The Psalms

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

F. W. Grant.

Book 4. (Psalms 90 — 106.)

The failed first man replaced by the Second, and the world established under His hand.

The fourth book of the Psalms corresponds in this way with the book of Numbers; and it opens manifestly with a strain of the wilderness, a prayer of Israel's divinely-appointed leader, and in which is heard the lament over the generation dying there, but expanded and interpreted for us as a broad general lesson as to man's condition; sad enough, but most profitable to be learned. From this, however, as its starting-point it goes on to very different themes. Failed man does not occupy us, as he does not where his judgment is realized aright, but Another displaces him, and the results begin to be put before us from the next psalm on. The earth has found a new Adam, in glorious contrast to the first; and, put into His hand, it bursts out into the glad spring-time of eternal summer. Man is recovered to God, and the bond that unites him is one that cannot now be severed.

In the most beautiful way is this mediatorial link put before us. In the first subdivision of the book it is His spiritual perfection; abiding in Him from whom all others have departed, and this bringing in for Him the Creator, and making all nature subject to Him; which thus comes into sabbatic joy and is established in its new Head: "the world also is established that it cannot be moved."

Thus the breach with God being removed, in the second subdivision Jehovah, banished by man's sin; comes back to it, to fill it with blessing. He reigns gloriously, amid universal gladness.

But this is evidently not as yet the complete view; and therefore we begin again in the third subdivision of the book. Here, in the first psalm (the 101st) the Ruler of the earth for God is seen and the character of His righteous rule. But where is He to be found? In the next psalm, the time of blessing is looked at as at hand, Jehovah ready to appear in glory, and build up Zion; and execute His purposes of blessing for the earth. But He who sees all this, and with his heart full of it, is Himself under the hand of God, nay, His wrath. His days are shortened, and (quite after the manner of the ninetieth psalm with which we began) He contrasts His brief years coming to their end with the eternity of God. He seems one involved Himself in the ruin of the old creation; and, if He be the King of Zion; with no hope of filling that place. His voice comes to a close with this appeal to the Eternal. We wait for the answer: an astonishing one it is. This suffering, dying Man is Himself the Eternal: God and man are one in Him; all creation is in His hand, and the children of His servants serve Him in all their generations.

So the 103rd psalm follows with its song of forgiveness and redemption; the mercy of Jehovah being from age to age on them that fear Him; and the next psalm celebrates Him as Creator also. The last two psalms of the book close it with Israel's praise and heartfelt confession of their past, now cleared away.

Subdivision 1. (Ps. 90 — 93.)

Christ the uniting-bond of Creator and creation.

The first subdivision has already been sufficiently characterized. Christ is here seen as the perfect and unfallen Man; the uniting bond of Creator and creation. In it we have the personal link; the second being the actual salvation of the earth by Jehovah coming back to it again, the renewal of relationship thus with it, and in a more manifest and glorious way than ever.

Psalm 90.

The first man.

A prayer of Moses, the man of God.

The preface to this is necessarily the picture of man as fallen away from God — the first man; as Adam's seed may be most justly called, if Christ be in His day but a Second. The history of the world has fully proved this fall, and the broad fact of death being upon all the race has put God's seal upon it. It is this last upon which Moses naturally dwells as the most concise and clearest argument. It is what the law also has demonstrated by experiment, conclusively, in saying, "the man that doeth these things shall live in them," and "the soul that sinneth, it shall die." The current views of the law have removed all this from the field of practical observation and common knowledge into the unseen future, so that men may dream and speculate upon it as they list. God's purpose is that it should be present, definite certainty, that "by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified." The very effectiveness with which it gives this has been by the strange perversion of unbelief made an argument against its having a meaning which is too plain to be the right one!

1. But if death be that which has come in through sin; then life — immortal existence here — is the alternative; and for this man was originally created. It was necessarily conditional upon his continuing with God in the uprightness which he had at the beginning. Dependent he was, and must remain; for without this no creature-blessing is possible. "In God we live and move and have our being," and the recognition of this is uprightness for us. This is the key to the statement with which the psalm here begins.

"Lord, Thou hast been a habitation for us, in all generations": not, as in the common version; "our habitation"; for, alas, man has not profited by that which God has kept ever open to him. Paradise indeed has vanished from the earth, but the door of the Father's house, which he has left, — for naturally, God being the "Father of spirits," "we are also His offspring" (Heb. 12:9; Acts 17:28), — has never been closed against him. "The Lord" — not here Jehovah, but the Ruler of the earth and men — is always the Lord of life and He is the Mighty and Eternal One: "Before the mountains were brought forth, or Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, and from age to age, Thou art, O Mighty" (El). Here then is abundant resource, the Fountain of life ever open; the link with eternity in the Eternal God Himself, never distant from His creatures. How has it availed for man? how, after all, has he profited by it?

2. The answer is plain: it is no matter of speculation. Once, and but once, in the days before the flood, a man had walked with God 365 years of life, and then; without seeing death, been removed to heaven to walk with Him there. That life of Enoch, on which the shadow of death had never fallen, might suffice to show the possibility. Practically it might be left out in such an estimate as this: the answer remains really unaffected, or made the more solemn only by that possibility unavailed of: Thou makest frail man (Enosh) return to dust and sayest, Return; ye children of men." So God had to decide. It was His will, yet not of His will. And there remained but as contrast with His feeble creatures, that eternity of His into which they entered not: the thousand years that transcended even the life of a Methuselah, in His sight as but the remembrance of the past yesterday "and in its darkness of shadow, only "as a watch in the night."

But however brief, there is a long lesson in that brevity, and in that shadowed life, which is from God. The psalmist is pondering it before Him, and cannot let it go. "Thou carriest them away as with a flood" — " — "washest them away," literally — no doubt it is of the deluge he is thinking: manifest judgment, and yet generalized here, as the lot of every one, though he go singly. "They are asleep": what is appointed for man's refreshment, though a sign of his frailty and dependence, yet but an incident, becomes, as it were, the whole thing. They themselves are that — a sleep without awaking!

The images of nature over which he was once appointed lord, nay, of the grass under his feet, become images in which he may see himself. now leveled to the general condition of that which was his kingdom only. and subject to him. Like grass which groweth up: — in the morning it flourisheth and groweth up by the evening it is cut down and withereth."

3. Such then is, very obviously, man's condition: too obviously, it might be thought, to need the comment. But this is not ended yet; and the reason of it is now dwelt upon; and owned to God. The cause of it is His anger, which is consuming us, His hot wrath, which distresses us. But why such anger? Ah, it is not the unreasoning glow of passion; but discriminating judgment that weighs things in the evenest balances. "Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee:" and, with knowledge from which nothing can escape, "our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance." Thus in the full realization of what is here — "all our days pass away in Thine overflowing wrath:" upon us with that steady persistence under which a Job might plead, "How long wilt Thou not look away from me?" and the psalmist, "Look away from me, that I may recover strength." "We spend our days as a thought": perhaps, rather, "a moan."

Then comes the reiterated statement of man's vanity, the experience, now shrunk from near a thousand to seventy or eighty years, in which man's pride, if it last so long, goes out in travail. Soon cut off indeed, we fly away.

4. But this experience has, therefore, its practical use, to which the rest of the psalm is devoted and here it turns from contemplation and confession into prayer. "Who knoweth," the psalmist asks, "the power of Thine anger?" One might think He had pressed it heavily upon man but how could He do less? look, after all, at the folly that is bound up in man's heart! He only strives to banish thought, "kill time," put away conviction; do Satan's work for him as completely as possible. And yet no thought can exceed the truth of God's anger against sin: even according to the fear of Thee is Thine overflowing wrath."

Let us not shun, then, the reality of things, he asks: let us profit by it: "so make us to number our days, that we may acquire a heart of wisdom." Here is the "beginning of wisdom" for here is the "fear of the Lord," which is that. Here the soul finds the need it has of Him, turns to Him, seeks to have Him turn to it: and so the psalmist: "Return; Jehovah" — not simply "Lord" now, but the nearer name of covenant-goodness, — "and let it repent Thee concerning Thy servants." For as soon as man repents, God has declared that He will repent of the evil that He thought to do to them (Jer. 18:8); and the story of Jonah and Nineveh is a precious illustration of His mercies in this way.

But to avert His judgment is comparatively a little thing. The heart truly touched longs after Himself. How can a creature be satisfied apart from his Creator? "Satisfy us with Thy loving-kindness in the morning, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days." This joy in God, how rarely is it to be found after this fashion! our days come generally clad in much soberer apparel than is implied in this. And yet this is not less than we may all of us possess, and should possess. Nay, the soul taught of God in His wondrous ways of grace, claims compensation even for the affliction it has known before. "Make us glad according to the days Thou hast afflicted us, and for the years in which we have seen evil." Think of compensation from a judge for just judgment inflicted! But rather it is a Father's heart that is free to show itself in wiping off the tears that for a time were salutary. It was a discipline which he prays now may be effectual, the "work appear," and His "glory" shine out after the storm is passed aye, and even "upon the children" afterwards.

The last verse closes with the prayer for perfect blessing, "the beauty of Jehovah our God upon us," nay, "the work of our hands" established, too. And this he is emphatic about: for "whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected" (1 John 2:5). The glory of God is indeed accomplished in finding not only a free way for His love to show itself, but fruit also from the reconciled heart, upon which He can put the seal of His own approbation.

Psalm 91.

The Second Man.

Thus the ruin of man has been seen; and it is utter. As a being made for a dependent life of immortal blessing, he has failed to maintain this; and death is the seal of condemnation; his taking from the earth in which he was placed. What follows death does not come into view, for it is not in question. It is death itself that is so complete an assurance that God has judged and set aside the creature H has made. Thus he has lost God as his habitation; and, though he take to heart the lesson of his judgment, and look back with desire of heart to the place whence he has fallen; the way is not yet found by which he shall be reinstated in it.

It is this that the ninety-first psalm begins to open up to us. The whole is not by any means told in it; but a commencement is made, and with what is first and central in its relation to it. We learn here of a Second Man — not called so, indeed, but most evidently in opposition to the universal condition of men as shown us in the preceding psalm, and designedly set before us in this character. It is One who has "made Jehovah, even the Most High, His habitation," and who can claim rightly all the consequences of this. No plague can come near Him; no power of the enemy prevail against him; heaven provides Him with a watchful and powerful escort; all nature is in agreement with Him: thus there is a Man who is entitled indeed to be called a "Second Man," though but a part of the truth about Him has yet been told.

1. The principle of perpetuity in life and blessing is first of all stated, and in terms which directly refer to the previous psalm. "He that abideth in the secret of the Most High shall lodge under the shadow of the Almighty." That is, the protection of One all-competent to protect is assured to the man who abides in the secret — or "dwells in the secret place" — of the Most High: the God who is going to take His place as that, in those millennial times which are to come for the earth, — King of kings and Lord of lords.

Manifestly, this is the "Lord" of the previous psalm, who has been a "habitation for us in all generations"; and, as plainly, this "habitation" is that very "secret," "or secret place" — of the Most High which it has shown us to have become such: man having dropped out of the knowledge of it, and lost the resulting blessing.

When God appeared to the man who was to bring Israel out of Egypt, and gave him his commission to do so, Moses desires to know by what name he is to declare God to them. And the Name of God today is hidden from multitudes by a worse confusion than that which began at Babel. The day is yet to come when in all the earth "there shall be One Jehovah and His Name One" (Zech. 14:9). But these many names only reveal the practical estrangement of men from Him whose character His Name reveals. Little hope can there be naturally as to a creature who permits even the name of his God to slip away from him! But who abides in the secret place of the Most High? We have already had the answer.

Yet in the next verse a response is heard, which at first indeed may not seem to be as distinctly indicative of the Speaker as it afterwards is found to be: "I will say of Jehovah," he replies, "He is my Refuge and Fortress: my God: I trust in Him." Faith in all times would have answered in similar terms, it might be said: and this is true. The Spirit of Christ in all His people has indeed used the language of Christ, and of course, truly; yet how different after all is the One Voice from the others! That the voice of absolute Truth has spoken here is made known by the echoes it awakens around, and presently by that of God Himself which attests it. That this psalm was written of the Messiah, Satan surely knew when he quoted to Him the eleventh and twelfth verses with the comment, "If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down." And the whole structure of the book, as we have considered it, and shall do more at large, proves the same thing.

2. The words used are those of absolute dependence; and now another voice, which is that surely of the Spirit of prophesy, answers again with the assurance of how completely this faith is justified and made good. He has made God His refuge, and shall find it a perfect and absolute one: from the snare of the trapper and the pestilence alike He will deliver; and in the tender love of endeared relationship, covering with His feathers and the broad shelter of His outstretched wings, — love pledged to Him who has cast Himself entirely upon it, so that His truth becomes a shield and buckler.

The inward realization answers to this perfect care: no terror of the night, no arrow flying openly by day, alarms. Nature is at peace with Him with whom its God is: pestilence nor destruction touches Him; and the fall of thousands round Him only demonstrates the more the complete protection which the divine government throws round the Man whose sole reliance is in God. Only shall He see with His own eyes the end of the wicked.

3. A new division of the psalm begins here: which seems, at first sight, very much a repetition of what has been said before, but goes beyond it, and opens the heavenly side of blessing. He has made Jehovah, the refuge of His saints, the Supreme, His habitation; and heaven opens towards Him in consequence. Notice the words here for the first time, "my refuge." It is but a hint indeed, for as yet there can be no more, but a real hint nevertheless, of such refuge opening now to others, through Him who has in fact never known nor sought any but in God. And He has made Him His habitation; not professed to do so, nor labored to do so. but done so — abode in God as a new and perfect Man; for whom no excuse is to be made, and no reduction from the full demand for absolute perfection. Hence evil has no hold on Him; nor opportunity against Him: there shall no evil befall Thee, nor plague come near Thy tent." "Tent," mark: so that, with all the perfection of Manhood which is His, He is yet a Sojourner and Pilgrim upon the earth. He is not another man of the earth merely, a mere Adam that has never fallen: and who by virtue of that very unfallen state, could never have been a pilgrim. But here is One whose glory shines out in His very humiliation. He is a Wayfarer, not because a steward turned out of his stewardship; outside paradise, indeed, but not banished from it; One with His home in God, yet in an alien world, and whither should His steps be directed, but towards God His home, and in the place where His home is?

Thus even here heaven opens to Him. He is in a hostile world, and must have an escort; and angels are charged concerning Him, to keep Him in all His ways. Those blessed feet, so traveling through a place which is all in disorder, and might seem even haphazard, must be preserved from casualty.

But there is the power of the enemy also, "the lion and the adder" — force and craft. Both must give way to Him. He turns not aside, but tramples them under His feet. Good is ordained to victory, necessarily, or it would not be God that ruled: and that is, I suppose, why the number here is that of divine government. We do not see things work in this simple manner doubtless, and there is plenty of room left for exercise, and for faith. But the rule itself is absolute, and must be.

And now the voice of God Himself is heard; and He too owns and testifies to the Man in whom He delights. Heart has met heart: "because He has set His love upon Me, I will deliver Him." And here we find where His path necessarily ends: "I will set Him on high, because He has known My Name."

But this does not begin a new section, apparently, and therefore must come under the number which speaks of victory; at first sight difficult to understand or recognize as appropriate. Yet in fact this is the time of which it is said: "He has gone up on high; He has led captivity captive; He has received gifts for men." And this connects readily with the previous verse, — the power of the enemy trampled in the dust. Thus the structure reveals its significance; and again we have a hint, and yet more than a hint of a work accomplished for others: not the cross (for that is not in the line of this psalm; and involves the giving up in grace of what is seen to be proper to Him here) but that which in fact triumphed in the cross itself. For the priest's white linen robe was that in which he went in to God; and when He cried "with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him out of death, He was heard for His piety" (Heb. 5:7). By the power of His absolute perfection He rose necessarily from all that He endured, into His own sphere: and this was truly the greatest of victories, and is perfectly in the line of the psalm before us.

Accordingly the next verse reminds us of the cross itself, although the peculiar features of the cross are not in it. There is the call that was heard, but no forsaking: "He shall call on Me, and I will answer Him: I will be with Him in strait; I will deliver Him and honor Him:" — a perfect response to personal perfection; while the last verse, with its significant number, overlaps time and stretches through eternity. "With length of days will I satisfy Him; and show Him My salvation." Compare Ps. 21:4 for the interpretation: "He asked life of Thee, — Thou hast given it Him: length of days for ever and aye." It is the same Person before us in both psalms.

Psalm 92.

Sanctuary-praise.

A psalm-song for the Sabbath-day.

We have now an outburst of praise consequent upon this. It is not yet the full praise which we shall have before the book closes, and this for a very evident reason. Redemption and the work needed to accomplish this have not yet been seen with any sufficiency. The personal perfection of the Second Man could not of itself lift up the fallen creature. His own words in reference to this are plain, that "except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit" (John 12:24). Union with Him is not in incarnation; but as risen from the dead; and only thus can God become the Sanctuary-refuge of fallen men.

Yet we have already had "Jehovah my refuge" from the lips of faith in the preceding psalm; and the present one is clearly sanctuary-praise. The means of accomplishment have not yet been brought out; but the One who accomplishes it has been before us: and as the poor man in Israel might bring his meat-offering for atonement, though "the blood that maketh atonement" was not found in it (Lev. 5:11-13), so we are permitted already to rejoice in the fruit of what has not itself become our possession. By and bye we shall be taken out of the ranks of the poor, and enriched with the wealth which has been already secured to us, and able to bring to God the full sin-offering and burnt-offering too. Meanwhile God's delight is in His Son; and as the Sabbath followed the manna in the wilderness (Ex. 16), so now already have we here a song. He is worthy; although the fullness of His glory has not yet been seen.

1. "Jehovah, the Most High," are titles which connect the present psalm with the last; and the latter we know as God's millennial name, when He shall be manifestly supreme over all the earth. The time is now in view, and in the next psalm comes: Jehovah reigns, and the earth is subject. Here already the soul celebrates Him in this way, and sees how "good" (or "right") it is to celebrate Him: His loving-kindness in the morning, His faithfulness in the nights. In opposite circumstances He is the same still; in darkness as in light His love works and declares itself.

The various instruments of praise are set in motion therefore: all that is responsive to man's hand is made to praise Him. We can discriminate little between them; for nothing but an antiquarian interest seems to attach to them in men's account. The experience of Jehovah's work has loosed also the tongue in praise; while His works as the expression of the deep thoughts of God, give abundant exercise to all man's faculties.

2. But there is conflict and opposition; as we well know: there are enemies to God among the creatures He has made. There are brutish men leveled with the animals below, who have shut themselves off from what none but themselves could deprive them of. They understand not even the lot of the wicked which is before their eyes, who spring up as the grass, but to be destroyed; while Jehovah remains the "high place" of His people for ever. To faith it is simple that Jehovah's enemies must perish; and the workers of vanity incur the doom of vanity. "But my horn," says the psalmist, "shalt Thou exalt like the horn of an aurochs:" the power conferred being not merely what men count that, but the power of the Spirit: "I shall be anointed with fresh oil."

3. Finally, the portion of the saint is given in the last five verses. First, as to his enemies, he will see surely that which comes for them. It is not needful to say what, it is so evident. The common principles of right secure it: if God is, that which is right shall be.

On the other hand. the righteous shall flourish like the palm and grow as the cedar of Lebanon. The soil of their planting is the best surely for this: planted in the house of Jehovah, they flourish in the courts of God Himself. And here we are made to remember that "in Him we live and move and have our being"; for their vigor abides in old age; they have sap and are green. All this is to declare, blessed be God, that Jah, to whom they have been brought back, is upright: — we see how He has pledged Himself to His people; "He is my Rock, and there is no perversity with Him."

Psalm 93.

The creature in the creature place.

And now in a short psalm of five verses we are made to see the kingdom of the Lord on earth: which is only to say, the creature in its place as such. Then God will be in His: of course, reigning.

Then there will be seen the majesty with which He clothes Himself, — the might which would be but destruction for those away from Him. Now it is only stability for everything, and the world is established, so that it cannot be moved. Yet it is the Throne established of old: nothing new, in that sense. Men have been blind to it, and now it is revealed.

2. There has been opposition: strange strife has been permitted: the floods have lifted up not merely their voice, but their dashing waves, against the Rock of Ages. No details of the strife are needful: one has only to compare the parties in it: "Jehovah is mightier than the sound of many waters! than the mighty breakers of the sea!"

What is the lesson of this strife? Only the lesson of God's holiness and truth. Holiness becomes then His dwelling-place, — the place of His rest, — for ever. So the first series of the psalms of this book ends.

Subdivision 2. (Ps. 94 — 100.)

The Judgment-salvation of the Earth.

The second subdivision of these psalms gives us the salvation of the earth, its redemption from the condition into which sin had brought it, or what the Lord calls its "regeneration" (Matt. 19:28). This in the human soul is when the kingdom of God is set up within it, and the dominion of sin is therefore taken away. And in these psalms we find correspondingly Jehovah's coming and reign over the earth. It is not, indeed, the final and perfect condition — the "new earth"; just as the regeneration of man is not his perfected condition: sin exists, though it does not reign; and not yet has the word been spoken, "Behold, I make all things new." Yet the groaning condition of the earth ceases at the "manifestation" in glory "of the sons of God" (Rom. 8:19); and the kingdom itself is final: no other will supersede it ever.

This salvation is by judgment, therefore, the reign of the King and putting down of evil; and thus it is introduced here by the cry of the righteous, for whom judgment comes in. But this could not come, with any hope for man, until a new Man had been found with the secret of the Most High in His possession, and therefore able to claim and secure the blessing of God for Himself and for the earth as connected with Him. Atonement must indeed come in for this, but that is a secret at present as far as this book is concerned: the previous psalms have already declared it.

Here it is more the earth, though man; of course, is involved: and He is come who can say, if "the earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved, I bear up the pillars of it" (Ps. 75:3). Thus He is in fact the new Adam; the Head of blessing for the world; and judgment, if it comes, shall not be for destruction; but for blessing and purification.

Psalm 94.

The appeal of righteousness to power.

The introduction gives us, as already said, the cry of the righteous, — the appeal of righteousness to power. As the Lord says: "And shall not God avenge His own elect, who cry day and night unto Him; though He bear long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily" (Luke 18:7, 8). And in Revelation (Rev. 8:3-5) the angel takes the censer from which the smoke of the incense has gone up to God with the prayers of the saints, and fills it with the fire of the altar, and casts it to the earth, and there follow thunders and voices and lightnings and an earthquake — the answering judgments of God upon their persecutors.

1. Such is the cry then here: "God of vengeances, Jehovah" — covenant God of Thy people, pledged to take up their cause — "God of vengeances, shine forth." The lightning-stroke is yet the revelation of the light: "Lift up Thyself, Thou Judge of the earth! render recompense to the proud."

Aye, it is pride which calls for abasement. "The day of Jehovah of hosts shall be upon all that is proud and lofty, and upon all that is lifted up; and it shall be brought low: and upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan; and upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up; and upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall. . . . And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and Jehovah alone shall be exalted in that day" (Isa. 2:12-17).

Thus the cry here is in perfect accordance with the demands of holiness, and with the manner of the coming judgment. Pride is the very essence of sin; the creature lifted up out of its place and God dethroned from His; and for this the stroke must come. Here then is the prevailing plea.

2. The detailed catalogue of crime follows: continuous, and, as it would seem, triumphant rebellion; arrogant words pouring from their lips — boastings of utter vanity; Jehovah's people and inheritance the object of attack; the widow, stranger, fatherless, all that have no strength to resist. And the patience of Jehovah scoffingly insulted, — the God of this poor despised Jacob. Enmity to Him is at the bottom of it all, and the heart that seeks its own things without regard to others.

3. The psalmist turns to expostulate with them, though they be like brutes that possess no faculty for knowing God. Does not the formation of the ear testify to One who hears? of the eye, to One who beholds? And is there not a moral government of the world which manifests itself, such as the Teacher of all human knowledge must possess — the rod of the Master? Ah, Jehovah knoweth well the thoughts of men that they are vanity; and happy is the man who knows the restraint of His government, and the teaching of His law. Kept in quiet from the fear of evil, he waits for the sure end of the wicked.

4. This leads him to affirm the judgment of experience, in which the faithfulness of God, realized as to His own; assures the soul that the reign of evil shall not continue. "Judgment" that has slipped away from righteousness, as Moses, rod (the sign of authority) out of his hand became a serpent. But as, after all, he retained authority over it, so that when he put forth his hand to take it, it became again a rod in his hand, so judgment shall return again to righteousness and all the upright in heart shall follow it: it shall be pursued in peace by these without the hindrance that now exists from the presence of evil.

Meanwhile the destitution of other help only shuts one up to God all the more. And the soul knows what help He has already given. Had it not been for this he would have already been dwelling in silence. But even when he had realized that his foothold was already gone, a Stronger than he, and with heart, not merely hand, supported him. Thus amid a multitude of anxieties within him, the comforts of God soothed — or, in the vivid imagery that he uses, "caressed" — his soul.

5. But this only gives him confidence the more to turn to Him as to the state of things which are still unanswered. He puts a question which seems bold to rashness, but it is only an appeal to righteousness which, amid all exercise, he knows full well to be in Him who is Supreme. Can He go on as if in partnership with a throne of iniquity* which makes wickedness into law? The dread figure of the "Lawless one" is evidently before us here, and makes one realize what energy could be thrown into such questions. "They band together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood."

{*"Depths."}

But he comforts himself in God: "Jehovah will be a high tower for me, and my God my Rock of refuge." And the end is that which will test where God is. He will return upon them their iniquity; He will cut them off: Jehovah our God will cut them off."

Psalm 95.

The two fold testimony of judgment and salvation.

The ninety-fifth psalm gives us now the testimony, not yet actually of the Lord coming, but of the need of the obedience to Him, if Israel is to have the security of His care. While at the same time He is celebrated as the God of the whole earth, to whom everything is subject. It is thus, practically, (though neither so wide in its address, nor so definite in its announcement,) the message of the "everlasting gospel" in Rev. 14: "Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made the heaven and the earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." That the hour of His judgment is come is not in fact declared: but the next psalm declares it, and for this the present one prepares the way. Israel, however, is alone in view here: the invitation and the warning are distinctly addressed to them.

1. The psalm opens with the exhortation to sing to Jehovah as the Rock of their salvation; to answer with "confession," of what He is to them, — the word for "thanksgiving" being literally "confession." For Jehovah their God is a great God, and a great King over all that man would exalt to deity. The earth in its depths and heights is then claimed as His and the sea and the dry land. which He has formed. In these last two cases the idea of control seems prominent, and that as necessarily inferred in the fact of His making them.

2. Then they are exhorted again to do Him homage, and His loving relationship to them as their Shepherd is put before them as what may well incite them to this. But there is added as the necessary condition to the continuance of this, "today, if ye will hear His voice! "* Apart from such obedient hearing there could be no walking together, of those not agreed. Grace only fulfills — not sets aside — such conditions.

{* The Masoretic division of the verses is an apparent difficulty but Delitzsch points out that the "if ye will hear His voice" cannot be really the condition of what follows in the next verse, but is the expression of desire for them. It may then be really the condition of what precedes, — that is, of the continuance of it. And this seems to suit well with the character of the psalm as a whole. The use of the passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews is not against this, the quotation being from the Septuagint, and the division of the subject no way affecting the purpose of the apostle.}

A sad page of their history is now brought before them, the time of their "strife" with God at Meribah, and "tempting" Him at Massah. And this was but a sample of forty years in which He was grieved by a generation finally cut off in the wilderness for unbelief. They are exhorted not to harden their hearts as did their fathers, when they tempted and proved God, and saw His work, — found Him alike faithful in His promises and in His threatenings. And now the rest of God is so near at hand, and in proportion to the blessedness of all implied in it, is the awful irremediable ruin of being cut off from it.

Psalm 96.

Jehovah manifested.

1. In the next psalm Jehovah is come, and the announcement of it is made, that all the earth may greet and give Him welcome. There is indeed a new song now to sing: for the long estrangement is over, the time when God has to be sought after, even by those nearest Him; and the world may go on in ignorance and unbelief of His existence even. Now He comes to fill the earth with the knowledge of His glory. He comes to bless and save it: to judge it indeed, and that is its salvation, — to purge it from the evil that defiles it, and deliver it from the bondage of corruption; and bring it into the liberty of the glory of the sons of God (Rom. 8:21). Jehovah, the living, the eternal God comes to impart to it the blessing that must flow out where He is. "Bless," then; "His Name; publish His salvation from day to day! Declare His glory among the nations, His wondrous works among all the peoples."

2. God has not arbitrarily hid Himself. It is men who have turned away from Him. "When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful." Thus they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened: professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like unto corruptible man; and to birds and four-footed beasts, and creeping things" (Rom. 1:21-23). This controversy with idolatry is now coming to an end. The sun arises, and the unclean things of the night are banished: "Jehovah is to be feared above all gods." Truly: for what are they? "all the gods of the peoples are idols" — or as the word means, "nothings" (compare 1 Cor. 8:4) — "but Jehovah made the heavens." Such is He who has now come down to an earthly sanctuary, to reveal His heavenly glory upon earth: "honor and glory are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary."

3. To this therefore all are now invited: all the families of the peoples are exhorted to give Him the glory due, the glory of His Name, to come before Him with an offering in token of homage, and worship Him in the majesty of holiness.

For Jehovah reigns: He judges the peoples with equity; and that stable and righteous throne is the stability of the world.

4. Nature therefore is called to rejoice in harmony: a song which begun in heaven is taken up on earth, and the sea too lifts up its waves in gladness, not rebellion. The field too is to exult, and the trees of the wood, for the curse of barrenness is lifted off. Jehovah is come, and come to judge the earth: the seal of its perpetuity of blessing emphasized once again to be in evil banished.

Psalm 97.

The earth subject.

1. This is taken up, too, and expanded in the psalm that follows. Jehovah's supremacy is celebrated; the earth is subject to Him. The joy of His presence does not prevent the recognition of the fact that "clouds and darkness are round about Him"; and just because "righteousness and judgment are the foundation of His throne." He finds therefore upon earth opposition to be subdued, and He subdues it: "a fire goeth before Him, and subdueth His enemies round about." The earth trembles at His lightnings, which yet truly lighten the world: for the sharp flash of judgment is (though in anger) the revelation of Himself. The hills melt, and all that is high and lifted up is humbled and brought low in His presence.

2. Idolatry gives way before Him whom the heavens reveal in righteousness; a known God causes all the worshipers of idols to be ashamed. The powers that they have exalted to deities are found all paying homage to the true God: while Zion hears and the daughters of Judah exult, because of His judgments. Jehovah is Most High over all the earth, and exalted far above all gods.

3. The third section exhorts in view of His holiness. The love of Jehovah means, if it be real, opposition to evil; and to such, as manifest this, His godly ones, He is faithful, preserving and delivering them from the hands of the wicked. For the righteous light is sown; and though it may for a time be obscured, it will finally increase and produce a harvest. A strange figure it may seem; and yet an intelligible one: for the path of the just is as the shining light," — or "the light of dawn," — "which shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Prov. 4:18). How impossible to stop the steady advance of the morning light! And the real "day," when it comes, what shall it not bring with it in abundant recompense! the Light itself, what glories will it not disclose! "The Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting and thy God thy glory! Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; for the Lord shall be thine everlasting Light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended" (Isa. 60:19, 20).

How blessed is the grace, which can enable redeemed sinners to "rejoice in Jehovah, and give thanks," not merely "at the remembrance of His" grace, but of His "holiness"!

Psalm 98.

God with man.

A psalm.

The ninety-eighth psalm, like the ninety-sixth, calls for the new song; and the close of it is also very similar. But the salvation He has wrought, and His remembrance of His people Israel are here before us, and the praise exhorted to is correspondingly more distinctly from (though not confined to) Israel themselves. The same thing is true of the next psalm, as compared with the ninety-seventh, though not so fully; and the verses of the present two psalms are nine each, as those of the former two are thirteen. This is not accident, although its meaning may not be clear to us.

1. The new song itself — the material of it — is, in the first section. Jehovah has done wonderful things, — deeds of power by which He has wrought salvation. This has spoken for Him among the nations, and manifested His righteousness: He has remembered His loving-kindness and truth toward the house of Israel, and the ends of the earth have seen His salvation.

2. The praise for this is heard in widening circles. In this section Israel is in view; in the next, the world and all the dwellers in it. Yet in the three verses here, the order is reversed, and begins with the people of the whole land; then the Levite chorus; and then; as indicated by the trumpets and the presence of the divine King, the priestly innermost circle. Jehovah is their King, and the accompaniment is heard with Israel's praise.

3. The full praise joins together the sea and the stable land; then the ministries of blessing, for which the rivers and the hills, their sources, seem both to stand. The rivers are manifestly this, the types of refreshment, which the hills distribute. One cannot help thinking of the waters flowing from the temple-throne in the Jerusalem to be on earth: the type of those in the New Jerusalem above; the "hills" speaking elsewhere also of authorities, and as ministering blessing thus (in psalm 72:3). The last verse reminds us once more of that supreme rule in righteousness which is the great ministry, and from which the other ministries derive their being. All these, like the cherubim of the throne, celebrate Him from whom they have their origin; and proclaim His goodness who has come once more into a world which is His own. Man is with God, and in fullness of blessing.

Psalm 99.

Victory over evil.

The victory over evil requires more development. It is this that the sixth psalm of the series, in accordance with the numerical significance, now takes up. Salvation by judgment necessarily involves it; but we see this worked out here both in regard to the world at large, and to the saints also. Thus the apostle applies it to the latter: "for the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God;" and in this way "the righteous are with difficulty saved" (1 Peter 4:17, 18) — not "scarcely:" but God having to be at such pains with them to bring them through, so as both to His creatures at large, and for their own sakes also, to justify His holy government.

1. The first section; therefore, speaks of this government as now manifested, Jehovah reigning, enthroned above the cherubim, as Ezekiel and the book of Revelation show Him. In the latter the "living creatures" in their various characters thus represent the features of His rule. The lion shows the fundamental necessity for all government — power. The ox shows it however to be used in patient ministry, as true rule is. The "face of a man" speaks of intelligence that seeks to be known by men His creatures. And lastly, the "flying eagle" speaks of ways yet "too wonderful" for comprehension by them (Prov. 30:18, 19). These cherubic beings, with their sleepless vigilance and activity, proclaim the Thrice-holy who is still above them (Rev. 4:8); and this is the Throne now established over the earth. Well may "the peoples tremble" before Him; and "the earth be moved."

But He reigns in Zion, which His grace has chosen as the place of His rest, the accessible metropolis of the whole earth. Let the peoples praise His great and terrible Name: for it is holy.

2. Might and right are wedded at last, in a despotic rule, from which yet none need shrink except the wicked. For "the king's strength loveth judgment" — a beautiful poetic phrase which strangely seems to perplex the commentators: "Thou hast established equity; Thou hast executed judgment and righteousness in Jacob."

Thus the world is saved and blest, and all are bidden to worship at the footstool of the Throne: Jehovah our God is holy.

The third verse here one might naturally take to belong to the closing section. Yet the structure is against it: for it is evidently a third and not a first, and its presence in the last section would derange all the numbers there. Moreover the connection is not so close as at first it seems. "In the pillar of cloud He spake to them," could not refer to Samuel; and the three together — Moses and Aaron and Samuel are cited here as practical examples of the worship to which the people now are called. Such were the men that drew nigh to Him; His priests: Samuel not officially that, but practically standing in that place, when the priests themselves had departed from Him, and known characteristically as one that called upon His Name. These all, He in His faithfulness had answered, drawing near to those that drew near to Him.

3. But with all His people sanctification was the object that He steadily pursued. "In the pillar of cloud He spake to them" — that pillar which as the sign of His Presence, moved with them all the way from Egypt to the land: thus grace had sought them; and obedience followed: "they kept His testimonies, and the statute He gave unto them."

His holiness was as fully displayed as His love; and His love was not less that it was holy: "Jehovah our God, Thou answeredst them: a forgiving God Thou wast to them; even while taking vengeance on their doings."

Upon them it was not wrath, but chastening love — grace that showed itself in this that declared His wrath upon the evil, to make them "partakers of His holiness" (Heb. 12:10). Thus does "grace reign" in holiness as well as righteousness; the very "vengeance" only showing the forgiveness to be really that, and not indifference; and that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord" (ver. 14). Blessed, salutary lessons, worthy of God to give!

Praise, therefore, is what ends the psalm: "Exalt Jehovah our God; and worship at His holy hill: for Jehovah our God is holy."

Psalm 100.

The Final Praise.

A psalm of thanksgiving.

The hundredth psalm closes this series with the full anthem of praise. Naught else remains. Perfection is found and rest; and both are in God. There is little need of interpretation. Jehovah is now to be in every mouth, not the superstitious dread of men afraid of uttering His Name, but shouting it aloud for very gladness: joyous service, with a song. Jehovah is indeed the manifest God, to whom belong His people: the creatures and the cared for of His hand. Strangely it may seem, but most beautifully, surely, the thankful approach of the worshiper falls into the fourth place, which speaks of the practical life. The life will now be praise (comp. Heb 13:15, 16). And the psalm ends with the record of Jehovah's ways, which are the theme of the praise itself: "for Jehovah is good: His loving-kindness is for ever; and His truth endureth from generation to generation."
Amen.

Subdivision 3. (Ps. 101 — 106.)

Salvation in its innermost realization.

The third subdivision shows us now the salvation of the earth in its innermost reality; and here necessarily we return; therefore, to Christ, to see how truly its blessing is dependent upon this Second Man; and to find how deep and full it is as based upon His atoning work, and upon the glory of His Person in which Godhead and manhood are inseparably and eternally united together. The revelation of this mystery is given us in the hundred and second psalm, and in the most deeply instructive manner, as the answer of God to One humbled and cut off under the wrath of God upon sin; and which addresses Him — this humbled Man — as Creator and Lord of all. Dying, He is yet the Unchangeable, Jehovah Himself; and all things are in His hand. The claim that He has to the earth is thus every way perfect; and He is the One whom we have seen as Jehovah, taking possession of it. Thus the praise that flows out now is to Jehovah as Creator and Redeemer alike, the God of Israel, whose Presence with them has been the one glory of their history hitherto, and who has now shown Himself supreme in grace and power above all their sin.

These things we must not indeed expect to have told out to us in the clear language of the New Testament. We are dealing with prophetic scriptures which need for their very first rule of interpretation what Peter assures us applies to all prophecy, that they are none of them interpretable by themselves, but must be taken in communion with the whole mind of the Spirit, as given in the Word. Thus we must put these psalms together, just as we would put together the sentences of a book to find the full meaning, perhaps of any. And we must, above all, bring in the New Testament as the proper key to all deeper understanding of the Old. So read, however, there is to be gained a full and clear appreciation of the precious and pervasive meaning running through the whole, which gained is its own evidence. The spiritual picture, flooded with the warm light of heaven, no fortuitous running together of incoherent lines could possibly have achieved. And it is the picture of One well-known, who must have been present and well-known to the mind of Him who drew it with such perfect fidelity.

Psalm 101.

The King of righteousness.

A psalm of David.

We have, first of all, the utterances of a King; and who if He be what His words convey to us, is such an One as the world yet waits for and must have for blessing: a strong hand of power which will not fail to accomplish its salvation; — power that will act in unswerving righteousness, and yet in tenderest consideration of frailty and of need: power with heart behind it; a "rod of iron," but in the hands of a Shepherd, the true Shepherd of the sheep: a rod that smiths down evil, and yet only smites to save.

Prophet and priest and king make up One — the "Anointed": Messiah of Israel, and Gentile Christ alike. None of these can avail without the other. Prophet and priest have come, but not yet the full deliverance. Each has done his necessary work, and made ready the way for the King; but the King must come, that the full meaning of all may be apparent, and the end be reached. The Prophet must reveal, and bring in God as Light where all has been darkness, that God known may bring men's hearts back to Himself. The Priest must open the way to God, that they may in fact be able to draw near to Him. After all this, nothing remains but that power in the hand of the King should intervene, and put away in fact sin and its consequences from among men; and perfect blessing.

But for all this prophet, priest and king must be united in One who is Himself the bond which shall bind the universe together, God and man in one Person; who for man shall be God to reveal Him; who for God shall be Man to bring man nigh; who in the union of both shall combine absolute power with tender, sympathetic knowledge of man's need, and so be the true King after God's heart — for God and man; the David, the "Beloved."

1. The present psalm only begins to tell this tale, and in a way abrupt enough, if it did not suppose the ear of a disciple, already instructed by what has been said elsewhere. It is the utterance of David, and expresses the mind of a King of Israel, filled with zeal for that divine Throne which the throne in Israel represented. He is thus a worshiper, and "loving-kindness and judgment" are the theme of a "song." He sings to Jehovah, as one intimate with Him; inviting His coming to him; and with a confidence too great for one merely of the children of men, not only of the integrity of his heart, but of his practical wisdom for "a perfect way": in holiness which can permit no approach of evil. It is the voice surely of Him who with perfect lowliness and the keenest apprehension of evil in every form, could say in the presence of His enemies seeking how they might condemn Him, "Which of you convicteth Me of sin?"

"Loving-kindness and judgment" are with Him parts of but one song. Love and light, — grace and truth — are with Him as the two equal eyes which hold but one image. His heart "sings" of them — singing to Him in whom it finds them as their Source and Original. Here is One in whose hands power may be safely put: the prophetic picture of Him in whose hands it will in fact be put: to whom He has "given authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man."

2. We see Him now accordingly in the execution of this judgment. First of all, His principle and purpose to tolerate no evil; then the application of this to the back-biter, and to the proud who walks in his self-estimation apart from other men. But His eyes are upon the faithful in the land for good, and He draws them to Him; opening His house and heart, and gladly giving them places of confidence in which to serve a perfect Master in the way of the perfectness He loves.

The vice of the weak, which is deceit, is not tolerated any more than that of the bolder or the stronger. Wickedness of all kinds must be rooted out of the land, and all vain-doers cut off from the city of Jehovah. Here is emphasized the spirit of the theocratic Ruler: the name of Jehovah must be hallowed in the place which He has chosen for Himself in grace among men.

Psalm 102.

Christ in His humiliation; uniting God and man.

A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before Jehovah.

Here then is a King after Jehovah's heart: such an one as the need of man craves but has not found. Yet has He long since come, and in the way marked out for Him from the beginning, all prophetic voices testifying to Him. They had testified also to His rejection at the hands of those long and carefully prepared for His reception; but who knew Him not. The crown they gave Him was a crown of thorns; they wrote His title in derision over a cross; little supposing that He would show His royalty by making that cross itself henceforth the very symbol of a power mightier than that of all the kings of the earth, and to outlast them all.

But in fact to be King after the fashion that alone He sought, He had to wear another title, and take another office, as we have seen; and this involved the very place to which in ignorance and unbelief they destined Him, but to which He freely — constrained only by His own love — stooped. As Priest He must have somewhat to offer and, there being nothing that could avail beside, He offered up HIMSELF. And thus too He became the Prophet of a new dispensation; and, lifting all this into a new sphere of glory, in Him Messiah's three-fold qualification was at last completed — Prophet, Priest, and King.

But who could be sufficient for these things? Man He must be to take man's penalty; man; to go in for man to God. We have seen One able to go in thereto whom the sanctuary was accessible; who knew "the secret place of the Most High," and could "abide under the shadow of the Almighty;" a Second Man; not involved in the ruin of the first, and for whom all the resources of divine power are available. But who then is this Second Man? This is the question which is answered by God Himself in the psalm before us, and answered to Him the rejected King of Israel, but under a heavier burden than this by far, and stricken by the hand of Him who owns Him now. But let us take up the psalm.

1. The first seven verses state in general terms the cause of the Sufferer's prayer. His plea is His distress. There is no confession of sin; as in the psalms of atonement generally, while on the other hand there is no profession of integrity: it is as the prayer of one with whom there is no need. Yet He pleads that God's face should not be hidden from Him; and in the third verse seems already to intimate that which afterwards finds Plainer expression — the wrath of God like a fire in His bones and His days consumed like smoke. In the sixth similarly the figures, as well as the number, would seem to speak of God's hand upon His circumstances, making Him like a bird of the deserts or of ruined places; while the desolation is yet heightened by the picture of the sparrow with its social instincts, in the place where these would naturally find gratification; yet watching alone.

2. The evil comes into clearer detail, however, in the second section; where we find pictured a woe so extreme that His enemies use it as a typical imprecation; as if God and they were in agreement — they could wish no one worse than God had done to Him! He had eaten ashes for food, and mixed His drink with tears. And now He speaks openly of God's indignation and wrath: if He had lifted Him up, it was but to cast Him away. Yet still there is no account given of this, no question of sin raised in any way. Reason there must be of course, but none is presented. Atonement is not intimated, and yet it is only in atonement that wrath could be upon the sinless One as here. But the fact alone is brought before us — Christ (as it surely is) in the depth of His humiliation, in the sorrow that had no equal, brought down now till the lengthening shadow of evening is the symbol of His days, and the withered grass His emblem.

3. But now the vision of the future passes before the eyes of the dying Man. He sees Jehovah, the unchanged, unchanging God, incapable of forgetfulness, and thinks of the promises which must surely be fulfilled, according to which not only Zion must be raised out of her ruin; but Jehovah Himself be manifested in His glory and the nations brought to fear His Name. He anticipates that mercy pledged to her, the set time come, as shown by the hearts of those in sympathy with His heart turned towards her stones and to the very dust of her degradation. Already thus the streaks of dawn are visible for the earth; and soon "the nations shall fear Jehovah's Name, and all the kings of the earth Thy glory." For when He builds up Zion; then His glory shall appear.

4. This leads on to the consideration of those ways of His with the weak and failing, the self-ruined sons of men; exemplified so signally in His mercy to Israel. Man has fallen through pride and independence of heart. Therefore the need of his being humbled and brought into that state of destitution in which alone he will seek God. But then "He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer." And this is not merely true in an isolated and exceptional instance: it is His way of grace, broad-written now in Israel's restoration; for a memorial to after-generations, that a people "created" for Himself may praise the Eternal. The strong word "created" is no doubt used here with a moral force which anticipates the doctrine of the New Testament. Nor are there any that really fill their place as the creation of God except as they are recipients, and so heralds of His grace.

God then has looked down from the height of His sanctuary; from the heavens Jehovah has beheld the earth: never with indifference, never with hostility, while abiding in the holiness of His nature, which separates Him; not from His creatures, but only from their sin: "to hear the groaning of the prisoner; to set loose the children of death" — those under its sentence. And in this misery was Zion; in which therefore His Name is now declared, and His praise in Jerusalem. And so the rebellion of the earth is ended: "the peoples are gathered together, and the kingdoms to serve Jehovah."

5. Is HE, then, an example of these ways of Jehovah — of His showing mercy to the poor? Nay, "He weakened my strength in the way: He shortened my days." Himself the King of Zion, "Messiah the Prince," He is "cut off, and has nothing" (Dan. 9:26 margin). The sinless One, He is left to die, He upon whom depend all the promises is left to cry out to the Eternal Might, as one in the midst of his days taken away — smitten, and not supported!

From Him who delighteth in mercy, for Him no mercy? And are these the equal ways of the Unchangeable? Why then no mercy? And if this is no exception to Jehovah's ways, can it be that HE is the exception? does He in fact not belong to the class of those to whom mercy could be shown? does He not violate the rule, because He does not come under it? That is what the answer of God declares: "Of old hast Thou founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. They shall perish, but Thou shalt continue; and they all shall grow old as doth a garment: as a vesture shalt Thou change them and they shall be changed; but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end."

The statement of the apostle (Heb. 1:10-12) is the direct authority for applying these words to Christ. Apart from this we might indeed imagine that they were but the pursuing of that affecting contrast between the transience of man and the immutability of God which we find in the earlier part of the psalm, and which seems to begin again in the preceding verse. But we have not for the first time here to realize the mystery-form in which some of the most glorious intimations in the Psalms are clothed. This is characteristic, moreover, of the whole of the Old Testament. And then the cry of the Speaker finds no response, and the perplexity in the psalm finds no unravelment. Yet one can see, if we merely take this for what it is not, a detached and isolated composition; that the Sufferer is One who, meeting the wrath of God with the profoundest faith in God, contrasts the fulfillment of the promises to Zion with His own brief days. Yet God "regards the prayer of the destitute, and does not despise their prayer." He could not mean to give the case of the Sufferer as an exception to this, or a problem without solution. His own condition has to do evidently with these promises to Zion with which it is interwoven; and the psalm ends in no hopeless spirit but with confidence and happiness.

The inspired application of these verses is at once an illumination of the whole psalm. They become at once the key to the whole, and throw their light beyond the psalm itself upon all that surrounds it in the book. We see the connection with the voice of the King which we have heard in the psalm preceding: we understand the connection with the fulfillment of the promises to Zion: for here too is the King! We look back, and without difficulty connect this again with the subject of the ninety-first, with Him whom in contrast with the failed and death-stricken sons of men in the psalm of Moses (Ps. 90) we may well call the Second Man. We find here One who has never lost His title to the earth as Adam did. Nature greets and smiles on Him; angels wait on Him; and in the next two psalms we have a "sabbath" and the world immovably established. Then Jehovah comes to take possession of the earth, and it is blessed indeed; but we miss the Head of blessing: where is the Second Man? The third section of the book opens with His voice. He is now the King of Israel, but His kingdom scarcely seems thus as world-wide as before. We pass on; and we find — what? The glorious King Himself and the Man whom earth and heaven join to honor, — the Deathless death-stricken; "numbering His days"! but where is the "wisdom" here? Then the answer bursts on us. It is a problem of which God Himself may well give us the solution. The death-stricken is yet the Deathless One; the King of Israel is a divine King; the Second Man; the Sabbath-maker for the world, is Jehovah who comes back to it: and creature and Creator are in Him for ever united; everlasting, Human arms hold us fast to God!

Of atonement itself we do indeed hear, directly, nothing; but we may well be trusted to discern (after all that has been before us) in this Death what has effected it. It is the necessary and only explanation of "indignation and wrath" met by this self-humbled, glorious One. And suited it is, after all, to what we know Him now to be. God, who is love, would be Himself our Redeemer. He has redeemed us to Himself. Blessed be His Name, it is Immanuel, for He has saved His people from their sins.

Thus we can understand the note of triumph with which the psalm ends: "the children of Thy servants shall abide, and their seed shall be established before Thee."

Psalm 103.

The praise of the restored people.

[A psalm] of David.

1. There follows now the praise of the restored people. The psalmist calls upon his soul with all its powers to praise Jehovah, the eternal, unchangeable and covenant-God. Love manifesting itself in "all His benefits" awakes the soul to praise Him, while it realizes amid all its joy the weakness and inconstancy of the creature, of which in contrast with His faithfulness it has had such abundant proof: "forget not all His benefits."

2. Jehovah is celebrated, first of all, in the salvation which He has effected for them. He is Saviour altogether: of the whole man, body and soul alike. Israel's experience in the day contemplated will include in the fullest way that of bodily healing, such as accompanied the Lord's ministry in her midst, miracles which are called therefore in the epistle to the Hebrews "powers of the world to come" (Heb. 6:5), — more strictly, "of the coming age." The bodily condition will then be the fitting sign of the spiritual, in a world from which the curse upon the ground even will be removed.

Nationally and individually, their life is now redeemed from destruction; and more, they find, more completely than Abraham their father, a renewal of youth. "As the days of a tree shall be the days of My people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands" (Isa. 65:22).

Then the oppressed find a Judge of unfailing righteousness: the character in which Israel's King is so often represented; — the tender assurance of how the pitiful eyes of the Almighty have been fastened upon human misery and wrong all the time that He endured it; as the prophet says with regard to Israel (Isa. 63:9), "afflicted in all their affliction." Now has come the time of interference and of setting right — the revelation of the God in whom men have not believed.

Yet these are ways long since in fact declared: "He made known His ways unto Moses, His doings unto the children of Israel." The people saw what was outward; to him with whom God spake face to face, the inner principle was declared. Nor must we imagine that this was law merely. All Deuteronomy is witness of how far beyond this Israel's law-giver was made to see; and the final prophecy and song with which this closes, clearly declare the ruin of man under law, the sovereign goodness which comes in at last for him. Thus the song of Moses will be the fitting accompaniment of the song of the Lamb in the mouth of the victorious multitude who stand, in the day to come, by the crystal sea (Rev. 15:3).

3. Now we have Jehovah Himself put before us: "merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in loving-kindness"; and this is how in fact He declared Himself to Moses (the cross-shadow of the law only being removed from it,) that "He can by no means clear the guilty" (Ex. 34:6, 7). Nay, "He will not perpetually contend, nor will He keep in mind for ever." They have proved this now in their history, and can say, "He has not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us after our iniquities." Thus He has manifested Himself, and glorified Himself before their eyes.

4. They expand this, therefore, in the fourth section; in which His mercy in view of the frailty of the creature is dwelt upon, and in eight verses traced as far as the new covenant, in the blessings of which they are now rejoicing. Supreme is He in mercy: high as the heavens are above the earth. East is no farther from the west than He has removed their transgressions from them. Nay, as a father's tender mercy toward his children, such is His tender mercy toward those that fear Him. Then we are assured of the fount of infinite pity in Him who remembers that we are but dust; though under His government it is that man's days can find their image in the flower of the field, which, if the wind roughly passes over it, is gone for ever out of its place.

"But Jehovah's loving-kindness is from everlasting to everlasting upon those that fear Him; and His righteousness unto children's children: to those that keep His covenant, and to those that remember His precepts to do them." This should not sound legal: it is a principle that grace does not set aside, — which it would not be grace, in fact, to set aside. Grace affirms and fulfills it; for "sin shall not have dominion over you, because ye are not under law but under grace." And thus the "covenant" here cannot be either the covenant of law which only "worketh wrath," but must be that which as Abraham's covenant makes them true children of Abraham; and which was given four hundred and thirty years before the law came in. Faith links men with this covenant, whether Jew or Gentile, and those who keep it are the circumcised in heart.

So only can we understand the utterance here, and realize the joyous assurance that rings through it. The "new covenant" is but the re-statement more fully, and in more precise application to the nation of Israel, of the old "covenant of promise" which God gave to Abraham; and in this direction apparently the numerical finger points. The grace and blessing here are both eternal.

5. Nothing remains, therefore, but the eternal praise to Him whom all His ways become, and to join with all intelligences, all His hosts — the forces that with sun and moon and storm and earthquake, do still His pleasure — while all His works, all created things in all places of His dominion; bless Him. Yea, "bless Jehovah, O my soul."

Psalm 104.

Nature's tribute to Jehovah.

We are now in a position to realize as never before what creation is. Redemption is the key, and the only key, that will fully unlock its treasures; for redemption alone can remove the shadow which, after all, invests its brightest scenes, and lift the sadness which will intrude itself upon every contemplation of it. Nor only so: unbelieving suspicions find their lurking-places amid these shadows, and give bitterness to this sadness. Nature, pervaded by law, as the science of the day more and more assures us, seems cast in a rigid mould from which we shrink inevitably. The more perfect as a machine, the less we find heart in it; and the smiles with which it decks itself seem often but very cruelty and hypocrisy, as we realize it to be the monster that without remorse consumes day by day its own offspring. The more we grow in knowledge, the more impossible it seems to escape the conviction that this is no effect of moral ruin introduced by Adam into what was before a deathless paradise. Death seems wrought into the constitution of things from the beginning. We have in the geological strata a history of the earth stretching long ages back of Adam; and far down as we may pierce, nothing but convulsion and ruin can be discerned. We dwell upon the accumulated dust of multitudinous generations, which sometimes constitute in fact the very substance of the strata themselves. Not merely individuals but countless types of form have passed away; and the "fittest" that "survive" — if they do survive — have been (according to the theory) produced at the cost of a prodigal waste of life on the part of the less perfect which have yielded them only temporarily the place which in a brief time they too must yield to others.

Is it possible then to have any more a "psalm of creation"? is it possible any more to sing with the understanding these songs of another age? Yes, surely, if we have learned, and not unless we have learned, redemption as the key to the mysteries of creation. If we realize God to be a Saviour, and can write Jehovah-Saviour in brief as "Jesus," we have a light bright enough to dispel all shadow from the soul and bathe it in eternal glory. A record of conflict and of ruin as connected with the creature will no more be strange or stumbling, but familiar truth; while the up-rise of a higher form of life out of what has perished and passed away will be but as a prophecy of a better resurrection and the final victory of God over the evil, the Son of God being glorified thereby.

[FWG here gives credence to 'death before the fall' and evolution (see elsewhere that he does not believe this), and is on extremely shaky ground. This interpretation owes everything to 'science' and not to the revelation FWG believes. The geological record, if read as before Adam, would leave no evidence of the catastrophic worldwide flood of Noah, as well as introducing more problems than it appears to solve. The reader is invited to visit www.answersingenesis.org for another understanding. Ed. STEM]

1. Jehovah the Redeemer is what the last psalm has proclaimed to us. Divine Love could not give to another the glory of this salvation; nor find one capable of the stupendous sacrifice that it involved. In the psalm before us Jehovah is the Creator also, and Nature brings its tribute of praise to swell the anthem of redemption. Only thus can we realize its glorious harmony.

The psalm begins with celebrating the greatness of Jehovah: He is clothed with honor and majesty. Inaccessible in His own essential glory, He covers Himself with light as with a garment, and stretches out the heavens like the curtain (of a tent). The visible is thus the robe of the Invisible. He indwells it, and through it we may discern, if dimly, His glorious Form.

Yet this dimness itself is Light; and there is no hiding, save the better to make known; just as when; because of the feebleness of our sight, through a darkened glass we behold the sun. The tremulous curtain of the heavens stretched out is, as it were, interwoven with its iris-rays. In the waters of the expanse He frames His upper chambers; the dark clouds moving on the wings of the wind being the chariot in which He rides.

It is plain that the psalmist refuses mere matter and motion as a sufficient account of heavenly phenomena, and that to him all these are instinct with the Presence and Will of a Divine Being, whom they in some sense disclose. Nor has the discovery of some of the mechanics involved in them done one whit to disprove the psalmist's belief. Certainly the description given may be allowed to be poetical, but its meaning is not difficult to understand, nor can it be proved superstitious. Superstition thrives in the dark, is incongruous, fantastic, irrational. To claim as manifestations of Mind what has been proved to be so perfectly rational, or of a Divine Governor what is so plainly authoritative as to be owned as "law," — this has no character of superstition at all. Divine action, identified with such phenomena, is God thus far in the light, and appealing to the rational nature of His creatures for recognition.

The acceptance and use of the Septuagint translation of the next verse by the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 1:7) would quite preclude the adoption of any other. "He maketh His angels spirits" is, according to the apostle, a fact affirmed of the nature of angels; and of course a much higher fact than "making the winds His messengers." As it might be translated either way, the meaning must be decided otherwise than by the language. Nor is it a disproportion in thought, that while the material instrument is contemplated as directly in the hands of God, the spiritual beings should be His messengers. This shows, on the one hand, that no part of His creation is to be conceived as separate from Him; no physical agency that is not the embodiment of His will, while, on the other hand, the "spirits" with a responsibility of their own represent Him and are subject to Him, receiving their character and endowment from Him, according to His will. There would be indeed a lack in the representation of Jehovah the Creator, were only physical forces — clouds, winds, etc — spoken of, and not His creative power in the domain of spirit.

2. The psalmist now recites the story of the preparation of the earth for man. Divine delight in man, and so His "rejoicing in the habitable parts of his earth" are evidently the theme, while the rebuke and bounding of the overflowing waters may be read as a parable of the strife of which the world has ever been the scene, and which receives its final rebuke when the Prince of peace shall come. The first verse declares the absolute security of the dry land for ever, in the strongest expression for eternity that the Old Testament knows (le-olam va-ed). The deluge (of which we are beginning to have some knowledge geologically*) altered nothing essentially as to the structure of the earth in this way; and the purification by fire which awaits it before the eternal condition of the "new earth" can be reached, need not do so either although there will then be "no more sea" (Rev. 21:1). Whatever may be the changes, God adheres to His first plan all through, and builds for eternity.

{*See an exceedingly interesting volume by Sir J. W. Dawson, which gives in brief the evidence: "The Meeting-place of Geology and History." (Religious Tract Society, England.)}

But at first, as we read in Genesis, the reign of water had been universal: "Thou hadst covered it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains." Geology knows well this condition; which Moses somehow knew before geology. The earth man lives upon; like man from the womb, was born out of water; and the structure of the earth was there "mountains," and by implication valleys — before it was thus born.

The third verse implies (what the number seems to indicate) the resurrection of the earth; but the psalmist speaks of the rebuke of the waters; which I suppose is continued in the following verse. It is objected that we cannot say, "They ascended the mountains," which (while in itself unnatural) is forbidden by the fact that they already stood above them. Most, therefore, read "The mountains rose; the valleys sank," and suppose it parenthetical: for the rest of the verse, as well as the following one, speaks again of the waters. The "place appointed" is evidently the "one place" into which the waters are gathered on the third day, and does not refer to either mountains or valleys; on the other hand, it is awkward to take the first half of the verse as a parenthesis. But there seems no reason why we should not translate, "Mountains ascended: they went down the valleys"; which preserves the connection; and makes the language vividly pictorial.

The next verse speaks then of the bound assigned by God to the retreating waters, so as to prevent their return again. Thus man's earth has been recovered and is preserved for him: the typical aspect of it has been pointed out elsewhere (Genesis 1: notes). The more we study this, the more we shall be satisfied that the typical meaning is no arbitrary accommodation of the facts to spiritual illustration; but one deeply grounded in the nature of things: in short, we shall realize what the psalm before us emphasizes, that the Redeemer and the Creator are One.

3. But it is not enough that man's abode should be separated from the waters. Merely separated, the dry land would be for him but indeed a barren possession; upon which he could not sustain himself a few brief days. Earth (and therefore man) is dependent on heaven; a deeply spiritual truth, of which all nature is full; and to this now we come, the springs of refreshing which, though they are ministered from the earth, are not of earth. "He sendeth the springs into the valleys: they run among the mountains." The well-known type of the Spirit is the "living water" — water that has in it the power which is first of all derived from its descent from heaven; though it come by whatever underground channels to the place in which we find it. "They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst." How free are all God's gifts; and the most absolutely necessary are just the freest. Fresh air, sunshine, the streams that water the earth: these are as generally distributed, as they are everywhere needful. The "wild asses" are the very type of rebellious intractability; but "He maketh His sun to shine upon the evil and upon the good; and sendeth rain upon the just and on the unjust." And He who has ascended up on high and received gifts for men; has done so "for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them."

And beside these springs the birds of the heavens dwell; and give voice among the branches. Natural worshipers as we may say, no song-bird was by the law of Leviticus ever unclean; and their notes, however various are ever harmonious. Attracted by the water, they dwell above our heads, and sustain themselves upon their wings in unobstructed flight through paths in which no beast of earth can follow them.

Next, we have God's irrigation-system for the earth, in which the hills have their part in turning hither or thither the rain of God's "upper chambers," so that the rivers spread abroad to water the land. That which is nearest to heaven attracts most the rain of heaven; while by the law of its nature it cannot keep it, but must pass it on to others. Thus "the earth is satisfied," — that which receives and is made fruitful by it being just that which, not as rock or sand, resists the force that would disintegrate, but the contrary: that which yields and crumbles as the humble and contrite heart yields to the divine Husbandman.

So the grass grows for cattle and herb for the service of man; God bent upon maintaining the creature, whom He has set in dignity upon the earth as His image and likeness, to know Him and to be for Him; and made him thus of all most thoroughly dependent, even because master of all. Where is there a creature ordained to frailty and long helplessness like a human babe? Where is there one so defenceless naturally, with neither tooth nor claw nor strength nor speed and with his very skin denuded to the blast, as is man in his prime? It is spirit in him that is to manifest itself and does, but by the recognition of his dependence and his careful use of all God's gifts.

Truly he is "frail man" (enosh); but now, alas! called to know a frailty to which not creation but his sin destines him. Now there is discipline for him in it, which he needs, and in which still divine love acts. While that additional need has brought out as never before God's tenderness in it: the wine that gladeneth frail man's heart, the bread that strengtheneth frail man's heart, — how the words, and the repetition of the words, breathe of God's thoughtful care in upholding one who may so easily give way in discouragement! Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto the bitter in soul: let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more." (Prov. 31:6, 7.)

Bread and wine: may we not find symbol here? And with these, "oil to make his face to shine!" Christ and the Spirit! we do no violence to the work of the Redeemer-Creator when we find these here.

4. The fourth section — of but three verses — seems to add, to what we have just had, a brief lesson of experience as to this care of God for the creatures He has made. It is briefer, I suppose because it is so much in the general line of thought in this creation-psalm. Beyond it there are problems that must be faced, and which will occupy much more time; and for which we will do well to be well furnished.

The lessons — for there are more than one — are all the more such and suited for refreshment by their simplicity. It is good to see how all around us are the assurances of divine loving-kindness. In the buoyant happiness of childhood, in the fragrance and delicate tints of a common flower, in the hues of sunset, in every direction; in short, that we may look, apart from effects of sin; we find abundant evidence of One who has thought, not merely of the preservation but of the enjoyment of His creatures: pleasures of sense, pleasures for the mind, pleasures for the heart, quite beyond any need of theirs, if we think merely of what is implied in the necessity of things going on (if that in fact should be a necessity). The eye, the ear, the man in his whole being, finds without seeking, without soliloquizing about it, constant sources of enjoyment. Something of this sort, though objectively considered, we have here. "The trees of Jehovah are full:" strength, beauty, delicacy of workmanship, are in those "cedars of Lebanon which He has planted." And then they do not grow for themselves simply, but minister to the birds that rejoicingly flock to and nest in their covert; while the gloomy fir gives hospitable shelter to the home-loving stork. The high hills, too, furnish a refuge for feet like those of the wild goat, specially prepared for them; and the very clefts of the rock provide one for the timid and feeble hyrax. Thus the earth is a house of many chambers, in which her various inhabitants find various provision God is the great host of multitudinous tenantry.

5. But we come now to consider His government; in which there are difficulties that give room and exercise for faith. His appointed times contemplate darkness as well as light. This is plainly the point in question; and thus the moon is mentioned before the sun; and as to the latter simply his going down. Yet the moon shows darkness not unrelieved; and not relieved by haphazard. Darkness, however, is of His appointment; which is comfort and yet mystery: and at His appointment, too, the night brings the wild beasts from their lairs. The young lions are cared for, as the innocent sheep, and roaring after prey, seek it and find it from God. Thus the devourer is provided for, as all else: there is no shirking that; and nature witnesses plainly as to it: tooth, claws, and tongue bear witness for the lion. Who gave them to him? The Same who gave to the lion's prey the agility for escape. An equal hand has been at work for both, as it if were designed to have the world a battlefield of not very unequal forces, each cared for and sustained. If the fittest do survive, as some say, it is hard enough to tell who are the fittest. The giants perish, and the pigmies live. "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong." If there be design; then strife seems designed: as if the good and the evil, with the inevitable conflict arising from their co-existence, must have its counterpart and reflection in the whole frame of things amid which man is found; as it must, if nature at large be in any sense a parable of spiritual things — if the analogies between them be otherwise than mere deceptions.

The rein is kept upon this strife, even in the ordinances of day and night, with all that these imply: "the sun ariseth, they gather together and lay them down in their dens." And under this same subjection man is, with the addition of the toil which marks him as the responsible creature under the discipline of God: he "goeth forth unto his work and unto his labor, until the evening." His work is to be in the light, and not in darkness; and yet the darkness limits and controls him also in its measure. But it has its measure.

6. The next section, in its seven verses, emphasizes the full mastery of all things possessed by God. It opens with a declaration of the Creator's wisdom in all His works: manifold works, and every one showing His wisdom. Can anyone produce one that does not? But this wisdom itself implies control of material: the mind must be sustained by the hand that it may be shown. Truly "the earth is full of Thy riches."

And so, too, is the at first sight barren sea, full of life in innumerable forms; where, above, the ships tossed upon its surface yet make it the highway of man, God's noblest workmanship; while beneath, the sea-monster sports in its depths. All these must be fed at His table, gather from His hand, be filled with what He gives; or, if He hide His face, suffer; if He take away their breath, go back to the dust from which they came. Yet is He the fountain of life, from which, if He send forth His Spirit, a new creation replaces these vanished forms, and the earth is renewed.

7. From all this the soul justifies its confidence in God, who is Jehovah the Eternal. His glory then shall last forever; and His works are not the playthings of His might, but He rejoices in them. Eternity will be thus the seal upon that final condition with which He at last shall be well pleased.

For thus even now does creation depend on Him; and sympathize with His every thought. If He look upon the earth it trembles; if He touch the mountains they are asmoke. How dreadful this almightiness of His, if He be unknown! If He be realized as what He is, how good that He should be sovereign absolutely! So the psalmist breaks out in a praise which can end but with his being. Nor is it a mere unreasoning emotion: his meditation upon Him shall be sweet, the knowledge of Jehovah shall make glad his heart. The one blot upon God's works shall disappear: "sinners shall be consumed out of the earth, and the wicked shall be no more." Then shall His works glorify Him indeed; and in the anticipation of it the heart praises Him.

Thus the song of creation ends. We may perhaps be disappointed after all, that there is no further attempt to lift the curtain of mystery that must be confessed to hang so thickly over much of God's governmental ways. But here Scripture always declares that "clouds and darkness are round about Him." Nor, though Christianity reveals Him as in the light, is this essentially altered. Still we are called to walk by faith, and to glorify Him by submission where we cannot penetrate His meaning. The difference that Christianity makes is that God is in the light — not all His acts or ways: which faith knows to be worthy of Him; even where it knows not how they are. Here the cross is indeed the bow in the cloud; and redemption shows the relation of God to sin itself, in perfect holiness and yet in love; and this is found here in the hundred and second psalm; Jehovah seen in the Man cut off in the midst of His days, yet the Creator of all, whose years shall have no end. This then throws its light over the darkest mysteries; and even the conflict of opposites which we discern in nature begins to be intelligible, as bringing it into accordance with earth's fallen head, and making it the symbolic utterance of spiritual things. True it is we know but little of nature in this character of it: we have mere glimpses of what the glorious vision should be. But what wonder when we have allowed Scripture itself to be practically so much hidden as it still must be confessed to be? Alas, we have not yet the key that shall completely open the door, and set us face to face with the unveiled mysteries. Thank God for what we know; but shall we not press on to what yet we know not?

Psalm 105.

The story of His ways as with His people.

The last two psalms of the book show us God's ways with His people, and (in confession on their part) their ways with Him, which had necessitated the discipline of His hand. But this has done its work, and they are thus ready for the final blessing, the principles and character of which we find fully in the fifth book.

These two psalms are naturally therefore of very simple character, a review of Israel's history as already known to us in the books of Moses, with a mere glance at the after events when in the land. In fact the story of the wilderness is typical of all the rest; just as Israel as a nation is but a sample of man generally, — the "heart of man" anywhere being but the full, fair reflection of "man" at large.

The hundred and fifth psalm is not the story of God's governmental ways with Israel as a whole, but simply of that which has to do with His action on their behalf, mainly in the deliverance in Egypt, and ending with their possession of the land. One verse alone declares this last.

1. The first section; in seven verses, calls for the celebration of Jehovah their God, as known in His glorious deeds. His Name is holy. His power is needed by human frailty. The "judgments of His mouth" interpret His acts, and make them illustration of His perfect ways. To this glorious God His people stand in relation as the "seed of Abraham His servant" the one marked by his history for his obedience as such. They are "the children" too, "of Jacob His chosen": whose history is of another character, and shows the struggle of a soul in the hand of God, whom it knows, but too little knows. And this necessitates those dealings of God with it, by which at last an Israel emerges out of a Jacob. These struggles and this divine discipline are, as easily seen, the type of the nation's history afterward. They are but a too faithful reproduction of their father; while the victorious grace of God will not cease toward them, until in them also He has produced an Israel indeed. And this is "Jehovah our God," whose "judgments," essentially of the same character, "are in all the earth."

2. The psalmist goes on to speak of the covenant-relation in which He stands to them. It is an abiding one: He is ever mindful of it; He has commanded it to a thousand generations — a round number, as it would seem, for as many as may be (comp. Deut. 7:9). Made with Abraham; and with an oath to Isaac, He confirmed it to Jacob for a decree unalterable, and to Israel as an everlasting covenant. Here the double name, and used evidently with regard to the people as well as to the father of their twelve tribes, has (as always) its significance. To Jacob, with all the frailty and sinfulness that the word implies, it takes nevertheless the form of a decree, the fixed expression of His absolute will; with Israel, in whom as such His transforming power is realized, it is an everlasting covenant. He works thus in perfect sovereignty, and according to the holiness of His own nature. According to this covenant the land is secured to them; and was so when they were in it as sojourners only, a few people and in men's account of no consideration.

3. The next section; briefly but effectively, shows how in their after-history Jehovah was a sanctuary to them: according, indeed, to the care He had shown for Abraham, when Abraham himself also had been sadly untrue to the promise which had been given him; in yielding up the designated mother of the seed to be, into the hands of the Philistine king (Gen. 20), and here He owns His "prophet" in the one who had so failed. This was but a sample of how He had come in for the nation in whom He had set the mouth-pieces of His revelation to man. And here is the declaration of those larger purposes of His which connect themselves with this people, set apart not for their own blessing merely, as not at all on account of righteousness in them, but in grace towards all the sons of men.

4. The fourth section naturally speaks of trial; but while the famine which came upon the land in Jacob's time is the occasion of it, the psalmist goes on to show how God had provided for it by one sent before them into Egypt to be His servant in the service of man: one himself fully tried, and made to realize what in a world like this such service means; tried too by that word of Jehovah which in him as the Spirit of prophecy had announced His exaltation; and which at last came to pass. In Joseph we have, as every one knows, the type of the Lord Jesus, in whom God has provided indeed for blessing, both to Israel and the earth, and deliverance out of the great trial that is coming for both. The divine issue came at last for him: loosed from his chains, he is made the lord of Egypt, with fullness of power based upon fullness of wisdom. Such an One, but far transcending Joseph, shall the world find at last.

5. But Israel's coming into Egypt was only their introduction into manifold experiences, in which they found exercise indeed, but God manifesting Himself with them in that which fell upon the mightiest power of that day, — signs which Israel themselves could ever look back to with thanksgiving and for the renewal of confidence, and which are to be repeated in their deliverance in the last days (Micah 7:15, and comp. Rev. 16), and are the necessary humiliation of all the pride of the world and its idols before God, when the day of the Lord succeeds man's day.

(a) Two verses show the occasion of these trials. First, "Israel came into Egypt": the people of God, graced by the purpose of God, were in the land of "double straitness," the place of the conflict between the desert and the river, — of life struggling with death; alas, the land of Ham; the "sun-darkened," a darkness upon which the light shone and it comprehended it not. The people of God are in a world opposed to God; hence necessarily in opposition to them as that; but then this people of God are themselves looked at from another side, — "Jacob": and Jacob, though but a sojourner in the land of Ham, is in danger from more than opposition. He needs all the exercise through which he is made to pass.

They increase greatly, through the favor of God, and become stronger than their enemies, as Pharaoh's own words declare (Ex. 1:9). And here is the way, doubtless, in which we are to interpret the verse following: "He turned their heart to hate His people." It needs no more than that the favor of God should be thus manifested, to set the tide of opposition in full force.

(b) The opposition and God's intervention for them are next spoken of. Moses is sent, and Aaron; and signs and wonders show unmistakably the broad seal of their commission.

(c) The order in which the miracles are given is different from the historical one. For this, of course, there must be a reason. It would seem that we have a classification of them in two divisions: first, the signs proper, those whose force lay for the most part in their testimony to the conscience; the second consists rather of those that really prostrated the land — miracles of destruction that made Egypt desolate. Among the signs proper, the darkness is put at the head, the light of heaven withdrawn: one of those things which would appeal most strongly to the conscience of man as supernatural; and which to the Egyptians, who made the night especially a sign of the prevalence of evil, and for whom the sun was the great deity, would be a cause of the greatest consternation. In fact, they moved not from their seats during the three days it lasted: a thing to which the psalmist refers here when he says, "they rebelled not against His word." To refer this (with most interpreters) to the Israelite leaders, in contrast with their conduct at the waters of Meribah, seems quite opposed to the connection. Nor can it refer to the final submission of the Egyptians;  here they were appalled into perfect stillness — no doubt, only for the time: but it made their after-attitude all the more solemn.

Next we have, what was really the first miracle of judgment, the waters turned to blood, the means of refreshment becoming death, and then that of the frogs swarming out of the river-bed, and into the chambers of the king, as to which I can add nothing to the notes on the book of Exodus. The lice follow, in the historical order; but with these are put the "swarms" or "mixture" (probably, of flies), which may there go with the lice (see the "notes" Ex. 8:16-19) in stamping man with the brand of vanity.

(d) The moral or spiritual lessons are indeed thus far upon the surface, and well-fitted to bring the conscience into the presence of God. Those that follow compel man to feel, whether he has conscience or not. Hail and lightning together break up the fruit-trees in the land, while the locusts strip it of every green leaf to be found. Its desolation is complete, although not yet is their rebellious pride humbled; and it requires one last decisive blow to bring submission.

6. The rest of the psalm details the victory of God; the incidents of the wilderness and the putting them in possession of the land itself being associated with the deliverance from Egypt naturally, as completing what began there. The story speaks for itself, and needs no comment. The death of the first-born; their own departure from the land in prosperous strength, the fear in the hearts of their enemies; His presence with them, sheltering and guiding; the satisfaction of their hunger, refreshment brought for them out of the flinty rock: this sums up the deliverance accomplished, in which the word of promise is fulfilled and Abraham is remembered. They are brought into the land, to possess labors not their own; and this is to be the practical effect of all upon them; "that they might observe His statutes, and keep His laws."

Psalm 106.

God's discipline of the people for their evil.

The last psalm of the book, as already said, gives us the history of the people from another side, — their ways with God, which entailed upon them the long discipline which is even yet upon them. This discipline, with all its sorrow, is of course still His love; and shows Him Master over the evil, and in grace towards them. This psalm is their confession of their sin, and their final appeal to this grace of His, for the salvation now at hand. It begins and closes with the heart-utterance of His praise.

1. The first section praises Him as the source of all good, in a loving-kindness which endures forever. His deeds are past expression; and all of them are His praise. Happy, then; are they who keep judgment and do righteousness at all times: these are His people, the heirs of His favor, with whom the psalmist desires to be remembered; and visited by His salvation to that end. This is Israel, His chosen nation and inheritance, whose prosperity as promised by His word is before the eye of faith.

2. But as the psalmist looks he realizes what has so long kept this favored people out of their destined blessing; and he owns with them their sins, present and past, their fathers' and their own; going back to the history of the wilderness, as a complete sample of all their history since. Fresh from the manifold mercies of their wondrous deliverance, they were rebellious in their unbelief of His power and grace, from the Red Sea itself, where they would have gone back into that hard Egyptian servitude in sheer distrust of Him who yet saved them for His Name's sake, to make His power known. He led them through the depths of the sea, as if it were the dry ground of the wilderness. He redeemed them with His right hand from the enemy; and their enemies were swept away before the returning waters: not one of them was left. Then they believed His word, and sang His praise.

3. (a) But they soon forgot all this; and the third section shows how in the wilderness itself, their manners forced the blessed God their Saviour to sanctify Himself in judgment upon them. Slipping away from Him once more, their hearts lusted for their own will; and tempted the Mighty One in doubt of His ability to save. His very answer, which displayed His might for them, brought but leanness into their souls. So it is with the soul away from God: the satisfaction of the thirst, as with salt water, but increases it.

(b) The open rebellion follows the veiled one. They envy their God-given leaders, and throw off the authority of Moses and the priestly office of Aaron; Jehovah's sanctified one. The more open rebellion calls forth the severer judgment: the earth swallows up Dathan and Abiram; and the fire of God consumes those who insolently venture in their own right to draw near to Him.

(c) Next, not in historical, but in moral order, their image-worship in Horeb assaults God Himself, whose glory they profane to the mere likeness of a beast — an ox that eateth grass! forgetting all His wondrous deeds in that very Egypt, where He had prostrated the false gods to which now they equaled Him. Here Moses, intercession alone had saved them from the penalty of that covenant which in their self-righteousness they had made with Him.

(d) Now comes the failure for which all that generation perished in the wilderness, mere wanderers in a desert-land. And with this punishment the psalmist connects the after-wanderings of the nation; after Canaan had been possessed; but when they had no more faith to retain the possession than now to acquire it.

(e) Next we have their joining themselves to Baal-peor, and Phinehas, atonement by judgment (see Num. 25 notes) to the government of God; an act which God marks for all succeeding time, with His emphatic approval. Let us note it as very needful to keep in mind, in days so lax as these as to divine holiness. Phinehas is no less a priest in the intercessory place, when he uses the sword of judgment.

(f) Lastly, the sin of the people affects even the leader himself; and Moses fails to enter the land of promise. The intercessor for others finds himself no availing intercession. The discipline of God takes account of all alike. Moses, swan-like, sings his song and dies. But the song abides and is still a song, to be sung yet upon the sea of glass, with the song of the Lamb (Rev. 15:2, 3).

4. The wilderness-history is over, and we have now the story of the failure in the land. It is in principle ever the same, taking its shape only according to the command which tests them, — here the cleansing of the inheritance of the Lord from all that which had defiled it. The nations of Canaan were under the ban for their iniquity and Jehovah had entrusted the execution of this to their hands. Instead of this they left them in it and mingled themselves with them; with the sure result which had been predicted, that they learned their works. Their gods became a snare to them, and the unnatural deeds connected with their demon-worship became the shame and pollution of Israel. The innocent blood of their sons and daughters stained their altars and defiled their lands. Their deeds corrupted them ever more deeply.

5. Jehovah's ways with them were in necessary recompense. His anger was kindled against them, and He abhorred the inheritance they had polluted. Thus they were given over to their enemies and bowed down under their hand. Frequently as they were delivered, so frequently did they afresh provoke Him with their evil, and were again brought low.

But in their distress He could not but show His pity still; and His covenant of promise was a necessary limit to their chastisement. Amid all their wanderings and in their captivity He still caused mercy to be shown them by those who were His instruments to chasten them.

6. Looking back, then; over this history of constant failure, they could yet trace the love throughout, that had acted towards them. He could not openly display it as He would; but the one cause of this was unrepented evil. Now then in their confession of their sin He could return; and if He could, He would. They cry to Him for this: that He would save and gather them from the nations, that they might give thanks unto His holy Name, and triumph in His praise!

7. And the praise bursts forth. Jehovah is claimed confidently as Israel's God, and from everlasting to everlasting He is to be praised. Let all the people say, Amen! Hallelujah!