J. N. Darby.
The five Books of Psalms are divided thus:-
First, from Psalm 1 to Psalm 41;
Second, from Psalm 42 to Psalm 72;
Third, from Psalm 73 to Psalm 89;
Fourth, from Psalm 90 to Psalm 106; and
Fifth, from Psalm 107 to the end.
The subjects of each are different, and may be thus briefly distinguished:
In the first book the Jews are not driven out, but go up to the temple, and mix with those in the land. The name of Jehovah always occurs. He is in recognised relationship with them.
In the second book they are driven out, and only a small seed is left. The Gentiles combine with the nations against the godly who flee to the mountains. It is Judah driven out. "God" is used here, except when hope is expressed.
In the third book it is not Jews in Jerusalem, or driven out, but all Israel are taken up. The ways of God with the people, as such, are found here.
The fourth book begins another range of subjects, While they own Jehovah the dwelling-place, the bringing of Christ into the world again is celebrated; the progress of His coming in glory; His sitting between the cherubim; and the nations coming to worship.
Then the concluding or fifth book is a review of all, winding up with a chorus, which consists of thanksgivings for the blessings brought in, of which Israel is the earthly centre around and under the Messiah.
Book 1. - Psalms 1-41.
There are two great subjects laid hold of from one end of scripture to the other, founded on the relationships in grace: the government of God; and the church of God. When I speak of the church of God, I speak of His grace, that which stands only in grace; and when Christ reigns, the church reigns with Him, the weakest and feeblest saint is taken up, and put in the same place with Christ. Grace is conferred on those who least deserve it. There is also the government of the Father for those in the church, but this is quite different from the government of God in a general sense. It is true that gracious principles come in there; but the church is the body of Christ, members of His body, etc. To be His brethren is another relationship. God's government of this world is quite a different thing from that. It is interesting for us, because we have a personal association with the Lord Jesus in His humiliation and His glory, and there is nothing connected with Christ but should interest us.
34 The immediate government of God is brought out in connection with Israel, and the Book of Psalms has a peculiar character in relation to this. The Psalms express the feelings and thoughts of those who find themselves in the circumstances that give rise to them. When under government, the power of evil must be set aside, in order for those who are separate from it to get free of their sufferings. With us it is quite different. We leave the evil, and rise into the glory. There is also the difference of reigning and being reigned over. The government of God for earth is entirely connected with Israel - our home is elsewhere. They are on earth, and government is connected with earth.
In Israel God gives certain laws. Now grace reigns through righteousness which Another has accomplished. There will be righteousness on earth when He comes again. Now it is exactly the contrast. Righteousness is only in connection with heaven now. Christ is exalted in heaven, but rejected on earth. The principle on which all God's dealings with the Jew go is government, although you find mercy put first.
Two things are connected with the Jews in Psalms 1 and 2 God's law written on their hearts (Ps. 1), and their Messiah coming to them, God's king set up on God's throne (Ps. 2). These are two fundamental principles connected with God's people on the earth.
In Psalm 1 we have the effect of godliness, present blessing and in Psalm 2 the place Christ has as King.
In the first is the application of God's government on the earth, on the godly and the ungodly ones. There will be the cutting off of the ungodly ones like chaff, and those who remain are the godly. There is a godly remnant in the midst of the ungodly, and the ungodly are to be cut off. That is the basis of all we have in the Book of Psalms.
35 The first characteristic of the godly ones is in contrast with the ungodly. They delight in the law of Jehovah. They have tasted the sweetness of the principles in God's word, and know a Christ come down from heaven. The law characterises all the moral condition of the godly man (Ps. 119). The remnant in the latter day are associated in character and circumstances with the remnant who believed and followed Christ at His first coming. The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, which is spoken of as a present thing. The godly are in the midst of the ungodly in the presence of judgment, which brings in the day of the Lord.
Psalm 2 is the time when the judgment is ending, and government is made good by the power of the Son exercising His wrath. "Be wise now therefore, O ye kings," for if the Son's wrath be kindled, all will be over with you. This has nothing to do with the gospel of God's grace. The kings of the earth are not in relationship with the Father and the Son, but in rebellion against Jehovah and His Christ. It is a direct question of judgment - the closing scene - distinctly brought to the last day, the day of Jehovah. He is setting up the king of Israel, never mind what the kings of the earth do. God's king shall laugh at them. When Christ was born into this world, God had this purpose in view; and when the King is brought in, the eye will be turned to Him who was before born into the world. He is to be set up King in Zion, and He is to have the heathen for His possession. But what does He do? He breaks their bands in sunder. I can understand this if it is government, but not if it is gospel. Matthew 10 shews the gathering out of a remnant, and passing over this time to the end, when the Son of man will be there. All connected with the gospel is left out, and the kingdom is the subject - those "worthy" (Matt. 10), not sinners. It is the witness of the kingdom that is carried on to the time when He comes.
In John 17 Christ says, "I pray not for the world" (I ask not for the heathen now), "but for those whom thou hast given me out of the world." He is gathering these now, but He will have the heathen. He is asking for those who are to be with Him, the results of redemption-work; nothing about the world, not even breaking the nations to pieces. Again, in John 20, He says to Mary Magdalene, "Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended," etc. The time was not come for Him to be King, but He would make His brethren know the relationship into which He brought them. He was not coming to take the kingdom yet, but He would give them the same place that He had.
36 Revelation 2:26, 27 alludes to this psalm. Under the government of God there is law for rule (Ps. 1). Psalm 2 declares that, in spite of all the world, He will bring His Son in again, and set Him King. In the one psalm we get what are the principles of His government, and in the other what are His counsels. The godly ones are exercised amongst these ungodly ones who are in power.
Then, remark that Psalms 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 express the exercises of the godly. In these psalms we find the righteous remnant in the presence of the judgment, looking for the Lord's coming to sustain their faith, and make good His word: but they go through all sorts of trials. Christ is not yet reigning, evil not yet judged; yet the trials and exercises of the godly remnant before God's judgment on the ungodly help their faith. God is standing back, as it were.
Psalm 8 is of another character. Jehovah is to be glorified in this earth, and His glory above the heavens. He has never been so yet. The Father's name is glorified in the hearts of His children, but Jehovah is not glorified universally. 1 Corinthians 15 shews Christ as the Head of the new creation; government in the kingdom is to come in, and, as in Colossians 1, it is to be as Head of the church, He will take the kingdom as Son of man. Psalm 8 presents Him as thus coming. It is not yet fulfilled. "We see not yet all things put under him, but we see Jesus," etc. He is now gathering the church, who, when He comes, comes with Him. The only thing in which I can separate myself from Christ is, where He became sin. Looking at His glory is looking at our own.
In Luke 9:21, 22, being rejected as the Christ, He therefore would not set Himself up as the King. Then He takes another name - "Son of man," and as such He must suffer. He drops for the time the title of Christ, as in Psalm 2, which sets Him forth as the anointed King, and takes the title of Psalm 8 - "Son of man." But He must suffer. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die," etc. As Christ they may say nothing about Him then. As Son of man He is to have all under Him, not only is He to be King in Zion. That will be accomplished too; but, according to Isaiah 49:6, He is to have the Gentiles also. He is to be over everything; and as a man He is to take all things. God will gather together in one all things in Christ, we being in the heavenly part, and Satan under our feet, In the Psalms we get the Christ we are associated with, but not our association with Him. The scheme of the government of God has never yet begun. It has not yet been the new covenant, but the old. Christ is to be King, and this is prophetically, not historically, given in Psalm 2; He is also Son of man in Psalm 8, which is prophetic.
37 Psalm 9 looks at the wicked as not yet put out. The time is not come for righteousness to be made good. Divine righteousness is accomplished through His death, but government in righteousness not yet established. Psalm 2 is not fulfilled, only the opposition of the kings, etc. In Psalm 10 there is distress for the remnant until the interposition of God comes.
Psalms 11 to 15 disclose feelings of the remnant; but there is confidence in God in time of trial. Christ puts into their hearts just what they want in the circumstances. Psalm 12 is the extremity of their distress - a godly man scarcely to be found. Psalm 13 is deeper distress of soul because of a sense of its being from God. The faith of God's people cannot go on for ever; they cry, "How long?" "Art thou treating us as if given up? If it goes on thus, I shall faint under it!" Psalm 14 is the character of the wicked to be cut off, as Psalm 15 is the character of the remnant who stand. The practically godly remnant will have the blessing when Christ comes. There is in Psalms 9, 10, the history of the tribulation - the fact of judgment; and then in Psalms 11, 12 and 13, their condition, thoughts, and feelings; and Psalm 15, the character of those on the holy hill, in contrast with the wicked set forth in Psalm 14.
In Psalm 16 Christ is the link between Jehovah and the remnant. He is passing through this world so as to be able to speak a word in season to the remnant in the last day. He could not go and associate Himself with them in that way without the atonement being made. We have the figure in Aaron going into the holy place on the day of atonement. We are associated with Him within. Isaiah 53: "We hid as it were our faces from him" is the expression of the Jews in the latter day, linking themselves with those who rejected Christ when He was here the first time.
38 In this first book of the Psalms the godly remnant are not driven out of Jerusalem. This applied to Christ personally. He was on this side Jordan, with the poor of the flock, He was walking with them - His path in life. There is more personal association of Christ with the remnant in the latter day. There is more appeal to Jehovah in this book than to God, which characterises the second book. Jehovah is the title God has especially connected with the people of Israel, the seed of Abraham; and their relationship with Him in the land is thus acknowledged. It is better to read "Jehovah" instead of LORD, which we have very vague and undefined in our minds generally, though it is a most blessed title.
In Psalm 16 Christ, before taking His place on high, has experimentally "the tongue of the learned." "In thee do I put my trust." This is quoted in Hebrews 2 to prove Christ's humanity. There are two things make perfection in a man - dependence and obedience. They were in Christ, the contrast of what was in Adam when he sinned. His heart could be moved with compassion, and not only could He shew His power to work miracles, but He could take this place of the dependent and obedient One, and it is there the heart gets food.
God has His food in the offering, but there was the meat-offering, and part of the peace-offering, which the priests ate. He says, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again." Then we feed. The Father has given us the very object He delights in for the object of our affection.
In this psalm He first definitely takes His place with the excellent of the earth. He is thus the comfort of His people in sorrow; and when we have peace, He is the food of our souls - the heart has the perfect good to feed on. He is the object before the soul - He is properly the food of our souls, not in glory, but in humiliation, as here. "I am the true bread that came down from heaven." It does not say, the bread that went up to heaven. Then His flesh is needed for life, we must know Him as dead. We cannot feed on Him as the living and glorified Christ, but as the dead Christ. What draws out our affections to Christ is, what He was down here, going through all the difficulties, making His passage through everything about which He has to intercede for us now.
39 "Thou hast said to Jehovah, Thou art my master." Now I take the place of a servant; I am my Master's - I am taking the place of dependence, leaning on Thee, looking to Thee. Christ is the Jehovah of the Old Testament, not excluding the Father and the Spirit (John 12; Isa. 6). "My goodness extendeth not to thee"; I am not taking a divine place now. He became a babe - was growing in wisdom and favour - anointed to service - has the tongue of the learned; then comes fellowship with the excellent. He takes His place as identifying Himself with them (Phil, 2); that is, "to the saints that are in the earth, and the excellent, in them is all my delight." If His soul disclaimed the one, it had joy in the other. The saints cannot have a sorrow, a difficulty, that is not mine. Proverbs 8: "My delights were with the sons of men." In the first movement of spiritual life in them, however poor and feeble they are, He goes with them; they are the excellent, it is not what they had, but what they were. During His life He was going with them - at the cross He went for them, they could not go there. If they begin to live for Him, He lives with them not one difficulty on the road but Christ has gone before in it and as to sin, that He has borne. "When he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them." He met the lion on the way, and destroyed him that had the power of death. Every step that the Spirit of God in a man treads through this world, Christ has gone, I cannot get into a trouble that Christ has not been in before.
"Thou maintainest my lot." This is just what the poor saints will want in the future day. Could the Man of sorrows say that? "Thou maintainest my lot; the lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places." Yes, He knew who had given Him all. "The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup." Jehovah was His portion, and always He could say it. This truth of Christ's entering into all our sorrows, when the Spirit of God works, He going into it, and as to our sins, helping against them, is immense comfort. I get all the sympathies of Christ in this way.
There is not a step of the path of life that Christ has not trod, Jehovah shewing Him the path of life up to blessing. "Thou wilt shew me the path of life." There was enough in Christ, and He did draw out the affections of the Father as a Man down here (of course as the eternal Son also) in this path of life. How dependent for everything He does not say, "I will rise up," but, "Thou wilt shew me." He passes through death in dependence on His Father; there was the blessed perfectness of a Man with God; and at the close of His career, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He came from God and went to God, etc. He could go back unsullied to the throne of God, and take man back with Him into the glory out of which He came: there is manhood now in the presence of God.
40 Matthew 3 gives John's baptism. They came to him, confessing their sins - "fruits meet for repentance." The beginning of all excellence is to confess we have none; "fruit" was confessing they brought forth none. The instant the Spirit of God is working, Jesus goes to be baptised with them (not having any sin to confess, of course, but) doing His Father's will. He takes His place with them. He had come for that, and the consequence is that He takes His place after death and resurrection to praise in the midst of the congregation.
"Thou wilt shew me the path of life." It is most blessed to hear Christ saying that. It is the path of holy death in verse 10: how did He find that of life? Adam found the path of death in his folly and his self-will, but back from it never! The tree of life was never to be touched in the garden of Eden; he had taken the other path. These two trees set forth that which men are always puzzling themselves about - responsibility, and the gift of God which is life. All that man does ends in death, but it is too late to warn of this now, for he is "dead in trespasses and sins." But Christ came, bringing life into a world that drove Him away, where Satan, the prince of it, reigned, and everything was bearing the stamp of his guilty dominion. In this place of death Christ makes out a path for us. He is shewn by His Father "the path of life." He was "the Life"; but then the path of life had to be tracked through the place of death, where no one thing testifies of God - one wide waste, where there is no way. Christ has Himself gone there before. It is for the Christian I am speaking now; the gospel shews He gives it to those who believe. He had to make out the path of life through a world of sin and wretchedness, in obedience, up to God. It must be through death, if for us, because we are sinners . Now he says, "If any man serve me, let him follow me." We must take up the cross. The cross to Him was atonement; that was the path. As He came for us, it must be by the cross. He has gone through it perfectly and absolutely.
41 What is the consequence? The end is, "in thy presence is fulness of joy." He would rather die than disobey. Notice, death is gone to us, the end is gained: we have to tread this very same path that He trod, up to His presence, where there is "fulness of joy." Why ill this? It was for His Father's glory, doubtless, but it was for these "excellent of the earth." His identifying Himself with them involved this.
Psalms 17, 18, shew the results of His thus taking His place with them. Psalm 17 is the controversy with man in the path; "Let my sentence come forth from thy presence"; and the end is, "I shall behold thy face in righteousness I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness."
Psalms 16, 17, give us two great principles of divine life - trust and righteousness, or integrity; and we find them running all through the Psalms, and any godly person's life, as well as that of the Jew: but this does not give the foundation fully on which we stand., according to the New Testament. You do not find in Psalm 17 the foundation of God's righteousness at this time. Souls in the condition of having divine life, but not knowing their standing in divine righteousness, find the suitability of the Psalms to express their experience.
In Psalm 16 it is divine life in dependence, obedience, and communion. The first characteristic of divine life is trust - Christ putting His trust in Jehovah. As a man He does it. We see Him praying, the true expression of dependence; and in Luke's Gospel this is especially brought out. Then another principle of divine life is the consciousness of integrity, there may be both these - trust in God and consciousness of integrity, without peace with God. Job said, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him"; and he pleaded his own righteousness against God. "Till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me." He had the consciousness of sin and the sense of righteousness, integrity in himself at the same time. The soul cannot be at peace in this state. Job was wrong in making a righteousness of his integrity.
This second principle of divine life we have in Psalm 17. It is the kind of righteousness the Jews will have in the latter day - the same which they had of old. God stays up the souls that trust in Him until they see Christ. Having a promise, they trust, but cannot say, "I have the righteousness of God." Christ having taken up their condition, and borne it, they have the consciousness of integrity through him; and it is the stay of their souls, but not peace. They will find such utterances as this, "Out of the depths have I cried unto thee," suit their own experience; they will be comforted by finding the word of God giving expression to their thoughts and feelings; it will be a prop and stay to them in the midst of their exercises, but they will not get peace in it. This Psalm 17 applies to the remnant surrounded by their enemies - ours are spiritual enemies. Here is the reality of enemies pressing round Christ. The remnant will find every imperfectly formed feeling of their hearts has been perfectly gone through and expressed by Him, He having put Himself in their place. In trusting, and in the consciousness of integrity, He has been before them.
42 In the Psalms mercy always goes before righteousness, and they never meet till Christ appears at the end to the remnant. It cannot be said, "Righteousness and peace have kissed each other" until the perfectness of redemption is known. I may get hope, but I cannot get peace until I get righteousness. It may be said, "Righteousness and peace have kissed each other" for the Jew when Christ comes again. A Jew under law would put righteousness before mercy - that is the law - and Israel stood on that ground. They had made the golden calf before the law was given to them; then God retires into His own sovereignty, and, to spare any, mercy comes in. It was the resource of God when wickedness came in. They have been going about to establish their own righteousness, they would not have Christ who is the end of the law for righteousness, etc., and when they come back, it will be on the ground of mercy and hope.
We, on our proper ground, are not like those who refuse to believe until they see Him; we have the end of our faith now, even the salvation of our souls. We know that righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Christ has gone into the holy place, as the Holy Ghost has come out to us, the proof of it, and we are certain Christ is received within, the full accomplishment of divine righteousness. Romans 3:20: "By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified." But it is said, "In Jehovah shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory." It is not "shall" to us, but "being [that is, having been] justified by faith." God had been forbearing in mercy with the Old Testament saints, because He knew what He was going to bring in. Now it is declared. It was not declared then.
43 "Not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things," etc. "To declare at this time his righteousness." They could say, "being fully persuaded that what God had promised he was able also to perform." I do not simply believe that He is able, but that He has raised up His Son from the dead. I may trust He will help, but not be conscious of being helped yet; that was the patriarch's portion. Yet I do not expect Him to do it, but know that He has done it; it is the ministration of righteousness. I have the knowledge of accomplished righteousness; righteousness is declared to faith. I am not merely hoping for mercy, trusting, and having consciousness of integrity. They could not judge sin in the same way when they had not righteousness as a settled question, which it now is for ever for those who believe. The Spirit of God now demonstrates righteousness to the world by setting Christ at God's right hand. Christ said, "I have glorified thee on the earth"; God says to Him, "Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool."
As regards the believer now, righteousness is on the right hand of God for him. The affections ought to be more lively now that there is the certainty of accomplished righteousness.
There is another thing connected with righteousness here; righteousness is appealed to on the ground of promises, as well as that mercy goes before it. In their state there must be alternation of feeling, in the sense of hope in His mercy - trusting in God; in the consciousness of sin - down in the depths. Yet they will find One has gone down into the depths for them. The Spirit of God in Christ going through all these things shews that not one place, from the dust of death to the highest place in glory, but He has been in - sins I and all having been gone under.
The weakest saint now knows more than the apostles could when Christ was on earth. They trembled and fled at the cross. We feed on that which frightened them - a dead Christ. When once founded on righteousness, our position is so different. It is sad to see a saint crouching down on the other side of divine righteousness, instead of having on the "helmet of salvation," having communion with Him in the efficacy of His death.
There is another thing to mark in these Psalms - the character of HOPE running all through them. Christ looked onward to being in the presence of God, where is fulness of joy; this was the reward He looked for as the end of trusting in God's love (Ps. 16).
44 The reward of righteousness is glory "I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness." Christ looked to return into the same glory He had left for the path of humiliation down here; the reward for it would be glory as a crown. The reward of walking with God in communion is joy in His presence (end of Ps. 16); the reward of faithful walk is the place in glory (end of Ps. 17). It is the same difference for us. Paul looked for the crown of righteousness, but his highest hope was to win Christ.
Christ will come to set everything to rights in power; judgment will return to righteousness, and all the meek of the earth shall see. This has never been known yet. When Christ comes in power, judgment and righteousness will go together. Power will be given to the Judge, who will act in righteousness. The great hindrance to our understanding the Old Testament scriptures is our putting ourselves into them. God's faithfulness, of course, is always true; but when the Spirit of prophecy speaks of the people, and state of the people (for example God hiding His face from them), we know it does not apply to us literally. He cannot hide His face from us. His face is shining on us in Christ. Does He hide His face from Christ?
Psalm 18. Here are Christ's sufferings even unto death. The death of Christ is the ground of all Christ's dealing with the people from Egypt to glory.
Psalm 19 is the witness of creation and witness of the law (v. 7, etc.). Whatever man touches he defiles; but the heavens maintain the glory of God - they are what man cannot reach. Law is broken. Man cannot change it, but he has broken it.
The Psalms that follow, namely, Psalms 20, 21, and 22, are all connected, and shew the result of the position Christ takes in Psalm 16, where He takes the place of caring for "the excellent of the earth," etc.; as though saying, The old world, the people in the flesh, I have done with, and now all My delight is with the excellent. These are they who have received Him. The connection of that, as we have seen, is that He must go through death, He must be the resurrection Man. There must be atonement. Peter was reproved for desiring this to be avoided. Flesh cannot go there; Christ alone can and does. "Whither I go thou canst not follow me now." The moment He has to do with us, it must be Hades, or death. He cannot bless man with union with Himself in the flesh. In the millennium He governs; and we are blest now, but it is all in virtue of this - He has died and risen; therefore we are told to reckon ourselves dead. The life has come into the world that had power to go through death; the life has gone through death, and risen out of it.
45 Psalm 20. The remnant sympathise; and, looking on Him in His trouble, pray for Him.
In Psalm 22 the excellent of the earth come to this terrible conclusion - that they must give their Messiah up as to the flesh. They never could understand how it was to be. In the history we know the result of this when He was on earth; they all forsook Him, and fled. Then mark, we have the character of His sufferings brought out sufferings from man. They hated Him. "Their soul abhorred me," as Zechariah says. The history of the Gospels is that they would not have Him. They sent a message after Him, "We will not have this man to reign over us." All this was from the hand and heart of man. One betrayed Him, another denied Him in the hour of trial, even of His disciples. Then look at the priests: what heartless indifference and unrighteousness in Pilate, who was afraid of the Jews, and washed his hands to be clean of His death! Christ looks round for companions, but finds none, for righteousness, none! for sympathy, none! for intercession, none! Mary at Bethany was a single exception; a gleam of light was there in the midst of the darkness. She, spending her heart on Him, was an appropriate witness to the Son of man - the Son of God! All except that was darkness. The more perfect His feelings, the more He suffered. It was a deep mire in which He was standing. He had to prove the wickedness of the human heart, that it is open and complete enmity to what is good. Such is flesh. Christ experienced what it is on His own person. The result of all that suffering from the hand of man is judgment on man. See Ps. 16.) "Thou hast given him what he asked of thee." See Heb. 5 (also "He was heard for his piety.") "Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies."
There are two very distinct characters in Christ's sufferings, There was His suffering in the world, and especially in connection with Israel; and there was this other - He came to give His life a ransom. "This is my blood of the new covenant, shed for many": and it is outside all dispensation. We "were by nature children of wrath"; ALL are one as to that condition. There was a ministration "of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises," etc., and the Gentiles were the objects of mercy; but through Christ's coming into the world there was the end of promise. There are blessed promises made good to us as Christians, and God will fulfil all He has said for earth, but this will be in the world to come. Christ came as the vessel of promise. He came into the world, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. Then there was a third party: "As many as received him," etc. The world knew Him not; His own received Him not. But some did receive Him; these were born of God. It was a new thing, not from the first Adam. Every Christian knows we are born anew. It is no modification of the first Adam, but a new life. "The life was manifested, and we have seen it," etc.; and in chapter 2 of John's epistle it is said, "which thing is true in him, and in you." In chapter 1 of the Gospel he had said, "the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." John the Baptist drew attention to the "Light"; the Light comes into the world, and the world knows Him not. Then, again, He comes among the Jews with everything to attract; but they saw nothing in Him to desire Him. This gives a double character to Christ's coming into the world. lie was connected with all who came of Adam, being born into the world. He was the Life and the Light of men. He did not receive life - He was it. He was the Life from heaven. God has given to us life, and that life is in His Son; not life in ourselves, This divine Person comes into the world, "God manifest in the flesh." This is the first thing - He tries human nature, that is, the world and the Jews. He was a minister of the circumcision, bound to come because of the promises.
46 Christ's coming as God manifested in the flesh tests man. Then, secondly, He became the last Adam (I am not now speaking of Him as Head of His body, the church, but as risen man) the Head of everything, the First-born from the dead. In the last Adam - Christ - we have the Man of God's counsels; as Zechariah has it, "the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts." This is a different thing from His merely testing the old thing, which, even in Him, ends in death. True, He said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Even then He could speak of resurrection, and in that resurrection He becomes the Head of a new thing, and He will be that for ever. This new position He never took on the earth. It was in resurrection. We could not have had it with Him without death - "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone," etc. Such is the essence and centre of all our relationships with God. If man could have had connection with God in the flesh, on this side death, it would prove flesh good for something. It is the best thing it could be if it could delight in God; but all testimony shews us this is impossible.
47 Christ was here in perfect graciousness, speaking as never man spake, bringing out all His resources to meet the need of men; but the result of all this is entire and utter rejection. The history gives us Him presenting divine grace and graciousness, but His rejection in consequence. Not only has man broken God's law - that he had done already, made a calf, etc. - but now the question was raised between the display of God's heart and man's heart. He says, For my love I have hatred "they hated me without a cause." That is the whole history of the flesh - God was reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. It is this gives the true character to the world now. Christ has been here, and has been rejected. The people were prepared by prophecy, promise, etc. Messiah came in by the door, was feeding the hungry with bread, doing all things well, as some were constrained to acknowledge; but they would not have Him.
John begins with His rejection; there is no genealogy given by him. The other Gospels give us the history of His rejection, but in these three verses of John 1 we have the results of what is told in the rest. The Jews are treated as a reprobate people; Christ is taken up as the rejected One. This is the starting-point with John, but grace is brought out, The result of man's treatment of Christ will result in judgment on man.
The result of His atoning work is exactly the opposite. Why did He suffer from man? It was for righteousness. When He suffers from God, is it for righteousness? Just the opposite. He suffers for sin under the wrath of God. He was made sin! Ave, and He suffers for sin. The moment He was made sin, He had to do with God about it. He was absolutely alone in this; there were none to look on, man could not contemplate. We have not such an expression as that we have in Psalm 20, "Jehovah hear thee," in this Psalm 22. The disciples were even as the world - they could not go there. The ark must stand in the midst of Jordan until the people are over. There was Satan's power, God's wages against sin. When He appeals to God for deliverance, He is not heard on the cross. He tasted death for every man. He must drink the cup of wrath - it is between God and Himself. If He had had the least comfort from God, He would not have drunk the cup. Man had nothing to do with it. If man had been there, it would have been damnation; He must be alone when suffering from God. In the thought of this suffering from sin He prayed against it. Could He say of that, "My meat is to do the will"? etc. No! not on the cross. This was the power of death, and in prospect of it, in the garden of Gethsemane, He said to His disciples, "Tarry ye here and watch"; and to God, "If it be possible, let this cup pass," etc. Then He takes the cup from His Father's hands. When on the cross He cries "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" He is forsaken of God. His soul drinks the cup of wrath due to Him when He is made sin. We have His thoughts and feelings expressed where the facts are going on. In the Psalms we have the privilege thus of knowing how He felt when under them. Psalm 22 gives, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" His feelings - the fact was atonement.
48 All that was closed in the death of Christ, and now it is another thing, a new thing. He comes out free, discharged, clear of all He bore on the cross, and is the resurrection chief, the heavenly Man according to the counsels of God. It is into union with Him we are brought by faith - a place of unmingled and perfect grace is the result. Verse 19 shews what was the peculiar character of Christ's sufferings through the place He took in this world, and then the place before God which results in this full blessing to us.
"Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns." He was transpierced, not saved from it, so as not to be on it; when on the horns of the unicorns (a figure expressing the awful suffering of that moment), He was heard. "Thou hast heard me from the horns," etc. "He hath appeared once in the end of the age to put away sin," etc. All is judged, and this new resurrection Man is now in the presence of God, instead of the sinful man cast out of the presence of God; the risen man heard from the horns of the unicorns. Then He came to give testimony of the place into which we are brought as delivered. Angels had never seen such a thing as this I God had now a new character as Saviour - the Saviour - God. Christ had thus manifestly revealed it. It is not now responsible man; which has been gone through and settled in the death of Christ. Man would not have Him; then there must be judgment on enemies (not only wicked people): this is the result. Now God says, "I am going to do something in the second Adam." "What is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead," etc. "And you who were dead in trespasses and sins" hath he quickened, etc. "Not of works," etc. "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." There is the responsibility of Christians.
49 This new name of God, Saviour, so often mentioned in Timothy, is made known by that Man who is set at His right hand by divine power, giving new life. God came down in the person of Christ, who went into death and rose again. He is the Saviour. What is the first thing He does after His resurrection? He comes and tells His brethren of the full deliverance He has wrought. He comes to tell them, You are saved - you are brought before God - by virtue of this that I have done. Then He says to Mary Magdalene, Touch me not; I am not here among you as a King, but "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father." He puts them into the same relationship as Himself. "I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee." When He has told them of the blessedness of being saved, the full joy of the deliverance, He is not going to let them praise alone. The first thing is to reveal the new relationship, and then to praise in the midst of them. What is the character of His praise? Can a single note jar in His praise? If He praises, it must be in the power of a full redemption, a finished complete deliverance; and everything not founded on this does not answer to His note of praise.
50 Speaking of our answering to God on the ground of this redemption, what position are we to take? We can take none but what He has taken. He comes and declares His name to His brethren, and He leads the praise Himself, so that we must in worship acknowledge the full blessing into which He has brought us. We have to follow Him in His praise in this new relationship, not in flesh but in risen life. People say, But I must be humble! Nothing is so humble as following Christ, and He has left sin behind - death behind; and, blessed be God for it! there is no other position for us.
"Ye that fear Jehovah, praise him." This goes on to the end of verse 24. But we come in verse 25 and following verses to millennial time - "in the great congregation," when all Israel shall be satisfied. Not only they are meek, but they praise Him, "They shall praise Jehovah that seek him." People now are often sorrowful and unhappy in seeking, but not then. Verse 27. All Israel will not do, but "all the ends of the world shall remember, and turn to Jehovah." Verse 31. "They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness, etc., that he hath done this" (borne their sins).
All this latter part (v. 25-31) as we have seen refers to millennial blessing on earth; but we know our position is spoken of as "sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." He has suffered from God, and there is not a word of judgment afterwards; He has suffered for sin, and exhausted it. He is the exalted Man, and as such He will execute judgment as the result of His being rejected of man. As to the saints - "the excellent" - His connection with them is the key to all the blessing for us. Two things are connected with this: first, unbounded grace; and, secondly, the place we are practically set in - a new footing. We have new life from God; we are not of the world, and should be nothing in the spirit of grace, because not of it.
Psalm 23. Jehovah is the Shepherd, going before the sheep in the path. We cannot say Christ was a sheep: He is Jehovah; but He emptied Himself - went before them - passed through every difficulty and trial yet more than the sheep.
Psalm 24. The consequence is that He is found to be the very Jehovah; the One who in humiliation was trusting is received on high, and owned in His glory.
Psalm 25. Here another point comes in. Up to this there is no mention of sins; they are a tried remnant, but there are no sins confessed till now. This is what makes the great difference for any soul. That they are sinners is a farther part of the history. But atonement and grace come out in Psalm 22. The remnant, before they trust in Christ, cry to Jehovah. There is not integrity lost, but sins are confessed. Christ has combined the expression of confession and trust together. They can look for mercy, expect mercy, and confess their sins. They will be trusting, and yet not knowing how they can trust. The soul is brought into the thorough and deep consciousness of what God is - despairing and hoping (we are the same when under law) alternately. The state of the Jews will be this - not having the application in the conscience of what the cross reaches. All needed is brought out in the cross; but what the cross has done in bringing out to light righteousness and love is not seen all at once. With us it is often by little and little that the blessed picture seen in Christ makes its way into the soul. Then it is all light; but darkness may come in afterwards. At first there is only reckoning on the blessedness of Christ. When that reaches the conscience it brings bitterness: what at first attracted the heart did not reach the elements of good and evil. When it reaches these, it does not minister peace, because the man has not learned the thing to which it applies in his own soul. It is a wonderful thing to see Christ coming, and saying, "My sins." Christ made Himself one with me, taking all my debts upon Him - my Surety! He has gone down into the depths. "My iniquities"; any one of the remnant might say that. There is the remnant's voice in it, but there is Christ's first. He has taken them. They suffer from them, never for them - it would be eternal condemnation if they did. "He was wounded for our transgressions," etc.
51 In this psalm there is confession of sins, and sense of integrity (v. 5). "On thee do I wait all the day," etc. Integrity, coming back with the consciousness of sins, but confidence of pardon: "Pardon mine iniquity, for it is great." God brings in the question of living righteousness, and therefore gives the consciousness of sins: "For thy name's sake pardon mine iniquity, FOR it is great." This is strange reasoning, according to man's thought: men say it is a little sin, but when taught of God we see how great it is.
Another thing is, truth is in the man, because he feels the sin is great; he has given up any thought of justifying himself, "My iniquity is great." If God does not forgive me for His own glory's sake, He cannot do it at all; and not one spot of sin will He leave, for the comfort of my own heart, or the glory of His name. So we see for Israel by-and-by in Isaiah 44:22, etc. They are made to rest in absolute mercy, in sovereign grace. Grace is perfect in getting rid of the sins.
52 The psalms following Psalm 25 give details of these experiences, as they are going through this time of trial. Psalm 26 gives the other side of the repentant soul, not confidence in grace, but integrity. In Psalm 27 Jehovah is the desire and refuge, as He had bid them seek. In Psalm 28 evil is felt, judgment looked for, in separation of heart to the Lord. In Psalm 29 the mighty are reminded of the Mightiest. In Psalm 30 trust in prosperity is contrasted with Jehovah, who is above the power of death. From Psalm 31 Christ could quote the words of departing confidence in His Father (not Jehovah only), though it be about the godly and redeemed remnant. Psalm 32 is the answer to Psalm 25. "Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." "Covered" is an allusion to the mercy-seat covering. Sins are put away, no more to be remembered. This is held out before them as hope. They will have the consciousness of forgiveness when they see Him. "In whose spirit there is no guile"; in the forgiveness the guile is all gone.
Psalm 33 follows this up with the joy of full deliverance by Jehovah's intervention, and Psalm 34 shews the soul praising at all times because of the unchanging God who governs all. Psalm 35 appeals to His judgment against cruel crafty persecutors, as Psalm 36 sees good and evil in His light, followed up by Psalm 37, which exhorts the godly to wait on Jehovah in meekness, undisturbed by the passing prosperity of the wicked. Psalms 38, and 39 own Jehovah's chastening because of their sins but they are open before Himself, and silent with man, but cry for His help. The latter goes farther and more deeply than the former, the vanity of man being realised rather than their personal feelings.
Then we have the introduction of One who changes all in Psalm 40. "I waited patiently," etc. Here is the reason why the remnant should trust Jehovah. HE has been delivered from the horrible pit and the miry clay (shewing resurrection). There are some special psalms connected with Christ round which others seem clustered; this is one of them. Here is Christ's actual connection with the people on earth, not only in their sorrows, but bearing their sins, so that all who looked to Him might be blessed with Him. "I, poor and needy, the Lord thinketh upon me." "Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee."
53 Christ did not take one step to save Himself. He might have had twelve legions of angels, but He was waiting upon God. He appeals to God as Jehovah, not Father, because that relationship had not been brought out as now it is. The Jew did not know the Father as He is now revealed, and Christ was taking the place of a godly Jew among them, therefore He takes up the relationship known to them. One or two verses often bring out the subject of the psalm, and the rest are the development of that. What He did in the position He was in is the great point here - what He went through - what He felt. The grand principle is that He waited on Jehovah. He is undertaking the cause of the poor remnant, goes through all their sorrows, and bears their sin. In the last it is FOR them, not with them; and He gives them the comfort of being taken up to the same position of praising with Himself. "Many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in Jehovah."
Then there is the great central truth: "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire": "Mine ears hast thou digged!" "He taketh away the first that he may establish the second." Christ came to do God's will. Everything centres in Christ. All blessing is connected with relationship to Christ, whether outcast reprobates (Gentiles), or God's people who had broken the covenant. All is set aside; and Christ, who says "Lo, I come to do thy will," becomes everything.
"Mine ears hast thou digged" is not the same thing as is spoken of in Isaiah 50, "He wakeneth mine ear." It has a peculiar character. He is offering Himself before He came. In Philippians 2 we read that He becomes a man, taking the form of a servant, having ears, doing nothing but what He was told, listening to every word that came out of God's mouth. "By every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God doth man live." He had ears to receive it. Christ had no desire to do anything different from God's will. God's will was His motive. Never to stir but as another will guide you is perfectness as a man. Christ waited for the expression of His Father's will before doing anything. Christ on earth was in the form of a servant. How did He get there? By putting off all the glory of having a will - offering Himself before He came. It was His will to come: His love brought Him. "Lo, I come to do thy will." This was will, but it was the Father's will, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. He told His disciples, in going forth, to say, "Peace, and if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it; if not, it shall turn to you again." So it was with Him. He was obedient, because He offered Himself to obey. There was nothing but obedience (power, of course, in Him); He is in the place of perfect obedience. The first word is not from God, "Do you go," but from Christ, "Lo, I come." In the counsels of God it was written in the book. This gives us a knowledge of Christ, His intercourse with God, before He came. Here is Christ, the divine person, the source of all the blessing, taking the place of obedience. He is the Servant now! What is He doing for us? Bringing out God to us, to our eye. He has brought God right down to our heart.
54 "I have preached righteousness in the great congregation." He made perfectly good God's character in the world, and this cost Him His life. He went out to all the people, declared God's faithfulness, was not hindered, did not hide and got into "miry clay" in consequence, under all that could press a man down. Christ has not failed to bring all that God is to us. How we want it in a world that has got away as far as it can from God, with its artifices, etc., like Cain! Others talked about the thing, but Christ was the thing. In every word and act they might have seen the Father, if they had had eyes to see. Christ can say, I know the world, what it is; I have gone through it all, like Noah's dove, and never found an echo: now you come to Me! I will give you rest. There is never any rest for a human soul, but in Him. One then learns of Him in the meekness and submission of His soul.
Psalm 41 closes the book with the blessedness of him who considers the poor, not the proud but poor, of the flock, as having God's mind. This Christ understood fully, as He was it perfectly, and availed Himself of a sentence in it about one who was as far from this mind as could be. But as the wicked do not triumph in the end, so Jehovah favours, even upon the earth, the despised for whom plots are laid, upholds them in integrity, and sets them before His face for ever.