The text at the head of this paper is from a psalm in which the Spirit of Christ leads the soul into thorough confidence in the Lord, and that on the ground of righteousness. Mercy too being rejoiced in, and God known as a God of truth, everything is trusted with the Lord - "my spirit" (v. 5), "my times." (v. 15.) Trials were there - fightings without, and fears within; but the One who is trusted "has known my soul in adversities," and in the sense that all is in His hands, the one who trusts has the present assurance of the goodness that is laid up for the faithful, and the hopers in Jehovah are strengthened and encouraged. (v. 24.)
Passing on to Psalm 32, we have the blessedness of a forgiven sinner. Not only does the exercised soul turn to the Lord as to the only confidence in the midst of times and troubles, but in this psalm he learns to unburden his heart to Him in the confession of sin - the heart is emptied out to the Lord, and the burning fever within is assuaged by the forgiveness of transgressions and iniquity. Jehovah is known now as a hiding-place, instead of One to be hidden from. There is no fear where this is realized that the rest in "the secret of His presence" (Psalm 31:20) can be disturbed from within or from without. Jehovah compasses him about with songs of deliverance, instructs and leads him intelligently, and if necessary with bit and bridle. Trusting in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about, and in true uprightness of heart there is gladness and shouting for joy.
Psalm 33 takes up this joy; for it is not joy in self, or in circumstances, but in the Lord (comp. Phil. 4), and for the first time in the Psalms we have "a new song." The saint had been compassed about with songs of deliverance by the Lord; but God Himself is now become the object of rejoicing and song. Not that this new song yet rises higher than the time-scene of this earth; but the great thing in it is that Jehovah is known and praised. Two special things are here celebrated - His word and His works (v. 4); His righteousness, and His goodness or mercy. (v. 5.) True the scene around is full of the counsels of man - Psalm 2:2 tells us to what a height they rise; but the heart is not occupied with that, but with the Lord; His word is right, His works are truth. The heavens, the sea, the earth bear witness. He has counsels too as to His own creation, as to that which when He spake it was done, when He commanded it stood fast. Shall not they be carried out? Faith rejoicing in the Lord can say that the counsel of the heathen shall be brought to nought, and the devices of the people be made of none effect, but "the counsel of the Lord standeth for ever: the thoughts of His heart to all generations." It is this "for ever" which we may see spoken of in Eccles. 3:14; and whatever may be the present apparent prosperity of the counsels of man, underlying it all we may be sure there is the work that God maketh from beginning to end. In Matt. 13:24-30 we see the outward effect of the enemy's work; but in Mark 4:26-29 we have described this underlying work done by the Son of man. Seed is cast into the ground, "times" of sunshine and storm doubtless pass over it, and it is as if the sower should sleep and rise night and day; but the seed springs and grows he knoweth not how, but eventually the fruit is brought forth, and the harvest comes. It is the work which God maketh from beginning to end.
The heart being thus assured that the counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the Spirit of God passes on in verse 12 to the happiness of those whose God is this Jehovah - of being the people whom He has chosen. He had purposes about them. They were to be His inheritance for the earth (even as the Church learns what is the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints who are associated with Him who is in the heavens, and in whom everything is to be headed up both in heaven and on earth). He took notice of all that was going on among men as He looked down from heaven; He saw the place of their confidence; but His eye was resting upon them that fear Him, upon them that hope in His mercy. Not only do they know Him, but He knows them. (Comp. John 10:14; Gal. 4:9.) They are the objects of His care, and learn, while He allows men for a time to use His creation according to their own counsels, to wait for the Lord as well as to trust in Him - their help and shield. Thus while the heart rejoices in Him, trusting in His holy name, the patience of hope is produced in the soul. The "times" are running on, and they form the epoch between the declaration of the counsels of the Lord and their fulfilment, during which the counsels of men are sought to be established. These the Lord will eventually frustrate and bring to nought, so that the thoughts of His heart may stand to all generations. During these times faith is tried, a trial much more precious than of gold that perisheth, and the soul is exercised and chastened, and taught to wait for the Lord. How blessed to know there is One who passed through them perfectly, who could say, as come to do the will of God, "In waiting I waited for the Lord!" (Ps. 40:1.) In perfect patience He waited until from the depth of sorrows He was heard, and brought up out of them with a new song in His mouth, even praise unto our God.
It is this One who speaks in Ps. 34. He is passing through the times in which He accomplished the will of God, and during which He attached to Himself those who, according to Ps. 16, were the excellent of the earth - the saints who, however feebly, were walking in the path of faith into which He in grace had entered, so that He might be with those in whom He had found His delight. "He who sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified are all of one." He it is who goes before the sheep when He leads them out. It is in the hearing of these companions - the humble who hear Him and are glad - that He thus speaks: "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord." Prophets and kings had desired to hear such things (Luke 10:24) as the disciples listened to "at that time." When standing by they heard Jesus say, in the hour of His rejection, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." It was at a time when city after city which had witnessed His mighty works refused to listen, and yet how perfectly does He "praise, bearing witness to His Father," because it was "well pleasing in His sight." What perfect bowing to His good pleasure! He knew the Father, whose good pleasure it was to carry out His ways by hiding these things from the wise and prudent - those who found their sphere in the present, and by revealing them to babes. Knowing thus the Father's mind, He invites the weary and heavy-laden - those who found that in the present scene "all things are full of labour," to come to Himself, where they would find His rest as this meek and lowly One. Those who thus found His company are the humble of Ps. 34, who hear Him and are glad. Personally they are weak and feeble, and He knows it; and oft-times on earth He had to say to them, "O ye of little faith." And yet what company was like His? It had such attraction that it made Thomas say to his fellow-disciples, "Let us also go that we may die with Him." The attraction and the affection were there, though the flesh was weak; for as they were in the way going up to Jerusalem, though Jesus went before them, "they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid." (Mark 10:32.) He had to speak to them of the times of suffering and rejection that He must pass through ere the time of rest and glory could be reached. It was necessary for the very maintenance of that glory that it should be so; but they were dull of hearing, and "understood none of these things." (Luke 18:34.) Still it was His path, because it was the Father's will; and if they would go after Him they must take up the cross and follow.
We, as they, often fail to apprehend the holiness and righteousness, as well as the graciousness and mercy, of the ways of God. In His holy government it is right that man should reap, even in the present, that which he sows. The history of Israel develops these ways of His holy government. For ages they had been sowing to the flesh and turning their backs to God, and they had to receive at His hand double for all their sins. Moreover, they were guilty of refusing the One who had come in grace to bear their griefs and carry their sorrows. Mercy was thus rejected when it came to them in God's "Mercy One" (Ps. 89:19), and His lips, that spake such gracious words that all wondered, had to utter, "Woe to thee! woe to thee!" (Matt. 11); and while He wept, to foretell Jerusalem's coming desolation because she knew not the time of her visitation. She would be trodden down of the Gentiles according to the word of God, and Jesus Himself be delivered to them to be put to death, so completely did He enter into the sorrows and pathway of His people, whose sins obliged Jehovah to give the dearly beloved of His soul into the hand of her enemies. It is not of atonement that we are now speaking, well as we know that it was accomplished in the death of Jesus on the cross, where He did the will of God in that body which was prepared for Him, but of the ways of wisdom, by which He so orders that man should prove himself to be both a transgressor and a rejecter of God Himself in grace, notwithstanding all His longsuffering and patience, and by which He also displays Himself in His own unchangeable nature and character, while He manifests that He has no compromise with evil even in His own people more than in the ungodly. With the latter His long-suffering will finally give way to judgment, after all His dealings to exercise the conscience and attract the heart have been of no avail, judgment which at the last will be full and final. By these same dealings the saints are taught to discern good and evil while they endure them as chastening for their profit, that they might be partakers of His holiness.
In Caleb and Joshua we learn how the saints may have to pass through the times during which God thus displays His ways and vindicates His character; but they become the opportunity by which God is better known to them, and the power of faith increased by its exercise. Thus Joshua is taught to be strong and very courageous, so that he may lead the people at last into the land with cities walled up to heaven; and Caleb attains a power of faith by which he takes possession of the inheritance on. which his feet had trodden with a vigour unabated by forty years of wandering. God was better known to each as the One who had delight in His people, as well as in the confidence and faithfulness of an individual saint.
While thus learning God we taste His compassions; for He knows our frame, He remembers we are dust, and He gives strong consolation to those whose eyes rest on the Forerunner who has gone before as the Leader and Completer of faith. He entered into the pathway through these "times," and walked in it in the perfectness of faith in His Father and in obedience to His will even to death. We see, in Zechariah 13:5, how Messiah was brought by man into the same position in which he was as a tiller of the ground - a servant - and also into the place of death in the house of His friends. Man was in those circumstances, and Jesus entered into them in grace, thus to become, in the perfectness of His own walk in the midst of them, the sustainer of the hearts of those who were there. He could say to them, "Take my yoke, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly iii heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls" - rest in being in company with Him, and learning to be of His spirit. To say "I will bless the Lord at all times" would otherwise prove to be difficult, the words would tremble on our lips; but in company with Him, though realizing our own weakness, we hear them uttered by Him, and taste the marvellous grace which bids us join with Him in magnifying the Lord: "O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together." Thus have we the privilege of being in company, in spirit, with One who ever turned to His Father; of hearing Him say, "I thank thee, Father," and for our encouragement in the needed exercises of these "times." "I sought the Lord, and He heard me;" and again, "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard." Hearing such words, He directs our hearts to His own refuge; and thus "they" (His companions) "looked unto Him" (Jehovah, for us the Father) "and were lightened; and their faces were not ashamed." We respond to His invitation, "O taste and see that the Lord is good," and learn the blessedness of trusting in Him; or, as Peter puts it, for those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, "Unto you therefore which believe He is precious," or "is the preciousness" of God's chief corner-stone.
The present government of God has thus
its effect in producing the state of heart and spirit which the Lord can be nigh
unto. (v. 18.) No sorrow can go further than He pleases; for "my times are
in thy hands." It was needful that every wave of sorrow should dash
against the blessed Lord, all must roll over Him, that, as Captain of
salvation, He might be made perfect through sufferings, but not one that was
not needed for the accomplishing of all things. He whose Spirit in the prophets
of old had written of these sufferings was now passing through them, and when
all were accomplished that His Spirit had foretold He could say, "It is
finished" (John 19:28); and then not a bone of Him was broken. (John 19:
36.) "Many may be the afflictions of the righteous," yet personally
he is kept. "He keepeth all his bones, not one of them is broken;" and
through delivering mercy it will be testified -
"Garments fresh and foot unweary
Tell how God hath brought thee through."
Yes; the Lord is gracious. Israel will by these psalms learn in their times of sorrow the deep sympathy of the Spirit of Christ, and be sustained by the knowledge of unchanging love - "I have loved thee with an everlasting love" (Jer. 31:3) - when Jehovah allures them again into the wilderness, and teaches them to sing there. How much more do we know that same eternal love, made known to us in the Son!
The Church too, as well as the individual, has her "times" of sorrow. Rev. 2 and 3 show us the "times" which pass over her, and it is well if, in the light of the searching eyes of the Son of man, any are awakened to know the times, and learn what Israel ought to do. (1 Chron. 12:32.) It is not to set up again that which has failed, but, in the sense of failure, to understand that these times also are "in thy hands." There we can rest, holding fast that we have (through His grace) until He comes, in whom, as the faithful and true witness, all will yet be brought out in glory at His appearing, which in its own "times" He shall show who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.
It is on the ground of atonement that this blessed "for ever" can take place. To that, as to all God's works, "nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it." The smiting of Jehovah's fellow, and the hiding of God's face, when the holy soul of Jesus was made an offering for sin, form the basis of these ways of God, and of the work that He maketh from beginning to end, until all issues in a new heaven and a new earth, where the former things are passed away, and God's "for ever" takes the place of times and seasons.
T. H. Reynolds.