J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 3.)
This Psalm is for Solomon, in which character the Lord builds the house, and we have the expression of the experience of the utter folly of all carnal Jewish expectations and efforts. They might have built the house, and great stones and buildings be there - it was in vain, the Lord did not own it. They might have watched the city, but they had awaked in vain - all had been in vain for Israel till the Lord arose and had mercy; then Jewish blessings flowed forth as upon earth in a posterity given as blessing in the Lord's peace.
This Psalm is the full experience of the Jews, after all their troubles, in entering into their Solomon rest. Many buildings of houses had there been, but all turned to nothing, and their glory was Babel. "Except Jehovah" the God of the Jews, of the earth in Solomon who did build the house - "build the house, in vain have its builders laboured in it." It seems to me this has special reference to the labours of the Jews in the restoration of their temple which the Lord did not own - did not take the building of - for the place of His sanctuary shall be cast down. "Except the Lord keep the city," all their labours were in vain, for the city shall be taken and the houses rifled - toil and labour is alike vain to them - whereas, perhaps, "So to his beloved one he giveth sleep."
When there is the restoration this is its character - it is a new, fresh, prospective blessing, "Instead of thy fathers, thou shalt have children, whom" etc. He will make them houses.
- 4. "Children of the youth," I take to be "young men." It was not "Woe to them that be with child and to them that give suck in those days," for the Lord had built the city, the sons grew up as the plants, and their daughters as the polished corners of the temple. It was not now to say, "Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bare" - the full blessing was come in - He made "the barren woman to keep the house, and to be a fruitful mother of children." Nor was it the prosperity of worldliness, as in Psalm 49, in the due time of sorrow, but the blessing from the Lord in the time of blessing, when the city was built, when the streets of Jerusalem, where the Lord was, should be full of boys and girls playing, themselves blessing from the Lord. They were as arrows in the hand of the mighty man - His quiver was full of them, and He would speak with His enemies.
240 Psalm 128
We have then the natural consequence of this state of things - the restoration by the Redeemer - not ashre haish (Blessings of the Man) but ashre kol-y're (O the blessings of every one fearing). It is an extremely beautiful picture of the Lord's earthly blessedness - sweet domestic security and home, their own home - the picture of Paradise, save that there was labour, but that giving a blessed return. The labour of their hands, not the sweat of anxious brow - redemption blessedness; but while this was so within, there was more than that - the Lord blessed them "out of Zion" - their hearts' desire, and they saw "the good of Jerusalem all the days of their life." They saw their family full of blessing, "children's children," as we read of Joseph, for as the days of a tree, now indeed were the days of His people, and "peace" (the other point) shall be "upon Israel." How different from that day when the one son of Jeroboam was taken away because there was some good in him! The righteous taken away from the evil to come!
It is the fearers of Jehovah that enjoy this blessing - yea, even to children's children. All the associations of their hearts would be satisfied. It was "out of Zion" the Lord would bless them, and they would see "the good of Jerusalem all the days of their life." How of the Lord, and yet how truly earthly and of man - human nature - these blessings are!
But the record of Israel's sorrows is the record of the wilfulness of others, of the oppression of the heathen, of stablishing their glory without righteousness, but they were touching that in which God's heart was, and if they helped forward the affliction, the Lord was afflicted in it, and they touched the apple of His eye. And though God might bear with it while the necessary chastisement of His righteousness in love was upon them, their will really was in exercise, and they delighted in oppressing Israel, and when the Lord's time had come, when He had chastened in His measure, they would be found only in the increased pride of their rampant will, never having had enough, enlarging their desire as Hell, their heart lifted up. But Israel's cry, even of the just Remnant, would reach the ear of the Most High, when the necessity of His judgment was passed by, and would turn and wither the gathered roots of pride, gathered in pride (as ever) to judgment. These were sheaves wherewith He that gathered had filled His bosom from, and in the midst of the desolations, yea, not one grain of wheat had been let fall to the ground. But here no Mower had filled His hand - no Shepherd led them - no Gatherer of sheaves filled His bosom. They were left to the withering - to the sport of the winds - when they were swept away; a monument only of judgment - righteous judgment - of sorrow, yet no sympathy - only to the beholder for there was no fruit there. The picture is one of sad desolation. It is the testimony of the Spirit of Christ concerning the history of Israel, and the final occasion of judgment, and its character. Zion was the centre round which it turned. It is an interesting and an affecting Psalm.
241 This Psalm particularly takes up the enemies. These desolators - many a time had they done it, and so indeed it was from the days of Chushan Rishathaim onward till Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon broke the bones thereof, and after in their yet worse and more terrible because more evil desolations, their back had been ploughed on and long furrows made. They had just to lie down and be treated at the very will of the enemy who had enslaved them; yet, wonderful mystery! they had not prevailed against them. But there was One who said "Me" for them - One who in all their afflictions was afflicted. His Spirit now taught them to speak in the recognition of the ways of God; and then comes the sum, for Israel through mercy now stood in righteousness "The Lord is righteous; he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked"; their character was now brought out - "they hate Zion" with which the Lord in grace was identified. But there was no blessing from God or man upon them; when Israel should blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit. No mower would fill his hand with them, nor any goer-by say, "The blessing of the Lord be upon you."
Here we have Him who truly took this place, and (though true of Israel by Him and in His Spirit), casting from the depths His soul on the Lord, therein leading Israel into all the blessing of it. Forgiveness - this was the true hope of sinful Israel, the new ground not under the law at all; and then looking for no other hope, but waiting for Him; and so in verses 7 and 8 His Spirit fully teaches them. The place of the cry is the leading point here. The place acknowledged Christ's Spirit who had been in it, taking its place with them in it, and putting loved yet poor Israel into the place of God's thoughts, and its true comeliness in it - acknowledgment, faith, but that in mercy. His, i.e., the answer of the Spirit of Christ, is in verses 7, 8.
242 This Psalm is the expression of Israel's heart in the now consciousness of where they were, and, "accepting the punishment of their iniquities," looking, according to the principle of mercy, as in Romans 11, in quiet and holy humiliation of spirit. Mercy is the holy ground on which they graciously and humbly rest. "There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mightest be feared"; hence they wait for the Lord. It is the moral recognition of their misery and the cause of it, verses 1-3 thus throwing on mercy. The Lord waited for, for deliverance - His Word rested in - Himself desired.
- 7, 8. These verses show the blessed confidence and hope that belongs to this restoration of spirit.
His place of holy subjection and littleness is brought out in this Psalm, and so was the place Christ had taught them and taken. He knew all things, but He had put Himself into the place of quiet subjection to God's will, and therein was in the way of blessing. The things which were revealed He took up and taught to Israel, and there Israel found and would find its blessing. The spirit is the spirit of all learning and instruction, but it is not the character of the Church's language, but of the quiet, childlike subjection of Israel as entering, as an obedient child, into the place of its hope.
The former Psalms threw Israel on the mercy, but these are the words of Christ leading them. It seems to be subjection of spirit - the spirit of obedience as contrasted with purpose; compare Deuteronomy, end of chapter 29 and 30, Zephaniah 3:10, 12, etc. There seems to be the sense of inward subjection, i.e., the absence of self-confidence, and also the withdrawal from all other, his heart "as a weaned child," so as that the Lord alone is exalted. He had bowed under the circumstances. He turns and says, "Let Israel hope in the Lord," etc. - before, it was redemption from iniquities - "from henceforth and for ever," for He was obedient in spirit, and sets Israel in it. So we find the same spirit shown in Matthew 11:24, et seq. We have the exercise of judgment on the same principle, in Psalm 101. Here He leads the way in it - as man He leads the way in obedience to power, but the spirit is blessedly beautiful and instructive to us.
243 Psalm 132
The Spirit then calls the remembrance of Jehovah, to David and all His afflictions - the type and memorial of a greater Sufferer. This, in each class of the Psalms, is introduced, and David forms the root and centre of Israelitish hopes in grace, through Him who was the Root and Offspring of David, and that on the full apostasy of Israel as to its own ways and God's dealings. The ark, pledge of the covenant, the pledge of God's rest, was heard of at Ephratah, and found in the fields of the wood. Possibly there is allusion here to Christ's birthplace, or when David was little and despised there, as the Root of David was. His heart was secretly on the ark of the covenant of His God, which was cast away by the apostasy of His people (for David was the type of grace after apostasy) and He could have no rest until a habitation for it (Exodus 15) was found. Hence, i.e., from this identification with God's glory in the midst of apostasy, all His afflictions. It was not now, as in Israel's journeyings, "Rise Lord and let thine enemies," etc., and "Return O Lord to the many thousands of Israel," but "Arise into thy rest" - His rest, which grace had recovered in the midst of apostasy, where worship and service was to be.
- 5 and 8. There is a difference between "Habitation" and "Rest." God has a habitation where He cannot finally rest, only it holds out the ground and place of rest, to faith. Habitation, as we have often seen, rests on redemption; as soon as Israel is out of Egypt it is spoken of, not before. But this was not God's rest, as indeed is shown in Hebrews 4, only it was a hypothetical rest, and indeed founded on responsibility as a present enjoyment, but, as Psalm 95 proves, not really the rest. So in the words analogous to but contrasted with verse 8, it was, "Arise O Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered," not "Arise into thy rest" - then He returned to the "thousands of Israel," but it was not His rest. The dealing of Christ with the Sabbath is connected with this - His Father worked hitherto, and He worked. Redemption, then, gave the ground for habitation, and laid the basis of rest; but, even so, Man was tried for it, and, as we have seen, Ichabod was written on all - God, though He vindicated His glory, gave "His strength into captivity, his glory into the enemy's hand." There was a total close to the whole history of man as connected with his responsibility as in Israel and as such (for sending His Son in grace went on a different ground) and then grace comes in in power and sets, when man is proved and found wanting and the breach with man is complete - the ark of God, where God sat as dwelling in Israel, gone - God in His rest, i.e., the ark of His strength in Zion. So that, for the rest of God, not only redemption, but practically the testing of man and finding him wanting, is needed. Then God does His own work in power, and enters into His rest; and this, as He is love, is grace founded on Christ's work and sufferings.
244 - 9, 10. Here we have the supplication.
- 11, 12. The sure basis of promise, and its terms.
- 13. From this verse we have the answer, which will be seen in each request to surpass the desire, as it expresses the Lord's own purpose and the will of His heart in the matter. "For the Lord hath chosen Zion" - it is not merely the want of the people - He hath desired it - it is His rest for ever. Her priests are to be "clothed with salvation" - her saints "shout aloud for joy." Then the horn of David is "to bud," and "a lamp" is ordained for His Anointed - "On himself shall his crown flourish." It is not merely "their children." This shows us, who David is, in the prophets, etc.
Now, to go on to the substantial truth, God being love, love must rest in making perfectly blessed those whom it brings to know and be happy in it, or it could not rest in its love; and, as God rests in His love in us, we, partakers of the divine nature, His love shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us, rest in the communion of that perfect love. He rests in perfect love in our blessing, and we rest in the communion of that perfect love, having a nature which can find its rest only there; redemption having enabled us to be there and enjoy it in righteousness - redemption that love has wrought. This rest is founded in the end of man's nature as a child of Adam, as well as on redemption.
245 Then the Psalm brings in some other points. We have seen that David's heart could have no rest till Jehovah find His; his faith looks then to what is found to be God's counsels. This I have noted, but there is more. It is God's desire too - He hath chosen Zion; there is the security of His counsel, but also He has desired it for His habitation - His delight, as well as His counsel, is in it. This is immense blessing. The desire of the heart is there, so that there can be no rest till God has His place, and the perfection of faith seeks it as His - desires that His mind may be fulfilled. But God thereon reveals that His desire is there, not only His counsel, so that He is to be glorified thus, but His delight, and that He desires it for His habitation; and thus His habitation and His rest become one (v. 14). Only, man in nature is set aside, and faith enters into the mind of God, which His power accomplishes. There too He dispenses His blessing.
I add some further words on this Psalm. First of all, David's sufferings are the basis of all, i.e., Christ. Next it is sovereign grace; for responsibility even, under the mercy declared through Moses, was closed when the ark was taken captive by the Philistines - there could be no day of atonement, no blood on the mercy-seat. Ichabod was written on all - God had "delivered his strength into captivity, his glory into the enemy's hands." Sovereign grace raised up Samuel the prophet, and then David, who brought the ark, not into the tabernacle at all, but to Mount Zion, which was thus the seat of sovereign grace in power, in contrast with Sinai. God is called on to "arise into his rest," for He will rest in His love. It is His rest we are to enter into - where His love will be satisfied and His nature perfectly met through the fruits of it, as in Ephesians 4:4, 5. Christ "will see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied." Hence it is God's rest and of the ark of His strength - a new thing; not "Let God arise and his enemies be scattered" and "Return O Lord to the ten thousands of Israel."
But then man's, the saint's, rest is only in this, "I will not go up into my bed, nor give slumber to mine eyes, till I find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob." His rest, his heart's rest, could only be in the rest of God perfectly glorified. Here we find the desire of the saint's heart, (nota bene) in its desires identified with God, so that it can have no rest until He have rest and be perfectly glorified - a vital principle, the effect of being partakers of the divine nature! And this we shall see brings him in this blessed way into God's counsels, as it is written, "Who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been his counsellor that he should instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ" - the Holy Ghost by the Word leading us "into all truth"; compare Exodus 15 and chapter 29:46. Our rest is, entering into God's rest - an infinite blessing!
246 But the desire is, rightly according to man, the answer according to God - the desire right and according to God's nature and ways, but the blessing according to the riches of grace. The desire is that Jehovah should arise and enter into His rest, and the ark of His strength, for the strength and faithful covenant-working of God enters into rest when all is accomplished. The answer is "This is my rest for ever . . . . The Lord hath chosen Zion." It is His desire, and He will therefore dwell there. It is more than asked; but it is more, the heart led of God has been brought to desire what is God's desire and the object of His election. So the desire is righteousness for the priests - as John Baptist's father. The answer is, "They shall be clothed with salvation," the full, final deliverance of God. The desire is right - righteousness becomes them - the answer is from God, and becomes Him in the power of His grace. The desire is that the "saints may shout for joy" - all right; the renewed heart must desire the prosperity and joy of God's chosen, and God will give it abundantly, "They shall shout aloud for joy."
Remark another thing. In the desire they are Jehovah's priests, Jehovah's saints - "Thy." So, as to the "rest." And as to the "rest," it is repeated; but as to Zion, "This is my rest." And this is what we want - nothing else will do, or would be rest. But, as to the priests and saints, He does not say "My" but "Her," i.e., Zion's. They are His, but so perfectly does God own the complete association of the Church with Him in rest and blessing, that the priests which are His, He calls hers, for they do belong to her, and the saints which are His, to be hers. There is no difference, and I refer now to the Church - we are His priests, and we belong to the Church, are hers in the most absolute sense. We are His saints, but we compose the Church - are hers. This in the identity of the "rest," is of unequalled beauty.
247 I have omitted the desire not to "turn away the face of God's anointed"; the answer also is more - the horn of David is to bud - a lamp is there ordained for Him - and His crown shall flourish on Him, i.e., He goes beyond the wish. For us it is in heaven in glory; but note, it is there in Zion, Christ (literally King there, as in Psalm 2) is to be glorified in the Church. Nor is here Christ separated from God, see Ephesians 3:16-21; and here too it is "above all we ask or think." But, as to His crown, He will be glorified with His saints. There too it was first sung "His mercy endureth for ever," for it had blessed Israel after and in spite of all, and found, in the end of His responsibility, the occasion and beginning of His perfect grace. We see the outgoings of His goodness in that which He will do for Zion.
There are two parts in this Psalm - the prayer and the answer, down to verse 10; from verse 11 to the end, it is Christ under the character and in connection with David - David and his afflictions - seeking a resting-place for the tabernacle of Jehovah, "A habitation for the mighty One of Jacob," finding no rest till He had a habitation; compare Haggai 1:4, and the literal David, 2 Samuel 7:2. But the truth is, though there is a rest for the ark of God, the ark of God's strength, yet the Lord builds David's house in a higher sense. It was wandering as lost, heard of at Ephratah, and found in the fields of the wood - neglected and despised of men, not "we will worship at his footstool."
I cannot but think this is the setting the human nature of Christ in His glory and strength. It was not God's strength, but it was the ark of God's strength. It being discovered, and the prayer that Jehovah should enter into His rest, there is thereupon prayer for His priests and His holy ones (chasidim), and that He should not for His servant David's sake, His ancient promise and binding grace, turn away His anointed One's face. The subjection of the spirit of the King is marvellously shown, and shows the righteousness of spirit that was in Christ as to this, for the Lord alone was to be exalted, and we speak of Him here as "the Man Christ Jesus," not as "Lord." They would have taken Him by force and made Him a King - the people's King - but He was Jehovah's King, and showed His righteousness in subjection to Jehovah, and not exalting Himself above His brethren (as the Law also prescribed, and as Rehoboam would) for the Jews, whatever their after-learning, when it was not faith, did not, it would appear, look for a Messiah who was Jehovah. This unity was reserved for the Church.
248 Then comes Jehovah's answer to this Holy, subject, King, or concerning Him, by the spirit speaking concerning David. The Lord's answer to all this looking mystically for the resting-place of David's afflictions in the ark of His strength, is the exaltation of Him who is both David's seed and the true glory of the ark.
- 11. The accomplishment of truth to David - "The Lord hath sworn . . . he will not turn from it. Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne"; that is a settled point. Then comes a conditional one of righteousness, true only in Christ the Lord - "If thy children keep my covenant, then," etc. "For Jehovah hath chosen Zion." They may be casually displaced, if they do not answer Jehovah's character, but Zion was chosen - it was His sought habitation; and this was the answer to David's affliction - in Christ, the fruit of his body was set upon his throne; but that, Jehovah's habitation. This was His rest "for ever" - His earthly rest, and He could rest there, Christ being there, but there was a reason too - He had "desired it." Then the blessing. Hence also, after the miracle of the loaves, the wish of the people, and the suitableness of the temptation as to witness of the blessing; but neither were the path of the humble patience of Jehovah's King, till Jehovah exalted Him - not His own (though well entitled) not the people's (though of the promise) power, but subjection of Him and blessing to them in righteousness and grace. So the Lord remembers David's afflictions, for the Spirit, typically in David, was assuredly fully in Christ the King, "born King of the Jews." But the results in blessing are made to surpass the prayer, when the detail is come to her priests - prayed for as "Thy," but soon stamped as "Zion's" - clothed with salvation, "her holy ones" (chasidim) "shall shout aloud." Not only shall the Anointed's face be not turned away, but "the horn of David" shall "bud" there, for David and Zion are now identified, and "a lamp ordained for" His "Anointed" (Messiah). "His enemies" clothed with shame, for He is the David, the Beloved, the Anointed.
249 Psalm 133
The person of the high priest represented the whole people; but the power and anointing of the Holy Ghost, in the fragrance of grace, was that which united the whole people; so exactly in Christ - one Spirit, one Body. They shall in that day appoint themselves one head; they shall not be two people any more in the land, and this not only in form, but in spirit and unity of blessing. Hermon caught, in its lofty head, the dew, or produced it, but it fell in the central place of divine blessing. Thus ministering the power of unity, Hermon was called Sion; but it was written with S, not Z. This seems to be Zion, as we ordinarily understand, where the Lord commanded His blessing and life for evermore. It was the place of grace, the Hill of grace. Though Hermon, whose head was in heaven as it were, was the attractive place of dew, yet it was the dew of Hermon, but it fell on Zion - the Spirit will be poured on them from on high, and "Ephraim will no more vex Judah, nor Judah envy Ephraim, but" etc.
- 1. "Behold how good, how pleasant a thing, the dwelling" (rest) "of brethren, even unity together!" How good and how pleasant surely is it! The literal fact of this shall be in the restoration of Israel. It is the word of the Spirit of Christ, on their all being brought together in rest, as the same in Balaam, on the vision of Israel below. It is the vision of Pisgah - of Christ over Israel, and the expression of His heart to them thereon. The statement of truth in it, "Behold, how good" - then it shall be realised. In Him they were to appoint one head, and the great day of Jezreel to be the whole seed of God. No longer a stick of Ephraim and a stick of Judah, Judah vexing Ephraim and Ephraim Judah, Ephraim Manasseh, and Manasseh Ephraim, and they together against Judah, but dwelling together - brethren - one stick in His hand; as there was a partial restoration from Babylon, and though not the body of the tribes, an indiscriminate recognition of them, and Christ sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But, on the rejection of Christ, the staff "Bands" was broken, though the poor of the flock that waited on Him knew it was the Word of the Lord; and yet more fully in the day of their trouble, when I doubt not there will be more of this vexation than ever before, not taking the apparent restoration in temporal blessings, but waiting for Messiah; for this will be their trial, because of the Word of the Lord. When the trouble comes it will be proof of the truth of the word of the Lord, but when He takes the power, and His horn is made to bud, then comes the unity - they dwell together in unity - and there is the goodness and pleasantness.
250 Its comprehensiveness, and indefectiveness, is a great thing in this; for if there be brethren and not united, the very necessity of their love causes sorrow. Their being brethren is as a root of bitterness to their soul. "The precious ointment" must go "to the skirts of the garment," or "the head" itself could not be happy or content. The oil that was there would be the witness that it was not on the skirt, but now the uniting power of divine love, in Christ, shall gather them, in this unction from the Head, into unity, and like the copious dew of Hermon's blessing falling on the mountains of Zion; for though Hermon was called Zion, I believe here it alludes to Zion in the centre of blessing in the south, and thus the dews of Hermon, and all there - a communicated blessing for them, i.e., in Zion. The Lord has "commanded" emphatically "the blessing, life for evermore," or "the age" perhaps, for o-lam (evermore) has the article.
It is then, the declaration of Christ - the Word of Christ to His brethren - of "How good and pleasant it is" for them "to dwell together in unity." The appeal to it, as now existing by His deliverance, symbolised by the unction from head to the skirt of the garment, and the refreshment of the dew of heaven on the whole land, coming from Hermon but centring in that place of blessing - Zion - and that, the point where blessing is commanded - the centre of unity - the anointing and the dew from heaven, holy savour, and refreshing in it, then filling the land spiritually; seen now, in so far as the Spirit gathers in unity, by the free spirit there, not tarrying for men, nor waiting for the sons of men, and having the present savour of God.
Zion thus established, praise rises, even by night, in the sanctuary. At peace there, His servants stand in His courts; and as once the day only brought clearer light on their sorrow, now the night itself is awake with the praises of Jehovah who has restored them, and given them cause for praise day and night, and He who has been the centre and power of this blessing - David - now in Zion, which the Lord hath chosen. They bless out of this seat of grace and royalty. The sanctuary owns the royalty, the seat and place of blessing. He who made heaven and earth, the Jehovah of His people, the Creator of all things is, in this power, called to bless Him out of Zion, the place of grace and choice to the Lord. It is not Sinai now. Psalms 132, 133, 134, all centre in Zion - "The Lord hath chosen Zion" - "Commanded blessings out of Zion" - blesses Messiah "out of Zion"; surely the people is restored now. The priest blesses Jehovah, and calls for benediction from Jehovah on Him from this seat of royal grace. Thus is Christ placed - on the remembrance of David and his afflictions, who had no rest till a place was found out for the Lord. Heaven and earth the compass of power, but Zion the seat of peculiar blessing.
251 Psalm 132 is the King; Psalm 133 is specially priestly blessing; Psalm 134 brings in both - pronouncing and ministering praise and the blessing.
This Psalm seems to me to be - Christ, having brought the servants of the Lord (see Isaiah 65:13, 14) to the sanctuary, calls upon them now to bless the Lord there. Having set their feet at peace, He says, in the satisfied feeling of their rest, "Now praise the Lord"; then, to bless God their Maker, who gave songs in the night.
- 3. This verse seems the answer of those thus called upon to bless, calling for blessing on Messiah from Jehovah, as Maker of heaven and earth, out of Zion, the place where Jehovah, and His blessing, and Messiah was. So we read, "Prayer shall be made for him continually," for He is here seen in His human, Jewish character; as we would ask for blessings on the Holy because of what He is to us, so of their King, King Solomon, who hath set them in the house, or rather, the house among them. "Jehovah" is still the theme.
But though I have said "Sanctuary," I believe the word means rather "your hands of holiness," and I apprehend that Paul, or the Spirit of God, alludes to this where it is said "I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting." These were called upon to lift them up, as standing in the house of the Lord "by night."
252 Psalm 135
Then comes the general summons to the "Hallelujah," identifying Jehovah and His servants. I do not see that these Psalms go beyond Jerusalem and the power - the prospectively "they," we have Israel as pledged in that, as we have seen in Psalm 126. They were now standing "in the courts" of Jehovah, where to be a doorkeeper was better than dwelling elsewhere - a day more than a thousand, and praise was "pleasant" there. It had waited for Him in Zion, and now they could praise there.
It is still, I think, the summons of Messiah who had set them there, delivering them now, to praise. It is good and pleasant, and it is the sense that Jehovah hath chosen Jacob. So Messiah now authoritatively, and with this pledge declares - well is He able! - how He has suffered for them, and now tells it, in this pledge to them in Zion. He adds His knowledge of the greatness of Jehovah, giving Him, to His people, the character of "Our God"; compare John 20:17. Our Adon, their Head; His power was over all the earth, but there was special treasure to Him in His choice of Israel, and Messiah was not unmindful of His benefits. The Spirit of remembrance was now among them. The memorial of the Lord, revived and fresh, as fresh and more blessed than ever, however they had forgotten and buried them, seeking their own (works), and "Israel his people" was a name of remembrance to the Lord, the moment He was remembered; for He would "judge his people," and "repent himself concerning his servants." He "will judge his people" as subject to the trial of His holiness, "repent concerning his servants" the Remnant; for the rest, they all pass away.
Then comes the full comprehensive summons - Israel, Aaron, Levi fully brought out, "Ye that fear the Lord." "Blessed be the Lord out of Zion," for the full blessing being come in, the Lord is praised "Out of Zion," dwelling at Jerusalem. Before, the blessing was on Messiah from those brought into the house - here, in the full blessing, it rests from Messiah on Jehovah Himself. It is in fact (calling to mind all the favour) something of Psalm 22:25. With the exception of Levi, we have similar statements with the close, in Psalms 115 and 118.
But there is another exceedingly and deeply interesting point, in this and the following Psalms. After stating the greatness from verses 8 to 11, it quotes exactly what Moses refers to, at the borders of the land, in Deuteronomy 29. There they are set upon their keeping the covenant, so they had undertaken at Sinai - here however all this and the land within, so taken, is passed by, and the Psalmist quotes Exodus 3:15, the uncovenanted pledge of God's unchangeable favour to the Jewish people, the Name by which He is known, His everlasting memorial, verse 13; verse 14 is the execution of this. Deuteronomy 32 is quoted, as, after all their evils and punishments, for His Name's sake; and, accordingly, the controversy and difference between them and the heathen is taken up, their rock and our Rock being judges. In the next Psalm these leading principles are passed by, or promises, and, after the same recapitulation, the great Jewish hope and principle is celebrated in the fact, He "remembered us in our low estate," and "redeemed us from all our enemies."
253 There is another point to be noticed in these and other Psalms, as Psalms 102, 103 and 104 - the connection of Creation and Jewish blessings, in the supremacy of God and the Person of the Mediator.
This and the following Psalm seem to me to be the praise to which the songs of degrees have led. Jehovah is celebrated - the name of Jehovah - and is called to be by the "servants of Jehovah." They stood now in "the house of Jehovah," "in the courts of the house" of their (Israel's) God. Jehovah had "chosen Jacob for himself" - Israel was His peculiar treasure. He was "great," and Israel's Adon above all gods. "Whatever Jehovah pleased, he did" with universal power, as in Creation and Providence; and that power in delivering Israel, judging their enemies, exercises divine and righteous authority over them in favour of His people, and using that righteous sovereignty in preparing a place for an heritage to them.
- 13, 14. These verses remarkably take in the record of the name of promise to the fathers, given to Moses, as in Exodus 3, and of sovereign mercy on their utter destitution, as in Deuteronomy 32. Note the remarkable putting together of the first and abiding Name of calling and sure faithfulness, and the promise of deliverance, after ruin by the entire unfaithfulness of Israel; Exodus 3 and Deuteronomy 32.
- 15-18. The heathen are therein shown their vanity.
- 19-21. These verses take up the full Israelitish located blessing, according to the ordinance of God in Israel, not His on them, but their return to Him as blessed - at least they are so called on, and in spirit summon their companies, and close with the utterance of the praise itself, with a final "Hallelujah," as it began.
254 Psalm 136
This is both a touching and interesting Psalm. It traces from the character of God, in spite of earthly corruption, through creation, by Israel redeemed, to the blessing of "all flesh" naturally, and the recognition of the "God of heaven." "Jehovah is good" - "His mercy," the Jewish godly celebration, "for ever." He is "God of gods." Ha-elohim (the gods) are the assumed, or supposed, existing authorities over the earth - a name of earthly power, not of supremacy, but as the object of acknowledgment, not of governance; see Deuteronomy 10:17. The ground of this, He is the doer of "wonders." What man knows not this? The heavens above the formed earth (the types of the arrangement of dispensation) the order of rule. Then deliverance of power as to those in whom Creation-blessing is constituted in order. And we must note, for it is an important point (as here shown) that Creation-blessing is resumed in the Jewish order; first, under responsible obedience by a given law, and then, on redemption in Jesus by power, constituted obedient on earth by a new way. The heavens are possessed by God through Christ and the saints. The order of Creation-blessings is to be looked for then in the Jews. Then guidance, then clearance for the heritage - heritage of Israel His servant - then, the now celebrated mercy of the latter day, verse 23; verse 24, the power of redemption; verse 25, the provision for the world; the recognition of the "God of heaven" - the Jewish position, for "the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom," etc.
This Psalm takes up the well-known Israel's chorus, "For his mercy endureth for ever." The present occasion of their praises, proved that "mercy endureth for ever," and that that mercy had really gone on unceasingly, and had preserved them through their rebellions, and remembered them, as said in Deuteronomy, "in their low estate," and "redeemed" them from the hand of their enemies. It still takes up the Almighty Sovereignty of God Jehovah, and takes up the same elements of praise, but adds Israel's sense of mercy, and that its having endured for ever enabled Israel to take up this very praise now. "He remembered us in our low estate" - then indeed it is that praise really comes out from a humble spirit, and mercy known now, and known in unchanging favour in personal blessing, gets more glorious and lovely, because a love which flowed from itself, not caused by the Spirit, is added to the praises as the sinner's only basis for them all. It is a beautiful expression of this. And the mind, thus taught, recounts them all with happy particularity - power, wisdom, skill, grandeur of governance in the objects formed in their proper order. Judicial and mighty power in deliverance to His people - for the Creator looks at them (and they are immediately associated with Creation in its blessing) who did everything in controlling power over creation for them - distinctive in judgment, Israel passed through, Pharaoh overthrown - who led them with unceasing care where there was no way, and smote their enemies when they would have checked their entrance into their inheritance, giving their possessions to them, His people - and, after all, "Redeemed them from their low estate, for indeed his mercy endureth for ever" - and then blessed in Providence all the race of man, and the animal creation too, for to this his mercy reached, "The God of Heaven, whose mercy endureth for ever."
255 It is not here, of earth merely, for it is for them as much to look up as the Gentiles who had the earth; and the Church, apt to think God did not mind the earth, to look down and own Him the God of the earth. Messiah's reign in that day shall prove Him both; gathering these dislocated elements - failing Israel on earth, and a failing Church for heaven - into perfection and stability, for both the inhabitants of the one, and of the other fully blessed in them - they suitably made one.
This closes, I think, the rising up by degrees to the Lord's house, where this, or these, are sung. What follows takes a wider scope, and yet looks back to the interval, which has been entirely omitted in these two Psalms - discipline, and sorrow, and humiliation for sin by the way - the people visited. The former two took up merely the land on their introduction into it, and looks at them there in their low estate; and this, whatever its cause, was looked at as an object of compassion. "Mercy for ever," was the word, and they could truly sing it then. Circumstances are entered into, here connected with visitations and sorrows in strange lands, and deliverances there, and all that was associated with Israel's state when far from Jehovah, and Lo-ammi indeed really written upon it - quite another and different aspect of things.
256 Psalm 137
This therefore gives an important character to this Psalm, the period of Israel's rejection, and the impossibility of praising the Lord in such circumstances. It is the Spirit thus in the Remnant faithful to the associations of God's glory with Israel, but for that reason incapable of uttering the Lord's songs. They might, with a sort of holy boldness, on God's own principles and holiness, yet with bowing of heart, say, as elsewhere, "Praise waiteth for thee in Zion." Jehovah had His own land, His own place - this He had made Israel's; were they to forget this? It would have been slighting His favour, renouncing the speciality of His mercy. Babylon they might, they had got into - their sins had brought them there - but there they must at least hang up their harps, weeping, because for them the place of this world's careless, apostate glory. For, indeed, if in sorrow they were identified with the place of God's glory in the earth, their portion, if the Spirit of righteousness was in them at all, was sorrow there. Well! the Lord too was very sore displeased with the heathen that were at ease - He was but a little angry, and they had helped forward the affliction. For good He suffered His people to be afflicted, for righteousness too now, but still they were beloved. Now the testimony to their righteousness in sorrow is rendered to them by the Spirit there, and this is the blessed point of this Psalm - even if carried away captive, they were those of whom Zion's sorrows were the sorrows; and in spirit, Jerusalem, the Urim of God's peace, preferred above their chief joy. They could say, when free, this in the truth of the Spirit of their state then. So shall it be in the latter day. All the intervening sorrow of a separate people in judgment is witnessed, and owned by the Spirit of God.
Then we have the three great powers of the world or cities concerned, Zion - but they were Zion's songs, not to be sung but there; Babylon - of it it could be said, for judgment, full judgment, was not yet come about, "Who art to be destroyed" - haughty evil, he would be blessed who executed the judgment on it. Then there was a third party - haters of the Lord, who would be found liars - implacable enemies of Jerusalem, hating it just because it was the Lord's, and they were envious of it; but as they dealt thus in the day of Jerusalem, the Lord would remember them. We see thus that deliverance from Babylon (and so we may add, it falls) precedes its destruction, and, before they can triumph in the setting up of Zion, they can, as delivered and with the Remnant's feelings, speak of their previous position as one that had been. Though Babylon was not destroyed, and Edom yet to come up in remembrance of judgment before God, Jerusalem was still to be spoken of as one remembered, not forgot; not as one which they possessed, and dwelt in in peace, as their glory; but is spoken of as remembered too, and yet in existence. There they had done so and so, and he would be happy that destroyed her; and Edom is still viewed as in power, to be visited of the Lord. It is thus a very instructive and pointed Psalm, as well as exceedingly beautiful in its spirit, and strength of association with the Lord in the scene of the appointed place of His favour, blessing, honour, and glory. The Lord would remember Edom - but Babylon was to have, it seems, some instrumental rewarder of her ways. The judgment on these two closes the Psalm.
257 Babylon and Jerusalem are two cities. Sorrow was their portion in one - the place of joy; joy in the other - the place of sorrow. It was, to the children of the Remnant, a strange land. Jerusalem was remembered. The remembrance of Jerusalem was more than the presence of other and foreign joy. Foreign joy, to sorrow, is the pressure of grief. Edom has her share in judgment, for she had a portion with Babylon, not in the captivity, but in hatred to the city. This was the point of the Psalm - Jerusalem. Babylon is the place of captivity - it is opposed in heart to Jerusalem; there the joy was centred. Hence Edom is brought in. Harps (Kinnorim) gave no pleasure in Babylon.
- 5, 6. These seem to be a sort of answer of Christ, as by His spirit in them; so accomplished indeed in truth in Him.
- 7. I am disposed to think these are the words of Christ also.
This Psalm is the praise of Christ, as the Jewish Head, for the faithfulness of God the Lord as regards Him, once the suffering One. He acknowledges, as regards accomplishment in purpose, that which came by Him, "grace and truth," and the Word was magnified above every name. Then there are two things - "I will praise thee" (known in the fulfilment of the word), "with my whole heart," satisfied in the accomplishment, as truth from Thee - grace and truth; "before the gods" (all other derivative power known, and manifested to be so now, though often oppressing the Royal Sufferer) and "Towards thy temple," for it was Jewish truth and glory. He confirmed the covenant by grace to them, but in truth of promise to the fathers - truth of God's promise.
258 - 3. There was this faithfulness to Christ.
- 4. Then "all the kings of the earth shall praise" Jehovah, when they shall "hear the words of his mouth," i.e., after the glory is in Jerusalem, in faithfulness to Christ; "yea, they shall sing," etc., "for great is the glory of Jehovah"; and this by His respect to the lowly, to the despised Jew, so shown. "The proud he holds at a distance."
- 7, 8. These, as the first verses anticipated, or spoke the triumph, are the exercise of faith in this, and express His passing through, and association with theirs. The Jews sorrow as righteous sufferers - the righteous nation that keepeth the truth.
- 8. In the beginning of this verse, we have what the Lord, I believe, refers to, as to the matter of it, in Luke 22:37, and if so, we have the deepest touch of affecting sorrow in that verse.
It is a beautiful and comprehensive Psalm, in the mouth of Christ the Lord. Its identity with the Jews, so often seen, shines out beautifully in circumstances, in reference of worship, in assumption of promise, and all the circumstances.
The Psalm, then, takes up the praise before the whole earth - the Lord's word, His faithfulness in truth, was magnified, above all "His Name." Mercy might have done it and be sung, but faithfulness to His promise, in spite of all man's unfaithfulness (see Romans 3) now shone out in all its glory, and they that blessed themselves in the earth would bless themselves in the God of truth. This is a glorious position, the position of the strength of the Spirit, while its tender mercy is true too to the needy, and in our infirmities too; but this was risen above, in His strength now - the holy temple was there to be worshipped towards. Every promise had come out in its own glory, in spite of the utter unfaithfulness and utter failure of man. It was true "the kings of the earth" had not yet come to bow to the glory of the Lord, nor yet sing consequently in the ways of Jehovah, and Israel had therefore to praise "before the gods." Still this, in one sense, exalted Jehovah's strength. All was not as yet brought into the peaceful blessedness of acknowledged rule, but Jehovah had appeared on Israel's side, so that they had that glory before all the powers of the earth. Israel had cried in the day of his trouble, and the Lord had strengthened him; and now "All the kings of the earth" would have to hear "the words of Jehovah's mouth," and would sing, for indeed it would be and was blessing, in the ways of Jehovah, "For great," the delivered one now can say, "is the glory of Jehovah." Such is the substance of the Psalm as regards the Remnant. It is in the period, after the destruction of Antichrist, in the time of Jacob's trouble - the first great act of judgment, in the person of the associated oppressor of the Remnant, before the earth is subjected, or its kings have learned to bow before Jehovah, the faithful God of His people, in blessing.
259 Still the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is the great hinge of this Psalm; and when the mighty one of death was against Him, in His entering into the time of Jacob's trouble - yet with Israel against Him (associated with him, so that it could be said, terrible word! "Your hour and power of darkness)" - He was strengthened in His soul with strength, and met in His own blessed, peaceful dignity these apostate rulers that stood up against Him, "Was heard in that he feared"; and could take the ground of resurrection against all that was against Him. And so, in the strength of divine favour, He could, in blessed, perfect obedience, take the cup, and thus seal the certainty of this submission of all to Him in the strength of the "Lord over all" evil, even the power of death.
We have then, in the last three verses, the three great aspects of Jehovah's ways - high, but having respect to the lowly - reviving His true and faithful Servant, though such may be in trouble - stretching forth His hand against the wrath of His enemies - perfecting that which concerns His faithful Servant; "For his mercy endureth for ever." And this it is has made way for the glory and manifestation of His truth, according to the depth of His wisdom and unsearchable judgments. In Christ indeed, and so of all promises in Him, His word is magnified above all His Name - His promises "Yea and amen in him." Blessed He who is both Lord and Servant! David's Son and David's Lord! Israel's Sufferer and Israel's Saviour! The same love making Him one, that He might be the other, in divine perfection!
260 Psalm 139
The day of Christ's trouble having been thus introduced, the mystery of the Church, according to divine righteousness, and searching all things even according to death, brought in, but the Church, being brought out of it stands of course above and beyond the reach of it in judgment, for it stands in the power of it according to the favour due to the Person of Christ, and which in Him has raised the Church out of the full result of the judicial fulness of divine righteousness against all that divine righteousness could search, and if it searched heaven or the power of death - the two extremes of that righteousness - it found it in one in perfection, in the other in suffering its full exaction, in Him who thus, in it for the Church and the Church in Him, fills all things.
- 17, 18. The purpose of these thoughts concerning Christ and His glory is referred to, and then, consequent on this, the judgment of the wicked in vindication of His honour (who opposed and rejected Him) and that righteousness may prevail, for in truth His soul was perfect, though He went into the dust of death, in its hatred of evil - and so the Church in Him; and then the searching of eye of divine righteousness, desired for it, is disciplinarian and directive, not judicial as to the acceptance of the person (v. 23).
This rests the whole question on higher ground - the highest and fullest ground taken in this Book. As to the manner of its communication to us and our part in it, it is the mystery of the Church, but hidden here. It is not, "I will praise thee, for I am searched," but "I will praise thee, for I am made." The whole Book of the Ephesians is the Spirit's unfolding and applying, according to the full light of an ascended Saviour, the force of this Psalm, and commentary on it according to the light of the Gospel, and its actual accomplishment.
- 18. This verse is resurrection, and His place in spite of death.
There are four or five distinct parts in this Psalm; verses 1-13, he is fully known, and cannot in any way escape from God's presence. This a solemn and all-searching thought. Verses 14-16, he is God's creature too, known beforehand and formed. In this character he can praise Jehovah. Verses 17, 18, God's thoughts are precious to him. God has made Himself known to him by His thoughts; and if he be in sleep, or the sleep of death, still he is with Him who never slumbers. In verses 19-22, there is opposition between himself and God's enemies; but these must be judged, and himself thus set free from them. Verses 23, 24, the earnest desire that whatever in himself is inconsistent with God, may be thoroughly searched out, and himself led in that eternal way which is God's and of Him. Compare Psalm 16.
261 This Psalm is the mystic Christ, but spoken of in person because so known in connection with the Jews, and the enemies of God; but it is His moral character, as so known in connection with the Church, as having no iniquity, and bearing no iniquity. But, He being fully searched, what is perfect owned, i.e., Himself and His Body the Church, He is in open opposition to the adversaries to God so detected. Indeed Christ was most thoroughly searched in His day, even to death, and no iniquity found in Him, and therefore perfect for His Church before God. It was His death that proved this; therefore His members were formed in the "lower parts of the earth." The Church was taken out of Christ's death, and here is the force of "the lower parts of the earth" - a difficulty as on this very ground, for as Christ's death was the real power in which sin was measured, and out of which the Church in resurrection was formed, so out of this world, in a state of death from God, the Church in its members was taken - Christ having descended there for the purpose, and going really into the full character of it responsibly, even into death and the grave, the lower parts of the earth. Thus the principle of the Church in Christ is known, and the Church formed as His Body out of it - the object - and meeting the requisitions of God's eye, and then therefore used as the scene and instrument of God's power, as answering His moral character which the power was to vindicate, in the form of those in whom it had been dishonoured. No place could escape the search of God's Spirit, nor man find a place from it. But Christ (and the Church) stand it, because formed in the power of the "Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead." The grave was indeed a dark place - the Church's (mother's) womb - but God knew it there, and, by His creative grace, formed its members there out of Christ, "when as yet there was none of them."
262 The Church's conduct must be subjected to the same judgment, though in love; therefore it says i.e., the Spirit of Christ "Search me." It is known, not knowing. Such is the character of revelation, judging the conscience; if we think we know, we know nothing, but "if any one love God, the same is known of him." The principle of the Psalm goes on then on this inevitable searching of God's Spirit, and ends, known as the Church, in praying God to search it.
In passing to the conclusion, it shows first the searching and its extent, above the reach of man, quod nota; for therein, self-search never can attain peace, however useful in itself. But God exercises it - man (Adam) there is beset before and behind, and no place is one, could he get there, where there could be escape from the searching of His trying Spirit. Thus the basis of judgment is laid; but then in Christ the same searching eye has formed the mystic Christ, the Second Adam, in the power and according to the principles of this judgment. Low and far, as it might seem to be, out of God's sight, it was formed therein, and taken in the power of His judgment, from the lower parts of the earth, in love, by His eye. Therefore no judgment then could reach it, for it was formed in Christ there taking the judgment. Thus we have judgment - the Church in love (looked at in identity with Christ) formed of God - then the knowledge of the Church, having "the mind of Christ," verses 17, 18, and 1 Cor. 2:16 - then judgment against the wicked, and separation from them, verses 19-22, and then the prayer for thorough searching of itself lest wickedness be found in it.
We have first then, man acted on in judgment - the Church - its joy in Christ, forming the history of Christ mystical, including the judgment of the enemies of Jehovah Elohim - the wicked as against God, but then personally their enemies as to Jehovah, for righteousness is established in the very heavens - these are the thoughts of God concerning the man (Adam), and then will be the judgment of Jehovah's enemies. Messiah seemed to be Jewish, and so He was, but a body was prepared Him for heavenly glory. And there the thoughts of God concerning Him found their full illustration, and righteous development. Righteousness was proved there, John 16; and so the enemies of Jehovah (the Jews) were brought to issue, and this is the subject of this very deeply-teaching Psalm; see 1 Corinthians 11:32. God's heart and thoughts are both proved our blessing; ours should be tried, i.e., we should pray to God so to do.
263 The Psalm addresses Jehovah, the God of the Jews, in which character Christ was subject (for us) to trial, found, I need not say, perfect - the prince of this world came and had "nothing" in Him. Then comes the Church (in Him) with God - there formed, in all the love which acts on these principles. The person arises who owns again Jehovah, and begins to deal with them as Jehovah's enemies. It is a very interesting Psalm.
- 23, 24. This is the abiding principle of the Church by the Spirit of Christ - the Holy Spirit, to Pneuma to hagion.
I have not entered upon the exquisite moral beauty of this Psalm, as merely giving the heads. To verse 13, it is the divine knowledge, found to be inevitable, though supposed could not be concerned in such as we, as man. Verses 13-16 found in grace; verses 17, 18, found in purpose revealed, and still connected in this with divine presence, for resurrection is real purpose, compare Psalm 17:15; verses 19-22, its then utter rejection of evil as wholly separated to God from the other, treats the evil ones, as adversaries. Verses 23,24, the Church's present use of it in knowledge and grace.
The saved people being righteous and searched, and the wicked to be judged and slain, these are brought in in their relative condition. And, passing on to the condition of the Jewish people, to speak the words of Christ among the Remnant as taking up their cause in that day, it looks for deliverance from them on the earth; possibly, in the "evil man," noticing the last enemy arising from within, more especially the Antichrist, and, in "the violent," those who seek their own will, from without, against the men of peace and righteousness.
- 12, 13. These verses show the sure confidence of faith in those circumstances. The Psalm, however, is one of character in those He sought to be delivered from - the evil ones and enemies, not designation.
The Lord in this Psalm is spoken of, not in His exercised perfectness towards God, but as connected with the Jews in trial, exhibiting the wrongfulness of His enemies. The "wicked man" I believe to be Antichrist; the "violent man," the subsequent enemies of the Jews, as the Assyrian. And He prays for the Remnant - under Antichrist, they are - from the violent, they are preserved. They have both indeed one general character - which verses 2 and 3 give; though the first and second parts of verse 2 particularly refer to the same in verse 1. He is called ra-sha (the wicked) in verse 4.
264 - 6, 7. These apply to the different deliverances; verse 6 against Antichrist - verse 7, the violent man.
- 8. Still, I believe this verse to be Antichrist.
- 9, 10. These are the destruction of the other enemies, who "compass about." Their being destroyed proves no tongue of man shall prevail over violence.
- 11, 12. This is the result. When the man of violence is overthrown, from His rest the Lord says for them, "I know that Jehovah will maintain the cause of the afflicted" - the poor, humbled, but soon to be blessed Remnant of the Jews - "the right of the poor," for they are in Jesus. He is afflicted in their affliction. The righteous (so made) shall give thanks in Jehovah's name. "The upright shall dwell in thy presence," i.e., in Jehovah's, before Zion, in that day. They "shall dwell," not the wicked among them, but "the upright" when the "man of violence" is put out - their enemies that have compassed them, and the wicked among the Jews, destroyed. Fear, and the snare, and the pit shall have been on the yoshev haaretz (inhabitant of the earth); but the upright delivered and preserved, as righteous, from the wickedness that has come in, shall yesh-vu eth panekha (dwell in thy presence).
This Psalm makes a more discerning investigation, and enters into the position of the righteous One amongst the people - His being thrown entirely on the Lord for keeping righteousness, so that He may have no part with the wicked. Willing that the righteous should smite Him, He will pray for them in their trials, though they rebuke and reprove Him. All He wants is righteousness, but He desires to be preserved from the dainties of the wicked; snares they had laid around, but He was turning himself to God and desiring this only - practical acceptance with Him, Jehovah, and to Him only therefore He looks. Instructive lesson!
265 - 6. Though willing to be smitten by the righteous, this verse implies still an owning of them, but their liability to heavy chastisements; but, as He prayed in their calamities, for a blessing is in it, in the kharata (Thou cuttest off) so when chastened and overthrown they would hear His words, for indeed they were sweet. He knows it before the Lord; in the day of visitation there would be hearkeners. Thus the Spirit of Christ took up the people - Israel proved in Jerusalem; as for the enemies, it was deliverance from, and judgment.
- 7. Here He looks at the relentless evil and violence, murder committed against the nation. He calls them in that, in Spirit, "Our bones," still; still the individual believer, for it was now on earth (a question on earth), would escape, while the wicked would fall into their own nets. Look at David in the time of Saul, and there is much to guide in the understanding of the Psalm. Prayer is the position in which he puts himself - praying the Lord to put a watch over him.
We must remember that whatever the glory, the Lord is not only against the enemies, but with the sorrows of the suffering Remnant, and expresses them all in perfectness as His own. The Lord seems to me here to assert the spirit of the righteous man, first praying for the keeping of his heart from evil, and actual separation from evil men, then willingness to receive reproof from the righteous. Yet whatever their calamities, He still prays for them. The Spirit acts in intercession in the midst of them. When troubles come, then will they hear His voice, His words, for they are sweet. Thus verse 7 is their actual state and ruin, but (v. 6) the eye of faith, by the Spirit, is to the Lord.
- 9, 10. In the actual activities of the wicked, the Spirit of the righteous man reckons on escape. It is the Spirit of Christ expressing itself in the trial of the righteous man, but in His energy in the midst of the trials of that day.
Here we find the loneliness of Christ, and, consequently, of His Spirit in the Remnant. But Jehovah was the refuge in loneliness, and where all failed of man He did not; and the voice of groaning was the glory of the Lord's only faithfulness. The Spirit of the Righteous and Holy One was overwhelmed; so of His tzad-di-kim (righteous ones) in the latter day. But Jehovah knew His path, terrible, troubled, and trying as it was, and no man would know Him - not only of the peoples none was with Him, but none of His people - and so shall iniquity abound in that day. So are the saints ever tried; look at Paul, "No man stood by me; but the Lord stood by me and strengthened me." See the account of these very latter days in Matthew 24. But when His faithfulness was proved, the righteous would compass Him about. This then is desertion, while His persecutors, stronger than He, pressed on Him, i.e., as to "the land of the living."
266 This Psalm is the expression of entire destitution, and therefore resting only on the Lord - the profit of chastisement. It is therefore the voice of perfectness of the Spirit of Christ, for the Remnant, in the day of their latter trial, in its extreme state during and in the extremity of the Apostasy, in which the voice, called for by Joel, is drawn out from the Remnant by the operation of this very Spirit of Christ here signifying it, showing before the Lord His trouble. There was nothing else for it. It is the cry, the actual complaint, and to the Lord, which was perfect faith, for there was none but He, quod nota; for this is faith - confession to Him in sin - cry to Him when no help - and this is the blessed Spirit of Christ expressing this. The help is only in Jehovah, and here (and here only) the Spirit of Christ comes in, sympathises with the perfect misery, but in the cry of faith. Before they were only pressed down, compare Deuteronomy 32:36. Now there was no help, therefore there was help, not help only but the assumption of all things so into Jehovah's hand, because the enemy, by taking it into his, had raised the question that all question ended. But the expression of the passage of His Spirit through the sorrow is exquisitely beautiful, for He knew heaviness with them. The proper time to which it, futurely, applies is the last pervading power of Antichrist, when it is "Help, Lord, for there is not one godly man left." Christ had learned it before, when all forsook Him and fled. Hence His Spirit in them, and pleading of a truth from Himself.
- 4. I know how specially Jewish this is, and Christ speaking as looking for Jews upon earth.
- 7. This is the deliverance of Christ, being the occasion of His being compassed about by the righteous.
267 It is then Christ in the sorrow, perfect in His reference to the Lord. He speaks from His sufferings, through the Antichrist, on to the times when the righteous shall surround Him.
Here, in this Psalm, it is not solitariness as to trial, but judgment that is in question, that the Lord might be with Him - this between His soul and God. Trials existed - His life was smitten down to the ground - His Spirit was overwhelmed within Him, and His heart desolate - but judgment could not be met by man, "No flesh living could be justified." This is, indeed, just what we have learned by the Holy One entering into it, and He showed this very necessity of all. And the Spirit in the Lord's Remnant expresses just their sense of this, and He, bearing it as their representative, "was heard in that he feared." Still it drove His Spirit for Israel - for Israel here it is that is in question, and that in the truth of their latter-day position, oppressed and having enemies, see verse 5 - to the Lord as His resource, for the communion with Him was uninterrupted and unbroken. On the Cross, vicariously, the Lord did enter into judgment, but that is just what makes all the rest true for Israel, and that only as purging. Thence direction is sought, teaching, deliverance, guidance, and the cutting off of enemies, for He was Jehovah's Servant.
This then is the Psalm of judgment, and Messiah's, and the people's part in it, is very plain, and how He could plead this for them, and they by His Spirit in them. The cry is founded on God's faithfulness and righteousness, not on theirs; as regards the servant's condition - there was no entering into condition. This, I repeat, was just what Christ proved in the atonement - righteousness is pleaded in all His relationship with Jehovah - and then, cutting off His enemies is mercy, and only mentioned as to this, which puts mercy clearly in a new place - riddance of the earth, that there may be a land of uprightness, and an earth of peace through the peaceable fruits of righteousness, and they that trouble gone, in mercy. Psalm 140, then, enters into the position of the righteous generally in the latter-day, in presence of the enemy of the Spirit of Christ. Psalm 141 gives His thoughts before the Lord in the midst of the people in that case. In Psalm 142, He finds there are none - He is left alone. Psalm 143 is the question with the "Lord" as His servant, through the available intercession of Christ - the presence of the Spirit of Christ in the Remnant, thus brought before the Lord alone, with the consequent direct supplication from verse 7 to the end.
268 This Psalm is the Spirit of Christ putting the Remnant, with whom He identifies Himself, and in them the nation, on mercy and guidance - in a word, on the new covenant in grace - instead of judgment for what they were, which is confessed, "none could stand." This is done as in the midst of enemies, and looking for help only to Jehovah in mercy, as well as personal acceptance and guidance. Former power in deliverance is referred to. It is the affiance of the new covenant.
- 5. But how must this verse have drawn out the soul in the thought of what now was! But it was a soul athirst after God; and "heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Blessed be God! And in taking up the power of the new covenant, how must His soul have gone through the depth of the old in order to it, in the knowledge of that delight of the Lord in them, which set up the new, and the bitter sorrow before Him of that Countenance - all in the power of the holiness of the broken covenant of it! Oh! depth, depth! How marvellous are Thy ways, O Jesus! Jesus, the Lord!
We must take Jehovah's delight, if we see Christ Jehovah in that delight - yea! He loved the people, and, as again declared in Balaam, and then in all the holiness of Mount Sinai the state of them, the world, and the same Jesus, made under the law, knowing that delight, and all this in the power of divine love to the world, all this in Jesus - all seemingly frustrated - all, and much more than this, especially the holiness and the love known in Himself, and broken and borne as if He broke it - then shall we know something of the depth, in our feebleness. Oh! may we learn its truth! The Jewish truths do but show the glimpse of it, as done circumstantially amongst them. We enter into the power of it, but in deliverance in effect; see John's Gospel, thus bringing it out. Blessed be Jesus the Lord, our Master - God, our Saviour!
In this Psalm Jehovah is celebrated by Messiah as in the war and conflict for the people. First, verse 2, what He is to Him - then subduing His people under Him - then comes the righteous enquiry for judgment, "What is man, that the Lord so long lingers, and pauses before He gets rid of the wicked and the evil?" Compare Psalm 8. For here man is seen - the proud adversary on earth of the Man of God's right hand - after lengthened and infinite mercy bounded just by this state of adversary, which was patience, not with abstractedly possible return, but manifested opposition to good, and therefore would-be feeble acquiescence in evil. Now God's patience had been the patience of perfect power, not of feebleness with evil - man's worthlessness is here then presented to Him. It was now the hand of strange children, and Messiah (pleading withal for them, first for, and then with, whom He was afflicted) must be delivered. "Man is like to vanity," "Bow thy heavens, O Jehovah," and the righteous Messiah claims the intervention of power, and this brings judgment and new songs - judgment, in order that righteousness may bear its unhindered and natural fruits of blessing. It is here with intercession for judgment, because of the position of things. "Happy the people" in this case of blessing of righteousness - Messiah's blessing! Yea, "the people that have Jehovah for their God!" Thus the vanity of man, the judgment and blessing of righteousness are all identified, through Messiah, with His people, even the Remnant of Israel.
269 Before, we had David in sorrow - our blessed Master bowing under the burthen. Now, David emerged from that in blessing, though yet in conflict. Oh! how deep the former! His Spirit overwhelmed within Him! Ah! what was that depth, through which He passed His soul that He might take up the strength of the new covenant for us - witness of God's faithful righteousness! For there also, in our behalf as to be saved, may we say "My strength is made perfect in weakness." "Crucified through weakness," but "living by the power of God"; but because of the power of evil against us, overcome in this righteousness of suffering - so in sympathy with them ("why persecutest thou me?") still. Now, this being gone through, it is "What is man?" here. And, in the full sense of victory, "Why dost thou delay the accomplishment of thy purposes concerning thy people? What are they that they should stand in the way? Remove out of the way!" Compare most interesting testimony, to the other uses of this phrase and thought, in Job 7 and Psalm 8.
It is now "The Lord my Rock." The Beloved is still in great waters, and with the hand, or strength, of strange children - unbelieving and haughty Gentiles - but He has passed through the depth of sorrow about the Remnant of the Jews, where judgment (and so for the Church, of course) as the place of righteousness, must be entered into, i.e., met; and, having passed through that, He has simply the strength of the Lord, His Rock, to lean on, and stand firm on against them, exulting in it.
270 The Psalm blessedly exhibits the effects of Messiah's deliverance for the Jews, as the former the trial of His Spirit for them. In both we have the marvellous identification of the thoughts and interests of His heart with them. Blessed be His name! Deliverance of Messiah is deliverance of all under Him, for it is the breaking of the actual power of the enemy. It then becomes a question, "Jehovah, what is man?" This last too, as to the circumstances, specially affects the Jews. "Thy heavens," and then the effect is plain. It is marvellous how any can doubt the application of these Psalms, though the depth of their principles may well, and will exercise the mind. Well might the Redeemer say, "Lord, what is man?" after what He had passed through, knowing from Jehovah, as in Jehovah, what they were. Oh! the knowledge! Then see the infinite blessedness of Psalm 8. Man's foolishness is in Job 7. Here also He uses the enquiry, "Why make any account of him? Why delay to execute purpose for man - such a creature as man?" Job's enquiry is, why He should take any notice of him to worry him? Here, Messiah's, why should He stop His hand to bring in the blessing, for the folly of resisting man, calls upon the Lord, above the heavens, to show His power and to scatter them in a moment - this is very plain. Psalm 8 unites and solves the two, in showing the humiliation and exaltation of Jesus, the secret way of all God's dealings in both - the hour of trial, the ground of the patience, and the certainty of the subjection of all things to humble, subject Man - quod nota.
Here Messiah extols Jehovah in the millennial blessings of peace (vv. 18, 19, 20), showing its introduction by the hearing of the cry of the sorrowful oppressed - then tzad-di-kim (righteous ones) mercy and judgment. But that first statement gives the force of the Psalm, and it is most lovely in unfolding His intercourse - the anthem between Him and His saints and all Creation - His works and all flesh - the chorus extolling Jehovah, the Blessed, in that day. It is a most beautiful Psalm in this respect, and carries us far into blessing - and it shall be continuous; we, however, in our own abiding, and in special, eternal blessing - this with Messiah below.
271 This Psalm is Messiah's praise, in the ministry of blessing, in His kingdom - the blessedness of the earth under Him. It is the praise of the saints in the kingdom.
- 10. "Saints." I still take this to be Jewish saints, for it is earthly blessedness, properly millennial, but I do not see but there are elements in it which include, and look into, a further state of things, and therefore it celebrates God's kingdom, not merely Messiah's; but there is the direct earthly blessing in a special state. It is a very beautiful Psalm. The destruction of the wicked, as introducing it, but taking in the general truth. It is the character of God the Lord, celebrated by Messiah, as the Head of the blessing, as His joy, as shown and declared in the blessing, as I said, properly millennial, but including elements of a further kingdom of blessing, and therefore Messiah as there celebrating God, and King whom He could bless, and was the only real Blesser, in personal title, because of it.
I suspect from Psalm 139, but especially from Psalm 142, is a continuous progress. This begins the praise on restoration.
From this Psalm to the end of the Book is the great chorus of praise to Jah, the Lord - the Jehovah, or eternal One of Creation, and of Israel, of which Israel was made, dispensationally, the tried and blessed head - Messiah as of the earth and of the flesh, coming of them, and coming to them - and, withal, the Lord's earthly sanctuary being in the midst of them, the centre of the blessing, and the peculiar place of nearness.
The Deliverer and Executor of judgment - Zion's God, the Lord - Messiah announces Him thus, He only could; they were the objects of it.
This Psalm begins the course of extolling of praise. This is all properly millennial. This first is Messiah leading the praise of Israel; and, though Zion and Jerusalem be the centre, it includes the whole, saved house of Israel. The deliverance of Israel is the celebration of the character and greatness of Jehovah, and of the foolishness and nothingness of man. The God of Jacob, though, made heaven and earth.
272 - 7-9. Here His character is displayed in His dealings to Israel. "Praise the Lord, O my soul," is Messiah's taking part in it, and marks Him.
In this Psalm He is to Israel, the Remnant, "Our God"; and praise (and they at peace) is pleasant and comely. How lovely is this peace, and the Lord's prosperity on them! Yea, "He takes pleasure in them that fear him, in them that hope in his mercy," not their own righteousness. Also they have His word, "The oracles of God" - "He had not dealt so with any nation." The Church is high up above, in these blessings. There are two points then - His mercy to Jerusalem, building it up, and gathering the outcasts of Israel, and His power in Creation, His own strength being the thing displayed, and delighting in none else.
The connection of Israel with Creation-blessing is very strong, and a very cardinal point in the order of God's economies. Christ, as originally coming, would have been, had man not been all sinful, the Head over them in this blessing. He shall be, but taking in the heavens, on a larger scale and elevated on a higher principle of grace, and that in purification and redemption; then it shall be as in Hosea 2:21-23. Creation shall be restored in their restoration; but then higher things are brought in, and a more glorious source of it, but all linked together by the exaltation of the rejected but returned Man. "The second Adam is the Lord from heaven"; but it is grace and government at this time, and not simple order of beauty, with "God all in all." "He sends his word into the world," and . . . "shows it to Jacob." His power, in this nearness to Israel brought low, is the great theme, however, of this Psalm. His power - Jehovah is the theme, however, not the Father as in that character - and the heavens shall praise Him. Though we, in our own special Church-position, rejoice, there is the Father, "Our Father" - "The kingdom" as it is written, "of their Father."
This Psalm brings in the Jews themselves, not Messiah's celebration of Jehovah as their Head, but their celebration of Him as (now) their God. The two portions of this subject of praise are in verse 2.
273 - 3-6. This is His moral character and greatness. Comparing verses 4 and 5, shows this even of verse 4, and we may say the same even to verse 11.
- 12. This takes up Jerusalem; and the subsequent verses the glory and power of that Jehovah, in Creation, who hath so dealt with them.
Though there seems to be a sort of antiphony, all through, of His Creation-power, and His goodness to Jerusalem and Israel, now united in Messiah as King to all, the connection of the two must ever be observable to the least attentive reader. We may speak of it elsewhere.
In this Psalm Israel's relation with this general or universal praise is then taken up. This is the great earthly millennial result, but connected, as we have seen, with a sphere beyond it - all Creation. "Praise Jah" is still the key note.
- 1. "Praise Jehovah from the heavens" (v. 7), "Praise from the earth." In the heavens are we, but this is not the subject of the Old Testament word - this mystery hidden from ages and generations, but we know our place in it - and all the creatures in them are to praise Jehovah who created them. Then from the earth - and here "The kings of the earth" come in, and "All people, princes, and all judges of the earth" - they are to praise the Name of Jehovah, "For His name alone is exalted; his glory above earth and heaven." But "He had elevated the horn of his people" - He is the praise of all His chasidim (holy ones) even of the children of Israel, "A people near to him." As power was shown in the former Psalm in act, and so the place of praise - Israel and Creation are shown here, as alluded to at the close of it, in the millennial Hallelu-Jah.
This and the following Psalm celebrate these two - universal Creation, and Israel separately - verse 14 (Psalm 148) taking care to bring in their special favour and glory in it, "A people near unto him." A little attention will show the drawing out in the Psalm, in their various order, above and from the earth, and then the moral powers (subject to Messiah) called by Him to praise Jah Jehovah, whose glory is above (now) earth and heavens; and therefore they and all in them called to praise Him. But while His glory is above them, "He exalted the horn of his people . . . a people near unto him"; compare Ephesians 1, at the close.
274 Psalm 149
This Psalm rises up to the proper praise of Israel for themselves, as between themselves and God, in this nearness. The saints here are always chasidim (holy ones), i.e., Israel so accepted and beloved in mercy, the meek and God-honouring ones - the Remnant.
This Psalm is the Hallelu-Jah of Israel in its new song, as in and under this blessing, and the instruments of His, the Lord's, vengeance, for they are witnesses (though receiving it under mercy, is in Psalm 143) of the Lord's righteousness. Also we have evidence of the use of the word kha-sidaiv (His saints) to be of the Jewish living saints; so, I believe, everywhere.
This is the great and comprehensive chorus. God, El, the mighty, and stable, and only One, who judges and swears in Himself alone, is celebrated, not Jehovah. It looks in the sanctuary now - indeed, specially, the heavenly Jerusalem is this, in the day of glory for the Lamb - but, intrinsically, in the light which none can approach unto, His own secret place of holiness and separatedness from all He is praised in. There, thought, spiritual thought by the Holy Ghost, on earth at least, alone reaches Him - there, not only in His separation above all, but in the "Firmament of his power," the strength and stability of this place of stedfast testimony, of immovable greatness and power - there, His acts and greatness - there, with man's (still on earth) best praise, and there "Everything that breathes" is to celebrate Jah the existing One, Him, indeed, in whom they live and move, and have their being and breath to praise. This is our privilege now, but it is anticipative of the time when they shall actually be called on to do so. This shall be the full tide of unhindered praise to God Himself, where He is, for what He has done. Yea, with all given energies, and by all that hath breath. In formal character it is indeed Jewish and earthly, but, as before, it reached to the heavens, the created heavens where we may be, here to the sanctuary of El where He is in His own glory. And this must close as indeed it is the source of praise, for the soul rises up from Ashrey ha-Ish (happy the man) to Hallelu-Jah, Hallelu eth Jehovah (praise Jah, praise Jehovah) Hallelu El B'kod 'sho (praise God in His holy place). There the soul necessarily stops, at least finds itself at the infinite close of all before it - known only by the Holy Ghost.
275 This is, blessed be God, the closing Psalm - the feeble effort, though by the Spirit, to express His great praise; yet, though feeble, perfect in its principle, perfect in what is expressed, if not in the expression, because of the greatness of Him spoken, and yet rightly expressed to perfection, as human utterance of words can carry it. In "His sanctuary" - in His "firmament of power" - "for his mighty acts" - for "His excellent greatness" - "Praise him" with every effort and instrument - and let "everything," that can express praise, do so to Jah.
- 6. Kol han-n'shamah (everything that breathes) is a very strong and comprehensive expression. Now, though this clearly hangs its witness on the Jews, or Israel, in the millennium, still it looks, it seems to me, beyond. Jehovah is not mentioned in it. "Jehovah" is the securing perpetuity (in the midst of evil, or putting it away) of all that is proper to "Jah." I speak of what is expressed in the name. "Jah" is the essential Object of praise. He is known, as Jehovah reveals Him to us, as Jah. When then we have learned Jehovah in all these things, we say "Hallelu-jah." So here it is El. Israel has been the grand instrument of revealing these things - to them He was Jehovah. Having fully revealed Himself (compare Psalm 68, and notes thereon) thus He comes forth, so to speak, in His Name Jah - His Name of existence in Himself - His Name of strength - "Hallelu-jah." "Hallelu-el" be, etc. So everything from "Hallelu-el" to th'ruah (loud sound) verse 5, hangs upon El - God in His essence. Then comes every derived existence living in the earth (Kol n'shamah) to praise Jah - the great, intrinsic I AM, and Source of life; and then closes with the "Hallelu-jah."
Blessed be God (my Father, through grace) who has permitted me to make this Book my study, thus to go through it, to finish it, not in study but in, thus far, estimate of its truth and blessedness, seeing it concerning Christ, my Master and Lord, to the praise of our God! May we abound more and more in the discernment of Him, and all His purpose! Ashrey ha-ish (Blessings of the Man) may well begin, and Hallelu-Jah finish it; and all between shall reveal the blessedness of that Man, and the glory of that Jah, as Jehovah, through it. And this is the Psalms. And He is a Man, and Jehovah in connection with the Jews (and Israel), whatever other blessings may come in, as there do, besides, and whatever essential glory of Person and existence may be behind, from which they flow, as there is, so as to make it good; else as both the Church and Creation are the witnesses for Supreme Glory known and revealed, and the Head, and bringing in the last (even the creature) and sustaining in Christ, and enclosing the glory, here spoken of, beneath, perhaps for a season and in its parts, but crowned with glory (blessing them) in the Person of Jesus, holding the Creation (by virtue of His personal glory) for their blessing, but this glory the Church brought into, for the Church's glory (as the Creation) flows from, and is identified with Supreme Creation, and creating blessing; quod nota, for it is worthy of much - a great Mystery revealed, and yet above revelation! The Jews are a people known, and no mystery, though a wonder. The Church is, for it is in unity with the Head, the I AM, in its place in Jesus; and so Creation comes in, for it is the head of the new, with the prototokos (Firstborn).
276 The more I read the Psalms, and the more I see God's mind - what the Spirit would teach in them - the more I see Christ's sufferings with Israel, in holy fulfilling of righteousness, but taking His place with the godly ones in their feelings and thoughts, yea, the pattern and spring of them. And it gives the deepest sense of what the Lord went through, and it is different from atonement. But how deep they must have been, loving them as God's people!