself lives! Yes we are poor enough even to need the being reminded and to find the consolation of this. And how good a thing is it, in the midst of a world in which evil seems oft to be gaining the day, and when He is silent and still, and we cry, "How long?" but He stirs not, — how good is it then to stay our souls with the assurance, "Yet God liveth"!

The soul here knows, too, that this God is One who draws near to men; yea, in the memory of the past and in the sweet vision of the future, tabernacles among them. Lovely, indeed, the tabernacles of Jehovah of hosts! The very thought of it tells what He is, — that He is — how unspeakably! — gracious. Yet there is distance now, and he who speaks longs, yea, faints with desire, to pass it and to be with Him. His heart and his very flesh cry out for the living God: it is a longing so intense that the body feels and thrills with it.

2. It is a fact "well-known in history, that small birds lived undisturbed within the precincts of the temple" (Moll). How suited a testimony to the Maker of all, who dwelt there! The spirit of the psalmist carries him there now, as if he were one of those unchecked dwellers in Jehovah's courts; and the sparrow and the swallow become figures by which he would have us know what answers there the longings of heart which he has been expressing. He himself is the sparrow that has found a house, the social bird which, as found alone upon the house-top, is the very image of desolation (Ps. 102:7), but which now has all that heart can desire in nearness to its Maker. How wonderful to know, as we now know, that He, in truth of manhood, has drawn near to us, to seek our companionship! and that we are to be with Him, in all that this implies, forever! Who would not give Him — alas, rather, who does give Him aright, that which He seeks for from us and in us? and which we are not to wait for in eternity, but to yield Him now. "I call you not servants," He says, "for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends: for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you" (John 15:15). Have we at all entered into this? What would the word of God be to us, if indeed we had! How would its "deep things" delight us, as the Spirit of God within us searched them out! How many of its inmost recesses would be left unpenetrated! And what ecstatic joy would there not be for us! what assurance of faith, of hope, of understanding, would we not gain!

Yet the "sparrow" — two of which are sold for a farthing — speaks also of something else in us which the presence of God would work, and which is every way of the greatest importance, the sense of littleness, yea, of nothingness before Him. The abasing of pride is the surest accompaniment and sign of being brought nigh to Him; "the proud He beholden afar off."

The swallow is, according to the meaning of the word (deror) the bird of freedom. Its bold, dashing flight and migratory habits naturally speak of this. But this free-roaming bird can be held by its affections; and the "place where she may lay her young" claims her effectually. But the nest here is in a place where no swallow could place hers: faith finds its satisfaction and rest in Jehovah's altars, and these have no prohibition for it, but a welcome and a home.

Thus the link with the title becomes again apparent, and we find how truly it is a psalm "upon the Gittith" which is here. For every Christian heart knows surely what these altars of the sanctuary represent for us. The one efficacious work by which we are reconciled and brought to God is the work of the altar. The blood given upon the altar is that by which atonement for the soul is made; and thus Christ is seen as the answer to the deepest need that we can have, and the One by whom the priestly altar of incense becomes ours, with its sacrifices of praise and of a devoted life.

The happy cry rings out then: "Jehovah of hosts! my King and my God!" How blessed to know that this is our God, on the absolute Throne eternal, changeless in all those attributes upon which faith triumphantly lays hold, and in which it shelters itself from all possible ill.

3. From this it is hardly a transition to the next verse, in which is contemplated the happiness of such dwellers in Jehovah's house. Their constant occupation is that which certifies their blessedness: "they will still be praising Thee." Praise is but overflowing happiness in the soul conscious of whence this comes; and this continually is but joy continual — a perpetual overflow of it. Such will heaven be: and here on earth we find the beginning of it.

4. Israel is not yet at home with God; but they are on the way there, and already experiencing a happiness which is the result of this. The psalmist proceeds to speak of this with assurance. The way with God is the way to God and the strength that is found in Him is found in and for the way with Him. "Happy is the man," he says, "whose strength is in Thee: in whose heart are the ways," — what ways the verses following make evident: "who, going through the valley of Baca, make it a place of springs; yea, the early rain covereth it with blessings. They go from strength to strength: every one appeareth before God in Zion."

The ways of pilgrims leading up to the city of God are certainly, therefore, what is meant. The valley of Baca is no literal place, but figurative, just as is that which is spoken of it. And so, if the name be taken from the baca-shrub, from which, if wounded, a tear-like liquid exudes, there is none the less clear an intentional connection with bacah, "weeping." The "place of springs" and the "rain" are naturally also an antithesis to this; and altogether they furnish such a picture as will appeal to any one of God's pilgrims in any dispensation. For all, His miracles of grace are wrought; just as for all who seek strength in Him alone, that strength must prove its sufficiency for all demands upon it. Trial is found, and sorrow, and humiliation; but amid all this are found the sources of plenteous refreshment. How but in a world of sorrow could we have fellowship with the Man of sorrows! How else could we realize the perfection of His path who has "left us an example, that we should walk in His steps"? And then, what spiritual transformations are effected by the direct out-pouring of the rain of heaven!

So "they go from strength to strength:" in the experience of strength all through, even while it leave us in ourselves the consciousness of perfect weakness — and it will, and ought; for so is it plain that the strength is ministered, and is of God; and the tenderness of divine love gains on us continually: — the power for us is also power over us.

Divine grace is full and assured: "every one of them appeareth before God in Zion." There is no uncertainty or ambiguity about this.

5. The last section shows us now, as it appears, a soul embarking on this pilgrimage. His face is set toward the house of God, and he starts with a prayer to Him on whom he realizes his dependence. He addresses Him moreover not only as "Jehovah, God of hosts," whom he needs to be a defence about him; but also as "the God of Jacob," recognizing his need of the grace which this term expresses. And now we come to see afresh the ground of his assurance: "Behold," he says, "O God our shield; and look upon the face of Thine Anointed." "The confirmation in ver. 11," observes Delitzsch, "puts the fact that we have before us a psalm belonging to the time of David's persecution by Absalom beyond all doubt. Manifestly, when his king prevails, the poet will at the same time be restored to the sanctuary." Even taken in this way, the typical significance is not difficult to discern. How much more when we realize the application to the latter days: for what anointed beside One can then be thought of? There will be no king in Israel then; and to speak, as some do, of Israel as this is entirely strange to Scripture. On the other hand, that the doctrine of acceptance in Christ should take the form of prayer in the Old Testament, is no real difficulty. Israel looked in hope for what we, more favored, see as already accomplished.

Thus now the psalmist's heart bursts out afresh with desire towards the sanctuary from which he is yet absent. He would rather stand even at the threshold of the house of God, than dwell in the tents — the mere temporary dwellings — of the wicked. "For a sun and a shield is Jehovah Elohim" — not a sun which smiles, but which shields: and this is true of the natural sun even; in a way we feebly realize. Cholera will take the sunless side of a street, and the other will escape it. But the image (only found here in Scripture) necessarily reminds us of Him in whom God has manifested Himself — in whom the glory of the Light has clothed a body, to become for us the Luminary of the day. Who can resist here the thought that Christ is again thus designedly brought before us? if not in that of the writer, yet in the thought of the Spirit, as moved of Whom he writes.

Naturally it follows that "Jehovah giveth grace and glory": only as grace could He give glory; and glory is the crown, not of our ways, but of His ways with us. Yet it is to the upright in heart and walk; for grace makes such: "no good will He withhold from those that walk uprightly." Well may the conclusion be: "Jehovah of hosts; happy is the man that trusteth in Thee."

Psalm 85.

"Things that accompany salvation."

To the chief musician: a psalm of the sons of Korah.

We now find in the other psalm of this couplet the attributes of God united in the salvation of His people. Personally, Christ is not seen in it, but we know well that it is only through the work of Christ that this can be. It is, as we see everywhere, by putting the psalms together that the full character of each becomes apparent. The heading of the psalm may well be, in the words of the epistle to the Hebrews, "things which accompany salvation." The glory of God displayed in it is indeed the great, the unspeakable blessing which it brings, and which is its practical power in the reconciliation of the soul to God.

1. The connection of the first section with that which follows it has been a difficulty to many. How can the psalmist say, "Thou hast taken away all Thy wrath," and then almost immediately cry out, "cause Thy wrath toward us to cease"? One might escape this by saying in the first case "hadst," instead of "hast." But I apprehend that this is not the real way of understanding it. Nor is it to be explained by what is not uncommon in the psalms, — the first three verses giving the full blessing, from which the psalmist returns to the sorrow which preceded it. I believe the true explanation is that he is pleading rather that the blessing which has in fact come, may be abiding, — in view of the former seasons of refreshment and deliverance which had again and again passed away in returning gloom and distress, — returning displeasure for repeated departure from God. Now, he asks, let this go on no more: let the anger vanish forever, and the goodness shown remain at last. And this is a prayer which is answered, for the blessed time of which the angel spake to Daniel is now at hand, "to finish the transgression and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness" (Dan. 9:24). It is for Israel, as in this prophecy, that these blessings are now to be accomplished.

Jehovah is praised, then; for showing favor to the land, and bringing back the captivity of Jacob. The name used (Jacob) may indeed remind us of the grace of God, but it may speak no less of the untrustworthiness of the people. But now their iniquity is put all away, their sin all covered. The blessing is in the changed relation of Jehovah Himself, whose anger is passed away; a blessing indeed, for in His favor is life — eternal life.

2. Upon this the psalmist appeals to Him whom he owns as the God of their salvation, and beseeches that they may be truly returned to Him, so that His wrath may cease and rise no more. Shall there be, he asks, the perpetual recurrence (so I read it), generation after generation; of the judgment that sleeps but to come forth with renewed energy again? Wilt Thou not turn and revive us, so that Thy people shall by their joy in Thee be kept from straying — from the sin that provokes Thine anger thus?

3. Then he encourages himself with the assurance of mercy and blessing that ate indeed come to abide. He prays that the loving-kindness of the Unchangeable One may be shown them; and immediately comforts himself with the conviction that it is indeed salvation that He will grant to them. He waits for what the God of power, the Eternal, shall speak, anticipating that it shall be peace to His people, — to those brought to respond to His grace, — and which will prevent them from turning to folly any more. He realizes that salvation is nigh, with that which it means when fully wrought for Israel, the glory of God returned to its ancient home, and now to abide there. This is essentially also what redemption means for all the subjects of it — God no longer at a distance, but come nigh. Nought but sin could put practical distance from Him who "is not far from every one of us."

4. The fourth section; as such, marks what follows as the experience which makes good — or is to make good — all that heart can desire or think in the way of blessing. Here we find, therefore, first of all, that concord of the divine attributes displayed, which is the assurance of stability for that with which it is connected. Loving-kindness is first and ruling, one may say, and yet without setting aside, — rather, maintaining with full emphasis the demands of truth. Righteousness is absolute, and yet in full and loving consent with peace towards man: they kiss each other. There was that, evidently, which had hindered, and kept them apart; but it is removed, and that which was ever in God's heart toward men is free to show itself. We cannot but realize in this the work of the cross, though divine government has acted also in the judgment of the rebellious and impenitent. Phinehas has again, as it were, done his zealous work, and in this way made atonement to offended holiness (Num. 25:11-13, notes). Here then is the foundation laid of permanent blessing. Truth is seen in the fulfilment of glorious promise, as well as in the execution of necessary judgment. Righteousness is not only consistent with, but insures the blessing of those who as sinners take refuge in the sacrifice for sin.

Thus salvation is actually found by them: for heaven and earth, God and man; are now in real and stable relationship and correspondence. Truth springs out of the earth, — man owning God, and owning, too, his own need and sin; while righteousness — for him still otherwise impossible — looks down from heaven: for Christ is the only righteousness for man at any time. Thus Israel is truly converted and saved. She is with God according to the indefectible terms of the new covenant; and all is indeed divinely secure.

Fruitfulness follows as to the land. The curse is removed from it: "Jehovah giveth that which is good; and our land shall give its increase." And ways of righteousness are found among His people, respondent to the perfect rule of Him who now reigns over them in righteousness.

Section 2. (Ps. 86, 87.)

The Servant and the servants.

In the second section it is that Christ is seen in His servant-character, the Head in this respect and Lord of many servants taught and inspired of Him to glorify God in the path of obedience. That the saved are, as that, servants, shows, of course, the holiness of salvation; while the Son of God in service is above all that which displays and glorifies God. He is seen in it in unswerving righteousness and glorious holiness, while His love so learned bows and subdues the most stubborn will to Him. Thus it is no difficulty here that we have the Servant and the servants, though in the details of its working out there may be difficulty, which we shall have to consider in its place. The connection of the two psalms now before us with the third book as a whole, and with the subdivision in which we find them is simple enough.

The two psalms of the section are (as so commonly where there are just two) in contrast with one another, and in ways which can only be fitly seen as we take them up for separate consideration; but in the first it is clear that we have the Lord owned — Adonai, which is the title of God as such; in the second, we find the Servant owned. In both we have the Servant and the servants; identified in some sense, in others distinguished, as naturally must be the case. Both these, the identification and the distinction; are necessary to bring out His glory who is ever before us in the word of God.

Psalm 86.

Adonai.

A prayer of David.

The eighty-sixth psalm has, however, peculiar difficulties which we must now consider. As already said, its theme may be said to be Adonai, the Lord. The servant's path is, of course, the owning of God as such; and Adonai is here found seven times, which of course must have its significance where, as in Scripture, all is significant. The only other psalm in which we find it as often — and indeed, the very same number of times, is the sixty-eighth; but there "God" is found so often (thirty times), and other names of God, as Almighty, Jah, Jehovah, as quite to prevent its having there the same proportionate value. Here Jehovah is found four times, and God only four; a very small number compared with the frequency of these in general.

Adonai is then the theme of the speaker: the servant proclaims his Lord. But who, then; is this servant? A glance at the title might seem to give us the answer; indeed, must, one would say, have some significance in this respect. It is "a prayer of David," imbedded between Korahite psalms, and the only psalm ascribed to him in the third book. We immediately, necessarily, think of David's more than royal Antitype, and expect to find Christ's voice throughout the psalm.

But here there is at once great and apparently insuperable difficulty. The eleventh verse, as it stands in the Hebrew, "unite my heart to fear Thy Name," could never have been the prayer of our Lord, whatever His humiliation. The Septuagint, Syriac and Vulgate indeed, by the help of another punctuation, substitute for this, "my heart shall rejoice": but this is rejected in general, and would only partially relieve the difficulty. The fifth verse bases the confidence of the suppliant towards God on His being "good and ready to forgive," for which again the Septuagint uses the vaguer term "gentle," but the verb in Hebrew is always — as far as Scripture is concerned — "to forgive, remit." The fifteenth verse again seems to take similar ground.

Thus it would seem that only indirectly could this be the "prayer of (the antitypical) David" — His as being the fruit of His work in those whom He leads in the path in which He Himself has alone been perfect. But in this way the title may be a necessary supplementary note of interpretation as to the psalm; just as we have seen "on the Gittith" to be to the three psalms to which it is prefixed (Ps. 8, 81, 84). Only in this way also does the connection with the next psalm become fully clear, as we shall see.*

{*There is also a beautiful connection with the latter half of Isaiah, where from Isa. 40 —  48 Israel is seen as the servant, and unfaithful; then from Isa. 49 to 60 Christ is the perfect Servant, and standing under the load of the sins of others; and finally, from Isa. 61 — 66." the remnant are now seen and accepted as the servants.}

1. In the opening section, the psalmist takes his place with Jehovah as poor and needy, but godly, not unmindful of his creature-relation to Him in whom he believes and whom he serves. This is his plea for help and preservation. The want of originality in the psalm has been noticed by many. "Familiar expressions and phrases from the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets," says Moll, "loosely connected [?], are found throughout." "But," adds Delitzsch, "although for the most part flowing on only in the language of prayer borrowed from earlier periods, this psalm is not without unmistakable significance and beauty."

If, however, it be the expression of a faith which, wherever it is found, brings the soul into this relation to God as the obedient servant of His will, how striking is it that it should be thus a harmony of many voices and of different periods in one connected whole! Its very want of originality is in this way itself in remarkable accordance with what it is intended to convey to us. And the argument that it cannot be really a psalm of David, because "the writer cannot be compared for poetic capability with David," turns the other way when we think of the spiritual meaning of the harmonizing of such scattered utterances of the people of God by One — the true David — who Himself has trodden in His perfection ("Beginner and Finisher of faith") the whole of this path! How the apparent blemishes of Scripture, when we see the real meaning of them; become themselves witnesses to its absolute inspiration!

2. In the second section we find the help needed — the education of faith, we may perhaps say, by continual exercise. When God brought His people out of Egypt and into training for the land, He brought them into the wilderness, and made them thus for everything dependent upon Himself: and this is still His way; for these things are our types. So now with the psalmist: grace is needed in answer to calls that go up to Him all the day. And joy in Him one serves is that which alone can give strength for all the daily wear and tear of contact with a world such as this. "Rejoice in the Lord alway" is the apostle's rule and admonition: and we with our eyes lifted up to Him whom we have learned to call that, have reason indeed for this that the psalmist could not know. The path we are upon is the same path He traveled to the throne; and upon the Throne He is who knows all the need of the way we travel.

Apart from this, what a comfort is it to have a path known to be God's path for us, a path we travel in obedience simply, so that consequences are all His, and He may be trusted for them. The roughest path, if known to be His, can never lack a song.

But we are frail indeed, who walk in it. How blessed, then; to have our refuge in One who is "good and ready to forgive, and full of loving-kindness to all that call upon" Him! With this need may be faced, and (if we have faith for it) gloried in; that means constant proving of the living God; and when with trial the assurance increases: "I will call upon Thee: for Thou wilt answer me."

3. Thus the song arises: the need and its answer both make God alone glorious, and destroy all other trusts, vain as the senseless gods of the heathen. "There is none among the gods like Thee, Lord: and there is nothing like Thy works." Thus he foresees that of necessity the world must be brought to realize this: "All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, Lord, and glorify Thy Name." This is truest prophecy, what the knowledge of God in this practical way ensures. The time has been long protracted indeed; and even yet the end (so long after the prophet's time) may seem as far off as ever; and yet it shall, it must be, true: the Lord Himself hasten it, as He will.

4. Now we have the path itself with its trials and experiences, in which these principles are practically realized. First of all, the sufficiency for it, which is in God alone: this is but the application of what has been already said; but it is the necessary foundation on which alone a life with God can be based. And our utter dependence upon Him is expressed in the next verse, in which with the full purpose of heart to walk in His truth the psalmist confesses his need, not only of instruction as to the way, the one way which is Jehovah's, but also of his own deliverance from the infirmity which nevertheless yields so to distraction: "unite my heart," he says, "to fear Thy Name." This is indeed what is everywhere the great lack among the people of God. How much of our lives is, not spent in positive evil, but frittered away and lost in countless petty diversions which spoil effectually the positiveness of their testimony for God! How few can say with the apostle, "This one thing I do!" We are on the road — not, at least, intentionally off it — but we stop to chase butterflies among the flowers, and make no serious progress. How Satan must wonder when he sees us turn away from the "kingdoms of the world and the glory of them" when realized as his temptation, and yet yield ourselves with scarce a thought to endless trifles, lighter than the thistle-down which the child spends all his strength for, and we laugh at him. Would we examine our lives carefully in such an interest as this, how should we realize the multitude of needless anxieties, of self-imagined duties, of permitted relaxations, of "innocent" trifles, which incessantly divert us from that in which alone there is profit! How few, perhaps, would care to face such an examination of the day by day unwritten history of their lives!

"We must not be legal": with such an excuse, how we pass over the "little things" which come in everywhere unchallenged by reason of their littleness. "We must not make religion too severe": and so we take off our armor on the battle-field. "We must not have a morbid conscience": and so we forget to exercise ourselves, that we may have one void of offence toward God and man. Concentration of purpose is what most of all the devil dreads for us as Christians, and the air is full of whispered plausibilities and lullabies to deprive us of this. Thus Christ Himself as "all" for us is looked at as somewhat not to be too seriously taken; the glorious sunshine is to be helped to be brighter by men's taper-lights; or carefully shaded from eyes too infirm to enjoy it in its brightness or too continuously.

How perfect a lesson there is for us here in the Lord's words as to the vine-branch and abiding in Him (John 15)! The branch abides in the vine without intermission: a moment's intermission would be fatal to it. And "as the branch cannot bear fruit except it abide in the vine, no more can ye," says He, "except ye abide in Me."

But then for what are we to abide in Him? The whole purpose of the vine is fruit; and this is what rules in the ways of the husbandman with it. He prunes unsparingly, that he may have fruit: one might think, to look at him, that he was making but a wreck of the whole plant. What harm in all this wood and leaf that he is paring away? In itself none; and yet in relation to its fruit-bearing, very much. Not the parasites that destroy it from without can do it much more harm than just these fruitless stems and this exuberant foliage. The precious sap is drawn off by them by which the fruit is to be filled out and perfected; and, if they are spared, not simply will there be less fruit, but (worse than all) the whole character of that which is produced is deteriorated. And so with the toleration of much that is merely evil in its power to draw off and scatter the energies which should be yielding fruit for Him and are not. It is the "one thing I do" that as a principle characterizes the whole man, and marks him out as Christ's, glorifies Christ in him. It means seriously "Christ is all." It proclaims Him the sunshine of life, not shadow; and sunshine is what the fruit needs. It says that for progress every moment of life is valuable, saves the life from dilettanteism and superficiality, makes Christ Lord, not casual adviser: no wonder that in the servant's psalm we should find, as nowhere else in them; this prayer, "Unite my heart to fear Thy Name."

And no wonder that this spirit declares itself directly as the spirit of praise which indeed it is: praise from the whole life. "I will praise Thee, O Lord my God, with my whole heart; and I will glorify Thy Name for ever." Who doubts that the life of that man of one idea, Paul, was a sunny life? Who can afford to pity him because of its vicissitudes? With his feet fast in the stocks in the inner prison; he will be singing, just at midnight, his praises to God. That life of his began under the glory of an opened heaven, with a vision which shut out all other brightness, and became to him in place of all other. Such a life we perhaps may find in all its fulness nowhere else among mere men: but covet it, we may, and reach out after it, and see how much God will deny us of it; whether, rather, we do not ourselves limit and cut ourselves off from it, by the poorest, saddest, most insane and disastrous form of self-denial that can be found.

"With my whole heart," and "for ever"! These are two things very closely connected: just as the seed that roots itself deeply in the earth becomes the enduring plant. Let the whole soul be thus taken up for God, vantage-ground is not given to the thorns and weeds to spring up and choke the early promise.

The voice of experience is heard in the next verse: "For Thy loving-kindness is great towards me; and Thou hast delivered my soul from the nether Sheol." Thus with confidence can he appeal now to God when the insolent are risen up against him and the assembly of the violent seek after his soul. "They have not," he says, set Thee before them:" thus they are meet for Divine judgment.

5. The closing section shows the grounds of the soul's confidence in God as present with him; which are, first of all, in what God Himself is, and then in the relation subsisting with Him. "Thou, Lord, art the Mighty One, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving-kindness and truth." This is God's own testimony to Himself (Ex. 34:6), upon the giving of the law the second time; but it is the testimony to the grace which came in to modify the law as far as practicable, while the legal element, which could not after all be modified by it so as to be effectual for man's salvation; is omitted. This shows how faith could penetrate the disguise in which love veiled itself, and find it, even while under the shadows of that dispensation. Here then is its resource and rest.

But there is also relationship, though it be not yet the full joyous relationship into which the gospel brings. It is that rather which the whole psalm contemplates: "give Thy strength unto Thy servant, and save" — not Thy son, but — "the son of Thy handmaid." This was what the law was, typically, the Hagar, who though but the nurse and instructress of the children of God, taught them to call her mother. But faith, that taught the Syrophenician woman to make her argument out of the very term of reproach, and to plead for the crumbs which even the "dogs" might be permitted, teaches the speaker here to urge the very servant position which was his as a child of the dispensation; as it were, — by God's appointment, not his own. He yet, in the confession of helplessness could fall back upon strength not his own; and find it: not of course to make good a self-righteous claim; but the very opposite: "Turn to me and be gracious unto me: give Thy strength unto Thy servant, and save the son of Thy handmaid." All is perfect lowliness and self-distrust.

But the Lord must appear for him, and appoint him a token for good. It is a necessary result of this position of servant merely, which has in it no absolute assurance of abiding favor (as the servant's has none, John 8:35), that one in it should be more dependent upon manifest interventions and assurances of an outward character. Our "token for good" is once for all the sign of the cross, and by this we recognize the divine favor towards us. although the living God is of course, as fully to be counted on as ever. The enemies can only recognize the interventions. Jehovah's "help and comfort" have been provided for us in a manner which makes them as unchangeably to be relied on; as that immutable nature of which it is the expression.

Psalm 87.

His testimony to His servants.

A psalm-song of the sons of Korah.

The eighty-seventh psalm, short as it is, is by its very conciseness open to different interpretations, and is essentially a "deep saying" — a problem to be resolved by the spiritual mind alone. Almost any translation of it must have more or less of the character of interpretation: as, for instance, if we only translate in verses 4 and 6, "that [man]," man is not in the original, and most, perhaps, would rather understand for it, "nation." The result would be to make the psalm a celebration of the conversion of the world to God: each people named being assigned to Zion as its spiritual birth-place. Similarly the ascription of the seventh verse would be to Zion. Cheyne says: "Born there is of course to be explained by the familiar Jewish saying that a proselyte is like a new-born." In this way of considering it, there would be a certain connection with the previous psalm in its ninth verse: "all nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee." But there are two objections to this: the first, that the connection here seems rather incidental than essential; the second, that (according to the prophecies of the period referred to) there is no promise of Babylon and Philistia being converted to God; but the reverse, as we may see directly. We shall have, however, to take up the psalm; as is evident, with more than ordinary care.

The seven verses have an unusual division into 3. 3. 1: which seems however to be that of the very first seven in Scripture, — the creative days (Gen. 1 —  2:3).

1. The first three verses plainly speak of Zion as the object of Jehovah's love, Zion itself means "fixed:" and that is what stands out clearly as to the time contemplated. Like Jerusalem which is above, it is the "city which has foundations"; and these are in the holy mountains, images of the fixed, enduring holiness of God Himself. The foundations of the heavenly city are like the jeweled breast-plate of the high-priest, the Urim and Thummim, the "lights and perfections" of Him who is Perfect Light. The stability of the city depends upon there being in it the display in glory of all that God is. It exists because He exists. It abides because He abides. So, on its lower level, with the city below. It is the place of His rest; and rest He never can, except as the requirements of His nature are met and satisfied: there is nothing to produce a note of discord. On the holy mountains is His foundation.

There then His heart is free; and, being so, is poured forth in love: "Jehovah loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob." His love is active; and these gates are the symbol of activity, — the place of ingress and egress, — the place where wisdom cries and justice is transacted, and which stands for all its busy life, — the city itself, as it were. Zion the royal city is in closest connection with those "dwellings of Jacob" which also — every one of them — Jehovah loves, and therefore loves most of all what is their supremest expression. The "dwellings of Jacob" imply, as we know, not human righteousness but divine grace; and Zion is royalty in grace, as the seventy-eighth psalm has pointed out to us (68-70). "Glorious things" may indeed well "be spoken" therefore of the "city of God."

2. The second section now speaks of a certain testimony which God is giving: "I will make mention of Rahab (pride) and Babel (confusion) to them that know Me: behold Philistia and Tyre, with Cush: this [man] was born there." Here comes, however, the question of interpretation before pointed out. Moll with others would translate, "as those that know Me," which it is allowed it may be rendered; and Delitzsch similarly remarks that the meaning is "for what purpose, or as what these kingdoms, hitherto hostile towards God and His people, shall be declared: Jehovah completes what He Himself has brought about, inasmuch as He publicly and solemnly declares them to be those who know Him, i.e. those who experimentally know Him as their God. Accordingly it is clear that 'This one was born there' is also meant to refer to the conversion of the other three nations to whom the finger of God points. . . . This one, does not refer to the individuals, nor to the sum-total of these nations, but to nation after nation; by fixing the eye upon each one separately. And 'there', refers to Zion . . . nations which are born in Zion. The poet does not combine with this the idea of being born again in the depth of its New Testament meaning: he means, however, that the nations will attain a right of citizenship in Zion as in their second mother-city, that they will therefore at any rate experience a spiritual change which, regarded from the New Testament point of view, is the new birth out of water and the Spirit."

This is happily not a question of the language used; and therefore all are capable of deciding it by plain Scripture. The first of these nations, Rahab, is Egypt; and of Egypt God has indeed prophesied blessing as well as of Assyria. These will be, in days to come, conterminous with Israel's territory; and in that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: whom Jehovah of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel Mine inheritance" (Isa. 19:23-25).

Thus Scripture predicts with perfect plainness the blessing of Egypt; and had it been Assyria that we found connected with her, there could have been no question raised as to the suitableness of the interpretation given by the writers mentioned, as far as these two were concerned. But where we might have expected Assyria, we find Babel, and a very different future is assigned to Babel: "For I will rise up against them, saith Jehovah of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name and remnant and son and nephew, saith Jehovah. I will also make it a possession for the bittern and pools of water, and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction; said' Jehovah of hosts" (Isa. 14:22, 23). The definiteness of the prediction in the one case shows that this in the psalm is not one.

Philistia is also threatened to be destroyed without inhabitant (Zeph. 2:5; Amos 1:8), her land to be possessed by Judah. This is another witness that the psalmist does not prophesy the conversion of these nations to God. This interpretation being purely conjectural and opposed to other scriptures, cannot be maintained; while to apply it merely to individuals out of these nations in the same way would be to deprive it of any particular importance, and from another side destroy it as a prophecy.

But if not a prophecy, then it can only be a contrast that is drawn here, between the countries named and their great men; and Zion and hers in the next verse; and this is perfectly natural, after dwelling upon the glory of Zion itself. The world boasts its heroes, and has ever boasted: the fame of the men of Egypt and Babylon is in our ears today — of kings, conquerors, builders, who speak to us in perished languages, from their uncovered monuments. Really, it would seem as if God were permitting all these nations to tell their own story of the men born in them, and that we may contrast it with the voices of the men of Zion, men of a feeble, despised, and scattered people, which yet strangely move us as no others do. On the one hand, the dead past speaks to us from its unsealed sepulchre, a memorial of doom which its own words justify and we cannot regret: there is in it no title to resurrection. On the other, there are voices that never die, — living and life-giving, — that proclaim not their own praise, but ascribe greatness unto God, and live eternally by their own hold of the Eternal. On the one hand, the voice is single — in each generation but a single voice; some king for whom his kingdom seems alone to have existed, and who tells us how many he has slaughtered, that he might have room to dwell in. On the other, the voice of many in chorus, the king of Israel with the gatherer of sycamore fruit, each having his part in a strain which, though it may be often sad, is never discordant, and which ends in triumphant harmony. Aye, "of Zion it may be said that this man and that was born in her, and the Highest Himself establisheth her." How else, indeed, can the mystery of this be explained? And it shall be fully seen in the day to which the psalm looks on.

But this is not all; nay, all would be left out, if this were to be taken as all. Jehovah's voice has not been heard directly yet; and plainly we shall never get a perfect knowledge of things, except He guide us. He too is the One who "writeth down the peoples," — takes account of all with no mere local or national partiality, but in absolute righteousness and truth. Strange then it may seem that now, when we have His reckoning of things, even Zion's count of her great men is gone. In all history there seems now but One Name. One Person takes the place of every other. "Jehovah counteth, when He writeth down the peoples, that THIS Man was born there."

3. An enigma, is it? Couched in abrupt, enigmatical language, indeed: but as a secret which expects that we should fathom. And suddenly there bursts out as from a multitude, in songs and with instruments to swell the melody, another voice as enigmatical, and yet with the same appeal to our intelligence, — as if there were no possibility of going wrong in the interpretation of it; a voice which is one and individual, and yet the voice of all; a response echoing Jehovah's claim for the One Man of His approval: "All my springs are in Thee."

The Christian heart can translate this, and the Christian only. It is not that the Lord whom they have served does not appreciate the service of His people. It is not that their names can be forgotten with Him. But it is the Old Testament version of what has come out in full reality in the gospel of our salvation; — the truth that, for salvation, the cross of Christ had to be our all: death and judgment had to do their awful work upon our Substitute and Saviour; and thus God pronounced upon man; thus He had to put him away from His sight, that He might show us mercy. Those who believe are now therefore by the cross "dead with Christ" and "buried with Christ," so as to be accepted in Another raised from the dead, His work accomplished.

How plain, therefore, that there is but One Man; whom God sees, the perfect Servant of His perfect will; and that Zion's great men can only come in before God thus. How well may they sing, and how surely they know to Whom they sing, "All my springs are in Thee"! The glory of Zion; the dwelling-place of God in Israel, is found in Him.

Thus the two psalms here come into their place with one another. The servants' path in the one finds its recognition from God in the other; and the One perfect Servant is distinguished from, while seen to be the sufficiency and boast, of every other. Thus the work of salvation is seen once more to be for holiness.

Section 3. (Ps. 88, 89.)

Realization: "the holiness of truth."

The third section closes this part, and the whole book, by showing how, in the work of salvation; man is realized for what he is, lost and undone, and help only to be found in Another; accordant truths, in which nevertheless the usual contrast of subjects in these pairs of psalms is seen. The eighty-eighth is an awful picture of almost unrelieved despair. The eighty-ninth is strong and confident in its assurance of God's fulfillment of His covenant with David, even though adverse circumstances seem to plead against it. And through this we can clearly read a better hope. The two together give us essentially the lesson of the dispensations — of all human history: setting aside all creature confidence to set this upon God alone. And in this true sanctification; the "holiness of truth," is attained. Thus we have a fitting end to the third book.

Psalm 88.

The outcome as to man; in righteousness.

A psalm-song of the sons of Korah: to the chief musician; upon Mahalath Leannoth.

Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.

The title of the eighty-eighth psalm is peculiar: and its two parts have been pleaded as contradictory; Heman the Ezrahite being of the tribe of Judah, and not a Korahite Levite. There was, however, a Levite of the name of Heman, and it is contended that this is the same person; finding his place by intermarriage among the men of Judah. On the other hand. it has been suggested that while really the work of a Judahite, the psalm may have been written "for the sons of Korah," as we may read it. Such reasonings show, at least, that it is unsafe to reject even part of a title in an inspired book, without plainly confirmatory evidence; and that we are free at least to take it as it stands, and inquire as to its possible meaning.

Mahalath Leannoth means "sickness for humiliation": a very suitable and suggestive title, surely. We have need of such humbling, and therefore God permits such suffering as this psalm shows, that there may be truth in the inward parts before Him. Then, it is, with its fellow, a Maskil, or "instruction"; belonging to that series of such psalms to which the thirty-second introduces us. Most necessary truth here for the "wise" in Israel, or anywhere else, who is to be worthy of the name. And Heman was one of the special sages of Israel, compared with Solomon (1 Kings 4:31), and his name ("faithful"), according to its derivation, may well point out to us both wisdom and faithfulness to agree, in putting their "amen" to the sayings of God.

The Ezrahite, again, is what is "indigenous," or springs up from its native soil; and the experience that follows is indeed home-born; and natural enough to such as we are; nay, what is proper to the whole race outside of paradise; though, thank God, to face it is to find deliverance from it; and this connects once more these closing psalms.

1. But eighteen verses altogether in the one before us; and yet what misery is shut up in them! Not that God is not looked to; for it is to Him that all is poured out. It is when we begin to live that the meaning of death becomes possible to understand. He who cries cries to One in whose hands he knows himself to be, and in no other's. God is the God of his salvation: nowhere else is salvation to be found. He cries aloud for Him to hearken; baring to Him all the misery with which his soul is filled and bowed down even to Sheol; already to be reckoned among those going down to it, prostrate, nerveless, and impotent. Nay, he is like one for whom the business of life is over, discharged from it, "free among the dead," like one cut off from God's remembrance and His help. Not that he will say, this is so, but that so it seems. And God Himself has done this, laid him in the lowest pit, in the awful darkness of His prison-house — in the depths.

Ah, it is all His anger: that is the utter misery from which there is no escape and no relief. Heat of anger and the overwhelming waves that break, wave after wave, upon him: all figures are used, and all figures fail to convey the dread reality, when it is God whose wrath is upon us. For "if God be for us, who can be against us?" and then conversely, if He be against us, where can be found help or hope?

2. But he turns to the Hand that afflicts him, — the Hand that has shut him up in isolation from all others, as a leper, an abomination to his acquaintance, — and he pleads his misery to the Heart that still he knows must be behind the Hand: how the eye wastes with its sorrow as it looks and sees not. "Jehovah, I have called upon Thee all the day long; I have stretched out my palms unto Thee." God dwells among the praises of His people, amid the music of happy hearts tuned in accordance with His own: will He do wonders among the dead? he asks: "shall the shades arise? shall they praise Thee?" It is of course a Jew with his earthly hopes that speaks so: "shall thy loving-kindness be recounted in the grave? Thy faithfulness in destruction?" shall this be the experience of one who looks to Thee? "shall thy wonders be known in the darkness? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?"

It is clear that this is a Jew under the shadows of a law of which death was the penalty, and cut off from the earthly hopes of the nation: for whom death was a perplexity, a "land of darkness," into which the light of life had not yet descended. Job, outside of Israel, utters the same wail; but the earthly promises by their very brightness only made it darker, as a gospel out of reach, a mockery of hopes which it raised and scattered.

3. Here accordingly, he turns to his sanctuary, to find but the veil unrent, and the One Face which has brightness for him hidden. Like Another Sufferer, but from a different stand-point, he asks "why?" but the answer is not here. He answers it who goes into the outside darkness to dispel it for others, and who asserts it to be the necessity of divine holiness in regard to sin.

4. The psalm ends without relief. The experience here is but a monotony of distress. From his youth up there has been nothing else — a living death, a distraction of terrors. Wrath gone over him; terrors around him, the undoing of every social bond even. Such is the hopeless misery of man as regards self-help, and apart from a Mediator.

Psalm 89.

Help in Another.

Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite.

We have now, however, in the last psalm of the book, what is in entire contrast with the previous one, the grace of God as revealed in His covenant with David, upon which the blessing to Israel as a nation rests. These "sure mercies of David" to which the apostle at Antioch refers, quoting Isaiah, (Isa. 55:3) are fulfilled, as he declares, in Christ, and in Christ raised from the dead, His work accomplished, which is what makes them "sure." That Christ is the true David, he, with Peter at Jerusalem, proves from the sixteenth psalm. If David had there said, "Thou wilt not suffer Thy Pious One to see corruption," he had himself yet surely seen corruption. Only Christ, the antitypical David, had not seen it. Here, then, is the "Pious One" of the nineteenth verse. God is speaking in the typical language so constantly used in the Old Testament, and thus the glorious assurances given in His Name are fully justified.

The psalm is another Maskil, and no wonder; and it is the maskil of another Ezrahite, Ethan; whose name means, in full accordance with his subject, "constant, durable." And here too we find what is "proper to the soil" it springs from, the covenant of promise rooting itself in what God is; "durable," because Jehovah endures, the same yesterday, today, and for ever."

1. The two main divisions are strongly contrasted in their character. The first enlarges on the covenant of promise itself, and its inviolable nature is strongly insisted on. The second shows us how, nevertheless, the promise might seem to have failed; and this, which is brought forward in solemn appeal to God, goes on to what may be considered the end of the psalm; the closing verse being the usual ascription of praise to Jehovah, with which the third book ends. It is, however, plainly suited as this to be the third division of the psalm, and can scarcely be anything else than this; while its energetic brevity, coming after the long plaint of sorrow, seems even to give it emphasis as the resurrection of faith, which needs no argument, and precedes the answer on God's part: an answer that is fully given in the fourth book.

(1) The first division has also two subdivisions: the first of which dwells upon Jehovah as being the Maker of the covenant; necessarily (inasmuch as it is a covenant of promise) the only party to it. Thus, if He be faithful, and at the same time all-powerful, all is secure. The argument is so simple and complete, that nothing can be simpler.

(a) Accordingly the first section declares the inviolability of the promise, founded on Jehovah's righteousness. "I will sing for ever," says the psalmist, "of Jehovah's loving-kindness: with my mouth will I make known Thy faithfulness to all generations. For I have said, Loving-kindness shall be built up for ever: in the very heavens shall Thy righteousness be exalted." This is what he says in view of the covenant which the next verse declares. Upon earth, indeed, things may seem for the present to be in conflict with this; and from the Jewish stand-point the testimony of many generations now might seem to be against it. The tree of David's house is leveled to the ground and Israel are wanderers among the nations. But the heavens have for faith another story to tell, since the Crucified has become the Glorified; and they will have a marvelous witness to give when the fruits of the cross shall be seen in the multitude of the redeemed in heaven; soon to be seen in His train as He comes forth from thence, not merely King of Israel, but King of kings.

(b) The covenant is now affirmed as from Jehovah's lips: it is said and sworn. The wondrous tenderness of God's oath for such as we are, the apostle bids us consider, in his epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 6:16-18). In fact, the whole idea of "covenant" is one which speaks of gracious adaptation to our infirmity. The covenant with David here — while a greater than David is surely to be seen in it — has its reason in this, that it is to David himself that it is given; and for the assurance of others with him. We must not go back of this, and argue, as so many have, a covenant in eternity between the Father and the Son, as if such could be needed between the Persons of the Godhead, one in eternal counsel. Surely, spite of its large adoption by theologians, this is only the introduction of human thoughts into a sphere to which they cannot belong. A contract of such sort would naturally imply some diversity of thought where none is possible, and help to foster the unworthy notion of the cross being the reconciliation of the Father to us, instead of God's love to the world being declared in the gift of His beloved Son. Of such a use of covenant Scripture knows nothing — can know nothing. Covenant with David we can understand well enough, and bless God for His tenderness to men in such a pledge. A pledge to Him Christ could not need. Yet that in no way hinders our seeing in David the One who is the Centre of the eternal purposes, the One expression and justification of Divine grace.

David was indeed the chosen of God, as the seventy-eighth psalm has emphasized; and this, not without a certain character in him which is pointed out there also, spite of his dreadful failure. He is in this only the mere shadow of the King that was to come, but still the shadow. In Christ "David" is indeed, in fulfillment of that name, the "Beloved" and "My Servant" was all through, the character in which He acted, who exchanged the "form of God" for this "form" (Phil. 2). It is in this way that God Himself announces Him in the fullest prophecy of Him that can be found in the Old Testament (Isa. 52:13 — 53). And it is in that prophecy as here that His "seed" is spoken of: "He shall see a seed; He shall prolong His days; and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand." Here, His seed also is to be "established for ever, and His throne be built up from generation to generation." But we shall have more of this later in the psalm.

Again the heavens come in with their witnessing praise, and the "congregation of the holy ones" would at first thought be, for a Jew inevitably, the angelic host. When we take into consideration the deeper meaning here, they may be in this application the "seed" that has been spoken of, royal and heavenly, who will, as that, proclaim His faithfulness and the wonder of His grace.

(c) From this the psalmist turns to consider the glory of God. To put the question is to answer it — where is one like Him far as infinite space extends? and the sons of the mighty — perhaps rather of might (a "plural of majesty") — who among them can be compared to Jehovah? Think of Him in connection with the assembled wisdom of the holy ones, He is an object only of reverent fear to and above them all. Nay, he is the Immutable God of hosts, whom they all serve: where then can there be might like that of Jah? using the strong, decisive word: and His faithfulness — here is the comfort of it all — is all about Him; commensurate with the outgoing of His glorious power.

(d) From thence the psalmist looks round upon nature, to claim it all for Him. The sea is the very type of unruled strength and pride; but He stills the tossing of its angry waves. Rahab, that name of pride, Egypt — and here history furnishes him with the experience, — lay before His might crushed and as if slain: enemies to Him, He scattered them. The heavens too are His, — the earth yea, the inhabited world with all that men count to be their treasures: the north with its darkness, and frost; the south with its teeming plenty: they are His as Creator of them. And they exult — Tabor and Hermon, the visible types before the eyes of Israel — sing for joy in His Name.

(e) Thus having seen all nature prostrate at His feet, the psalmist turns once more to consider the character of the divine government upon earth. This power of which he has been speaking is its first essential: absolute power is a necessity for perfect and universal government. "An arm with might" is therefore here put foremost.

But right rule is service, and love is the spirit of service which to be effectual must be discriminative — must have respect to all differences, all relationships. And such is the character of divine rule which is now announced: righteousness and judgment — not a sentiment of right merely, but maintained executively are the basis of this government; while loving-kindness and truth, in corresponding activity, go before the face of the glorious King. As the type and expression of this the perfect Servant will be upon the throne in the days to which all these psalms look forward: all judgment His because He is the Son of man (John 5:22, 27).

And in this, too, the third feature is anticipated: it is a government in which the divine Ruler does not withdraw Himself from His people, but on the contrary seeks to be known and manifest Himself to them: the people who know the signal-sound — the trumpet-call by which as in the wilderness Israel was summoned to attention — shall walk in the light of His countenance. Blessed indeed are such: "in Thy Name shall they exult all the day and in Thy righteousness shall they be exalted."

The issue of their being thus with God is stated in the last verse in this section, and applied to Israel: "For Thou art the glory of their strength" — the One through whom it becomes so great, and so real a cause of rejoicing "and by Thy favor shall our horn be exalted." Israel, conformed to the divine conditions of blessing, shall find this fulfilled to them.

(2) We now come to look at the terms of the covenant which Jehovah, the True and Faithful and Almighty, has made and sworn. And these are declared with a fullness and earnestness of detail which show how much the heart of the divine Speaker is in His words.

(a) First, the Mighty One on whom Jehovah has laid help is brought before us, and His might is seen to be God-given might. He is true man and dependent, — a thing which, as to David himself, needs no argument, but which is true also of Him who has taken the place of Man upon earth, to hold it not in mere semblance, but reality. In Him the higher and lower kingdoms, of which the books of Samuel and Kings so preach to us, come together, and the King sits (as is said of Solomon) "on the throne of Jehovah," but here as the true Image as well as Representative, of Jehovah Himself. This is as far as the psalm before us goes, but still it permits us to see a Figure greater than that of David, One whom David in Spirit owns to be his Lord, even though after the flesh He is his Son.

But the first verse here shows us, in connection with what follows, the action of the higher kingdom, of which the last section has spoken. "For Jehovah is our Shield; and the Holy One of Israel is our King." The David upon whom help is laid takes not away — as many an Israelitish king did — from the simplicity of this. The man after God's own heart was this, in that with all his failure, he never swerved from the confession of God. His psalms tell us what God was to him. And He whom he represents in this picture is the One who in His blessed work has given God such a throne as alone He could delight in on the earth. "Jehovah our Shield — the Holy One": never could such things have been joined together, had not He, the Mediator, joined them. Thus the ark of the covenant, with its double material, holding and enshrining Jehovah's law, declares Him, as well as the golden mercy-seat, which was His throne in the midst of the people.

And may not this be the reason for the "then" of the next verse, which otherwise seems without sufficient connection with what goes before it, — "then spakest Thou in vision of Thy Pious One"? that is, as being Israel's Shield and King, then; when the need discovered itself, Thou showedst Thou hadst provided for it? This was, of course, true of David, while faith with its longer sight can see much more. This title — "pious one" — which we have often met before, speaks directly of heart for God, the character needed by one who steps forth for Him. And thus was David in his time the "mighty one," and in this way alone can any find true might. He, too, was "one chosen from the people" that is, from the mass undistinguished in men's eyes. Among these in grace, our blessed Lord was found.

Next we see Him as the Anointed One — the Christ: the Spirit of God being the Unction in His case. As "servant" He is marked again; for this is how the Spirit of God comes upon Him, rising up from those Jordan-waters, in which John's hearers had taken their place, "confessing their sins" and death the due of them. Into death, then; He (to fulfill all righteousness) must come for them; and thus He must now be anointed for His work. The Father's voice declares His delight in Him; and John then proclaims as the Lamb of God, the unblemished Sacrifice. How perfectly all this unites together to proclaim what He has done!

But what follows carries us on into what is future yet — His manifest kingly glory. Jehovah's hand is firm with Him, His arm strengthens Him; no enemy exacts upon Him, no son of perversity afflicts Him: His adversaries are beaten down before His face. Yet "David and his afflictions" were as true a type of Him as was David in his glory; and what seems but in contrast with His glory here is in fact but the manifestation of His fullest glory.

(b) We have now the establishment of His power, first defining it as representative authority: His horn being exalted in Jehovah's Name, He is the true King of Israel, acting for and glorifying God in all things; so that His faithfulness and loving-kindness are ever with Him. Then His kingdom fills the full limits of God's gift to Abraham, as far as the Sea (the Mediterranean) and the rivers (the Euphrates and the Nile). His relation to God is that of Son pith a Father, in whom is His sanctuary of strength, His might and His salvation. Yea, He is first-born Son; and thus His kingdom swells into universal empire: He becomes supreme over the kings of the earth. With Him God's covenant stands fast forever, His love being unchangeably with Him. David is evidently here only a faint, though true, type of wider glory.

(c) When His seed are contemplated, and not as to Himself, as if there could be doubt as to Him, — the necessary conditions of divine holiness appear. Yet His seed too shall be established for ever, even as His throne unchangeable. But here failure is foreseen as possible, and such an event provided for. In this case, holiness must be manifested in chastening: the character of God must be maintained. Christ is not contemplated here, but David's posterity in general, spite of whose unfaithfulness, the throne will be preserved. In fact in millennial days there will be a "prince" in Israel, of whom Ezekiel speaks, who will doubtless be of David's seed; for the house of David is distinctly mentioned for blessing at that time (Zech. 12:7, 8, 10, 12). That he is prince only is of course due to the fact that he is but the vice-gerent of the real and glorious King.

(d) But with Christ, the true David, there can be no failure — no breach therefore of covenant in His case. Here holiness itself is pledged on His behalf, for by it God has sworn to Him; and cannot recall it.

(e) The promise to the seed is therefore reiterated, and the stability of His throne again positively assured; the comparisons made naturally carrying up our thoughts as Christians to the heavens to which that throne belongs, and where also a glorious fulfillment of this seed shall be found in the days to which all this points forward, when the thrones around the Throne shall be filled with a company which John in Spirit foresees and pictures for us; — a company that shall cast their crowns at the feet of the Lamb and cry: "Thou art worthy, for Thou hast redeemed us to God out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation, and hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign over the earth."

Does there not even seem to be contained in the symbols that are used a reference to the kingdom of Christ in its full sun-like glory, as He represents it, and then in those lesser planetary thrones around the throne, where the light is but reflected, like the moon's, and yet where stability is assured also? as it is said of Israel's blessing in that day, "Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; for Jehovah shall be thine everlasting Light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended" (Isa. 60:20).

Here, plainly, the sun being stable establishes the moon; which as it cannot shine without him; with him cannot but shine.

2. We are now suddenly, however, plunged in darkness so extreme, that the very brightness before seems to add intensity to it. Of course it is unbelief: for there is no darkness like this, but through unbelief. Of course, the world is always a dark place, which the One Light itself shines on without illuminating, as it is said, "the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." But that too is the darkness of unbelief, and it is only too easily thus accounted for.

But here we have to see, not the darkness of the world, but of those who are not of the world, not of darkness, — the unbelief of believers, than which nothing else can be so distressing, — so humiliating to realize. Not that it had not plenty of arguments, no doubt: arguments that contradict what are first principles, — for him who believes in God at all, not to be argued about, but to be received as self-evident. It was but a question about God, entertained as a question, which darkened paradise itself to our first parents; and then they too in paradise even had arguments. Why a forbidden tree at all? why the knowledge of good and evil forbidden? why forbidden to be as God in knowing this? So the devil became man's trusted teacher, and has been such ever since.

Arguments! that begin in a suspicion; which "makes the meat it feeds on"! arguments drawn from a world that is out of course, forgetting what has put it out of course! and that are meant at best honestly to prove whether men it is that are fallen or God is! Ah, how the eyes are cleared by the simple apprehension of what is so obvious, that "God is not a man that He should lie, nor the son of man; that He should repent"; and that "clouds and darkness are round about Him" is not the first step in disproof that "God is light."

How strange, perhaps, to find arguments of this kind in an inspired psalm! but how good that God has permitted thus all the conflict and contradiction that can be in the hearts of His people to come out, as it were with a strange, unconscious simplicity, and to be poured out to Him; who in the serene glory of His presence, not so much meets the arguments, as shines forth in His own blessedness, and they are gone, as a dream on waking. Job-like, our eyes see Him the Unrepenting, and we it is who abhor ourselves, and repent in dust and ashes. So it is here: the unbelief is poured out here, — seems to find no answer, passes and is gone, and in one single, joyous, outburst at the end we learn that it is gone. No argument is there at all, but the sweet adoring rapture which says all — "Blessed be Jehovah for ever! Amen and Amen."

But we must go through the strange dark road that leads us thither.

(a, b) "And Thou hast rejected and cast off: Thou hast overflowed with wrath against Thine anointed. Thou hast made void the covenant of Thy servant: Thou hast profaned his crown to the ground." Absalom's rebellion might furnish the occasion for such complaint; but for the full meaning we must go beyond this. David's seed has long apparently been set aside, and the earthly throne has had no tenant: it might seem as if it would never have again. So have argued Christians themselves who should know better, appealing to Christ being upon the throne of heaven as if that were the fulfillment of the covenant here. But David's throne is not the throne of heaven; and the greater glory yet cannot, as that, include the less. Man's sin has here come in to interrupt and delay a blessing which, through the changeless grace of God, it cannot set aside and the divine declaration has already provided for the understanding of the present suspension of the promise, though the delay be long. Meanwhile the utter collapse of the nation has caused the gap in the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy which God has filled in with New Testament blessing and much wider and fuller grace.

(c) What follows here is the picture of a ruin familiar to us all. Only instead of being an argument against God's faithfulness, it is an illustration of it. In the end that is approaching the remnant of the Jewish people will undoubtedly take up and plead with God the words which the Spirit of God has prepared for them in this psalm. Their fleeting generations passing away into Sheol without power of recovery from it, and under the wrath of God against sin; are put before Him, to plead in their need and hopelessness, save through Him; the renewal of those loving-kindnesses sworn to David in His truth. They too, His servants, though under the reproach of all the nations round, shall they not be remembered by that holy but merciful government — the reproach under which they now are being also the reproach of Christ Himself? So it will be necessarily when antichrist is carrying away the multitudes with the "strong delusion" in which apostate Christendom and apostate Israel will come to a common end. Here the limit of God's patience will in fact be reached, and in their extremity the true Joseph, the rejected of His brethren; will be made known to them as their Deliverer.

3. But nothing of this is here. Only the pleading of the covenant, David's covenant, those sure mercies," whose fulfillment to them has been so long delayed. Here in place of that fulfillment is, as already said, the outburst of joy and praise with which now the book ends. Jehovah! Blessed be He for ever! Even though as yet upon earth all seems to be contradiction to the promise and faithfulness of God, — Jehovah He is, the covenant-God, — the Unchangeable. Not merely when we see, but when we see not, let us bless His Name. Faith is where we see not: here is its glory to God and its victory; for victorious it is and must be: shout it in the face of all His foes,

"Blessed be Jehovah for ever! Amen; and Amen."