The character of the fourth book of Psalms is marked by the bringing in of the "only-begotten" into the world again. But first He is cut off, and He who was cut off is Jehovah the Creator. The fifth and last book is the only one which speaks of Christ as Melchisedec. This is the first psalm which speaks of Him as man after the restoration. He now takes His throne as Priest. The last psalms are the hallelujahs.
After Psalm 102, which is the centre of book 4, we find the people repassing all the ways and dealings of God, when they gather round Him their centre, the Messiah. All the blessings cluster round Him in this character of Melchisedec. Psalm 103 is a review of God's moral dealings with the people; Psalm 104, of dealings with creation, celebrating Jehovah, God of Israel, in connection with creation. In Psalm 105 we have God's positive, special favour to them as His people, and in Psalm 106 their failure under it. "Gather us from amongst the heathen" refers to the last day, etc. There is a summary of all God's dealings with them, as to forgiveness, creation, special favour, and their failure and cry to be brought forth in mercy.
There is one remarkable feature to be noticed in these psalms; namely, the manner of their connection with Christ. Psalm 102 shews the way in which He was the poor man cut off, yet Jehovah; and Psalm 103 begins, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, … who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases." There is especial interest in seeing how this is connected with Christ in the Gospels. Jehovah is the One who forgives and heals. This is just what the Lord does with the paralytic. It was an example of God's governmental dealings with man. He healed the palsy, and besides, He forgave the sins. They say, "Who is this that forgiveth sins also?" He proved that He was the Jehovah who forgave them and healed their diseases. The Gospels, while most simple (the first three especially) in many ways, have the greatest depth in them, if you get below the surface. They shew what He was, if searched into; and it is most blessed to see who He was that thus walked amongst men, going about doing good. In the Epistles the Holy Ghost gives the explanation of the value of Christ's work, and until I get peace I want that which will settle me on that point; and when settled there, I can turn back and see who He was, and the heart finds more food than even in the Epistles. We find Christ Himself But there is also much relative to Christ in the Psalms and in special connection with the remnant of Israel. He calls Himself the Son of man in the passages about the paralytic referred to; but what He did proved Him to be the Jehovah of the Psalms. We have in them either His own experience; or He is in sympathy with those there (that is, in connection with the remnant).
119 The fifth book has a peculiar bearing, because it rehearses the circumstances of the remnant, after their restoration. It is their retrospect of all that has gone by. Hence it begins with this formula (107) "Give thanks unto the Lord, for his mercy endureth for ever." That was the set phrase for the celebration of the faithfulness of God in Israel. David used it when he brought the ark back (1 Chr. 16); and again they used it when they came from Babylon (Ezra 3). "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so," etc. This refers to Israel brought back, and goes back to their history in the wilderness - deliverance from Egypt; "they that go down to the sea in ships," Ps. 107:23. Israel is being brought back; and it ends in God's setting "the poor on high from affliction." What we get as a sort of preface to the book is that all these are gathered from different places, in the midst of humbled circumstances. They are minished and brought low - enemies are in the land; and the result of all is, that God pours contempt upon the proud, and iniquity in the earth is entirely cleansed.
In Psalm 108 is praise in taking possession. "Through God we shall do valiantly" - "Thou art the glory of their strength." The subject then turns back to Christ's sorrow in the wilderness, Antichrist literally being represented by Judas. See how Christ got Himself in spirit into the very same circumstances in which they will be in the latter day.
There are but few of the psalms apply wholly and entirely to the Lord in His personal sorrows. Psalm 22 applies thus exclusively to Christ, as also Psalm 102, but not many others. Those referring to His glory at the end of course are different. There are a great many in which some passages apply to the Lord and others to the remnant. For instance, Psalm 69 ("They gave me gall for my meat, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink"), refers to Christ; but the subject of Psalm 69 is first Israel. In verse 5 He speaks in the name of His people. The one in whom the Spirit works takes up the sorrows of the remnant. It is the Spirit of Christ; but some are the expression of what Christ Himself went through. In Psalm 22 you have not only what exclusively belongs to Him, but atonement - that which man could have nothing to do with, except in needing and getting the blessing of it. When we find His Person as Creator and His atoning work, we find Him alone; but in all others, others could come and do come into them. No sorrow was like His, even that besides His sufferings in making the atonement. Psalm 69:26 shews how others are brought in. "They talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded." This is the same psalm in which He speaks of "reproach hath broken my heart"; and we all know the accomplishment of that in the Gospels. Yet in the other verse there were some who, however insignificant, had a part in it.
120 There is a character of suffering flowing from the activity of divine love. There is another kind - anxiety and distress for sin, both of which we may go through, not in atonement as Christ did, whose alone it was to be there. But Israel will feel the distress of their sin in the last day. What is the foundation on which He can sympathise with sinners now in any way? Atonement.
In Psalm 22 you get, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" "I cry in the day time and thou hearest not," etc. But in this Psalm 69, which approaches nearest to that, we get the suffering very different in principle. "Save me, O God, for the waters," etc.; "but as for me, my prayer is unto thee in an acceptable time," though going up to death; whereas in Psalm 22 He is forsaken, bearing divine wrath for sin. There are dogs around and "my soul like wax," He says, "but be not thou far from me." He is far from Him, entirely alone. He could not then speak of "those whom thou hast wounded." He does bring in the church at the end of Psalm 22: "in the midst of the church will I sing praise." The judgment being completely and fully borne, and atonement made, He sings praise to Him who heard Him, resurrection being the proof of it.
In Gethsemane, in prospect of the cup, He experienced man's weakness and the power of Satan. He sweat great drops of blood, and cries to His Father, "Father, if it be possible," etc. He had not got the cup then, though He was thinking of it. The moment He has got the cup He says, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" The remnant may dread the wrath of God for sin; but they never endure it. He has endured it for them.
121 We may go through and feel the reproach of Christ in our little measure, a privilege Paul had, in scourges, reproaches, etc. He was wonderfully like his Master; but would he have thought it a privilege to bear the wrath of God for sin? The power of Satan and the power of wicked men might be all let loose upon us; but that would not be like the suffering in atonement. The sorrow and suffering on account of sin He can feel with us, for He felt it in bearing it, and so could say, "Out of the depths have I cried unto thee"; but in the activity of divine love He can feel with us, and we with Him. The other thing into which we can never enter is what He endured for us. The historical circumstances of Christ were just what Israel will have to go through in the latter day - circumstances in a smaller sphere, but in greater depth of feeling. He went through all in spirit and through some in fact. Psalm 109 is Judas' betrayal personally, but not confined to Judas - "them." "Let them be before the Lord continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth," v. 15 - "them that speak evil," etc. (v. 20). What a wonderful provision God has made for the comfort of the remnant in that day! Suppose them reading these words! Christ made the atonement and has put words into their mouths, expressing for them their cry, speaking of their sins, etc., and they will say, "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him," and thus they will be encouraged to think He will hear them. These two things will give them encouragement when they find out their sin otherwise they might say, What will become of us? and get into despair.
When all come up, as recorded in Matthew, asking what authority had Caesar, the Lord puts a question. There was a solemn process going on between them and God; they were with "the officer" in the way. Then He refers to this Psalm 110 speaking of His exaltation on high (Matt. 22:44), "Sit on my right hand until I make thine enemies," etc. This is the time He is sitting there - doing nothing for Israel, though He is their great High Priest within, and "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance"; but their whole condition, since the day of the cross till He comes again to earth, is that He is doing nothing for them. This is not the time that He is making His enemies His footstool, but He is gathering the joint-heirs, while He is sitting on the throne of God. How remarkably this comes in as connected with making our peace! "When he had by himself purged our sins"; that was part of His divine glory. He could not sit down without it, and the work is complete; "He for ever sat down," referring to completeness in perpetuity. Every believer has immutable, unchangeable perfection before God in Christ. He sits on the right hand of God, and, consequent upon His sitting down there, He has received the Holy Ghost. There is now no true Christian state, but that of unclouded assurance in the presence of God - absolute brightness there. There is no continual cleansing with blood; the water is for practical purifying. Thus in 1 John 1, "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" refers to our place or standing before God.
122 Remark, Jehovah says in verse 1, "Sit thou on my right hand until I make thy foes thy footstool." He is not treading them under His feet. When He comes forth, we come with Him, not to triumph upon them; that He does alone, and the time not come yet. Our actual condition will then be with Him. It is now by faith with Him. We have association with Him as a heavenly Christ. Now they are giving a place to this Jehovah on earth, who was the rejected man. "The Lord send the rod of thy strength out of Zion." We are going back to the fulfilment of Psalm 2. He has set His King in Zion. "Thy people [Jehovah's people] shall be willing," etc. (v. 3), but not before the day of His power. They were not willing in His weakness; a little remnant were, and they became the nucleus of the church. But now "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power," that is in contrast with "sit thou on my right hand until I make," etc. In verse 3 "dew of thy youth," means of these youths, the generation just come in, and "the womb of the morning" is the opening of the new day just coming in. The people that shall be born are the dew of the morning. The Jew elsewhere is compared to dew, and to a lion too - strength, and not tarrying for man. "The Sun shall arise with healing in his wings" for this earth; that is, in the "day of the Lord." We shall be with Him in the heavenlies then. We watch for the Morning Star; it is those watching in the night who see this.
The Lord in verse 5 is not the same as Jehovah, it is Adonai. "The Lord shall strike through kings in the day of thy wrath." It is not the day of His wrath now at all, but when that time comes He will strike through kings. The beast will be destroyed first - Gog and these kings; no human power will stand before Him. "He shall wound the heads" (it is rather the head) over a great country (v. 6).
123 "He shall drink of the brook by the way," etc. (v. 7). This is according to the grand principle of God's moral government. Those who humble themselves shall be exalted, while those who exalt themselves shall be abased. Christ was always the dependent One. He drank of the brook by the way. He took whatever refreshment God sent Him - took it as He could get it by the way. As Christ wept over Jerusalem, so He went out really in heart giving it up, finds a poor Samaritan, and He says, "The fields are white unto harvest." He had meat to eat, He drank of the brook by the way, in perfect subjection He took it as He could "by the way." He did not keep what He had to save Him from the sorrow of the way; but He emptied Himself, to be entirely dependent.
"The head over a great country" is a follower of Nebuchadnezzar. What will he have when the humbled One comes in? He will be smitten. He has exalted himself, and he will be abased; and that other Man, who humbled Himself - took only what God gave Him, He shall be exalted. It is a future scene.
How blessed that God should give us Christ's history in this way! If I look at Him as in the bosom of the Father, as Jehovah come in moral glory, the One who was humbled, if I look at the springs that moved His heart, His sufferings under the hand of God, His glory in the latter day, what food it gives me! "He that eateth me, even he shall live by me," and "If ye abide in me, ye shall bring forth much fruit." He brings us by faith into another world altogether, where striving together, and jostling one another up and down, are unknown.
The Lord's walk on earth is good for us. If we believe on Him, we must then abide in Him. The first thing He will do for us, when He comes for us, will be what He speaks of in John 17, "Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory." May we learn in dependence on the Lord what will never have an end, the depth and blessedness of what is in the Son; and so walk with Him as that the Holy Ghost need not occupy us with ourselves, which He must do if we walk badly!