J. N. Darby.
The peculiar expression of the Spirit of Christ; His character, humiliation, identification with the Jewish people; the relationship in which it placed Him with the world; the repentance of the Jews, their thoughts concerning Him; the manifestation of principles to the world by it, resulting in His exaltation as Solomon, great to the ends of the earth, have been traced to Psalm 72.
Psalm 73 — Israel now is brought forward more generally and fully — Israel viewed as a nation, not the Jews and Christ merely — the circumstances in Zion, not the remnant driven out, though Antichrist may come in among the crowd of enemies and be noticed. But it is the Spirit in the remnant seeing and judging the position of, and pleading for, Israel among the nations, not as in the remnant fled in the evil day. This Psalm 73 explains the whole experience of the remnant in this respect. Israel therefore are looked at as a people, but those "of a clean heart" still alone are recognized as such by the Spirit. "He is a Jew who is one inwardly." For it is now recognized that "all are not Israel that are of Israel"; still Israel's importance is recognized. "God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart"; but he had well nigh slipped, and his feet gone, being envious at the foolish, seeing the prosperity of the wicked. Their consequent self-sufficiency and pride are then described. The effect of this is, that God's people, outward Israel, flock to them (those who might have begun apparently to run well). Their language then is stated 11-14. But there was a generation of God's children: the thought of this kept the tried believer (one of the remnant expressing their experience in this) from speaking thus, for he would have condemned them. Still it was not understood, and it perplexed his spirit till he went into the sanctuary of God, where the holiness of His purposes, His mind, is understood; there he saw their end — they are in slippery places, till Jehovah awakes, and there is an end of them. As to His people, the faithful remnant, the end of the Lord is to be very pitiful and full of tender mercy. But in verses 21-23, this poor remnant, though so very foolish, who in darkness and trial wait for the revelation of the sanctuary, are kept and held up by God; very foolish, but with God in Spirit, and preserved. They are guided through this time of desolation and trial; and so I suppose it should be read "after the glory thou wilt receive me." It is the same as in Zechariah 2:8. If achar kabod may mean "according to," that may be; but simply it is "after the glory of God" has been manifested, Thou wilt receive me. Verses 25-28 are the great result of the true people. Trust in God in difficulty will enable us to declare God's works.
288 This psalm serves as a general thesis to this book, that is, up to Psalm 89, unfolded in many important themes, important to His glory and our learning. The enemies seem to be looked at generally as well as Israel.
In Psalm 74 we have the extent to which the desolations go after Israel is looked at in the land; for the remnant look at it according to God's fulness, however feeble or wicked they may turn out as men.
289 The remnant view Israel in God, looking at the heathen: verses 1 and 2 fully express this. The enemies roar now in the midst of it; their ensigns, their human and perhaps idolatrous witnesses of pride, are set up as the rallying-points of power and confidence. They set fire to and break down the sanctuary: this is also viewed by the remnant in its full character, the synagogues are burnt up. — "How long" (the prophetic word of faith and grace) shall the enemy without, and the oppressor within, blaspheme God's name? Though the enemy could boast theirs, God's people had none of their signs, no present testimony from God; yet the sense of this was at least among the remnant. They look for God's hand to come forth in power, their only resource; and this was faith; and they remembered His former deeds of old, their king. Jehovah's name had been blasphemed. This was the external enemy, "the foolish people" (that is, who in their folly knew and owned not God), had done it. Here from verses 10, 11, I judge, Israel externally comes in and takes a part, this in union with the world and therefore Antichrist; and "the turtle dove," contrasted with "the multitude," and "the congregation of the poor," are brought out into prominence. Then the covenant is appealed to, and the state of the earth or land brought into the remembrance of prayer before God. And God is called on to arise, and plead His own cause against the foolish man, the proud blasphemer, and the enemies around.
I suppose the foolish man, though of general import, to be definitely exhibited in Antichrist. But there is a general view of the state of Israel, both characters of enemies are noticed, those without who attack and prevail, and the oppressor. All these psalms to the end of 85 are psalms of Asaph and Korah (that is, not specially connected with the person of Christ, but with the remnant of Israel); and Israel therefore, not merely Judah, but Israel at large — the δωδεκάφυλον (Acts 26:7), though there may be answers of grace from Him in respect of His glory in the scene. The whole of this psalm is a beautiful putting in remembrance of God on their remembrance of Him.
In Psalm 75 we have a beautiful announcement of Christ's taking the congregation as its Adon, judging uprightnesses — blessed time! The question had been to faith, between weak oppressed Israel, and those that trusted in their own strength, despising God. Judgments had proclaimed now, and made a song to Israel of thanksgiving, that God's name (of whom the despisers had said, "Tush, God seeth not") was near, as the wondrous works of His hand had declared. Thus the Spirit led the spared remnant, the Israel of God. But then it replies in the person of Messiah, who has not as yet received the congregation, but announces Himself in His full character; He would judge uprightly. And, further, not only was Israel brought low, but the earth and all its inhabitants were dissolved; yet now sustained by His all-powerful arm, He bore up the pillars of it. Such had been the wickedness and ruin that otherwise all was lost; but now He reveals Himself bearing up the pillars. From verse 4 He declares how He had warned them. He had not judged these haughty despisers without warning them, that God and He only was the promoter and the Judge, and the wicked shall drink the dregs of Jehovah's cup, whose dealings are always on His own principles, and He does act on them; the ungodly will drink the bitter results of God's righteousness. But Messiah will declare for ever, and lead the praises of the God of Jacob, "praising in the great congregation." Moreover (verse 10) He executes the righteous judgment of God on the earth — retributive justice here. The psalm is just this. God's power having been manifested, Messiah is put in the place of righteous Judge. He had given them the testimony that judgment was God's and verses 9, 10, give His place and service as announced in verse 2. It is entirely earthly and in Jacob, and is a beautiful installation of Messiah the Judge on the manifestation of the power of God. This warning of the wicked ones in power we may see in another form in Psalm 2. Such a warning there will be, for God never executes these judgments without testimony. Thus we see the two witnesses stand before the God of the earth: I do not say that is all the testimony.
290 Psalm 76 is a beautiful psalm. The full celebration of praise on the deliverance and dealings of God. It is not merely that they are delivered, but that God is known; but then the objects of His deliverance and delight are brought out in their place; nor is it merely Jehovah faithful, that comes in merely occasionally in this class of Psalm, but God known in contrast with all else. Jehovah indeed is manifested as the God of Jacob; but this is their great glory, that God is manifested as the God of Jacob. Judah and Israel are both mentioned. His name is great there. Salem and Zion resume their place — blessed day — we, more blessed, are let into His counsels in Christ — but the nationalism of a Jew is divine. There it is he has met and broken man in his strength and pride. The mountains of prey are nothing — as a dream passed. When God arises, Zion takes her place in beauty, owned of Him. And the men of might come simply to nothing, and all their parade passes as impotent at the rebuke of the God of Jacob. Glorious and blessed word for that people! Verse 7 is the comment of the Spirit of Messiah in the remnant on all this. "Judgment was heard from heaven" — how magnificent and true the result! the earth trembled and was still when God came to judgment, and to help all the meek upon the earth — for in all His name and glory He forgets not in infinite and condescending grace, the poor. In all the astounding evil and indignation of Antichrist's time, He can think upon the very convenience of the poor remnant, and have His ear open to a prayer that their flight be not in the winter; and indeed whenever this decreed judgment of God come, it is with tabrets and harps for some. This is His name, His character, "the God that comforteth them that are cast down." All that the wrath of man will do, (what peace!) is to praise God, the rest is restrained. In verses 11, 12 is the summons thereon: I do not know that batsar is more than absolute, "He cutteth off." It is a noble display of what happens in Zion, and God's manifestation of Himself in it. (Compare Zech. 10:6.) These Psalms being prophetic, while they declare the actual results of man's dealings and God's, serve as warning while those dealings are going on. It is still entirely the earthly judgments of the latter day. Psalm 75 takes a wider scope than this, because Messiah's exercise of judgment is brought in; indeed, though not exactly the same thesis, the judgments of Psalm 76 give occasion to Psalm 75. That was Messiah; this God. The whole is a triumphant song of the remnant, more peaceful and with more thoughtful exercise, but otherwise analogous to Exodus 15.
291 Psalm 77 is the state of complaint in which the remnant find themselves. God seemed to have utterly forgotten to be gracious, still this was a God known. All these psalms are the celebration of God, as we have seen. There was grace and life in the cry: God was brought to mind in it, and they were enabled to say "this is my infirmity;" and the things which God had done to give Him this character are referred to, and come to mind. These two results are produced: "thy way is in the sanctuary;" "thy way is in the sea." Still, in all their troubles, He led His people like a flock by the hands of Moses and Aaron. Note the whole people: confidence is restored, and well grounded, though the present way of God is untraceable as a path in the sea; but thus brought in, in thought by the cry, God could be leant upon. Note, there is a difference between "crying with the voice to God," and "communing with one's own heart:" while the latter went on, his spirit was overwhelmed; the former was self-renunciation and owned dependence, and God gave ear to the cry. All that passed previously within, though genuine, produced trouble, whether his previous song, or thinking of the Lord; but on the cry bringing in God, then His ways of old re-assured the heart. Before, the resources of our own heart were judged from; now, the manifested favour and resources of God. Remembrance of His doings is one of the marks of faith. "They soon forgat his works." (Compare Hosea 7:14.) The moment God is really appealed to, the soul feels that He is above all circumstances, blessed be His name! Their first thoughts were their own condition, and the remembrance of God brought the recollection of enjoyments under His hand, and made the sense of their condition yet worse while resting in the communings of his own heart, till, God filling his soul, all became power for present circumstances, and then came in the remembrance, not of their state, but of God's deliverance. The Spirit of Christ leads the remnant through all previous passages of their history, onward in exercise of soul, up to their present thoroughly desolate condition; and then, throwing them on God, His power of deliverance of old as the Most High shines in; and it is His guidance, so that His dealings in power of grace have their energy in their souls.
292 Psalm 78 exhibits the failure of all the dealings of God in deliverances and blessings on the people as such, and the transfer unto, or rather accomplishment of, blessings in the raising up of David the Prince in whom blessing and security was established for them. I notice the teaching of children as the order of blessing in it. Compare Genesis 18:19; Deuteronomy 4:9, 10; 6:7; 11:19. It is a specific character of the dispensation, and of ordered blessing. It is not passed by even in Christianity: see Ephesians 6:4. The remnant now set about doing this according to God's institution. The language of the Psalm is remarkable. It begins with the right of Jehovah — "Give ear, O my people;" but it is in the love of the same interests "which we have heard and known and our fathers have told us." Who makes this mighty link? The Spirit of Christ, who is Jehovah, speaking in the remnant who recognize His truth, in the midst of the people — the nation. Accordingly their history is gone through, yet not merely to characterize them but to characterize Him — to afford that in grace which was their only security — yea a record of grace, and its principle a parable, save to those that understood, established to faith which is of grace. For David was a king given in grace. Therefore there is no mention of Saul, but of perfect failure under all circumstances, and the favour of the Lord interfering in strength. The Lord awakes, and by His own gracious view of the desolations of His people His pity awoke, an encouragement of grace for the latter days in their trouble. This grace, and its judgment of things as here, was properly a parable to the flesh judging after the law, and drawing God's ways thence; it was truly a parable, because "the things revealed belonged to them," etc., "that they might keep the words of the law." (Deuteronomy 29:29: "The secret things belonged to the Lord their God.") And now, on a retrospect of all to David, this secret is brought out; it was not of the dispensation, but sovereign. So when our Lord began speaking of a sower going forth to sow, it was a parable, it was grace to the Jew. He came properly seeking fruit, but in truth there was none, and He knew it, and He had been sowing fresh seed. "Thou leddest thy people:" there was the great principle of favour, but there was much more that God had to reveal for their thoughts in detail. Under this leading, in the midst of all favours, they had walked in rebellion and unbelief and lust (that is, in the wilderness with God, where He was teaching them Himself); then, as to all the judgment He had exercised in Egypt, and on the Canaanites in their favour, forgetfulness and giving themselves up to do the like, whereon God gives them up, as He had chastened them for their lust in the wilderness: He forsook Shiloh. To this Jeremiah refers also. He gave His people over — their latter-day trials were not the first time — it was an old history. But their misery as ever (so in Egypt) awoke the Lord, and He smote their enemies, and raised up the Beloved for their deliverer. This was the lesson, a pregnant lesson for them. These parables and proverbs of old prove that it was not for David's time merely — that He who taught Asaph taught this Psalm. Their business, as in Psalm 22 was to teach their children. There are some other points in this history: first, the rejection of Ephraim, when strength and prosperity was amongst His own people, and therefore their early sin is mentioned (for though God is supreme, there is always consistency of character, if supremacy in grace, though He had endured with great long-suffering); further, the supreme choice of Zion and Judah which He loved, the exaltation of His house. Shiloh was, I believe, in Ephraim. The rejection of Ephraim and choice of Judah is strongly presented in the psalm. The psalm is a parable really.
294 Psalm 79. The way in which these psalms take up Israel is very remarkable. The remnant, in the full strong exercise of faith, take it up as God's place and people; and consequently we have still to remark that the question is between God, the exaltation of His character and truth, and man and his ways. Now, as between them and the nations, Israel is Israel as a whole, with which the faith of the remnant here identifies the name and character of God. To "how long," the prophetic word of faith on the earth, "Lord" is at once introduced — Jehovah — the faithful God of continuance and promise. The subject is the siege and taking of Jerusalem in the latter day after their return. It is not the enemy, but the heathen (a proper Jewish designation of those without); and destruction is consequent on the siege, not by Antichrist, but the heathen. I am led to think from Isaiah 22 that Persia will be the leading agent here. Then the iniquity of that kingdom of the image, which never had persecuted but delivered the Jews, will be complete. It describes the utter desolation (as far as it goes) of the Jews in the midst of the last spoiling of the rivers. (See Isa. 18.) Jerusalem is laid on heaps, but Jacob also is devoured. The expression of the remnant under it, and their faith too, "Thine — thine inheritance," verse 1. Compare Joel 2:17. They regard therefore the slain, as God's saints chasedimnot kedoshim. It is believed by many that there will be a special slaying of those who bear testimony in Israel, subsequent to the rapture of the Church, previous to the manifestation of the Son of man; but it does not appear to me, even if they be actually included, that this is what the Spirit expresses as the mind of the remnant here. That is for the Church to know, and beforehand, not the remnant's exercise of heart preserved for the earth; these are looking to Him who can preserve them that are appointed to die.
295 Psalm 80 is thoroughly and properly Jewish, more accurately of Israel; for it has no specific relation to any particular portion, save as Joseph more especially implied and involved the land. The "Shepherd of Israel" is addressed — He that "leads Joseph like a flock" — He that "sits between the cherubim," the place of His rest and power of old in Israel, of divine ordinance, attributes, and the throne. The Jews being first restored into the trials and exercises of the latter day, and concerned in all that related to Antichrist, the restoration of the others, and their presence in the land, more particularly involved the full coming of the nations. This psalm, as all in this book, recognizes Israel as such before God — "the vine that had been brought out of Egypt." Yet it is before the Son of man has taken His gathering power amongst them; but faith looks at the whole scene before God, without the judicial details being brought in. But it is their call of God as the Shepherd of His people to take His place amongst them — to stir up His strength and come and help them. It turns therefore to His presence among them in the wilderness, passing by all between as lost; and note here how judgment does the same thing by the Holy Ghost in Stephen — "Did ye serve me by the space of forty years in the wilderness? yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, and I will carry you away beyond Babylon." The present desolation of Israel is referred to their sin in the wilderness — sin which the prophetic Spirit alone notices. Then consequently Solomon's house is passed by, and set aside as utterly worthless; so Anna withal waited for redemption as much as Daniel in Babylon. Here faith consequently goes back to God's part in it: "Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt and planted it, and it is laid waste." But, the grace that brought them out and planted them being thus referred to, they can set themselves, even in the desolation (for grace and God's dealings are referred to), into His hand for deliverance, to be turned again and this vine visited. But it is as looking down from heaven, whither as it were God was retired; and they felt it. Still thence He could look down in grace, if they had driven away and forfeited His presence here. All through it is God's actings which are referred to. Hence, there is a branch brought in, which He had made strong for Himself, even the Son of man which He had strengthened, the man of His right hand. "So," they say, "will we not go back from thee." "Turn us again" is their cry. We have not then the judicial distinctive details, but the exercise of faith in God to bring in the general blessing as of God to Israel; and here through the promised branch (or son) of the vine, even the Son of man, the man of God's right hand. There might have been a restoration, but all the beasts of the forest were wasting the vine, for there was no hedge. The apostles (though Jews were distinctively known to the flesh) yet speak of "our twelve tribes" ever, for grace and faith on utter ruin and rejection know the whole in God's mind in grace. The staff "Bands" indeed was broken; but then faith went up to God, viewed it there, and passed over all the history of failure and responsibility, and so back to God's original dealings from Himself; for man's total ruin is the time, the due time, of God's proper grace and His own counsels. Thus it exalts our thoughts of God. Jehovah God of hosts here shines forth to faith in power. The allusion of verse 2 is an exceedingly touching exercise and suggestion of faith; it was a time of love then, and if He made His poor people remember it, and the order of His beautiful flock, and their nearness to Him, He was not likely to forget it. Blessed God! how are His ways restoring ways of grace and tenderness!
296 Psalm 81. The new-moon trumpet soon sounds on this; and, grace and comfort restored, Jehovah goes on to explain all that had passed between. He had never departed from His love and the yearnings of His heart over them. It is the echo of the blessed Lord's word in His last effort of love, as acting on their responsibility, "How often would I have gathered!" — when He wept over her that killed the prophets and stoned those that were sent unto her. "Israel would none of me" — that was the affecting and true witness of a loving God — one who was a husband to them. Alas for Israel! Good would have been their portion. Yet they know their God better in grace; and it is remarkable how, in the testimony that it was no want of love on God's part that occasioned the desertion, their placing in grace is referred to. The reference (even where "if thou wilt hearken to me," that is, the ground of faithfulness is laid) is not to Sinai, but from the coming forth from Egypt up to Sinai, which was all the display of grace in contrast with law; so that even in murmurs they were blessed with the very same things they were chastened for afterwards. And, now that the moon had been eclipsed, in brighter rays she came forth again with rejoicing to receive her light afresh from the Sun of righteousness, and all was joy in Israel. We have again here Joseph specially as taking in the people and the birthright, as Judah did the royalty: verses 5-7 recall all these dealings. He was the God that brought them out of Egypt. Open their mouths wide, and they were filled. True affiance of heart, so as to receive the full blessing, was all that was wanting; but there was none such. How was Israel silenced, yet in what certainty of grace! — grace always shewn through their long history, so that they were infinitely humbled in what gave perfect and sure ground for them now to rest on.
297 This was a trumpet of gathering and of joy on the emergence of Israel into light again. The alarm trumpets had been sounded before, as in Joel. From His love God had never departed, nor changed in it; their heart was restored and returned to it. Joy was a statute for Israel then, and now in delivering grace. It is a most touching and lovely psalm. The law is clean passed over in it as nought; God is speaking in grace, as we have seen in judgment in Stephen's speech.
Psalm 82. But there was another important question: what was to be done as to power on the earth, so that all things should be set right in Israel? God was arising to judge the earth. All might be wrong, but a great secret now broke forth on the world, joy to the longing remnant — "God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods." The thing is not yet executed, but His presence is discovered amongst them. They might be gratifying themselves, but here was One that judged them. "Whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law." "None," says the apostle, "or the princes of this world knew, for had they known, they would not have crucified," etc. Now God was standing up to take the matter into His own hands. It might be true of the rest, but it was true of Israel too. Elohim was the name of their judges. To them the λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ came. They had the responsibility accordingly, but all was out of course, all the foundations of the earth. The transfer to Nebuchadnezzar or Saul or David did not alter this; the responsibility might be more abstract, but even the Gentile had Daniel's testimony, and was proved there: the Lord made known to him that it was so given. Still it speaks specially to those who had received the law by the disposition of angels, and had not kept it. God had given them the character of authority, and His name, and He could not leave it in their hands any longer. They must descend from the character of Elohim to Adam. Elohim, having stamped this name of Adam (all that they really were) on all that had borne His name, and arising in His own name, judges all nations. The remnant, the poor of the flock, can call for it, and be glad. This psalm changes the whole face and government of the earth. "Like one of the princes" means, I apprehend, like one of the mere Gentile princes, as of mere human consequence, not as Elohim, though I have sometimes thought princes might be used as in Daniel 10:13, 20.
298 Psalm 83. We have here another page of Israel's history as in the land: the confederacy of those nations within the limits of the land and borders, holpen by the Assyrian, who is joined with them to cut off Israel (now recognized as a nation there) from being a nation, that the name of Israel be no more in remembrance. It is not now the Jews or Antichrist, nor does the Spirit move in that sphere of thought; the beasts are not on the scene at all, but Israel in the land, and God is appealed to for His name and honour. They are His enemies, they will have "the houses of God in possession." Messiah, the Intercessor in Spirit, takes the question up in verse 13, and then Jehovah's name is brought in; and it is prayed that by the judgment He whose name alone is Jehovah, the same yesterday, to day, and for ever, the God of Israel, may be known to be the Most High, and that over all the earth. This effort of the local enemies (only to their own displacing) gives, as we have said, a very definite page of Israel's history as in the land. Assyria, as to much of its territory, may be perhaps interested in this, the bounds being Euphrates. However, in seeking to cut off Israel, Israel (holpen of Messiah) can now bring in God, and thus He be known as the Most High over all the earth. We have nothing of the heavenly triumph here over the man of the earth associated with the Jewish many, who have rejected Christ — "this generation," but the portion of Israel with the Most High over all the earth. The Spirit of Christ knew their doings and presents them before God. God had taken His place to judge among the gods; therefore He could be thus appealed to. For these Psalms are progressive. As to hidden ones, see Psalm 31:20, 21.
Psalm 84 is a most beautiful Psalm, beautiful in spirit for all saints. The land being cleared, the heart and thoughts of the saints in Israel find a rest again in the courts and dwelling-place of Jehovah of Hosts. The relation resumes its place. I do not think the Spirit speaks necessarily in those actually in Israel, but describes what their hearts found there. The ways of Zion were restored in their hearts; the track which led thither, long deserted and waste, was now printed with the footsteps of their hearts. Zion, as God's dwelling and the place of His altars, was the resort of these; and they knew in Spirit, and could say, "they that dwell in thine house will be still praising thee;" for the Spirit now revealed who He was to their souls. Zion is the centre of the hopes and pleasures of the people happy in God. Jehovah of Hosts being most high over all the earth, the peculiar and familiar affections of Israel, the Spirit of Christ in each one, centre around His dwelling-place proper to them. The soul of the true Israelite longs and faints (thoroughly restored in spirit) for the courts of Jehovah. It will be indeed joy! "yea, the sparrow has found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself where she may lay her young" (as has been suggested by a brother in a little published book on the Psalms) I am disposed to take in a parenthesis. If the sparrow has found a house, surely the soul of His longing people may find a rest in "thine altars, my King and my God."
299 Blessing first rests on those that dwell there, for this is the central point; next, for many were at a distance from these loved altars, on those whose strength is in Jehovah, and whose heart was in the way, long, rough, dreary perhaps, but the way to Zion, to Jehovah's courts. The valley of Baca they thus made a well of joy; and, if not rivers in the way, heaven's waters filled the pools. Their blessed security therefore in this longing journey is described in verse 7. The heart at once therefore turns thither for itself — the Spirit of Christ in this, who stands, I think, all through as an individual. In verse 9 Messiah is laid as the great basis and ground of Jehovah's favour to them. Note, we in the Son, enjoy the same favour even as He. This difference it is the Lord presses. (John 16:26, 27.) The blessedness of God as their portion is then entered into, and, identifying it with Jehovah of Hosts, the man that trusts in Him is pronounced blessed.
Psalm 85 relates to their full enjoyment of blessing, the blessing of God, they being by pardon and favour restored; and shews the frame of spirit produced in them by mercy — humbleness, yet outgoings of returning confidence. The captivity of Jacob is brought back, the iniquity of "thy people" forgiven, all their sins covered. This was blessing, but the full blessings of divine favour connected with this in the land are not yet brought in; and this produces these sighs to God. The restoration has awakened their sense of what God's favour really was, and what it produced; and hence becomes the occasion and plea to ask for more — for all. Their own conversion into the spirit of this blessing withal they seek; for conversion into the spirit of blessing is consequent on pardon and forgiveness. Israel is thrown fully on this now. The truth of God was counted nought by them in Jesus the minister of the circumcision, for they stood not, nor abode in the truth; unbelief barred the blessing then. Now they come in on sole mercy, " ἵνα ἐλεηθῶσι," and therein the truth of all the promises is fulfilled withal, not only for their blessing, but that "glory may dwell in their land." By these dealings truth as to the promises of old, and mercy towards the objects of them who deserved none, are met — these great elements of what God is. Righteousness, which would have been against them, and peace (for He has made peace), the favour and prosperity of God, are fully united; and the effect, truth, a new thing (for guile was there: forgiveness and blessing, opening the heart, have taken it away) springs out of the earth. The return to blessing, peace-making blessing, and righteousness (before either hid or punishing) can now shew the glory of its face unclouded; the full blessing of the Lord shall take its way through the land. These are the consequences, or what is desired to follow as the consummation of restoration. In verse 10 we have the truth realized in God's character; in verse 11, between heaven and earth, between men and God; in verses 12, 13, consequent blessing upon earth, Israel and the land being the special scene of this, according to promise: while founded purely on mercy, it develops the whole of God's truth. Romans 11 is the comment on the principles of this Psalm from verse 26 onward, translating only verse 31 thus, "even so these have now not believed in your mercy, that they might be objects of mercy." Now righteousness — the consistency of God with His own character, or the truth of that character — finds its development in peace with His people, they having thrown themselves on mercy. Moreover truth springs out of the earth, not only in the conduct of the saints, but the power and witness of it in facts; so that "he that blesseth himself in the earth blesseth himself in the God of truth." Righteousness looks with unclouded aspect from heaven — nought to hinder the flow of the consistency of God's character, which now found its unhindered way upon earth; His righteousness could do so. It is exercised in Christ's reign; the Lord therefore, as ever when unhindered, flows forth in blessing, "gives that which is good" (every good and perfect gift), the land yields her increase, and righteousness goes before, leads the path of Christ — it is plain, goes before Him, and sets them in the way of its steps. It is not hid in God nor guides them in the revealings of the Spirit in conflict with evil, but a plain and present cloudless path. It is present righteousness. We have these things by faith hidden in Christ; this is the manifestation of them on earth.
301 Psalm 86 goes farther, for it also takes in the nations, but it looks at Israel in its misery and prostration: how can these things both be true? Just because it brings in Christ into the midst of the sorrow, and taking it; and therefore He, having thus identified Himself with it and suffered, can at once when they are in it ("the time of Jacob's trouble") call to Jehovah Himself as to it. It is then the word of Israel in the latter day in her lowest troubles, but spoken by Christ to Jehovah for her, as one who has borne them atoningly, and can therefore look certainly for mercy in the disciplinarian and judicial visitation of them. This was needful (see John 12) for the gathering of the Gentiles. He could not take them with Israel then, for there was sin. (Compare Zechariah 11.) We have then Jehovah at once: the humble-mindedness of Israel, the gathering of the nations, and the principle of Almighty deliverance in resurrection; in verses 13, 14, the gatherings of the violent against them. The deliverance is not in the yet manifested strength of the Son of man, but sought in Jehovah towards the dependent servant.
Psalm 87. The foundations of the earth had been out of course, and God had now judged among the gods; and now comes the question in the earth, Where is His foundation? This the Psalm expresses: it is clear — Israel the lot of His inheritance in the earth; Judah, His portion in the holy land. But He now proceeds to choose Jerusalem again. There will He dwell, for He has a delight therein. Then is it compared with the world's greatness and dwellings, and we are told who belongs to it. His foundation is in the holy mountains: certainly Jacob was His portion; the thoughts of those that knew Him centred there. But "Jehovah loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob." It is the city of God of which glorious things are spoken. But amidst all her glories, one predominates with her: He, whose association with her was her glory — the birthplace of the man of glory. This is clearly all new Jerusalem. Zion is on new ground, in a "world to come," after the foundations of the old are all cast down. Our Lord could not be said to be born at Jerusalem at His first coming, He was rejected there: that is the character of the former Jerusalem. But now He was creating Jerusalem a rejoicing; in new Jerusalem He is the first born, and alone in His place. "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee" could be said there: she, this new Jerusalem in grace, could count that He was born there; what a change! and not only she, but Jehovah could count, when He wrote up the people, that this man was born, not rejected, there. Grace surely and purely it is; but what a change in the face and position of Zion! Many others might thereon be recounted, more children after she had lost the others, and the children of the desolate more than of the married wife, and the Highest stablished her — it was His foundation, but He stablished her. But this was the grand point of glory and association with Him; He was born there. Yet withal the external testimony and ministry of grace should be there, all God's fresh springs shall be in it, favour and delight within, as well as contrast of glory without; for, with them that knew her, she would not be ashamed of talking of Egypt, or Babylon, Tyre, Ethiopia, or any else: the glory of the birth of her great One eclipsed it all. Then, and with this association — this glory of Christ's birthplace stablished of the Lord, a centre of affections was provided for the people here below just because divine, a link with God. Not so all other patriotism, but that is — the native country of God's power.
302 Psalm 88 is the expression of the sympathy of Christ with the remnant as under the law in the latter day. Hence while it recognizes their condition under it even from Mount Sinai as in verse 15, it recognizes His subjection to death and all its penalty, discovers the identity of Christ (wondrous truth!) with them in this position of the bondage and curse of the broken law resting on the spirit — yet by His Spirit, their plea, in their perfect desolateness in this state. Christ seems to have entered into the spirit of this Psalm, to have drawn it forth rather, when He describes the elect, God's elect, as those who cry day and night unto God, Luke 18; and I suppose (connect with this the close of previous chapter, Luke 17) the Lord alludes in that passage to the circumstances to which this Psalm refers. His Spirit in the Psalm enters into the circumstances in full sympathy because in full affection, in which Israel the elect, and the elect heart-widowed Israel, righteous in affection yet feeling all the effects of wickedness, and for others (Christ's true character and state), found themselves in protracted sorrow in that long yet, through mercy, shortened day. (Compare the confession in Daniel's prayer.) He enters into the long course of righteous judgment due to the people, terrible and awful thought! for the soul of Christ felt it the judgment of a law broken from the outset, the array of terror which it brought against the soul which understood its curse, and the weight of it in holiness — which understood the effect of the law, "the terrors of God," "wrath lying hard upon him." Outward mercies are nothing in such a case but mockeries, as the light air or what passes vainly through it. Though every trouble and sin has its darkness from it, still a call daily on Jehovah, for the law is the law of Jehovah; therefore its terror — a God with whom we are in relation, who has shut us up in this terror, forgotten seemingly of God, but only in the darkness of His anger, when we cannot find Him. The more we know what He is, the more terrible to find nothing but darkness — still the cry is maintained, yea day and night. It is a matter of the grave and destruction: enemies there were withal, lovers and friends none. Such is the estimate of the Spirit of Christ, the just estimate it forms, and forms therefore in the people in the latter day under the law — shut up into terror, and alone there with Jehovah their Lord against whom they had transgressed — so much the more joyful and blessed their deliverance. Still, being the Spirit of Christ which alone can feel this, it cries day and night; what a picture, and how the truth!
303 This Psalm then gives us the condition of the righteous remnant, who know the law, understand the law is spiritual, see it broken from the outset, and the circumstances but the consequence of a vastly deeper state of things — a real return to God according to their circumstances. Death was what stared them in the face, and this under which they were was the ministration of death (the adversary had the power of it: God was but a judge in the law). Their history in this view did but add to their misery; but their condition in soul before the Lord blotted out their history. They could not get forth — death was before them; but they cried. What could they add to this engulphing in the terror of a righteous judgment, and a broken law, a law against a relationship and ministration of death? They could add nothing. Had there been hope, they would not have been where they were, nor thrown in the knowledge of righteousness on a God of grace. It ends then in perfect misery, but in a cry, the righteous cry of right affection in God's elect. There was One, who taking their sorrow and the curse of the law, being made a curse, understood their cry and heard it. When they understood it, so as to be brought with Him, He delivered. But death must be in some sort read here; Paul, I suppose, understood this much. All must know it in light (for we begin with resurrection), not necessarily in darkness. But for experience, knowledge even often of God, and action through the region of death, that is, the world, it is often (as neutralizing it and introducing us within the veil of it) very profitable and useful. For them Christ has at any rate gone through it, but He has gone through it; so we are really free. It is a very deep, and, when known through grace, a very blessed subject, because it introduces to God; and whatever introduces there is blessed. The Spirit of Christ alone can make us know it. It is known only by the Spirit of Christ, and He has known it.
304 It is remarkable too to observe, that as the remnant look back here, in their own thought of it, to this as the universal condition of Israel, all their history being blotted out morally (which was the trial merely, if fruit could be got, yea even to sending the Son, and there was none), so Stephen, or the Spirit in Stephen, just sets them in that closing scene of Israel's conditional history, exactly on this ground, where the remnant, in their own sense of it in their souls, take it up. "Did ye offer to me, O ye house of Israel, slain beasts by the space of forty years in the wilderness? Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, images which ye made to worship them; and I will carry you away beyond Babylon." They sinned in the wilderness: hence their present condition. All else was rejection of reclaiming dealings, and just filling up the measure of their sins. Of Solomon's house it could be said, "Where is the house ye will build me and what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?" In this Psalm then the law is discussed: Christ with them or for them, one with them now in sympathy under it.
Psalm 89 is a most admirable Psalm. As the former treated of the law and turned to Mount Sinai, this takes up grace and the covenant of unfailing promise in David. It expresses the miseries of Israel, Christ taking them up as His in connection with promise, as before as the curse under the law; but here appealing to promise, the sure mercies of David, and not looking at the miseries as bowing under the righteous curse of the law. His blessed love was just needed for both together. It was the salvation and glory of Israel. But then it goes farther; for, as they had despised Him, they must see Him in a brighter glory, not theirs, not only resurrection, though there the sure mercies were bound on a foundation which avoided for them the law (as having borne the curse of it), but ascension, and thereon (though they did not and could not of course see that Church glory) therefore He said to Mary, "Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended — but tell my brethren I ascend," etc. Thus it comes, this being noticed, though not in revealed church form, to be a very remarkable Psalm. Christ sings in Spirit for them, "I will sing of the mercies (chasede) of Jehovah for ever." This was Jewish righteousness, to own utter failure under the law, their failure, and Jehovah's faithfulness, which if they had failed was mercy. See Romans 11 before referred to. This was the divine wisdom of God about them, and so towards all, faithful but in mercy, they being sinners in unbelief, and so on their part having forfeited all: otherwise the gospel could not have treated all, treated men as sinners "together." Here then Christ takes up this, the great Jewish point of personal faith, "mercies for ever" — their well-known chorus of faith — so signally shewn in the Apostle Paul. (1 Timothy 1:16.) They were the mercies of Jehovah, "for I have said, mercy shall be built up for ever." Christ here takes up, as He is able, the faithfulness of Jehovah's nature and promise for the people, faithfulness to mercy pledged and known by Him: so we say, "faithful and just to forgive." But He can say, not merely on earth (it had been rejected there, for though truth it was really mercy), but in the very heavens. As to the manner of it, He recounts (Jehovah, to wit) His own covenant promise with David His elect. This lays the foundation of the whole Psalm, Jehovah's faithfulness (to mercy), David its object and central channel. But rejected as they were, the heavens thereby came in, they would have to see His faithfulness there, and these would praise His wonders. Saints here are Kedoshim, not Chasedim. Thus though the covenant was with David, this is brought out as a brighter, higher, and better scene behind, recognized and owned then by them in spirit, while the heavens praise His wonders, and recognize His works below. Verses 5-7. These announce the heavenlies, not the mystery of the Church known, but blessing and faithfulness in the heavens when all had failed in man on the earth (save He of course who was therefore now in the heavens). Then come the dealings on earth, but all this is not yet David but Jehovah. Verses 8, 9. His faithfulness and almighty power controlling the angry elements — Rahab smitten — His enemies scattered with a strong arm — this will be accomplished in the destruction of Antichrist and the subsequent scattering of the earthly enemies of Jehovah; for faith looks at them as His, and His association with Israel in glory, has not at this point taken place; though He may defend them and scatter the enemies. The same distinction I find in Zechariah, and elsewhere; that is, defence, before Christ is introduced Jewishly into the scene. Thus however the heavens and the earth become, that is, actually, the Lord's. He asserts and makes good His title — this soon centres in Israel, and Tabor and Hermon rejoice in His name. In verses 13, 14, He breaks out into praise of His might and strength; but the mercy and the power have now set up the throne, or introduced them into association with it. Verses 15-17, the exceeding blessedness of the people that know the joyful sound, that is, the Lord's throne established in righteousness (when mercy and faithfulness to covenant promise have done it), and these heralds of His presence go before Him, for this is true and abiding blessing. Verse 18 appropriates all this in blessed triumph, not in announcement, by Messiah; but He taking it all up in conscious joy as the head of the people, Jehovah our defence, the Kedesh of Israel our king. This is all the Jehovah part of it, the Kedesh of Israel — and the saints therefore are Kedoshim.
306 But now the object and centre of it is introduced, the man chosen out of the people, Jehovah's Chesed (see verses 19, 20, Hebrew), the same word as mercies in the first verse, David the anointed, to Him promises which could not be shaken; failure might bring chastisement, but never possibly induce failure on Jehovah's part; He would have ceased to be Jehovah then. These were mercies "for ever;" yet all seemed now desolate as possible — the true David cut off in His youth, His days shortened, (see Psalm 102) and as the mercy was to be in Him, and He the Gibbor of help, all was laid waste, and the enemy had the upper hand. But here immediately the Spirit of Christ takes its true actual place on mercy, promise, and desolation, as the Spirit of intercessional prophecy which is certain of fidelity, and on mercy says, Lord, "how long?" If wrath continued, all would be set aside, no flesh would be saved (for the elect's sake the days will be shortened); next, appeal to faithfulness, but to loving-kindnesses sworn to David in truth, laying hold on the very ground of faith, and then thereby securing the blessing, identifying the servants of Jehovah (mercy had made and preserved such) with Himself, He (for He had made Himself one with them, afflicted in their affliction) had to bear the reproach, and His footsteps (Jehovah's delight and honour in the world) were reproached. That closed the psalm. The way of mercies was now made plain, and the answer of these sure mercies for ever found their place, and "Blessed be Jehovah for evermore" filled the house.
307 The next book (for Psalm 89 closes this) takes up the sure blessing, millennial blessing, and Messiah that trusted in Israel's Jehovah while He was it, as its centre and only and sure way. Amen. May we know the yet more secret and marvellous wonder of grace, even the heavenly glory with Him who is over all these things, while we praise Him for His wonders in them. Glory be to His name!