The Psalms

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

F. W. Grant.

Book 5. (Psalms 107 — 150.)

The conclusion as to the divine ways.

The Deuteronomic character of the fifth book is very easily to be discerned. The first psalm of it shows us the divine ways with Israel and with men at large, of whom they have been but the too faithful representatives. Quite like Moses' recital to the people in the plains of Moab, just in view of the land into which now they are to make speedy entrance (Deut. 1 — 4), — the people are here as gathered back out of the countries in which they had been scattered, and (as seen in the next psalm) now ready to take possession of the land. Here they are bidden to look back upon Jehovah's dealings with them, humbling and proving them indeed, but to "do them good at the latter end," that they might recognize wherein their true life consisted, and learn the perpetual goodness of their covenant-God.

These ways of God in their various character are told out in the first subdivision of seven psalms: in the first two with Israel, in the next two with Christ, ending with three Hallelujah psalms celebrating His Name. The second subdivision of six psalms (114 — 119.) shows us how these ways, when pondered in the heart aright, turn it and attach it to God. The third subdivision (120 —  136.) tells us now how fully He is for us, in all that His ways display Him thus to be. While the fourth (137 — 145.) gives us then the searching out of man in His presence, so as to leave us thus to rejoice in nothing but Himself. Lastly, we have — all that remains — the closing and universal praises.

Subdivision 1. (Ps. 107 — 113.)

Principles.

In the first subdivision the seven psalms divide (as these sevens generally do) into four and three, the last three being sufficiently distinct as Hallelujahs. The first four divide again into two equal parts of two psalms each. Israel is before us in the former two; Christ in the latter: these in perfect contrast with one another. With both indeed, the end is blessing; but fallen man, exalting himself, has first to be abased. The perfect Man; humbling Himself as none ever did beside, had only to be exalted.

There are thus three sections, characterized by the numerals: the first speaking of God's efficient grace to man; the second, of Christ in humiliation and rejection; answered with that Melchizedek priesthood under which all blessing comes; and thirdly, the tardy but at last full praise.

Section 1. (Ps. 107, 108.)

Efficient Grace.

Israel is before us in the first section, as already said; their long wanderings at last ended, the multiplied exercises having brought forth the fruit designed, God's patient labor with them finding what love counts its recompense. The two psalms unite together evidently in this way; the first giving the principles, which apply not to Israel only, though standing in the forefront of their application; the second more concrete, the repossession of the land by the restored people.

Psalm 107.

Constant and harmonious.

The first psalm proclaims the unchanging, harmonious goodness of Jehovah, which finds the way of blessing for His people, spite of, and yet as recognizing, their sinful and rebellious behavior. The discipline of the way is the method of a grace which will not give up the objects of it; the furnace of affliction being provided for in the original covenant with Abraham, and of this the Egyptian bondage was but one example, even as their wilderness journey as redeemed from Egypt was but the prototype of their many wanderings since. The wilderness is now once for all exchanged for the "city of habitation," implying the abiding rest into which they are brought.

1. Jehovah is the name they celebrate, who has acted in a loving kindness which is always His characteristic, and redeemed them from the hand of the oppressor. They are gathered now from the east and west and north, and from the sea, the highway to so many countries then unknown that lie beyond it.

They have long been wanderers in a solitary way, with the brand of Cain upon them; always seeking possession of the earth, and finding in it but Aceldama, their own fatal purchase. Ahungered and athirst, with more than physical need, their soul fainted in them. Until, brought to seek from God alone, they cried unto Jehovah in their strait, and found deliverance from Him. A very simple and a very common story, but which needs, for all that, constant repetition. Now rest is before them; and their way is right (or straight) toward the city they are to inhabit. A crooked way is, on that account, a long one; and Deuteronomy marks how long they had made the way for themselves the first time in the wilderness by their crooked ways with God. Since then how long the road had been; indeed! Only the loving kindness of Jehovah could have brought them where they now were.

Let them answer to it then, and let His wondrous works be fittingly acknowledged by souls whose longing had found satisfaction; whose hunger had been appeased with good.

2. Israel come before us, however, not merely as in the wilderness, but as in the prison-house also, — in captivity to their enemies because of their sins. Thus they sat in darkness and the shadow of death, the light of life withdrawn; the iron bondage entering into their souls. There they abode without help or hope, save in the very One against whom they had rebelled, compelled now to own the supremacy of Him whose counsel they had despised. They had to realize their sin; bowed down with travail, stumbling and with none to help.

With the cry of need came, however, another experience, and He became their Saviour. His government, which had held them fast, now released them from their prison-house, and the darkness around them was dispersed. And again the call rings out for confession and praise for this great deliverance.

3. "The sufferings of the foolish nation (Deut. 32:6), when; filled with Jehovah's indignation; they find a snare in that which should have fed them (Rom. 11:9, 10), and pine beneath the pressure of a more grievous famine than that of bread (Amos 8:11-13), until, in answer to the cry of sorrow, the word of saving health is sent them from above (Deut. 30, comp. Rom. 10), seem to be indicated in the next division. The language of ver. 22 is in agreement with this. Those who had vainly gone about to establish their own righteousness are called now to offer the sacrifices of thanksgiving (Heb. 13), and to declare His works with singing." — Pridham, on the Psalms.

It is the deepest and most fundamental need, then; that is met here. Christ, the bread of life, had been rejected by them, and they are necessarily on the way to death. This strait His word alone can heal, and thus they are rescued from their pitfalls. Well may they now give Him, then, their thanks.

4. Pridham again says: —

"Besides the obvious force and beauty of the following verses (23-30) in their simple meaning and their general application; we have, I believe, a figure of Jacob's restless trouble when; like a vexed and frightened mariner, he wandered up and down the wide sea of nations without ease (Deut. 28:65), a friendless pilgrim of the Lord's displeasure, until the long-desired rest was gained at last, under the faithful guidance of Him who seeks His people in the dark and cloudy day (Ezek. 34:12). Accordingly we find in the hortatory remembrancer of praise that follows (ver. 32) a mention of the gathered people and their elders, who are now called on to celebrate, in the quiet resting-places of Immanuel's land, His faithful goodness and His might who had turned the long-endured tempest of affliction to the calm sunshine of perpetual peace. (Isa. 54:11-13)."

True as the special application is, yet here is the general lot of the people of God, who are, as it were, by their very occupation; mariners, called to see the works of the Lord upon the deep. The numerical structure is here as plain and significant as indeed His meaning in such trial and the fitness of it should be. The "haven" is, as we see by the number, in the new scene, which has in it the promise of eternity.

5. In the last part Jehovah's ways in general are celebrated: ways which are characterized by power, love, and holiness.

He fashions and refashions the earth at His will, commanding fruitfulness into barrenness, but this because of the wickedness of those that dwell in it. Again He restores and makes fruitful the barren land; and here it is not said that there must be a moral reason: the Creator rejoices in the works of His hands, and requires a moral reason only for not acting according to this delight.

His love is naturally much more dwelt upon. He shows it in His provision for the hungry of that fixed abode which is the first thing needed by man for his development; with the city for association; and the fields with their need of sowing and planting for increase. So by His blessing they multiply as fenced by His hand, with the cattle He has prepared for them as servants and allies.

But evil is here, attending on man's sin, and oppression is found and various trial. He takes up the cause of the needy and down-trodden, pouring contempt upon nobles, and making them wander in a pathless waste who cared not for the fellows God had provided for them while He lifts the needy up out of his humiliation; and makes families like a flock.

Holiness is manifest in all His ways: the upright are made glad as they see it; iniquity itself has its mouth stopped. Whoever would be wise will observe this: such shall discern the loving kindness of Jehovah.

Psalm 108.

The incoming Salvation.

A song, a psalm of David.

The second psalm of the fifth book is very lightly treated by many commentators: as an example, Moll declares: —

"Two fragments of Davidic psalms, namely Psalm 57:7-11, and 60:6-12, are here brought together without any connection whatever; and the changes occurring, in only a few words, are so unimportant that neither occasion nor purpose can be discovered in this combination and conformation. Least of all is a poet like David to be held guilty of combining in such a manner two pieces taken out of their connection." — Lange's Commentary.

Delitzsch agrees with Moll, and so does Perowne. Alexander and Hengstenberg unite, however, in believing the origin of these psalms to be Davidic; but "the former view," says the American editor of Moll, "seems to be the most favored at present."

A truer reverence for Scripture would surely restrain the rashness of such criticisms. Granted that a psalm made by bringing together two ends of previous ones — or with scissors and paste, as it might be urged — may seem strange enough for inspiration; yet to say that "neither occasion nor purpose can be discovered in this combination" is a challenge of the perfection of Scripture which can only speak the audacious incompetence of the one who utters it. It is easy, on the other hand, to show that there is purpose: for it is just the character of a Deuteronomic book, such as this is, to give us, as Deuteronomy itself does, the way and the end, — the governmental way of God by which His end is reached; the end, therefore, which reveals the way. Now the previous psalm has given us, without any possible question, the ways of God with men; and that as shown especially in the case of Israel: what more simple than that, in the present one, we should have the end of His way with them? And for this — and to make it definitely plain to us what is intended — the ends of two previous psalms, cut off from the exercise and trials with which these are connected, should be joined together? The purpose which the commentator denies is, in fact, here transparent; and the unbelieving attack upon the perfection of the Word is an arrow turned back into the face of him that has discharged it.

Now for the "connection" between these two ends. Certainly the psalm makes, as we find it here, a very complete whole; and the two portions join together in the second division of it without a seam. The first division gives us Israel's praise as leading the incoming praise of the whole earth. The second appeals, therefore, that God may manifest His supremacy over the earth, for Israel's deliverance. The after-divisions show the nation; as in answer to this prayer, upon the threshold of full blessing. There is no lack of unity or completeness here.

The minor changes in the psalm here, as compared with the two psalms from which it is divided, we may not have skill to interpret or appreciate: for the true "higher criticism" is as feeble with us as that which is falsely called so is vigorous and strong; and these things naturally go together. For the interpretation of the psalm in detail it is sufficient to refer to the notes elsewhere (pp. 223, 224; 230-234.)

Section 2. (Ps. 109, 110.)

Christ in humiliation and rejection owned of God.

The second section gives us, in two psalms which are in evident and striking contrast with one another, first, Christ in His humiliation hated and rejected of man, and then His acceptance of God, — owned in the double character of King and Priest. Both parts are needed to give God's way as to the perfect Man; who (according to the divine principle in blessing, but which in Him who is what He is, fulfills itself so marvelously) humbles Himself and is exalted.

Psalm 109.

Enmity self-caused.

To the chief musician, a psalm of David.

On the other hand, men His adversaries display the awful reality of evil which is remediless because it rejects the only remedy. Of the imprecatory psalms, this is the strongest, being indeed a glimpse into the mouth of hell. And this I say in full view of the fact that it is not hell that is before us, but (according to the manner of the Old Testament) rather the government of God on earth: to which the law, imbedded in a covenant with a nation in the flesh, naturally appealed.

Yet it is in Gehenna, according to the import of that word (see Joshua 15:8, notes), the self-caused doom to which,without other cause, men doom themselves. So is the enmity here self-caused, the hatred of good as good, brought to its highest thus by that which is good in its fullest display. For such it is not an arbitrary appointment that all things should in result declare themselves against them. It is only the declaration of the righteousness inherent in the framework of things; that is, that it is framed by the God of righteousness. So that, again, we must not shrink when we hear it affirmed by God that it is His judgment, or when it is looked for and besought by men suffering on earth, the cry of the widow, as the Lord Himself puts it, which must vex even the unjust judge to answer at last, and which God recognizes as the cry of His elect, and which, though He bear long, He will at length fully respond to.

Here the application of the eighth verse by the apostle to Judas (Acts 1:20), and no less the connection with the following psalm, show us that it is the voice of the Prince of martyrs that is to be heard, though it may well be not alone, but identified with the cry which from Abel runs throughout all history. Nor is this contrary to the grace which failed not from His lips while hope was left, but which He always declared had its limit, and if refused would only avail to increase men's condemnation. Of Judas He Himself declared: "good were it for that man if he had not been born." And while this application may in no wise be the whole, it shows at least sufficiently the character of that limit which there surely is. But we shall gain clearer understanding by the examination of the psalm.

1. The appeal is to God to open His mouth. Men's mouths are opened wide; but only deceit and hatred are poured out! For himself, he only pours out his heart to God. It is for good they are requiting evil, — enmity for love.

Causeless enmity is, of course, enmity that has its cause only in the condition of heart from which it arises, and whose state it shows. But this is not merely such; it is love that awakens it; it is moral antagonism to that which is good and lovely; it is corruption such as the sun that invigorates the living breeds in the dead. And this is death, and naturally hopeless, as death is: for only from that which is good can good be looked for, and yet here the good itself produces but evil. All means, therefore, fail; hope fails; if it be fully proved, judgment alone can be invoked; and the next ten verses are accordingly a cry for judgment.

2. The judgment is first personal. He is to be put into the hands of a wicked one; and at his right hand, when he would put it forth for aid, he is to find an adversary. This is only congruous dealing, finding others toward him just what he had been to them. Then; when he is judged, there can be no plea made for one who is beyond the reach of hope. His prayer for himself is only a struggle against the righteous government of God, and not repentance or submission: thus it may well be treated as sin. His sentence is to death, not long delayed; and his office passes over to another.

It is not here that conscience can make any plausible objection. When we turn to the relation of his sin to others there come in many; and to remove them the light must be brought in from elsewhere. But God has provided for it, and we may be sure that there can be no contradiction between His nature and His acts.

He has Himself assured us that He "visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation," but then it is added as most necessary guarding of what would be otherwise misconstrued, "of them that hate Me"; and elsewhere the proverb which Israel had taken up from just such misconstruction is reprobated most emphatically by the Lord: "the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." (Ezek. 18.) He not only says, but swears, that they shall have no occasion to use such a proverb; that the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, nor the father bear the iniquity of the son; that the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him; while the repentance of any shall avert his doom.

On the other hand, it is familiar to us all that the character of the father may have much to do with the temporal condition of the children; and that thus the warp and woof of human history proclaim the far-reaching consequences of sin. And all this is a witness from God as to it that could not be silenced without the worst results upon men at large. If we take, then; these guides and guards on either hand, we shall avoid serious mistake as to the moral character of what we have in this psalm, with all its solemn imprecations of judgment on the transgressor. So far as this affects his children it is overruled for blessing to them; as surely as they heed the lesson; nor can sin be bound upon Any, apart from the consent of their own character. And this the 14th verse here definitely shows: for the very prayer that the iniquity of his fathers may be remembered before Jehovah is grounded upon his own character in this way (ver. 16).

3. Accordingly, the moral reason is given in the third division; where the equal government of God is clearly seen; and then —

4. The need and poverty which appeal to God, and for which He is besought to come in; according to His Name and title over all, and deliver. There is, all through, no thought of suffering from God, nor therefore of atonement: nothing that cannot be applied, in measure, to His people as to Christ Himself; and there is little need of comment as to it.

5. A final appeal to God to be with him, and give convincing proof that He is so, closes the psalm. If they curse, may God bless; and may the adversaries be clothed with shame. Then will he give thanks to Him with his mouth, and praise Him amid the multitude: for He standeth at the right hand of the needy, — where the outstretched hand can also find Him, — to save him from those that judge his soul.

Psalm 110.

The confirmation of the King-Priest.

A psalm of David.

The second psalm here is the answer of Jehovah to this humbled One, establishing Him as King and Priest together, after the order of Melchizedek, and with a prophecy of the revival of Israel under Him; and the subjection of enemies. There are but seven verses, and which follow the general septenary pattern of 4 (3+1) +3; except that these portions seem to be more emphasized than usual, so as to divide the whole into three equal parts of equal value.

1. The first three verses speak of Jehovah's King. But He is not yet actually enthroned. Like David himself, but whose Lord He really is, He has His time of rejection and even banishment. But unlike David, and completely in opposition to the thought of a reference in it to the Israelitish throne as the "throne of Jehovah" (1 Chr. 29:23), it is precisely in this time of His rejection that He sits at the right hand of Jehovah. It is an Old Testament hint which the New Testament clearly unfolds for us. The place is heavenly, not earthly: "He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God." (Mark 16:19). It is further developed by the Lord Himself in His address to Laodicea (Rev. 3:21), where, distinguishing it from the human throne which He will by and by take, and which He will share with others, He speaks of having overcome, and sitting down with His Father upon His throne.

This defines for us the Christian interval in which we are, and which we must not expect to find more than hinted at in the Old Testament scriptures.

Jehovah acts in due time for His King, who waits in entire dependence upon Him for the day in which His enemies are to be made His footstool. Then Jehovah will send the rod of Messiah's power out of Zion; the seat of His kingdom; setting Him there in the midst of a hostile world, then to be quickly reduced to subjection. And as when He comes from heaven His heavenly people exchange their bridal festivities for militant array, and come with Him, — so now that He is in Zion He gathers Israel first around Himself. It is the day of His might, and they are now, as they were not hitherto, all of ready heart. They are newborn children of the dawning day, in the beauties of holiness every one; and for Christ, in the tender sympathy (as I take it) which unites Him to His people, like the dew of His own youth. As Paul could say, "Now I live, if ye stand fast in the Lord," so the immortal Life, as it were, renews itself in the vigor of His people.

2. And this leads naturally to another view of the Person addressed, besides that of King. He is the King-Priest, the One who goes in to God in man's behalf, and presents for him the acceptable sacrifice. Here again God bears witness to Him, and here indeed all the fullness of the divine heart comes out. He knows the importance of this for us; He knows, too, how slow and unbelieving we are in the reception of His grace. Hence He not only speaks, — He swears: "Jehovah has sworn; and will not repent: Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek."

The apostle has given us the full significance of this, and from the Christian side, in the epistle to the Hebrews. Here is not the place for any proper investigation of it. It is one of many proofs that for Israel also the predicted blessing could not come through the Levitical rites or priesthood, instituted by the law, but through a glorious Person ordained to an eternal priesthood. The sacrifice — which a priest implies — is not, however, brought before us here. But we see that the King needed for them cannot be only King, — that He cannot commit the work of atonement to other hands than His own. Only by atonement can He be true "King of righteousness" (Melchizedek) and bless the children of Abraham as he to whom Abraham had given tithes had blessed the father.

3. Priestly work is not otherwise before us in this psalm; while the day of wrath it is that is earnestly pressed. The fifth and sixth verses do not seem to be the action of the King Himself, but of God as the Sovereign Lord (Adonai) in His behalf, according to the character of the psalm as a whole. It is God who sets His foes as a footstool for His feet; which does not lose sight any more than this does of His own activity. But the heavenly and earthly thrones are now and henceforth in complete concord; and here, throughout, the ways are the ways of God, with which in the last verse once more the Conqueror is shown to be in full accord.

Thus "the Lord is at Thy right hand" would not be the repetition of the thought in the first verse, but the converse; and the divine anger is at the rejection of the Object of divine delight. The head over a wide country would seem to be Gog (Ezek. 38), as has been often noticed, inasmuch as it is not the descent from heaven that is in view, as in Rev. 19, but the rod going forth from Zion.

The last verse shows us, in figurative language, the secret of the King's success. He drinks of the brook in the way, taking Himself the divine refreshment, the stream of living water, of which, though provided for all, the kings of the earth have so little availed themselves. Thus is He, as having the mind of the Spirit, in full unhindered fellowship with the ways of God, — Himself, indeed, being as we know the centre of them.

Section 3. (Ps. 111 — 113.)

Hallelujah!

The next and closing section is composed of three psalms, each marked at the beginning, and the final one at the end also, with a Hallelujah. Accordingly they are, throughout, filled with Jehovah's praise: the first, celebrating Him as known in His works and ways; the second, the blessing of those that fear Him; the third, the glory of His Name as filling heaven and earth. From their largeness these psalms are difficult to summarize, as may be imagined: who can tell out His praise? The first two have a difficulty also of another nature in their alphabetic structure,which is most regular. and in both perfectly alike, the whole twenty-two letters being contained within the compass of ten verses. Of the numerous divisions resulting from this, I have only been able to characterize as far as the verses. Indeed I have doubted if the letters are to he taken as real divisions here, or had another meaning. This I must leave for any who may follow me in this direction to decide; but as I have said elsewhere (p. 42) "it is surely natural to see in the alphabetic arrangement a symbol of order impressed by a governing mind. A numerical structure by itself expresses this; and an alphabetic one, making use of all the elements of human speech, seems as if it were indeed intended to make that order vocal." Here the perfect regularity and exact correspondence in the two psalms emphasize this thought, which is in thorough harmony with their being devoted entirely to Jehovah's praise. This is indeed the only harmony that is really that: all else is discord; and the coming day will bring forth from human history as well as nature this secret harmony, which it is a joy to think that man's lips shall make vocal. This may be a sufficient meaning for the alphabetic structure here.

Psalm 111.

Jehovah!

1. The one hundred and eleventh psalm, then; celebrates Jehovah, as seen in His works and ways; the whole heart united in thanksgiving, and this poured out in the secret converse of the upright where hearts are freest, and in the public assembly. The theme is a large — aye, an unending one: for "great are Jehovah's works, and sought out by all that delight in them;" or perhaps, as Delitzsch takes it, — "worthy of being sought out in all their aims," or "purposes."

2. Now we find His character as told out in these: essentially righteousness and tender mercy; or light and love, as the New Testament unites with the Old to declare Him. "His work is honorable and with majesty;" and this is the reason of it, that in it all there is enduring, everlasting righteousness: "His righteousness standeth for aye." This is the one side; but there is another: for He has provided for the remembrance of His wonderful works; and in this His tender care for His creatures has shone out, that they might have the joy and fruitful consequences of such knowledge: "gracious and merciful is Jehovah."

3. But Israel is in the front, the Old Testament example in which these characters of His have been displayed, a people His by a covenant which He never forgets. "The prey has He given to them that fear Him: He remembereth His covenant for ever. The living power of His doings He declareth to His people, in giving them the inheritance of the nations." Here it is plain why it is, not "meat" but "the prey" in the first line; for Israel's inheritance has to be gained by conquest, as the last psalm has again reminded us; and spite of the long time in which the nations have had possession of the covenanted land, the word of God which has secured it to them; shows the "living power" or "vitality" of His doings through those years in which so long it has lain dormant. Now they are put in possession; and thus, as tested by the event, they can say: —

4. "The works of His hands are truth and judgment: all His appointments are sure. Maintained for aye — for ever, as done in truth and uprightness."

5. Now all has come out fully, — His faithfulness to His covenant; the manifestation of His Name. His covenant will be seen at last as only grace, in which alone can any stable relationship between God and man be found. While on man's part God is recognized in a holy fear which is the "beginning of wisdom," the secret of that "good understanding" which the "knowledge of the holy" is. The praise of it will indeed be eternal.

Psalm 112.

Praise for the security of those that fear Him.

In the last verse the key-note of the present psalm is struck, in which we have in fact the praise of such wisdom. It is a psalm of praise for the security and blessing of those who fear Jehovah; and the alphabetic structure may remind us of the similar one in the twenty-fifth, but here (as not there) perfect. As soon as the soul is turned to God, things begin to get the impress of divine order; and while from the side of human experience (as in the twenty-fifth) this is yet imperfect, from the divine side (as here) it is not so: the structure is the exact reflection of the truth contained.

In the character of the blessing the psalm is Jewish, of course; and we have to make large allowance for this in any Christian application.

1. We have first the description of the man that fears Jehovah. His fear is a fruitful fear and not a slavish one: he has great delight in the commandments in which he walks. "His seed shall be mighty in the earth," — the sphere of blessing in the Old Testament, — "the generation of the upright is blessed."

2. Next, as in the last psalm the two-fold character of light and love is seen in Jehovah, so here this is seen in the one who walks in His way. "Wealth and riches shall be in his house; and his righteousness endureth for ever." Amid a dark world light arises for the upright; and the only upright one is he that is "gracious and merciful" as well as "righteous." Indeed our Lord has fully shown us in the parable of the thankless servant (Matt. 19) that for those who are debtors to mercy not to show it is not even righteous.

3. We now see how he is fenced about and cared for: "Well is it with the man that is gracious and lendeth: he shall sustain his affairs by judgment" — not in the judgment which is coming at the hands of God, (as some interpret,) but by the judgment which he himself practises. "For he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance" — remembered by God Himself, and so kept unmoved.

4. Yet he is in a world where things do not show stability; but "he shall not be afraid of an evil report" — of bad news; because he has found stability in God: "his heart is firm, trusting in Jehovah," the Unchangeable. This very trust too is sustained of God, until he see what he looks for as to his adversaries.

5. The principles of divine government, both as to the righteous and the wicked, are seen in the closing verses.

Psalm 113.

The glory of Jehovah's Name.

1. And now the third Hallelujah celebrates Jehovah's Name, now to be one, according to the testimony of the prophet, over all the earth. All servants of Jehovah are exhorted to praise it: to show thus that their obedience springs out of joyful adoration; the only service which can have value for Him. And the answer rings out joyfully: "Blessed be Jehovah's Name! from this time even for ever." The full worship, too, is seen coming in: "from the rising of the sun to the going down of it, Jehovah's Name shall be praised."

2. Well may it be! for the whole scene of this praise is His creation. "He is high above all nations:" yea, "Jehovah's glory is above the heavens." The Incomparable One! He has placed His dwelling on high; but He sees, and with tender interest, all that is in heaven and on earth. This leads to the next verse in which we see how deep this interest goes, and how wonderful are the results of it.

3. For He is Abraham's God, the God of resurrection: this still told in Old Testament style, and to which the Christian revelation only has given its full glory. Yet the features of it can be still discerned and have been from the beginning. For He "raiseth the exhausted from the dust; He lifteth up the needy from the dunghill:" "an emblem of the deepest poverty and desertion; for in Syria and Palestine, the man who is shut out from society lies upon the mezbele (the dunghill or heap of ashes,) by day calling the passers-by for alms, and by night hiding himself in the ashes that have been warmed by the sun" (Delitzsch).

Out of this misery and degradation God yet raises up, to put a wretch like this among the nobles (nedibhim; the men of princely liberality) — yea, the nobles of his people. This is a repetition of Hannah's words; and Hannah's own case is before the psalmist's mind, that case so memorable indeed for Israel: "He maketh the barren to keep house, a joyful mother of sons." Mary's song, at the beginning of the New Testament, reminds us, could we ever forget it, that one birth, impossible but for the stooping of God to man, has filled here for us the place of all others. And herewith has come for every recipient of divine grace now, the promise and the power of a resurrection; by which those worse degraded than the dwellers on the dunghill are raised to higher place than that of princes! Hallelujah!

Subdivision 2. (Psalms 114 — 119.)

The attaching of the soul to the God of salvation.

The second subdivision shows us now these ways of God, which have been already before us, resulting in the attaching of Israel's heart to Himself in days that are still to come. And here there are two plain sections; the first of which gives the Old Testament argument; the second, the New. In the first the controversy between God and them is regarding idolatry (Ps. 115). In the second, it is the "Stone" that they have rejected, but who becomes the "head of the corner" (Ps. 118). Thus the argument is complete.

Section 1. (Psalms 114 — 117.)

One Jehovah: The Old Testament Lesson.

The first section contains four psalms, none of them very long, and one the shortest in the Bible. In them we are first carried back, as in the beginning of the sixty-eighth psalm, to the exodus from Egypt, to see the power and grace of God as shown among them at that time. There had come in, alas, a breach between them and their glorious Leader in consequence of the straying of their hearts from Him; and the setting up of the abominations of the heathen before His eyes in the land from which they should have been rooted out. This is now looked back upon and judged in the light of their present experience of His delivering hand; and in the third psalm here (Ps. 116) He has displayed Himself to them in the resurrection of the nation, so as to bring back their hearts effectually to Him. The final psalm (Ps. 117) exhorts the nations of the earth to praise Him therefore for His loving-kindness and faithfulness towards the delivered nation.

The rejection or reception of Christ is nowhere in question.

Psalm 114.

The power of Jacob's God.

The first psalm of the series is of the simplest character. It dwells upon the power of God as seen in the deliverance out of Egypt, and upon His gracious identification of Himself with them as His people at that time. It merely describes with emphatic brevity these things: suggesting the questions which formally it does not raise. Its fragmentary character is itself strikingly suggestive. Why should the history of which it speaks be thus exceptional and fragmentary? The covenant-Name, Jehovah, is significant in a very different way.

1. The psalm is in two parts of four verses each. The first speaks of God as Lord, and yet without mentioning Him: there was no need to do so. There is but One who can dry up the sea and make the mountains skip.

It was the beginning of their history as a nation: the passover, as we know, rearranged their year for them. Egypt, though so long the place of their abode, is but a place of strange language to those who are now to be the holy people of God. Only with redeemed ones can God dwell; and where He dwells He reigns: "Judah was His sanctuary; Israel His dominion." The names have their significance otherwise than historically: the "prince with God" is thus ennobled by the yoke he bears; the holy place is one with the place of "praise."

Nature realizes and owns her God: the sea and Jordan alike, at the two ends of the desert journey; Sinai between them no less manifests its awe: "the mountains skipped like rams, and the hills like lambs."

2. The second part begins with an inquiry as to the cause of this, the answer revealing another character of Him whose sovereignty is thus recognized, and who yet softens the majesty of His presence, to walk in company with the "worm Jacob." Nay, His glorious power is made but to serve the necessities of His creatures: "turning the rock into a pool, — the flint into a fountain of waters."

Far apart as they may be in time and diverse in Planner, we see that it is the same God who afterwards put on a lowlier, yet more glorious dress in which to serve His people, coming into the wilderness Himself in fashion as a man; to do here the works which no other man did. What altered so for this people, the grace of such a beginning? What has banished from the world the tender presence of the Son of man? The two questions have but one answer. The generations of men; however far apart in time or place, have one fatal resemblance throughout. In the words of the apostle, "they did not like to retain God in their knowledge."

Psalm 115.

In contrast with the idols of men.

The next psalm takes up the old controversy between God and man; which (not merely in Israel's history) proves the truth of the sentence passed upon man. He turns from God, when knowing Him, — turns then to the darkness; and out of this comes the substituting for the true God all the idols of his own heart. He manufactures the god he worships, — a thing so inherent in man that the light of Christianity has not sufficed to banish it from the world. Up to the time of the Babylonish captivity this was Israel's besetting sin. After this, indeed, this unclean spirit went out of them, according to the Lord's words (Matt. 12:43-45): alas, it was not cast out; nor the house possessed by One stronger than he. It is ready, therefore, to be occupied afresh by him; and this will take place in the last days, when idolatry will be again set up in the very temple of God, in the midst of those returned to their own land; and the open defiance given to Him there will bring in the desolating judgment which has been so often spoken of

In this psalm we have, however, no allusion to the circumstances of that time. But the predictions which assure us of it, both in the Old Testament and the New, enable us better to understand the coming up of this subject of idolatry in the psalms of the latter days. Nor, indeed, is an evil done with till it has been judged: it is never allowed merely to drop out of sight unnoticed; but "God requireth," as the preacher says, "that which is past." (Ecc. 3:15.) A solemn consideration! Nothing but a real judgment of a thing before God can give it effectual burial.

1. The psalm begins with a pleading that Jehovah will act for Himself and for the glory of His Name, and not allow the heathen to taunt His people, as if Jehovah were one of their own gods, not to be found in the time of need. It is, in fact, Israel's sin which has given even the appearance of this; and therefore they urge that He give glory to His own Name, if He cannot to theirs: and this, not as if the account men made of Him were of such importance, save to them, and to the love therefore in Him which cared for them. And then again, He had pledged Himself to faith; and thus they could plead with Him for His truth's sake also.

Israel's God, after all, if for the nation's sin He were not found now in His place on earth, was still in heaven. He was a reality, accomplishing whatever He would, spite of all opposition. And this leads naturally to the comparison with idols.

2. What were they, these idol-images? Matter simply — silver and gold — shaped by men's hands! Mouth and eyes there all right: both things that are said to "speak," and are in different ways "witness" for the man himself, an index of what is in the heart. But the idol gives no response to his worshiper by word or look. Nay, he realizes nothing: the voice that cries to him he hears not, the odor of incense or of sacrifice he perceives not. No hand can tie stretch out to help, no foot of his will stir to bring relief, no murmur of sound even is in the idle throat. What can these senseless deities do but degrade the men who bow before them into beings as senseless? And this is the just penalty upon those who can forsake God, to follow palpably their own inventions.

3. From this the psalmist turns to exhort the people of God to cleave fast to Him who is not impotent nor impassive, but the help and shield of all that trust in Him. Israel, the house of Aaron; acid those that fear Jehovah, are separately exhorted nor is this mere amplification or embellishment. "Israel" is at once the nation as a whole, the people of Jehovah, the objects of His grace, who, crippled like their father in their human, strength, cleave to Him in their helplessness, and find it not in vain. The house of Aaron; on the other hand, are the recognized ministers of this grace, who speak of sacrifice — of the work of Another for them. While "those that fear Jehovah" declare by this character the work of the Spirit in them. Thus the living God has indeed shown Himself out for the people of His choice, not only in the grace which invites confidence, but in the activity of grace in Son and Spirit, — the work done for them; and the work done in them. I need hardly point out how completely the numerical structure justifies these thoughts.

4. After this exhortation; in which so much encouragement is wrapped up, we have the argument of experience as to this living God. To say "Jehovah has been mindful of us," is, for those who know his unchangeableness, to be entitled to say "He will bless us." But in accordance with this line of thought, the circles of blessing are differently divided. "Those that fear Jehovah" stand by themselves, I think, to show that under this as a principle blessing can come to others than to Israel, — with whom yet the house of Aaron remains, as in fact having the priesthood by which the whole earth draws near to God. (Isa. 61:6.)

5. After this the blessedness of man with God can be told out. Blessing is continuous, just because it is Jehovah's blessing, unchangeable as Himself, and they are in covenant-relation with the Creator of all.

But the sphere of this blessing, as the Old Testament reveals it, is definitely pointed out: not the heavens, which are Jehovah's, but the earth: this He has given to the children of men. But the dead then are out of it: the wicked have been turned into sheol, and the resurrection of the just has taken place, though the psalm says nothing of this. The New Testament here comes fully in to explain and supplement the Old. Death is now the doom only of those away from God; but "we," says the psalmist, "we [the living] will praise Jehovah: from this time and forever."

Psalm 116.

The God of resurrection, and the recall of Israel's heart to Him.

This does not, however, complete the story; and the 116th psalm comes in here to show how nearly Israel had been in those terrible jaws of death, — ingulfed, but for the mercy of God, to utter perdition. It is the sense of this deliverance that brings their hearts to God, and makes them His servants for ever.

1. The opening of the psalm is simple enough: a story which every one brought to God will recognize as his own. Israel, in the realization of the grace that has answered her, takes her place of confession of Jehovah her God, henceforth to own Him alone.

2. The deliverance is then recounted from the toils of death and the straits of sheol. They calling on Jehovah in distress, He manifested Himself in loving mercy and salvation.

3. The soul can now return to its rest. Delivered from death, Israel walks before God in the land of the living.

4. The fourth section; though only of two verses, is as important as it is emphatic. Experience has shown absolutely what the psalmist believes as a most certain truth, that all confidence in man is vain. "I said in my haste to escape" — not that it was, as we say, a mere hasty speech, for it is this in which he is so confident that he speaks it out — "all men are liars."

This realized in the soul, with honest self-application; sweeps it clean of the last remnant of self-righteousness and self-dependence. Out of a wreck so absolute nothing is saved, except what was never in it. God remains, and there is nothing else. The ground is clear for faith to build its temple for Him alone.

5. He turns, therefore, to ask, "What shall I render to Jehovah for all His benefits toward me?" What is right and suitable when all that is of value is what I find in Him? Well, I can receive and own His grace: "take the cup of salvation; and call upon Jehovah's Name."

But there is more than this. There are vows now to be performed to Jehovah: and this is repeated in the same words before the close of the psalm. Israel's legal vow she has, as we know, utterly failed in, and is still suffering the consequences of her failure; but there are thanksgiving vows that in the day of coming blessing shall be fulfilled. (Ps. 56:12; Isa. 19:21.) They imply no legality, but the consciousness of what grace has done, and the praise with which the heart is filled and empowered. Praise is now easy, — necessary: it is, indeed, but what His vow implies who will be in that day the Leader of His people's praises (Ps. 22:22, 33); and who will be silent then? Thus these vows are evangelic only. They are connected with the "cup of salvation," and Another's work, — the joyful assurance of what that work means for them.

The 15th verse is a kind of enigma, in the connection in which it stands. It is, in fact, however, the solution of an enigma, and one most important for the soul at all times. For the law, death, as we have elsewhere seen abundantly, and as we see in the earlier part of this very psalm, was necessarily a shadow. The blessings declared by law are so thoroughly blessings to be enjoyed on earth, the dead thus losing part in them; those of the prophets themselves being so much of this character — Israel's blessings in the land in coming times — that of necessity this would be so until, with the New Testament, the full revelation of the heavenly things should come. Going through the sufferings and trials of the latter days, in which the question of their title to national blessing was pressing upon them; death would again have for the remnant of Israel all its significance. Were they to die or live would seem to involve fully the question of the wrath or favor of God; and under the bitter persecution of that time many, in fact, will die. Resurrection might explain this: for the orthodox in Israel have, as we know, always believed in resurrection; but here again there might be a question: Was not the resurrection already passed? For Christians, and along with these the whole of the saints of former times, it will in fact have taken place when Israel's travail-pangs come upon her; and can they be ignorant of this who are under the teaching of Christ, specially addressed to those in view of that time of unequaled tribulation (Matt. 24)? His word there, moreover, is that "he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved." What, then; as to the saints of that period does death mean?

Most confirming it is to find in the book of Revelation,which so clearly brings before us the trials and sufferings of these very Israelitish saints, the same question anticipated and provided for. In the 14th chapter, which has to do with those who are seen anticipatively in the commencement of it as standing upon Mount Zion with the victorious "Lamb," after Babylon is fallen (ver. 8), and when the time of the antichristian "beast" and his followers is in contemplation; it is suddenly announced, as if in contrast with the woe upon the beast-worshipers, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth. Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." (ver. 13.)

The words "from henceforth" show the special application of what must seem otherwise a general truth; and the connection shows that the application must be, pre-eminently at least, to the latter-day remnant of Israel. And here is again the assurance so needful, just to those of this class, of death being no loss to these, but rather gain. How perfectly has the tenderness of the Lord provided for the peculiar need of these peculiarly tried and needy sufferers! The New Testament clasps hands, as it were, with the Old about them; to give them an assurance specially needed, as is plain, in their case: while the comfort abides, of course, for all of every time. Such are the "oracles" of God's living word; and so sweet a testimony have we of the heart behind them!

In the psalm, where it reaches prophetically in the history of the nation; Israel's salvation has come, and the blessedness of the dead saints has come into open light, and is a matter of experience. And so the numerical structure declares it. But, as already said, by this anticipative expression of it, it has been made the property of believers of every time; and lightens the shadows of the Old Testament with its emphatic assurance, "Precious in the sight of Jehovah is the death of His pious ones." It is not "holy ones" here, but those whose heart toward Himself the Lord realizes and acknowledges.

6. The closing section beautifully expresses in the number of it the triumph of His ways in bringing thus the heart of Israel back to Himself. We have, first of all, and as the foundation of all else, the spirit of obedience which is the fruit of His grace. They serve in liberty, in the constraining sense of His love who has loosed them from their bonds. They confess His Name with sacrifices of thanksgiving, and thus perform their vows. The circumstances are now added which assure us in what a scene the vision ends for us: "in the courts of Jehovah's house, in the midst of thee, Jerusalem." Jehovah has taken His place once more in the midst of His gathered people; and that is the sign which shows the day has now come for the earth; and for the "gathering of the peoples" so long foretold, at last to Shiloh. (Gen. 49:10.)

Psalm 117.

The whole earth summoned.

Accordingly the whole earth is now summoned to Jehovah's feet; Israel's salvation being that which makes known His faithfulness to promises long since made, and which might seem to have passed out of His remembrance. In their story also His love is now shown out: a love which, if shown out to them; is love in Him, and to be enjoyed by all who have hearts to entertain it.

Section 2. (Psalms 118 — 119.)

Christ and the New Covenant.

We have had in the first section; then; how Israel's heart is attached to Jehovah, but only on the one side of this, as is plain: for the name of Christ has not yet been uttered. This is supplied in the second section; which gives us now the New Testament side, as it were: Christ being seen as the One who as the chief corner-stone unites together the whole temple of Jehovah's praise. Accordingly, the 119th psalm shows the heart of Israel fully turned to God according to the terms of the new covenant, — His law written on the heart. The relation of these two passages to one another is striking, if compared with that of psalms 1 and 2; which give us, first, the spirit of obedience, the Israelite whose "delight is in the law of Jehovah"; while the second shows us Christ, again as rejected of man; but set as King in Zion; and the happiness of all that put their trust in Him. The one is the dispensational order, and is the same as that of the two sections here; the other is the moral order; for it is Christ who is the "Mediator of the new covenant," and who, as we look upon Him; changes us into His moral image. The two psalms are in perfect relation therefore to one another, though so different in themselves.

Psalm 118.

The Head of the Corner.

The speaker in the first psalm is again one of the remnant of Israel of the latter days, the representative of the nation as wrought in by the Spirit of God; and the psalm itself is throughout prophetic. It has five sections, which are not in general difficult of connection. Any difficulty which we may find will be rather in detail.

1. The perpetual goodness of Jehovah, so constantly and naturally before us in this Deuteronomic book of the Psalms, is again the thesis here. All are exhorted to give Him thanks for this, with the division that we have had elsewhere into Israel, the national witness for Him, — the house of Aaron; the priestly family, and those that fear Jehovah, which would include, at least, those turned to Him from the Gentiles. The separation of the house of Aaron from the rest of the nation would seem still to indicate the sacrificial basis upon which all ever depends for them.

There follows the practical expression of His loving-kindness whose name is shown by the constant reiteration of it to be so endeared to them. They called upon Him in strait: in a large place He answered. Way and end are simply enough connected thus; and the simplicity is the sweetness of it. What power is there in the cry of a needy suppliant for Him! As a result the soul becomes bold in its confidence: with Jehovah for him, what is it possible for man — all men — to do? He is among those that help him, their strength and inspiration, and the overthrow of enemies is sure to come.

2. The opposition is now seen in its full extent, according to the prophetic picture of Israel in the last days. It is prefaced with the reiterated assurance of how much better it is to trust in Jehovah than in men of any kind, even the nobles (nedibhim), the men of liberality and frank chivalrous action. All nations had gathered against Israel, only to be cut off by a feeble people sheltered and energized by Jehovah's Name. Like bees they gather, like a fire of thorns, which burns up fiercely and dies out, they are quenched and gone.

3. Jehovah is then again celebrated as their sanctuary and refuge, — not merely a safe and sure retreat, but where the holiness of His presence is felt and finds response. The psalmist apostrophizes here the vanquished enemy. "Thou hast thrust at me hard, to make me fall; but Jehovah helped me. Jehovah is my strength and psalm: and He is become my salvation." Thus singing and salvation are now uttering themselves in the tents of the righteous, and it is as at the Red Sea and more marvelously, Jehovah's right hand that has accomplished all: Jehovah is the "man of war"; "Jehovah's right hand doeth valiantly."

But there is more for them than external deliverance in all this, even as the sorrow that they had been passing through was the sign and consequence of a spiritual condition which had forced Jehovah into opposition to them. They had had to face death with the terror of God's wrath in it, as we have seen. Yet He had not given them over to it. The exercise had been profitable for them; the chastening had done its work; and now they would not die, but live. The gates of righteousness could now be opened to them, and they would enter in and give thanks to Jehovah.

4. But even so, this is not all: we are, in fact, only approaching the real and fundamental truth of their condition. The gate of righteousness which they have challenged — the way into Jehovah's presence — belongs to Himself. He alone it is who can affix the terms of admission, terms which must be set by the demands of His own nature. True: "the righteous shall enter it": that, in some sort, is easily apprehended; but it only raises the old question, "How shall man be just with God?" And have they — these delivered Israelites — now found the answer?

Beautiful it is to see then that in the very next sentence they are speaking of "salvation": "I will give thanks to Thee, for Thou hast answered me, and become my salvation." Righteousness with God is indeed the portion of the saved, and only of the saved: it is a gift, and not a work wrought out by us, nor (in the sense in which we are speaking of it) even wrought out in us. While there is, assuredly, a practical righteousness which is wrought out in us, and which is necessarily connected with our capacity to enjoy, and our moral fitness for, the presence of God, it is not any the more the "gate" into His presence. Here the righteousness we need is in Another. Christ is Himself the gate." The purging of sin and the positive value in which we stand are found in One alone who is the Head of blessing. for His people. And thus we can realize to the full the personal element in the language here: "I will give thanks to Thee, for Thou hast answered me, and hast become my salvation."

We naturally ask, however, is not this, perhaps, too evangelic an interpretation of what may be more simply taken? Israel has been in peril from external enemies, the nations that had been gathered against her, and the so absolutely similar words of the 14th verse unmistakably refer to this temporal deliverance. Is there anything more in the present one than the thought of entering into the presence of God now, to thank Him for this decisive overthrow of all their adversaries?

This is a question which cannot, I believe, be decided by the words themselves, but only by the connection. And here it is certain that they have been speaking of a "gate" which "belongeth to Jehovah," and which necessarily implies conditions as to entering into His presence. "This gate" — what can it be? If it be simply their own righteousness, — the righteousness of a people just now threatened with judgment for their sins, — it would seem as if much stress could be hardly laid upon it; and here we naturally look for some reference to how the long tale of sin had been put away. But more than this, the very next verse does undoubtedly refer to Christ, and in such a character as completely to justify the thought that the foundation of the soul in the presence of God is in fact before them: — "A stone which the builders refused is become the Head of the corner."

The Lord Himself and the apostles quote and apply this scripture. Isaiah (28:16) gives us the direct prophecy: "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation; a Stone, a tried Stone, a precious corner-[stone], a sure foundation." It is thus a foundation-stone that is in question; and we can read "the head of the corner" in no other way than it is read in Ephesians (Eph. 2:20), "Ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone." The "chief corner-stone" and the "head of the corner" are the same thing.

We are, of course, in Ephesians in the midst of Christian realities, and must take care, in any transference of texts to Jewish themes, to make account of resulting differences: but in the case before us we may find the differences themselves to give instruction. The apostle Paul is speaking of the church of God, which in the Old Testament was a mystery yet hidden. It is this of which he adds: "in whom the whole building fitly framed together groweth into a holy temple in the Lord." Thus he is speaking of a temple — a Christian one — and of Christ as its foundation. The connection in the psalm enables us to see that here also it is the foundation of a temple that is spoken of. In the gospel of Matthew, where the Lord refers to this text, it is in the temple that He actually is. When He finally leaves it, He calls it no longer God's but "your house," and pronounces sentence upon it as such: not one stone would be left upon another (Matt. 23:38; Matt. 24:2). Upon their foundations, who in self-righteousness and unbelief rejected Him, no dwelling-place of God could stand.

Israel had thus remained for many generations without that which was their distinctive glory. But they are again to possess it; and the psalm contemplates this blessed time. Christ, hitherto rejected, will then be the foundation upon which the dwelling of God among them will securely rest. When we look at the typical house, even in the wilderness, we are at no loss to understand that the sockets of the boards which were its framework spoke of Him; being made of the silver money of atonement (Ex. 28:27). As its curtained gates also spake of Him; and the beautiful curtains which were the very tabernacle itself. "In Him" the whole structure stood; and ark and mercy-seat, the very place of the Throne, still spake of Him. In this psalm we have no longer the tabernacle, but the solid foundations of the permanent building; but as to its essential meaning there could be no change; and when He declared to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up," He spake of the temple of His body (John 2:21). Essentially — in its true spiritual reality — He was the whole thing; and in the psalm here it is as the Risen One, refused of the builders, and His life taken from the earth, but alive again from the dead, with His glorious work accomplished, He is the foundation of Israel's praise for evermore.

We are carried thus far beyond the fact of their merely temporal deliverance, great and marvelous as that must be, and realize the foundation upon which the worshipers stand, and the "gate" which "belongeth to Jehovah," through which they come into His presence. Not any righteousness of their own is here in question. The once refused and slain; now risen and glorified One is all their joy.

"This cometh of Jehovah" is now their cry, "and it is marvelous in our eyes." So indeed it will be; and the whole "day" will be seen to be of Jehovah's making. He has brought it all about, the trial and the sorrow which were His only way of blessing for them; and the end now reached its glorious consummation. And now, all hindrance to their blessing being removed, their "Hosanna" ("save now") can be heard: "Save now, Jehovah, I beseech Thee; I beseech Thee, Jehovah, send now prosperity."

For the time of real and full return of heart to God is now reached, in which that will be accomplished of which the Lord spoke in the hour of His rejection as that which would bring Him to them once again. "Ye shall not see Me henceforth," He says, "until ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord." Here we have the decisive word: "Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord" (Jehovah); and this is the indication of their spiritual condition: He had had to say of them: "I have come in my Father's name, and ye receive Me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive." (John 5:43.) For alas, it was against God Himself that they were in hostility: with the desperate implacability of a heart set upon its own lusts, they both saw and hated "Him and His Father." (John 15:24.)

Now that which He had declared they would do, they have done. At the standpoint of the psalm; Antichrist has come in his own name, and been received; but a remnant wrought upon by divine grace has been turned to God; and in these is found the revival of the national life. Theirs is the cry, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of Jehovah," and "out of the house of Jehovah" — the sign; as we have seen; of restored favor — they are saluted with blessing. The last part of the verse is evidently a responsive greeting from within, as the worshipers approach Jehovah's dwelling.

5. The last section is accordingly the joy and homage of those in restored and eternal relationship to God. "Jehovah is the Mighty One": they have proved Him such; but more, — "He hath given us light." Hence they fill the courts of His house with sacrifices, even up to the horns of the altar itself. He is their Mighty One, — their God; and they exalt Him. The psalm closes with the refrain of the anthem, heard ever and anon throughout this book: "Give thanks to Jehovah, for He is good: for His loving-kindness endureth for ever."

Psalm 119.

Faith's testimony to the Word, in love and service.

"That which the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin; condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." So the apostle describes for the Christian the efficacy of the grace that has in Christ been shown us. The law could not work in men the obedience it required. The cross, beheld by faith, condemned sin for us, so as to deliver us from it, and implant in our hearts the very principle of obedience, in a faith that worketh by love. And this is the connection between the present psalm and the one preceding it, though Israel and not Christians are before us in them. The law is written on their hearts, according to the promise of the new covenant (Jer. 31:31-34); and here all is promise, that is, grace. The longest psalm in the whole book is the utterance of Israel's heart in praise of the law.

We need not wonder to find it to be an alphabetic acrostic, and that of the most regular and perfect kind. There is an eight fold alphabet, this number eight showing what is new, in contrast with the old,* — thus the new covenant number — being stamped upon the whole psalm. Every letter of man's language now is taken up with the praise of that, which was but an intolerable yoke before.

{*Notice that 8 is the cube of 2; which is itself the expression of difference, otherness, here therefore fully realized.}

"The Masora observes that the psalm contains only the one verse, 122,* in which some reference or other to the word of revelation is not found as in all the 175 others, — a many-linked name of synonyms which runs through the whole. In connection with this," says Delitzsch, "it may also not be merely accidental that the address, Jehovah, occurs 22 times, as Bengel has observed": though not in regular correspondence with the 22 sections.

{*To which, however, verse 90 must surely be added.}

There are also just ten synonyms of the law used by the psalmist, and which naturally remind us of the ten commandments of the decalogue, "word, saying; way, path; testimonies, judgments; precepts, statutes; commandment, law."* And these seem (though this may be disputed) to fall naturally into five pairs, as I have given them.

{*Here again the Masora seems to have made a faulty enumeration, strangely enough substituting for "path" "truth," or, according to another reading, "righteousness." But both these are attributes, not synonyms, of the law; and are so used.}

All this arrangement may seem artificial enough, if we take (as so often done) our knowledge for the measure of what is possible: which in Scripture is hardy enough. On the other hand, commentators have mostly renounced the idea of finding in the psalm any internal connection of thought. Only Delitzsch, so far as I am aware, has attempted a sketch of it, and this has met with little acceptance. Indeed the difficulty must needs be great of discerning links which are throughout moral and experimental, and which unite sentences which have the look of independence and ability to stand alone which these have. The numerical structure may here be expected, if anywhere, to show its worth as a guide to understanding; as the alphabetic arrangement would seem,in fact,to be intended to point out. It was one of the first clues which guided me, a good while since, in this direction; and I may be pardoned in preferring this to the despairing refuge of a help to remembrance, generally urged.

The psalmist has thus plainly marked out for us 22 sections. If the last were omitted, the rest would naturally fall into a triple septenary order, suiting well the regularity of structure otherwise; and capable, as I believe, Of satisfactory comparison in this way, numerically and otherwise. The first seven would, then, seem to refer to individual condition; the second to relation to external circumstances; the third to divine holiness — the sanctuary view. Taking now the headings of the sections, as well as I have been able to give them; they would stand thus: —
1. individually.
(1) harmonious righteousness.
(2) cleansing by the word.
(3) realizations.
(4) in creature feebleness.
(5) but with the God of might.
(6) thus overcoming.
(7) full rest of heart.
2. in external relations.
(1) persistent purpose.
(2) things working together for good.
(3) recognitions.
(4) in trial from man.
(5) but with God governing.
(6) overcoming in wisdom.
(7) complete obedience.
3. in view of divine holiness.
(1) the rebellious.
(2) deliverance sought from them.
(3) sanctuary revelations.
(4) in trial from defection.
(5) exercises.
(6) overcoming in judgment.
(7) perfection of the Word.

In any full way we cannot compare these yet, and it will be enough, at present, to invite comparison. The last section of all is left out of this table. It plainly cannot be compared, since there is no other 8th section; if it is to stand as such; and there are difficulties as to this, which also must be reserved for after-consideration.

Division 1.

The individual believer.

The first division of the psalm speaks of what the Word is to the individual believer. There is absolutely no mention of others, except twice (verses 21, 23), and by implication once (22), in the first five sections. In the 6th the thought of overcoming brings them in (42, 46), and we find them in the 7th (51, 53); but there is as yet no hint of persecution; save by reproach. In the very next section — the first of the second division — (v. 61) "the cords of the wicked have wrapped him round," and in ten other verses they are spoken of; his life is continually in his hand; while those that fear God are mentioned five times. In the third division the wicked are mentioned fifteen times; but here he sees them trodden down, and put away like dross.

Section 1. (Aleph.)

Harmonious righteousness.

1. The theme of the psalm begins, as so often; in its opening verses. The "way" for man is simply the way of Jehovah's law; and "happiness" is to be perfect in it. How blessed, indeed, just to have abidingly in the soul the consciousness that this only is happiness. To be delivered from the misery of one's own will, one's own way, — the very definition of sin (Isa. 53:6) — how complete a deliverance is this! It is to have the law written upon one's heart, which is not a natural state but a supernatural, a work of divine grace. And this law is not merely arbitrary, the expression of authority: it is a "testimony" also, and one to which the awakened conscience responds. In this He is Himself declared: so that to "observe His testimonies" is to "seek Him with the whole heart." With such all is in accordance with the real nature of things: they do not twist them: "they practise no perversity; they walk in His ways." Safe, holy, and happy must be "His ways."

2. Now the soul pours itself out to Him. "Thou halt commanded Thy precepts" — the separate applications of the divine principles — "that they may be kept diligently." God does not speak positively, and then put up with trifling with what He says. Nor is this in the least what is meant by grace. There is no non-essential in what God has spoken: obedience is always what is essential; obedience to which we can affix limits means for us a wisdom which is above God's.

Nay, it is we who need to be taught wisdom: and for this, therefore, the heart cries out: "Oh that my ways" — my goings in the path — "may be directed to keep Thy statutes: then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect unto all Thy commandments." And it foresees that His judgments — His decisions in the court of conscience — will so approve His righteousness, that to learn these will produce a spirit of praise in an upright heart.

The last verse is an appeal to divine government not to go far away from one who had in heart to keep the divine statutes.

Section 2. (Beth.)

Cleansing from evil by the Word.

The next section is more difficult to put together and find meaning for as a whole; but we are in general (at least) right in seeking this at the beginning of any distinct part of Scripture, where we should put the title, and where God in His goodness hastens, as it were, to meet us with what is a real introduction to all that follows. This is why so often the psalms begin with what is the conclusion, then going back to lead us again toward it. In this case, the power of the Word to cleanse  that is, to separate the soul from evil will be the theme of the section; and its two portions seem to harmonize well with this: the first part speaking of its inherent power for this; while the second shows how, in fact, the soul is drawn away and detached from all else by the love that absorbs and takes it up with God.

1. The young man is spoken of, no doubt, because life is strong in him; and the yet untried world full of natural attraction. Here, therefore, is the test-case for the word of God to prove its power; and it is perfectly able to do this, by the light shed by it upon the whole scene, which gives things their true character, by bringing God (who alone is Light) into connection with all. The soul, finding here its attraction; is set truly free, made master of itself and of its circumstances; while it realizes at the same time its dependence and its only safe shelter in the divine strength. Seeking Him with the whole heart, it has yet to pray, "Let me not wander." But it clasps all the more to its heart the divine sayings, that it may not sin against Him: hiding them there as a possession of which it must not be robbed. And the world is full of robbers, who find its value to them only in its value to those from whom they would snatch it.

2. But now we see the heart in the presence and under the control of God: "Blessed art Thou, Jehovah"; to whom it turns with its consciousness of ignorance and its yearning desire, — "teach me Thy statutes."

Already, however, he has been speaking of what he knew, declaring God's judgments, the decisions He had given as to good and evil, right and wrong, and that faithfully, — holding back nothing. And how great a matter is this, for keeping a clean path, — the confession of God in all things, the committing one's self fully to all that He has made known as of Himself! The attitude of indecision tempts the assault of evil, while, God not being honored in it, He cannot honor one who is ashamed of Him. Joy in what is confessed thus goes with a true confession; and thus it follows here: "I have rejoiced in the way of Thy testimonies, as much as in all riches." The mind, too, naturally employs itself upon that which the heart enjoys. God's precepts are meditated on; and His paths regarded.

The section closes with the renewed experience of a joy in His statutes which is a sure preservative against a bad memory: "I delight myself in Thy statutes: I do not forget thy word."

Section 3. (Gimel.)

Realizations.

The third section speaks of realization by the soul of what God's word is, and of what things are as seen in the light of that word. Essentially, this is sanctification; because holiness is "holiness of truth." (Eph. 4:24, marg.) Eternity reveals time: the presence of God all things as good or evil; and the world is then seen as a place of continual conflict from which no man can withdraw himself. This gives the second part of the section here.

1. We are wholly dependent upon God for ability to realize things in this way. Naturally, man "walks in a vain show, and disquiets himself in vain." True life begins for us in the bountiful grace of God, and is manifested in the keeping of His word; and the same energy which acts to bring us into this must still operate to retain us there. But in this way what marvelous things become known to us, and with eyes fully awake what glories may be revealed! It is simple that here we have the language of prayer. Nothing is more needed than the constant sense of dependence.

And how touching is the plea of the 19th verse,which reminds us not so much (as it is usually taken) of man's transience on earth, as the divine care for the stranger-guest in Israel, as the provisions of the law manifest it. We are apt to judge things rather by the narrow and sectarian spirit actually manifested by the nation in its later history than by the precepts of the inspired lawgiver. Yet, separated as they were by the law itself from the abominations to which the nations in their departure from God had given themselves up, He had placed them upon the very lines of intercourse between these nations, and at the throbbing centre of the world's traffic. Here was their mountain fastness in which the Word that was entrusted to them was to be maintained for the blessing of the whole human race; and here, in the presence of all the powers of the world, so frank an asylum was offered to the one who sought it, that a mere fugitive slave escaping there was sheltered and free to find his home under the protection of the Lord God of Israel, and no man might deliver him up. (Deut. 23:15, 16.)

Israel themselves had known the "the heart of a stranger" by bitter experience, and God declared Himself to them as One that "loveth the stranger in giving Him food and raiment." They are exhorted, "Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt." (Deut. 10:18, 19.) Nay, they were taught still to account themselves as strangers, even in their land, and to prove to themselves that love of His to strangers of which He speaks: "The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is Mine: for ye are strangers and sojourners with Me." (Lev. 25:23.)

This seems to be the key to the language in the psalm here: "I am a sojourner [or stranger] in the land." The Israelite, even if home-born, might still say that He was thus, in frailty and dependence, entertained by God. Still more would these Israelites, brought home at last from all their wanderings, realize this. If the land had been their own; they would have lost it; but God could not forfeit His right to it, nor to put into it whomsover He might see fit. And for these, coming back from their long alienation; as prodigals to learn afresh the ways of Him whose grace now welcomed them, effectual indeed would be the plea: "hide not Thy commandments from me." As guests of His they will find a portion worthy of Him, — their lodging, food, and raiment, as His grace will give it; and His commands as their sweet enfranchisement from the ways of sin.

2. Thus the eyes open to the reality of things. Evil and good are seen in the sharp antagonism which exists between them. And, the eye affecting the heart, the soul breaks with the longing it has after those judgments of God which penetrate to the heart of things and make clear the essential, necessary opposition. It is no mere cold, colorless discrimination that is reached by this passionate longing after His mind, nor does the fervor of this spirit exhaust itself by its intensity, but abides "at all times." God abides the same, and communion with Him; if real, forms His character within us. God is not coldly right: He is "a consuming fire." His patience is not slowness of heart, but the pleading (if we may say so) of His love with men until all hope is over. Then the "wrath of the Lamb" will manifest itself, not pitiless, but not restrained by pity. The Lamb will be still the Lamb, and thus will such wrath be terrible indeed.

He sees it already taking effect: "Thou hast rebuked the proud": the creature exalting itself above its place, — against Him who has ordained it its place; "they are cursed who go astray from Thy commandments."

And then; suffering from the opposition of a world which has turned its back on God, the speaker pleads: "Remove from me reproach and contempt; for I have kept Thy testimonies."

"Testimonies" are to fact and truth: and God's facts will assert themselves as that, and His truth will manifest itself at last, beyond all controversy. Then; at least, will reproach and contempt pass from those who have identified themselves with that which will be seen in its true character. And this may take place sooner than the inevitable time in which it surely shall. Meanwhile present reproach helps of itself to test and free from suspicion the soul that through it all makes the divine statutes its occupation and delight. And with this the section ends, — the expression of unfeigned joy and confidence in that which is realized to be true and the living word of unfailing wisdom: "Thy testimonies are my delight, — my counsellors."

Section 4. (Daleth.)

In creature feebleness.

We have, now another kind of realization — experience of a sorrowful kind, but most needful, that of the weakness of the creature, not in another but in one's self. This is the necessary complement of the truth that all power is of God. Only that this is realized now, not merely as what is necessary to the creature, what would be as true of an angel as a man; but in the moral collapse of a fallen being. This is more before us in the first part here,which begins with the confession of a soul cleaving to the dust; while in the second confidence is expressed though in dependence, and a steadfast course is contemplated, spite of — rather because all rests so absolutely upon God.

1. The soul, though the dweller in a dust-formed tenement,cleaves to the dust only because fallen. Out of the consciousness of this, the psalmist cries for the power of God to energize it according to the gracious promises of the Word. He has bared before God his whole practical condition; and has the consciousness of being answered by Him. But He longs to know more His statutes, and the whole way in which His precepts lead. There He is satisfied that he will find the wondrous works of God for fruitful meditation: in truth what glories may be realized in the path ordained of God! If an Israelite could say so, how much more we! We dull the prospect by unbelief, and shut ourselves out of it by a path self-chosen, and shut ourselves in to the dull, common lives we live, alas, so much. This is because we will, not because God will have it. And yet this path with God is ordained for the abasement of all human pride, and the valley of humiliation lies in it. "My soul melteth for heaviness," he cries; but then there is pledged strength to meet him: "make me to arise, according to Thy word." Exercised by the sense of frailty, he seeks also to have removed from him the way of falsehood, and that God would graciously grant him (according to the character of the psalm throughout) His authoritative law.

2. For He can speak of having chosen the way of truth, of setting God's judgments before him; and that not in momentary resolve, but cleaving to His testimonies: and thus can confidently plead not to be put to shame. In truth it is impossible to one who does this, that he ever should be. So the soul assures itself; gathers up its strength, and contemplates the way opening up before it; yet in perfect conviction at the same time of the feebleness of all human faculties in the realization of the divine: — of entire dependence therefore upon God in all things: "I will run the way of Thy commandments when Thou shalt enlarge my heart."

Section 5. (He.)

But with the God of might.

Accordingly the next section is in every verse a prayer. The soul is with God, where the language of faith, in a place of constant need, becomes naturally that of prayer. This is not strange to us in Christianity, nor unsuitable to its joyous spirit of praise. "Rejoice evermore; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks" (1 Thess. 5:16-18) are precepts which the apostle puts in the closest possible conjunction.

1. For enlightenment and supporting power the psalmist cries therefore here to the One with whom he goes. He must be taught the way of His statutes. He looks for this as meaning to walk in it,and to walk in it without any mental reservation; which is, indeed, the utter contrary of obedience, and the leaven of unbelief which (wherever found) will leaven all the life. will keep it unto the end," says the psalmist; or "to the heel," — the lowest and least noticed part.

"Give me discernment," he says again in his earnestness, "and I shall keep Thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart": these two things, the "whole heart" and "unto the end," go naturally together. And again he affirms in the next verse: "therein is my delight." Thus slavery there is none: he who is constrained by his affections is the freest man possible; and so it is here.

But the power of the world is felt, and the feebleness to resist temptation. He who has judged the world in general knows but too well how specific forms of it nevertheless may appeal to us, in which the characters of the world have not been recognized, — and how much cleaves to us, to which we would not cleave. Here God's "testimonies" have their place, as such: which bring in the revealing sunshine, never capable of gilding a thing that is evil. Yet he says, "Incline my heart," on the one side, and on the other "turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity." He has his heart inclined, when he says, incline it. He is turning away his eyes when he prays to have it done. But so conscious is he of the infirmity that cleaves to him, and so desirous to be wholly right with God, that he can only find rest for his heart in this perfect Will and Wisdom to which he commits himself: "quicken me," he supplicates, "in Thy way."

The last three verses seem to depend upon the first two here; and the whole to express the need and craving of that light from the holy presence of God Himself which shall dispel all darkness and prevent the shadows of a dead world wrecked by sin from intruding on and deceiving the possessors of what is really life.

2. The second part is still an appeal, but in a different way: namely, that God would as a living God confirm His Word by His deed,and thus gloriously answer to the faith of His people. It is one of the glories of Scripture to touch in so many ways the whole state of things by which we are surrounded. Prophecy fulfilling shows it to be the voice of Him who is Lord of all circumstances and generations. Then history in it we find to be also prophecy, taking its place with other types and shadows of the future thus. Its moral judgments, too, appeal not merely to the conscience but also to the experience of all men and times. While again there are special promises which bring Him still nearer to the individual and into the most secluded lives. Naturally this comes into the experience of these psalms throughout; and here is the very place to find it spoken of, — in the fifth section of this great experimental psalm: here then we find it.

"Establish Thy saying to Thy servant" would thus be a prayer for the fulfillment of specific promise; where the state of the pleader may be brought forward as not (at least) barring the claim of faith. "Devoted" is perhaps too strong a word to insert, where the text has only the preposition;* but it needs only to be noted as inserted, to escape this difficulty.

{*Which belongeth unto Thy fear" (R.V.); "leadeth to thy fear," (Cheyne) give somewhat different renderings of another construction, where it is the promise (in its being fulfilled, of course) which leads to this. But Cheyne's translation seems too free; that of the Revised Version too vague.}

The next verse, by the reason given; "for Thy judgments are good," would show that the reproach mentioned would have to do with some apparent nonfulfillment of these judgments in God's governmental ways among men. And such reproaches are being often cast upon the Lord's people: "Where is now their God?" (Ps. 115:2.) But the heart of the psalmist realizes the goodness of these "judgments," — the decisions as to good and evil, which in the day of God's long-suffering His dealings with men do not always seem to affirm. Under the Old Testament dispensation; this was necessarily a much greater enigma than since the cross; and it is the occasion of much of the misapprehension of the friends of Job. With the enemies of the believer it is always a favorite reproach against him.

But the third verse takes a ground which seems clearer and surer. How can God but answer the longing of a heart after His precepts, where the clog of earth is felt and pleaded against? And the appeal is more confident, proportionally, however lowly it may be in its very nature: "quicken me in Thy righteousness."

Section 6. (Vau.)

There are but two prayers in the sixth section; upon the answer to which all the rest of it hangs. The number (6) is that of overcoming; and this is clearly and prominently the thought in verses 42, 45, and 46.

We need not wonder that in a world whose course is contrary to God, overcoming should have a marked place in divine testimony. Christ Himself was the great Overcomer; and for all who have faith in Him; the "victory that overcometh the world" is in their "faith." (1 John 5:4.) One of Israel's tribes, that of Naphtali, as we have seen at length elsewhere (Joshua 19:32-39, notes), speaks typically of this aspect of the Christian as an overcomer. The epistles to the seven churches in Asia speak loudly as in trumpet-calls to him as that, all through the present period.

1. The first part here grounds all its assurance upon Jehovah's sufficiency; and this abides the same throughout all ages. Our claim upon it, through the work of Christ, has been indeed established, enlarged, and handed over to us in its completeness, since the Mediator of the New Covenant, by the blood of the Covenant, entered heaven itself and sat down there for us; but in all ages the assurance of the saint has been in the unchanging faithfulness of the Eternal God. For the psalmist it was the "saying of God," the "word of God," the "word of truth," upon which he rested; and for us today it is the same. For him also, that word revealed Jehovah's "loving-kindness," and a pledged "salvation," for which he waited; and so do we wait today. But we have a salvation wrought out by Another for us, as to which we can say, in a sense no Israelite could, "He hath saved us": and with this the Person of the Redeemer has come into view, and God Himself been revealed to us in Him; as otherwise He never could be. The poverty of the Psalms in these respects, when they express, not what prophetically refers to Christ Himself, but the experiences and knowledge of an Israelite of that day, strikes one painfully indeed. We, in the midst of the full glory of divine revelation now, what instruments of praise should our hearts be! May our gracious God awaken their full music!

The soul of the psalmist leans upon the promise of God while it waits for a salvation which is yet future; and it gathers confidence from the Word in which it trusts, to answer the reproaches of the enemy. God's word he realizes to be the "word of truth," and prays that it may not be taken utterly out of his mouth, weak as he may be in standing for it: for he waits in hope for His judgments to manifest themselves.

2. The consequences are developed in the second part, which result from the realized sufficiency of Jehovah and His word. And the first, for one upon whose heart the law is written; is the joy of continuous, uninterrupted obedience to it. "For ever and aye," he says with enthusiasm. Oh for our "easy yoke" to be accepted in like manner! For him it is easy: "I will walk at liberty," he says: it is freedom to walk in ways that approve themselves to the heart, — are the choice of it; and this is our blessedness, whose "rule" is not the law, but the "new creation in Christ Jesus," the perfect and heavenly walk of the "Second Man."

The opposition of the world is realized, but without alarm. He will speak of God's testimonies before kings, and not be ashamed; and will delight himself in His commandments which he has loved. These things, I think, go together. The former is an exemplification of the latter: while the boldness of the confession of the truth maintains the joy of it also in the heart. So it ever is.

The last verse shows this delight more and more increasing, the hands (or palms) lifted up showing, as in prayer, the longing and fervor of the soul, as it implies also the realization of the depths and mysteries of that blessed Word, upon which it meditates therefore continually.

Section 7. (Zayin.)

Full rest of heart.

The division of the eight verses in each section hitherto has been into five and three, the order of which, however, may be reversed. This first five is in the present one again divided, so that the whole psalm presents a 2, 3, 3 structure.

It is not easy always to characterize a seventh division. "Completion," for which it stands, necessarily implies "rest," because the thing is ended: the only way in which such a thought can be applied to God. The last verse here unites clearly the thoughts of accomplishment and satisfaction: "This has been mine, that I have kept Thy precepts," reminds us of the apostle's similar utterance,

"I have finished my course; I have kept the faith." There is but one prayer in the section; and that about a promise now to be fulfilled, for which he is looking, and has looked. All the rest is review of the past, and that in peace of heart. Thus the heading of the section is justified in itself, and justifies its numerical place.

1. The word has been to him a word of promise, — a comforting, energizing, vivifying word. How good is it to realize it in this character! What a fullness of promise to us is there, in fact, in the word of God; and how this testifies to us of the wondrous grace Of God that so displays itself! "No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly." "They that fear the Lord shall want no manner of thing that is good." How more than sufficient — how divine are such assurances!

True, there is affliction in fact,and much of it. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous." But these are either the necessary chastenings of love; because even the "righteous" are that so inconstantly; or else they are the results of what the world is in its opposition to God, and will be found to be gain in the day of account. All this will be seen then, and should be realized now, to require no abatement from the exact truth of the Word.

Nay, it is in the affliction that faith grows and is established, and its energizing character is found. The Word is living and life-giving; while it tests and searches us out, as with a divine search-warrant, clothed with an authority beyond any of earth, to which all earthly authority must give way. What a Word is this!

2. Yet the opposition to it is everywhere and none the less manifest. Wherever it goes it stirs up, just by its demand for righteousness and goodness, the innate resistance of the heart to good and God. So here the psalmist testifies to the derision of men that he had encountered. These were the proud, who would not suffer its rebuke. Their character revealed what was that of their opposition; and he had not declined from the law on account of it. He had read history to purpose, and remembered God's judgments of old. It was the same God now; and so he comforted himself: while, as he reflected on this falling away of man from God, indignation ("burning heat") possessed him. Well it might, indeed: for what has man's history been! Read it in the masses of heathenism today; and in the condition of the foremost of the so-called Christian populations.

3. He reverts to what the Word has done for him and is to him; and now he can give as to this a precious testimony. God's statutes, against which men have been thus rebelling, why, they have made his life music. In the house of his sojournings, — in the place of frailty, mortality, and strangership, — they have brought out of it, not merely "songs," as in our common version; but "psalms"; — melody, and melody to God, and to which the whole creation is in profound subtle, harmonious accompaniment. How entrancing is a "Psalm of Life" so realized!

Then it will bear the soberest thought. "In the night," when earth lies in shadow, "visions of God" have been at all times most realized; then "I remembered Thy Name," he says, "and have kept Thy law."

So he finds what more and more those who have it prove to be a substantial possession: "this has been mine, that I have kept Thy precepts." By and by "the righteousnesses of the saints" will deck them even at the marriage of the Lamb; although those pure white robes will acquire their lustre only as "washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb." (Rev. 7:14; 19:8, Gk.)

Here, then; the first division of the psalm ends.

Division 2.

The Believer, in external relationships.

The second division, as has been already noticed, deals more with external surroundings, the circumstances and persons favorable or adverse. This, of course, will be seen, not in all the verses, but in special, leading, dominant ones, with which the others are connected, and around which they group themselves. The apparent independency of the verses has been remarked before also, and indeed by every one who has commented on them. Nor can one by any means always prove the connection to be such as is here represented. That which is most natural and most fruitful will necessarily most commend itself to us; but it is upon the numerical structure that we must principally depend for the discovery of this, as it will then also be large confirmation of it. The spiritual result will speak to the spiritual mind.

Section 1. (Cheth.)

Persistent purpose.

1. In the first section we have, naturally, the introduction to the whole. In the first part you see the man himself; in the second, his enemies and his associates. The thing emphasized as to man is what is needed to make him master of his circumstances, that persistent purpose of heart which delivers from the temptations which ensnare and carry away the unstable. Here he begins with reaffirming what he has said just before, that his portion, what he has for himself, in contrast with the name, power, or substance of which others might boast, is to be a keeper of Jehovah's words. And this truly brings a great revenue. Here one finds that for which His word is pledged, a favor better than life, and every way worthy as an object of pursuit with the whole heart.

This had been to the psalmist also the fruit of his coming to himself. He had thought upon his own ways, a sad enough but profitable contemplation. Thus with clear understanding of what he was turning from, he turned, not his eyes merely, but his feet unto those divine "testimonies," which ever appear more self-evidencing as there is self-judgment as to the paths that lead away from them. So he came then to realize what is indeed reality.

2. He can now speak of having followed with prompt, unhesitating decision; the new path thus found. But here, too, is the opposition of the wicked, manifested in snares set to entangle his feet; spite of which he has gone on his way unhindered. And in the night his heart would run over with a praise which he had to rise up to express, on account of the righteousness of divine judgments, — the perfect moral way in which every question received its settlement through these.

With those that feared Jehovah he took his place. Oneness of mind drew these together, as it necessarily will do; and a man becomes known by the company he keeps. Associations are also a part of the ways by which we approve ourselves or not to God, and are insisted on, as we know, at the very threshold of the whole book. (Ps. 1:1.) In close walking with those that fear the Lord, the experiences and joys of each become a common blessing of all. They are multiplied in being shared together.

And "the earth is full of Jehovah's loving-kindness," who makes all things work together for good to His own. This looks on to what we find in the next section, — one of those connecting links which are so frequent in the Psalms. The joy of this loving-kindness realized in the soul becomes in it a fervent desire to be taught His statutes.

Section 2. (Teth.)

Things working together for good.

The working together of all things for good is the theme of the next section. Good and evil in this checkered scene are thus seen to be in harmony; and the work of the enemy is even made, spite of itself, to be a minister of the good. These are in fact the two divisions of this section.

1. The psalmist approves thoroughly, in looking back, Jehovah's faithfulness in his case. He has been truly the covenant-God, and has dealt well, and only well, with His servant: according to His word so freely pledged to him. Faith responds fully to this on his part, owning the need of divine teaching, and which implies much more than the lesson-book, for scholars whose unaptness is so much a moral condition. The rod has been surely among the "all things" working good to all the people of God; and so he who speaks here has found it. "Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now I have kept Thy saying."

2. But this may have only to do with physical evil; the deeper question is the moral evil, and the second part of the section takes up this. In Eden man's perfection was to abide in good where evil was not, and to be a stranger to this altogether. Now, on the contrary, it is in having the "senses exercised to discern between good and evil"; both being before him. (Heb. 5:14.) The presence of evil around is therefore permitted with this end in view; and in ourselves we come into nearer contact with it,and learn to hate it with corresponding energy. In all this we find One over all who is good and does good; whose acts are truly accordant with His nature. Joy indeed is it, then; to be taught His statutes, which enlighten the conscience and preserve moral vision. In the darkness of the cave the organ of sight is well known to atrophy from mere disuse.

The psalmist is suffering from the slander of men; whose character is clearly to be seen as the proud: men that have a spirit of rebellion against restraint, literally, that boil up, like water. The mere subjection of the heart to God rouses the opposition of such, who traduce what they have no mind to imitate. In answer to which he affirms his whole-hearted observance of the precepts of Jehovah. But their heart is as fat as grease; the grossness of their nature hindering all right affections: "for me," he says, "I delight in Thy law."

And the very affliction through which he has passed has been serviceable to him in making him learn more deeply the character of those statutes, from the violation of which he has himself suffered. How certainly we learn in this way all must be aware. In result, the law of Jehovah's mouth has acquired for him a value beyond that of earthly riches: it is his real possession.

Section 3. (Jod.)

Recognitions.

The theme of the third section of the second division much resembles that of the first, which we have considered. Yet there is a difference; and that according to the respective characters of the divisions themselves. It is for this reason that "recognitions" seems a more suited title here than "realizations." The soul is more upon the outlook. Circumstances and men are more before it: and these both for and against, — the brotherhood of faith upon the one hand, and the adversaries on the other. The first part, I take it, gives us certain foundations or broad facts which are clearly recognizable; the second, reckonings of faith which deal with the future rather than the present, and in which confidence takes the form of prayer.

1. The basis-fact here is that of a Creator-God, who cannot therefore but be for the work of His hands. His hands have made us, and not rudely; but fashioned us so as to be witnesses of His handiwork. He must design; then, to have His creature filling the place for which He made him; and will surely not deny the understanding necessary to this. This is an argument which the 139th psalm dwells upon at large, and which the New Testament for the Christian puts in the strongest possible way. Here we can speak of new creation, and of the word of God as that by which He has begotten us to Himself. No fear that He may deny it to us. To us it is as milk to a new-born babe — the one necessity of its nature.

Of new birth the Old Testament did not yet speak; but men had need of it none the less, and came thus into a communion which, though not yet marked off externally from the mass, was necessarily distinguished by the characteristics of the new spiritual life which had been received. And this is the second basis-fact here. As the first touched the centre of the circle, — ascertained the whence of relationship, though not with the clearness of present knowledge, so the second defines the circumference, the with whom, the family. And they recognize one another also, as belonging to a company known even then as a family of faith. So the psalmist says here: "they that fear Thee are glad when they see me," — there is a joyful glance of recognition. And here is the mark by which they recognize: "because I have waited in hope on Thy word."

But there is a third thing now; and this assures us of a Living Presence, not simply at the beginning or in the past, but abiding throughout human history, faithful to His own nature, which is holy, and to His people in His dealings with them. "I know, Jehovah, that Thy judgments are right, and that Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me." Thus, in these three things, God, His people, and the relationship between them, are all recognized; and His word is authoritative over them; their joyful confidence, and that to which His acts at all times are found correspondent.

2. The psalmist now pours out his heart to God, whom he knows, and who is so necessary to him. He prays that His loving-kindness may be his comfort, according to His promise to him. For God has pledged Himself to His people: it has not sufficed Him to say "Ye know me, and that I cannot err or do wrong; and let this be enough for you." We are too frail, too dim-sighted, too little able to anticipate His ways, for this to satisfy us, or to satisfy Him as to us. Divine love has therefore pledged itself to us, made its covenant with man; and swears, if His word is not enough: "that by two immutable things" — "His word and His oath" — "we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us." (Heb. 6:17, 18.)

We may have "boldness," therefore, in coming to what is characterized for us as a "throne of grace" (Heb. 4:16), to find help for all the way which is His way for us. For any other way we could neither expect nor rightly desire it. Thus the force of "according to Thy word unto Thy servant" here. For prayer is crippled, confidence as to it gone, if our wills are struggling in it against God's will.

And this is the argument of the next verse also: "For Thy law is my delight." His tender mercies, therefore, can be freely shown; so necessary as they are for life itself in a woad of conflict, — so necessary for the invigoration of spiritual life. This brings him to the conflict: and he prays that the proud, the independent asserters of their own will, may be ashamed: their own will proving itself in his case to be mere perversity and falsehood; while for him the divine precepts were his meditation.

Thus would God's holiness be manifested in the presence of those who feared Him, and who would have in him — in God's ways with him — experimental proof of this, to which they might turn,with His testimonies in their hand thus fully corroborated. Nor can it be in haughtiness on his own side that he claims this. Nay, he has need of the mercy of God to be shown to himself also, that his heart may be made perfect in His statutes, that be himself may not be ashamed.

Section 4. (Caph.)

In trial from man.

The fourth section speaks of the trial from man, which had reached almost the extreme point. The first part, of his integrity under it; the second, of the persecution itself, on account of which' the psalmist appeals to God. Throughout, His faithful word is that to which he cleaves and which is his support,while yet the hand of God has not interposed to put an end to the trial.

1. In the extreme of necessity, his soul fainting for the deliverance which can be from God alone, His word is that upon which in hope he waits. Plenty of comfort there, which yet necessitates a living God to make it good. For this it fearlessly pledges Him; but the pledge sometimes seems long in being redeemed. Hence the room for exercise, which after all is not against faith, — which supposes it, and in it finds its only means of existence: for faith has to do with that which is not seen.

The pressure has been great, however: he has been dried up, like a skin bottle in the smoke, while yet he has not by all this been made to forget Jehovah's statutes.

2. But he feels the briefness of his days, and pleads for the judgment which is needed for the fulfillment to Israel of their earthly promises. When shall that time be? Here the prophecies of those times and seasons, which from us are hidden as to definite fulfillment (Acts 1:7), in the present Christian gap of time, will open up to them abundant comfort (Dan. 12:4, 9). Meanwhile the pits of the proud yawn before them, unchecked by Jewish law. The psalmist thinks of those commandments which in their maintenance of righteousness necessarily imply a God who will be faithful to the righteous, so that he can plead them as if they were promises "faithful commandments." And to these he, too, has striven to be faithful: he seeks therefore his sanctuary shelter from those that persecute him wrongfully. Almost consumed upon earth, he has not forsaken the divine precepts; for which yet he realizes his need of quickening, that he may keep the testimonies of His mouth.

Section 5. (Lamed.)

But with God who governs.

As generally in a fifth section, now, after the pressure of trial has been felt in its bitterness, the joyful sense of the supremacy of God rises in fresh power upon the soul. God rules, when winds and waves are at their worst; and His word, upon which alone we can rest amid the confusion; is that which is law everywhere, while by the sense of its glorious perfection it attaches the soul to Him with an indissoluble bond. These are the two parts that are found here.

1. In the heavens above His word stands firm for ever, as illustrated, no doubt, by the stars that roll in their circuits, the sun and the moon that keep their ordered path. The earth, too, is established, — in relation, I suppose, to the sea, in which the foundations of the dry land are, spite of the restless warfare of the sea upon them; fixed abidingly. There they all remain; servants of God in their several spheres, a permanent condition of things, amid all the apparent susceptibility to change, showing everywhere the impress of a governing hand.

In the soul God's law likewise proves its sustaining power, acting in a very different way, yet so as to manifest the divine virtue that is in it. As law it brings in the assertion of sovereignty to which the conscience responds with its homage, and the heart with its delight. Thus then, spite of the felt disorder, God is; and the soul is cheered and energized, and that which has done this remains in its unique effect, impossible to be forgotten. One lives by it to God.

2. This introduces the second part, the psalmist turning to Him who is thus made known with the declaration of his devotion and of his need. It is not merely a cry forced from him by outward distress: "I have sought," he says, "Thy precepts." And this, though the wicked had desired and plotted for his destruction; clearly for his adherence to them: "I attend unto Thy testimonies."

Then his whole heart opens out. He has looked out upon all human perfection and seen in every particular how limited it is. Easy enough to find everywhere an end in this way; but to the word of God, controlling him as his commandment, he has found none: "it is exceeding broad": like space itself it has no boundary-wall; but it has an infinite fullness, not an emptiness, — an infinite speech, and not a silence. It is the speech of God.

Section 6. (Mem.)

Overcoming in wisdom.

He proceeds to show how this word of God, itself so supreme, has lifted him up by its inherent power into a supreme place among men. It is divine knowledge that he gets by it, beyond the capacity of any man at his best. Nay, man's wisdom is so opposed to God's that the gaining of this knowledge is a true "overcoming," the sifting and analyzing and separation of true from false, always with a moral interest also, or, to say better, a spiritual. "Wisdom" has necessarily always this character in her, as the "fool" is he who "hath said in his heart, There is no God."

1. The psalmist begins by once more expressing his delight in the law: it gives him constant occupation: "all the day." Let us remember that it is one who can speak so, who can tell us of the wisdom it has communicated to him. We shall not, perhaps, get the same results without some similar devotion to it; and yet the estimate has no touch of exaggeration in it. If it be God's word, what can all the wisdom outside it be, compared with that? In the perfect knowledge of our need, — with perfect love and perfect ability to meet it, — what must we say, even in anticipation of inquiry, such a book must be?

Yet, must we not fear that there are few who give it even now the day and night study which the psalmist gave to his so much smaller and poorer Bible?

Let us listen; then; to his account of the result, with the remembrance of the almost unspeakable difference in our minds. It is of the law in the main he speaks; and though we must not limit that, wherever we hear of it, just to the ten commandments, or even to the Mosaic institutions as a whole, yet it is plain that it is in fact largely of this that he is thinking here. "Law," "commandments," "keeping" God's "precepts," "refraining the feet," show this quite clearly; and it is spiritual ethics with which he is, at least, very largely concerned. To make this evangelical, we have only to remember that the Mosaic law had very definite teaching as to what sin was before God, and of the impossibility of a sinner approaching Him without the blood of atonement. This, too, was ethics, if it was much more. It was this in the highest sense; and there would be none, except it were an ethics of despair, without it. But an ethics of despair is really none.

Enemies the psalmist has, and that on account of the law of his God; but this makes him wiser than all of them. Necessarily; if "iniquity" is, as Scripture calls it, "vanity," and ignorance of God is "folly," and the government of the world is one that makes for righteousness. Thus the enemies of the righteous can neither understand God, nor the world, nor the men they have to deal with; and even the hearts of their fellows, and their own hearts, are most unreliable quantities: "deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know" them?

But more than this: the testimonies of God being his meditation; he is wiser than all his teachers. And notable it is how rapidly the mind awakens and is strengthened and enlarged under the influence of Scripture. The countries in possession of an "open Bible" may be traced by the comparative intellectual gain in other directions, as is well known; and yet even this does not give a just idea of the Bible in its power as the true educator of the human race. For, alas, where the heart is not possessed by it for God, men refuse submission to the light itself, and thus in the places of greatest enlightenment there is yet an undercurrent at least of opposition to it. Nay, more, among those who are genuinely converted by it, how few receive the word of God in the whole-hearted manner of the psalmist here! It is not too much to say that for most Christians even; the blank pages of their Bibles are more numerous than the full ones; the sun is half darkened by the spots upon it.

Received fully, whole-heartedly, unreservedly, — allowed to do all the work of which it is capable, — mind, heart, conscience alike submitted to its restorative, invigorating,divinely quickening influence, what equal development would there not be of every human faculty! what light shed upon Nature, history, every question of right interest possible to man! Take all the men of special gift, the aptest to receive, the most fitted to communicate knowledge, yet uncontrolled by Scripture in what they affirm, — after all, the poor man uneducated otherwise, cleaving only to the Word, may truly and unaffectedly say with the psalmist, "I have more understanding than all my teachers: for Thy testimonies are my meditation."

So with the "elders," the men of long experience: clearly this is all too limited, in duration; in sphere of application; in inherent capacity, to be put for a moment in comparison with the knowledge derivable from the word of God. But notice all through, how there is insisted on the practical nature of its requirements as to the condition of all such knowledge being imparted: "I discern more than the elders, because I keep Thy precepts."

And he closes all this with "I have refrained my feet from every evil way: that I may keep Thy word."

2. And now we see the character of this "overcoming" from another side: the attractive and separative power of the Word, moving the affections as well as regulating the walk. One of the first necessities for which is the assurance of that direct contact in the Word between God and the soul which the next verse expresses: "I have not departed from Thy judgments: for Thou hast taught me." Here is the simple "book," become the divine "oracle": God has indeed spoken in it; what an inexpressible joy to have heard the voice of God! God speaking! and to me! How the heart is moved by it! "How sweet are Thy sayings to my taste! sweeter than honey to my mouth!" And this attraction is necessary repulsion from the opposite pole: "through Thy precepts I get discernment: therefore I hate every false way." All this is so simple as to require no comment.

Section 7. (Nun.)

Complete obedience in view of all circumstances.

The seventh section carries this out to full obedience in spirit, though with the consciousness of much infirmity and constant need of God. It seems to divide, exactly as the seventh of the first division, into 2,3,3; the ordinary five verses of the larger part being again divided, precisely as there.

1. We have first the steadfast purpose of heart which underlies all true obedience. And this is based upon the consciousness of what the Word is, — a light shining amid the darkness of the world, and which reveals the footpath, sure if narrow, through it. The path is not dark, if the world is; and the wayfarer resolvedly undertakes it: he will keep the judgments of righteousness, the decisions of God as to good and evil which largely (but not wholly) define his way.

2. The opposition of man brings him into continual peril: affliction which has but too much power over him. He realizes and pleads his need of divine energy, which has been pledged to him, indeed, so that he can reckon upon it. Thus he can bring the free-will offerings of his mouth, the recognition of help given; and still pray to be taught Jehovah's judgments. And through the peril he passes, not distracted into forgetfulness of that which abides in its supremacy over him; the law of his God.

3. He advances further, to speak of more positive attainment. The snare of the wicked had not made him swerve from the path of divine precept. Yea,his whole portion; his chosen inheritance was the testimonies of God. They were the rejoicing of his heart, which he had inclined to perform them for ever, — "to the end," or thoroughly, without reserve.

Division 3.

In contemplation of divine holiness.

The third division seems to emphasize the holiness of God. The enemies are looked at more as the enemies of God than personally such, and the exercises have correspondingly their character less with regard to external trouble: in this respect the third division returns toward the first.

Section 1. (Samech.)

The rebellious.

In the first section; accordingly, the rebellious are looked at in their character and conduct, as abhorrent to God and man. The righteous turn from them; and God puts them away in judgment from the earth; and this is, roughly, the two parts of the psalm.

1. "I hate the double-minded," begins the psalmist; "and I love Thy law." His own integrity of heart cannot abide the wavering of those who at one moment are for Jehovah, at another for Baal; who have therefore no true conviction, but in the conflict of opinion follow only their own wills. For himself his heart is in the path of obedience; and more, he has the experience of what it is to have Jehovah his hiding-place and shield, — a living God making Himself known in the day of trial, so that His word becomes his confidence. From evil-doers his path necessarily separates; for he is set to keep the commandments of his God.

2. He turns to Him in the consciousness of dependence,with the word pledged to him; which makes him hope in it, and beseeching Him that it may not leave him to be ashamed. Confident he is that he is secure who is upheld by God; and this safety he would use to run unhindered continually in the path of His will.

From his shelter he looks out to see the judgment fall upon all that go astray from the path: for their laxity — "letting fall," like the string of a deceitful bow — is falsehood: not failure where the heart may yet be right. Thus God treats them; not as silver which may yet have to be purified from dross, but as dross itself and nothing else. The psalmist sees and approves this judgment, and so clings the more to those testimonies which deliver from the way of destruction; while his flesh trembles with awe at the holiness of God, and he is afraid as he realizes His righteous judgments.

Section 2. (Ayin.)

Deliverance sought from them.

1. Yet he is in fact still among the enemies of God's way, and who are therefore necessarily also the enemies of His people; and he seeks deliverance from these on the ground of that very righteousness. He has himself followed it; and he prays therefore not to be left in the hand of his oppressors. May He, the righteous One, be as that, surety for good to one who is His servant, and not permit the oppression of the proud, who because of pride refuse the servant's place. God's pledged word he has, but His salvation lingers, and in distress his eyes fail for longing for it.

2. He pleads the servant's place that he has taken, that he may be dealt with in divine love, and taught His statutes. For he is His servant, and as such needs and may urge that he needs, discernment to know the testimonies that he has to maintain amid a state of daring rebellion which speaks for the time being come for Jehovah's own intervention. But this disorder only makes him realize the more the value of those commandments which are more to him than the wealth of much and purest gold. For here all is pure, — every precept,whatever it concerns; and every false way is exposed to reprobation.

Section 3. (Pe.)

Sanctuary-revelations.

In the third section the psalmist turns to speak more of the joy in Jehovah's testimonies that he has found, of the revelation that they have been to him. All his heart is awake with longing after God Himself, to whom His word brings, as its power is known; and thus this is a true sanctuary portion; although it be more longed for than enjoyed. Yet the door is opening, has partially opened, and the inner light is already breaking out.

1. Wonderful are the testimonies of God, which by their glorious character win the soul to their obedience. Light breaks out as the Word is opened up; and even the simple acquire by it the faculty of discernment. The heart is drawn out in longings which are not lawless, but the very contrary: "I longed for Thy commandments."

Thus the Word as an educator makes no monsters. It does not develop the intellect, while leaving the heart and conscience unaffected; but the whole man grows in beautiful correspondence of all parts to one another.

2. The soul thus wrought upon becomes a seeker after God, in the apprehension of constant grace which is shown to all who love His name, — that is, the manifestation of Himself; for that is what His name is. Such an one realizes what the liberty is of walking in God's ways, and the miserable bondage which results from any iniquity having dominion over one. From man; too, he seeks to be free, in order to keep the divine precepts. Above all, to walk in the sunshine of God's face, as one brought near, and there to be taught His statutes. There it is that the awful horror of sin is felt, with the longing after men who know not its deformity: "Mine eyes run down with streams of water, because they keep not Thy law."

Section 4. (Tsaddi.)

The trial from defection.

The last verse contains in it, as not uncommonly, the theme very much of the following section. In it we have the trial of spirit from the defection around, along with that abiding sense of preciousness of the Word itself, which is what makes the defection so full of anguish.

1. Jehovah's word is what Jehovah is: if He is righteous, so are His judgments. And so too are His testimonies, of whatever nature: He cannot be aught but a faithful witness, in whatever it has pleased Him to give any testimony.

Here, as he thinks of it, the psalmist's zeal breaks out: it consumes him as the altar-flame the sacrifice; as with Christ in the temple, where He flames out in a testimony against the evil, which puts Him in opposition to the heads of the people, identified with the wickedness that was then in power. It is not with the psalmist that men are his adversaries merely, but "because mine adversaries have forgotten Thy words."

That leads him back to think of the Word, how pure it is, and how he loves it. Little he is, it is true — he who has this spirit is ever little — and despised, for so has the mass got away from God that they can afford to despise such feeble opposition: yet he clings with all this to that which links his feebleness with the Lord of all: "I have not forgotten Thy precepts."

2. And faith affirms, amid the confusion in which all might seem buried, Jehovah's righteousness to be eternal righteousness, and His law truth which must always then abide truth. Trouble and anguish possess him, as he thinks of the madness of the adversaries; but this does not bring even the shadow of a summer cloud over those commandments which are his delight. Again he affirms: "the righteousness of Thy testimonies is eternal"; and he only needs himself to be sustained of God in ability to discern their blessedness, the bringing into that life which is alone true life: "by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God shall men live."

Section 5. (Koph.)

Exercises.

The next section is more difficult to characterize; but as a fifth it seems to speak of exercise: not, in the first part at least, so much from the difficulties and trials of the way, as over the word of God itself. that healthful exercise which would that we all knew more of. In the second part the enmity of the wicked is spoken of, though briefly; and the soul comforts itself in Jehovah being near.

1. The psalmist calls with his whole heart upon Jehovah, earnestly professing his purpose of obedience. Where this is found, it naturally and necessarily leads to exercise over the Word: it is the foundation of it. The path is not so simple that we can find it without God; nor is it meant to be; but then we find Him our companion in it. The suppliant needs salvation also: he does not say from what; indeed, from how many things, the hindrances which so constantly present themselves to obedience, but which are helps to faith as everything is that casts us upon God. The Word with all this gets a large place with him, just as surely as God gets His. He is up before the dawn; crying out to God, yet with hopeful expectancy which the Word had wrought in him. Nay, before the night-watches he is awake, meditating on God's sayings, testing his knowledge; finding continually indeed the drag of nature on him, for which he has to betake himself to Jehovah's loving-kindness for quickening energy, to discern what is of Him; according to His unfailing judgment.

2. He is not allowed to do this undisturbed. The wicked are near, and threatening mischief; enemies in heart and will to that which occupies him. But Jehovah too is near, the Rock upon which all these waves break in vain. The truth abides: nothing can alter that; and this His commandments are. Yea, His testimonies have of old been known as for ever fixed upon His own immutable foundations.

Section 6. (Resh.)

Overcoming in judgment.

The sixth section has as its keynote the prayer of the second verse, "Plead my cause," — in order to which the psalmist spreads it before God. The wicked cannot hope for deliverance; but he doubts not to stand in the judgment he invites, which, of course, is not at all as to any absolute righteousness, but only as to integrity of heart amid much weakness and many adversaries.

1. The affliction that he is in makes him seek for deliverance, and thus — because the wicked cannot hope for it — appeal for the taking up of his cause; yea, that Jehovah, who fully knows, would Himself plead it. He has not forgotten. Jehovah's law, though he owns at the outset the need that he has of the impartation of living energy from Him; who has pledged Himself to him for such need. Utter weakness then on his part is recognized: he needs not to hide it: but he is not among the wicked who seek not the divine statutes.

2. He casts himself, therefore, afresh upon Jehovah's tender mercies for this living power, for a life according to the judgments of His truth and holiness. His adversaries are many, but they have not perverted him from the path of His testimonies, from the recognition of things according to His declaration of them. Nay, he had beheld with grief the faithlessness of those who kept not these sayings. And he invites Jehovah Himself to behold how he loves His precepts, whatever the backwardness of nature for which, the third time, he beseeches that he may know His quickening power. But as to the ways of God, these his whole heart embraces. The whole of His word is truth, and every one of His righteous judgments — judgments which have their foundation in His own nature — abide as He Himself.

Section 7. (Schin.)

Perfection of the Word.

The seventh section naturally gives us now the perfection of that which has been the psalmist's theme all through, the word of God. The first and larger part views it in its peerless supremacy in whatever way it is contemplated. The second sets the seal to it of heartfelt subjection. The affirmation is of little value which lacks this element of true witness.

1. He has realized the opposition to God's word in the high places of the earth. Princes had persecuted him without cause beside, but his heart stands in awe of that in which God Himself has spoken to his conscience. His heart also has responded to it, so that it has become to him like the rich and varied booty of the soldier. But more, his moral estimate of it is similar: it is the holiness of truth that attracts him in it, as he hates the falsehood which it also hates. Constantly through the day does it lift up his heart in praise, because of the judgments which he realizes to be those of divine righteousness, and which he finds in the government of God illustrated and enforced. For "great peace have they who love thy law," and their path is free from the stumbling-blocks over which others fall.

2. This word has been wrought into his practical life. The salvation which it assures of he has waited for in hope; its commandments he has obeyed; loving exceedingly the testimonies that it gives; keeping its precepts as being manifested in all things to Him before whom he walked. Unspeakable blessedness to walk thus in the Eternal Light of that glorious Presence before we enter the joy of the presence-chamber itself.

Division 4. (Tau.)

Jacob in his trouble.

The twenty-one sections of the psalm fall then; plainly, into three equal and parallel series of seven sections each, which together would seem to complete the subject naturally, and leave room for nothing more. But in fact we find another section; which, of course, is necessary also for the completion of the alphabetic arrangement. What, then; is its place, in connection with what has gone before? Is it an eighth section of the third division? or is it by itself a fourth division of the psalms? There can be no doubt, when we have examined it, that it is a fourth division.

Its structure is clearly different from that of any of the former sections. Each of these we have found to divide into 3+5 or 5+3; or else, as in the seventh of both the first and second divisions, the first five verses are again divided into 2 3. Here, on the other hand, the eight verses can only divide as 4+4; the last part being evidently a fourfold prayer, or plea for salvation. The last verse of the whole in no wise suggests an eighth section. It is, as a whole, a descent from and not a continuation of the last one. The number 4 seems suited to and stamped on it throughout; even the acrostic letter here, the Tau, standing for 400 in the Hebrew notation. The drop in the character of what we find here is thus accounted for.

Looking more closely into it, it is evident that, as a fourfold plea for salvation it occupies the latter half: the former one is, in fact, a promise or vow to the Lord in the event of deliverance. And as this cannot be the King (as in the sixty-first psalm) whose vows are before us,we naturally think of Israel. Looked at in this way, the meaning of the whole comes clearly into view.

This final section is in reality an appendix to the psalm; in which we have indicated the reference of it to Israel in the tribulation of the latter days predicted as to them. This is, as we know, their spiritual birthtime as a nation; when they come into the new covenant. There is no difficulty, therefore. in the application; and this section is practically. whatever else, an inspired note as to the "times and seasons" to which the psalm relates.

1. The first part is, as already intimated, Israel's vow in their distress, — a vow, not like that of the old covenant, made in self-righteousness at Sinai, the covenant so quickly broken, though the patience of God might long endure with them. Here all is based upon what God is looked to to work for them and in them, so that they may step into their predestined place, and be the witnesses of His grace and salvation to the ends of the earth. They promise no legal obedience, but only to declare this; which prophecy has of old assured us that they will do. All this, therefore, is quite accordant with a new covenant blessing.

Their cry goes up to Jehovah for light to break out from His word for them: no true knowledge could there be but through the Word, by which they are quickened also that they may have it. They plead the promise also of deliverance; and when delivered and taught His statutes, their lips shall pour forth praise. So, indeed, they shall. The last verse here implies, I think, their testimony to the nations, and that is what its numerical place points out. Their tongue shall speak aloud of God's saying, and the world shall hear it.

2. The second part gives their plea for God's salvation. This is, first, that they have chosen Jehovah's precepts: a plea already allowed in Deut. 30:1-3. The second is their longing for His salvation. They are not ignorant of their need, and they seek no more to other saviours. The third is the praise that shall result: and God acts for the glory of His own great Name: being in this most gracious. That Jehovah would dwell among the praises of His people was a joy in the heart of the dying Saviour, and what that precious death was designed to accomplish (Ps. 22:3, notes). Lastly, they put before God the misery which wrought in the heart of the Good Shepherd, according to His own appealing picture (Luke 15): gone astray like a lost sheep, they ask Him the Shepherd to seek them out, already touched by the grace which has wrought in them to put into their hearts that desire for His commandments in which they come back to their first plea in which the promise in Deuteronomy applies plainly to them.

Here their plea ends; and in the "songs of degrees" which directly follow,we shall find the divine answer to it.

Subdivision 3. (Ps. 120 — 136.)

The full blessing realized.

We have now reached the so-called "songs and degrees," a clearly defined series of fifteen psalms, which, with two thanksgiving psalms appended,forms the third subdivision of the Fifth Book. These songs of degrees are rather "songs of the ascents," which we are surely right in interpreting in the first place by reference to those ascents of the tribes thrice a year to the feasts at Jerusalem; which are spoken of in the third psalm of this very series (Ps. 122:4). But this only furnishes a clue to the inner meaning, this repeated call to the city of God being in view of those "set times" of Lev. 23 which speak of those gracious acts of God toward His people which for all eternity will call them round Himself in praise. The "ascents" are, therefore, above all else, ascents of the heart to Him because of His grace, and this is in fact what these songs are — a recounting in a fivefold series the Divine ways toward Israel, by which their blessing has been accomplished, and for which their hearts will endlessly praise Him. With this the "climbing" movement of the psalms themselves, which Delitzsch adduces, after Gesenius, is in intimate sympathy, — a feature which only shows how perfectly the form of these inspired songs is moulded by their spirit, while it by no means allows us to degrade them as their materialistic interpretation would, by making the form the whole thing.

Section 1. (Ps. 120 — 134.)

In God's sovereign grace.

These fifteen psalms are thus in fact five threes, a little pentateuch of song, answering to the larger pentateuch of the Psalms as a whole. Each three has its own distinct theme of praise, and each three is a distinct "ascent" also in its subject-matter, — in some sense, as the numerical signature might imply, a resurrection.

All through they are divine acts that are celebrated, and acts of sovereign grace, though man may be used, more or less, in their accomplishment. In the first three, as in the beginning of the 107th psalm, the trial of the wilderness is exchanged for the "city of habitation." In the second, the deliverance is from enemies that had well-nigh accomplished their destruction. The third is more generals but above all celebrates Jehovah as the One worker of all their blessing. The fourth shows the good work that all their trial has wrought in their souls. While the fifth shows finally God with them; and their Melchizedek, the King-Priest through whom it is accomplished for them, and man's heart turned to God finds a full answer in blessing out of Zion, the place of God's eternal rest among them.

Subsection 1. (Ps. 120 — 122.)

Faithful to promise.

We come now to fuller detail. And here the first subsection introduces us, according to the usual manner of Scripture, to what is to be developed further in those to come. The heading here is therefore necessarily a general one. Israel's promises are seen to be made good to her, after the long sojourn in Meshech and among the enemies of peace. Even there Jehovah has been their Keeper; and soon the restored city opens its gates to receive them, crowned with the glorious dwelling-place of God Himself; while the tribes, resettled in the land, renew their ascents to gather round Him. This is the full picture of their blessing, one may say; with one feature, however, of central importance, only suggested and not entered upon; that which the closing series of the five develops. The fifth, returning to the first, makes the circle of blessing complete.

Psalm 120.

Solitary!

A song of the ascents.

{Verse 3: Or, "will he give," "will he add . . . O deceitful tongue?"}

No mere historical view of the origin of these psalms can unite them together in an intelligible manner. Nothing will do it except the realization that they give us various lines of connection between the history of Israel in their distress as nationally away from God, and that prophetic future which we find so clearly announced for them in the pages of the Old Testament. The partial return from Babylon cannot fill out the picture here, — can give nothing but a faint and transient anticipation of it. Here is where commentators go astray so largely as to the Psalms; trying to satisfy themselves with theories of their origin in the past, with which Scripture itself, it is plain; so little concerns itself, and which are mere, if not wild, conjectures; while, as given by men led of the Holy Ghost, their meaning is to be sought in connection with those counsels of God as to Israel and the world, with regard to which all their voices come into harmony, and adjust and explain each other. In these "songs of the ascents" especially, the history is so generalized that it would be difficult, indeed, to fix its connections. Who can tell us about the "sojourning in Meshech," or the "dwelling in the tents of Kedar"? Accordingly Delitzsch, with many others, decides that "both these names of peoples are to be understood emblematically." And elsewhere we have really nothing to furnish a clue at all. Yet, read in connection; there is no real difficulty as to the purport of these psalms. Had not the often unanswerable "how?" come so largely to displace the all-important "why?" in the minds of the professed interpreters of Scripture, they would not have been in the confusion that they are today. The "how" may be largely human: the "why" is divine. And where God is, we shall find Him more accessible than man is, as He is how much more worthy of being sought to, and the knowledge thus obtained infinitely more gainful.

The 120th psalm is almost all distress. The main point of cheer in it is what comes first of all, that "in my strait to Jehovah I call, and He answereth me." This the psalmist realizes, although the great deliverance that he seeks for has not come. God does not always cash His notes at sight; but if not, He pays large interest on them. "The lying lip" and the "deceitful tongue" are the subject of his first complaint, whether this be some special deceiver, or more general. The third verse may be understood in two very different ways; and most would read it with the common version; as an address to the "tongue," — the deceiver. In this case the question will be as to the judgment of God, and the fourth verse will announce the judgment. The numerical structure seems to decide for another interpretation; in which the question "what does this deceitful tongue give to thee?" is answered by experience. In this case, the transition is better seen also, to the war spirit of the close of the psalm: "Sharp arrows of the mighty" remind us of the similar "sharp razor" of the "mighty one" in the fifty-second psalm, who is addressed also as a "deceitful tongue." And "coals of broom" do not seem so suitable an image for divine judgment as for human fury breaking out. This naturally leads on to the psalmist's lament over his sojourn in Meshech and in the tents of Kedar, nomads, very likely to suggest the "sharp arrows" he has spoken of; and whose trade as Ishmaelites was depredation and war.

The names are, as already said, "emblematic": "My soul has long dwelt with him that hateth peace"; that is the moral of it. "I am peace," — a man characterized by that; but to speak it only rouses the opposition: "when I speak, they are for war." This is what the world is: and this is what it showed itself to be when the Prince of peace came into it. Thus it was that He, over whom; as born into it, the angels proclaimed peace, in His own clear knowledge of the immediate result, proclaimed "not peace, but a sword." He could indeed say "I am peace," — the very incarnation of it. What did His humanity mean but "peace: good pleasure in man"? Yet His rejection was written upon the cross in every typical human language.

Israel were not then, and have not since been; the "sons of peace," such as the Lord sent His disciples out to seek. And we must look on to the latter days to find them as depicted here. The remnant,then,will indeed be "like sheep in the midst of wolves"; the essential opposition between Christ's people and the world will have sharpened into its acutest form; and it is simple enough that this first psalm here should give it expression.

Psalm 121.

The Preserver.

A song of the ascents.

But the next psalm shows itself to be indeed "a song of ascents." Although not the full blessing,which the psalm following is to bring, yet the soul has found its help and its Preserver, — found it where alone help is, in the living God.

The first part of the first verse is not, as some would make it, a question. For an Israelite the presence of God naturally connects itself with Zion; the place of His rest, but where as yet He is not found. The psalmist looks there, but as yet only questioningly. But not questionable, nevertheless, is the source of his help: it is found in Him whose is not merely Zion; but heaven and earth. His refuge is in His unslumbering care, keeping the feet of him who is still a pilgrim. He is Israel's Keeper: so faith, even from afar off, claims Him; — Jehovah, the faithful covenant-keeping God. The Pillar of Cloud by day again appears in the shade upon the right hand which forbids the scorching sun of the desert to smite the people of God, or the moon by night: (for the moon can affect both eyes and brain). But this is only an illustration of wider and perfect protection: Jehovah shall keep thee from all evil: He shall keep thy soul."

The last verse answers, in its number attached, to what is expressed definitely in it: "Jehovah shall keep thy going out and coming in; from henceforth even for ever." Eternity shall have its blessed activities, realized in as blessed dependence on the unfailing God.

Psalm 122.

The restored House and the City!

A song of the ascents: of David.

The next psalm brings in the full blessing. In view of the 132nd psalm; it is quite natural that it should be a psalm of David: against which it is vain to appeal to the fifth verse, unless it is quite plain that not only was David no prophet, but that he did not even believe the prophecy as to his house.

The psalm shows us the end of the pilgrimage in the restored city and temple of the glorious days to come. The worse than lone man of the first psalm finds himself here surrounded with companions, who are in complete sympathy also with his own delight in what is the glorious city's crown of blessing, the dwelling-place of Jehovah in her midst.

1. Jerusalem is now the uniting centre for Israel: in fact, (though this does not appear in the psalm,) of the whole earth. The basis of unity the first verse expresses, the power over the soul of Jehovah's house. Our Jerusalem has indeed no temple, but only because God is there in a more perfect way. But how glad will they be when it is said to them; "Let us go into the house of Jehovah"! It is now for them no more a matter of faith: it is one of sight: "standing are our feet within thy gates, Jerusalem."

It is a resurrection; indeed, this city compacted together: all firmly united because held by that divine attraction which the first verse expresses. No other bond can unite like this, and none else be like this — eternal.

Now we see the nation united with it, the tribes going up on their pilgrimages when in the land, — happy substitution for the toil of the wilderness itself, now ended. Thus the blessing is now complete for them: I do not, of course, mean told out completely, but we realize that they are in it.

2. The city thus reviewed is now lifted into the supremacy which belongs to it: "for there are set thrones of judgment, — thrones for the house of David." Christ has His place here, as we know, though we must go to other scriptures to learn that it is so. "Thrones," in the plural. and for the house of David," imply, apparently, the vice-royalty of the simply human "prince" of that line, with whom Ezekiel makes us acquainted (ch. 46 throughout). Of the reign of the heavenly saints with Christ, with which some would connect it, it cannot possibly speak.

The thrones are "for judgment," — no mere regal state: for righteousness is to be maintained upon the earth; and men are bidden now to welcome and be subject to this new sovereignty. As was said to Abraham, "blessed shall he be who blesseth thee," so now is it here: "they shall prosper that love thee." To love righteousness is to be righteous; and here is a kingdom of righteousness in which every sufferer for and every hater of wrong may rejoice together. The peace of Jerusalem means the welfare of men and the blessing of God. There is a human ground for such a prayer as is here offered: brethren and companions in divine things whose prosperity it means; and there is a divine-human ground, that dwelling of God with man which the house of God implies. Oh for the days to come in which all this shall be revealed! And yet this is only the type and shadow of better things above.

Thus the first series is clearly ended, and to begin another we go back in time.

Subsection 2. (Ps. 123 — 125.)

Deliverance from enemies.

The next series shows us Israel's deliverance from her enemies; and it is so transparently plain as to need little comment.

Psalm 123.

God only sufficient.

A song of the ascents.

The first psalm here, as in the former one, is only the distress, which yet has not gone as far as it will go. Jehovah is the one resource; and as dwelling in the heavens, not in Zion. But these eyes that turn to heaven are servants' eyes: the spirit of obedience is in their hearts; and along with this the conscious need of grace. The pride of man is here the trial, as before his deceitfulness and spirit of strife. But the latter blazes out again in the next psalm.

Psalm 124.

The deliverance.

A song of the ascents: of David.

The deliverance is here already come, and it is an escape out of the extremest peril. They are conscious that only Jehovah could have accomplished it: else they would have been overwhelmed, as they nearly had been. Deceit had been at work too, as wherever our enemy is concerned it will be: there was a snare, which is now broken. Jehovah's Name — all that He is — is, however, engaged for them; as it is for all His people. He has pledged it to us. How peaceful, then; at all times, should our confidence be!

Psalm 125.

Compassed round.

A song of the ascents.

The third psalm goes beyond this to the fully realized result. Mount Zion is again in view, but only as a symbol of the immovable security of all that trust in Jehovah. The mountains stand around her; and so Jehovah Himself is for ever round about His people. And this in holiness: He would not allow the rod of wickedness to rest on the lot of the righteous, lest their feebleness give way before this prosperous iniquity, to follow the path of its success.

Nay, let Jehovah do good unto the good, — not faultless, but through grace upright in the heart. For the rest, the perverters of their ways, He will surely give them their place among the workers of vanity, — all their subtlety shown only to be that, — and this for Israel's peace as delivered from them.

Subsection 3. (Ps. 126 — 128.)

Jehovah displaying Himself for His people.

The third series, while it speaks uniformly of blessing, and exalts Jehovah as the gracious Source of all, shows no less how far below the New Testament standpoint we are here, necessarily. The blessing is earthly, not heavenly nay, in things purely "natural," as we say; that is, pertaining to the sphere of the first creation. It does not reach to the eternal state, even of the earth; and the Old Testament as a whole has but the promise of the "new earth," no open manifestation of its blessedness. The psalms are, here again, all of remarkably simple character.

Psalm 126.

The grace and faithfulness of His ways.

A song of the ascents.

Zion's captivity is turned, and God's wonderful grace to Israel seems yet almost too great to be believed. Yet it is real; and all the world is speaking of it. The nations have learned to speak of Jehovah, and of the great things He has done; and their hearts echo this with gladness: Jehovah has done great things indeed.

The fourth verse prays for the full accomplishment — probably the entire return now of their scattered tribes, so that the land may receive again the streams of her population; as the dry channels of the south receive in due time the fresh and abundant water. Those dry beds speak of Israel in her time of drought, when her only rain was the tears with which she bedewed the earth; and God has to appoint to His people, because of what they are, such seasons of disciplinary sorrow. Yet not of themselves will these be fruitful. Fruit can only come from the seed which, thrown into the furrows, has in it the new life which is to reward the sower's toil. And Israel will have had these patient sowers, the "wise," of Daniel's prophecy, who shall "turn many to righteousness," and whose sheaves shall be brought in with harvest-songs.

So will the grace of God's ways be manifest, as well as His faithful dealing with His own. In this sense also does it reign through righteousness.

Psalm 127.

The necessary dependence of all upon Jehovah.

A song of the ascents: of Solomon.

Thus all comes from Jehovah, and He is seen to be the sole dependence of all His creatures. It is from this that man departed in Eden; to set up in independence for himself. If he is brought back, then; it must be to this; and this is what we find in the hundred and twenty-seventh psalm. Jehovah alone is sufficient: except He build the house, the builders toil on it in vain; except He keep the city, the keeper vainly is awake. And then follows the emphatic rebuke of that anxious toil on man's part, early and late, eating the bread of drudgery, while God gives to those beloved of Him in a way so different: they lie down and sleep, and are supplied!

So with the blessing of children: they are an inheritance from Jehovah, and a reward; a portion like Abraham's, a defence in the day of trial, and of false accusation.* This last part of the psalm leads on to the one following.

{*The gate of the city was the place of judgment.}

Psalm 128.

The portion of the man that fears Jehovah.

A song of the ascents.

We have here the portion of him who fears Jehovah, but with only a hint of higher blessings than the natural. One might think it patriarchal life restored, but for Jerusalem and Zion. The six verses here give us, I think, an intimation that after all, this is not the full blessing. It scarcely needs comment.

It is the happiness of the obedient man. He subsists on his own labor — does not yield it to another. Wife and children are the adornments of his house; and now there is no thought of enemies in the gate. The fourth verse appeals to experience for the proof of the blessing; there being no more the mysteries that perplex us now.

In the fifth, the blessing is from Jehovah out of Zion; and Jerusalem is in continual prosperity. Such are the days to which we have here reached: a state of things which the sixth verse only emphasizes in children's children seen following one another in progressive generations, and still with "peace upon Israel."

Subsection 4. (Ps. 129 — 131.)

The lessons of experience.

The fourth subsection drops apparently below this; only, in fact, to secure a deeper blessing. We go back once more from the summer days which the last series pictured. to learn from sorrow and adversity the lessons of those various changes by which men learn the fear of God (Ps. 55:19).

And for this self must be known; pride humbled, the world seen in divine light, and the soul weaned from all that makes it up. That is what is found in the present series. Psalm 129 first shows us the overruling hand of God in sorrow and evil. Then the hundred and thirtieth shows us sin discovered, and its remedy by one that cries out of the depths; then the hundred and thirty-first gives the moral result in a weaned soul.

Psalm 129.

An over-ruling Hand.

A song of the ascents.

The first psalm here carries us behind the outward disorder of things, to show us God accomplishing His will through all. He may be acting with the enemies of His people, but He is not Himself an enemy. Israel may look back through the time of her long afflictions, and see how men have inflicted these on her; yet they have never really prevailed. They have not done what they intended; and they have done what they never intended. They have been as plowers plowing on the back, — painful and humiliating work enough; but it means none the less sowing and harvest; and the plow is set aside even before this. He who uses it for good, sets it aside too, to have the good.

So the psalmist prophesies and prays for the destruction of the wicked at the hands of the righteous God. He sees their cords cut asunder, and prays that they may be turned back in shame who hate Zion; and hate thus the purposes of grace with which it is identified. As grass upon the house-tops, withering be fore men think enough of it to pluck it up; which never has a handful for the mower, nor a bosomful for the binder, — so let them be under the ban of God apart from Jehovah's blessing. So indeed must the evil, as evil, find its doom from God.

Psalm 130.

Redemption from sin.

A song of the ascents.

We go on to see what the plowing has effected. We had it in fact in the series of remnant-psalms in the first book of psalms (3 — 7). The troubles of the remnant in the latter days, though at the hand of godless enemies, are used to bring them to realize the sins, which cast them entirely on the mercy of God alone. This is expressed here very similarly, and in words that show more than there that it is the effect of the disciplinary process. The humbled soul has learned to wait on Jehovah, the impatience of self-will set aside, patience having its perfect work; and this leads on to the closing psalm; where the full result in this way is seen.

"Out of the depths" — the extreme of distress, hopeless save to God — the soul cries to Him; the sole possible Helper. It seeks answer to its lowly complaint. It realizes in Him a holiness which, if He should act simply in view of it, no one could stand. But with Him there is forgiveness also; and the mercy that He shows is the very thing that produces in the recipients of it that reverent fear in which lies the beginning of all true wisdom. This makes Him to the soul its one expectancy: it waits in hope on Him. His word sustains and directs this hope, waiting for the Lord more than the anxious watchers for the morning light.

So may Israel wait in hope then. The bounty of His love will justify it. For with Him is plenteous redemption; and He will redeem Israel from all his perversities. The new covenant number fitly closes here the lowly and chastened strain of the psalm.

Psalm 131.

The moral result.

A song of the ascents: of David.

The full moral result is shown in the final one: blessed result it is. All the pride of the heart has been broken down before God. The eyes no more range through the heavens. There are no more ambitious attempts to reason about things too wonderful. He is master of himself, while conscious of the impulses within; which he stills and quiets. Spite of this nature of his which still needs government, he is like a weaned child in the presence of its mother, seeking no more his satisfaction in that in which he formerly sought it. Yea, his soul, the seat of these desires, is beside him its master — mastered himself by the glory of another Presence — like this weaned child.

When this condition is indeed attained, what hope in God then comes to animate the heart of the saint! Israel, thus in true peace with God may hope now in Jehovah, the faithful covenant-God, from henceforth, even for ever.

Subsection 5. (Ps. 132 — 134.)

Immanuel.

The last triad of these songs of ascent is indeed a fitting close to them. As a fifth series, God and man are found together in it now in full reality; and through the historical veil there shines yet plainly the figure of Immanuel Himself. David and Aaron; the king and the priest, are fully recognized types of Christ in these official characters; while together they spell for us the Name of our Melchizedek, whose work appears in the final psalm. Here the "ascents" end in a glorious and eternal resting-place, beyond which there can be none, — no higher point reached. Of course, as to the blessing implied, Israel's is upon an earthly platform, as ours upon a heavenly. This we scarcely need continually to be reminded of: and the application to ourselves is scarcely the more difficult on account of this.

Psalm 132.

Zion and the King.

A song of the ascents.

Zion and the king, and the relation between these two are the subject of the first psalm of this closing series. Zion is here the seat of two Kingdoms, a heavenly and an earthly one, which now come into an absolute agreement never again to be disturbed. The books of the Kings give us the long history of past discord. The present psalm inaugurates the new peace brought in by the Prince of peace; and founded upon the work by which He has made peace.

The work itself is not here, but the King is, and His zeal for Jehovah's house — His dwelling-place among men, — which has found the means of accomplishment, at His own cost, of eternal purposes. It will be best to let the psalm speak for itself with regard to such things, as it does in its own perfect way.

It is not directly said to be a psalm of David; but this seems to be most naturally indicated; and the tenth verse, which is generally considered to be against this, is in fact the most decisive argument in its favor, and that just because, interpreted, as is commonly done, it creates," as Moll says, "the impression, not of a Messianic, but of an historical reference, and of having been spoken by a theocratic king. . . . The suppliant styles himself the anointed of Jehovah, yet prays for an answer 'for the sake of David thy servant.'" Typically, we shall indeed be troubled to know how to account for this king who prays for the sake of David, except David and the king are one! And then David is the petitioner also. That he speaks of himself in the third person is no difficulty, but quite according to his utterances elsewhere (2 Sam. 7:20, 26).

1. The first section gives us the foundation of God's covenant with Him; his own intense longing for Jehovah's dwelling-place among men; which was, however, only the mere faint reflection of what it points to in the true "Beloved." All His trouble sprang but out of this; the zeal of God's house was that which consumed the Blessed Sufferer Himself. This, therefore, is a plea which the Eternal cannot possibly forget.

The vow of service follows to the "Mighty One of Jacob," easily realized by us as the God of omnipotent grace. To the purposes of divine grace, in which He is glorified, and in fulfillment of which it is that His dwelling-place is found among men; the "Man Christ Jesus" absolutely devoted Himself. Here was the One who would take no rest, whom no natural weakness would divert from His one object — "a place for Jehovah: tabernacles" — the twofold sanctuary, for us by the rending of the veil made one — "for the Mighty One of Jacob."

This is indeed what Immanuel — that Name of His which is grounded in the mystery of His wondrous Person — keeps ever before us. "God with man" is what is the innermost thought of the Mediator, what mediation means. The form in which it is here expressed is, of course, Jewish; but it embodies an infinite blessing, which it takes the full Christian gospel and the Book of Revelation together to bring out as we know it now. Eternity alone will give to us its priceless value.

2. Israel's estrangement from God is now brought before us: a fact of history with a prophetic significance. The ark was the essential feature of the tabernacle. It was the ark of the covenant, — the throne of Jehovah in Israel, upon the mercy-seat of which, once every year, the blood of atonement was sprinkled, in order that the sanctuary might be able to abide in the midst of Israel. When the ark, therefore, went into captivity in the Philistines, land, "Ichabod" was written upon the people. The link between God and the people had ceased to be by the priesthood. God indeed maintained one by the prophet He had raised up for the emergency; but this did not restore the priesthood, nor therefore the ark: it was a sign; rather, of its being in abeyance. And thus, though it speedily returned from among the Philistines, it did not return to its former place in Israel; and David himself speaks of it as not sought unto, all the days of Saul (1 Chr. 13:3). The words of the psalm here show how far it had dropped out of Israel's thoughts. "We heard of it at Ephratah;* we found it" — where? "in the fields of the wood." The last word is "Jaar," and there is no need for doubt that it refers to Kirjath Jearim; the "city of the woods." But this style of speech clearly emphasizes it as a place of obscurity and retirement. The city has disappeared, as it were, from view, and only the "woods" are left.

{* Ephratah seems to be certainly not Bethlehem, — which would answer neither to the conditions nor the history, — but the district in which Kirjath Jearim was situated, Caleb-ephratah (1 Chr. 2:24), named from Caleb's wife Ephratah,whose son Shobal was the "father of Kirjath-jearim" (ver. 50). This was the view of Delitzsch and Hitzig.}

But now the call to return is heard: "let us go unto His tabernacles; let us worship at His footstool." The abrupt, impulsive character of the address is quite in keeping. The heart is now awake, and realizing its ungrateful neglect of Him who is thus in grace come down to man.

3. Now the house is got ready for its divine Inhabitant. He is besought to come in; and after all changes to find here his rest: "Arise, Jehovah, into Thy resting-place, Thou and the ark of Thy strength." Here is His throne, and the priestly service must be connected with it, if it is to be a throne of grace. The priesthood of the past failed through the iniquity which characterized it: now may Jehovah provide Himself priests that shall be clothed with righteousness; and let pious ones, instead of wailing "Ichabod," shout for joy. The plea with which the psalm began is again urged: "For thy servant David's sake, turn not away the face of Thine Anointed."

The plea is, I think, here a double one, and complete in its two members. Christ in His Person and work are represented in "David" and Jehovah's "Anointed." But instead of the actual work being named, it is rather His own appointment to it and the testimony given of His delight in that appointment, that Jehovah is besought to remember. He had made no mistake. It was the Christ, His Christ, who invited Him to enter into the house made ready for Him; in the fulfillment of His own purposes of unfailing grace.

4. Jehovah's answer commences in the fourth section; but here we are called to distinguish, as connected with the typical character of the announcement, that which was but the type and therefore imperfect and transient, from that which belonged to this eternal purpose. We see in the end of Samuel (2 Sam. 23:5, notes) how David there would have us distinguish. Here there is the same separation: the fourth section gives us the conditional promise, in connection; however, with that which is not so; while the fifth section speaks only of the unconditional.

The unconditional purpose is first of all shown as the basis of the conditional. But here David is, however, simply the historical person: "Jehovah hath sworn unto David in truth; He will not turn from it: Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne." Here, plainly, is something more than Solomon. David is to have a throne upon which a Son of his shall sit unchangingly. Christ is not named, but can alone be this "Son of David," — not David, but his Son.

In contrast with this we have then the conditional promise: "If thy children keep My covenant, and My testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne for aye." Here is what explains the long history of failure. The promise, like that as to Abraham's seed, has its two different — and in some sense contrasted — applications. The fulfillment seems fitful and uncertain until the eye rests on Christ; and then, through Him at last, even that on the lower plane is finally secured.

5. But then we pass from that which is conditional to sovereign purpose; and here, though the fulfillment may be delayed, there is nothing but absolute assurance. We can see, too, that it is the real and full answer to the prayer of the first part of the psalm. In this again Christ is the antitypical David, and the blessing is eternal.

Again we see that God's everlasting purpose alone explains all the rest: —

"For Jehovah hath chosen Zion: He hath desired it for a habitation for Himself. This is My resting-place for aye: here will I dwell, for I have desired it." Here we see, indeed, how God rests in His love, — because His heart is satisfied.

Here He pours out His heart, therefore: "I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her needy ones with bread." While grace more than answers the desire for its tender ministrations: "I will also clothe her priests with salvation," — a security greater than that of any personal righteousness of man; "and her pious ones" — not holy ones, as separate from evil, but godly rather, as with heart for God — "shall shout" — aye, shall shout aloud for joy."

And here, in the everlasting city, the horn of David's power shall bud forth at last, without any check or intermittence. "I will set in order a lamp for Mine Anointed." Now there is final triumph: "His enemies will I clothe with shame; but upon Himself shall His crown flourish."

Psalm 133.

The Priestly Mediator's service.

A song of the ascents: of David.

Zion, then, has her glorious King, and the divine dwelling-place is in her midst. The priestly service is established, but we have not yet caught sight of the High Priest Himself. Now we are to do so: how fatal a defect would it be, if He did not appear. For all the lesser priests without Him are of no value. They hold but a derived office. And on the great day of atonement all other priests must needs retire to make way for Him.

Moreover, the King alone, as such, will not suffice to bring in blessing for man. Melchizedek may bless Abraham; but only as priest of the Most High God can do so.

The King may indeed build the house of God, as we have seen; but only the Priest can furnish it. Nay, only his work can lay the foundation either. Where in answer to the sweet savor of accepted sacrifice the angel of destruction puts his sword into its sheath again, there David says is to be the house of God (1 Chr. 22:1). The same thing is suggested in the beginning of the last psalm; where David's trouble is what is to be remembered to him. In the present one we have, on the other hand, the Priest, but no sacrificial work. It is plain that we have to follow out the suggestions contained in each with the aid of knowledge derived from elsewhere.

Israel are now presenting the lovely spectacle of a brotherhood in unity among themselves. It is a spiritual unity, too, that characterizes them; as is evident by the similitude employed, which is not merely such, but a true type. This anointing of Aaron, which was without blood, was the testimony of God's delight in Christ in the descent of the Holy Ghost upon Him for His official work, — the justification of the divine delight in man as seen in Him. Thus from Him it flows to others, although not in their case without blood. The connection of the Priestly Mediator with the pouring out of the Spirit from on high (Isa. 32:15) on Israel is plainly what is emphasized in this.

The dew of Hermon is a different figure. Like a "great white throne" seen through a large part of the land, and from which the river of death runs down to the salt sea of judgment, Hermon speaks, as we have seen elsewhere, of the ban upon evil (Ps. 42:6, notes). Upon the execution of this depends all the blessing of Israel; and the "dew of Hermon," apart from the consideration of natural causes, though not without their operation, might easily be believed to be as abundant and refreshing as in fact it is. The spiritual dew of Hermon is now descending on the mountains of Zion; purged as they are from all the evil of the past, and consecrated to God for ever: for there hath Jehovah commanded the blessing, even life for evermore."

Hence we see what brotherhood in Israel is, from henceforth. It is in the new life to which men must be born again; that they may enter the kingdom. Israel has become a nation such as never was before, — a people all holy (Isa. 4:3). The new covenant is now their abiding security.

Psalm 134.

In the Sanctuary.

A song of the ascents.

The last song of ascents shows us Israel in the sanctuary, the night bringing no cessation of constant praise, the praise of a dependent people, rich with the blessing of Jehovah their God. This is, in brief, its three portions.

Here the work of the true Melchizedek is seen; the One who as Man leads out

His people's heart in a praise in which He is foremost. While as God, the Representative of God, He can pronounce and bring in the blessing. This is Immanuel and Melchizedek in one; and that is the end here. Everything is in His hand who is the Father of eternity, the Maker and Upholder of the new creation. And here the last "ascent" is fully reached.

Section 2. (Ps. 135, 136.)

The testimony of history confirmed.

The two psalms that follow are evidently a supplementary section; in which Israel's witness to God is given; the acknowledgment which shall at last be made to Him as to His ways of perfect faithfulness and wisdom all through His dealings with them. There is a peculiarity in these psalms which this accounts for, that they both take up mainly the deliverance from Egypt and their being brought into the land His latter-day mercies to them only being brought in at the end, as if the completion of this, which no doubt is the truth. All their history between has been but an interruption of the blessing then ready to come, which their unbelief put away from them for the many generations that have intervened. Then; at last, that old Egyptian deliverance will be. as it were, repeated in a still more wondrous way: the broken-off history will be taken up again and completed, and thus its meaning will be at last fully shown.

Psalm 135.

The summons to render it.

The first of these psalms is the summons to celebrate this, to which the second is the response. In this recalling of their old history there are doubtless abundant lessons which we carelessly overlook, just because we are so familiar with it; and here the numerals ought to afford signal help, only that here also we are but too dull, though for an opposite reason.

1. We have first the exhortation to praise Jehovah as the Sovereign Lord and Disposer of all, and who has been pleased in this way to take up Jacob for Himself, — not surely for good in Jacob. He who has done so is Lord above all gods, with which His people have, alas, so constantly compared Him, — inconceivably great unto those so infinitely little. But Jehovah has done, spite of all opposition, just what He pleased in heaven and in earth. Vapor, and rain; and lightning, and wind — all the apparatus of storm are in His hand, and made to serve His beneficent purposes.

2. The psalmist then recalls His ways as the Deliverer of His people in Egypt, and right on into the land. The smiting of the first-born was the blow that struck off their shackles from them; though part only of a succession of signs and wonders in which He had displayed Himself for their deliverance. In the land given them for an inheritance also He smote many nations and mighty kings, and gave their land unto His people.

3. Briefly as all this is spoken of, a briefer section still speaks of His return now to the fulfillment of His purposes of love then intimated, now for so long seeming to be set altogether aside. Yet the words of Moses, song quoted (ver.14) show that all this had been anticipated before ever the land was entered. And this would be His remembrance for all generations that Jehovah had taken up again the cause of His people, to judge it in all its reality, not passing over the evil, and yet repenting for those now returned to be His servants.

4. Here again, therefore, and in language which is almost identical with that of the 115th psalm; the rebuke of the senseless idolatry which degraded its followers to its own level. Compare the notes upon the former psalm.

5. Israel are exhorted to go on with their own covenant-God, alone worthy of all blessing and praise, and now with them in His fixed abode in Zion. The first two verses of this last section correspond essentially also with the exhortation of the 115th psalm but here the house of Levi is added to the house of Aaron; though structurally joined with those "that fear Jehovah." I am unable to assign a reason for this, and so for the numerical significance of these two verses.

Psalm 136.

The confirmation.

The answer is now given to this call to bear witness, and the ground traveled over in the former psalm is gone over here again, but in short sentences to every one of which the celebration of Jehovah's loving-kindness in what is spoken of is attached. Be it creation; be it redemption; judgment on their enemies,or mercy to themselves, this seal is set upon all His work, that Jehovah's loving-kindness has been working in it. And indeed in all His acts all that He is must act: if He be good, as God is, He must be good in everything He does.

1. First of all He is Jehovah, the Unchangeable, the covenant-God God of gods, the alone Supreme, and Lord of lords, — exhibiting now this supremacy.

2. Then He is spoken of in His works of wisdom, the One who alone doeth great wonders. His creative work — as given in the second, third, and fourth verses — evidently corresponds to that of the second, third, and fourth of the six days. The second speaks of the firmament of the heavens, therefore, the separation of the waters from the waters. The third, of the bringing up of the dry land from under the waters, by which man's abode was formed for him. The fourth, of the luminaries, which condition, by the changing seasons which they occasion; all the activities of his practical life.* But this the psalmist cannot pass so briefly, but must expand it in the two following verses. In the fifth place, the sun, as ruler in the day, is really the physical governor of man's earth, and so of man: among material things the fullest representative of that goodness of God which wakes up all Nature in response, to minister to him. The moon; on the other hand, is but, as it were, a delegate of the sun; and can only imperfectly reflect his rays so as to limit the darkness. All this has abundance of teaching for us, and should help to make Nature, what God would have it for us, a great open lesson-book. But we have not space to dwell upon it here.**

{*See Appendix 3, on the Numerals, at the end of the volume.

** See, for more remarks on this, Appendix 3, on the Creative Days.}

3. The psalmist turns now to speak of God's manifestations of Himself for His peculiar people; and as in the previous psalm; but in more detail, speaks first of His wonders in Egypt. First, the smiting of the first-born, smiting off their fetters. Then what was the direct consequence, their being brought out; the outstretched arm which manifested Him to all in this; the Sea yielding to His hand, and Himself bringing the people through; the victory over Pharaoh and all his host. The brief notice of the wilderness rounds off this section, completing, as it were, the deliverance in Egypt.

4. We now come to the land, in which the nations, dispossessed because of their sin, have now to yield to Israel their inheritance. The six verses here seem to be plainly three couplets: the first dwelling upon the power of those who are made to yield; the second specifies the twin Amorite kingdoms that opposed themselves at the threshold of their inheritance; the third speaks of the inheritance itself as made over to them. The language is of the very briefest. What seems possible in the way of spiritual application has been elsewhere dwelt upon; but here it is Israel's song of praise, and doubtless for them these old histories may have new light shed upon them by their latter-day experiences.

5. The psalm closes with God's remembrance of their low estate, and their new deliverance in the time to which the Psalms as a whole so constantly point forward. The third verse abruptly widens out to the acknowledgment of the full satisfaction for all flesh which the Lord of all has provided, and which may be surely applied in the fullest way to every kind of need. With Israel's blessing, we are reminded that the blessing of the whole earth comes in; and the last verse may naturally be taken as the praise of all.

Subdivision 4. (Ps. 137 — 145.)

The testing of man and things, which makes Jehovah all.

After the realization of the blessing in this manner, we come in the fourth subdivision finally to the consideration once again of the vanity of the creature apart from God, as, alas, man has been, — the cause of all his sorrows. Now that he may be blessed, and abide in blessing, he must accept fully the creature-place, which is not a bad but a good and happy one, seeing that his Creator is good. And the voice that affirms this in the last psalm of this series, if it be, as it seems to be, Messiah's (the true "David's) praise" is indeed a conclusive — a glorious — voucher for it. But man must keep this place, then; and thus it is that so earnestly, so perseveringly, the truth, so unwelcome to his pride, must be pressed upon him.

Section 1. (Ps. 137 — 139.)

"Truth, in the inward parts."

Thus we face in the opening psalm that which branded those, hitherto the people of God, as Lo-ammi, "not my people:" the only psalm which speaks openly of Babel. There, in the place of judgment, however, the heart is turned to God, and the deliverance of the lowly — of those truly humbled before God — is found in the very next one. The third shows us now one searched out and manifested to himself in the presence of God, and his heart taught to welcome the searching. Here the holiness of God becomes to him truly a delight, and he would put the ban; not merely upon Edom or Babylon, but upon all in himself that could be found in opposition to him. The first section shows very clearly the character of the whole. It gives the fundamental thought, though there is naturally an advance in those that follow, but only as building upon this foundation. "Truth in the inward parts" is what is very clearly the subject of the section: a blessed thing to know in absolute reality. The lips of unerring truth have said, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God."

Psalm 137.

Zion the one controlling object for the heart of the solitary (as cut off from Jehovah's presence.)

1. In the first psalm, then; here, as already said, we are with the captives in Babylon. The plenteous streams that once enriched with unfailing fertility "the glory of the Chaldee's excellency" are before their eyes only to remind them that they are far from Zion; and to minister to the awful home-sickness of men who realized, as Jews alone could do, what it was to be cut off from the one place of the presence of God. How unutterable the loneliness, amid crowds that might press around them; of such a condition. There then they sat down — all labor a vain labor there! — to weep as their unflagging memories called up before them the image of Zion. Estranged from joy, they hung their harps upon the willows, in resolute denial of the request of those who had carried them captive for "words of song," — mere "words" they would be, without music now, — ` saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion."

2. What could they know — these heathen — of "Jehovah's songs," or the reproach which they would ring with, to the people of God (alas, such no longer) gone as captives into a strange land? In Jerusalem alone could the blood of atonement — and "without shedding of blood is no remission" — be sprinkled upon the golden mercy-seat, that a holy God might dwell among the praises of His people. It was but a waste spot now; yet there with inseparable attachment their hearts lingered. Their right hand might well forget, if Jerusalem were forgotten. The tongue might cleave to the roof of the mouth that exalted not Jerusalem above every other object of joy.

3. There is no mention of their sins, however, in all this, — no confession. It is the desolation of those who are away from the place of Jehovah's manifestation; with the prayer only for judgment upon their enemies, who have destroyed or sympathized with the destruction of the home of their affections, in language from which the Christian naturally shrinks. But Edom and Babylon are both doomed by the prophets to extinction as a people; and to this doom of the latter there is distinct reference made here. Judgment is God's strange work: we may be sure, a necessary one; and the solemn part which God has made His people sometimes take in it, as in the case of the nations of Canaan; has doubtless its deep necessity also. Calamities involve commonly enough babes as well as parents; while, of course, they are but the short and passing evils, which leave the eternity following to make up the balance-sheet.

Psalm 138.

The deliverance of the lowly, magnifying the word of God.

[A psalm] of David.

The second psalm of the series is in such decided contrast with the first that it is somewhat hard to realize the connection; although this contrast is in fact part of the connection. The present psalm is praise all through: the harp is not on the willows, but in the hand; and the praise is not that of Israel only, but (in anticipation; at least) from all the earth. God has fulfilled His word in such a manner as to bring out in full reality the meaning of His Name; and in doing this He has acted as the God of judgment, abasing the proud and exalting the lowly, giving to His people that truth in the inward parts without which the deliverance itself could not be truly that.

This shows, I believe, the connection with the previous psalm,where in Babylon is seen the ruin wrought, and in which they have learned to cry after Jehovah: "Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses." Such is the lesson of the opening psalm of this fifth book: so simple as hardly to be called such, and yet in effect the moral of all man's history — self-caused ruin; the cry after the Father's house only forced out by the famine, and yet the open arms to receive a wanderer home. Thank God, for the soul really awakened to its need, those embracing arms can do a work which nothing else can, and the lost and found becomes by this one brought to life from the dead.

1. The psalmist evidently voices the praise of Israel, now praising with the whole heart. "Before the gods" speaks of those who are called gods as representing God in places of authority, the judges of the earth. They are now called to contemplate and admire the judgments of Jehovah with regard especially to Israel as the great object lesson placed by Him before their eyes. There is once more among His people a temple to His praise. and toward which the eyes of the worshiper are turned, because of the Living Presence connected with it. And His Name has been declared in loving-kindness and in truth; His saying magnified according to all the value of that Name, which the fulfillment of it has now declared.* Nay, in the very day in which His people cried unto Him, He answered, and infused new courage into their drooping souls.

{*This seems to me the meaning of what is here ordinarily rendered "Thou hast magnified Thy word above all Thy Name"; but if God's Name is just the revelation of Himself, it is hard to know in what way we are to take this. The only thing that seems possible to imagine in this case, is, as usually done, that His Name stands here for the revelation of Himself up to this time, which His present action has now transcended. And some would bring in the thought of the Personal Word — Christ — as One who, as Christianity has now declared Him, has indeed transcended all previous manifestations. The truth of this no one would think of disputing: the question can only be of the application of this to what is here. Certainly Christianity does not seem at all to be implied; and "Thy saying," as it literally is, would scarcely seem to convey the thought of the Personal Word. It naturally speaks of the fulfillment of some promise or promises that had been made, and to which now perhaps a deeper meaning had been imparted in their fulfillment. But this hardly seems to suit the connection. For the psalmist has just been saying "I will confess Thy Name, for Thy loving kindness and for Thy truth's sake"; and this is how he illustrates Jehovah's truth: "for Thou hast magnified Thy saying in accordance with all Thy Name": — Thou hast fulfilled it in such a manner as to bring out all that Thy Name implies. The deliverance of Israel is what the psalm speaks of, and Christ does not seem to be mentioned in it.}

Now all the kings of the earth, when they hear the sayings of Jehovah, shall also confess Him; and, weary at last of their own ways, in which they have so long been walking, they shall sing of the ways of Jehovah, that great is His glory. Thus the misrule of the earth shall cease.

2. And now what gives them this apprehension of Jehovah's ways is intimated. The Supreme — seen to be that yet regardeth the humble; while He knoweth the proud too, but afar off. Israel brought out of her low estate, and delivered from the wrath of her enemies, will declare this; perfectly accomplishing that which concerns her. And for this, in the conviction of His eternal loving-kindness, she prays, that He may not forsake the work of His own hands.

Psalm 139.

Manifest in the presence of God, with the moral result of this.

To the chief musician, a psalm of David.

The last verse of the previous psalm, as so often is the case, leads on to the psalm that follows it. We see in this how truly we are the work of God's hands, and the marvelousness of this work; and this naturally leads further to the recognition that we are still in His hands, who made us, and who will not forsake His work. Thus under His eye, searched out in the light of His presence, we yet realize the blessedness of this, and find with Him our sanctuary-refuge from the evil in ourselves as elsewhere.

The psalm has a peculiar and elaborate structure,quite suited to the character of its contents: the regularity of it showing the perfect divine control of material, which belongs to the Creator of all. Its twenty-four verses are divided into four parts, — the number of testing, — each of six verses, the number of discipline and of mastery of evil; while each of these is again divided into three parts of two verses each, the numbers of manifestation and of witness together.

The first section speaks of Jehovah's omniscience simply, as realized by one who is under the awe of it, — a fear which in the second section breaks out into the cry of one who would fain escape to the ends of the earth or into Sheol itself to be free from it, but knows well the impossibility of this. In the third section there is a change, however, and a tender thankfulness comes in with the thought of how in the very womb of his mother this omniscience had been exercised in building up in mysterious secrecy the marvelous structure of the future man. The preciousness of God's thoughts toward him now take possession of him, and that, sleeping or waking, the unslumbering Eye is on him becomes only happiness. In the fourth section he is now with God against the evil manifested in the world, and from that which he fears and hates within himself, the presence of God becomes now his sanctuary-refuge. He invites the searching Eye which once he dreaded. But we must take up the psalm in detail.

1. The first section, as already said, speaks of Jehovah's omniscience; the first two verses, as knowledge simply, though the Light never withdrawn searches all out. But in the next verses, He winnows the path, — an intimation of discriminating judgment which would imply, as result, thorough "acquaintance" or "familiarity" with all the ways. And the words are known altogether, — all that can be known of them. The third subsection speaks not simply of knowledge, but of action: "Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid Thy hand on me." He realizes, as well he may, this knowledge as too wonderful for him, — an unattainable height.

2. In the next section the three smaller divisions are similarly distinguishable. In the first, Spirit and presence are, I suppose,the same essentially, while heaven and hell — Sheol or hades, not Gehenna, — are wide asunder: it is omnipresence simply that is in question. In the next, it is relation to the Omnipresent, and that in dependence: the wings of the dawn and the uttermost parts of the sea convey the thought apparently of the utmost solitude; but "even there shall Thy hand lead me and Thy right hand hold me." In the third, exposure is what he cannot escape: darkness and light are relative only to man; for God there is no difference.

3. In the third section we come to that which is the full expression for the psalmist of that compassing about of man on God's part,which at the same time shows fully the divine interest in him, and thus is the revelation to him of God, so as to bring him to fullness of delight in all His thoughts. As Christians we should not take up the mystery of our formation in the womb to assure ourselves of this; and that he does so shows us sufficiently the difference of the Old Testament standpoint. Christians are naturally, therefore, disposed to find in all this the typical presentation of Christian truths. But however this may do as application, the literal meaning must come first, and be the foundation of all other. It is true that this speaks to us only of the Creator, and leaves the question of sin unbottomed. Yet a soul that has realized redemption can and will come back to God's creative thoughts, with fresh apprehension of the truth that He cannot "forsake the work of His own hands." And the question of sin being here left out, at least makes the whole matter proportionately simple.

"For Thou hast acquired my reins" is the keynote of what follows. "The reins" stand for the very innermost parts; and, according to the Old Testament, the deepest recesses of the mind: there where the fundamental moral questions are entertained and find solution, — the good is received and the evil rejected.* God is the Master here; Lord of the conscience, which continually reminds us of Him and summons before His judgment-seat; and He has acquired this right over us by the fact to which the psalmist now goes on; that He is our Maker: "Thou hast acquired my reins: Thou coveredst" — or, perhaps, "didst interweave me in my mother's womb." Marvelous power it was that was at work there, and not idly, but with purpose and plan. "I will praise Thee, for I am fearfully, wonderfully made: marvelous are Thy works, and that my soul knoweth well."

{*The reins or kidneys, as excretory organs, naturally speak of this and of such symbolism as far as possible from materialism — the Old Testament is full.}

He proceeds to speak of these marvels: of the bony framework upon which the flesh was supported; of the delicate embroidery of vessels and nerves ramifying through it; all this wrought in secret, in underparts of earth," — not the ground, surely, which would scarcely have been true of Adam, — but of that human substance which is but animated dust. He thinks of that wrapped up embryo, and of the sketched out plan; in which each part of that continually progressing organism had, before coming into being, its predestined place.

Surely for us, who know much more of these things than the psalmist, the wonder of them should not be less. To him they were a revelation of God's thoughts toward him, — precious thoughts of divine wisdom and love, which when looked at in the sum; the final outcome of it all, it was great indeed; but if you took them up to look at them in detail, they were numberless as the grains of sand. And still, to the man wakened up out of the unconsciousness of his beginning, as he has been rehearsing it, this same God abides. Could he desire to have Him banished?

4. How awful, then; the condition of the wicked: strangers and enemies to Him who made them; necessarily devoted to death by the very Author of their life. The psalmist is in perfect accord with the divine sentence, and counts the enemies of God as enemies to himself. But he is not unconscious of his own malady; and the sanctity of God's presence is not a refuge merely for him from the wickedness around. He seeks it as a refuge from himself also, and welcomes the light of it, as where sin cannot be hid. Search me," he cries, "O Mighty One,and know my heart; try me, and know my diverse" — literally, "branching" — "thoughts": all those to him perplexing entanglements of thought which God alone could unravel; "and see if there be any grievous way in me," — anything which is grievous to Thee: "and lead me in the way everlasting."

This is "truth in the inward parts" attained then; and God is become the one help and refuge of the soul: first of all, where we must surely begin; for itself. The setting aside of man must begin here in order to be truthful. But it does not end here, as manifestly the need of redemption is not yet recognized, and the world is not seen either in its true character. The experience of this section has room yet to deepen and widen in those that are to come.

Section 2. (Ps. 140 — 142.)

The setting aside of human help.

The second section shows us therefore all other props for the soul displaced, that God may be its one resource. As we have seen in the "songs of ascents," and may see probably in every ternary series, the last psalm shows us (and indeed according to the symbolism of the number) the purport of the section. Here, in the 142nd psalm, all refuge fails but God alone. Turning back from this to the first psalm then (the 140th) we can realize that the point of it is the sufficiency of such a refuge. In the connecting psalm between these, the psalmist proclaims that his refuge is in God, and separates himself from the wicked, who will receive God's judgment. Thus the general purport seems clear enough.

Psalm 140.

Jehovah the sole sufficiency.

To the chief musician, a psalm of David.

The 140th psalm is evidently in another line of thought altogether from that which precedes it. We are again in the midst of men — of the strife going on in the world; and indeed in the trial of the latter days. Compassed with evil, the righteous are driven the more to God as their resource, and encourage themselves in that holiness of His, which must of necessity display itself against the wickedness of their adversaries. It is a very simple psalm in its character, with very little to distinguish it from many others in the book; yet it is needed in its place here, — place having so much to do with the significance of the individual psalms, as we see all through: a principle which applies all through the Word, to every portion of it, and every truth in it. If we would but study the Word with this in view, how God's jewels would shine out in the settings which He has given them; and in how much less danger we should be of getting truth misplaced.

The thirteen verses of the psalm are arranged, as seems usual with this number, in the 4x3 manner of the number 12; but with the additional verse producing an irregularity which here increases the second section to four. This fourth verse is the only one which speaks of positive present experience in the psalm.

1. We have first the plea of righteousness urged by the psalmist in his own behalf, as shown by the insistence all through upon the evil character of the men he fears. He appeals to God to preserve him from the evil and violent man; the men of strife and plotters of mischief; the poison of their tongues manifesting them as the brood of the serpent, the instruments of the malignant power of Satan upon the earth. This evil of the tongue comes up again more than once in the psalm; as well as prominently in many others, and is specially characteristic of the last days, with their development of Antichrist and his "strong delusion." The attack upon the people of God goes naturally along with this.

2. Again the psalmist prays, in almost the same words, for God's deliverance; specifying, however, more particularly now, the devices for his overthrow, the snares hidden in his path. And from this he turns to affirm more emphatically the Mighty One to be his refuge, comforted by the actual experience of how "Jehovah, the Lord, the strength of his salvation," had covered his head in the day of his equipment: that is, with what a helmet God provided him.

3. He brings in now the holiness of God as against the evil. He prays that God will not grant the desire of the wicked, lest it stimulate their pride; but may He give them rather the work of their own lips, the mischief they had been laboriously working at. Let the divine anger manifest itself against them, more and more; which is necessarily the case with those that turn not from the ways that bring it down: burning coals falling are not yet the being cast into the fire; and the deep places from which they rise no more add to it the element of complete hopelessness.

4. The last section appeals to experience, although, I suppose, the experience of the future, to confirm confidence as to Jehovah's ways with saint and sinner. The day of open manifestation is at hand, and the place of the wicked upon the earth shall not be found. The rod of iron will repress at last all open wickedness; and the evil tongue — "the man given to tongue" — along with the evil deed. Words are in fact often deeds, if sometimes we have to put them in opposition to one another.

On the other hand, care for the poor and needy will emphatically characterize the day of the Lord's rule, as we have fully seen (compare especially Ps. 72.) There will be also the manifest glory, as of old, but with transcendent lustre, bathing the restored city in its radiance. That "the upright shall dwell in Thy Presence," the whole earth shall witness.

Psalm 141.

Separation from the workers of iniquity.

A psalm of David.

The second psalm of the series shows us, as already said, the separation of the righteous from the wicked; which is first the act of the righteous himself, and then carried out by the judgment of God. These are, in fact, the two divisions of the psalm. As to the interpretation there are some peculiar difficulties which all expositors have recognized, even the text of the old versions having been apparently affected by them. But the clearness of the general purport is scarcely touched by this.

1. The heart of the solitary, amid the pressure of evil round him, cries out for God. His plea is the very prayer which he is making, which cannot but find response from the prayer-hearing One. May it go up to Him; he asks, as incense, and the lifting up his palms be as an evening-offering.

Then the consciousness of the holiness of the Presence he is seeking makes him think of the mouth with which he is addressing God, and of his own infirmity; and he prays Jehovah to set a guard before it, and to keep the door of his lips, that nothing unseemly may come forth. From outside also may no evil thing be permitted to allure him to evil practices with workers of vanity, nor to partake of their dainties — the "pleasant things" which can still appeal, alas, to the old nature, even of the child of God.

He prefers the very smitings of the righteous, and accepts it as kindness; and their reproof shall be as oil to gladden him (Ps. 45: The rest of the verse is not so easy to connect with this, while it may be rendered in two different ways. If we render "for still also my prayer shall be in their calamities," this can hardly refer to the (hypothetical) righteous ones just spoken of. It would seem but a small thing to say that he would not cease to pray for those whom he counts as doing him but a kindness, and who as righteous would be supposed to have meant it to be such. If we refer it to the calamities of the evil-doers, this seems difficult to connect, and scarcely in the spirit of a psalm like this, which calls rather for judgment. It seems, therefore, as if we should rather render, as I have done, "against their evil-doings." In this case, also, we must go back to the preceding verse to find the reference. He must be speaking of the wicked, to whose wickedness he opposes his prayer; and that is the very thing which, as far as he is concerned, instead of practising them, he has been doing. He simply says now that this will be also his course in future; and this is in full harmony with the acceptance of the reproof of the righteous,which he has just professed. All this shows an exercised heart before God, and completes the picture of the faithful man in his separation of himself from the workers of iniquity, which the first section of the psalm presents.

2. We have now the divine separation between the two, and that by judgment. "Their judges shall be hurled against the sides of the cliff; and they shall hear my words that they are sweet." There is again an abruptness which produces difficulty; but one would naturally say that here God's act was separating between two classes of the evil-doers themselves, their judges being the leaders who were perverting the people, and whose destruction would lead the rest, or many of them; to listen to the testimony of those, from whom they had previously turned away. This would be in keeping with the character of the psalm. But an abrupt change is found again in the next verse,where, as it stands in the Hebrew, the condition of the nation or of the persecuted remnant must be referred to. It is no wonder that some of the ancient versions should have "their bones are scattered at the mouth of Sheol," but it would not be safe to follow a correction so easily inferred and so slenderly supported. We must take it then as a figure, such as in Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones, a picture of life apparently gone, and hope with life, save as faith could count upon the God of resurrection. And so the soul of the righteous turns to Jehovah as its refuge in this extremity, and prays for deliverance from the snare of the wicked. While righteous retribution takes its course with these, may he pass by uninjured.

Psalm 142.

Jehovah the refuge and portion.

Maskil of David: a prayer when he was in the c cave.

In the third psalm here, we have the last Maskil, or psalm of instruction, — a worthy close to the series; for it leaves us with God as the only refuge and rest of the soul, man having failed, not only in power but in heart to help. The psalm is a very short and simple one; wholly a prayer, but closing with confident assurance.

At once the psalmist emphatically states that it is to Jehovah that he cries: before Him he declares his strait, as if there were no other. He can appeal with confidence to One who has known all about him, and in circumstances of deepest distress: his spirit overwhelmed, the enemy's snare hidden for him in the path in which (as is implied) he had walked before Him (compare Ps. 1:6).

Among men he found no helper, none who would own acquaintance with him. Refuge was cut off unless he found it in Jehovah: none beside cared at all. A terrible place to be in; if Jehovah were not His hiding-place! but if He were not, though all arms were stretched out to succor him; how vain would it all be! God — how easily in our insane folly we think to do without Him, who is the one necessity for all His creatures. But such discoveries constitute the grand moments for the soul, when it turns to God as now to be its all: "I cried unto Thee, Jehovah; I said, — Thou art my refuge, my portion, in the land of the living."

Two things which go together, and refuse absolutely to be separated from one another: for He cannot suffice us in the one way, except He suffices us in the other: these are but two aspects of one need into which we are fallen; as fallen away from Him, — shelterless, famine-stricken; because away from the Father's house. To get back there is to find the one need met as surely as the other.

And "in the land of the living"! For death itself invades not the Father's house: "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." And even the way with Him is a "way everlasting"; as the life we already live is "everlasting life." The psalmist could not know these things as we; but thus the truth he spoke was only fuller than he knew.

Thus then he cries to God the one Helper, out of the depth, brought low by enemies too strong for Um, to whom he is left unless God come in. Be must be the Overcomer for him; and thus shut up, though a prisoner of hope, he looks to Him with an expectation brightening into perfect assurance. He sees himself amid a company also of righteous gathered with him by the same grace as himself, to give thanks to the glorious Name of his bountiful Redeemer.

Section 3. (Ps. 143 — 145.)

Raised up out of the depth.

We are now hastening to the end. In the final psalm of this section; we have only praise; the second anticipates the judgment of their enemies at hand; the first puts them upon sure ground in which they can appeal to the righteousness of God on their own behalf. This is, of course, not just as the epistle to the Romans has developed it for us in the gospel; nor is atonement brought in at all in this place. We do approach the apostle, however, negatively, in the confession that none among men can be justified before God in judgment. And the righteousness to which they can appeal therefore, is Jehovah's faithfulness to His covenant and to His Name.

The Name Jehovah was that which He attached to the covenant according to which He delivered His people out of Egypt; and though they chose at Sinai another and a legal one, yet we have seen many times in these psalms how the Spirit of God leads them continually back to that first deliverance. If the people have given up the grace in which He first appeared for them; the Name, the Unchangeable, is the guarantee that His thoughts shall abide; and though for a time they may seem to be set aside by man's self-righteousness, He has made the law itself but the handmaid of the gospel: so far is He from having given it up. Let faith take it up at any time, it shall find it abides; and when Israel take it up, they will find it abiding for them; and the faithfulness and righteousness of God pledged to them in it.

And from hence to the full deliverance and the praise will not be long. From the realization of the impossibility of self-justification before God to justification on God's part, is not even a step; for this is His own act, and He is for us, just as we are, the Justifier of him who worketh not but believeth.

Psalm 143.

The plea of righteousness where Jehovah alone is righteous.

A psalm of David.

This then is the principle of the first psalm here. It is the plea of righteousness in the mouth of faith, which owns that none is righteous except God alone, and which dares to say, in the consciousness of such ill desert, "in Thy faithfulness answer me; in Thy righteousness." This the Cross makes simple for us now. The Old Testament saint could not of course see this, save dimly through the sacrificial shadows: Israel will see it when they look upon the face of Him whom they have pierced.

1. It is still prayer that we have here, until the closing verses. "Jehovah, hear my prayer; give ear unto my supplications: in Thy faithfulness answer me — in Thy righteousness!" And then follows the confession: "And enter not into judgment with Thy servant: for before Thee shall no living man be justified."

2. We have then the plow that God has used with them to bring them into the exercises which in the end will be so fruitful. As in the hundred and forty-first psalm we heard them crying as from the mouth of Sheol, so here the psalmist speaks as one among the dwellers in darkness — even those long dead. But he is not indifferent, but his spirit overwhelmed, and his heart desolate; though he carries with him the remembrance of days of old, when God had manifestly wrought, and for Him his soul cried out as a thirsty land for rain.

3. Here then he takes refuge. There is for him no other hope. Did Jehovah hide His face, he would be like one of those going down to the pit. But as one who trusted in Him; he prayed to see early His loving-kindness, and to learn the way also in which to walk. In Jehovah he hid himself, and sought to be taught the will of Him who was his God. The spirit of faith and of obedience always go together.

4. In the last two verses we have the experience anticipated of Jehovah's intervention. He will act in righteousness — in consistency with His nature and His Name: thus revival and deliverance are confidently looked for. All Israel's enemies will be destroyed, the nation being owned as Jehovah's servant in a sense which never could have been before.

Psalm 144.

The Helper of Israel.

[A psalm] of David.

{Verse 2 'peoples': "Ammim is the reading of ninety-one Hebrew MSS. the Chaldee, Syriac, Arabic and Roman Vulgate and of the parallel passages, Ps. 18:47; 2 Sam. 22:48." (Coleman.)}

"God only" is still the moral of the psalm that follows. He is owned here as the sole Helper of Israel, in language much of which recalls to mind the eighteenth, but with five verses added which give the blessing of Israel now with God, and prepare the way for the praises of that which follows, and which ends the series. Man as before is put in the balance before God, and what is he? The answer is a very different one from that given in the eighth psalm; the stand-point being altogether different.

1. Israel is yet in conflict, but strong in God, and confident of the issue. Jehovah is their Rock and teaches their hands to war and their fingers to fight. He is the real Deliverer in whom they take refuge, and who subdues the peoples under them. Before Jehovah what is man, that He should make account of him? This is, of course, looking at him as the would-be thwarter of God's purposes. Yet he is merely like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.

2. God is besought, therefore, to come down and destroy their enemies, sending from heaven to deliver them from the hand of strangers, men speaking vanity and acting falsehood. Then would they sing a new song to Him; the giver of victory to kings (and not their own might), and rescuing David His servant from the hurtful sword. If this speak typically of any in the latter day, it is suggested by another that "it would be 'the prince' [of Ezekiel 44 — 46]; for there will be a house of David on the earth" at that time (Zech. 13). Messiah is of course the true Head; but the language seems more naturally to refer to a merely human ruler.

3. The psalm ends with describing the portion of Israel as the people of Jehovah, beginning with Jehovah's intervention in power for them: righteously, because of the character of their enemies. This would bring them into the fullness of earthly blessing according to announcements of the law, but of which the law was incompetent to give them possession. "Happy the people in such a case — a people whose God is Jehovah."

Psalm 145.

Messiah's praises.

David's praise.

The concluding psalm of this series is emphatically "David's praise." From its position, and knowing of whom David is the familiar type, we should naturally be led to think of Messiah in it as leading the praises of men, — praising, as He declares He will, in the great congregation (Ps. 22:25). Whose voice but His could fittingly take this place? And accordingly in the psalm itself we find the Speaker distinguishing Himself from the general voice of praise, which, beginning with the "godly" in Israel, extends to the "sons of men" at large (vers. 10, 12). For all eternity this distinction lasts (ver. 21). But what praise will be waked up by this Voice when; free at last from all hindrances on man's part, it shall be heard as it will!

The psalm is the last of the alphabetic psalms, the meaning of which has been again and again pointed out. Everything has come into place and order now, and all man's language is restored from its Babel strife of tongues to unity of mind and purpose. Strange it seems, however, that one letter (Nun) is wanting, and the structure of the psalm acknowledges the deficiency: for, while we might naturally suppose that the twenty-one verses resulting would divide now into three sevens, and thus the stamp of perfection after all be left upon the psalm; in fact it is not so: the structure is 7, 6, 8; the middle section does not reach to 7, though the overpassing of the last one into 8, shows, as the final verse itself does, that the praise here is eternal.

I cannot but conclude that the gap is meant to remind us that in fact the fullness of praise is not complete without other voices which are not found here; and that these missing voices are those of the Church and the heavenly saints in general. Meaning there surely is in it, where everything has meaning. The deficient Nun represents the jubilee number 50, which in one of its factors shows us man with God; this lifted to a higher plane by the multiplication with 10; but I leave this to those with whom nothing in Scripture is fortuitous to consider for themselves.

The three sections celebrate; 1. the power of God; 2. His loving-kindness; 3. His character as the Restorer — as we may say, the God of resurrection.

1. The Voice declares its steadfast purpose to extol God the King, and that for eternity. And this it repeats, emphasizing and confirming it: for has not, alas, experience shown how untrustworthy in general have been men's promises and resolutions? But here is One now who will not fail, who did not fail, when that will of God which He came to do expressed itself in the law of sacrifice. Here He has been thoroughly tested; and now, as He speaks, the government is upon His shoulder, — the full charge of that in which the divine character is to be shown forth: it is His in such a manner to glorify God.

He is worthy to be praised: His greatness is an infinite reality. The generations of men; too, shall declare it. But one tongue can speak aright of the glorious splendor of His majesty, and of His mighty works. They shall tell of the terrible acts by which evil has been dealt with and repressed. He will declare God's greatness. Yet they, too, shall pour forth their memory of His goodness, and sing aloud of His righteousness.

2. The last verse is, as often; a link with the next division; which takes up the loving-kindness of Jehovah. Gracious and compassionate is He, — slow to be moved to anything that seems other than this; the Helper of all, His tender mercies are over all His works. Thus all His works praise Him, and the hearts of His people respond to him in praise: they tell of the glory of His kingdom and His might, making known to the sons of men at large His acts and the majesty of His kingdom. Israel, in fact, will do this: for they, in their marvelous history, will be the suited witnesses of His ways to all the earth.

His kingdom is thus proved to be a kingdom of all ages. Not the millennial age alone, but those in which the power of evil might seem to have prevailed, and in which Satan has been, in fact, the "prince of this world." God has been; all through, the great Overcomer: and what discoveries of His glory in this way yet await us! We shall see how He has prevailed, beyond all our thoughts, in overcoming man's evil with His good.

3. This again introduces the third section; in which we see Him indeed the Overcomer: allowing sin to declare itself and the results to follow, but holding in His hand the power to bring out of them. Thus Jehovah it is, according to the power of that covenant-Name, who is the Upholder of all that fall, and He who raiseth up all that are bowed down. Upon Him wait the eyes of all His creatures, dependent for the food which is to maintain their existence. Thus He provides for the satisfaction and desire of every living thing.

But He is the Moral Governor also of moral beings: righteous and loving-kind. Righteous in all His ways, He can yield also to the necessities and weakness of His creatures. For this He is near to all that call upon Him, — that in truth call on Him. We cannot escape the reminder of the hollowness and insincerity which have so much attached to this. But where there is His fear, there desire is fulfilled; though here, too, the cry is so often out of the evil into which sin has plunged them. But it is under the restraint of His hand, and out of it He saveth. And indeed He preserveth all that love Him; while the wicked meet their necessary doom.

The God of resurrection in all this is but faintly sketched. Not Israel but the Church is the proper witness of this; although, as a principle, it runs through man's history.

The last verse carries the praise on into eternity: Christ still the Leader, and awakening all flesh to bless Jehovah's Name.

Subdivision 5. (Ps. 146 — 150.)

A Summary of Praise.

Five Hallelujah-psalms complete the book. They show us now Jehovah enthroned amid the praise of His creatures, the heavens being brought in as well as the earth, and upon the earth Israel — ever the people in special relation to Him. It is striking that in all this we do not find any recognition of the past, save in the fact that the Lord gathers the outcasts and heals the broken in heart. These and such-like expressions are found, and we see the judgment of the nations at the hand of Israel (Ps. 149); but even redemption is not here celebrated, as far as I can see. It will, of course, always be the basis of all blessing, and that in which the full revelation of the glory of God is found; but for this we must look elsewhere, and in the psalms of atonement find what fully bears witness to it.

Of the five psalms here, the first, with that introductory character which we might expect to find in it, speaks broadly of Jehovah's power as manifested in the help and blessing of those that trust in Him. The second, while extolling Him as the God of creation emphasizes His relationship to delivered Israel. The third calls for the full praise of all in heaven and in earth. The fourth shows the nations yielding, but under the judgment of God, of which Israel are the executors. The last praises Him with all instruments of music, each according to its capacity, the full accompaniment of all Nature in that praise, which man, as its head, leads.

Psalm 146.

The Mighty One of Jacob.

The Mighty One of Jacob is here celebrated. Power is the first requisite for all government, and of course for all praise. But alone it could not suffice; and thus it is seen here as power used in ministry to all the need of man, — sustaining power for His feeble creatures, and in behalf of truth and right. The praise here, therefore, is very general.

1. Jehovah, a living God, the "I am": this is He whom all Nature and His saints celebrate. What a joy to recognize over all the multiplicity of Nature, and as the Author of all its laws, a living God upon the throne! And what it implies of us, — how the secret of our condition manifests itself in our holiest things, — that we need to exhort ourselves to praise this glorious One! Yet now the soul responds with the energy of its joy in Him: "I will praise Jehovah while I live." Yes, and that only is "life" in which Jehovah is praised.

2. Now He is contrasted with men: how barren and vain is every hope in man, even man at his best. He may mean well, and seem to have power; but he is but breathing earth, and his breath goes and he returns to it: all his purposes, in which your confidence was placed, are buried with him. And in this one recognizes a "Jacob" with whom God must contend: how blessed, then, to know Jacob's Mighty One, who is at the same time Jehovah, and in covenant with man, — his Helper, and not his Lord merely, though his Maker and that of all creation. But He is faithful to the works of His hands, and delights to show his power in goodness, amid all the evil that man has brought in, and in ministering to the need of those dependent upon Him. With His strong hand also upon the evil itself, and in behalf of righteousness. Supporting those bereft of other help, He turns the way of the wicked upside down.

The evil is transitory, and will soon pass: Jehovah — thy God, O Zion — shall reign for ever, to all generations. Hallelujah.

Psalm 147.

In relation to His people.

The second psalm here, while always recognizing God as the Creator, and pervading Nature with His glorious power, yet comes back again and again to tell rejoicingly what He is to His people Israel, with whom He has dealt as with no other, though His pleasure is always in all who fear Him; and whose trust is in His loving-kindness.

1. Every psalm begins with a call to praise, and Jehovah is still the inspiring Name. "Praise," says the psalmist here, "is pleasant and comely." How can this glorious God be coldly recognized? If you receive but the sun's rays, you must be warmed. And now Israel is rejoicing in the favor of Him from whom she has so long been astray. Jerusalem is built up afresh; its outcasts have been gathered. They have found Him the healer of the broken-hearted, the Physician for their deep and gaping wounds. In all their sad and devious ways, the stars which in that long night have shone above them; have been His witnesses of wisdom and mercy constant, if far off, and of steadfast order all untouched with confusion. For us, too far off for individual recognition; He, as familiar with them, calls them all by name. Now the infinite wisdom of all this shines out: the order of heaven has banished the confusion of earth; the meek, fashioned to this by their down-treading, can now be lifted up; while the wicked He bringeth to the ground.

2. Again the psalmist goes to Nature to illustrate the tender care that is displayed throughout it. The clouds gather, only to prepare rain; heaven is thus in constant ministry to earth, and as the result grass clothes even the mountains. The beast thus receives its food, and the young ravens, which cry in the ears of God. But is this His final aim? Can the horse's strength delight Him? Or even in man, his legs? No: the moral and spiritual rule throughout; and man; who fears Him, — man; hoping in His loving-kindness, — he is the creature in whom His delight is. Here is the song which for us has found expression in a far more wondrous way.

3. Jerusalem now basks in this sunshine, wrapped in the everlasting Arms. Zion has got her impregnable walls and bulwarks, her happy children; within her prosperity and satisfaction. These are but outward manifestations of divine favor: Jehovah has done this; it is the seal of God upon her forehead.

4. And to Him the whole earth is in subjection. His commandment throughout it is hastened by the swiftest messengers. He gives the snow and scatters the frost; solidifies the water with His cold, and melts it back again with a warmer wind. Nature is plastic in His hand everywhere and owns its God.

5. But Israel has higher laws than those which Nature owns; and these she has learned to realize as her peculiar joy. Transmitter of these to the world around, the nations know them but by her.

Psalm 148.

The full praise of heaven and earth.

1. The full praise of heaven and earth is now invoked, beginning with heaven. There is no hint of the human praises which will resound in heaven; except we find it in the blank place left at the commencement, where indeed our place is, and of which the expression "in the heights" may well remind us. God is going to show even to principalities and powers in heavenly places the exceeding riches of His grace and His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus,who are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 7; 1:3). How it should affect our souls to realize that in us the value of the work of Christ is to find fullest expression; as those who are, as angels cannot be, members of Christ Himself, and His joint-heirs. What "joy unspeakable and full of glory" must it awaken in every heart taught by the Holy Ghost to enter beforehand into the place prepared for us, and what worship should not our hearts and lives already pour forth, as we think of it.

Then come the glorious ranks of angels, the constant ministers of God's blessed will, the "hosts" that range themselves constantly in their appointed places, in intelligent sympathy with the commands they execute.

Then we descend to sun and moon and stars, the material things which, however, by that very fact enter into the sphere of what is visible to us, and become symbols and witnesses of higher things.

In the fourth place we find, according to most, not a further descent, but the contrary; and in this way the "waters that are above the heavens" are considered to be some immense unknown reservoir of waters which lies beyond the firmament. "The Scriptures, from the first page to the last," says Delitzsch, "acknowledge the existence of celestial waters, to which the rain-waters stand in the relation; as it were, of a finger-post pointing upwards (Gen. 1:7)." But the "waters above the firmament" of the fourth day are simply those stored up in the clouds, and can be nothing else; and the connection here, with the general descent in the address otherwise, would make one suppose, what the numerical structure would seem to confirm, that only the earth-heavens are intended in the verse. The use of the expression "heaven of heavens," however, is a difficulty of which I have no explanation; and the truth may lie in another direction.

The reason for praise is given in the next verses. By Jehovah's word they were created, and they abide before Him in the place His decree has allotted to them, impossible to be traversed or to fail.

2. We have now the lower sphere of earth, in which the call for praise is as universal. Here we begin with what is strangest and least known; the monsters and the deeps (to which, I suppose, they belong). We have next the contrary and conflicting products of the atmosphere: fire, which, as electricity, is associated with hail; snow, which soon becomes vapor; the stormy wind, which, though it may seem in revolt from established order, none the less does perfectly the will of God. The mountains and hills, on the other hand, are types of solidity; while the trees for the first time introduce us to organized things. We have next fleshly life, — higher, and, in proportion; frailer; and then responsible man; and in his various characters of responsibility. Finally, here, too, the defined places in which they are set in relation to one another, and their time-limits on either hand.

3. All these are called to praise; for Jehovah's Name is exalted, and He exalts the people that are brought near to Him. Israel are, upon earth, this special people.

Psalm 149.

The yielding of the nations.

"When Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." (Isa. 26:9.) But what a tale that tells for man, that the kingdom of God and of Christ, the one perfect rule for which the earth groans must be introduced after such a manner! Yet it is a "judgment written," as the psalm before us declares. Divine love must needs execute it: the "iron rod" is in the Shepherd's hand, and will smite for the salvation of His people, and to "destroy those that destroy the earth." (Rev. 11:18.)

This is now what is briefly glanced at, the yielding of the nations to their Creator and King only when their pride is smitten in the dust, and the power they have abused is taken from them. Israel will have their part as instruments in God's hand in that day, as of old when they took possession of their land, the iniquity of the Amorites being at last full. The dew of Hermon (Israel's "great white throne") will revive the mountains of Zion (Ps. 133:3); and they will no more, as in the former time, be disobedient to their God.

This must then be the prelude to rest upon earth; the "trumpets of jubilee" sound for the destruction of Jericho; although then; as before, there will be a remnant saved out of it.

1. The call for praise sounds once more: a "new song" is to be upon the lips of Israel. He is to rejoice in Him that made him; and the children of Zion are to be glad in their King. Zion is, as we know, to be the place of His throne, and that throne He is now taking.

2. But they are to praise Him also as their Saviour. He is taking pleasure in His people; and having brought them into the humbled condition necessary for their exaltation, He will beautify the meek with salvation. This is assuredly more than a deliverance from their national foes. though it will include this. And thus they will learn to exult in the Name they have forgotten; and the joy of the Lord will be to them a strength they have never yet possessed. "He that is feeble among them in that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of Jehovah before them." (Zech. 12:8.)

3. Now they exult in glory; they sing aloud upon their beds. The quiet of their thoughts at the time God has ordained for us to help us to reality shall only make them more ecstatic in their praises. They will have the high praises of the Mighty in their mouth, and in their hand a two-edged sword: for the nations are now to meet the retribution, for long ages of wrong-doing. Their kings, without power to stand, will fall into the hands of these avengers, to be bound and fettered: for it is the judgment written that is now executed, and this is the honor committed to all His saints.

Psalm 150.

Praise according to full capacity.

Of the last psalm of this series and of the whole book we have unhappily little indeed to say. God is praised, or there is the call to praise Him, as now manifestly enthroned in the earthly as in the heavenly sanctuary; for His acts, all without exception; mighty and of abundant greatness.

Then He is to be praised with all sorts of instruments, according to the full capacity of each. This waking up of inanimate Nature, responsive to the touch or breath of man; is a blessed thing to anticipate. Nature is waiting upon man, and as yet he has evoked little but discord out of it. But this shall a be changed; and then what glorious music shall fill man's abode. But at present we cannot even distinguish the parts of this wondrous concert. Who shall tell us what trumpet and psaltery and harp represent to us here? — what spiritual significance we are to find in them? Most would, perhaps, think even the thought of it to be mere fantasy; and we must, at least, yet wait for the answer. But it will come, and might come soon enough, if — "more of reverence in us grow " — and more simplicity of faith in every word of God. Meanwhile let us be sure that everywhere there are notes now of that grand chorus that is to be, which are but out of the reach of ill-attuned ears. Much may be heard that we have not heard; and while the discord, though most real, is that which is first heard, most heeded by the mass, the more we listen the more we shall catch of the deep, sweet notes that lie under. "Seek and ye shall find" is still he Master's word.

"Let every thing that hath breath praise Jehovah! Halleluiah!"