J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 3.)
There is, in a certain sense, no interval between the sufferings of Christ, all His life, and His death. I do not speak at all here of the expiation accomplished by His death, but His suffering as a righteous Man abandoned. Expiation is the efficacy of that death in the sight of God, but that is another subject. In the Psalms we see constantly the righteous Man suffering, and apparently abandoned. Hence, to commit oneself into God's hand, because He has redeemed us, may be during life, indeed is always, yet may be for His taking that Spirit to Him. Christ evidently has refound His Father's countenance and place, at least His confidence, when He said, however deep His suffering, "Into thy hands I commend my Spirit." Death may demand resurrection as proof of the answer to that. But Christ, having passed through death and its bitterness, is the proof to those who walk, surrounded by evil and darkness, that they may commit their souls to God; compare 1 Peter 4:17, and following, and indeed all from verse 12. And in the end of Psalm 31 it seems, evidently, present deliverance, but it might, as in Christ's case, go on to death. Psalm 32 seems to give the confession of Israel as such, and hence the new song of Psalm 33 is the earthly blessing which follows it; and thus the new song on earth of the people redeemed for the earth in general. This is the general principle.
It would appear from Zechariah 12, that they must "look on" "see" Christ first, but it is evident also from Matthew 24, and several Psalms, there will be preparation for this. Naturally, the meek would inherit the earth, but sooner or later, the meek One having been rejected, they must take their portion with and in the confession of the sin of the rejection of Him. But here it is not union with, and knowledge of the Son of God, one with, and at the right hand of the Father, as we by the unity of the Holy Ghost "sent down from heaven, according to my gospel" - and the mystery hidden from ages, but a Jewish Remnant who favour His righteous cause. Isaiah 53, Zechariah 13, and perhaps Psalm 110 will remain unaccomplished in the hearts of the Jews till He appears.
In Psalm 40 it is still the righteous obedient Man, only He identifies Himself with the sin of the nation, displacing at the same time all their sacrifices, and putting His obedience in the place of them; but He does not go here to the efficacy of His death - we can do that through God's teaching by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Here the new song is in Israel's mouth, as identified with Christ - "In my mouth," after the poor man had cried, "even thanksgiving unto our God." But the effect of His deliverance, in like trouble, was to make these Jews trust in Jehovah; compare the end of Isaiah 50. The effect of Christ's deliverance being known (they would say at least "This was a righteous Man"), the promise to the confession "Thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel," compare John 1 and Psalm 32, is, that from thence he should "See the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man" - here of course. The glory we beheld "As of the only begotten of the Father" (compare Matthew 16 and 17) is another thing, and so indeed is the "Taker away of the sin of the world," "the baptiser with the Holy Ghost," on whom He descending enabled to bear record that He was the "Son of God," though these two are different also, so that in John 1 we have the Son of God presented in three points of view - to the Church, "We beheld," etc. - to the world, and to Israel. This last, the first principle of public testimony, as Romans 1, though not rising up to the privilege of the Church ("We beheld," etc.) will be accomplished when the First begotten, rightful Heir of all is brought again into the world. I say "accomplished," for He has title to claim it now, see Psalm 2; and see also Acts 3, Peter's address to Israel, where he presents Christ as Son thus; compare Acts 13:33-34, already cited before; compare also Acts 4:27, 30, which is in the same connection.
278 Jehovah being about to introduce the Only begotten into the world (compare Psalm 97 and Hebrews 1), Israel having been already finally visited in grace, all the earth is summoned to join in the new song which suits it. The summons is in Israel, but extends to all the kindreds of the people to come up to Jerusalem in Psalm 97. The First begotten is introduced to the confusion of all idols - Zion heard of these judgments (for they are not executed, it would seem, in her), and the new song is invited to be sung in Israel, consequent on the judgment of Jehovah's enemies by Christ. The difference of the songs is, one is deliverance, the other the establishment of judgment and justice - the Lord being "Great in Zion." It is all based, after all, on the identification of Messiah with Israel in Psalm 91; Psalm 92 then identifies the wicked, Jehovah's enemies, and this righteous Man who had made the Lord His refuge. Psalm 100 introduces the heathen; Psalm 101 governs the house; Psalm 102 explains the glory of Messiah's Person, and His cutting off. No truth seems to be wanting to Israel in that day, unless it be the Sonship of Christ as one with the Father. He is recognised as Jehovah; and hence unity in one body by one Spirit with Him, that is the Church's position - but all truth out of unity seems laid before them.
279 Psalm 144 is the claim of Messiah to judge, in making war, man and the enemies of Israel, thus introducing the new song of His triumphal glory in Israel, not as coming from above for the world to rejoice, though the results coincide or concur in the same epoch of blessing.
In result these new songs are Messiah's new glory upon earth, which suppose trial or enemies. And they identify themselves with Him as a righteous Sufferer, or He with them. It is a matter of identification, taking place with them and the owning Him in this place, and, thereon, manifested deliverance, and either, and both having trusted in Jehovah who consequently has delivered.
In the new song in Revelation it is quite another thing. The only new songs in Revelation are in chapters 5 and 14. It would seem the speciality of redemption for the heavens, and for the earth. Indeed it is the only time singing is spoken of - those out of great tribulation ascribe salvation. In chapter 4 there are praises, but it is not said "they sing." In the Old Testament they sing a new song; Psalms 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1, and 149:1.
In Revelation 4 there is the divine intelligence of the Church to all the counsels of God, and the ground of them in the efficacy of Christ's redemption, and the Lamb is above in heaven. In chapter 14 the new song is not given at all - in chapter 5 it is. Being in the fulness of the blessing themselves, as to redemption and intelligence of it, though not yet in the results in the kingdom down here, they understand why the Lamb should be glorified, and that in reference to what He had done for them; this places them utterly debtors, but in a very exalted place. They say "Thou art worthy, for." It was no Jewish association of blessing, however great. It was of God, sovereign in grace, in that He had "bought for himself," such was the worthiness of the Lamb, "from every tongue and nation." The worthiness was in the Lamb, for there was no association of promise or any other.
280 Now in the Psalms, whatever their knowledge of Christ, they are Jews, and look for the deliverance of Jehovah. It is confidence in Jehovah as, after all, not forgetting His people; and Christ was the proof - "This poor man cried and was delivered out of all his distress." He may have died as others who hoped a better resurrection, as Abraham offered Isaac, but "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." What Christ had passed through warranted the faithful in trusting in Jehovah as Jehovah. But then the 144,000, though doubtless trusting in the Lord, were in neither of the cases properly, i.e., neither in mere earthly nor the full heavenly blessing. The song is sung not by those who were around the throne (en kuklo tou thronou) nor on earth; it is sung "before the throne." It is not yet the King on Mount Zion, and the glory of the Lord filling, or now to fill the earth - they are bought from the earth, as first-fruits. They are connected with the Lamb, but not with the Lamb on the Throne, no more than with the King set on Zion, and owned with the Lamb on Mount Zion. It was, as it were, between the two. The song is for them alone to learn. Further, they are first-fruits to God and the Lamb, i.e., from the earth, and they had not their Father's name but His on their foreheads; as to us, He is gone to His Father and our Father, His God and our God. It is not here union spoken of exactly, but concomitancy, companionship. I suppose they have owned Him as the Son of God, like Nathaniel, but had not received, themselves, the Holy Ghost as the Spirit of adoption and unity. It is evident they have owned Christ, before He appears as Son of Man crowned; they are identified with the Lamb, but, as we have seen, on Mount Zion. This difference of the Psalms is of the last importance. It goes in testimony even to the recognition of the Son, but never at all into the place of the Church, and here a reading, too, of the first chapter of the Apocalypse is important - "The testimony of Jesus, what he saw," not "and what He saw." Thus "the Spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus."
Note, standing in testimony "before the God of the earth" does not hinder the sustaining by the hope of resurrection coming in, though it be not the place of the Church properly so called, i.e., as sitting "in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Christ stood before the God of the earth, evidently all His life, yet the hope of resurrection was in His soul, and this is what we find in the first Book of Psalms. The Faithful stands before the God of the earth in Psalm 34 and many others, yet He is sustained in the difficulties, in which faithfulness sets His life, by the hope of resurrection, and of course His hope answered where need is. A fortiori this is true when, as Paul, they were occupied with the heavenly calling, and might suffer; see 2 Corinthians 1, where this is brought out in its full extent, but it is true even of those who stand before the God of the earth. Note, the result may be to be "caught up to heaven" if killed.
281 Further, in the ministry of Peter, and the Church at Jerusalem, have we not the proof that the heavenly power of Christ may descend to the ministration of the kingdom of heaven upon earth (Christ's return is proposed to the Jews) as was the case up to Stephen's death? the identity of the Church with Christ in heaven not being yet the subject of ministry. I have sometimes thought that perhaps the 144,000 on Mount Zion might be raised, though not in the heavenly condition; this would not touch the heavenly hope of sufferers under the beast - they are redeemed from the earth, the condition of Christ during the forty days. For this purpose the special place of the ark on Mount Zion, 1 Chronicles 16 must be studied, when the tabernacle and service were at Gibeon; and then, note particularly, the Psalms there connected. Israel, the end of His demands, mindful of His covenant and promises to Abraham - then the earth summoned according to Psalm 96, and note the place we have seen that in. The Lord was not yet between the cherubim. Then the olam chasido (His mercy for ever) and the prayer for the bringing back of all the scattered; and that is what Christ will do after He appears in glory, see Matthew 24, according to Psalm 106, and then the closing blessing. But this must be studied; and note the phrase at the end of chapter.
It is evident to me that Matthew 24 is properly what happens at the end in Judea - the beginning of sorrows and the great tribulation consequent on the abomination of desolation. There may have been analogous circumstances after the Lord's death, and I doubt not were, which in effect began the sorrows of the Jewish people, but the regular continuous history is at the latter day. I also see that Luke 21, on the other hand, gives the general account of what would historically arrive to them as a people.